“I think that Donald Trump is an existential threat to the Republic.”

January 12, 2020 at 11:28 am (By Amba) ()

That’s why Rick Wilson, ruthless Republican operative, is offering his advice to the Democrats. They (and maybe you) won’t like it. But the man does have a track record of getting swing voters to swing the way he wants. And he does openly call Trump “a liar and a corrupt asshole and a scumbag.” His new book, Running Against the Devil, out January 14, is bound to be as breathtakingly entertaining, brutally frank, and pragmatic as his first.

“[Wilson] thinks Democrats are making a huge mistake in the campaign so far – by telling voters who they really are. The main candidates are veering too far left, he thinks, away from the disaffected Trump voters they will have to turn.  . . .

“You’ve got to run where the game is played and fight where the fight is, which is these 15 electoral college swing states, and those states are not as woke and liberal as other parts of the country. . . .”

Asked which Democrat is best suited for the fight, Wilson admits to being impressed by Warren’s willingness to work hard and how she champions the little guy. But he still goes for Joe Biden.

“I think it will be Biden because name ID is very powerful,” he says of the former senator and vice-president. “He is the one candidate who has shown the most ability to contrast with Trump in terms of a broader, bigger picture that isn’t just locked into what’s the hot flavor of Democratic messaging this year. . . .

“[T]he way to win is sometimes to not tell people who you really are.”

And if the young stay home / write in? . . .

I wish I could ask him that question. He seems to think the rest of the blue states are safe even without a huge youth turnout.

What do you think?

ADDED: An excerpt from Rick Wilson’s Running Against the Devil:

A second term guarantees the rise of the Imperial Trumps, a family cult built on the remains of the moldering corpse of the GOP, featuring all the warmth of North Korea’s Kim dynasty and a kind of Hapsburg-jawed je ne sais dumbfuck rien. . . .

The Trump family—including the creepy automaton Jared Kushner—will continue to view the American government not as a sacred trust but as an ATM for their crapulous enterprises and nation-state-level grifting. 

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“Democratic intra-party cannibalistic stupidity of gnawing their own limbs off”

January 11, 2020 at 9:09 am (By Amba) ()

This writer who has always defended Joe Biden got fed up and dared to say that Biden lies—makes up stories that make him look good—that “I just don’t think he is at full mental acuity or capacity anymore,” and therefore that Biden is “not . . . the best choice.” She got savagely trolled on Daily Kos, of all places. She has a personal beef, but she’s right about Biden, and right about the Democrats.

These self-identified progressives at Daily Kos et al. are the social media equivalent of the same infantilizing intellectual “safe spaces” that many colleges are promoting. . . . These coddled middle-class suburban white kids often go from their parents’ home, where they’ve been kept from all manner of perceived “danger” and accountability — babysat by the most dangerous predator of all, their iPhones . . . to a college where they are insulated from the ideological meanies who dare to have a different opinion. Finally, to their own little apartment where they tell themselves that the bubble of “progressive” pals and pundits they chat with in the dark amount to actual human contact. They then think, without any introspection at all, that the terror they feel every time they are confronted with the “other” is the appropriate way to feel, that their childish reactions are the way one is supposed to deal with actual flesh-and-blood human beings.

There’s a reason the right was able to get political traction around the “snowflake” trope when referring to the left, and this is it. Regardless of your place on the political spectrum, this fragility of voters’ constitutions is individually and socially destructive. A healthy democracy is not timid. It’s not biased and ideologically pure. It’s not terrified of differing opinions or perspectives. It is not cruel. But unrealized people are.

UPDATE: Here the same writer, Gayle Leslie, documents some contradictions in Bernie Sanders’s political biography—in the 1990s he was tough on crime (voting for mandatory minimums) and easy on guns (voting against the Brady Bill). By saying that these old white guys aren’t the best bet, is she just indulging in the mutual assured destruction the headline decries? She seems soft on Hillary and hard on Russian interference, so if those things set you off you may dismiss what she’s dug up on Bernie. I’m not so sure you should.

If defeating Donald Trump is the only thing that matters, should Democrats refrain from legitimate criticism of flawed frontrunners?

What if they are too flawed to defeat Donald Trump?

UPDATE 2: Biden holds a wide lead among African Americans. He is “far and away their favored candidate.” Bernie is second—and leading among people under 35, just as with younger white voters. The same divide between cautious, change-weary elders and revolutionary, more change! youth. And only old white men to represent both points of view.

UPDATE 3: Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart learned from his Aunt Gloria that blacks have a pragmatic, not exactly cynical, but at once fatalistic and strategic reason for preferring Biden: “‘The way the system is set up now, there is so much racism that it’s going to have to be an old white person to go after an old white person,’ Aunt Gloria said. ‘Old-school against old-school.’”


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How Trump is Dumbing Down his Opponents

January 10, 2020 at 12:08 am (By Amba) ()

as well as his followers, opines David Brooks:

This is Trump’s ultimate victory. Every argument on every topic is now all about him. Hating Trump together has become the ultimate bonding, attention-grabbing and profit-maximization mechanism for those of us in anti-Trump world. . . .

Most of this week’s argument about the Middle East wasn’t really about the Middle East. It was all narcissistically about ourselves! [related . . .] Democrats defend terrorists! Republicans are warmongers! Actual Iranians are just bit players in our imperialistic soap opera, the passive recipients of our greatness or perfidy.

Underneath the theatrical enmity Trump whips up, Brooks sees the left and right converging on an isolationist populism: “The real high-risk move is the one both parties are making together: that if we ignore the world it will ignore us. (It won’t.)”

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The perils we face, in a nutshell

January 9, 2020 at 10:27 am (By Amba) ()

As look-it-in-the-eye a summary of what we’re in for as I’ve seen. This New York piece by Ed Kilgore does all your hand-wringing for you in one place. One-stop shopping for all your angst needs. You can stop looking now for the articulation of your dread that will top the last one.

There’s a weird power and relief in naming things. Cue Rumpelstiltskin.

After an unusually long period of anxious anticipation (on my part, at least), the year 2020 arrives this week bearing many fearful possibilities balanced mostly by the hope of narrowly evading them. . . .

[F]ar and away the most likely path to a second Trump term is a second Democratic challenger to Trump who becomes more of a political problem than a solution. . . . Democrats could choose a challenger so old that the prospect of infirmity or mortality — or worse yet, actual infirmity or mortality during the general-election campaign — could give Trump just the kind of advantage he needs. . . .

[I]f the nomination contest indeed does turn into a battle of the late-septuagenarians . . . Republicans and media types alike will magnify [their ideological and policy] differences into a veritable Spanish Civil War of irreconcilable conflicts between Democrats in Disarray. . . . The silver lining for Democrats in that scenario is that they wouldn’t have to dwell on the fears many harbor about nominating another woman . . . or a gay man.

Back in March, I outlined seven hellish developments we can expect if Trump is reelected, ranging from an indelibly slanted federal judiciary and a shredded social safety net to a permanently Trumpist GOP and a shattered opposition party. But more terrifying than any of these specific possibilities is what a second “mandate” (following Trump’s all-but-certain acquittal on articles of impeachment) would do to the recklessness of a president who already believes the Constitution authorizes him to do any damn thing he pleases.

During Trump’s first term . . . observers have had to struggle daily with whether and how much to write about the unmistakable parallels of Trumpism and 20th-century fascism — the contempt for the rule of law and for democratic norms, the jingoism and militarism, the racism, the championship of cultural reaction, the brutal rhetoric, the love of violence and war crimes, the hostility to independent media, and the frank preference for tyrants and demagogues ruling other countries, among other traits. A reelected Trump would . . . make the possibility that he would refuse to peacefully give up power in 2025 a lively issue rather than just a paranoid fantasy. . . .

Three years into his reign, it’s harder than ever to accept that so many wage earners lionize this billionaire surrounded by billionaires who has never sided with working people in any conflict with the malefactors of great wealth, or to accept that so many law-abiding people celebrate his lawlessness, or to accept that millions of Bible-believing Christians look at this heathenish bully who exemplifies every vice and form of idol worship the Good Book warns them about and see a redeemer.

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Iran: This Isn’t Over.

January 8, 2020 at 6:16 pm (By Amba) (, , )

“President Trump said in a White House address Iranian strikes resulted in no casualties and Iran now ‘appears to be standing down.'” ~ Axios

Just a guess:

Iran, unlike Trump, is focused on results, not optics. And they can wait. They announced that they would take the high road and retaliate proportionately and lawfully on an appropriate, military target. They then immediately launched a strike that proved ineffectual.

That was way too easy. It looked phony, diversionary, like a decoy.

Looking humbled now is good cover if you’re dealing with a fool like Trump plus a whole lot of Americans indulging in wishful thinking about American invincibility. It isn’t even that wily.

Watch them strike hard just pre-election and cut him off at the legs. (Despite the tingle of Schadenfreude, this is not something to look forward to or exult in. Many people will die. So I hope I’m wrong.)

And with that: off to the laundromat. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.

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The climate road not taken—in 1980 (a story with Iran in it)

January 8, 2020 at 9:23 am (By Amba) (, , , )

Few people remember that we had a real chance to go another way that long ago—and rejected it.

Jimmy Carter’s presidency is remembered for his cringeworthy soft-spoken piety and sincerity (so uncool and unmacho it was un-American), and for his engineered impotence over the Iran hostage crisis (the Reagan campaign was working behind the scenes with Iran to delay the release of the hostages till after the 1980 election—a much-mocked “conspiracy theory” that proved to be true). With the election of Ronald Reagan, America shook off its warranted malaise and soul-searching and strode into a sunny “morning” of hearty, manly, steak-eating extractive industries, Wall Street casinos siphoning wealth upward, and chest-beating denial. We’re now reaping the reckoning and denial is still the medicine of choice, though alternative energy is now far cheaper and more efficient than it was when Jimmy Carter first advocated it.

That’s right. Did you know or (if you’re old enough) remember that Jimmy Carter pushed for clean energy independence when OPEC prices soared and there were gas lines around the block? I am old enough and I did not remember. My cousin Joan Levin (my mother’s second cousin—their grandfathers were brothers) reminded me:

When we moved to DC my first job was at DOE. One of President Carter’s goals was to produce — darn, I can’t recall the numbers – I think it was like 40 quads (quadrillion kilowatts) of energy from NON-fossil sources by the year 2000.  

So this was our mission in the Solar and Conservation unit where I worked.  Our job was to encourage production of non-fossil energy sources with government grants, loans and cooperative agreements.  So this included solar, wind, water movement, and yes, even [methane biogas from cow manure].

But when Reagan was elected he famously said that Carter’s Solar and Conservation programs would make us “hot in the summer and cold in the winter” and shut them down.  And that’s when I left DOE (where I could have stayed forever because I was civll service, but doing what?) and went to work for Public Citizen Health Research Group where . . . I wrote books and articles with doctors.

This was just an aside in a spirited discussion of Joan’s lifelong avocation (she’s a lawyer) as a writer of occasional songs and lyrics that can approach Gilbert & Sullivan levels. Methane biogas was the occasion for the following, which she used as her audition to write for the 1981 Hexagon charity revue in Washington.

The scene opens with an actor in the role of Barry Commoner, a
well-known environmentalist of the day, and author of “Politics of
Energy,” explaining the possibilities for the intestinal gas of
cattle. (Sadly, methane now turns out to be a climate change
issue, but that was not an issue being discussed at that time.)

(Recitative, 4/4 time)
I used to burn the midnight oil, and lie awake each night;
Reflecting on what I could do, to set our country right!
Our President has told us that this crisis equals war,
And every citizen must act to help our country score!
So here’s a plan that I devised to keep our Nation strong,
And send those tanks of foreign oil,
Right back where they belong!
OH —–

(3/4 time)
Be a “Farter for Carter,”
Break some wind if you can!
Harness “church creepers,” one may be a sleeper,
To power the launch of our energy plan!
Eat some beans, they are tuneful!
We’ll build a new fuel source from scratch!
Be a self-starter, be a “Farter for Carter!”
Just remember: Don’t light that match!

Hexagon did hire her as a writer, though they didn’t use that piece. I was telling her how much my dad would have loved it (he was helpless to resist even bad butt humor) when she sprang this surprise on me—Carter’s clean energy advocacy. Now I dimly begin to remember. It seemed like a quixotic, utopian idea at the time, with the technology still in its early, expensive stages. There was a way, in 1980, but not a will.

In hindsight (ha ha), what a tragic missed opportunity.

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“The hit had less to do with national security . . .

January 7, 2020 at 10:26 pm (By Amba) ()

” . . . than it did with an aggrieved, hysterical sense of national honor”—a “civilizational insult.”

LIGHTNING BOLT!! Trump’s narcissism is America’s narcissism.

He . . . embodies . . . us.


P.S. Do read the article at the link, by Spencer Ackerman, in full. It’s a hard-hitting dissection of the endless “War on Terror.”

A couple of samples:

Trump possesses greater clarity about what the war on terrorism is than his journalistic or security-sector critics. His great political insight is to recognize that, for his supporters, the war on terrorism’s grotesque subtext of violence against nonwhites who are viewed as alien marauders is its emotional engine. 

Whether Trump destroys Iran’s heritage or not, he reveals his understanding of victory: defilement, in cultural terms, of those who would frustrate him. Under Trump’s watch, the foreign battlefields of the war on terrorism have seen intensified bombings, raids, and other punitive measures. Even those who fought America’s wars for it can be abandoned to their violent fate once Trump sees them as encumbrances, just more subcontractors to stiff. With an embrace of brutality comes a delight in transgression, particularly when the typical lawyers or liberals or foreigners or Deep Staters howl objections. They walk into Trump’s trap: Aren’t these the people who got us into these stupid wars? 

One of the things those people told them was not to start a war with Iran. For the Trumpists, though not only for them, Iran, the supposed architect of Radical Islamic Terror, has been at war with America since 1979, all while the U.S. refuses to fight back. This long cultural insult is inflamed by the insistence on restraint from the same political, diplomatic, intelligence, and military voices whom many allies of Trump view as enemies of the president. Cowing them into submission is as delectable for the nationalists as vaporizing Soleimani.

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Republicans think Trump is a better president than . . .

January 6, 2020 at 9:29 pm (By Amba) ()

Guess who(m).

(I’ve got a few posts lined up on the “drafts” runway ’cause I needed to give you guys a break. But this is too astonishing to wait.)

“An Economist/YouGov survey from November showed more Republicans believe that Trump is a better president than was Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, who won the Civil War and emancipated the enslaved. Lincoln, the first Republican president. Lincoln, who delivered the Gettysburg Address before Twitter came along and perfected the art of presidential communication.

“’This should tell you everything you need to know,’ Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a prominent Trump critic, told me. ‘When national polling shows that these folks think that Donald Trump was a better president than Abraham Lincoln, you know this is fucked up.’” ~ Peter Nicholas in The Atlantic

Pushback with paws: Find out why Lincoln was the GREATEST president on my catblog, Purr View.

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Doomed planet, tragic species

January 4, 2020 at 10:05 pm (By Amba) ()

We’re 4 days into 2020 and my New Year’s resolution—”Resist Despair!”—is proving even more impossible to keep than pledges to lose weight or improve “productivity” (hate that word: so willingly we install the factory floor overseer in our own psyche).

A friend sent me the link to this interview, which is basically a hawkish conservative and a formerly American Israeli exulting (while ducking and covering just in case) that “America is back, and American deterrence has been restored.” (I would be very interested to hear your reactions to it.)

I wrote back:

My reaction to this (still just partway through it) is “Trump has just sealed his re-election.”

As much as his base thinks they want us out of furrin wars, they enjoy seeing Trunp and Amurrica kick ass even more, especially when the “red line” is touching a hair on an American’s head. There are [suddenly] a lot of born-again hawks [in his camp].

Of course, it depends on the [scale of the] consequences. Some are saying Iran, having lost its “head,” [or “arm,”] will kind of fade away, with only a few minor and marginal retaliations on obscure embassies or the like. Of course, those too will have to be punished—if and perhaps only if there are American casualties. A larger attack on an ally—Saudi or Israeli—might also require a response. Or not, considering the record. 

I’m reading various points of view and I don’t know what to think.

People adore strength, they worship it. It makes them feel safe, and it makes them feel powerful by proxy. The default state of humans, ever since agriculture made accumulation and “civilization” possible, seems to be to shelter under the skirts of (you hope) the strongest warlord, trusting that he will keep the other warlords and their mercenaries from taking your food and raping your women and girls (or you, if you are a woman or girl). (I put my own kind in parentheses because this is all men’s business, a certain kind of men, the plunderers and pussy-grabbers, in armor or in suits. As long as they rule the world, anyone else of any gender who begs to differ, welcome to our parentheses!)

Those of us who fancy ourselves more interested in wonder and pleasure than in power are delusional, in this view. Our scraps of freedom to pursue such delicacies are entirely provisional upon our warlord being strong enough to kick the other warlords’ butts, or force or bribe them into alliance or submission.

Now the warlords have nukes, so maybe this tragic farce, which began with painted faces, poison darts, and kidnapping each other’s sisters (lest anyone be nostalgic for a hunter-gatherer Eden), will finally be over soon.

Gee, I’m doing great with my New Year’s resolution.

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To paraphrase Joseph Conrad . . .

January 4, 2020 at 11:14 am (By Amba) (, , )

The blandness! The blandness! (A line from his lesser-known Heart of Whiteness.)

Bobcat Goldthwait Omg GIF by truTV’s Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits & Monsters - Find & Share on GIPHY

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