“Factfulness”

Just finished this book and VERY strongly recommend it.

First do this quiz is at the main site for the book (with lots of other very useful material):
http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018

Do above first for quick preview without spoilers. Numerous surveys done with this quiz. Consistently show that most people including most “experts” do worse on choosing between 3 plausible answers to basic factual questions about the world than random one out of three guesses of “Chimpanzees”.

Continue reading

Iraq Elections

Polls have only just closed for the first Iraqi elections since defeat of Daesh.

Results will take 48 hours. Negotiations between parties and coalitions for formation of government could take much longer.

Preliminary reports indicate Sadrists did unexpectedly well, in coalition with the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party. Described as “patriotic” and anti-corruption because social basis among poor Shia and denounces both US and Iran. I suspect more like “Trumpist”.

Current Prime Minister Abadi said to have done “unexpectedly” badly. Actually the previous election winner “State of Law” coalition led by Shia Dawa party headed by Maliki was forced to accept compromise Prime Minister to avoid splitting under combined onslaught from US led West and Iran to facilitate unity with Sunnis against Daesh. Successfuly suppressed both Daesh and opportunist uprisings by Sadrist militia thugs and subordinated Iranian militias to national government. Ran as two coalitions in this election with Dawa members free to support either. What would be VERY surprising is if the two wings combined failed to outpoll the Sadrist/revisionist coalition and all the others.

Results will be available at wikipedia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_parliamentary_election,_2018

There really isn’t much to say before results.

I am mainly posting this to draw attention to the importance of the results and the truly remarkable phenomena of how open the genuine party contest has been despite the mass murder campaign from Baathist and Islamo-fascists. This highlights the extreme viciousness of the pseudoleft who bitterly opposed the emergence of democracy in Iraq.

Even the opportunists of the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party were not as bad the entire western pseudoleft. While nominally opposing the invasion they in fact helped setup the interim governing authority and new constitution. But for everyone pretending to be “left” and not actually living under fascist terror a clear choice was made that Iraqis should be left to deal with fascist terror by themselves.

The same choice has naturally been made for Syrians but the forces promoting that view in alliance with the rest of the far right in the west are even more discredited and even less likely to be mistaken for anything even mildly progressive.

Cultural Revolution “We’ll return admid triumphant songs and laughter”

We are coming up to the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, 5 May 1818. That will also be the 50th anniversary of the peak month of the “sixties”, especially marked by the “events of May 1968”. China’s Cultural Revolution was a key inspiration, regarded with extreme hostility by the current regime in China as well as all “authoritative” historians.

I was struck by reading this article in “South China Morning Post” the auththoritative Hong Kong newspaper of record, now owned by Alibaba. As expected the article is totally slanted to express the regime’s hostility to rebellion. So the following excerpts are a “total distortion” of what was actually said under the headline below (especially by omitting illusions about a fake “maoist” removed from the regime’s leadership).

Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution

Tens of thousands of Maoists marched in the Hunan hometown of late leader Mao Zedong on December 26 to mark the 122nd anniversary of his birth….

…Beyond paying their respects to the atheist revolutionary with fireworks, flowers, music and the burning of paper money, many of those in Shaoshan also expressed their nostalgia for Mao’s era, which ended with his death in 1976, and the Cultural Revolution that marked the last decade of his life.

Dai Cheng, 62, led a group of 60 people from Changzhou in Jiangsu, 800km away, to sing revolutionary songs in Shaoshan’s main square that night, as the temperature dropped to four degrees Celsius.

“We will never forget the Mao era. He made us secure throughout our lives. We didn’t need to pay for medicines, education or housing. And there was no corruption,” he said, raising his voice to be heard above the fireworks.

Dai said it was the Cultural Revolution he missed most…

…“They started a coup in 1976 immediately after the death of chairman Mao,” Dai said. “They betrayed communism. They betrayed chairman Mao. They betrayed the Chinese people.”

As he went on, criticising Deng Xiaoping, the mastermind behind China’s post-Mao market economy reforms, some in the crowd applauded and cheered.

“The Cultural Revolution was aimed at uprooting corruption,” Dai said. “Anyone who opposes it is a supporter of corruption.”

May 16 [2016] marked the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao reportedly hailed as one of his two biggest achievements but which the Communist Party declared more than three decades ago to have been a “catastrophe”…

While most people in China agree with the party’s verdict that the Cultural Revolution was a catastrophe, a minority nostalgic about it has been gaining influence. That nostalgia has grown beyond its usual supporters – retired or laid-off elderly people who were adversely affected by market reforms – to include younger people, some educated overseas, who were not alive when Mao was in power. That attraction mostly stems from dissatisfaction with today’s China , which they describe as a state with little welfare and a large wealth gap.

Many supporters of Mao’s political teachings call themselves believers in democracy, referring to the form of government during the Cultural Revolution, when many voices were given a say, not just bureaucrats.

“I admire the revolutionary committees during the Cultural Revolution, it was a reform of the government. There’s no more supervision now,” said Li Musen, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who later became a vice-director of the city’s governing revolutionary committee. He was 28 when the Cultural Revolution broke out.

A little over two years into the Cultural Revolution, and usually after bloody clashes backed by the military, all 29 provincial-level governments at the time had been replaced by revolutionary committees, with bureaucrats holding only a third of the seats.

Many political scholars have argued that the composition of the committees, where rebels held around half the seats, caused perpetual political instability. But Li disagreed.

“Representatives of the people, military, all had authority,” he said. “Representatives of cadres were endorsed by all. We supervised each other. What about now? The cadres are so paternal.”

Despite the fact that none of the committees were elected, Li, who calls himself a “dissident” who believes in democracy and freedom of speech, argued that they provided more checks and balances.

“In our revolutionary committee, we spoke what was on our minds … when we didn’t agree, we stood by our own opinions,” he said. “I think that should be the normal atmosphere. The different opinions themselves showcase supervision.

“Now the government just cooks up pretexts used to maintain political stability. There’s a complete lack of freedom of speech.”

China in the Mao era also struck Li as a much fairer society, where the most skilful technicians earned more than the factory director. “Deng said let some people get rich first,” he said. “It turned out to be letting the cadres get rich first.”

Some younger supporters of the Cultural revolution are attracted by the idealism of a movement they never experienced.

Li Beifang, 38, who holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, is considered a leading Maoist intellectual born in the post-Mao era.

Born two years after the Cultural Revolution ended following Mao’s death, and in the same year the Communist Party kicked off market reform and opening up to foreign investment, Li became a leftist while studying at Peking University.

“I realised that what’s more important than knowledge is stance and affection. Who do you place your heart closer to? The powerful and the rich, or the bullied and compromised people?” he wrote of his reasons for becoming a Maoist in a preface to a book published last year.

Like many supporters of Mao and his political teachings, Li Beifang applauded the Cultural Revolution as Mao’s attempt to create an egalitarian utopia….

“Without such an attempt, the human race’s imagination about future forms of society will be exhausted, “ Li Beifang said of the Cultural Revolution in a panel discussion in Beijing in August. “Yes, it was aimed at a utopia and its failure was no surprise. But how could the human race not have a utopia … [we] would lose direction of where to go and end up trapped in nihilism.”

Li Beifang said a vacuum of belief was to blame for widespread materialism in China, another common belief among Maoists.

“After the Cultural Revolution ended, the mental vacuity made problems generated by reform and opening up even worse,” he said, adding that the Cultural Revolution was not successful because it harmed the interests of too many senior cadres.

Li Beifang declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of discussing the topic with media outside of mainland China.

His nostalgia for utopian Maoism is shared by Zhou Jiayu, 71, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who once rose to the top leadership in Sichuan province.

“Like the Paris Commune, it failed and its spirit will always be there,” Zhou said. “The spirit of the Cultural Revolution is rebelling and revolutionising towards inequality and injustice. I miss the unsparing dedication to the revolution. I miss the equality and fraternity between people.”

Each Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival, Zhou visits a cemetery where some 400 Red Guards from his faction are buried. “They gave their lives for their beliefs. They had a sublime goal,” he said. “Before they were hit, they were all chanting slogans like ‘Long live chairman Mao, long live the Cultural Revolution’.”

As Mao wrote in a poem “We’ll return amid triumphant songs and laughter”.

Notes on Trump 25

0. Not attempting to cover Syria in this Notes on Trump series. Will post any comments to other articles. Focus here on Trump, whose focus is on domestic politics. There is a relevant connection – I see far more advantages than disadvantages for Trump in mid-terms and 2020 if he does more than token gesture about Syria. Also I view recent announced appointments of Bolton and Pompeo as not shedding direct light on foreign policy but indicating that it will feature in domestic politics, and needs people who can present well on cable TV. Likewise for CBS commentator Larry Kudlow appointment for domestic TV coverage on trade issues. As AP reports, Trunp is staffing for TV just as he twitters for TV. His TV skills are what got him where he is:

https://apnews.com/df7f515f065e41aa87d21236bb780ce1

Here’s Brooking’s think tank expecting and advocating that after November Democrat Congress will try to take control of foreign policy from President – which would of course give an isolationist President the best of all possible worlds. Not having to do anything much and blame the results on paralysis from Congress.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/14/trump-is-taking-foreign-policy-into-his-own-hands-will-congress-respond/

And here’s the sort of words of wisdom that the State Department is being deprived of because so much of the foreign policy established is now is now stuck in think tanks instead of actually running moronic policies.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/12/9-things-trump-should-do-before-he-meets-with-kim-jong-un/

1. Most important recent development is on steel and alumininium tariffs. Unlike other policy issues like immigration, gun control and North Korea, there are quite a few news and opinion articles about this that actually focus on policy rather than just spreading more hysteria. However these are mainly from Republicans, business people and economists. Democrat politicians not even spreading hysteria. Democrat unions openly backing the tariffs as usual. Too early to be sure what is actually happening. But reinforces my expectation of a two party system with both parties protectionist instead of both parties globalist.

I was expecting Trump to wait longer before moving beyond posturing and just keep promoting an atmosphere shifting towards protectionism worldwide. That may still turn out to be the case, for example he could just be aiming to intimidate negotiations over NAFTA and with China while provoking more GOP incumbents into quitting or getting primaried and/or attempt avoid losing the special election in Pennsylvania, a steel state.

Timing and chaos may also have been influenced by knowledge of internal discussions having started to spread widely enough for plausible accusations of insider trading.

Either way it does already seem clear that protectionism will be a big issue in GOP primaries and subsequent mid-terms. Predictable result is more globalist GOP incumbents replaced by Trumpists in “red” states, and more globalist GOP incumbents being replaced by anti-globalist Democrats in “purple states”. For example the Democrats ran (and won) with a very pro-union candidate who doesn’t rave on about Trump in the Pennsylvania special election and will presumably do the same in other “purple rustbelt” contests.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/23/17013730/conor-lamb-rick-saccone-pennsylvania-special-election

With strong union support for protectinism Trump could even get some Democrats replaced by Trumpists in “rustbelt” purple states or at the very least some incumbent GOP replaced by protectionist Democrats who will more reliably vote for his agenda.

As usual, this just confirms to liberal media and Democrats how stupid Trump is, though there does seem to be significantly more seriousness in concern from business people. Too early to tell whether they will actually get their act together. If they do they have left it awfully late and will be faced with recovering from a very different House of Representatives in 2019 with both their parties having basically collapsed. In some ways that makes it easier to establish a viable third party like Macron in France. But Trump has successfully maintained the extremely intensified partisanship between the two parties that preceded his emergence. So splits from both parties still look more likely to result in a four way contest than in the GOP and Democrat spin-offs uniting into a single party. In a four way split Trump’s party would be the largest and a deadlocked Electoral College in 2020 could result in Trump winning in the House of Representatives voting by States.

Alternatively Bernie Sanders or a younger version could win, again ending up with a Presidency and two major parties both supporting protectionism.

This is the most damaging realistic outcome of the Trump saga. Actual disruption of globalism does slow down the historical forces making capitalism obsolete by maintaining barriers dividing an increasingly international working class. The other stuff is basically “noise”.

Lots of indications that there won’t actually be a trade war any time soon and with Trump letting worried interests know that he isn’t serious about withdrawing from NAFTA and could even join TPP etc eg:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/12/trump-tpp-trade-pact-519128

His new cable TV economic advisor saying China tariffs may not actually happen:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trumps-new-economic-adviser-says-its-possible-china-tariffs-wont-happen/

But that isn’t the problem. By whipping up support for protectionism to appeal to his base he is already shifting the whole spectrum of views on it and opening the way for Democrats inclined that way, with likely result of two protectionist parties in Congress and a protectionist President when it becomes a more live real issue with global crisis some time after 2020. That does real damage.

Here’s the extremely mainstream and extremely anti-Trump USA Today editorial board endorsing Trump’s tariffs against China:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/03/25/trump-china-tariffs-make-sense-editorials-debates/450914002/

2. Most interesting recent development is Trump v Sessions saga. Here’s the first sign I have seen of anyone else presenting a similar analysis to mine. It is from a Trumpist which makes the lack of any such insight from opponents of Trump all the more interesting:

https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/03/understanding_the_strategy_behind_president_trumps_twitter_slam_of_ag_sessions.html

“…I always see Donald Trump as a master of the video narrative, an expert crafter of story arcs that work to his advantage, and which often lure his opponents into positions that redound to his benefit once all the facts and drama have played themselves out before the nation’s eyes. Never forget that Donald Trump is the most successful reality television producer in the history of the medium. And never forget that he played the media like a Stradivarius violin during the campaign, exploiting their predictable outrage.

What if A.G. Sessions is already conducting serious investigations and has developed evidence that will result in indictments for misbehavior in the surveillance of the Trump campaign and in the FBI? The very last thing Sessions (or Trump) would want is for Sessions to be seen as Trump’s hit man, going after his political opponents. Wouldn’t it better, instead, for Sessions to be regarded by the mainstream media as someone sympathetic, because the POTUS has attacked him?

This dispatch from Trump-hating CNN makes my point:

Here’s what is actually disgraceful: The president of the United States is engaged in a one-sided smear effort against the man who, less than 18 months ago, he nominated to be the top law enforcement official in the country.
Consider:

In May 2017, following the news that Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump, according to The New York Times, called Sessions an “idiot” and said he should resign.

Professor Larry Schwiekart yesterday posted an interesting Twitter thread in which he made the same case I am making here. Read the whole thing, but the key points are:

Trump MUST avoid the perception that he is “going after” political opponents. (I know, it’s ok for DemoKKKrats to do this – but that’s not an argument[.]) …

[lots omitted]”

That was shortly before Sessions sacked McCabe on recommendation of Obama appointed FBI Inspector General. Duly reported as Trump sacking McCabe and/or Sessions in fear of Trump.

3. Very detailed recent Poll from Morning Consult/Politico shows significant increase in both Trump and GOP support and decline in Democrats.

Not directly comparable to Gallup polls previously noted here but potentially more relevant to outcomes as only registered voters.

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/14/trump-polling-democrats-republicans-407315

Full (273pp) details in last link at bottom of story.

The Atlantic worried that mid-terms already no longer look like an easy win for Democrats.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/trump-bounceback/553337/

Gallup polls this year have not provided breakdown separating Conservative Republicans from all Republicans.

Weekly results for all Republicans peaked at 90% Jan 29 to Feb 4 then 2 weeks each of 86% and 85% up to 87% then down to 82% Mar 12-18.

Latest is 89% April 2-8:

http://news.gallup.com/poll/203198/presidential-approval-ratings-donald-trump.aspx

I’m not paying attention to overall approval ratings as irrelevant until after mid-terms. But its interesting that Rasmussen recently reported approval of 50% at end of February.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/prez_track_feb23

This was an outlier with others at around 40% and below. Rasmussen consistently higher for Republicans as reports on people who say they are “likely voters” only (more selective than “registered voters” used by some and everyone used by others). Also said to be higher for Trump because uses automated phone calls instead of personal calls (said to disinhibit some people too embarassed to admit approving of Trump, perhaps also difference in willingness to respond to robot calls). But that just makes Rasmussen likely to more closely reflect election outcomes which are decided by actual opinions of people who actually vote – just as direction of politics in period leading up to 2020 will be determined by outcome of mid-term primaries not overall approval rates.

Interesting thing is that this blip to majority approval and greater approval than Obama at same stage wasn’t even mentioned in US media among the 10 pages of Google news on Trump I just scan. Only item included was from UK Daily Telegraph.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/23/donald-trumps-approval-rating-rises-50-per-cent/

Two most recent Rasmussen polls also reached 50% as of 13 April. Peak this year was 51%. (4 April):

If he isn’t careful he might not get a Democrat majority Congress in November. (But Democrats will still be mobized to turnout in unusually large numbers in November and won’t get fully demoralized until after a year or so of having a Democrat Congress).

All time Rasmussen peak was 59% approval just after inauguration:

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/trump_approval_index_history

Nearly all the “news” on Trump reflects a picture of the world in which it would be quite difficult for the authors to imagine a majority approving him. The US media has gone way beyond cognitive dissonance to outright derangement. To the extent that they are aware a lot of people disagree with them or have stopped paying attention to them they regard those people as either deranged or victims of Russian propaganda (which has currently displaced concern that Trump is mentally incompetent as the “existential threat” against which the U.S. media is mobilizing).

Lots of reports confirming that GOP now Trump’s party, though not much on actual primary contests so still unclear how many GOP incumbents currently keeping their heads down and collaborating with Trump will be replaced by active Trumpists. (Some will be replaced by Democrats who could actually be more cooperative on deficits etc).

Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement is a very big deal. Adds to unusually long list:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/record-gop-congressional-retirements-2018-midterms-loom/story?id=54017010

Focus of article is that many of these incumbents in purple states will be replaced by Democrats. True, but they will be protectionist Democrats and GOP replacements will be Trumpists. Next leader of GOP in House likely to be Trumpist which makes a huge difference whether they are speaker or Minority leader. Senate GOP retirements far more likely to be replaced by Trumpists than Democrats of any kind.

4. Anybody remember the Democrat memo drama? Has been released:

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=358

As unexciting as the GOP memo. Refutes suggestion FISA surveillance of Page was effort to monitor Trump campaign for electoral purposes. Does not dispute that FBI publicity given to Steele dossier was partisan warfare against Trump.

Stuff about not releasing this memo briefly dominated media as intensively as theme that Trump is mentally incompetent and now that it has been released with agreed redactions it has disappeared even more quickly than the “mentally incompetent” theme.

Current theme (when drafting this) is that Trump might be about to sack Mueller, which seems to be the last hope they have for actually getting him. Quotes Republicans explaining to idiot reporters that doing so would end his presidency as signs of GOP revolt against Trump rather than attempt at explaining to idiot reporters that they are just fantasizing.

Trigger for this was that FBI Never Trumper Deputy Director McCabe who got fired after internal inquiry which once again proves whatever…

Who knows what next week’s theme will be? Possibly back to Stormy Daniels. Or danger of nuclear war with Korea, or whatever…

(Update looks like mid-April theme will be “grave danger of war with Russia in Syria”. Plus “Mueller will get Trump on intimidating stormy Daniels” or perhasps “Access Hollywood pussygrab tape”. Hard to keep focus on all of these with a straight face, but they don’t seem to be even trying to look as though they take themselves seriously any more.)

5. Now trying again to just dump lots of open windows.

6. Trump conspiracy theories are becoming a global meme. Al Jazeera (Qatar) has “connected the dots” and found a connection to its enemies in the UAE for Mueller to investigate. Russians in there too, but UAE looms far larger in the Qatari interactive slide show and extensive breathless coverage:

https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2018/visualising-mueller-investigation/

https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/spotlight/mueller-probe.html

7. CNN explains that Trump is a lying demagogue. Seems accurate enough. But only talking to people who already knew that.

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/06/politics/donald-trump-immigration-politics/index.html

8. Here’s a rather mild description of the media’s state of denial about there being no sign Trump is in danger from Mueller investigation.

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/381593-when-will-the-media-accept-that-trump-is-not-a-criminal-target

Its getting pretty difficult to sustain anybody’s interest in this total diversion, but FBI raid on Trump’s personal lawyer should be enough to keep them fantasizing for at least a few more weeks. (Trump has dodgy lawyers who are paying off women he had sex with, what a breakthrough, “who knew?”)

Here’s a fairly solid analysis of the reality that the bizarre media focus on “Russia” has and will work to Trump’s advantage and that his seeming blunders in handling it help immunize him against more plausible attacks:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/commentary-what-if-trump-is-right-and-there-is-no-collusion/

9. Fox news analyst predicting doom for GOP due to Democrat turnout against Trump this November. Seems plausible, which would give Trump two years of presenting himself as the anti-Washington elite President while the Washington elite confirms it by spending most of their energy doing nothing but trying to get rid of him. If that doesn’t get him re-elected in 2020, nothing could.

http://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/381201-juan-williams-gop-fears-anti-trump-wave

A rather trivial analysis by Australian “experts” on US politics does get one thing right – post November Congress will have more Democrats and be more protectionist than before:

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/could-the-us-midterm-elections-break-trump-s-presidency

Will also be more inclined to run the bigger deficits that Trump needs for re-election. But they don’t mention that.

10. Former bank of England Monetary Policy Committee expert expects “overheating” leading up to 2020 election followed by crash. I wouldn’t know, but that strikes me as more likely than other scenarios. Trump needs all the overheating he can get for re-election, is likely to get it from 2019 Congress dominated by Democrats and Trumpists and he doesn’t have magic powers to avoid subsequent consequences, which will as usual be regarded as both a complete mystery and (truthfully), long overdue.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/03/25/former-bank-england-guru-warns-trumps-economic-madness-will/

Here’s the Atlantic boasting that the huge budget just passed is what Obama would have dreamed of but could not get from GOP Congress.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/trump-obama-omnibus-spending-budget/556436/

Of course that doesn’t stop Trump from also complaining and threatening to veto the Bill and using it to campaign to replace GOP incumbents with Trumpists at the primaries:

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/380154-trump-i-need-allies-in-congress

11. A reasonably objective summary of the Stormy Daniels saga:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/03/25/stormy-daniels-donald-trump-60-minutes-death-shame-column/457264002/

A more typical example of the attempts to explain to jaded cynics that it is really all about abuse of power:

https://www.vox.com/2018/3/25/17162622/stormy-daniels-60-minutes-michael-avenatti-abuse-power-bullying

and of course, not prurient interest but concern that the POTUS could be blackmailed by a foreign intelligence service.

https://www.vox.com/2018/3/25/17162750/stormy-daniels-foreign-blackmail-60-minutes-anderson-cooper-donald-trump

Short response from Trump supporters in Boston Herald:

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/howie_carr/2018/03/carr_stormy_sex_reveal_doesn_t_matter_to_trump_supporters

Stormy Daniels? Read our lips: we don’t care.

Tonight’s the night that the former porn “star” will be appearing on “60 Minutes” to reveal what we already knew, that she had a, gasp, consensual extramarital affair with Donald J. Trump more than a decade before he became president.

Stop the presses!

Fact check. Actually it wasn’t an affair, it was a one-night stand.

But according to liberals, Republicans are supposed to get really upset about such things. They simply don’t get it that above is a natural response from people who despise liberals to the liberal hysteria (and that Trump’s non-denial and sueing on non-disclosure agreement instead adds to his credibility).

It reminds me of the “Australian Republicans” so desperate to get a head of state of our very own so that they go to garden parties and look up to “our” sovereign as a national figurehead (to be worshipped like POTUS Obama rather than ridiculed like our future King Charlie). They are far more monarchist than their the rest of us.

12. Clinton’s running mate for Vice-President says John Bolton should be refused a security clearance for advocating that Russians should have the right to bear arms:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/25/kaine-boltonsecurity-clearance-russia-483912

Masses more windows still open but I had better post this now.

Novichok Nerve Gas Attempted Murder

This looks both very serious and very puzzling.

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

It is very puzzling because the only possible motive for anyone to use this agent to murder somebody in the UK would be to provoke a crisis in relations between Russia and the West.

The British Prime Minister said:

“Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others

Both alternatives are possible and both have very serious implications.

But also very serious and very puzzling is the fact that she announced that on Monday 19 March and demanded a response from Russia by midnight on the following day.

Use of nerve gas in an attempt to murder a Russian traitor was suspected immediately following the attack a fortnight earlier, 4 March. There was plenty of time for both British and Russian governments to carefully consider how they would respond.

The British deadline seems intended to provoke the Russian response of demanding that they first be provided with a sample for verification.

Under the relevant international agreements for prohibition and destruction of chemical weapons there are clear procedures for verification by certified laboratories with care taken to preserve the chain of custody of samples for use as evidence of violations. See Section 4, chapter III of the OPCW Blue Book:

http://www.helsinki.fi/verifin/bluebook/BlueBook.2011.01.pdf

It simply does not make sense that the British government would have set a deadline for response without first providing samples to other laboratories, including the Russians.

France has now joined the US and Germany in a statement of solidarity with the UK that says there is no other plausible explanation than Russian responsibility. But the initial French reaction was to insist on evidence first:

http://www.euronews.com/2018/03/15/france-agrees-with-uk-that-russia-to-blame-for-spy-poison-attack

If, as is plausible, somebody with access to illegal Russian stockpiles did this without authority one would expect the Russian government to try to evade responsibility while being extremely cooperative and anxious to help establish the facts so as to ensure any culprits were found and stopped from seriously damaging Russian as well as other interests.

Instead Russia is churning out the usual stuff from Sputnik and threatening retaliation.

If that is the result of ineptitude on the part of both the British and Russian governments that is not terribly unusual.

But there is the other alternative that the Russians were deliberately testing Western responses. So far those responses are completely inadequate if based on a firm conclusion that the Russian government is either complicit in testing Western responses or unable to control its security personnel who decide to do so without authority.

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.