Trump wins, 11pm EST

Clinton lost it because she was a symbol of everything wrong with the status quo.

Advertisements
I’m reminded of Martha Coakley’s Senate loss in MA. Clinton pushed harder than Coakley, but there was that same arrogance to it all. Compare that to Warren’s Senate victory: she fought hard and jumped right in and stood for something, and she won in a walk because she had something to say. Clinton won’t lose to misogyny, she’ll lose because she embraced her Establishment role.
 
Hillary’s air of dynastic inevitability – cultivated and entirely by design, insofar as the political connections were concerned, and disastrously little apparent concern for public perception of those connections – was simply too much for Americans to stomach. Trump was a flawed candidate, a bloviating nitwit of a salesman who’s going to farm out every responsibility of the president other than speeches, demagoguery, and receiving accolades… and he beat Clinton.
 
For all the criticisms that flew around about Sanders, it was the very nature of Clinton, what she actually was rather than who she attempted to appear as, or how others painted her to be… but her very nature that lost. Maybe there is some misogyny in that, in that she just wanted it too much and perhaps a man wouldn’t have suffered for that, but America never really has liked smarty-pants nor intellectuals. Consider that poor ‘ol Jeb! got his ass handed to him for wanting it too much. No, I think Clinton earned this one on her own.
 
Neither party ran a particularly good candidate. Trump’s narcissism and lack of intellectual curiosity was inescapable, but Clinton somehow managed to find a way to be even more detestable than that. Neither party should have ran who they did; America’s problems are too large to have to deal with moronic empty pledges or more heaping portions of the status quo. We needed better.

Iran-trained militias join U.S-backed campaign on Mosul, flying Shi’ite flags

What we have wrought serves nothing in the American interest

http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/Reuters/worldNews/~3/zkPLq3yXsKc/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-iran-idUSKBN12U0UI

Bush’s legacy is going to last a very long time, and it is not a pretty one. Once Hussein was out of Iraq, only some kind of highly functional secular state was going to keep its Shi’ite majority from falling into Iran’s orbit. The war and occupation and dysfunctional political state have wrought something pretty much the opposite of a highly functional secular state: its Shi’ite majority, long oppressed by Saddam’s Ba’ath party, are now very big fans of democracy and its inherent powers granted to majorities against minorities. 

Iranian-backed militias were among the most effective fighters against Al Qaeda: the army was just seen as a way to make money, sell gear, and steal from the treasury… not at all a real fighting force, as opposed to the Shi’ite militias, who formed to fight, drill to win, and have a focused mission of retaking Iraq and making it Shi’ite. The army is still trying to disentangle itself from its corruption while US advisors try to help them, but Iran’s religious soldiers are proven and making things happen on the ground.

The end result isn’t here yet, but you can see it: Iranian influence from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, by way of Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon. Once Saddam fell, this was about the only way it could’ve gone, and this is where we are: Sunni Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a regional competition with Shi’ite Iran and engaging that competition by starving Yemen with US weapons, meanwhile Iran is liberating Iraq. 

It’s an all-too-predictable disaster that American hubris forged. It was repeated on a smaller scale in Libya, with none of the lessons learned there, either… the saving grace there being that there are no nearby regional powers strong enough to take advantage of the chaos, only ISIS living in the cracks of destruction. 

There’s something about having all this money and gear to burn on weapons and war, seemingly totally divorced from the average American’s experience of war that makes us do astoundingly dumb things. My guess is that there’s often no significant blowback: the voters don’t care that much about endless war or domestic surveillance, the Treasury and Congress always seems to have more money for war, and everything awful is happening Over There (1M starving in Yemen as of today, and for all the noise and money about ISIS they’re operating out of pick up trucks). 

There is a role for the feds, and they and us need to own it

Standing Rock is about sovereignty and the rule of law

This is not an environmental issue so much as a sovereignty issue. America has always treated treaty rights with natives as speed bumps to be disregarded without great concern; they simply don’t have a history of taking them seriously or respectfully.
 
But those rights are real.
 
This is a nutshell demonstration of the battle between laws for little people, and government abetting of illegal actions for the wealthy. The Bundy occupation in Oregon was about federal mismanagement of land that ought to be treated as local. This is more than that: this is about federal mismanagement of land that wasn’t even theirs to begin with… compounded with a healthy dose of corporate greed and willful, shameful destruction.
 
If America wasn’t so divided, the crowds that cheered on the Bundys should be there. For those that want to speculate on such things: in an American two-party state wherein those parties are captured by oligarchs, it would be to their advantage to keep challenges to the de facto oligarchy isolated from each other.
 
There are, of course, complicating counterfactual narratives. The Bundys were basically going to bat for some arsonists that didn’t want to hold the bag on what they’d done. Here, there’s hay to be made about environmentalists holding back a multistate permitting process that’s already exceedingly complicated and has multiple rounds of reviews with stakeholders. And in the end, any solution here will have to be arrived at through some kind of compromise with the acquiescence of the feds themselves, which is why we both need to maintain federal power as well as govern it more wisely: petroleum interests in ND aren’t going to stand against big money, especially for natives. Someone has to be the adult in the room or else in the end money rules everything, and that adult is supposed to be laws administered by fair arbiters.
 
The way things are now, money does rule most things, as it ever has. It’s really up to the people to scale that truth back.

The RickRoll Was Not An Accident 

It shouldn’t be happening but it IS.

Seriously. Melania Trump’s speech was a trial balloon to see if we’ve transcended satire. We have. 

Her speech didn’t just contain a few paragraphs cribbed from Michelle Obama. It had a literal Rick Roll in it: It would be embarrassing but we’re past that point I guess. 

My guess at this point is that the speechwriter laid a few landmines. On purpose. And no one will care, because why would we. 

America’s Dysfunction in One Speech

No one on national television will ever care about the real story of Benghazi.

Patricia Smith is a grieving woman, and is allowed her grief. And she’s angry over her loss and that’s understandable. I bear her no ill will; I wish her peace.

That said, let me identify the three major issues I see here whose absence illuminates the rot in American political discourse:

  • No one wants to talk about whether or not we should have been in Benghazi in the first place. Following the entirely predictable (and predicted) collapse of Iraq and subsequent long-term disaster, the oligarchic Beltway consensus was that Libya’s teetering state should be tipped over. At no point has this rationale been significantly challenged by anyone in power. The entire intervention in Libya has – once again – led to a chaotic mess of what used to be a country, with spillover effects in the region, none of them good. We can’t forget Iraq, but Libya seems to have no trouble slipping into the memory hole of bad ideas, and the enablers that promoted it have never been held to account, largely because they’re all the same people and have no interest in mea culpas.
  • Congress – and mostly Democrats due to political reasons – never significantly challenged the fact that the American intervention in Libya violated the War Powers Resolution. The Democrats, for reasons of party loyalty, never allowed Congress to proceed with a formal rebuke over Libyan intervention. The GOP made an attempt and it went nowhere. Ultimately, Congress rolled over because arguing about Libya is really arguing against killing people, an ugly past-time that is basically guaranteed to earn support from the majority of inhabitants in your district.
  • The State Department and Hillary Clinton specifically declared to Congress that there was no need for their authorization, despite the War Powers Resolution. Not only was this against the Resolution, it also was against the limits set by the Department of Justice and a raft of precedent. Basically the Executive told the Legislature that it had no power, they’d be doing whatever they wanted anyway, and to trust them, and the Legislature ultimately went along with it. This isn’t a story of just Congress being useless, it’s also a story of the continued growth of presidential executive power in America.

Instead, what came of Benghazi? Endless reams of interviews and panels and inquiries, all to determine that the CIA was stirring up trouble in Benghazi, the Embassy was essentially undefended and overly reliant on local untrustworthy militias, that reinforcements were either going to come from the CIA who wanted to stay as undercover and unseen as possible or from Italy (too far to actually do anything in a combat situation where airfield access is unknown)… and oh yeah, some emails.

Benghazi was an undefended outpost of an imperial power that was put smack in the middle of its own stirred-up covert intelligence shenanigans, in order to attempt to stabilize a country that had been destabilized for bad reasons clear both before and after the interventions. Absolutely none of that has penetrated into the wider discourse in this country.

Clinton’s emails did. And it turns out that she carelessly shared classified material with people cleared to see them. And that’s dumb, but it didn’t murder anyone in Benghazi. It’s the kind of thing that gets a Navy officer two years probation and a $7,000 fine.

This poor woman is pissed off that Clinton said that a video caused the attack. It didn’t. That was at worst a lie, at best a mistake. The real reason the embassy was attacked was because it was a vulnerable American outpost in a volatile region, a truth that transcends the particulars, and that’s the reason why Ms Smith can’t get an answer. The answer is, “knowing everything we do about Iraq, which only reminded us of the obvious truths we knew before Iraq, we Americans collectively attacked a place, overthrew its despot, watched the region crumble, then put an embassy in the middle of it all and didn’t properly fund its defense”. And that answer indicts not just Clinton, but pretty much all of Washington.

None of that came up. None of that will come up. The hawks who clamor always for more war sneak by. The Congress that can’t do much other than grandstand sneaks by. A Presidential executive that will go to war when and how it wants to and will tell Congress to get stuffed sneaks by. The Pentagon’s budget, ever-ballooning, never auditable, grows and sneaks by. Instead, we’re treated to the parade of a grieving woman and told to hate Clinton. The Republicans should be ashamed; everyone involved in this should be.

Fear Makes Enemies from Allies

The purpose of terror is to affect disproportionate change, to enlist emotions in recruiting unnecessary armies

The world is a complicated place.

Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van after being picked up for nothing. No one is seemingly held accountable. Maryland a black state attorney, Baltimore has a black mayor, a substantial minority presence in their police force, a majority-minority city council, and has basically been run by local Democrats for fifty+ years.
 
There are issues here of accountability, but they run all over the place. If they belong to any political party, they belong to the local Democrats. They certainly appear to transcend easy racial narratives on the side of any oppressor, though personally I find it easy enough to imagine the state being a tool of minority/poor oppression regardless of who’s in charge.
We know that, for example, police use of force is disproportionately applied to minorities. There’s some ongoing discussion of shootings – most research indicates a bias, there’s at least one recent study (though only examining incidents in Houston) which counter that conclusion – but personally I think it’s enough to point out that minorities get beat more often than whites in similar incidences to say that there’s smoke.
But what now?
The panacea of “better government” is not enough. Government is, by-and-large, a manifestation of society at large and for good reason. The downside is that transformation in government comes after transformation in society at large, and American society at large is struggling with itself: Black Lives Matter against All Lives Matter, awareness of the state’s largely out-of-sight minority oppression against a struggle to maintain deference to law and order. The good news is that the civil rights movements of the 60s were decried in their time for being disruptive, and that Black Lives Matter being considered similarly is at least a reminder that struggles can tip quickly.
The new, ugly wrinkle in all of this is the string of murders of police officers.That is the wedge, the worst fears of All Lives Matter come to manifest, an erosion of the ideal that it is possible to be both aware of the minority experience of the state’s violence and power, as well as aware that minority and poor communities in general require the help and aid of police. Just as any kind of terror attack is designed to drive rifts between populations, to make estranged allies and neutral parties into enemies, these shootings are terror attacks. If they work, they will erode the social capital required for change, and everyone will come out lesser.
I hope it doesn’t go that way.

Direct democracy, aristocracy, and America

The American political system is solving itself into a system with less internal conflict, paradoxically creating greater manifest conflict

image

It isn’t that people are less intelligent than before, it’s that we’ve slowly eroded the aristocracy that was supposed to protect us from ourselves: the electoral college is a non-sapient mechanism at this point, Senators are directly elected, and many judges are directly elected. The House was always intended as a playground for demagoguery and polemics, but now that the Senate and Presidency and judiciary are as well, there are no more arms-length gatekeepers. The parties that control the country have no incentive to make wise decisions, only popular ones… and then, only popular enough to win roughly 30% or so of the population, that portion that constitutes a majority of the voters.

Direct democracy has always been a bad idea, and in some case it’s because of a parallel issue that libertariaism has: you can’t expect the entire populace to be plugged-in dispassionate arbiters of social, political, l and legal issues, just like you can’t organize a society around everyone being good little capitalist marketeers.

The aristocracy of the Constitution – a republic, in that the aristocracy ostensibly is vulnerable to some popular rollover – was trying to thread the needle between mobocracy and oligarchy, and somehow both ends of the equation have managed to find and distill the worst elements of both.

What’s interesting about this is that the original system was supposed to be full of checks and balances, governmental factions existing in a creative tension, pulling against each other to tease out an optimized government. That’s a great idea, but in modern times that’s become just another system to solve. The system has been slowly eroding these impediments to efficiency – eroding the tensions, smoothing the process – but in doing so, they’re breaking the end result. The system wasn’t supposed to run smoothly, it was supposed to create good government. By emphasizing the smoother operation and selection of various governmental representatives, all it’s done is shift the tension from being between branches with differing methods and oversight to a tension between political parties, and in doing so the various branches of government are themselves existing within a tension, unable to present a united front for consideration by the other branches.

The creative tension between branches is now a destructive tension within branches. Congress can’t legislate. The President acts with increasing impunity, knowing the Executive can’t be stopped by a feckless Congress and inspired to act and fill the gap of Congress’s dysfunction. The judiciary is forced to resolve issues which ought to be resolved by legislation. It’s a decent lesson in systems maintenance: you’d best fix one thing when it starts to rattle, because that rattling is going to break two or three other things, which will break two or three other things.