Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Muddle East

I get a fair amount of stick around this joint for my up-front contempt for His Fraudulency, the 45th* President of the United States and his coterie of meeching grifters, flaming morons, inchoate rage-drunk wingnuts, and just simply simpletons.

But it's hard for me not to be infuriated by the actions of this "administration". It's one thing to be a devious cabal of Iran-Contra felons trying to advance a ruthlessly avaricious agenda. I could loathe the Bushies while having a certain amount of rueful wariness for the purity of their selfish greed. They wanted everything and didn't care what they did or how they did it to get what they wanted. Their weakness was hubris; they really thought they created their own reality, and when reality refused to conform they simply bulled ahead until it shot them between the eyes.

But these idiot Trumpkins? Handing them the keys to the presidential limo was like giving a gibbering ape a live hand grenade. Anyone of us who had been familiar with the sort of gluttonously self-deluded liar and cheat the GOP picked to run in 2016 knew that it wouldn't end well. He wouldn't listen. He wouldn't learn. He would do whatever sated his capacious guts, or his tumescent penis, or his angry, aggrieved little hindbrain.

This past couple of weeks has put the reason I warned against electing this dope on painful display.

First was the Iran "deal".

Had the Bushies done this I would have immediately suspected a deep-laid plan to gin up a war in the Persian Gulf for some sort of crass geopolitical and economic gains. As the Beinart article points out, the Trumpkins didn't even have a bad rationale behind the move.
“Sr. European diplomat, on dealing with State Dept today re Iran: ‘All is a shambles there. Total incoherence between State and NSC. Plus, no one has any clue on the day after. There is no strategy.’” That same day, when asked by a reporter whether European governments would support new sanctions against Iran, an unnamed State Department official admitted that in their conversations with allies before Trump announced America’s withdrawal, “We did not talk about a Plan B.” When a reporter asked, “What makes you think that Iran is going to go along with a whole new renegotiation?” the official replied, “We don’t know if they will.”
So there's no real plan here. This isn't some sort of cunning 11th Dimension geopolitical chess. The Trumpkins, like a cranky baby, just threw their bowl of strained peas against the wall because they wanted to. They had no idea, and no plan, for what came next.

And now the final act of the "let's go full-on-Likudnik!" move to Jerusalem.

Now. You know my opinion on Israel. As a country, it is what it is. As a US "ally", it's not worth the tax dollars of an Indiana grandma. One of the single biggest impediments to a sensible US Middle Eastern policy is that it HAS to be warped to accommodate whatever the Israeli Right wants. That makes any sort of working relationship with the Muslim polities nearly impossible, because at some point someone drags the Israelis into the room like a dog into a cattery and everyone goes utterly batshit.

I'd accept this as a form of loathsome realpolitik if I thought that 1) Israel had a practical value as a US "ally", and 2) the Trumpkins had done the geopolitical analysis sufficient to make them confident that the Arab states will throw the Pals under the bus and accommodate with Likud.

I don't.

I think this is just US conservative fantasy wanking, and when one side or the other emerges from the current Shia-Sunni Thirty Years War with a headlock on the Muslim umma we will find out how shortsighted and stupid this is.

But that's "Trump"; shortsighted, unlearned, and uninterested in anything but his own profit.

One thing he DOES have in common with the Bushies, though. It's something you may remember from back in the Iraq War times;

We Are so, so, so, so, SO Fucked.


  1. Trump does appear to be politically activating large numbers of Americans.
    Elections do have consequences.

    1. I'm not so sure.

      The problem is that the U.S. system is designed to 1) empower rural (mostly white) people and the wealthy, and 2) make it difficult for the governments to "do things".

      The Senate, for one, massively over-represents the Cletus and Sally-Mae minority. Decades of voter suppression and gerrymandering have helped turn what should be at least competitive regions into "conservative" white racist playgrounds.

      Throw in the 35-40% of the electorate who ARE radical reactionary, largely racist and largely white, and you have a pretty huge structural obstacle to overcome.

      And the Trumpkins don't really want to build anything other than a wall along the southern border. They're busy little bastards ripping out as much of the whole 20th Century as they can; environmental protections, social programs, barriers against nepotism, cronyism, graft, and corruption...the objective is to discourage anyone fighting against that and ensure a return to the brutal capitalism of the Gilded Age, or as close as possible.

      And it's worth remembering that the original Progressives and New Dealers had some tremendous advantages we do not have today; a noblesse oblige upper class, a genuine socialist/radical faction, muckraking journalists, labor unionists, and, of course, the ugly example of the "job creators" brutal criminality and reckless stupidity.

      I think the giveaway is that we had a Great Recession, and the nation didn't demand banksters' hanging from every lamppost. I don't know if We the People have the courage and determination to beat these MAGAts back into their ratholes.

    2. I agree, there are structural obstacles in your path. I expect that means you need to be more persuasive to all of your fellow Americans.

      Simply writing them off is exactly the game of Ronald Reagan - ruling everyone by capturing 50% +1 of whatever vote you need to win. This results in a permanent "loser" class (and the winners then need to be ever more fearful of the losers) hence give up more power to their rulers.

    3. That doesn't work. And the proof? 2016.

      The evidence was there if you wanted it. Trump was a shifty liar who was willing to whore for the GOP's rich owners. Clinton was an unlikeable career pol who would fight for the New Deal (not as much as Sanders would have, but, then, her connections and political acumen would very likely have gotten further than Sanders' tendency to hector those who disagreed with him...).

      But the GOP went all-in on the grifter, and unlikeability and the structural disadvantages weighted the scales against the Democrat, and we have "President" Trump.

      Trump shows that those deplorable two-fifths just aren't "persuadable". Seriously. If you "approve" of Donald Trump at this point - and he's at about 40% right now - you're just not reachable. How the hell do you "persuade" someone that an obviously racist plutocrat who's screwing everyone not in the top 10% income bracket is an obviously racist plutocrat screwing everyone not in the top 10% income bracket?

      The demographic work to date suggests that the wingnut Right had accomplished its' mission of creating a wingnut echo chamber, and that 40% is soaking in it. FOX, Breitbart, Infowars, Drudge, Rush...there's no way to get past that Wall of Noise short of blowing the Byelorussian Front through the Tiergarten and taking the Reichskanzlerei; literally civil war. I'm fine with that - as opposed to losing what's left of the New Deal - but most of the country won't do it.

      And that's compounded by the reality that another fifth of the country is made up of mouthbreathing "independents" who are easily spun by easy lies and fairy tales. Explaining genuine immigration policy, or redistributive economics, or the separation of church and state is difficult and complex. Shrieking "animals!" and "commies!" and "faggots!" is easy, and the dummies respond to it.

      Self-government is hard. It takes work. And the people who like governing in ways that enrich themselves and their cronies - or just like to tear DOWN government because it lets them run wild - have taken advantage of that. "Persuading" the lumpen mass to stop being lumps is like pushing spaghetti.

      I'm not saying "don't try". I'm saying "I think that regardless of how hard you try the slow descent into a sort of open oligarchy is going to be damn deadly difficult to prevent".

  2. We as a country need to start taking lithium or some other mood stabilizers. Or maybe electric shock therapy, or hypnotism (Oh wait, Cadet Bonespurs has already done that).

    Or maybe we should all just relax and buy a ticket on the Trumph Train:


    1. My take on that is that we as a country need to get the lead out of our water supplies. A generation or so later we should see improvement in thinking and public behavior. It must be lead contaminated water causing such widespread stupidity and violence.


  3. The grifter-in-chief is just the latest example, but probably the worst one. He will sooner or later be long gone and remembered only for being head of the most corrupt administration in American history. Paul Krugman has an appropriate article today in the NYT regarding his selling out of American foreign policy to develop his and his family personal business interests. So we now know he sold out to China on the ZTE sanctions, and perhaps will sell out to Qatar after first punishing them for not investing in his son-in-law's Fifth Ave white elephant. But you have to wonder, what was the pecuniary tribute paid to Trump Incorporated for moving the embassy to Jerusalem. I for one do not believe he did it for Jared, or that he did it for love of Bibi. We will find out eventually. Mueller should be on that instead of on the Russians - or perhaps in addition to.

    But here is the thing, long after President Spankee is gone, we will still be stuck with your flaming morons and simpletons like Mo Brooks, GOP congress-critter, who believes that rocks falling into ocean are to blame for rising sea levels, not climate change. He also believes that Antarctic ice is increasing instead of decreasing. And Mo (and his fellow climate change deniers Scott Pruitt, Tom Coburn, Bill Posey, Lamar Brooks, Dana Rohrabacher and many others) were around long before Trump came on board. Unfortunately these chancres on our political anatomy will be there after Trump and his cronies do a perp walk.

  4. Mike, sadly I must disagree with your statement that " He will sooner or later be long gone and remembered only for being head of the most corrupt administration in American history."

    For starters, Trump still has a ways to go before he's as corrupt as the Grant or Harding administrations, but that is small potatoes compared to my next statement.

    Trump is giving others of his ilk (there are thousands of semi-wealthy emotionally unhealthy super-egotists) a textbook example of how to make their lives more "meaningful" by getting elected. We're already seeing it with a wave of people primarily on the right who are trying to out-Trump Trump. Most are flaming out but some are beginning to succeed.

    My prediction is that we are going to see at least 50 candidates for president in the two political parties in 2020 and most will be at least as unqualified as Trump but they will have money and a special skill (which they are convinced makes them Presidential) for tearing down consensus for other candidates.

    Trump is a long-term existential crisis of the first magnitude for the US because so many Americans want to take the path of least resistance and blame somebody else for their problems. We don't even really care who we blame or whether we're consistent about it just as long as we personally are not held publicly accountable for our actions or our fate.

    This attitude, combined with our kleptocratic post-capitalism Gilded Age II (bigger and better than the last one!) business leaders, is rapidly destroying the social fabric of the US.

    Fabius Maximus keeps trying to find the words that will make the US right again and its driven him a little crazy. I'm just waiting to find out what will come next and hoping that FM is right and we can still turn the corner. But I'm not betting on it.

    On the subject of Antarctic ice levels: Weird stuff is happening and nobody fully understands it. National Geographic has bought big into global warming but posted this article.


    1. One thing to keep in mind re: AGW - it's not "the weather gets hotter". It's "weather gets more extreme". So some places will get more rain, others less. Some more heat, others less. The LONG term trend is increasingly warmer, a recurrence of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. But on the way there you'll see a lot of noise-to-signal. That's what the wingnut simpletons don't get.

      And I hate to agree with your political analysis but I can't find a good reason to. The set of circumstances that killed the last Gilded Age are unlikely to be repeated. We're just fucked

    2. Re: "turning the corner". I wonder if one of the insoluble problems is that the U.S. has become too large and complex to be a single entity? In the days when America "was great" it was great if you were a straight white rich guy. For everybody else, not so much. If you're gonna run the country so you maximize EVERYONE's pursuit of happiness, tho...things get pretty complicated. Throw in modern industrial society, that has the capacity for changing the very climate and composition of the world around it...and you have an engine of unimaginable change that seems insanely difficult to run.

      It doesn't help if you elect morons. But even smart people would have trouble trying to control a monster like the US if they had to work on a 2-year election cycle.

      So the fundamental problem of trying to run a massive industrial nation with institutions designed for an 18th Century agrarian society may be impossible to solve without change that "kills the patient"...

    3. Re: "And I hate to agree with your political analysis but I can't find a good reason to. The set of circumstances that killed the last Gilded Age are unlikely to be repeated. We're just fucked"

      Sadly, I'm going to disagree with you again. The single biggest cause of the end of the Gilded Age was the increasing gyrations of the US economy in response to the extremely wealthy kleptocrats of that age. In short, and ridiculously oversimplified, they horded and misapplied so much wealth that they crashed their own system. We were well on our way to doing it again when the Great Depression hit. And it appears to be happening again. The question is who will be the person in power when the music stops. Things aren't looking good that way at the moment.

      "I wonder if one of the insoluble problems is that the U.S. has become too large and complex to be a single entity?"

      I'd say that your overall analysis is quite sound. The key issue of the current age is Mitch McConnell's discovery of the power of absolute "No" in legislation. Democratic government needs to be seen by the common citizen as helpful and controllable for it to work effectively. Far too many of today's politicians now realize that their greatest strength is in negating the actions of their opponents and use that power far too frequently. Cooperation is dying fast at the national level and with it, the national government.

      But hope is not lost, effective state and regional government is rising as quickly as national government is failing, probably drawn in by the power vacuum at the national level. I'm not sure what this means for the US in the long-run.

      As for AGW, the overall theory is certainly sound but the world climate makes the US government look simple in comparison. This means that there is lots of room for odd local variations that are not yet fully understood.

      Fortunately Trump and company are years too late to stop the emerging technologies and social patterns that will eventually save the world (no clue as to how much damage will be done before then), all they can do is to add to the final tally of damage.

  5. Pluto -

    Thanks for the response. Perhaps you have a point and what I should have said was: "He will sooner or later be long gone and remembered only for being the most corrupt President in American history".

    Grant was personally honest. Unfortunately he appointed some associates who were not, and he never understood their venality. He was said to be "incapable of supposing his friends to be dishonest." Harding's problem was appointing his old drinking and poker playing buddies from small-town Ohio. And I guess he was too busy chasing skirts to pay attention to their criminality and corruption.

    Trump, on the other hand, has forged a new category of international relations that I would call ‘Diplopayola’. It’s a very Trumpian way of conducting foreign policy and national security. It is covered by a thin veneer of what appears to be amicability with Xi, Putin, Bibi, Erdogan, Salman and other foreign leaders. But it’s about the greenbacks. And that's not even counting his domestic policies. Secretaries Pruitt and Zinke are making Harding's Teapot Dome and Grant's Whiskey Ring look like chump change chiseling.

    Regarding Antartica, there are satellite records that clearly document a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage. Those records are from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA.

    I have long followed many of the authors at Fabius Maximus. I respect them all. However, I am not a fan of the climate change opinions of Larry Kummer despite some of his other excellent articles.

    1. There ARE rocks involved, but they're in the dumb fucker's head.

    2. Mo Brooks is dumber than a rock. He was a special ed student in high school. And yet he sits on the House Science, Space & Technology Committee. He represents a district in northern Alabama that includes NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal. It has a major research university ranked in the first tier. It hasn't been considered part of the bible belt since the TVA was formed in the 1930s. Yet they elect Slow Mo. WTF? And I suspect he will be re-elected in November by a landslide.

    3. Because he has an (R) behind his name.

      I REALLY hate what the GOP has done to itself. My pop was an Eisenhower Republican because he was an engineer and pipe-smoking young white male engineers were Republicans in the 1950s and 60s. By the end of his life he despised the GOP for it's self-willed ignorance and conversion to the party of religious nuts and magical thinkers. "Trickle-down economics" was enough to get him going for a good half hour.

      And this is why I get so frustrated when I'm told that as a liberal of the old New Deal school that I need to "persuade" these fatheads. How do you "persuade" someone who has convinced himself that there are enough rocks falling into the ocean to raise sea level? That more guns prevent gun violence? That we HAVE to torture people because of Islamic "terror" but we can't possibly regulate the behavior of corporations that have proved repeatedly will lie and cheat and steal?

      This stuff ain't genius-level philosophy. If you believe this stuff you're not a fool - you're worse; you're willfully fooling yourself. You're deliberately shoving your fingers into your brain and chanting "lalalalalala!" to drown out the reality you don't WANT to hear.

      There's no way to "persuade" someone of something they have gone so far out of their way and worked so hard to avoid knowing.

      Nope. The longer these people are not simply laughed at and driven from the public square the worse we're gong to be fucked.

    4. Since we all share a common humanity, the Americans who are labelled "deplorables" are almost certainly just as intelligent as the rest of Americans. They have different perspectives and experiences of the political system. however. I think it foolish to write them off.

      In any case, as I lack large quantities of "skin" in this game, I will keenly watch how your attempts to drive 40% of American voters out of the public square go.

    5. Ael -

      Some of my old acquaintances label themselves 'deplorables' and wear it like a badge of honor. None of them were unintelligent, maybe just cranky in their old age. And certainly the Trump campaign was intelligent enough to grab that label and promote it as a form of reverse snobbery and portray their base as victims of what they assert is an arrogant left.

      I never use the term. But I call out a dunce like Mo 'rocks-in-the-ocean' Brooks when I see one. And I have no problem using the term xenophobic bigot when referring to white supremacists. No problem saying 'fascist' when referring to the alt-right. And no problem declaring Trump a draft-dodging, pussy-grabbing, flimflamming cheat and swindler. I may actually be going easy on him.

    6. We did it before, Ael; the Great Depression so shamed the "conservatives" that it drove them into the political wilderness for a generation. Republicans were an anathema, so tarred by Hoover that they were a political nullify for a decade and a byword and a hissing for another.

      And the GOP has, in effect, done that now, with its voter suppression and gettymandering. The number of poor and nonwhite Americans who simply don't vote are at least as numerous as the deplorables.

      What these ignorant bigots believe IS deplorable. The trick, tho, is to force the media to report it as such. Way too much of the commercial news establishment will not call the morons morons; it's reported as "opinions vary" but the MSM (and received truth by FAUX and Breitbart and the rest of the wingnut echo chamber...) so everyone can pretend the morons aren't morons, just "cranky in their old age".

      It will be damn deadly difficult. But it has to be done, if the US isn't to become a kleptocracy, a bananastan with nukes, the mirror image of Russia...

  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY7byG1YGwg

    There was public discussion about how the Libya example, ditching agreed-to treaties and appointing hawks and nutjobs like Bolton was going to cause 'problems' in future negotiations. He still did it, and now the delusional 'Trump for Nobel prize' crowd will likely take decades to understand that Trump blew up his own signature negotiations by being the moron he is.

    North Korea didn't nukes during Clinton and Obama administrations, but it needs nukes now, it sure won't give them up. It's going to be funny to see the U.S. embarrassed by North Korea when the latter publicly offers mutual denuclearisation in compliance with the NNPT.

    1. Mutual denuclearizing? I think President Bonehead will counteroffer a Trump Tower and Golf Course in P'yŏngyang.

    2. I meant to write
      "North Korea didn't NEED nukes during Clinton and Obama administrations"

    3. Bolton may give Dougie Feith a run for "dumbest fucking guy on the planet"...

    4. For the sake of conversation, I suggest there is a difference in dumb/stupid and deliberately malignant.


    5. As I said in the post, I can warily respect competent Evil. The Bushies had some people like that (Darth Cheney comes to mind) but Bolton was not one of them. I won't disagree that he's malignant. But it's the stupidity that galls me most. If you're going to be a murderous sonofabitch you should, at least, be competent. Bolton seems to prefer doing something stupid so long as it fits his ideology as opposed to being a pragmatic sonofabitch.

  7. https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/atd-indictments-0514.png

  8. Fred Clarke at Slacktivist reminds us of the Reason for the (Trump Embassy Move) Season: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2018/05/15/jerusalem-syndrome/

    1. I disagree. It's more likely Jared Kushner's influence. That guy is all-on on the Israeli side of affairs, and laughable as a 'peace envoy'.

  9. Something that makes our current situation even worse is the effect recession have on the public political views, specifically how they make a population considerably more right. This is likely part of the reason for the rise of right-wing politicians in America and the US along with migration. Now im no economist but with wages still somewhat stagnant, record inequality, loosening of banking regulations, pension crises, and high unemployment/debt in some parts of Europe I would say that were still at considerable risk of another crash. And if just one crash to lead to a large increase in the popularity of looney right-wing politicians, I'm scared to imagine what will happen if there is another one. Will some countries in Europe just go full-on fascist? Will the EU dissolve? Will Russia use the chaos to expand its territory? Speaking of the EU, what do you think about the leaked German plan that lays out a situation in which the EU falls apart?

    1. The problem is that the political centre has turned the government into its booty and fails to solve problems. It also had some spectacular misjudgments, such as participation in Iraq War (UK), Brexit referendum, common currency.

      The conservative government of Germany is particularly unable to solve any problems becuase it's hardly doing any policies. It's a party of administrtors who change very little immediately after elections and very little immediately before elections. They didn't solve a single major problem in the last 27 years and their last big success was a gift from history that they mismanaged utterly.
      There are only the greens and both wings' extremists available as alternatives to this centre.

      It's frustrating that no country ever seems to be able to form an energizing technocratic party with a charismatic leader.
      Germany tried it a few years ago - that party experienced a hostile takeover by neonazis.

    2. I think a return to the Gilded Age is all too possible. What we've forgotten is how turbulent the politics of that era were, with "anarchists" under every bed because everyone not in the gilded few had no hope of political redress.

    3. I'm far from certain, but my guess would be that a technocratic party would have a hard time being "energizing". I think for many, maybe most, people politics isn't about solving social issues but tribal and emotional. The right has figured that out, so most of the right-wing parties, including the GOP, have quit doing any more than pretending to address real issues in favor of whipping up nonsense about animal refugees, terrorism, and faked scandals as well as going straight to Blood and Soil.

      There's really no technocratic reply to this, not in a popular democracy. You're just not going to get people to turn out to fight the fascists with that, I don't think.

      In the earlier Gilded Age you had the "anarchists" to make a Progressive alternative to feudalism and fascism attractive. Now? That's missing, and I'm baffled where a similar pushback comes from...