Letter smuggled out of Pentridge Gaol, Melbourne, in July 1972

Pentridge
When I read my letter today – 45 years on – I stand by its description of prison life. However, I would moderate some of my language… Also, the analysis that concluded that ‘all prisoners are political prisoners’ because they were victims of the class war was manifestly wrong.

Letter written by Barry York and smuggled out of Pentridge Gaol in July 1972 when he was a political prisoner in ‘A’ Division with Fergus Robinson and Brian Pola.

Preamble (14 September 2017)
The letter was written secretly in my cell in ‘A’ Division when I was a prisoner in Pentridge Gaol with two comrades, Brian Pola and Fergus Robinson. There was no shortage of time to write it, as we were in solitary confinement, in our separate cells, for 16 hours each day.

In writing the letter, I was careful not to be detected by the screws. They would have been very angry about it. So, I hid it under my mattress, folding the letter narrowly so that I could hide it under the side of the mattress nearest to the wall. One day, the warders came in to do a cell inspection. They did the usual finger across the top of the door checking for dust, and then checked that the blankets were folded into perfect squares and then – to my horror – they decided to check under the mattress. They pushed it up from the bed-frame but not far enough and so my letter was still hidden at the side of the bed nearest to the wall. I was very worried, I can tell you.

I forget how the letter was smuggled out – possibly by Ted Hill on one of his visits or by one of our other ‘legal advisers’. I recall that Ted used to smuggle the newspaper ‘Vanguard’ into the gaol by rolling it up and putting it under his trouser leg. He would then give it to me, during a ‘legal visit’, and I’d do the same and carry it in my sock and trouser leg to A Division.

‘Vanguard’, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), published the letter on 17 August 1972 after we were released (on 4th August). They knew not to publish it while we were still inside. Thank heavens.

* * * *

We were gaoled for contempt of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1972.
We had been leaders of the militant student movement at La Trobe University and prohibited from entering the campus under an injunction taken out by the University authorities. We defied the injunction, seeing it as an encroachment on free speech and an attempt to quell campus militancy. For ‘stepping foot upon the premises known as La Trobe University’, we were gaoled without trial, without sentence (ie, indefinitely), without rights of bail or appeal.

Fergus was captured first and did four months. Brian Pola next, did three months. I was caught last, and served six weeks. Rodney Taylor, the fourth named in the injunction, avoided capture. We were released when the University authorities surrendered to the mass campaign against the gaolings and approached the Supreme Court for the abandonment of the injunctions.

* * * *

When I read my letter today – 45 years on – I stand by its description of prison life. However, I would moderate some of my language. For instance, I wouldn’t refer to the gaol as a concentration camp; though technically it was similar. But, ‘concentration camp’ brings to mind the Nazi rule of terror in Germany in the 1930s and Pentridge was nothing like that. (Did I even have to say that?)

Also, the analysis that concluded that ‘all prisoners are political prisoners’ because they were victims of the class war was manifestly wrong. There was, and is, a big difference between people who are imprisoned for their political activities or beliefs and those who rob banks and steal cars. I’m not sure now why I would have gone along with that anarchist slogan. I identified as a communist, after all.

* * * *

In 1973, Fergus and Brian and I, and others, revived the Victorian Prisoners’ Action Committee (PAC). I became its spokesman for three or four years. The PAC fought for prison reform but tried to connect the issue to the bigger question of capitalism and its overthrow. We supported the rebellion that was taking place inside Pentridge and other gaols, led by inmates with whom we had become friendly, and perhaps influenced, on the inside. (We used to hide works by Marx, Lenin and Mao on the very top of the bookcase in the prison library, laying them flat and out of view of the prison officers. We were able to receive such books from the outside, after a La Trobe academic comrade assured the prison authorities they were ‘for educational purposes’! Sympathetic prisoners knew of this secret stash of subversive material that was allowed in only for the ‘La Trobe Three’).

In campaigning for prison reform, we were able to assist individuals on their release. This experience was double-edged, and some negative experiences led me to better understand that there is such a thing as personal responsibility and agency, not just victimhood. Even the most oppressed individuals can make choices for the better within the confines of socio-economic limitation. Too many didn’t. Bad culture perpetuates oppression.

* * * *

This year, I came across the letter as published in ‘Vanguard’ while sorting and culling folders of old paperwork. It reminded me of how genuine we were in our commitment to revolutionary change back then, and how lucky I was to have been active in those years of global solidarity from 1967 to 1972. We really believed we were approaching a revolutionary situation. Perhaps the state had similar feelings, and that may explain why they came down so heavily on those who went beyond reformism and challenged the system itself.

Of course, the revolution didn’t materialize but the broader social movement, of which we were part, won changes that cannot be reversed.

And, perhaps best of all: we certainly gave some bad reactionaries a very hard time!

* * * *

For those interested in more detail, my book ‘Student Revolt’, is now available free on-line at https://c21stleft.com/2015/09/05/student-revolt-la-trobe-university-1967-to-1973/
Barry York, 14 September 2017

* * * *

The letter from Pentridge (July 1972)

As I write this letter from my cell in “A” Division, two very significant occurrences are taking place.

Firstly a radio announcement from the Prison Committee’s prisoners’ representative has called for prisoners in remand to submit affidavits to Mr. Kelly, a solicitor on the Government Prison Inquiry, regarding a vicious attack by about 30 screws (N.B. prison slang for warders) on 4 Bendigo escapees and about 6 other prisoners. Pentridge is buzzing with the news. The escapees, according to eye witness reports, were beaten with 3 ft. long night sticks. Apparently, one had his head forced through a railing on a staircase. The scalp split wide open and he lost much blood.

Other prisoners in remand who objected to the screws’ violent attack were also bashed. One of the prisoners who received a bashing has identified [name removed] not only as one of those most active in the baton attack, but also as one who laid in the boot after some of the prisoners were beaten unconscious!! The escapees, still without medical aid, have been placed in Pentridge’s ‘maximum security’ division, “H” Division.

HELL DIVISION
“H” Division stands for “Hell” Division. And this leads me to the second significant occurrence taking place as I write.

From his cell in “H”, Paul Hertzell [correct spelling is Hetzel] is screaming out the following statement:–
“Hey all you toffs (N.B. prison slang for ‘good blokes’) out there! You’re doing a terrific job! We’ve got to get rid of this incompetent government!”, “Down with the imperial government!”, “This is Paul Hertzell in ‘H’. All ‘H’ prisoners are political prisoners – a result of the government’s incompetency!”, “Free all political prisoners!”, “Abolish ‘H’!”, “Hey you toffs out there! This is Paul Hertzell in ‘H’…”

I have an almost uncontrollable urge to climb up to my window and scream back my complete support, but unfortunately, I lack the courage of Paul Hertzell. Confronted in an isolated prison cell by overpowering violence, Hertzell’s protests prove conclusively what we already know to be true – namely, that where there is repression there is resistance.

SYMBOL OF IMPERIALISM
Pentridge was born out of the domination of Australia by British imperialism in the 19th Century. Today it serves as a monument to the fascist bestiality of the U.S., British and Japanese imperialists and the local quislings who dominate Australia economically, politically, and culturally. This statement may seem rhetorical and emotional but the situation in Pentridge, with its emphasis on psychological as well as physical punishment, is similar to a concentration camp. It is an institution of fascism in the sense that it is an institution based on overt reactionary violence. Its existence and present function and nature proves that the state is a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and, that under capitalism this means the oppression of the working class by the capitalist class.

Let me elaborate by relating my own personal experiences and some of the experiences of other prisoners, in the form of a brief description of the divisions which constitute Pentridge.

“A” DIVISION
We are currently located in “A” Division. Relatively speaking, “A” is the “best” Division in Pentridge. The prisoners throughout Pentridge have waged heroic struggles which have improved conditions in “A” Division and led to a reduction in the use of violence against the prisoners by the screws. Applying the old colonial principle of ‘divide and rule’, one very small section of “A” Division is reserved for the elite of prisoners; the ‘aristocracy of prisoners’ if you like. This section (consisting of about ten out of 160 cells) is used as a public relations centre. Any visiting magistrates of government inquiry teams are promptly directed to this section. The prisoners there are the “good boys” who earn $2.50 a week in positions as head librarian and the like. The real “A” Division is the “A” in which the vast majority of prisoners exist. No T.V. sets, record players or heaters for these prisoners on $1.30 a week – just mental and psychological anguish, pre-planned long term physical destruction, and cruel, sadistic humiliation. This is the real “A” Division, the “A” Division in which the vast majority exist.

“B” DIVISION
“B” Division lacks the relative freedom of life in “A”. Conditions are far worse and the intensity of manual labour and degradation by the authorities are far more extreme. “B” is organised on the basis of strict regimented discipline. One prisoner who spent some years in “B” has informed me that the discipline in “B” reminded him of the discipline enforced upon him in “H” Division. Unlike in “A” where you are permitted to occasionally forget to address the screws as “sir” in “B” any such omission is sometimes met with physical assault, but more typically, verbal abuse. A report received from another prisoner who had just ‘graduated’ from “B” to “A” claims that “the tense atmosphere in ‘B’ can be sliced with a knife”. Again, I could not help but recall those words of Chairman Mao’s “Where there is repression there is resistance”.

“C” DIVISION
“C” Division looks like a scene from a ghost town in one of those old cowboy movies. The cells are literally iron bolted stables. Even the government declared “C” Division a ‘condemned’ division some years ago but still nothing has been done about it. “C” is renowned throughout Pentridge for its rat problem. Huge gaps exist in the cell doors which allow the rats to enter each cell. Naturally, there is a much higher rate of disease in “C” than in “A”. “C” remains unsewered. Prisoners must contend with only a small night pan. One old prisoner who spent several years in “C”, explained to me that during summer he used to sleep on the floor of his cell with his face near the gap below the door because the general stench of “C” and the specific smell of his cell used to become unbearable.

“D” DIVISION
“D” Division or “Remand” is second only to “H” Division. I spent some time in remand. The cells in “D” are basically toilets equipped with a bed. The entire cell smells of semi-sewered toilet. Even by the lowly standards of bourgeois morality the conditions are appalling. The “D” prisoners spend all day long pacing up and down the remand yard. This yard consists of a small triangular concrete yard surrounded by three huge blue-stone walls which block out any sunlight. One shower, one open toilet, and one clothes hoist allegedly make the yard suitable for fifty men. One prisoner I met had spent 12 months in remand awaiting trial. In this sense, remand is a sort of ‘limbo’. It represents an in-between world between the courts and prison.

“E” DIVISION
Any prisoner may see the prison doctor at “E” Division and receive medical or dental attention. “E” is basically a dormitory for sick prisoners. It is apparently based on very strict discipline and I have been told some prisoners are sent to “E” as a form of punishment. There is only one doctor to cater for Pentridge’s 1,200 prisoners.

“F” DIVISION
“F” is simply a dormitory for about 30 prisoners from the remand yard. The rest of the remand prisoners retire in “D” Division cells which I have already described.

“G” DIVISION
“G” is the Prison Psychiatric Centre. Not all prisoners who need psychiatric care get it though. In “A” at the moment, for one example, is a prisoner who just sits in the sun trembling all day. He studies his hands as though inspecting each intricate part of the mechanics of a clock, for hours on end. He showers each day but can never remember where the shower room is located. He clearly requires urgent psychiatric attention.

“J” DIVISION
Before describing the notorious “H” Division, let me say something about “J” Division. Presumably “J” stands for “Junior” as the prisoners here are aged between 18 and 21. Some of these lads are beaten and humiliated by the senior authorities and their lackeys, the screws. All sorts of sexually perverted acts are launched against some of these basically decent young Australians. Looking down into the “J” Division Labour Yard and seeing these tired, ragged, illiterate, scruffy uniformed young prisoners, I could not help but recollect some of the apt descriptions of the Pentridges of yesteryear as reported by Charles Dickens in “Little Dorrit”.

“THE SLOT”, “H” DIVISION
The maximum security Division is “H” Division or, to use the prison slang, the “Slot”. The “H” stands for “Hell”. I have interviewed ex-“H” prisoners who have informed me of the heinous sadistic crimes launched against them by the screws in “H”. I entered “H” two days ago to collect some laundry. It would not be an exaggeration if I were to describe the effect “H” had on me as “spine chilling”. The “Slot” is a small building guarded at the front entrance by two huge brutal looking screws. The first thing I noticed on entering the front doors with my laundry trolley was a large mirror (used to observe anyone approaching) with a long horizontal crack in it. I later discovered that a prisoner had been thrown onto the mirror. The whole situation struck me as nightmare like and unreal. It was very macabre, like something out of Luna Park’s Chamber of Horrors, only extremely serious. The two screws reminded me of “heavies” from a Boris Karloff movie. They abused me and attempted to humiliate me. Why? Simply because I dared enter the “Slot” and leave with my trolley full of laundry.

“H” prisoners are put to work in the “Labour Yard” where they spend hours each day breaking up rocks. They are marched around the yard with military discipline. Most of these men have been sent to “H” for breaches of internal discipline. Many of those who have visited “H” still have the signs to prove it: scars, broken noses, etc. Conditions are so bad that two “H” prisoners have hung themselves during the past few years. Others cut their wrists of throat in order to be removed from “H” and sent to hospital. One “H” prisoner swallowed a 12 inch long metal towel rack. He was sent to hospital and the rack was removed by surgical operation. He was then returned to “H” and promptly swallowed the metal towel rack once more.

“H” from what I can fathom, rightly deserves the title: “Hell”.

You have probably heard about the infamous “Bash”, or at least seen the slogans painted on factory walls around North Melbourne, “Ban the Bash”. The “Bash” has recently been abolished as a result of the prisoner’s rebellion and the government’s inquiry. I met one 26 year-old prisoner who had just been released from “H” after 3 and a half years! Snowy white hair, badly injured eyes, and sickly yellow skin, this once dark haired, normal, healthy young Australian has been subjected to one of capitalism’s “rehabilitation” programmes. He related to me his experiences in “H” when the “Bash” was a formal daily occurrence. The screws would order individual “H” prisoners to jump into the air. When the prisoner landed after having jumped into the air, he would be told: “You were ordered to jump into the air, you were not told to land” and promptly given a bashing. On other occasions prisoners in “H” would be directed to march into cell walls and keep marching until badly bruised and bleeding. Others would be humiliated and forced to imitate animals.

All this in the name of “rehabilitation”!!

A few days ago a riot broke out in “H”. I saw the smoke, heard the screams, and saw the screws frantically running hither and thither. Again I recalled those wise and correct words, “Where there is repression there is resistance”.

THE PRISONERS AND THE SCREWS
Now I would like to give you my general impressions of my fellow prisoners and the screws.

My fellow prisoners are, generally speaking, courageous and kind-hearted men. Most have an instinctive hatred of the capitalist class. They are all political prisoners in the sense that their alleged crimes are socially induced. No murderer is born a murderer, no rapist born a rapist. The various types of social pressures exerted on decent working people by the corrupt and exploitative capitalist class force some people to resort to crime. But what do we mean by “crime”? Is the man who steals food (or money to buy food) for his family really a criminal? And what of the unemployed or unemployable, the so called “vagrant”? Ah, but, you will ask, what of the man who murdered and raped his sister? Surely, I reply, he needs help and pity, not sadist-based punishment. He should be, to coin the popular stereotyped expression, “rehabilitated”. But the notion of “rehabilitation” is by no means a neutral concept. The fundamental question remains “rehabilitated” to what sort of social system and to what sort of value system? The capitalist class can be so hypocritical! They maintain and profit from the social system based on exploitation in the form of private appropriation and the value system based on selfishness and yet they seek to “rehabilitate” the convicted criminal to re-accept those very same social conditions and values which engender crime in the first place!!

This is the same capitalist class which gives out-and-out “Sanctity of Law” to mass destruction of property and people in Indo-China and to the foreign plunder of Australia, yet send basically decent working people to the Pentridge concentration camp for alleged “crimes against private property”. Of course there are criminals and there are criminals. But getting to the root cause of the problem, the real criminals are the very same hypocrites who uphold the present penal system. I refer of course to the criminal capitalist class which, like a lowly parasitic thief, thrives off the labour of others.

“PRISON POLICE”
Now let me comment on the screws, the prison police. Just as it is often claimed that there are “good” as well as “bad” police, so it is said there are the “good” screws and the “bad” screws. The role of the screws is really indefensible. They maintain “law-n-order” within the concentration camp. Some do it with a smile, others don’t give a damn, others take great pride in their work. This latter type is the most prominent, active, and vocal within Pentridge. All the screws are armed with either batons, guns, or .303 rifles. The latter type of screw is sadistic and gains pleasure from humiliating the prisoners. They abuse and try to humiliate us. In “H” Division for example, prisoners are forced to lie on their stomachs naked on their beds and hold the cheeks of their back-sides wide apart for the screws to examine. In “A” Division, one cold frosty morning I was ordered by a clenched fisted screw to “Get you f…… hands out of your f…… pockets”. (They are very foul-mouthed creatures.) However, in trying so desperately to humiliate others, they really only humiliate themselves.

The screws and prison authorities fear the prisoners’ rebellion. Like all reactionaries they are superficially strong but essentially weak. Like the vast majority of prisoners I hate the screws and prison authorities with an intense class hatred.

The day is not far off when justice will be dealt to the screws, the prison authorities, and the entire ruling class!

*********

Notes on Trump 21

1. Hawaii missile alert false alarm could be significant. Conceivably a bungled alert message could have gone out accidentally to all mobile phones, followed by a long delay in which it was cancelled by by twitter messages but not by an authorised message to mobile phones. More plausibly it was an intentional test.

The last time anything like this happened was during the Vietnam war. The national emergency broadcast system was activated and all radio stations were supposed to stop normal programming and tell listeners to tune in to government emergency channels. Most didn’t. Then the alert was cancelled without proper authentication of the cancellation message and the few stations that did comply promptly went back on air.

This was announced as two successive blunders just like the current smaller scale version. But subsequently reminders were sent to all stations that they were supposed to comply and remain off air until authorised regardless of how obvious it was that there was no likelihood of the alert really not being a drill. I explained this at the time and thought it was related to Nixon trying to give credibility to the possibility of U.S. resorting to nuclear weapons in Vietnam by testing out necessary civil defence preparations that would accompany any such threats unless they were total bullshit.

Subsequently I think the timing was more related to Soviet inquiries about whether the U.S. would accept a Soviet nuclear strike on China and Nixon’s reply that it would not. I don’t know whether any documentation either way has since become declassified (or whether the risks of damage from such an exercise meant there would only be verbal instructions and no documentation to declassify). But I remain certain it was no coincidence that BOTH aspects of the alert system were tested “by accident” (and neither worked). As Oscar Wilde might have said about orphans – to accidentally send one alert message could be considered a misfortune, like losing one parent but to then accidentally fail to send a cancellation, like losing both parents , suggests sheer carelessness.

Even if I am right, it could just be a low level decision by some official in the State of Hawaii to run such a test out of the same sort of concerns that have had the media carrying on about imminent war with North Korea. The Government of Japan went so far as to alarm its citizens and encourage them to seek shelter without any pretence of an accidental alert when North Korea fired an unarmed rocket that merely travelled through international space well above Japan’s territory. This was clearly done in order to help create atmosphere rather than to test alert systems.

The Trump administration is no position domestically to behave like the Japanese government did, as it would certainly produce a backlash in support of appeasing North Korea rather than the opposite reaction as in Japan.

But it could conceivably be aimed at causing North Korean analysts to wonder whether U.S. threats of “fire and fury” should be taken more seriously as they have not remained unaccompanied by the testing of civil defense preparations that would necessarily accompany any such threats that were real. Certainly nothing else about U.S. force posture has changed that would incline them to doubt that the threats they face are entirely from sanctions rather than military strikes.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/14/hawaii-missile-false-alarm-north-korea-trump-tulsi-gabbard

(Also includes Guardian’s take on item 5 below).

2. The Intercept has a good analysis of bipartisan support for entrenching the surveillance state:

https://theintercept.com/2018/01/12/the-same-democrats-who-denounce-trump-as-a-lawless-treasonous-authoritarian-just-voted-to-give-him-vast-warrantless-spying-powers/

…Debate on the bill and the amendments began on the House floor yesterday afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that leading Democrats intended to side with Trump and against those within their own party who favored imposing safeguards on the Trump administration’s ability to engage in domestic surveillance. The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance bill — the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless — were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera they could find.

LEADING THE CHARGE against reforms of the FBI’s domestic spying powers was Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee who, in countless TV appearances, has strongly insinuated, if not outright stated, that Trump is controlled by and loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, just this weekend, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Schiff accused Trump of corruptly abusing the powers of the DOJ and FBI in order to vindictively punish Hilary Clinton and other political enemies. Referring to Trump’s various corrupt acts, Schiff pronounced: “We ought to be thinking in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, beyond these three years what damage may be done to the institutions of our democracy. ”

Yet just two days later, there was the very same Adam Schiff, on the House floor, dismissing the need for real safeguards on the ability of Trump’s FBI to spy on Americans. In demanding rejection of the warrant requirement safeguard, Schiff channeled Dick Cheney — and the Trump White House — in warning that any warrant requirements would constitute “a crippling requirement in national security and terrorism cases.”

Standing with Schiff in opposing these safeguards was his fellow California Democrat Eric Swalwell, who has devoted his entire congressional term almost exclusively to accusing Trump of being a puppet of the Kremlin, in the process becoming a media darling among the MSNBC set and online #Resistance movement. Yet after spending a full year warning that Trump’s real loyalty was to Moscow rather than America, Swalwell echoed Schiff in demanding that no warrant safeguards were needed on the spying power of Trump’s FBI.

If one were to invoke the standard mentality and tactics of Schiff and Swalwell — namely, impugning the patriotism and loyalty of anyone questioning their Trump/Russia accusations — one could seriously question their own patriotism in handing these vast, virtually unlimited spying powers to a president whom they say they believe is a corrupt agent of a foreign power.

While Trump, as president, is the head of the executive branch, the official with the greatest control over the FBI they just empowered is his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. In other words, Pelosi, Schiff, and their allies just voted to vest great, unchecked power in an official the Democrats have (with good reason) long denounced as corrupt and deeply racist. As Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (who has vowed with Rand Paul to filibuster the bill when it reaches the Senate) put it yesterday: “This Section 702 bill would give AG Jeff Sessions unchecked power to use this information against Americans. This bill prevents his decisions from EVER being challenged in court.”

But more significantly, the Amash amendment containing the proposed reforms (including a warrant requirement) was defeated by a much smaller margin: 233-183. While 125 Democratic House members were joined by 58 GOP members in voting for these reforms, 55 Democrats — led by Pelosi and Schiff — joined with the GOP majority to reject them, ensuring defeat of Amash’s amendment by a mere 26 votes.

This means that Trump’s bill to ensure his FBI’s ongoing power to spy on the communications of Americans without warrants was saved by Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell abandoning the large majority of their own Democratic caucus, and instead joining with Ryan and the GOP majority to ensure defeat of all meaningful reforms. Here are the 55 Democrats who not only voted in favor of the Trump-endorsed spying bill, but who also voted against the reform amendment to require a warrant. Beyond Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell, it includes the second most-senior Democrat Steny Hoyer and former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

…if there is any principle that ought to command support across party and ideological lines, it’s the one long embedded in the Constitution: We do not want our government spying on us unless it can first obtain a warrant to do so — the principle that was trampled on yesterday by the unholy alliance of Trump, the GOP congressional leadership, Nancy Pelosi, and Adam Schiff.

Indeed, several of Pelosi’s own caucus members made all of these points with usually explicit rhetoric. Here, for instance, was Rep. Ted Lieu of California who — like Schiff and Swalwell — has become a media and #Resistance star this year for his unflinching denunciations of Trump as a corrupt Kremlin tool but who, unlike his California colleagues, cast the only vote rationally reconcilable with his yearlong crusade to impose limits on Trump’s spying powers.

But the most important point here is what this says about how Democrats really view Donald Trump. How can anyone rational possibly take seriously all the righteous denunciations from people like Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell about how Trump is a lawless, authoritarian tyrant existentially threatening American democracy when those very same people just yesterday voted in favor of vesting him the virtually limitless power to spy on Americans with no warrants or safeguards? If someone really believed those accusations about Trump — as opposed to just pretending to believe them for cynical political manipulation of their followers — how could they possibly have done what they did yesterday?

Cliches are boring to hear, yet often contain truth. That actions speak louder than words is one of those. The next time you see Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, or Eric Swalwell waxing indignantly on cable TV about how Trump is a grave menace to the rule of law and American democracy, focus less on their scripted talking points and more on their actions, beginning with their vote yesterday to vest in him these awesome powers while blocking safeguards and checks. That will tell you all you need to know about who they really are and what they really believe.

I get a bit sick of Americans not disputing their patriotic duty to support their government spying on everybody else. But the main thrust is spot on.

Omitted from above long quote is an account of the significant numbers of Democrats as well as Republicans who refused to go along. This is also of interest, not just because of potential implications when it gets to the Senate.

This story is interesting also in its implications for Democrat splits when they have a majority in Congress. Those Democrats who really do want infrastructure spending, healthcare improvements and other “populist” measures are unlikely to be any more inhibited about voting with Trumpist Republicans to give Trump the majority he needs for measures that will help him win in 2020 than those Democrats who really want a surveillance state were inhibited about providing a majority on this issue.

ACLU milder but same point:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/members-congress-just-voted-give-trump

3. Foreign policy establishment seems to be getting less hysterical about Trump

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-13/richard-haass-on-trump-s-foreign-policy-and-america-first

4. Meanwhile media is drifting to a parallel universe….

Fairfax has this story in today’s Age (Sunday 12 January) p22

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/north-america/is-america-going-insane-or-coming-to-its-senses-20180111-h0grjc.html

Originally from wapo, though they don’t even bother to mention that anymore. So it isn’t by some Australian journo totally ignorant of American political culture:

When Bill Kristol, neocon never-trumper, tweeted “I’m with her” re Orah for President. It wasn’t hard for me as an alien from a parallel universe to grasp that he was ridiculing Democrats.

But here’s two Washington Post journalists who actually live and breathe American political culture saying

The viability of a Winfrey campaign, on Monday at least, seemed capable of uniting both ends of the political spectrum.

According to them, Bill Kristol’s:

tongue-in-cheek declaration gave way to an objective case for her candidacy: “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren,” he tweeted. “Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.”

Actually the full quote started with: “Oprah: Sounder on economics than Bernie Sanders, understands ….”

Interestingly Janet Albrechtsen in the Australiangave the same quote, with exactly the same omission so she too was just picking up themes from wapo to bloviate about.

Bill Kristol explained later:

Can I honestly look at you and say she’s less qualified to be president than Donald Trump? I cannot

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/01/08/kristol_american_success_story_oprah_pretty_formidable_not_less_qualified_than_trump.html

The wap story is clearly appalled at “this surprising groundswell” as was Janet Albrechtson. But there is no way they could have made idiots of themselves by including Bill Kristol with the other GOP commentators unless they not only failed to grasp that he was just sarcastically emphasizing “never Trump” while reminding everybody that neither of them has any qualifications whatever.

How out of touch with American political culture does one have to be not to understand that from any Republican “Sounder in economics than Bernie Sanders” and “Understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren” is an expression of disdain somewhat similar to “less vicious than Joe McCarthy”?

As an alien claiming that wapo journalists have left the planet I had to actually use google to confirm that the same applies to:

“Less touchy-feely than Joe Biden” (a notoriously touchy feely Democrat Vice president and potential 2020 candidate)

http://mashable.com/2015/02/18/joe-biden-personal-space/#Snz5njDLLOqX

and

“more charismatic than John Hickenlooper” (a notoriously uncharismatic Democrat State Governor)

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/john-hickenlooper-party-of-one/381196/

and

“more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo” (a notoriously unpleasant Democrat State Governor)

https://newrepublic.com/minutes/135636/andrew-cuomo-will-never-president

But there you are. It isn’t a satirical piece. Omitting the reference toBernie Sanders must have been deliberate for wapo and blind bloviating for Janet Albrechtson in The Australian. Presumably for wapo it felt cognitively dissonant and for The Australian it was just another opportunity to bloviate about the mindlessness of liberals (I can relate to that!). But they missed all five jokes and no editorial staff noticed. They are genuinely worried that American politics has become insane, which suggests some degree of insight. But they also honestly believe a GOP never trumper mocking liberals side by pointing out that potential Democrat candidates are as absurd as Trump should lead their article as an “objective case” for another celebrity candidate that is part of a “surprising groundswell” that is “uniting both sides of the political spectrum”.

Hopefully they will turn out to be right. So if the whole thing hasn’t fallen to bits by 2024, it could be Condi Rice v Oprah.

5. Fake news. WSJ releases transcript and audio claiming Trump saying “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong un” in response to White House releasing audio of Trump saying “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong un”. The difference is easier to spot than comparing “win bigly” with “win big league” because of the intonation used for a hypothetical instead of an assertion. That makes the natural interpretation clearly “I’d” but this is widely reported as yet another Trump lie.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/donald-trump-denies-saying-he-has-a-good-relationship-with-kim-jongun-despite-audio-proof/news-story/b429d359fc08b2069df02023db7a9a89

https://mobile.twitter.com/PressSec/status/952405070955544576/video/1

Compare above report with New York Post:

https://nypost.com/2018/01/14/trump-wsj-falsely-quoted-north-korea-comments/

Which is more likely to have readers continue to regard them as credible?

6. CNN expresses empathy for its viewers who aren’t being paid for participating in the Trump reality television show that CNN’s sponsors are paying CNN for putting to air almost 24/7:

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/14/opinions/trump-reality-show-cost-opinion-obeidallah/index.html

7. Fox claiming credit to Trump for reduced unemployment among blacks and hispanics:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/01/06/trump-keeps-his-promise-blacks-and-hispanics-do-better-with-him-than-obama.html

If he can avoid crash before 2020 this is likely to have much more impact than perceptions of racism. Doubt that Trump could ever reach Bannon’s target of 40% of black and hispanic votes but it would certainly reduce the ethnic mobilization for Democrats.

8. Right-wing news reacting to shock, horror at Trump calling hell holes, shit holes:

https://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-morris/ben-shapiro-media-lost-their-minds-yesterday-over-trump-s-hole-comment

When will liberals give up on trying to win over conservatives based on imagining that they care so much about polite language?

9. CNN responds to Trumpists pretending that it matters that Trump whether “shithouse” instead of “shithole” by explaining that it was racist because countries like El Salvador as opposed to Norway are Muslim er, that is black, or brown or something (actually .13% black, 86.3% Mesitzo) anyway they are certainly Hispanic so it is obviously racist.

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/politics/trump-shithole-analysis/index.html

BTW “Salvadorans who are racially European, especially Mediterranean, and indigenous people in El Salvador who do not speak indigenous languages nor have an indigenous culture, as well as tri-racial Pardo Salvadorans, also identify themselves as Mestizo culturally. El Salvador is the only country in Central America that does not have a significant African population….

Very clear that liberals won’t actually challenge Trumpist hostility to immigration and especially immigration from hellhole countries but will just insist on being “nice” about it and express horror at vulgar language.

10. Liberal economist Kenneth Rogoff at the Guardian warns readers that Trump might meet 3% growth target and this could result in higher wages. Explains how to spin it as only benefiting the 1%.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/11/donald-trumps-3-growth-plan-is-only-for-the-1

If this mentality becomes widespread enough among Democrats then Trump could even win 2018, not just 2020.

11. Officially conferring “fake news” awards on the fake media would be “unethical” and an infringement on the freedom of the press by violating its First Amendment rights not to be criticized…

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/15/trump-fake-news-awards-ethics-339183

12. Above confirms it has indeed been an exhausting year for the media, which stands along with the intelligence agencies and the judiciary as the only institutions that liberals can hope might be able to prevent the elected government from governing:

If there is one underlying theme of Trump’s first year, it is his willingness — whether in his disregard for ethics norms relating to his business empire or his belief that he has the “absolute right” to do what he wants with the Justice Department — to flout every expectation and constraint of his office.
It’s a trend evident in his assault on institutions that act as checks on his power, like the intelligence agencies, the judiciary and the press, that will bear the scars after he has left the Oval Office.
“Donald Trump has no regard for rules, he has thumbed his nose at rules his entire life,” said David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has known Trump for 30 years and has a new book out on Trump’s presidency coming on Tuesday.
“He is a dictator in waiting, he talks as a dictator and he will do whatever he wants,” said Johnston, whose book “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America” concludes that Trump is unique in being the only US president not to pursue policies in the national interest.

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/politics/donald-trump-first-year-presidency/index.html

So exhausting… WHY DON’T THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES JUST PUT A STOP TO THIS ASSAULT ON OUR EXPECTATIONS WHICH ARE THE NATIONAL INTEREST?

Why, or why are we just condemned to writing books about it?

How DARE they mock us with fake awards?

How come the rednecks we mock and hate are STILL supporting Trump just because we hate him and he hates us too. How many times do we have to tell them that we are less vulgar than he is until they get it into their thick heads?

 

 

 

Notes on Trump 20

1. Gallup says:

Note: There will be no updates to the Presidential Job Approval Center from Jan. 8 through mid-February 2018. Until then, find weekly Trump job approval updates here. Approval by subgroups will resume on a monthly, rather than weekly, basis.

I’m only interested in GOP subgroups until November 2018 primaries so will only report those monthly unless I become aware of another poll that publicly provides that weekly. (In which case there would be a break from previous figures based on different methods and only future relative changes would be relevant).

2. Stephen Miller on CNN

At 6′:30″ Miller tries to mention that Bannon did not push the travel ban as claimed in the book. The interviewer and all reports I have seen didn’t even notice. This reminds me of the interview in which Trump tried to admit that he knew perfectly well that firing Comey would only prolong the “Russia thing” but they were so keen on the “Russia thing” that they didn’t get it.

3. I’ve now read (or rather “played”) “Fire and Fury” (link in Notes 19). Its well written and quite entertaining. Basically strings together all the gossip already “revealed” by “multiple sources” to indelibly imprint a picture of a completely disfunctional Trump administration heading for Trump’s removal as mentally incompetent. This is exactly what a large audience desperately wants to believe so I am pretty sure they will – and that is the biggest favour anybody could do for Trump.

4. New feature is that some of the “multiple sources” are now more identifiable. Reads like the author was himself the conduit for the vast industry of bizarre reporting of “White House officials” and “friends of Trump” confirming everything that the liberal media want to believe about him.

Main thing I don’t feel confident about is what is going on with Steve Bannon. My view was that Bannon leaving the White House only made it easier for challengers at GOP primaries to openly organize behind Bannon’s forces while White House continued to keep GOP incumbents paralysed. “Evidence” in the book strongly suggests I was (and still am) wrong about that. It worries me that continuing to think what I do continue to think amounts to a preposterously complicated conspiracy theory.

5. Especially puzzling is the reporting of Bannon’s belated walk back of apology for saying that Donald Jr’s attendance at meeting with Russians was “treasonous”:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/01/07/steve-bannon-issues-statement-my-support-is-unwavering-for-trump-and-his-agenda/

Bannon says that his comments were aimed at Trump’s sacked campaign manager Paul Manafort, who attended the meeting with Donald Jr and the Russians (and notoriously  worked previously as a campaigner for a pro-Kremlin oligarch in the Ukraine and has now been charged with money laundering). That confirms Bannon was accurately quoted in the book (apparently based on dinner party hosted and presumably taped by the author). The point Bannon was quoted making very clearly in the book was that the three participants from the Trump campaign were unbelievably brainless.

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/03/donald-trump-russia-steve-bannon-michael-wolff

(Link is an ad for the Holiday Inn and headline is about “explosive” book).

This vividly argues that the Trump campaign could not possibly have been colluding with the Russians because its leaders were far too clueless and don’t even know how such things are done. (In general the book does not attempt to defend the “Russia thing” that most of the media has been obsessed with – it seems to be part of helping them to slide effortlessly into a substitute dead end).

Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner was also at the meeting. Bannon not mentioning him in the apology does rather more than hint that Bannon is indeed at war with “Javanka” as the book claims.

So far I haven’t noticed any media accounts drawing attention to this, although it screams for attention. My guess is that unlike me they don’t want to admit to not knowing what to make of it initially and will only start blithering when they have decided on a “line”. It was Donald Jr who organized the meeting but not apologizing to Jared combined with Vanity Fair interviews and large slabs of the book about Steve and Jared hating each other strikes me as quite ostentatious in announcing ongoing hostilities (whether honestly or deceptively I cannot be sure).

6. So I admit to not knowing what to make of it and that the best I can come up with at the moment is a preposterously implausible conspiracy theory involving the author, Bannon and Trump helping to provide the idiots with a substitute obsession for when the “Russia thing” peters out (while lulling Trump and Bannon’s paralysed opponents in the GOP into a more complacent state of paralysis).

Bannon’s main financial backers, the Mercers have called on Breitbart to sack him so, as Trump likes to say, “We’ll see”.

7. Meanwhile I will just continue blithering, dumping links here as I read them, not having a current theory that I am fully convinced about myself. (Except that I do not believe anybody mentally incompetent could be as brilliantly successful as Trump in persuading his enemies to “misunderestimate” him.)

Trump is clearly doing his best to publicize the book, following up on legal threats by tweeting about being a “very stable genius”.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-tweet-calls-himself-very-stable-genius-like-smart-slams-michael-wolff-today/

Wikileaks joined in with twitter link to book on Google Drive (which would be instantaneously overloaded). Described inaccurately by CNET as having then deleted the link.

https://www.cnet.com/news/wikileaks-tweets-then-deletes-link-to-full-text-of-trump-book-fire-and-fury/

ABC, Fairfax et al, dutifully describe wikileaks drawing attention to a book about leaks as “unprecedented” and an “attack” to undermine the book’s profits and gloats that the idiot Trump has stupidly promoted those profits by denouncing the book:

Now, in an unprecedented move, Wikileaks has posted a link on Twitter to a Google Drive document that appears to contain the entire manuscript, although it is unclear whether it is the final version that went to publication.

WikiLeaks has given no explanation for its move.

It is unclear whether it was seeking to undermine the book’s sales or simply provide an alternative copy of the book, since it sold out.

But it is the second time WikiLeaks has apparently supported the US President.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the whistleblowing site published a substantial number of embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton that undermined her campaign for the presidency.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s own tweets appear to have contributed to boosting the book’s sales, at least according to some customers who bought it.

“I hate paying retail price for anything, but I made an exception buying this book because Trump wanted to stop its publication,” wrote one reviewer on Amazon.com.

“In essence, I bought the book precisely to spite Trump. Hopefully the author will donate a portion of the proceeds to the movement to impeach Trump.”

“Good Read. Probably wouldn’t have ever read thanks for the book suggestion Donald,” wrote another.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-08/donald-trump-fire-and-fury-posted-free-online-by-wikileaks/9311094

Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, also questioned the administration’s handling of the book.

“But the worst thing that you can do is flatter the book with attention and, even worse than that, threaten to sue the author,” McKinnon told CNN. “I guarantee, if you want to raise sales for a book, threaten to sue the author.”

The book skyrocketed to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list ahead of its release on Friday, and physical copies sold out in multiple bookstores.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/367827-administration-rushes-to-trumps-defense-on-books-dramatic-claims

So there you have it. Trump is so stupid he doesn’t even understand that threatening to sue will raise the sales. There is nothing Trump could do or fail to do that would not confirm his stupidity to these people who “already knew”. After all they are, like, very smart….

This is what makes any complicated theory about Trump and Bannon conspiring to put on a show so problematic. There simply isn’t any need. What could possibly prevent the media from distracting themselves?

As Slate and the Guardian say, the book doesn’t reveal that Trump is incompetent

“We already knew”:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/wolffs-fire-and-fury-doesnt-reveal-that-trump-is-incompetent-we-already-knew.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/07/fire-fury-donald-trump-michael-wolff-book

How could they resist this stuff?

Fairfax’s Matthew Knott actually has a reasonably insightful take on how “truthiness” suits the current zeitgeist:

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/michael-wolffs-shameless–even-morally-dubious–strategy-behind-the-riveting-but-sloppy-fire-and-fury-20180107-h0eu1x.html

It simply doesn’t matter that the author is a sleaze presenting “alternative facts”. As with Trumpists, the anti-Trumpists desperately need a rivetting story that feels “truthy” to their emotions, not their reason.

Fire and Fury seems to have been hastily edited – the names and ages of some participants are wrong – and the veracity of several details has been questioned.

Multiple White House reporters say some of the stories Wolff tells (like Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell skipping a meeting with Trump to get a haircut) are apocryphal; former British prime minister Tony Blair has dismissed as a “complete fabrication” an anecdote about him telling Trump he may have been spied on by MI5 agents.

One suspects, though, that many readers will forgive any such errors. The book confirms their worst fears about the Trump presidency: it feels truthful, if not always factual.

(Emphasis added)

Knott also “gets” that the book is perfectly positioned for readers who need to maintain their sense of media omniscience as their hope in “obstruction of justice” follows the “Russia thing” in not providing a believable prospect that their nightmare will end soon.

More broadly though, the level of infighting and incompetence portrayed in the book makes systematic, high-level collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign seem unthinkable. The Trump operation, in Wolff’s telling, can barely collude with itself to achieve an outcome.

Throughout the book, Wolff uses an omniscient style that is both engaging and maddening. It’s impossible for the reader to tell what Wolff has observed himself and what he is hearing secondhand.

That of course is exactly how the people still willing to tolerate the media coverage of Trump like it. “Multiple sources familiar with the matter inside and outside the White House and the intelligence community” is becoming more and more redundant as a pretence. Mainstream journalism can now more or less openly just launch straight into fantasizing.

8. In other news black unemployment has hit a 45 year low.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/05/black-unemployment-rate-falls-to-record-low.html

9. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/donald-trump-goes-full-fredo/549875/

Before the Saturday morning tweets, what should have been the biggest story of the week was Trump’s success at mobilizing the Senate and the FBI to deploy criminal prosecution as a weapon against Trump critics. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.
The Department of Justice can ignore such a referral. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The FBI has come under relentless abuse from Trump, who complains about its refusal to do his will. Is it now yielding?We also learned this week from The New York Times that aides to the Attorney General sought damaging information on Capitol Hill about FBI director Comey, indicating close cooperation between the White House and Main Justice to exert political control over the country’s chief law enforcement agency

10. Time speculating on a run by Oprah

http://time.com/5093066/oprah-beat-donald-trump-president-2020/

Democrats may bemoan Trump’s empty-calorie celebrity campaign win, but there’s no reason to believe that they couldn’t face one of their own.

11. Michael Wolff, celebrity Trump vilifier, whining that he has been vilified by Trump:

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/donald-trump-couldn-t-stop-my-book-s-release-it-ncna835796

One does take note when the president of the United States is singling you out and vilifying you in as extreme a way as you could possibly be vilified.

New Republic’s Alex Shephard explains the Wolff phenomena with some insight:

https://newrepublic.com/article/146492/michael-wolffs-fire-fury-gift-donald-trump

They go way back in understanding what Wolff is. Here’s Michelle Cottle at New Republic in 2004:

https://newrepublic.com/article/67746/wolff-trapped

Now writing in The Atlantic, Michelle Cottle has not changed her view that Wolff is the same sort of scum as Donald, but is now utterly delighted to welcome him as our scum, perfectly suited for the perfect take down of Donald.

This series of articles makes it more plausible that Wolff’s book was not actually setup by Trump supporters to help consolidate the media’s next distraction, but emerged spontaneously from their natural inclinations. But at the same time makes it pretty clear that the bait would be taken by people like Wolff, whether the motive was under the counter cash or fame.

12. Quartz discovers the Hans Christian Anderson tale in which a large crowd of journalists that was previously chanting “The Emperor is a Russian stooge” switches to chanting “The Emporer has no clothes” and they all live happily ever after.

Donald Trump is the emperor with no clothes—and the media’s playing along

13. Today’s Age (Tuesday Jan 9) has a view of Trump’s likely macroeconomic policy that I agree with as likely. From wapo:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-recession-is-coming/2018/01/05/2c5f2142-f23f-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

My prediction is that he’ll throw open the government’s liquor cabinets and pour out every stimulating drop he can get his hands on in a desperate effort to keep the party going through 2020.

What a morning-after that is likely to be.

Basically if he doesn’t do that he has no hope in 2020. Everything he has done up till now reinforces my initial judgment that he is fully aware that he cannot do anything much until he has his own party in Congress and that once he does there will be a very different political situation in which a Democrat majority would be less of an obstacle than the present anti-Trump GOP incumbents to getting the “stimulus” (ie deficits) he needs for a second term.

So my excuse for spending so much time on Trump is that it is worth understanding the real possibility that the next Great Depression will break out with a populist authoritarian nationalist President Trump in office, and inclined strongly towards his unfulfilled program of trade wars.

Here’s a description from Fortune of the WSJ account of Ray Dalio’s analysis (also in Monday’s Australian, January 8, p17):

http://fortune.com/2018/01/05/bridgewater-ray-dalio-stock-market-bear/?iid=sr-link1

Ray Dalio is interesting because his hedge fund anticipated and profited from the 2008 financial crisis.

Specifically, he’s concerned about debt. Americans have more debt than assets – and the payments on that debt are growing.

In order to keep the cost of debt service affordable, the Federal Reserve will be forced to keep interest rates low, Dalio told The Journal.

“It may not be a problem in the next year or two, but the risk of not getting it right increases with time,” he said.

He also cautions that the incredible returns of the last 18 months are not the new normal. He believes inflation-adjusted returns on the typical stock and bond portfolio could be near zero in the next decade, thanks to the combination of debt and inflationary pressure.

Dalio – whose Bridewater Associates is the largest hedge fund firm in the world, managing $150 billion – is also concerned about the 60% of Americans who have almost no assets and aren’t directly benefiting from the soaring corporate profits and stock prices.

“If we do have an economic downturn, I worry we will be at each other’s throats,” he said.

Surviving another Great Depression might seem easy enough given the non-existance of a left. But it will certainly require substantial redistribution of wealth from the “elite” 5% or 1% or so towards the top and/or state capitalism, so an even more top heavy billionaire class can appease a larger and poorer working class by paying higher real wages. A populist nationalist alliance of billionaire Trumpists and workers against “foreigners” and “the elite” makes sense for survival of capitalism. The ruling class are at each other’s throats and have every reason to be concerned that others might be at all their throats if they cannot divide the workers by setting a large section of them against each other with a focus on “foreigners” and “elites” led by billionaires themselves rather than the usual flunkeys.

 

 

Notes on Trump 19

1. Gallup approval day 337 (Dec 18-24) 80%/87% GOP/Conservative GOP. Day 345 (Dec 25-31) 82%/85%. Recovering.

2. Scott Adams has the following list of expectations of Trump that most commentators were wrong about. No doubt it is selected to retrospectively confirm that he got things right. But I found it interesting to add my own responses.

Yes means I got this wrong too.

No means I agree that lots of people got this wrong and join Scott in claiming I got it right.

Pass means I didn’t form an opinion (and/or don’t have one now).

Meaningless means I don’t agree with Scott including it in such a list.

When candidate Trump first set about the job of redefining politics (and reality) back in 2015, people had lots of predictions about how things would turn out. One year isn’t long enough to know everything we need to know about his presidency, but it’s long enough to to check some of our predictions. As a public service, I put together a list of predictions that various people made about Trump that you can use to evaluate your own predictive powers. Count the number of items on the list that you once predicted would be true. I’ll tell you how to evaluate your score at the end.

Did you once believe…

Trump will never win the GOP nomination.

Pass – I only started paying attention at all after it was obvious that he might.

Trump will never win the presidency.

Yes. I started paying close attention when I got this wrong.

Stocks will drop if Trump is elected.

Pass. (Also perhaps Meaningless. It is true that predictions of the opposite of what happened were widepread – but that is usual for stock market predictions, not specific to Trump).

President Trump will deport ten million illegal immigrants.

No

Trump will be gone (impeached, jailed, or quit) by end of 2017.

No

Trump’s immigration ban on several Muslim countries will be found unconstitutional.

No

Trump colluded with Russia, and that’s a crime.

No

Trump obstructed justice (a crime) by firing Comey.

No

Trump’s skills as a “con man” might get him elected but it won’t transfer into doing the job of president.

No. (It is a basic qualification for that job). But also meaningless since people “predicting” it were not really claiming anything other than rejection.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will cause huge problems.

No. (The huge problems are merely continued)

Trump’s tweeting will cause huge problems.

No. (But somewhat meaningless as both Scott and I do not regard causing liberals’ splodey heads to splode as a problem whereas others naturally do).

GOP will never embrace Trump.

Pass or meaningless. I expect a split.

Trump will get nothing important done.

Meaningless. None of this is fundamentally important but there is no basis for agreeing on what is.

Trump will not work effectively with leaders of other countries.

No. But also meaningless. Others do believe the widespread international rejection would be of some great significance, and I agree with Scott that it wasn’t but that doesn’t mean he works effectively on international issues or is even very interested in them, or that international politics has much to do with leaders working effectively.

GOP senators will vote against GOP priorities because of President Trump’s mean tweets.

No. Also meaningless. Claims that they might were more like denunciations of them for not doing so than serious predictions that they would.

Trump will not nominate qualified judges to the Supreme Court.

Meaningless. The predictions were that they would be ideologically unacceptable to liberals not related to “competence”. Pretty well everybody got that right.

Trump is incompetent.

No. (And I agree that it is staggering how the people he has been out maneuvering become increasingly convinced of his incompetence despite that being his job and him demonstrating that he is unusually good at it)

Presidential approval polls are a good predictor of how a president will perform.

No. Also meaningless “how a president will perform” does not mean anything. But I do agree that current polls do not necessarily imply Trump could not win in 2020, which is one version of “perform”.

The military won’t follow Trump’s orders.

No. But also meaningless. They can and do slow walk eg on transgender and would do more if Trump did give “unacceptable” orders. I am not aware of others seriously expecting much more than that – leaving aside those who expect him to launch a nuclear war or martial law.

GDP will never stay above 3%.

Pass. I don’t try to predict such unpredictable things.

— end —

I didn’t get any of those predictions wrong. But if you got 15 or more wrong, you might want to consider never saying anything about politics out loud again for the rest of your life. Just a suggestion.

http://blog.dilbert.com/2017/12/22/determine-talk-politics-public/

So, I claim my record shows as much insight as the author of Dilbert based on his own criteria once I started paying close attention to the politics of his counrtry (and despite sharply opposed political outlooks I don’t think one could be the author of Dilbert without having a lot of insight).

3. On the other hand I cannot claim to have much insight on latest news re Steve Bannon and Trump. Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” has had a spectacularly successful launch. I plan to read it as, however implausibly, it looks likely to be a major influence on, as well as an expression of, the current bizarre zeitgeist. Library Genesis has had copies since 1:48pm Friday 5 January (zero day release, so endeth copyright!)

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=wolff+fire+and+fury&lg_topic=libgen&open=0&view=simple&res=25&phrase=0&column=def

Long Live Leninism!

Je reste un soixante-huitard. In both senses of “sixty-eighter”.

Next May will be the half-centennial of the defining month of the “sixties”.

Marx and Engels were “forty-eighters”. A much more significant generation/cohort that took part in the defeated European revolutions of 1848. Two decades later some 200,000 German forty-eighters fought in the second American revolution, making up about 10% of Lincoln’s armed forces, with greater success. The sixty-eighters had no such defeats and no such successes. But we did do something. Half a century is far too long between rounds. But I don’t think it will be as long again before, once more,

the times, they are a-changin’

Last year, 2017,  was part of a rather dreary few decades with the left moribund. But it had several anniversaries that deserve many books each. Not just to commemorate the past but for their lessons for the future, and hopefully the immediate future.

It was 150 years since publication of Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1 in a first edition of 1000 copies (September 14, 1867). That was two decades after the “Communist Manifesto” of the “forty-eighters”. Itself following “scarce two hundred years” of bourgeois rule since the English revolution.

Two centuries earlier, in 1817, Europe was just emerging from the Napoleonic wars. The French and American revolutions were recent and what is now the modern world was not yet fully visible. Most of the world – Asia, Africa and Latin America had not emerged into modern history.

November was the centennial of the “October Revolution” (November 7, 1917).

It was 60 years since the Sputnik was launched (October 4, 1957).

That was a decade before the half-centennial of “Red October”.

I remember celebrating that half-centennial in 1967 with half a bottle of vodka, despite the Red Flag having already gone down by the time the Sputnik went up. I got literally blind drunk (on the floor and unable to see). I did not make that mistake again  in November, indeed it put me off alcohol for life.

It is also about half a century since Mao launched the Chinese Cultural Revolution and about 40 years since his death and defeat of the Chinese revolution. It has been a very long temporary setback!

It is difficult to claim that communism is still “the mind, the heart, the conscience of our era”.

The social-fascists and lemmingist sects seem to have long ago completely obliterated Leninism, Maoism and communism.

As Marx said:

 “ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”). [5]

Indeed the very concept of a “left” in its broadest sense seems to have been displaced by the pseudoleft so that the generally accepted meaning of “left”, as understood by both supporters and opponents, is more or less identical with “reactionary”. That is the tendency fundamentally hostile to modernity and progress that “stands athwart history, yelling Stop”. This allows the conservative right to parade as rebels.

All the more reason to raise the Red flag and the banner of Red October and Lenin!

Do the traditions of “Leninist vanguard parties” have much relevance today? No, and they never did. Lenin thought the Comintern resolutions on organization were “too Russian”. The Bolshevik party was a mass party based on the organizational principles of the German workers party that led the second international before its collapse, as necessarily adapted to cope with the Tsarist secret police. There never was a mass revolutionary workers party in the West.

Does Lenin’s work “Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism” have much relevance today? No, there have certainly turned out to be a few more higher rungs on the ladder since that was written. Lenin’s claim that the period of the first world war was the final rung before victory of proletarian revolution, looked plausible enough then, but it makes no sense a century later! It was only a pamphlet dealing with the specific circumstances leading up to that imperialist world war, published under Tsarist censorhip. Lenin was right about the times he lived in but wrong about the future. He certainly cannot be blamed for the “anti-imperialist” pseudoleft whose “anti-globalist”, “anti-capitalist” and “anti-elite” politics and solidarity with putrid third world kleptocrat regimes has recently been “Trumped”.

According to Stalin:

“Developing capitalism,” says Lenin, “knows two historical tendencies in the national question. First: the awakening of national life and national movements, struggle against all national oppression, creation of national states. Second: development and acceleration of all kinds of intercourse between nations, breakdown of national barriers, creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc.

“Both tendencies are a world-wide law of capitalism. The first predominates at the beginning of its development, the second characterises mature capitalism that is moving towards its transformation into socialist society” (see Vol. XVII, pp. 139-40).

For imperialism these two tendencies represent irreconcilable contradictions; because imperialism cannot exist without exploiting colonies and forcibly retaining them within the framework of the “integral whole”; because imperialism can bring nations together only by means of annexations and colonial conquest, without which imperialism is, generally speaking, inconceivable.

For communism, on the contrary, these tendencies are but two sides of a single cause-the cause of the emancipation of the oppressed people from the yoke of imperialism; because communism knows that the union of peoples in a single world economic system is possible only in the basis of mutual confidence and voluntary agreement, and that road to the formation of a voluntary union of peoples lies through the separation of the colonies from the “integral” imperialist “whole,” through the transformation of the colonies into independent states.

Thanks in large part to the movement led by Lenin and Stalin, the second tendency has largely prevailed and annexations and colonial conquest have become, generally speaking, inconceivable. If another world war did break out it would certainly be ended by world revolution. That makes it rather unlikely for any imperialist power to try their luck.

Were the Mensheviks right that Russia was too backward for the workers to hold power? Yes, and so it turns out were the more advanced countries of the West. But Lenin was right that 50,000 bolsheviks could do a better job of modernizing Russia than 5,000 Tsarist landlords. They did their duty.

They not only fought, but fought well. Under the leadership of Lenin and then Stalin they defeated both feudalism and fascism and dragged not only Russia but the whole of Eastern Europe into modernity (kicking and screaming). Russia went from the sick man of Europe to a superpower. Even after internal defeat the momentum still resulted in the Sputnik which forced the imperialist bourgeoise to join in unleashing science and technology in a way that has transformed the world to the despair of reactionaries. The revolution spread to Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Chinese revolution led by Mao inspired the defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam and its retreat worldwide. The Chinese Cultural Revolution and the revolts in Eastern Europe merged with the sixties in the West.

The “years of stagnation” under social-facism leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union, with subsequent oligarchical rule, the absurd plutocracy in China, even more ridiculous hereditary monarchy in North Korea and deeply corrupt crony capitalism in Vietnam have been successfully used to discredit those historic victories. But they actually illustrate how huge an achievement those Leninist revolutions were, given the backwardness of those societies.

The English, French and American revolutions were not discredited by British, French and American imperialism. No revolution ends history. There is always a need for another revolution.

Was Rosa Luxemburg right that the party dictatorship in Russia would demobilize the workers and end up a dictatorship against them? Yes, but Lenin was right that the only alternative to Bolshevik dictatorship at the time was not bourgeois democracy, or even the oligarchic kleptocracy that rules today, but semi-feudal Whiteguard reaction. (Even Putin is a vast improvement compared with both Brezhnev and the Tsarist generals that would have replaced Kerensky if the Leninists had not).

Did Leninism lead to Stalinism and Maoism and end up with Brezhnev and Teng Hsiao-ping? Yes, and of course the social democrats are quite correct in pointing out that there is continuity between Lenin and Stalin and Mao. They were indeed on the same side and as the anarchists point out there was also continuity with Marx and Engels who were likewise on the same side. But it was the opposite side to the regimes that have held power in Russia and China for many decades.

Are we still living in the “era of imperialism and proletarian revolution”?

I’m really not sure. That era was only coming into being with the first world war and it has been passing away since the second world war. If we are still in the same era, we certainly lack a good theoretical summary of the phase of that era which we are now in. If we are in a different era there are certainly a lot of historical tasks still uncompleted, including democratic revolution in much of the world and proletarian revolution in all of it and we have not developed any clear idea of where we are or where we are going or even a minimal sketch of the nature of our era.

In working out the theory and tasks of our age we have a great heritage from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao with much to learn from both their sucesses and failures but a very long way to go.

The half century from the “forty-eighters” to the Bolsheviks meant that communists could not just defend and apply the theories of Marx and Engels but had to develop them further to “Marxism-Leninism” as was done under the leadership of Lenin. Lenin died in early 1924, less than 7 years after the revolution he led. His legacy of “Leninism” was most authoritatively described by Stalin in “Foundations of Leninism” very shortly after Lenin’s death. That work is well worth close study today.

I think the central concepts of Leninism are expressed in this quotation:

“The dictatorship of the proletariat,” says Lenin, “is a stubborn struggle-bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative-against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit of millions and tens of millions is a most terrible force. Without an iron party tempered in the struggle, without a party enjoying the confidence of all that is honest in the given class without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to conduct such a strategy successfully”

The world has changed a lot since then. But I cannot imagine a a transition from capitalism with bourgeois rule via anything other than a  protracted stubborn struggle for working class rule, as described. Nor can I imagine success in that struggle without a party as described.

Plainly these conditions do not currently exist. “Party building is bullshit!” was the correct, Leninist, response to lemmingists pretending that such conditions existed four decades ago. A different response will be necessary when the times are again a-changing’.

Meanwhile the other main lesson I would draw from Leninism is the central importance of “theory”, as mentioned in Chapter 3 of Stalin’s “Foundations”.

“Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”

Stalin led the Soviet Union, and the world revolution, for some three decades, including victory in the war against fascism. But even a casual reading of “Foundations of Leninism” shows he got a lot wrong. The dangers to the revolution that he described were successfully defeated as Stalin said they would be. But the main danger was, as always, the one not prepared against – the “unknown unknowns”. We now know the enemy was right inside the party, with a social base in the “forces and traditions of the old society” that was indeed a “most terrible force”.

Mao took the struggle much further, and in a far more backward society. He correctly analysed many of Stalin’s errors, again  developing Marxism-Leninism to a new and higher stage.

That too was defeated and the decades of collapse have been a lot longer than I ever expected. Capitalism did remarkably well in continuing to develop the productive forces.

I think we may be heading into another period of turbulent upheaval soon. It would be astonishing if no revolutionary theory suited to the times emerges in such conditions. When it does, it cannot resuscitate the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin or Mao but it will develop them further based on lessons learned.

 

Notes on Trump 18

1. Gallup approval day 331, Dec 11-18, 77%/83% Republican/Conservatiive Republican. Decline again. 

Here’s some celebration that Trump support and GOP identification sliding in polls. Given the media onslaught on Trump and the likelihood that this will still result in a large Trumpist party in Congress from 2018 I would have thought they would be less celebratory and more worried about how small an impact the onslaught has had.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/08/politics/donald-trump-base-pew-poll/index.html

Details of slide in GOP identification:

http://news.gallup.com/poll/223124/democratic-party-maintains-edge-party-affiliation.aspx?g_source=Politics&g_medium=lead&g_campaign=tiles

Democrat identification remains steady so most leaving GOP are not becoming Democrat identified but “independent” and potentially available for a split in GOP. Their leaving implies greater proportion of Trumpists voting in GOP primaries and so consolidates the likely emergence of a Trumpist party in Congress after 2018. 

Widespread expectations of a Democrat majority in House of Representatives seem entirely plausible to me, despite being so widespread. Given the total discombobulation of Democrats it is interesting that I haven’t seen any analysis from others suggesting that a Democrat majority facing a Trumpist minority in Congress might be a far better environment for Trump than the present one. Do people actually imagine that voters will be favourably impressed towards the Democrat candidate in 2020 by the results of another two years of gridlocked disfunction in Washington that Trump will be able to blame on them? 

If I was a Democrat I would prefer to remain a minority in the House and be able to keep on pretending that Trump is to blame for the GOP’s disfunctionality (and would prefer not to be stuck with having to irritate and demoralize everybody by unsuccessfully impeaching him). 

No real confirmation of Democrat split yet, but it would be hard to stay united in that situation. 

2. Nearly all the commentary is celebrating Alabama as defeat for Trump and sign of things to come. Here’s two antidotes:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/so-sorry-trumps-not-dead-yet/article37344673/

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/thomas-jefferson-street/articles/2017-12-13/dont-read-too-much-into-roy-moore-and-donald-trumps-alabama-senate-loss

3. Some confirmation that Jerusalem announcement was about shoring up alliance with Evangelicals (whose support for Trump has declined significantly):

https://www.vox.com/2017/12/12/16761540/trump-israel-jerusalem-embassy-evangelical-christians

Likudniks are less enthusiastic than Christian Zionists about the end-times, conversion of the Jews etc but they sure need allies (and most other Zionists still want to pretend they want “peace” rather than more pieces).

Here’s their allies (and a significant part of Trump’s coalition):

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Roughly a third of the American evangelical population, which is something like 15 million people.

Sean Illing

Why are these evangelicals so interested in the fate of Israel?

Elizabeth Oldmixon

These are the folks who believe that there will be a millennium in the future, a golden age, where Christ reigns on Earth, [and] they believe that before Christ will return, there will be a tribulation where Christ defeats evil. There will be natural disasters and wars, and perhaps an Antichrist, as the book of Revelations notes. Then at the end of that period, the people of the Mosaic covenant, including the Jews, will convert. Then after their conversion, the great millennium starts.

Sean Illing

And what about the people who don’t convert? What becomes of them?

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Well, according to the evangelicals who believe this, they’ll end up with the rest of the unsaved, which means they’ll be wiped out and sent to hell.

https://www.vox.com/2017/12/12/16761540/trump-israel-jerusalem-embassy-evangelical-christians

One would think it would not be difficult for opponents of that coalition for the end of days to win. Problem is the liberals also believe the unsaved will be wiped out and sent to hell (by the “intelligence community” or other saviours).

In addition they also have their fair share of Zionist extremists. Even though most pro-Zionist American jews are even less enthusiastic than Likudniks about making an issue of Jerusalem you can rely on a Democrat leader to boldly go where not even Trump went and loudly proclaim he urged Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel ie he wants credit for explicitly demanding acceptance of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem – the capital of any future Palestinian State.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/363465-schumer-advised-trump-on-declaring-jerusalem-as-israels-capital
4. Bernie Sanders is following the standard line on tax cuts. Joining the GOP pretence that those cuts that go to majority will expire in 10 years (to pretend to balance the budget) while also saying  that they won’t, so there will  eventually be huge budgetary pressure for cutbacks in necessary government services. This line may work in very short term, but only among people who still pay attention to what the media reports. When it comes to election time, what matters is the actual impact, which will be positive at that time. I would have thought Bernie would have more sense than the rest of the Democrats and explain that yes, it will have a positive effect until election time and that long term it can only make the crisis being postponed worse. But I guess that would require coming up with a positive program for transition from capitalism, and that’s our problem, not his. Just saying the truth, without having that alternative program, only helps the standard GOP/Koch brothers line against deficits and for cutbacks.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/16/bernie-sanders-tax-bill-republicans-trump

On the bright side, this direct connection between current politicking and economic theory about postponing and intensifying capitalist crisis does help clarify the need to get the theory right and formulate economic policies for transition from capitalism guided by a coherent theory.

5. The consumerist Trump hater’s gift guide. No this isn’t a sendup, it really is at the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/16/trump-hater-gift-guide

6. It’s been so bizarre following Trump news for the past year that I hadn’t noticed we are now in the silly season. 

Latest BREAKING NEWS development is not just a BOMBSHELL, its an EXPLOSIVE bombshell!! 

A Democrat has speculated that there are RUMORS that Trump MIGHT fire Mueller!!!!

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/365247-rep-speier-rumors-say-trump-could-fire-mueller-before-christmas

National Review says this would be INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/454717/trump-firing-robert-mueller-russia-investigation-fbi

This NEWS totally DWARFS the CNN report that Trump’s PARANOIA that his enemies are trying to undermine his electoral victory by linking him to Putin is TERRIFYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/15/politics/donald-trump-russia/index.html

Hmmm, come to think of it, when you look closely at these stories maybe Trump will fire Mueller. With the Congressional inquiries moving towards shutting down due to having nothing to inquire into and reports that Mueller could wind up soon with the same conclusion, there may be no other way to keep Trump’s opponents obsessed with this distraction…

It’s even got to the point where they are trying to convince themselves that if they cannot get him for colluding with Russia they can demand a coup based on the fact that he liked Wikileaks (which is one step removed from Russia).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/trump-russia-wikileaks_us_5a32ef36e4b040881be8f98d

Who knows how many steps closer to thinking about actual reality they might get if they were enabled to stop blithering about Russia?

Nah, even a totally paranoid Trump could not be worried that his opponents might start thinking coherently. If he was worried about that then he would be even more worried that sacking Mueller could be seen through as a transparent ploy to keep it going.

But then, sacking Comey worked for months. So it could be worth a try? It would be so easy to do, all it took to set them down this rabbit hole was a GOP member of the House of Representatives boasting that he had advised Trump to sack Mueller. One could keep them going for months just by having Trump actually hint he was interested in such advice…

https://www.thenation.com/article/if-trump-fires-mueller-we-must-impeach/

On the other hand, why bother? Trump denying that he might sack Mueller works just as well as hinting he might to get them going. At this point there is no way to prevent the media making idiots of themselves, let alone a need to work out ways to ensure they continue doing so.

Here is the sort of stuff that Trump will have to face from the “resistance” if they ever do stop blithering about Russia:

Ivanka Trump accused of ‘conflict of interest’ after opening shop in New York’s Trump Tower

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/ivanka-trump-opens-shop-trump-tower-fashion-brand-donald-trump-us-president-donald-trump-junior-a8114091.html

Since the Democrats KNOW they deserve to win they are quite capable of going all the way to the 2020 elections with absolutely nothing to say about anything meaningful, even without further distraction. It is reasonably certain that Ivanka Trump did not setup shop in Trump Tower with the strategic aim of distracting idiots, but as the idiots have claimed, she would have done it to exploit other idiots.

7. I just came across this “Resistance Guide” promoted by “Democratic Socialists of America” (which has roots going back to the Social Democrats that helped establish movements like SDS in the 1960s and is now closely related to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats):

http://www.dsausa.org/how_to_sustain_the_resistance_to_trump_and_win

I strongly recommend downloading and reading the whole 72pp. It is valuable in itself as a reminder of what serious broad left mass politics looks like (with a focus on polarization and trigger protests appropriate to the earlier stages aimed at reaching the first 3.5% that is necessary before actual mass organization can take off). It is also important as a warning about how easily that can be adapted to ruling class politics. Their initial focus on “monthly” trigger protests is not intended to lead to actual mass organization and potential revolution but to a second focus on “weekly” pressuring politicians and more relevant institutions, building to a final focus on taking over the Democrat party.

Came across it via link for “increasing popularity of left-wing groups outside of the (Democrat) party” in a liberal rant:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/15/16774216/trumpism-is-dead-trumpism-never-existed

That in itself indicates that they are starting to have some impact. They at least “exist” in the sense that mainstream politicking is aware of their existence and others can find out about them from that – it is the same sense in which a broad left once existed many decades ago in Australia and other developed countries. That provided a milieu in which a harder and sharper left could and did grow and even got to the point of existing once. The fact that they have to explain these basic concepts about organizing the people by reference to successes of the “Tea Party” and the CIA’s “color revolutions” is a reminder of how long it has been since there actually was any sort of broad left.

I think there are real possibilities of such a milieu existing again soon. It looks like a very plausible approach to splitting the Democrats and possibly winning office or becoming the main opposition if Trump still wins in 2020. Far more plausible that this could gain traction than that the liberal pap in the mass media remains unchallenged as the only alternative to Trumpism. Whether they end up governing or as the main opposition, it would be important to understand this trend and work with the people mobilized by it and be able to help a harder and sharper left grow again when the Social Democrats again prove unable to deliver. (For similar reasons it was important to understand the Tea Party and now Trumpists).

 There a lots of indications this is just more pseudoleftism. The limitation to “circles” of no more than 15 is a dead giveaway that the “movement organizers” intend to remain a top down leadership of an atroturf “movement” only capable of helping spread slogans chosen by others and not capable of developing independent policies. Classical “Soros”. The “meeting script” at the resources guide makes this quite explicit. Just “resonating”, no asking questions, certainly no policy making.

http://www.guidingtheresistance.org/resources

But similar politics has a significant mass base in Britain as well as Spain, Greece and Eastern Europe, so why not America and Australia? There is still no organized left that can help people participating in politics to learn to think by actually having to discuss policy and tactic. The Occupy movement, demonstrated how easily such movements can be contained and dissipated even though it did not start out as astroturf. 

I intend to just keep monitoring the mainstream while studying economics. It would be very good if others followed up on what’s happening with attempt to re-establish Social Democrat politics by monitoring their blogs etc. They might become part of the mainstream again and if so, they could either provide an opening for political engagement or an effective block to it that needs to be thoroughly understood in order to overcome it.

BTW here’s an amusing video clip rebutting far right paranoia about “Soros”, (but far too skillfully done to refute my leftist paranoida about “movements” sponsored by “leftist” billionaires inspired by the Koch brothers success with the Tea Party).

Notes on Trump 17

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 82%/87% (day 324, Dec 4-10). Recovered from recent decline.

2. USA today fully joins the chorus:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/trump-lows-ever-hit-rock-bottom-editorials-debates/945947001/

and congratulates itself on being welcomed aboard by the rest of the maistream media:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/13/readers-calm-down-trump-not-conservatives/948317001/

At one level the editorial reflects the shift in focus to Trump’s sexism (on which there is nothing to say that wasn’t said during the 2016 primaries and election). There is no mention at all of Russia or “obstruction of justice”, but this seems only a little bit ahead of others in the mainstream who are still claiming they expect some dramatic exposure of “obstruction of justice”, but rather forlornly and seem to have basically given up on their being some collusion that Trump is supposed to have been trying to prevent justice being done about.

The immediate focus is on the drama about Trump having accused a Democrat Senator of “begging” him for campaign donations and said she “would be willing to do anything for them”. Naturally the liberal media interprets this as a “slut shaming slur” (since it plainly does not hint at collusion with Russia or hatred of immigrants and muslims or efforts to rob from the poor to benefit the rich, what else could it be?)

Curiously however USAToday actually mentions:

And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.   

So it must have at least crossed their minds that a deliberate effort by Trump to invite liberals to “burst into flame” must be seen by Trump as having some benefit to Trump. Did the thought process stop there? Did it actually occur to them that the perceived benefit would be that Trump’s base would interpret the same words as being about the corruption of campaign donations and would be further entrenched in both that view and their general hostility to the media by insistence that it was a sexist slur?

No doubt such a deliberate strategy is contemptible. But why not just thoughtfully analyse it? Why burst into flames as directed?

Anyway, the two articles are well worth a look to understand that the media just are not going to be able to avoid continuing down this path that leads nowhere.

(Other recent efforts have included “Pocohontas” as a derogatory nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren as a slur on native Americans rather than an allusion to the story that she once sought benefits by unsupported claims to have native American ancestry).

Even the Democrat leadership is not quite as carried away by total tactical ineptitude as the Editorial Board of USA Today, which concludes:

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

3. USA Today also continued its tradition of publishing opposing views, with this statement from the Republican National Committee. It is also worth reading to understand how reasonably Trump’s supporters are successfully able to portray themselves in contrast to his opponents.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/rnc-democrats-response-laughable-editorials-debates/108551938/

 4. Alabama results are being spun in various directions. Some key points:

4.1 40% turnout is huge for a special election (expectations given the unusual interest were for a very high 25%).

4.2 Less than 2% were for write in candidates. That was from GOP supporters unwilling to vote for either a disgusting GOP candidate or a Democrat and was enough to tip the election (49.9%/48.9%). But it was only enough because of the huge turnout, which would have reflected enormous Democrat mobilization (especially among Alabama blacks who would not usually bother voting in elections where they can have no impact). Presumably even larger Democrat mobilization than is obvious since GOP turnout would have relatively declined as the more common response to disgusting GOP candidate would have been to not vote rather than vote for a write in that could not win as both have identical effect in throwing it to the Democrat.

4.3 As Vox said:

Sometimes you get bad luck

In the Alabama race, Senate Republicans suffered fundamentally from bad timing.

If the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore had surfaced during the primary, he likely would have lost to either Luther Strange or Mo Brooks, either of whom likely would have beaten Jones. If the allegations about Moore’s misconduct had surfaced after the general election, he might have been forced from office, but Alabama’s Republican governor would have appointed his replacement. Having this information come out during the window between the primary and the general election was a fluke, and absent that fluke, it’s hard to imagine Jones winning.

https://www.vox.com/2017/12/12/16766840/alabama-senate-election-results-moore-jones
Such “flukes” rarely turnout to be coincidence. Vox pretends that Roy Moore could only have been forced from office if the charges had surfaced after the election. Actually if the charges that “surfaced” decades later and after the primaries were true, the GOP Senate leadership would have been delighted to join with Democrats in removing Roy Moore from the Senate and replacing him with a GOP Senator of their choice after an ethics investigation as they explicitly announced when they failed to persuade him to stand down. So the charges HAD to “surface” PRECISELY when they did to actually have any impact on partisan politics. That does not mean they are not true. But only Democrats will pretend to believe it was a “fluke”. Others will investigate. Whoever arranged the timing clearly intended to risk Roy Moore winning in the hope that a Democrat rather than a Republican would become and remain Senator for a solid GOP State. There will be a lot more of this stuff with the total breakdown of mainstream politics.

4.4 Presumably both parties will try to insulate themselves by careful candidate vetting so the temporary success of this tactic in Alabama obscures whatever trends may otherwise be indicated by the result. But I see nothing that contradicts my expectations of large Democrat gains in 2018 elections (with strong Democrat divisions in the primaries) and large Trumpist gains in GOP primaries.

4.5 The effectiveness of party splits in swinging results is highlighted by the (genuine fluke) that 2% write-ins tipped the result. Both Bannon supporters and GOP incumbents are blaming each other for the defeat. Neither can blame Trump as he opposed Roy Moore in the primaries and did what he could to avoid a Democrat victory in the election (and has gone on to pretend that he opposed Roy Moore because he was less likely to win rather than because he was more likely to be a loose cannon after what was then assumed to be an inevitable GOP victory in a solid GOP State). This actually strengthens Trump’s position as arbiter of GOP contests.

4.6 GOP incumbents who choose to split in 2020 will know that they will be throwing it to Democrats so can only do so as part of a long term effort to build an alternative party. Same applies on Democrat side.

5. Trump not as bad as Obama in Iraq so hailed as good.

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/tom_shattuck/2017/12/shattuck_trump_s_leadership_military_support_enabled_us_to

6. Here’s a reminder of the efforts to derail Trump on sexism in 2016. I accidentally followed the link while reading that Bernie Sanders has less tactical nous than I thought and is joining the current chorus in an encore.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumptape-404pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&tid=a_inl&utm_term=.e6a36d2a3f22

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-resign-us-president-sexual-harassment-allegations-accusers-women-a8110676.html

http://www.factcheck.org/2017/12/trumps-rare-apology/

7. World Trade Organization going nowhere.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/14/trump-end-world-trade-organization-224810
8. Rolling Stone simultaneously denies and illustrates that Trump’s “resistance” has been left with no time or capacity for reflection (thus confirming to them that he has no strategy and is not even aware that this lack has mysteriously reduced his opponents to gibbering).

Though he probably doesn’t realize it, Trump benefits from doing so many bizarre and ridiculous things that they steal attention from each other. In many cases, the most egregious things he says are conveniently timed to take attention away from more serious issues – see his recent “Pocahontas” comments overshadowing debate about the tax bill in Congress or the controversy over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Trump has flummoxed academics, journalists and commentators attempting to fit him into the historical context of the presidency. Collectively, we appear unable to decide if Trump is some kind of strategic mastermind or so random and impulsive that even he doesn’t know what he will say or do next.

But if this year is any indication, there is no multidimensional chess strategy playing out in his head. Looking at the Trump presidency day by day shows no strategy or plan of any kind. It looks on paper exactly how it has felt to live through: one crisis after another, with little time for rest or reflection. It is a car that is constantly veering off the road, and we have to fight so hard to keep from going over the edge that it’s not easy to remember where we’ve been.

To illustrate that point, below are just some of the embarrassing, incomprehensible or flat-out stupid things from the first ten months of the Trump presidency that received a great deal of attention, but only for a very short time. This list may seem long, but it’s only the barest sketch of the edifice of madness we now inhabit; a comprehensive one would be the size of a phone book. (Many thanks to TrumpWatch for helping me on this journey.)

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-year-of-being-completely-overwhelmed-by-trump-w513802