Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Liars and Their Lies

Poor Jim Jordan, singled up with no Doug Collins, Trey Gowdy, Darrell Issa, Louis Gohmert, Mo Brooks, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, …, along side him, on 12 and 13 Jan, 2021, tried valiantly, well, at least loudly and indignantly, to pull the Republican wagon out of the ditch; the ditch that they all had taken a hand in lying the party into. Proving once again that there are none so as indignant as the scoundrel(s), Jordan indignantly rose to accuse his constituents of telling him the lies that he had been telling to them for years and was repeating at the moment and time, and to blame the Dems for letting him get by with the telling. It was all their, the both of theirs fault. All good leaders run and hide behind those they pretend to lead and all scoundrels blame those who caught them in the act.

Like Trump, before Trump, Congressman Jordan of Ohio accused Dems of doing the very things that he was defending the Republicans for having done, were in the process on doing, or were planning on doing. Always falsely, and ever loudly, making accusations meant to denigrate Democrats was Jordan’s special floor move. Now Jordan, and Trump, and the lot of this lot, want us to believe that the lies originated with their constituents, when plainly those are their fingerprints all over those lies. The lies have come home to the liars.

Henceforth: The likes of Jordan must be shouted down, ridiculed under their desks, exposed by any means for being the low-lifes they are; every time, at all times, at all turns. The sorry-assed media must no longer be allowed their mealy-mouthed false equivalencies. The armed militia groups are to be backed into the nearest ocean, or lake, and drowned by the weight of their own weaponry. Ammon Bundy, Majorie Taylor Greene, Mo Brooks, Tommy Tuberville, Lauren Boebert, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rebekah Mercer, Steve Bannon, and some others, are to be arrested on sight and handed over to the soon to be newly sanitized FBI.

Forthwith, Fox News, Facebook, and YouTube are to be sued into penury as an example to others.

Historians are going to be very busy for a long time.

Populism

Populism has a nice ring; ‘will of the people’ and all that good stuff. So, why doesn’t it ever work? Not even in backward nations? Populism is disastrous in a nation as complex as the United States in times as complicated as these. There’s a reason that it never turns out well. Populism feeds off people’s need to believe, their resistance to thinking and learning, and, is invariably nurtured by ignorance. Knowing this, some politicians, when seeking votes, pander to the voter’s ignorance. When this pandering amount to the bulk of their campaign, a politician becomes known as a populists.

When the founders pondered on all this, their solution was a representative form of government; one where the people chose representatives to deal with the complexities beyond the ken of the common man. Back then, most Americans were functionally illiterate. The founding fathers’ chosen means of addressing this issue was brilliant. All things being relative, in today’s highly complex world; the ken of the common man ’tis relatively about the same as it was back then.

Tort

When Fox News and Newsmax recently accused voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems of rigging the 2020 election results, Dominion quickly and vigorously struck back at the two with a threat of civil lawsuit; a suit claiming that they, Dominion, had been harmed by the actions of Fox News and Newsmax. Consequent Dominion’s filing, Fox and Newsmax began to quickly and forthwith profusely apologize for and correct their ‘misstatements’.

For years and years, and years, tobacco companies were, with political immunity and lots of good lawyers, allowed to sicken and kill Americans by the tens of thousands with their products every year. In the mid 1990s, more than 40 states commenced litigation against the tobacco industry, seeking monetary, equitable, and injunctive relief, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Unfit

For eight years Mitch McConnell did everything in his power to block any initiative by President Obama; no matter the cost to the nation. It simply wouldn’t do to have the Democrats governing, to have a Democrat in the White House; especially not a popular black President. He never was much on democracy. McConnell couldn’t thwart the will of the people in the 2008 presidential election, but, from the start, it was ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. Things didn’t get any better; Throughout the eight years. whenever Obama reached out his hand, McConnell spat in it.

In Obama’s last year in office, the year before Trump took-over, McConnell, single-handedly, unconstitutionally, denied him an appointment to the Supreme Court after Justice Scalia died in February of 2016. But one of many appointments denied during those last four years, this was the most egregious. One he bragged about for years.

In 2016, when the Obama Administration briefed McConnell on Russian interference in the election, McConnell threatened to accuse Obama of trying to tilt the election in Hillary Clinton’s favor if the Administration went public with the confirmed information. This after he had approved the expenditure of thousands of hours of the Senate’s time and millions of taxpayer dollars on an investigation into the Benghazi Incident, one that McConnell knew was a sham, an investigation meant to harm Clinton’s chances if she ran in 2016. Mitch could never find a good reason to do the right thing.

Impeachment now?

What about impeachment?  There is no question that Congress can impeach Trump for his role in encouraging today’s assault on Congress.  What are the arguments for and against? 

For impeachment:

There is a real possibility that Trump will do something dangerous in the final days of his presidency.

If he is impeached and convicted, he could be barred from running for President again. 

Presumably impeaching him would have some precedential / deterrent value going forward.

Against impeachment:

A politically divisive impeachment would divert attention from Trump’s now oh-so-evident wrongdoing and breath new life into the grievance narrative that motivates him and his base.  It could bolster his political support.  It could also fail.

So what to do?  Removal under the 25th amendment would avoid charges of partisanship (since it would be done by Pence and Trump’s cabinet).  It would hasten Trump’s fall from power within the GOP.  If removal under the 25th amendment is not in the cards, I think Democrats should only impeach if Republican Senators commit to removing him from office and if McConnell agrees to bring the matter to a timely vote.  Arguably, Democrats should insist that some reasonable number of Republicans (say, 50%) agree in advance to removal, to kill the partisan grievance narrative and keep the focus on Trump’s wrongdoing.  If Democrats challenge Republicans to commit to remove Trump from office and they refuse then the failure to impeach and remove would make them complicit in yesterday’s thuggish attack on democracy.  But proceeding with a doomed, democratic impeachment without Senate removal would have no precedential or deterrence value and it would be a political gift to Trump and his base.

Why resign?

Several White House aides and policymakers have resigned in the past 24 hours.  Frankly, I don’t get it. 

First, it’s way too late to salvage your reputation.  Second, at this point you can (arguably) do more to protect your reputation by saying that you are staying to prevent Trump from doing something crazy in the final days of his presidency.

The events at the Capitol

The events at the capitol today are horrifying, and to many of us seem like the natural outcome of Trumpism and the morally degenerate enabling of the Republican party.  But the events today may well end up strengthening our democracy.

I suspect that Trump has badly overplayed his hand.  The images of thugs running loose through the capital will horrify a significant part of Trump’s law and order base.  In the court of public opinion, this will be worse than Charlottesville.  His appeal for peace emphasizing his election grievances will not help much; it was the least he could have done, another Trump hostage video.  

Trump will also lose at least some support from Republican pols.  This was bound to happen anyway, but today’s events will accelerate the process.  It will be interesting to see how Cruz and Hawley react.  I think it is possible, though perhaps not likely, that some Republicans will drop their objections to Biden’s electors.  In any event, this may haunt Trump’s enablers for years.  Let’s hope.

The police preparations were shockingly bad. 

Yes, there is clearly a double standard, with people peacefully protesting police brutality getting treated far more harshly than illegally armed rightwing thugs threatening the peaceful transfer of democratic power.  But at the end of the day, a harsh police response today would have diverted attention and condemnation from Trump and his extremist supporters.

Those – including Biden – who have emphasized that the words of politicians matter have new evidence to support their position.  Trump supporters do not believe the election was rigged because they have independent evidence of vote fraud; they believe it because Trump tells them it was rigged.  They showed up in DC and stormed the capitol at his urging.  McConnell gave a good speech defending democratic procedures tonight, but only after weeks of refusing to challenge Trump’s false election fraud claims.  It is as if he told an energetic, poorly behaved toddler that people can fly by waving their arms, brought the toddler to the top of a tall cliff with no fencing, and then sternly advised the poor child to stay clear of the edge.  Those playing footsie with Trump for short term political advantage need to rethink their priorities and the way they assess probabilities.  In fact, the all-too-common willingness of establishment politicians to accommodate authoritarian outsiders – a main theme in How Democracies Die – may partly reflect the general human inability to think clearly about uncertain events, such as the risk of a democratic collapse.

Thoughts on the Invasion of the US Capitol

Thoughts on the Invasion of the US Capitol

 It’s all happening as I write, but here are a few reactions:

1. Fortunately we see Q-Anonics, Loud Boys and other right wing crazies invading the Capitol Building and not Black Lives Matter or the Left.  Think how many lives would have been lost if it had been the other way around.

2. It will be interesting to see how deeply investigators will delve into the lax security preparations for today’s senate meeting.

3. In the end, it all comes down to one question: where do the loyalties of the police and armed forces lie?  That is always the bottom line, but we can go for decades without confronting it directly.  When the left challenges state authority the issue is never in doubt, at least in the U.S.  When the challenge comes from the right we have to hold our breath.  There were video images a few moments ago of police gently escorting Trumpists out the door and down the stairs with no apparent thought to arresting them.  This indicates at least some softness toward the cause on their part.  On the other hand, I don’t expect there will be military or police resistance to the eventual securing of the building.  If the folks in uniforms were to go over to the other side, that would be the end of the political order.

The Wealth of a Nation

One of Sandwichman’s good questions prompted my revisiting an earlier writing of mine on wealth (circa 2000?). Extensively revised to the extent that it is hardly recognizable; here is, a, second, best effort.

Herein, the terms wealth and capital are thought of as being interchangeable.

For thousands of years, humans lived off the bounty of nature. Some societies still do, but, today, and for centuries now, most societies have lived off that bounty much abetted by their own endeavors, and the endeavors of others.

A society’s wealth includes all of its resources. Those resources include the individual and collective knowledge, skills, creativity, talents, and energy, of the society’s members; i.e., all aspects of its innovative and productive capacity. Those resources also include the society’s repositories of knowledge, such as: universities, libraries, museums, laboratories, government agencies, cultural centers, commercial entities, and the management of all. These resources also include a society’s infrastructure such as: housing, education facilities, transportation facilities, utilities, production facilities, medical facilities, entertainment facilities, government facilities, commercial facilities, and the management of all. The natural resources: the land, atmosphere, and environment within a society’s domain are, and most importantly so, among a society’s resources. The well-being of a society’s people is, in and of itself, a societal resource.

Huge!

The wins in Georgia are huge. Now, if Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina can just come up with their own Stacy Abrams, we could see a snowball effect that would change American politics forever. Well, at least, for a long time.

Some might think that this outcome along with its portents can solve the electoral college problem. It doesn’t. Doesn’t solve the problem of someone as unfit as Mitch McConnell tyrannizing the nation. The few Republican Senators of any account need to rise up and demand that he step down from all leadership roles. Because? Because he is an unfit human.

As anyone who has been known to have written more that few programs knows, the bugs will out. The next two years would be an opportune time to begin the debugging.