Notes on Trump 24

1. Removing the spending caps to enable larger deficit budgets without regular crises over threats to default was a major development that may have been an important trigger for the stock market “correction”. Wages already rising with inflation and interest rates widely expected to follow.

Not noticed any discussion of the coalition emerging in the House of Representatives. Democrat leader Pelosi spoke for 8 hours against avoiding another shutdown but only 119 Democrats voted no with her. Another 73 joined with 167 GOP yes votes, outnumbering the 67 GOP no votes (presumably Tea Party/Koch brothers but I haven’t checked).

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2018/h69

This tends to confirm my expectation that the program of deficits Trump needs for 2020 will get through. Perhaps with more “noise” than this first major step, but with similar bipartisan majority that relies on Democrats to offset GOP fiscal hawks. Even the Atlantic can see it:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/trump-populism/552923/

Interestingly all officers of the Sanders wing Progressive caucus (with the fascinating exception of their whip) voted no. I would expect them to be more inclined to support deficits for infrastructure, healthcare etc so bipartisan majority could be more comfortable than it currently looks. I haven’t checked the non-officer members.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Progressive_Caucus

Also of course the 8 hour drama from Pelosi was purely posturing about DACA and does not imply any serious intention for Democrats to block larger deficits. Presumably the Sanders wing officials also felt obliged to participate in the DACA posturing.

In fact Pelosi told the Democrat caucus they could vote their conscience and was “relieved” her no vote was defeated.

As the GOP Chief Deputy whip said:

“To me, it’s a fascinating display of a bipartisan win and at the same time Democrats ripping themselves apart about a bipartisan agreement. It doesn’t make any damn sense.”

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/373168-winners-and-losers-from-the-overnight-shutdown

2. But it does make sense, once you grasp that the Democrat leadership is absolutely paralysed and purely engaged in posturing. The above spectacular stupidity was actually exceeded in response to the FBI and DOJ requesting redactions from a Democrat memo. If they were only mildly incompetent they would simply undertake to make the necessary redactions, which have been provided to them by the FBI and DOJ, while repeating their theme that their memo is defending the FBI and DOJ from Trump. Embarassing, but what else could they do under the circumstances? Indeed the ranking Democrat responsible for their memo did just that:

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/373234-schiff-dems-will-to-review-recommended-memo-redactions-from-doj-fbi

But of course he couldn’t resist “blasting” Trump for “hypocrisy” and other Democrats could not resist joining in

According to Pelosi:

“President Trump’s refusal to release Intelligence Committee Democrats’ memo is a stunningly brazen attempt to cover up the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal from the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“The President’s decision to block the Democratic memo from release is part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the President,” she added. “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/373237-pelosi-trump-has-something-to-hide

“The Hill” has a whole stream of this stuff. Follow the links from above to sample the whole chorus. Then you can get more of the same from MSNBC et al.

Best one I noticed was Blumenthal saying Trump not releasing the memo provides the much needed evidence of Trump obstructing justice – “happening in real time”!

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373239-blumenthal-trump-refusing-to-release-dem-memo-is-evidence-of

CNN’s Cilizza explicitly highlights that Trump ignored FBI complaints of “material omissions” from Democrat memo as proof of hypocrisy in accepting FBI requests for redactions on “national security” grounds of revealing sources and methods. Presumably assumes people who read him dont think about what he’s saying any more than he does. Basically the same mentality as a Trump rally chanting “build the wall” and “Mexico will pay”.

So not only have they enthusiastically continued helping Trump keep them tightly focused on “Russia” as usual. That is merely short sighted.

After all “the Russia thing” might not collapse in a heap for weeks, possibly months and no matter how stupid they end up looking, at this point they cannot really make things much worse by more carrying on this way.

But Trump will release their memo within DAYS, not weeks. So they aren’t just strategically and tactically inept and shortsighted but completely blindly, blitheringly stupid and just going through the motions of issuing press releases without any thought whatsoever.

Of course Trump cannot release the memo within days if the Democrats refuse to make the redactions requested by the FBI and DOJ or can only do so unilaterally while they present the omissions as political censorship. So one theory is that instead of blind stupidity the whole stunt could be a tactical ploy deliberately intended to prolong not releasing their memo so they can continue complaining about it:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/09/politics/democratic-memo-trump-wont-declassify/index.html

Either way, this is not the behaviour of a party leadership that is confident of winning the mid-terms, but of panic stricken losers.

But it isn’t just Democrats, here’s some brilliant strategic calculation by an anti-Trump GOP staffer:

“The White House’s failure to declassify the House Intelligence Committee minority memo – particularly in the face of unanimous bipartisan vote by the committee – represents a massive strategic miscalculation,”

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373243-former-bush-lawyer-trumps-memo-decision-was-a-massive-strategic

I really hate explanations of political developments that are based on implausible levels of stupidity on the part of participants.

But the only other theory I can think of would be some desperate attempt by the Democrats to avoid ending up with a majority after mid-terms and having to unsuccessfully impeach Trump in 2019 thus helping him get elected again in 2020. Nope I don’t believe that either. This whole situatiom is fascinating because it is all so completely inexplicable.

Here’s the Associated Press version which seems to be a reasonably accurate account of US politicians carrying on about nothing in particular:

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/world/trump-memo-russia-probe-1.4530079

Update: Just saw comment from Trump staff that suggests a less implausible level of stupidity:

“We believe that Congressman Schiff potentially put in there methods and sources that he knew would need to be redacted,” he said. “And if we redacted it, then there would be an outcry that said the White House is trying to edit it. So we said take it back, work with the FBI, clean it up, and we’ll release it.” Asked if Democrats drafted a memo they knew would be blocked, Schiff said “of course not”.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/11/house-democrats-to-clean-up-trump-russia-memo-in-bid-for-release

That does seem plausible. It could have just not occurred to them that the natural response to this ploy would be to not comply with their hopes of Trump issuing redacted version while they bleated that he was hiding something and instead send it back for them to make the redactions requested by FBI and DOJ themselves. All the indignant press statements from both Democrats and GOP anti-Trumpers were ready to roll so they just issued them anyway, relying on fact that media would still report it as Trump refusing to release (which they did).

That would just reflect the ordinary level of Democrat and media stupidity and tactical ineptitude that we have become used to rather than the implausible “completely blindly, blitheringly stupid” explanation I was worried about.

Story seems to have promptly disappeared from the headlines. Only noticed this guy today who hadn’t got the memo to move on:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/373263-van-jones-to-trump-over-memos-you-are-cherry-picking-the-facts

Meanwhile Trump is happily tweeting that even the New York Times has run a story on US intelligence agents paying Russian hackers to return hacked NSA tools plus “unsolicited” kompromat on Trump.

https://theintercept.com/2018/02/09/donald-trump-russia-election-nsa/

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/10/politics/trump-tweet-drain-the-swamp/index.html

CIA denies that US intelligence paid Russian scam artists for Trump kompromat. Some hint in reports that others did.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/cia/373323-cia-pushes-back-on-fictional-report-that-it-was-bilked-by

3. Resistance broadens. Snowflakes and butterflies form coalition against wall:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/endangered-butterfly-threatened-trumps-wall-environmentalists/story?id=52973359

4. Collapse of mainstream media into total incoherence is not confined to USA with Trump.

Just seen in today’s Sunday Age p29:

There can be few greater examples of the double standard of reporting in Australian politics than that of Barnaby Joyce’s “love child”.

If it were, say Barbara – or Joyce – Joyce, a married female party leader and deputy prime minister who impregnated a younger staffer, the story would have been pursued with great vigour and determination months ago.

Indeed the first impregnation by any female would no doubt have been headline news worldwide. Even proofreaders at Fairfax would have noticed it.

SMH has a slightly different version:

If it were, say Barbara – or Joyce – Joyce, a married female party leader and deputy prime minister who became pregnant to a younger staffer, the story would have been pursued with great vigour and determination months ago.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-remarkable-privilege-of-being-a-male-politician-20180209-h0vtwc.html

5. Some hint of gap opening between Trump and Netanyahu

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43025705

(Separate reports indicate Netanyahu could be charged with corruption soon)

6. Psychological explanation of why Trump core supporters don’t care what he actually delivers:

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-s-core-supporters-won-t-reject-him-it-would-ncna846456

Some plausability. Irresistible comparisons with similar phenomena among liberals. But misses key point that bigger factor for both is how much they despise each other.

7. Fox preparing for efforts to increase Hispanic support for Trump or at least reduce their mobilization for Democrats:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/10/as-trump-derides-dems-for-using-daca-battle-for-hispanic-votes-reignites.html

Seems plausible to me that if (when) Trump actually delivers some comprehensive immigration reform while Democrats posture about it they will lose a lot from their “identity” based strategy. (Ditto for both blacks and hispanics with employment and wages improving).

8. Sound advice that Democrats should shut up about impeachment at least until after the mid-terms:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/373362-scarborough-democratic-party-should-pull-funds-from-candidates

Doubt that they are capable of enforcing it.

9. Brookings institute offers some comfort for those worried about decreased levels of dysfunctionality – “Trump is becoming irrelevant”:

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/02/09/is-president-trump-irrelevant/

They are also correctly confirming that public opinion doesn’t support the nativist hostility Trump promoted in campaign but not registering that he can easily adapt to that and shows every sign of doing so (and would need to for any reduction in Hispanic mobilization for Democrats):

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/02/07/voters-to-trump-youre-on-thin-ice-with-immigration-policy/

Lots more open windows to close but I will just post this.

Notes on Trump 23

0. Gallup overall approval of Trump touched 40% again 4 Feb. Been below since May 2017 and above only briefly after inauguration.

The increase last week was coincident with the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address, in which he touted the strength of the economy and reminded Americans he kept his pledges to cut taxes and reduce business regulations. Although it is impossible to determine definitively whether the address was a factor in the approval ratings uptick, his approval among Republicans did rise to 90%, the highest rating from this group since he took office. Republicans’ approval had been at 87% the week before the speech. Democrats’ approval [of Trump] remained extremely low at 6% last week, while independents’ 33% approval [of Trump] was unchanged.

http://news.gallup.com/poll/226736/snapshot-trump-weekly-job-approval-edges.aspx

Seems to be widespread acceptance that Trump and GOP incumbents are reconciled and will be defending each other against Democrats in midterms incuding primaries. This is consistent with the significant uptick to 90% Republican approval among potential Republican primary voters following more “Presidential” speech to Congress and lots of analysts claiming he has been delivering a traditional GOP agenda (especially taxes) and not the populist measures promised to his base as feared.

That could be right but I doubt it. He can’t win in 2020 without delivering on populist policies that are opposed by GOP incumbents over remaining 3 years. Even when only 80% approval among Republican primary voters the incumbents had little chance in a direct confrontation with Trump so had to avoid it. With 90% approval he can afford to just pose as party leader against Democrats and leave those incumbents he needs to get rid of unsupported against their Trumpist (and/or Sanders Democrat) challengers, without having to openly campaign for Trumpist replacements. It seems to me mainly Democrats fantasizing on what would suit them best who believe he will just deliver unpopular GOP policies instead of the populist policies he was elected on.

Update: Everything up in the air with stock market developments. Have lots of other Trump links open from last couple of weeks which I intended to add to those below, but will put this out now as there may be too much else going on for next couple of weeks that could clarify or obscure things.

1. Had to pass on guessing what Democrat leaders were up to with doomed shutdown. Still perplexed on what they have in mind for Feb 8.

Schumer has just withdrawn offer of token funding for token portion of Trump’s bullshit wall. If serious that implies they have to do another shutdown shortly since both sides understood that was to be the deal. Here’s Trump spelling it out late last year.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/29/trump-dreamers-daca-deal-border-wall-319627

and again right now:

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/23/politics/mick-mulvaney-daca-exchange-cnntv/index.html

Here’s Talking Points Memo right now saying that withdrawing offer of wall funding will placate outrage from liberal base. This is the site for “Talking Points” discussed by Democrat staffers and their “activist” colleagues. They should have a far better grasp of maneuverings to placate outrage from liberal base than I do. But this doesn’t make much sense to me.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/schumer-takes-back-wall-funding-offer-immigration

If Democrats were actually willing to fight on the absurdity of wasting money on the wall they would not have gone through the elaborate ritual of pretending that Trump wants to deport dreamers when that was never plausible and he had already admitted it.

Majority of Americans know a border wall won’t work. But they also know the opposition cannot shutdown government based on having different budget priorities. So do the Democrats base.

But oddly, the fight is still being reported as about DACA and whether GOP will agree to it – by Murdoch press as well as liberal media.

Plainly silly as only a small minority of GOP need to agree with Democrats on legislation for DACA in order for it to go through both Houses. However big the nativist wing of GOP incumbents might be they could not sustain deportation even with Trump’s support, let alone without it and there is already an interim injunction removing any urgency.

Not sure why Murdoch press is also pushing this. Perhaps to entrap Democrats? If they were really as stupid as they appear to be they might imagine that near unanimous focus on DACA instead of actual differences over border security in all sides of the media means they could hope to score some “win” with another shutdown?

Or perhaps its supposed to help make it easier for them to announce that they won some concession of DACA in negotiations and call off the next shutdown?

They have just given their base an opportunity to digest how futile a real shutdown would be. So how does withdrawing offer already made help placate anybody? Seems more likely to fire up expectations from “the resistance”. So my guess is that they still seem to be going down a path that leads straight to another shutdown soon with no plausible expectation of healing rather than exacerbating their divisions when they have to cave again.

Anyway, if they do another shutdown on this I can confidently predict it will do them no good at all.

Here’s the sort of pathetic arguments coming from the very few still pretending it was a defeat for Trump instead of a blunder by Schumer:

https://www.theringer.com/2018/1/23/16922100/trump-immigration-government-shutdown

Some others are still spouting the line taken before the shutdown – that it confirms Trump’s lack of skills as a negotiator:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/17/trump-credibility-capitol-hill-lawmakers-negotiating-342989

The sheer effortlessness of maneuvering Democrats into making idiots of themselves is quite remarkable. No skill required. But one does have to admit that enabling them to keep their focus on how clueless Trump is while they do it could not just be sheer luck. He does have real skill.

Trump already has the TV ads to roll again:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/369952-new-trump-ad-calls-democrats-complicit-in-all-murders-by-illegal

Above was only a couple of weeks ago and already seems out of date.

2. Even CNN could publish an oped late last year doubting that the FBI is the repository of all Americans hopes and aspirations.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/29/opinions/fbi-leadership-to-blame-for-tarnished-reputation-callan-opinion/index.html

But TPM remains outraged at the sheer lack of patriotism of anyone hostile to FBI.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/devin-nunes-will-do-anything-to-protect-donald-trump

Five hours earlier the same guy persuading himself that latest “revelations” from Mueller are “bigger” than anything for months.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/todays-mueller-revelations-were-the-biggest-in-months

But he couldn’t quite say what was revealed. These are the people who actually draft Democrat “talking points”. It must be soul destroying to be have to deliver them with a straight face. Trump seems to enjoy keeping kayfabe. But his opponents clearly don’t.

Fox news Judge Napolitano is really enjoying himself discussing the “deep state”:

https://radio.foxnews.com/2018/01/23/video-judge-napolitano-donald-trump-was-victimized-by-the-deep-state/

Some GOP staffers writing a “bombshell” memo touted as likely to end the Mueller investigation has liberals in pre-emptive hysterics, even before release. If that is all it takes to provoke them, how could they NOT continue to believe Trump doesn’t want them to keep hoping Mueller will be their messiah?

Meanwhile the Atlantic heads towards identification of “dividing our national unity” with “the Russians”. Doesn’t spell it out but clearly inclined towards measures to protect national unity from both “black lives matter” and “blue lives matter” tweeters as Russians support both sides of this “divisiveness”. The Russian social media accounts theme also at TPM above. Tends to confirm my suspicion that the outrageous involvement of intelligence agencies doesn’t point to actual “deep state” effort but just some Obama admin clowns going nuts.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/trump-russia-twitter/551093/

What’s this about? “Russia linked twitter accounts” are pushing hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. Some dastardly member of Congress has enlisted the Russians after memo was circulated to Congress members. How do we know? Twitter messages with that hashtag link to Wikileaks page requesting a copy. Wikileaks of course is “Russia linked”. The plot thickens.

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/release-the-memo-campaign-russia-linked-twitter-accounts-2018-1?r=US&IR=T

Here’s an indication of actual relations between Trump and “deep state”:

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/20/16913534/president-donald-trump-signed-fisa-amendments-reauthorization-act-of-2017-section-702

Update: Unexciting House GOP memo has been released. Also more interesting Senate member referring author of “the dossier” for prosecution. House Democrats memo about to be released. Media has once again succeeded in remaining distracted about “Russia”. Not sure whether they can keep it up or return to “mentally ill/incompetent” but no sign of anything from them that doesn’t help Trump.

3. If the Democrats keep on the way they are going, they could even manage to not gain a majority of the House of Representatives at end of 2018.

I still don’t expect that. But nobody can seriously expect them to get a 60% Senate majority to even get their legislative agenda vetoed by the President, let alone leaving Trump with less than one third of Senators willing to block impeachment.

So the best they could hope for when they get a House majority is endless hearings and subpoenas in one or both houses. Without both Executive and Supreme Court support they could not even enforce compliance with subpoenas. But they have neither. So their current orientation is headed towards just providing two years of daily confirmation of the Trumpist meme that Washington will remain gridlocked until there is a solid Trumpist majority.

Nevertheless they seem to be locking themselves in to that course.

Here’s an La Times oped on how Steve Bannon claim that sacking Comey was a spectacular blunder confirms how right they are to keep going for impeachment, even while ending with the prospect that it won’t actually result in removal from office:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-litman-russia-year-review-20171229-story.html

4. Some perceptive analysis of “Trump Trauma”:

Donald Trump is staking his presidency, as he did his election, on nothing less than destroying the credibility of the news media; and the media are determined to do the same to him. This is not just a feud or a fight or a battle. It is scorched-earth warfare in which only one side can achieve victory. To a stunning degree, the press is falling into the president’s trap. The country’s top news organizations have targeted Trump with an unprecedented barrage of negative stories, with some no longer making much attempt to hide their contempt. Some stories are legitimate, some are not, and others are generated by the president’s own falsehoods and exaggerations. But the mainstream media, subconsciously at first, has lurched into the opposition camp and is appealing to an anti-Trump base of viewers and readers, failing to grasp how deeply it is distrusted by a wide swath of the country.

These are not easy words for me to write. I am a lifelong journalist with ink in my veins. And for all my criticism of the media’s errors and excesses, I have always believed in the mission of aggressive reporting and holding politicians accountable.

But the past two years have radicalized me. I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump.

I first got to know Donald Trump three decades ago and never made the blunder of underestimating him during the campaign. I saw all his weaknesses — the bluster, the bullying, the refusal to admit mistakes — but I also saw strengths that most of my colleagues missed, especially an ability to channel the anger of millions of voters who despise the press — including the old-guard conservative press — and other elite institutions.

This is, at bottom, a battle over the truth. Who owns it, who controls it, who can sell their version to a polarized public that increasingly cannot agree on basic facts. Everything you read, hear and see about Trump’s veracity is filtered through a mainstream media prism that reflects a lying president — and virtually never considers the press’ own baggage and biases. Everything you read, hear and see from the Trump team is premised on the view that media news is fake news, that journalists are too prejudiced, angry and ideological to fairly report on the president. Trump and his acolytes use these attacks on the Fourth Estate to neutralize their own untruths, evasions and exaggerations. What many journalists fail to grasp is that Trump’s supporters love his street talk and view the media critiques as nonsense driven by negativity. They don’t care if he makes mistakes. As paradoxical as it sounds, negative coverage helps Trump because it bonds him to people who also feel disrespected by the denizens of the mainstream press. The media take everything literally, and Trump pitches his arguments at a gut level. It is asymmetrical warfare.

Every president gets pounded by the press. But no president has ever been subjected to the kind of relentless ridicule, caustic commentary and insulting invective that has been heaped on Trump. I have a name for this half-crazed compulsion to furiously attack one man. It’s called Trump Trauma.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-trump-trauma-is-crippling-news-media-guest-column-1077062

Am reading related book “Media Madness” by Howard Kurtz. Torrent hash 759A0821B0AE7DC3C055F538C3F334E45789F533

includes small epub 1.1MB and large MP3 audio 261.4MB (torrent client can select either or both)

Am only one third way through but recommend it as more plausible than other accounts. (Though does only partially confirms my view that Trump actually wants the media hostility while also saying opposite).

5. If the “Russia thing” doesn’t seem to be working out, wait there’s more:

Jared Kushner is China’s Trump Card

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/29/jared-kushner-is-chinas-trump-card

PLUS a free set of steak knives!!!

6. More “breaking news” from CNN on Trump’s affair with porn star. Apparently she denies it and Fox had the (complete absence of) story before the election and failed to publish it. Source is impeccable – “four people familiar with the matter”.

The latest devastating bombshell is that Fox has failed to immediately respond to inquiries as to why they don’t behave like CNN.

Does Trump fear that the four are male eyewitnesses so he could get convicted of rape in a Saudi court?

http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/16/media/fox-news-stormy-daniels-trump/index.html

Ok I made that up, CNN said nothing like that. Far less creative.

In fact they even mention that their colleagues at Slate and The Daily Beast had the same “story” and also failed to publish it.

But now, after “Fire and Fury”, there is precisely nothing that liberal media won’t do to discredit themselves.

7. New York Times editorial board on January 19 – “Syria is now Trump’s War”.

Follows low key announcement that U.S. forces will remain in Syria indefinately.

Seems quite resigned to it. As far as I can make out Trump adinistration is only marginally better than Obama’s on this but is in a better position to avoid mobilizing opposition if they ever do decide to do something useful.

8. Newsweek doubles down on Trunp’s mental health. Outdoes TPM and Atlantic. Security of the nation doesn’t just need measures against “divisive” twittering. The National Emergency reuires a telepathic Psy Corps with psychiatric prisons to ensure public safety.

http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-mental-health-exam-unsufficient-785818

9. George Monbiot at the Guardian announces the end of civilization. Not just “western civilization” he stresses. Today there is “nowhere to turn”.

But wait, there’s more:

The wild lands and rich ecosystems that once supported hunter gatherers, nomads and the refugees from imploding early states who joined them now scarcely exist. Only a tiny fraction of the current population could survive a return to the barbarian life. (Consider that, according to one estimate, the maximum population of Britain during the Mesolithic, when people survived by hunting and gathering, was 5000).In the nominally democratic era, the complex state is now, for all its flaws, all that stands between us and disaster.

So what we do? Next week, barring upsets, I will propose a new way forward. The path we now follow is not the path we have to take.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/24/end-civilisation-take-different-path

Who could have possibly guessed that this was a Guardian columnist if they had not been so honest about it?

Another columnist “There is still hope amidst the horror”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/20/year-donald-trump-hope-horror-women-hillary-clinton

10. “Is Money-Laundering the Real Trump Kompromat?”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/theres-a-potential-for-russian-leverage-here/551024/

Leaving aside the the “Russsia” angle it does seem plausible that a special investigator ought to be able to come up with some financial crimes committed by Trump or even any milder con artist. Would tend to alarm the rest of the swamp and I haven’t seen any sign of prayers being answered. Seems more likely that Mueller will just end up with a “straight” report that leads nowhere.

11. Another State of the Union met with 70% approval by simply reading the usual boring “Presidential” tripe from a teleprompter.

A year ago a similar effort to make Trump look “Presidential” with a teleprompter address to a joint session of Congress was promptly countered by media hysterics over Sessions recusing himself from Russia investigation, Trump criticizing that and Trump twittering that Obama administration had wiretapped his campaign. More recently Trump presiding over televised “Presidential” bipartisan discussion of comprehensive immigration was promptly countered by hysterics over reports he privately referred to immigration from “shithole” countries.

But this time they seem to be too exhausted to come up with anything. So far all I’ve seen to counter 70% approval of the speech is:

11.1 More pre-emptive hysterics about Trumpists intending to declassify a memo hostile to FBI surveillance. Curiously this seems to be related to a continuation of the stuff used to counter Trump looking “Presidential” a year ago by expressing outrage at him claiming his campaign was put under surveillance. Now even more outraged at documents said to confirm it!

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/01/politics/donald-trump-fbi-justice-department-memo/index.html

Meanwhile Andy McCabe, Deputy Director of FBI has steppedaside, apparently because Trump’s complaints of Democrat bias are about to be confirmed either by an internal FBI Inspector’s report or by the memo.

No less than “9 historians” confirm that President undermining FBI is “uncharted territory”:

https://www.vox.com/2018/2/1/16956422/numes-memo-release-fbi-trump

Apparently most prefer the great tradition established by Herbert Hoover in which the elected government feared the secret police.

Actually buried in there, one of them, Ivor Greenberg, got it right:

The claim that the FBI’s “independence” is a thing to preserve is misguided. In the past, much of that so-called “independence” allowed the bureau to go rogue in its spying on Americans and evade congressional or Justice Department accountability.

Update: looks like FBI Inspector General starting to move against Obama administration clowns in FBI. Also one of the missing text messages from Clinton supporting FBI agent Strozk assigned to investigating both Clinton and Trump show him expressing reluctance to join Russia investigation because there doesn’t seem to be any big “there” there.

11.2 Ongoing breathless discussion of affair with porn star who has gone on TV to smirk while interviewer speculates about whether her signature was forged on the denial issued and confirmed by her lawyer.

11.3 Some twittering about Melania Trump travelling separately to the “Presidential” address which is “unprecedebted” and perhaps related to “revelations” about the porn star. This could also explain her wearing a “white dress” which might be joining the #metoo campaign in protest against Trump and/or showing ethnic white nationalism/racism against blacks.

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/01/politics/donald-trump-fbi-justice-department-memo/index.html

If you follow a link from there you too can know what present Melania Trump gave Michelle Obama:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2018/01/31/michelle-obama-reveals-trumps-gave-her-frame-explains-awkward-inauguration-day-exchange-trumps/1082139001/

Fox responds with analysis complaining that the fake media is at it again – Melania’s dress was cream not white and their attempt to undermine her reputation for superb fashion taste has failed.

11.4 Democrat speech in reply was given by a Kennedy. Even if he had actually said something memorable all that could possibly have been conveyed would be their dynastic helplessness. Even the daily roundup of the late night “comedy” version of Democrat talking points had this from Colbert:

“Nothing says ‘party of new ideas’ more than deploying the latest model Kennedy,” Colbert quipped. “Kennedy gave a stirring, thoughtful speech about the importance of fighting for all Americans.

But of course main “comedy” theme was also the main Democrat talking point – item 1. Defend the FBI from Trump (or the Russians).

(Lots of scope for comedy there, but it seems they just said it straight and meant it straight)

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/feb/01/late-night-hosts-call-trumps-state-of-the-union-a-glass-half-full-of-cyanide

12. So my guess is that Trump will successfully execute a switch to “Presidential” whenever he wants to. May have set the scene for attempting to defend GOP majority in 2018 then attempting to implement populist program together with Sanders wing of Democrats and Trumpist GOP minority and running as bipartisan unifier in 2020.

13. Bipartisan agreement on ending the budget caps and sequester ritual that GOP imposed on Obama administration. So Trump will get whatever deficits he needs for relection. First instalment 300 billion increase in budgets for next 2 years. With the basic pretense of attempting to reduce deficits gone, this will increase for many reasons (infrastructure, healthcare etc). Still has to go through House but that just means deficit hawk GOP rump can posture against comfortable Trumpist GOP and Democrat majority.

Update: Several reports that the last item above was major trigger for stock market “correction”. Some “investors” finally realised that Trump would succeed in getting big deficits to help with 2020 and this could result in subsequent major problems inconsistent with current absurd stock and bond prices and yields, so some started getting out now. Presumably they had thought the legal budget caps would be harder to remove.

So posting this now as stock market likely to drown out interest in other news.

Notes on Trump 22

1. I don’t really have a good enough handle on American politics to comment on the shutdown. Items below may just express my prejudice on Democrats complete tactical ineptitude, but here goes:

Whichever party starts to get hammered in the polls — like Republicans did in 2013 — will be more likely to cave.

https://www.vox.com/2018/1/20/16912832/government-shutdown-trump-approval

Sounds plausible to me.

Despite recent uptick in approval for Trump there doesn’t strike me as a lot of room for Trump to get much more hammered than he has been. Within Democrat bubble pretending that they really needed to shutdown the government immediately rather than keep negotiating over border security for another few weeks (February 16) may sound plausible. Hard to see how it would impress anyone outside that bubble given Trump had clearly supported allowing “Dreamers” to stay and courts had already ordered temporary continuation. So Democrats more likely to get hammered.

Even if GOP does get hammered that would mainly hurt incumbents who would fear losing their seats at 2018 primaries from caving on border security more than they would fear losing their seats if they got past primaries.

Trump has nothing to lose whichever way the two parties entrench the popular view of Washington gridlock and whichever of them caves. So why should he be worried? Media and Democrats whipping up outrage at Trump provoking them just confirms they still don’t get it.

Trump is the least likely to cave, main thing the Democrats are achieving is yet another opportunity for him to posture about border security to his base while they posture about preventing non-existant prospects of deportation of Dreamers to theirs. GOP incumbents next least likely to cave (especially since that would leave them more vulnerable in primaries to anti-immigration trumpists). That leaves it up to the Democrats who are only making a gesture anyway and are less inhibited about looking ridiculous.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/18/donald-trump-the-only-man-in-washington-not-worried-about-a-shutdown.html

I was surprised it happened at all so any prediction from me is worthless, but I would not have been surprised if it ended as early as the next opportunity – Monday 1am.

https://www.axios.com/mcconnell-schedules-vote-to-end-government-shutdown-for-1-am-1516494185-b6536c54-cf3c-4437-b8d6-7cea1781f702.html

No real evidence, just a gut feeling, supported by a clueless commentary in the Guardian saying the opposite, that it “could run and run”:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/20/with-government-shutdown-republicans-reap-what-they-sow

Seems a bit less likely to end now as no sign of agreement yet, despite the vote on at 1am Monday being to keep government open only till Feb 9 while negotiating.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-22/shutdown-extends-into-third-day-as-senate-fails-to-end-impasse

Trump’s budget director says could last a week or could end immediately.

http://thehill.com/policy/finance/369978-trumps-budget-chief-says-shutdown-could-last-more-than-a-week

I can’t guess. Should not have happened at all. It did, so who knows how long it could last? Requires estimating Democrat stupidity. Too easy to assume limitless stupidity based on past rather than present. Compensating for prejudice too hard to avoid overshooting and wrongly imagining they would act rationally just because it would be so stupid not to. I give up on prediction. Pass.

2. Certainly Democrat Senators in states that are not solidly “blue” seem to agree that it is bad for them and have already caved. None of them voted for the shutdown. The five who voted against it were ALL from marginal or Republican States where their fear would be defeat by GOP rather than being primaried by their own. Here’s the list:

http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/20/politics/senate-vote-government-shutdown/index.html

(The 5 Republicans who voted for shutdown were insisting on immediate Democrat cave rather than the compromise resolution letting it drag on to Feb 16. Two already switched to accept Democrat cave by Feb 9 instead of Feb 16. None show signs of switching sides since Democrats pretence they are defending DACA rather than opposing tigher border control is sheer fantasy.)

3. This NYT oped confirms my prejudice that even the Democrats leaders don’t really have much illusions about it and are purely doing it to placate their “base” which they are just as threatened by at the coming Democrat primaries as the GOP incumbents are threatened by theirs.

Interesting idea that transformation of both parties could result in a shift to a Westminster style constitution. I take that to be about ensuring the Executive generally has a reliable majority in legislature. (Shutdowns don’t actually happen – instead executive government gets replaced by whoever can command a legislative majority).

But the historical accident of english speaking countries having a two party system based on single party electorates could itself be vulnerable in any unfreezing of the US Constitution. The two parties are not that popular.

“New parties would pop up in the center – at least one and I think probably two. Eventually the Constitution would get a revisit. It’s a potentially ominous road but for now the Democrats have no choice but to walk it.”

No possibility of revisiting Constitution before 2020 election. This supports my view that Trump is successfully creating conditions for a four way contest then, which would give him a much better chance with Presidency potentially thrown from deadlocked Electoral College to House of Representatives voting by States. Of course Democrats could start walking a different road after 2018. But I would have thought it would be easier to avoid the road they are walking down towards a split after 2018 if they could do it now rather than making symbolic pandering gestures for pretended unity.

4. Here’s some details on how completely the Trump obsession dominates US news. Fox is the only channel that does not devote more than half its airtime to Trump stories.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-13/donald-trump-news-media-coverage/9125810

5. Wired provides some rivetting analysis of Trump’s medical checkup. Why the obsession? My guess is that with hopes of removal by impeachment, incapacity or a coup d’etat from the intelligence agencies fading they have to analyse the prospects of “something” to save them.

https://www.wired.com/story/trump-physical-exam/

6. Why wapo imagines it could worry people by running “unverified” stories about Trump and porn stars.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/what-should-scare-us-about-trumps-porn-star-scandal-20180119-h0lec6.html

7. Plus, in a dramatic new breakthrough, a porn star has revealed that Trump is terrified by sharks:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/19/sharks-donald-trump

8. And here’s 8 “wild” details, “not for the faint of heart”.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/19/stormy-daniels-trump-porn-star-interview-349311

9. But, woe is us “this is not likely to harm Trump politically”.

“That’s because the religious right has decided to ignore Trump’s personal failings, and it has already paid off forla  them.”

But its still great clickbait for liberals.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/19/stormy-daniels-sex-scandal-wont-harm-trump-commentary.html

10. In other news from La La land residents can be reassured that the Mueller inuiry will not be delayed by the shutdown.

https://www.lawfareblog.com/government-shutdown-wont-stop-mueller-investigation

 

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.