Notes on Trump 40

I started this post a month ago and have not been monitoring news on Trump (or Brexit) much since so had better get it out now with just a bunch of links at the end but no explanation of them.

1. Recent developments seem to confirm my take on Brexit a month ago:

Brexit April Fool’s day joke could be nearly over

Ministers now openly confirming they will have to request a postponement until after April Fool’s Day to sort themselves out whatever happens now:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-theresa-may-deal-article-50-extend-parliament-commons-eu-withdrawal-a8723281.html

I’m not following the death throes, but May seems focussed on defanging the Brexiteers screams of “Treason” when Brexit fails by setting up a situation in which they take the blame for voting “No Deal” to the only deal available thus making “No Brexit” inevitable after initial postponement.

2. As predicted when focus was on campaign finance, the campaign about Trump is now back where Trump wants it – firmly focussed on Russia:

Insane version:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/here-are-18-reasons-why-trump-could-be-a-russian-asset/2019/01/13/45b1b250-174f-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.6a08d7dee4b4

Less insane version (“we already knew”):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-putin-revelations-are-nothing-new-why-are-people-so-excited/2019/01/13/a3ab6434-1775-11e9-88fe-f9f77a3bcb6c_story.html?utm_term=.b815ec58de7b

The less insane one sort of prepares readers for a Mueller report expected to not provide any way to get rid of Trump while not preventing them from continuing to bloviate about him being a Russian “asset” instead of developing actual policies.

I haven’t followed the latest “shutdown”. Trump approval currently down to 45% after near 50% late last year. Seems plausible that he will end it with a “State of Emergency” to be quashed by Supreme Court so he consolidates his base by having done everything he could to deliver on promises but was stopped by Democrats.

Meanwhile Democrats have gone out of their way not to actually fight on immigration issues but support border security. So support for “the wall” (now actually a fence) has RISEN from a year ago:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-gop-blamed-shutdown-crisis-fewer-oppose-wall/story?id=60337670

Now the minority support is 42%/54% while a year ago it was 34%/67%.

So Trump takes the blame for fighting hard for his promises while winning greater support for his policies.

Not much sign of “bipartisan” moves to help relect Trump by delivering on infrastructure spending, healthcare and massive deficits yet.

But this item on prison reform actually delivered is a straw in the wind – especially relevant to reducing the black turnout for Democrats:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/19/trumps-prison-reform-win-great-trump-paradox-it-reveals/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bcf87f0d94d8

3. I don’t know what’s going on with Syria policy.

Kurds and Turks clashing in northern Syria indicates increasing irrelevance of both Daesh and Assad regime, despite Daesh still existing and regime still holding ALL the cities.

Turkey seems to be stepping forward as the protector of Sunnis with a US withdrawal and Russian military police in areas that fighters withdrew from under cease fire agreements potentially able to hand over to them.

Al Qaeda is now the main threat to democratic revolution and has strengthened its position in Idlib embedded in close alliance with other Sunni forces, although now isolated from the opposition to regime in other areas. Interesting that Turkish tanks are being openly moved to the border of Idlib:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkey-reinforces-troops-on-border-with-syrias-idlib-anadolu-idUSKCN1P51MU

Some deal was arranged between Russia, Iran, Turkey and the more democratic resistance long ago, but I only know it could not be for long term occupation of Syria by Russian and Iranian forces and the other option of an Alawi enclave in Latakia has been foreclosed by the regime’s occupation of all cities. Media claims victory for Assad (and Russia and Iran). They are clearly wrong but I don’t know what is happening or when.

For an opposite view, here’s “Voice of America”:

https://www.voanews.com/a/arab-nations-inch-toward-rehabilitating-syria-president-assad/4741186.html

Meanwhile Trump’s focus is clearly domestic and his withdrawal announcement will be popular with the overwhelming isolationist sentiment in both his base and the Democrat base while the denunciations for “playing into Russian and Iranian hands” will only reinforce isolationist sentiment among Americans who might support democratic revolution but are rightly unenthused about maintaining imperial boundaries against other powers. As long as there are few US casualties it won’t matter much domestically whether the announced withdrawal actually happens or whether covert and air operations continue. Isolationist sentiment will still be strengthened and Trump will still benefit from the announcement. As for the impact in Syria, the Turks are far more important and the Kurds would be well advised to pull back and not turn towards the regime.

4. Now here’s what I started a month ago:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/byron-york-sudden-shift-in-get-trump-talk-now-its-campaign-finance-not-russia

This summary of current Democrat theme looks about right to me. Only missing a couple of points.

1. They won’t drop Russia and are starting to convince themselves that Trump’s lawyer thinking about bribing Putin with an apartment at a hoped for Trump tower in Moscow could at last be proof the Kremlin has something on him that explains how they lost the election.

2. Trump benefits from Democrats impeaching him and splitting about such idiotic tactics.

But it does confirm they are headed straight for it, even on something as utterly pointless as trying to convince more than a third of GOP Senators to remove him from office (and later get removed themselves by GOP primaries), for using his own money to pay off people he had sex with not to talk about it during his campaign.

Sudden shift in get-Trump talk; now it’s campaign finance, not Russia

by Byron York

December 10, 2018 03:48 PM

Prosecutors investigating President Trump made big news Friday, but it wasn’t about Russia. Rather, in their sentencing recommendation for fixer Michael Cohen, lawyers with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote that in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump directed Cohen to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who wanted money to keep quiet about sexual dalliances. While such arrangements are legal, prosecutors argued that since the payoffs occurred during the campaign, they were violations of campaign finance laws.

Cohen, who is cooperating because prosecutors nailed him for tax evasion and bank fraud in his private business, pleaded guilty to two felony campaign finance violations. So no one has to talk about an “alleged” campaign finance scheme; there’s already a guilty plea. But what was really significant about the sentencing memo was that prosecutors specifically said Trump told Cohen to do it.

“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” prosecutors said. “He acted in coordination with and at the direction of [Trump].”

Those words caused a sudden shift in the debate over investigating the president. What had been a two-year-long conversation about Trump and Russia instantly became a conversation about Trump and campaign finance.
“Prosecutors are now implicating the president in at least two felonies,” said CNN.

“Federal prosecutors in New York say that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to commit two felonies,” said NBC’s Chuck Todd.

“At least two felonies,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy.

“Implicated in two felonies,” said anti-Trump gadfly George Conway, husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
And so on.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him,” said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee next month, “that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who will chair the House Judiciary Committee, said the campaign finance charges “would be impeachable offenses because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.” Nadler said he has still not determined whether the charges, even thoughthey could be the basis for impeachment, are important enough to actually go forward, at least yet.
Nadler’s public caution is understandable; his committee will have the responsibility of starting the impeachment process, if that is what Democratic leaders decide. But the fact is, a number of Democrats clearly believe they already have enough evidence to impeach.

One significant problem could be that the campaign finance charge against the president is a pretty iffy case. Back in 2010, the Justice Department accused 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards of a similar scheme — an alleged campaign finance violation based on a payoff to a woman with whom Edwards had had an affair (and a child).
Edwards said he arranged the payment to save his reputation and hide the affair from his wife. The Justice Department said it was to influence the outcome of a presidential election.

The New York Times called the Edwards indictment “a case that had no precedent.” Noting that campaign finance law is “ever changing,” the paper said the Edwards case came down to one question: “Were the donations for the sole purpose of influencing the campaign or merely one purpose?”

The Justice Department failed miserably at trial. Edwards was acquitted on one count, while the jury deadlocked in Edwards’ favor on the others. Prosecutors opted not to try again.

President Trump would point out that the accusation against him differs in at least one key respect from Edwards. Prosecutors accused Edwards of raising donor money to pay off the woman. Trump used his own money, which even the byzantine and restrictive campaign finance laws give candidates a lot of freedom to use in unlimited amounts.
So even more than Edwards, if the Justice Department pursued a case against Trump, it would be on unprecedented grounds.
But the political reality is, it doesn’t really matter if it is a weak case. And it doesn’t matter if Trump himself has not been indicted, or even that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Because now, Democrats can say, “The Justice Department has implicated the president in two felonies. Two felonies. TWO FELONIES!”

Politically, that’s as good as an indictment of Trump. Perhaps even better, since it does not give the president a forum to make a proper legal defense.

The last few days have seen a big pivot in the campaign against Donald Trump. For two-plus years, it was Russia, Russia, Russia. But despite various revelations in the Russia probe, the case for collusion remains as sketchy as ever. Now, though, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have given Democrats a new weapon against the president. Look for them to use it.

A subsequent item indicates there is more solid grounds for eventually convicting Trump of a campaign finance violation than the Edwards case:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/trumps-john-edwards-defense-further-dissipates

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/06/how-trumps-approval-rating-has-evolved-according-data-scientist-donald-trump/

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/trump-s-tariffs-could-clinch-electoral-college

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-06/huawei-arrest-gives-u-s-leverage-over-china-on-technology

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/07/latest-filings-show-that-nobody-can-save-trump-now/?utm_term=.2bf06befaf27

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/08/donald-trump-denies-wrongdoing-amid-accusations-prosecutors-mueller/2249001002/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/07/michael-cohen-sentencing-memo-key-takeaways/2243428002/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/08/donald-trump-mueller-investigation-cohen-manafort

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/08/donald-trump-mueller-investigation-cohen-manafort

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/08/europe/russia-putin-trump-bromance-intl/index.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/07/opinions/mueller-is-putting-the-puzzle-pieces-together-on-trump-honig/index.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/07/opinions/mueller-is-putting-the-puzzle-pieces-together-on-trump-honig/index.html

https://www.newyorker.com/news/swamp-chronicles/the-michael-cohen-sentencing-memos-are-damning-for-trump

https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/trump-s-tweeting-veers-into-suspected-witness-tampering-territory-20181204-p50jzk.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/12/08/george-conway-blasts-trumps-claim-that-cohen-filing-totally-clears-president/?utm_term=.71abf94e1d8e

Reminder of the spirit

Here’s something from my old files, from 1972, when Fergus Robinson and Brian Pola and I were imprisoned at Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne for contempt of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

I love the spirit in which my father, Loreto, wrote it – and the fact that he wrote it at all.

 

loreto york letter to vice chancellor myers, published in vanguard 13 july 1972

Word meanings and the left

We shouldn’t be so squeamish about terms originally developed, adapted or appropriated by religious minds as they sought to explain external reality and human experience. Granting religion defacto monopoly rights over words like spirit, effectively allowing them to turn appropriation into expropriation, is another matter.

 

images

James Brown was the Godfather of Soul.

 

 
Word meanings and the left

By TomG

The following thoughts on word meanings originated from a written or online comment contained in communication between old comrades some twenty years ago. I transcribed my response, filing it away on the cloud, many years later but the issues raised remain pertinent, hence this post. The disagreement was over a discomfort or ambivalence with the word ‘spirit’, and no, we were not talking about a stiff drink.

I have forgotten the precise gripe that this word raised – it will have had something to do with religious or idealist connotations – but I have not forgotten my irritation with the gripe and my liking of the word’s ambiguity, containing as it did the germ of all its definitions, idealist or materialist, secular or religious. Contradictions aplenty. And contradictions, how they emerge and relate to one another in their development, is supposed to be something we are both in favour of and up to speed with.

Two things in particular struck me about this:

1. What words mean, how we understand and use them, is developmental. Spirit, always about human vitality, human essence, be that defined idealistically or materialistically, was first thought of by the ancient Greeks to be about the breath. Not a bad stab at it given the constraints they operated under and not devoid of contradiction either. Was spirit extrinsic or intrinsic? did it come from within or without? delivered to us or created by us? As we know it then came to be predominantly associated with, indeed exclusively appropriated, by religion in its uses and interpretations. Since the scientific revolution of the 17thC and the Enlightenment of the 18thC, the tide has turned and by the 20thC non religious uses and interpretations were becoming common and predominant, liberated from the religious constraints spirit had suffered under.

2. The other thing is its identification with consciousness, about what is vital, quintessential, in people. So, what is consciousness? This is certainly something that, historically, has been seen to involve not just cognition, but notions of soul, spirit and heart. Use of the word ‘heart’ has been long liberated, and we probably have Harvey’s work in the 17thC on circulation of blood to thank for this. We all can and do, use ‘heart’ figuratively, without any angst or confusion. The same applies to ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ although for reasons I have only recently bothered to think about these continue to cause squeamishness among some radical circles. Recent advances in the neurosciences have added substantial weight to the materialist view advanced by Feuerbach in the 1830’s and it’s about time that the radical cum revolutionary left caught up. “The spirit develops together with the body, with the sense. …whence the skull, whence the brain, thence also the spirit; whence an organ, thence also its functioning. The spirit is in the head.”

We shouldn’t be so squeamish about terms originally developed, adapted or appropriated by religious minds as they sought to explain external reality and human experience. Granting religion defacto monopoly rights over words like spirit, effectively allowing them to turn appropriation into expropriation, is another matter. Given that we have no problems about expropriation in other areas, we should have no qualms about re-expropriating here. (By the way, Shakespeare was a master at appropriating novel and common vernacular and his is a good example to follow). The word ‘fuck’ is a prime example and I don’t know anyone who is without sin, and happily so, in using it freely. Indeed it has now become respectable (almost) and we hear it uttered on radio and TV shows daily. Adapting language, actually developing language, is something people have been doing forever and we shouldn’t be shy about it.
Soul and faith are two words that carry heavy religious baggage, soul denoting the seat of our corporeal self and faith denoting acceptance, in the absence of any evidence, of God’s divine providence. How else could God move in mysterious ways, I say unto you?

But in the real, material world, populated by the proverbial common man or woman and in particular by the common adolescent or young adult, word use and adaptation reflects the dynamism we associate with the modern world, with modernity itself. And the old, original (if that’s what they were) religious meanings? Seriously, they’re terminal and on life support and I see little point in radicals – genuine or even pseudo – playing a role in keeping the life support switched on. Let me give three examples of what I’m talking about:

1. “Today’s music ain’t got no soul; give me that old time rock and roll.” belts out Bob Seeger and it’s pretty clear that he’s not referring to what the God botherers mean.

2. And what about Rubber Soul, courtesy of The Beatles? Try as I may I fail to detect God’s ineffable presence.

3. Faith’s principle meaning is now confidence or trust in a person or thing. While this is somewhat ambiguous, containing as it does contradiction, we identify with that aspect that reflects social being and scientific understanding. It is on this basis that we can say that we have faith in the masses (don’t we?), in the general direction of historical development, in scientific method, and that among the numerous ‘revolutionary’ grouplets or sects there will be a higher percentage of killjoys than among the general population etc

As mentioned above the meaning of words change and new ones invented, language being subject to similar developmental pressure and opportunities that are at play generally. The left’s distancing itself of words like spirit has not stopped this; it has only stopped our engagement with it and, more tellingly, with the throb of life associated with it. ‘Out there’, among the throng of real life inhabited by the working classes that we purportedly identify with, people engage with this process, be they conscious of this or not. It’s what gives etymologists a job.

We do not need to be etymologists of course but we can certainly take a leaf out of their book and be open to, and engage with, the ongoing process of how word usage and meaning changes. This is happening anyway and will continue to do so whether or not we engage with it ourselves. I just think it’d be a good idea for us to be conscious of and open to this process. While not a big deal in itself (no, we don’t have to lose sleep on where words may be heading) it is symptomatic of something that we should be losing sleep over: do we move with the times, consciously, trying to effect speed and direction, or do we stay behind the pack, whining about the packs backwardness and kidding ourselves that our position is actually in front?