Saturday, December 03, 2016

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo says it best

Some people think Trump has no actual foreign policy. This is not true. He is extremely ignorant. But he has an instinctive and longstanding way of thinking about and approaching foreign policy questions which goes back decades before he ran for President. It is one that sees international relations in zero-sum terms (for me to win, you have to lose), sees the US as being taken advantage of by allies (either through advantageous trade deals or expenditures on defense). This is why you see economic nationalism going back decades with Trump and either skepticism or hostility toward international treaty organizations like NATO.
Now, in practice this can mean opposing the Iraq War, supporting the Iraq War, depending on how things are going at the moment and the state of public opinion. But this prism through which he sees the world (not unlike the way he approaches business, political campaigns, etc.) is consistent over time. What you also have in Trump is someone who is impulsive and aggressive by nature - you see these qualities in primary colors in everything he does. These are highly dangerous qualities in a President. They become magnified when such a person is being advised by people who provide an ideological purpose and justification to such impulsiveness and aggression.
That is where I fear and believe we are with Trump. Not everything in foreign policy is sacred. But here we have an impulsive and ignorant man whose comfort zone is aggression surrounded by advisors with dangerous ideas. His instinctive aggression makes many of their most dangerous ideas possible; and their ideological formulations give his actions a rationale and logic that transcends psychological impulses and the anger of the moment. Even President Bush had a coterie of more Realist-minded and cautious advisors to balance out the hotheads. They lost most of the key debates - especially in the first term. But they provided a restraining counter-balance in numerous debates.
At present there is no one like that around Trump at all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why are Kansas and Texas doing so badly, and California so well?

Robert Reich: 

At the one end of the scale are Kansas and Texas, with among the nation’s lowest taxes, fewest regulations and lowest wages.

 At the other end is California, with among the nation’s highest taxes, especially on the wealthy; toughest regulations, particularly when it comes to the environment; most ambitious health care system, which insures more than 12 million poor Californians, in partnership with Medicaid; and high wages.

So, according to conservative doctrine, Kansas and Texas ought to be booming, and California ought to be in the pits.

Actually, it’s just the opposite.

For several years now, the rate of economic growth in Kansas has been the worst in the nation. Last year its economy actually shrank.

Texas hasn’t been doing all that much better. Its rate of job growth has been below the national average. The value of Texas exports has been dropping.

But what about so-called over-taxed, over-regulated, high-wage California?

California leads the nation in the rate of economic growth — more than twice the national average. If it were a separate nation, it would now be the sixth-largest economy in the world. Its population has surged to 39 million (up 5 percent since 2010).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Little Something To Make Your Hair Stand On End....

Sarah Kendzior:
I don’t think he’s going to fulfill his promises to them in order to improve their economic livelihood or keep them safer. I, in fact, think the opposite is going to happen. That’s true because he has frankly stated so, including long before the election. 
For example, in February 2014, Trump went on Fox News to talk about Russia – which we should return to this because it’s very interesting that a reality TV show host would be on TV talking about Russian foreign policy in 2014 – but another thing he said during then, the interview was that in order for America to go back to where it was, to go back to being great, we need total economic collapse and we need riots. He explicitly called for this. His chief advisor and advisor throughout his campaign, Steve Bannon, who is an extreme white supremacist who runs Breitbart Media, which is a conspiratorial, right wing site, has also said similar things. He described himself as a Leninist who wants to destroy the state but I wouldn’t really describe him as a Leninist as much as an accelerationist, which is also what I would describe Trump. 
So there’s so many factors going into this and it’s a little bit head spinning but I’ve been tracking it all year. I became very worried throughout the year that Trump would indeed win; I know the polls said he wouldn’t but I noticed both the genuine popular support that I saw among people here in the center of the country but also a lot of manipulative tactics that remind me very much of how dictators take power, so I think it’s important to take a full look at everything that happened and really investigate because what we will deal with in the future is very dire and I think we should try our best to stop it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Never let it be called normal

Because it isn't. Joshua Foust says so:
The one thing authoritarians want you to do is to accept that their conduct is normal, even when it is not. They do not want you to yearn for a freer, less oppressive and less corrupt time, and they do not want you to think it odd when, say, a government agency is purged or a bunch of protesters are arrested and vanish into the prisons without ever seeing trial. They want you to think it is normal when the President is openly selling your interests out to a foreign power, or when he is using the levers of government to materially enrich and empower his family. The presumption of normality during abnormal times is one of the most powerful weapons the authoritarian has, and that is why it is so important to recognize how profoundly abnormal Donald J. Trump will be as president.

Foust then has a list of all the things Trump has done so far.


Zoey Williams says so:

Convincing ourselves the president-elect doesn’t mean everything he says is a fantasy that stops us seeing Trumpism for the barbarism it is.
and:
When the levers of power are seized by the small hands of hateful men, you work hard, you stand with those who are most vulnerable, and you don’t give up until it’s morning again. The rest is commentary.
 And over at the Daily Kos, scamperdo met a German student who was hurriedly leaving the US.
A chilling encounter with a German student left me shaking...
As a part-time Boston Uber/Lyft driver, conversing with the many international students filling our many colleges and universities can sometimes proved quite the eye-opener. But no encounter has ever left me as shaken as my Saturday ride with a German student coming home from a goodbye party. His parents came to the painful and hard decision some grandparents did not make 80 some years ago. He departs for home on Monday, without finishing his semester because fear is spreading across Germany.
 I was honestly and sincerely just stunned speechless to hear that his parents screamed at them, "the unthinkable has happened and America has fallen, you need to get OUT NOW before it's too late."

And Professor Danielle Armstorng:

"Like any number of us raised  in the late 20th century, I've spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump's rise, I now understand."
- Professor Danielle Allen, Harvard University

An analysis of Donald Trump’s election win and the prospects for his presidency

Well said, good sir!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Paul Krugman after the election

So where does this leave us? What, as concerned and horrified citizens, should we do?
One natural response would be quietism, turning one’s back on politics. It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it, so why not just make your own garden grow? I myself spent a large part of the Day After avoiding the news, doing personal things, basically taking a vacation in my own head.
But that is, in the end, no way for citizens of a democracy — which we still are, one hopes — to live. I’m not saying that we should all volunteer to die on the barricades; I don’t think it’s going to come to that, although I wish I was sure. But I don’t see how you can hang on to your own self-respect unless you’re willing to stand up for the truth and fundamental American values.
Will that stand eventually succeed? No guarantees. Americans, no matter how secular, tend to think of themselves as citizens of a nation with a special divine providence, one that may take wrong turns but always finds its way back, one in which justice always prevails in the end.
Yet it doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the historic channels of reform — speech and writing that changes minds, political activism that eventually changes who has power — are no longer effective. Maybe America isn’t special, it’s just another republic that had its day, but is in the process of devolving into a corrupt nation ruled by strongmen.
But I’m not ready to accept that this is inevitable — because accepting it as inevitable would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The road back to what America should be is going to be longer and harder than any of us expected, and we might not make it. But we have to try.

How others see us right now

Cartoons of Donald Trump from around the world.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day

Normandy Beach - from Evan Neilsen
In the early 70's I traveled to Europe and on a cold and overcast day in November made my way to Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. It was nearly deserted. I thought perhaps I had come to the wrong place when I saw a w
oman standing on the hill that led to the beach and as I approached, various concrete bunkers monuments and other features became clear. She turned and looked at me. I raised my hand and mumbled a "Bonjour." "Excuse me," she said. "Can you speak English?" I nodded. She spoke in a clear accent I recognized as 'Chicago.' "My husband is standing there,"she said, pointing to a man looking down on the beach from one of the cliffs. "I'm worried. It was my idea to come here to help him put this to rest, but he wanted a moment alone and he's been there a half hour already. Would you check on him, please?"

And so I found myself walking toward him. The United States was deeply involved in the Viet Nam War then and it seemed it was never far from our minds in those days. I wasn't sure what to expect from this man. I came up near him and said good morning, he looked up, his eyes puffy and red. He returned a mumbled greeting. I stepped closer to the edge of the cliff, looking down, trying to imagine the sights and sounds of that day in June of 1944, that day we all knew from our teachers, movies, fathers, and library books about the war. He sidestepped a bit closer to me and made a gesture as if to sweep away the whole scene below us.

"I lost nearly every friend I had in one morning here. And the rest in the following weeks." He paused. "I really hate Hollywood. I hate war movies. There are no heroes, no glory, no victory. There is nothing but death, and it is all random, and everything goes wrong. Everything they tell you about war is nothing but a big lie. We were nothing but numbers to them. Don't let the bastards ever tell you otherwise."

"I won't." We stood still looking down at the beach. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Your wife asked me to check on you. Do you want to come back with me, or shall I tell her you need some more time?" I waited. He looked down at the beach one more time, turned, and we walked slowly back to where his wife waited. She embraced him, his arms hanging limply at his sides, and after a bit his arms came up and he held her, too, tightly, his body shaking a bit with his sobbing, tears, I imagined, he had held back for many years. I left, not understanding fully what had happened, feeling humbled by what I had witnessed. I hoped that this was a release for him.

I'm proud of our Californian legislators.

Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election

Wednesday, November 09, 2016
SACRAMENTO – California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released the following statement on the results of the President election:
Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
We have never been more proud to be Californians.
By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.
The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.
California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love. 
California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.
We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.
While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.
California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Well said, good sir! And amazingly prescient!

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." — H. L. Mencken