Some thoughts on Lenin

Too much thought, with no heart, and zero self-awareness

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https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2017/1113/Lenin-illuminates-one-of-history-s-most-destructive-leaders

Lenin was an amazing person; in the modern era there haven’t been many like him, and they’re almost all universally destructive.

I think the best example of this is how the Revolution started: Lenin had been in exile in Germany, kept under wraps, barred from returning to Russia. Towards the end of the Great War, a desperate Germany released him to Russia.

However, they didn’t just “release him”. They negotiated with the Swiss, put him in a train car, sealed it, and had the train run the length of Germany before being opened again. They treated him like an active biological agent, a vicious infection vector, because he was. The Revolution was a movement prior to Lenin’s arrival, but one among many; he successfully executed a coup and overthrew the government within six months. Within a year communists inside and especially outside Russia were already decrying his dictatorship and lack of democratic institutions as a betrayal. 

He was an utterly committed, brutal man of one goal, with morals and ethics – even Marxism itself – pushed aside to achieve that goal. It’s amazing what he was able to accomplish, and how almost inevitable it all seems given his reputation among his enemies and allies.

A Cynical New Low

A destructive, idiotic tax plan that seems to purposefully be crafted to do damage

https://itep.org/senatetaxplan

This is the most cynical, disruptive, baseless change in the tax code since Bush’s giveaway. It runs up a huge deficit to the tune of $1.5T, but does offer up a fig leaf of increasing taxes on America’s bottom half so it at least feels like its screwing someone. Why not do away with that bit and just make it a cool $2T? No, better throw the country’s account into the toilet with a little English on the ball, the bootstraps crowd will eat it up on Fox and the radio.

Meanwhile, the largest living, breathing beneficiaries of the bill are… foreign investors. Not Americans. Not even rich Americans. Our economy is so financialized the America First #MAGA party can’t even figure out a way to actually make America first; we’ve sold it all so much that it isn’t even ours anymore to play with.

I think the most offensive thing in all this is that it doesn’t have to be like this. A little over half the country literally, state-by-state, district-by-district, chose these assholes.

Impeachment is the purview of Congress

Trump’s lack of ethics are a solvable problem, if we had a functioning Congress

Impeachment is a political act, not a criminal one. If the House majority is more enamored of their prospective legislative agenda than a President’s criminal or unethical activity, then that activity is by definition not sufficient to lose the office. The President can do whatever he likes until the House decides it’s Too Much™. Calling unethical behavior “not obstruction of justice” is a canard; the real question is if Paul Ryan cares more about creating an Ayn Rand wonderland than suffering a Keystone Kops Executive. He clearly does. 

Once upon a time, “it’s not illegal if the President does it” was a joke on its face for its hubris. The truth we’ve been reminded is, “it’s not functionally illegal for the President if Congress abides it”. Certainly the President can hire and fire who he wants in the Executive; the check against abuse of that power is impeachment. The President could systematically fire every federal investigator and prosecutor probing them, FBI, CIA, NSA, DoJ, whoever – they all serve at the behest of the President, and he can functionally dismantle pretty much any investigation of his conduct the moment he’s aware of it. Again, the only check on that is impeachment, or a Cabinet-level 25th Amendment revolt.  

Congress didn’t abide Clinton’s weasel answers about blowjobs. They apparently are much more comfortable these days with the President strong-arming the heads of the FBI, CIA, and the DNI about on-going investigations involving close allies of the President. The sad fact is that the American federal legislative body is so moribund and rotten through that it can no longer be counted on to fulfill any of its roles, compromising itself, the Executive, and the nation itself.

Maybe I should re-read The Fountainhead. I don’t remember it being THAT good.

Selling Out to Win

What does it mean to win the world and lose your soul?

We start here:

https://mobile.twitter.com/brianklaas/status/837600751950131201

We know there was some kind of Ukrainian peace deal passed around, discussions of sanctions, some dead Russians peripheral to those conversations… but the talks look to be all over the place. It doesn’t look like one agenda getting pushed, it looks like Russia just fully supporting Trump with everything they could… the way the US typically does in foreign elections.

I think that might be the bigger story here. Susceptibility to foreign meddling in elections via broad support (and some dirty tricks, such as the DNC hack) is something typically ascribed to weak nations and not the US. The question appears to be, “Is this acceptable in the US”? It’s clear that Trump and the Russians were up to SOMETHING, but what, and proof that “what” is more illegal than Logan Act violations doesn’t seem imminent.

This seems to me to a fight about propriety, and pride, and not outright treason. The hurdle of actual treason doesn’t look to be met any time soon, and the Presidency itself probably doesn’t qualify as enrichment under the Enoulments Clause. They’re foreign agents. They probably were happy for the help and, I believe, are still pro-American. That said, anyone who was willing to cut deals with aggressive foreign kleptocrats in order to win wanted to win so bad they forgot what they were fighting for.

And it may still yet be treason. We’ll see.

Mesbwhile, what will we accept? What will the world accept?

Leaks and the horrible burden of responsibility

We need leaks because we’re not trusted, and maybe we shouldn’t be

This is what it’s like in America these days:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/trump-decries-leakers-for-leaking-that-he-asked-them-to-leak.html?mid=fb-share-di

Leaks occupy a strange place in American politics, governance, and media. So many big decisions get made in secret, decisions that are momentous and important and for all that hidden as well. We’re not supposed to know what’s going on, and leaks are weapons in that cultivated ignorance: if it was only official leaks, we’d only hear the inside story from one perspective – the one that wants to hide the decision-making process yet still make it seem like it isn’t hidden. So we need unofficial leaks as well… and sometimes it’s just gossip, sometimes it’s lies, and sometimes it’s truth, and there’s no immediately easy way to discern between them.

Transparent governance would address a lot of this, but no one in power likes to shine a light on the sausage making process. They don’t think we can handle it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we need immaculate leaders in high towers that make us trust they know what they’re doing. I don’t buy that though… but even then, if someone up top was honest with everything,that it was hard and mistakes get made and the complexity was mind-boggling, you know all it would take is one jerk with a loud mouth or a smooth delivery to tell us that he’s got all the answers and we can get rid of those poor flawed mortals up top, and you just know people would fall over themselves to fawn for the hustler.

Maybe we’re not better than that. Maybe. I’d like to try, all the same.

You can’t Tweet from the SITROOM

Crisis response requires preparation, and is the President’s most unique role. It does not appear Trump is interested in preparing.

We’ll start with this:

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58ae0acbe4b057efdce8c07c?

Trump was Tweeting during the Yemen raid, which you can’t do from the Situation Room.

I don’t believe anyone in the SITROOM would’ve been able to react to events in Yemen in any direct fashion, but they certainly can do so indirectly. I don’t know what it’s like to be President, and I don’t think that a President should need to monitor every military operation they order; goodness knows I hope the career professionals would have a better grasp on events as they happen than the latest popularity contest winner.

Still, something about this doesn’t sit right. It seems callous. I would’ve thought that a first-time President would’ve wanted to see this, to get walked through it all by the professionals, to get context on what’s involved, to learn what it is that he actually ordered. The logistics, background on the planning, the reality of execution… all the myriad bits that make the difference between a plan and a reality, especially in a situation like this.

It’s one thing to muck around with executive orders, or sign bad laws. They’re reversible, mistakes can be corrected, courts have a role if things are bad enough. But crisis response is probably the one thing the President does that’s supreme in authority, immediate, and irreversible, and there are many, many hints that a crisis under Trump would not be reacted to with wisdom, grace, or coordination.

Hacks talking about serious topics unseriously

Take a look at this thing:

http://thefederalist.com/2017/02/20/barack-obama-welcomes-donald-trumps-imperial-presidency/#.WKyTW1sLuFo.facebook
I want to use the word “shocking” to describe an article covering this topic that would mention Bush only once, for the surveillance powers he doled out, and only to praise them. I can’t, because it’s not surprising at all.

The USA PATRIOT Act was the real first shot fired in the modern Imperial Presidency (back when it was just the “Unitary Executive” according to Cheney). Under that, the NSA lied to Congress and the American people and conducted flatly illegal surveillance – and Congress saw no reason to challenge any of that and still doesn’t. In fact, the only reason we know about such abuses is due to Snowden’s leaks… which this article feels were unnecessary and totally should be prosecuted.

Remember, this is an article warning of the Imperial Presidency. It doesn’t excoriate Congress for inaction. It goes out of its way to praise Bush, and then specifically Obama’s prosecution of leaks. It never mentions Cheney.

Articles like these are the reason why people can read extensively about serious topics and not have much to show for the effort. The Imperial Presidency is a real danger to the Republic, but it’s a symptom of a weak Congress and a divided nation with little capability for discourse. Articles like these are one reason why that divide exists.