The goal: being in power

Baffled by politics in the last four years or so, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this Bagehot column in The Economist from 21 Dec 2019.

It’s probably behind a paywall for non-subscribers, but I’ll try and give the jist.  In the 20th and (so far) 21st centuries the Conservatives have been in power for longer than any other party.  Why?

It’s because the Conservative Party views their job as being in power.  That’s it.  That’s their meaning and their purpose.  The Conservative Party is not guided by any principles or beliefs or philosophies.  It may pretend to be, individual members may be, that might be part of the whole stew, but the job of the party is to be in power.

Evelyn Waugh once complained that the Tories had never succeeded in turning the clock back for a single minute. But this is exactly why they have been so successful. The party has demonstrated a genius for anticipating what Harold Macmillan once called “the winds of change”, and harnessing those winds to its own purposes.

They keep their eyes on the mission:

The Conservatives have always been quick to dump people or principles when they become obstacles to the successful pursuit of power. Theresa May immediately sacked her two chief advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, after the party’s poor performance in 2017, whereas Jeremy Corbyn is still clinging on to Karie Murphy and Seumas Milne after Labour’s devastating failure last week.

Mr. Johnson keeps with this tradition:

He succeeded in this where Mrs May failed because he possessed the other great Tory weapons. He has been willing to sacrifice anything in the pursuit of office. Beneath the bumbling exterior lies a ruthless, power-seeking machine. His withdrawal of the whip from 21 colleagues (some of them close friends) in September made Macmillan’s “night of the long knives” in 1962 look tame.

When I try to think about American politics, it helps to imagine that the Republican Party understands its job: getting power, keeping power, staying in power.  The issues are irrelevant as long as they serve this goal.  That’s why various attacks about the absolute hypocrisy of “pro life”ideas, or pretend deficit hawkishness, or “small government” –> enormous bailouts whenever necessary, etc etc just don’t stick or have any meaning.  You’re falling for the game if you fall for that.

Now, what the point of the Democratic Party is I’m not sure.  It might be “losing nobly,” or something, as evidenced by the career of this longtime Democratic operative and summed up by this speech.  Or maybe it’s “not appearing too extreme.”  Or “making people feel ok about themselves.”  In any case, it’s not as focused a mission, and it’s not gonna be as successful until it gets figured out.

Maybe the Democrats need to remember what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s supposed mentor, Saul Alinsky, put bluntly:

Horwitt says that, when Alinsky would ask new students why they wanted to organize, they would invariably respond with selfless bromides about wanting to help others. Alinsky would then scream back at them that there was a one-word answer: “You want to organize for power!

Source on that.


cause a scene

via

You’re the Speaker of the House, you’re eighty years old, two trillion dollars on the line, and the problem is someone might “cause a scene.”

The idea of “causing a scene worth thinking about!

 

 


When I read about UK or USA politics

sometimes I’m just like, haven’t we seen this before?


America as casino

Now we finally have a former casino operator as our President.  It was inevitable.  Gambling is really at the heart of America, IMO.  Even in the ancient myths of the desert Southwest we hear of The Gambler.  The thing is, this isn’t really a country, it’s a casino.  Anybody* can come here and take their chances.  Any immigrant to America was weighing the odds and taking a big chance.  If you win big, congratulations, if you crap out that’s on you.  Maybe that’s why we don’t have nationalized health insurance, and why we tolerate rule by billionaires.  It’s a feature, not a bug.  Social safety nets for societies.  Casinos don’t have a safety net.

Before Trump, Bill Clinton might have been our most casino-adjacent president.  He liked to describe himself as the man from Hope, but he was really from Hot Springs, a kind of local Arkansas Las Vegas from before the age of Southwest Airlines.  His mother spent her time at the race track and the house where young Bill spent his time had “a bar on which stood a rotating cage with two huge dice in it.”

I’m not saying I love that America is more of a casino than a country, but let’s accept that reality.  Maybe a winning political messaging could come out of something like “MAKE THE CASINO FAIR” or “A FAIR CASINO FOR ALL!”  It’s hard to look around and not think the casino is at least a little rigged, or at the very least that current management is crooked.

Or how about CLEAN UP THE CASINO! or EVEN THE ODDS!

 

 

 


These are your only options

Shouldn’t you be allowed to vote for whoever you want?

I remember the anger at the people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.  I get it.  I voted for Al Gore, I loved Al Gore, Al Gore is like my dream politician (boring experienced intellectual veteran centrist conservationist globalist).  But the people who voted for Nader get to vote for Nader!  Al Gore didn’t earn their vote.  They don’t owe Al Gore a rotten fig.  You can’t be mad at the people who voted for someone else for not cynically falling into line to vote for an establishment centrist they didn’t prefer.

Same deal with Susan Sarandon!  She can vote for whomever she wants, cool for her for having interesting choices.  You’re gonna blame her for Trump?  Blame the woman who had an absolute slam dunk layup election on her hands, who had many advantages, enormous amounts of money, her husband was a very popular President of the United States two Presidents ago, for failing to convince enough voters to vote for her.

Dr. Jill Biden, in New Hampshire, says:

You have to swallow a little bit and say, ok, I personally like so and so better, but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.

If you check out the video you can also see Joe Biden’s first campaign ad, which highlights how “all the polls agree” Joe Biden is the best candidate to beat Trump.

Quit your thinkin’, voter, this one’s been decided for you.  Who’re you gonna believe, your judgment or some polls we pulled together?

The whole premise of the Biden campaign makes me sick.  This is a guy who was a weak, confused candidate who couldn’t stop himself from making stuff up and plagiarizing not just speeches but the family histories of other politicians when he was in his prime!  And now he is… guess how old Joe Biden is.

Did you guess 72?  74?

Joe Biden is seventy-six years old!  He will be seventy-eight if he takes the oath of office in Jan 2021.  Eighty-two at the end of his first term.

What has Joe Biden done with his life?  I get that he was Obama’s pretend best friend, but really, who is a person who in Joe Biden’s thirty-eight some years of public life he really helped?  Uplifted?

(skimming his Wikipedia page)

OK I guess he did stand up for Delaware’s chicken farmers, Delaware’s banks, and in many ways benefitted the people of Delaware (by getting them federal taxpayer money). He was an advocate for Delaware, a state with a population of about one-quarter of the city of Los Angeles.

Where has he been on the big issues?  He voted against the “good” Iraq War, the one we won, and for the bad one, the one that was a stupid, deceitful, horrible disaster from start to… finish?  I guess it’s over?  For us?

(Oh no wait we still have five thousand troops there.)

Joe Biden is sometimes said to know a lot about foreign policy but he was exactly wrong on the biggest American disaster of my lifetime.

Biden has said, “I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate.”[119]

OK, well that is cool, but didn’t the same bill also eliminate higher education for inmates and create new death penalty offenses?

The argument I hear for Joe Biden is that white Rust Belt working class men, who are alleged to have cost Hillary Clinton the election in Wisconsin, Ohio, etc,  like him.  Well, I don’t know if that’s true, I am not a white Rust Belt working class man.

I do think that:

1) the group credited with “swinging” the last election is never the group credited with swinging the next one

2) it’s not my job as a voter to put myself in the hypothetical mindset of some possible swing voter in another state and attempt to pander to their whims in order to take out the current whim-panderer.

It’s my job to choose the candidate who I try and suss out has the best character, judgment, and policy understandings and preferences to be the President of the United States.

For a campaign to suggest anything else, to suggest five months before the first primary/caucus that voters should shut up and get in line, that this is your only option, is so insulting I can scarcely believe it.

We try not to be all negative at Helytimes, so in the interest of saying something nice about Joe Biden he does have a great smile.


George HW Bush

Thought of this photo today.

(what’s David Gergen doing there?  sometimes I’ve been that guy).

All posts related to any Bush.

 


Meanwhile in Australia

It started when Greens leader Richard Di Natale called Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan an “absolute pig”, after the Senator said there was a “bit of Nick Xenophon in” Ms Hanson-Young.

“He’s an absolute pig. He should be booted out. He’s a disgrace,” Mr Di Natale shouted across the chamber. “You grub.”

An emotional Senator Hanson-Young said Senator O’Sullivan and conservative independents Fraser Anning, Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm were “cowards” who had spent months levelling slurs at her.

“You are not fit to be in this chamber. You are not fit to call yourselves men,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

She backed the Greens leader for calling out Senator O’Sullivan’s “reprehensible” remarks.

“That is what real men do. Real men don’t insult and threaten women,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“You grub.”

Enjoy reading news stories about the goings-on in other English speaking countries, you usually have to fill in the gaps just enough to piece together what’s happening.

(thanks to our Sydney correspondent for the link and background)


Bannon as Bond villain

It’s not fashionable to even listen to Steve Bannon these days, and I don’t know why you’d invite him to your festival.  But when I read or listen to interviews with him, I always feel I’m gaining insight.  Much like a Bond villain, he seems to delight in revealing his plans.  Consider a moment at 17:05 above:

Third is the deconstruction of the administrative state.  It’s the reason Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are on the Supreme Court.  They’re not social – they’re not about abortion or gay marriage, these people are about the Chevron exemption, they’re about deconstructing the administrative state.

I think he means Chevron Deference, which I had to look up.  A lawyer friend defined it for me:

It emerged from a case called Chevron U.S.A Inc vs Natural Resources Defense Council:

Congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1977 to address states that had failed to attain the air quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) (Defendant). “The amended Clean Air Act required these ‘non-attainment’ States to establish a permit program regulating ‘new or modified major stationary sources’ of air pollution.” During the Carter administration, the EPA defined a source as any device in a manufacturing plant that produced pollution. In 1981, after Ronald Reagan’s election, the EPA, which was headed by Anne M. Gorsuch, adopted a new definition that allowed an existing plant to get permits for new equipment that did not meet standards as long as the total emissions from the plant itself did not increase. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental protection group, challenged the EPA regulation in federal court, which ruled in the NRDC’s favor. Chevron, an affected party, appealed the lower court’s decision.

Bottom line, the Court ended up ruling the EPA could make its rules and they wouldn’t intrude too much.

But wait one second: Gorsuch?

It was this woman, mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch!

3-5-1981 President Reagan meeting with Anne Gorsuch EPA Administrator-Designate in oval office

How about that!

It gets a bit complicated after that and I’m afraid above my paygrade, but it seems Gorsuch The Son doesn’t care much for Chevron Deference.  His tone on the topic tends to veer towards the sarcastic:

Under Chevron the people aren’t just charged with awareness of and the duty to conform their conduct to the fairest reading of the law that a detached magistrate can muster. Instead, they are charged with an awareness of Chevron; required to guess whether the statute will be declared “ambiguous” (courts often disagree on what qualifies); and required to guess (again) whether an agency’s interpretation will be deemed “reasonable.” Who can even attempt all that, at least without an army of perfumed lawyers and lobbyists? And, of course, that’s not the end of it. Even if the people somehow manage to make it through this far unscathed, they must always remain alert to the possibility that the agency will reverse its current view 180 degrees anytime based merely on the shift of political winds and still prevail.

One can’t but wonder: does any of this have to do with his mom?

Just think it’s interesting that Bannon says they don’t give a fig about social culture war issues.  Remember that Bannon and Kellyanne Conway are more or less hired guns for the Mercer family, of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund.

I wonder if Brett Kavanaugh will get through, or if they’ll have to find a different person to help dismantle the administrative state.

As always we welcome your comments!

 


message

sent by Rhode Island desk


Weak, weak, weak

The Trump era will end when a Democrat can get in Trump’s face and confidently say this.  American politics is not structured for this kinda face to face thing so maybe it won’t be until 2020.

Jump to 3:42 in this director’s cut to see the almost sexual excitement that explodes when Blair drops the word “weak”:

Sherrod Brown is the Dem who physically resembles Blair here the most, imo.

Once a confident Democrat is calling Trump weak to his face, the fight will enter the pattern laid out by Randall Collins:

How does violence sometimes succeed in doing damage? The key is asymmetrical  confrontation tension. One side will win if they can get their victim in the zone of high arousal and high incompetence, while keeping their own arousal down to a zone of greater bodily control.

Trump will enter a state of high arousal and high incompetence.  Collins continues:

Violence is not so much physical as emotional struggle; whoever achieves emotional domination, can then impose physical domination. That is why most real fights look very nasty; one sides beats up on an opponent at the time they are incapable of resisting.

Unfortch a US president in a state of high arousal and high incompetence has a non-zero chance of ending human life on Earth, so that also must be weighed.


When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death knells ringing

we used to listen to this record when I was a kid.

when friends by shame are undefiled

also a good line.

The first was the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Afterward, many people who interacted with Putin noticed how deeply Qaddafi’s death troubled him. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. “The way Qaddafi died made a profound impact on him,” says Jake Sullivan, a former senior State Department official who met repeatedly with senior Russian officials around that time. Another former senior Obama-administration official describes Putin as “obsessed” with Qaddafi’s death

reported Julia Ioffe for the Atlantic in February 2018.


Montenegro in the news

Montenegro in the news:

made me think of:

Gatsby is finally telling his backstory to Nick:

       “Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief and I tried very hard to die but I seemed to bear an enchanted life. I accepted a commission as first lieutenant when it began. In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn’t advance. We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major and every Allied government gave me a decoration–even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!”

Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them–with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines. He reached in his pocket and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm. “That’s the one from Montenegro.” To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look.

“Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”

“Turn it.”

“Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”

#teammontenegro


Henry Adams to young FDR

Henry Adams with dog Marquis from Wikipedia

Young man, I have lived in this house many years and seen the occupants of that White House across the square come and go, and nothing that you minor officials or the occupants of that house can do will affect the history of the world for long.

Believe he said this to FDR when Frank was assistant secretary of the Navy.  Quote from Old Money by Nelson Aldrich.


Checking in on: UK politics

If you enjoy English weirdness as I do jump to 8:17 here to watch the insane reaction Emily Thornberry, PM for Islington South and Finsbury gets for her joke:


Let them overturn Roe.

This is my hot take for today:

Let’s assume you agree with me and think women in the United States should have access to abortion when they need it.

Letting Roe v Wade get overturned could be a positive outcome that would help this cause in the long term.

What would happen if Roe were overturned tomorrow?  Well, in California, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Alaska, etc, I’m estimating about 29 states, I’m guessing: nothing.

In another 30 or so states, legislators might try to make abortion illegal.  This would become an important, contentious issue in state elections.  I believe this would drive voter turnout and galvanize women voters in particular.

We might look to Ireland as an example of what could happen.  The issue of repealing the Eighth Amendment, which banned abortion, came up for a vote.  An electrified, involved, young electorate turned up.  Turnout was 64%, and Yes – the “pro choice” side – won with 66.40% of the vote (source).

I think this was healthy and democratic for Ireland.

Wouldn’t similar debates and votes, or mini versions in legislative elections in the states where abortion would be a contentious issue, be healthy and good for the country?

Or, better yet, have a women’s rights amendment to the Constitution.  That would be great too.

Where in the Constitution is there a right to an abortion?  It’s not in there.  We might like it to be in there, but it’s not.  The Roe decision didn’t find it in the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.[1]

In fact, if I understand right, the majority in Roe went out of their way to say they didn’t find it there:

The Court declined to adopt the district court’s Ninth Amendment rationale, and instead asserted that the “right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment‘s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the district court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”[38] Douglas, in his concurring opinion in the companion case, Doe, stated more emphatically, “The Ninth Amendment obviously does not create federally enforceable rights.

The majority in Roe found the right in the Fourteenth Amendment, which is ridiculous.  Not at all the intent of that amendment.  At that point you’re making up stuff.

Roe v. Wade is one of the few Supreme Court decisions I’ve read and… it feels flimsy.  It feels like a wire and string solution to get to a result the court wanted.

The Roe decision is cheating.  It’s like the referee giving your team extra points because he wants you to win.  That might get you the result you want.  But it’s not good for the game.

Let the states fight it out!  Let conservative legislators be forced to show how they’re gonna enforce making abortion illegal.  Let them fight it every election cycle.

(lol bc I’m obviously out of my depth, ran this one by our legal counsel, MMW, for comment:

Had to look up the Lochner era.

 

 


The history books

sometimes you see the lesser villains of this current political period hit with “you’re gonna look bad in the history books!”

This seems very silly to me.  Paul Ryan’s not gonna be in the history books!  Not any popular ones anyway.  He might be deep in the more exhaustive ones, but who cares?  Who was the Speaker of the House during the Civil War?  World War II? (“You’re legacy will be as controversial as Galusha Grow’s and Schuyler Colfax’s!“)

Maybe he longed for the history books once, but it feels to me that Paul Ryan made a choice to whimper away to what he imagines will be a high paying lobbying life.

Wouldn’t it be better to say, “during your lifetime your face will remind us of embarrassment and cowardice and no one will pay you to talk.”

I do respect the earnest, history buff energy of the taunt “you’re gonna be real ashamed when you read the history books, pal.”

I just think it gives too much respect to Paul Ryan’s motivations.

 

 


Borders

Feel like I am the only person in the world who accepts the reality that borders are over.

This isn’t a political position or something I’m advocating for.  It’s an observation of fact.

Hard to say when we can date it, exactly.  The first time we could see Earth from space?  Maybe Malcolm McLean‘s pioneering of the shipping container.  Stuff, an unstoppable amount of stuff, and money, and information, and people flow and move across borders in a way that is way beyond the ability of any state or government to stop.

The idea of a wall stopping this seems about as futile as Xerxes ordering his guys to whip the sea as punishment.

UAC there standing for unaccompanied children.  That’s from the US Customs and Border Patrol website.

Tyler Cowen reports:

U.S.A. fact of the day

Number of unaccompanied minors, age 17 or lower, apprehended during or after border crossings, fiscal year 2017:

41, 456

Trump aside, what exactly is the plan here?

Hat tip goes to @BaldingsWorld.

“What exactly is the plan here?” is the question for sure.

How much force and violence would be needed to stop this?  Who would direct that?  Do the guys in charge seem like they could handle that?

How many trans-border families already exist, and what to do about that?

I have no answers, only a feeling that statements like “if you don’t have a border you don’t have a country” or something are not in touch with reality.

We already don’t have a border.  Without massive government expenditures, force and violence that would sicken any liberal or conservative, we never will again.

What’re we gonna do now?

 

 


Michelle Wolf, Peter Schweitzer, and DC/media as pro wrestling

Michelle Wolf says that in this Vulture profile by Amy Larocca.

A very similar complaint voiced by Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer in the Devil’s Bargain book about Trump and Bannon:


Three Candidates

From an article about how Clarke’s been working on paid maternity leave for state employees in the Arkansas State House

My friend Clarke Tucker is running for Congress as a Democrat in Arkansas’ 2nd district.  He’s just the kind of guy you want doing legislative work.  A solid citizen.

In his gentle and careful yet warm manner Clarke reminds me of another Southern state legislator:

John Grisham.

Meanwhile, out in the desert and the Eastern Sierra, they’re trying to put Marge in charge.

Marge Doyle that is.  I saw her speak on Sunday and was really impressed.  Her passion to run stems from her frustration with current Congressman Paul Cook and his Republican party-line votes that would’ve hurt the health care people in the district depend on.

Had the chance to hear Marge give her message and came away real impressed.  She came to her campaign through hard, slow work on health care issues in the district, and spoke of her belief in her ability to find solutions through common values.

Happened to meet Katie Hill when she turned up at a meeting of the SELAH (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Atwater, Hollywood) Homeless Coalition.

She grew up in California’s 25th district, and seemed like just the person to knock off the distasteful Steve Knight and represent the people of Lancaster, Palmdale, Pearblossom, Acton, Santa Clarita, and the rest.

Clarke.

Marge.

Katie.

 

(oh and none of them are paying me or nothing.  This is just my own Take!)

 

 

 


Drop the mic!

from Politico