With a short impeachment trial, more GOP sabotage of Trump

I almost popped out of my chair when I saw these headlines:

U.S. Senate leader McConnell raises possibility of quick impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised the prospect on Tuesday of a short Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump in which no witnesses would be called.

Unless McConnell’s goal is to damage Trump’s re-election chances, that’s one of the dumbest things he could do.

While Trump has repeatedly called the House Democrats’ impeachment investigation a “witch hunt,” he also has called for a trial with witnesses testifying.

In a tweet on Dec. 5, he wrote: “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify.” He was referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Biden, his son Hunter and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, all Democrats.

Last week, Trump dispatched his top White House lawyers to attend a lunch with Senate Republicans to discuss the possible impeachment trial.

White House legislative liaison Eric Ueland told reporters after that meeting that in order for Trump to make an effective case to the Senate, “We need both a full trial and the opportunity to call witnesses,” pointing to the Senate chamber.

This guy gets it.

McConnell unfortunately does not. Either a short Senate trial, or a motion to dismiss, will make it look like the fix was in and instead of giving Trump a chance to make his case, it will make him look guilty as hell, saved only by slavish Trumpies in the Senate.  Of course, there are no Trumpies in the Senate, slavish or otherwise. So that makes McConnell’s statement all the more confusing.  Does McConnell actually want to taint Trump and damage his re-election chances?

Senator Lindsey Graham is also another one who wants to end this quickly.  Version 1.0 has been trying to masquerade as Graham version 2.0.  It didn’t work.  He wants to let the managers present their case, then vote.  No witnesses called.

“My goal is to end this as soon as possible for the good of the country because I think it’s a danger to the presidency to legitimize this,” Graham stated.

“Does that mean no witnesses at all?” Hemmer asked.

“I don’t need any witnesses at all. I am ready to go,” Graham replied, adding that the issue of Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine can be addressed outside of impeachment hearings.

No it can’t.  Nothing will be addressed, ever if it’s not addressed during the impeachment trial.  That’s the necessity of having a trial in the Senate for as long as it takes to pick apart this fake frame job.  If that means calling every single witness who was called in during the House hearings, and pick apart exactly what they think the President did that was impeachable, including Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, so be it.  Sure there is a fun aspect to this too.  The prospect of getting Hunter under oath and finding out exactly how much his father knew is tantalizing, as well as getting Adam Schiff under oath and pick apart the timeline of his contact with the whistleblower, and scheduling it during the Iowa caucuses would be high political art.

However the Senate GOP establishment types who want to give the House Democrats a pass on this snow job raises my alarm bells.  Is the goal to harm Trump by not giving him a chance to expose this fraudulent impeachment, or are they trying to hide something else?  I don’t know, but this is yet another reminder that the goals of GOP office holders and GOP voters don’t always, or even most of the time, line up.

 

Not Wired for Democracy

Although skepticism of democracy is usually an aspect of the right (and the founders BTW), in the Trump era it is seeping over to the left.  After all, what good is democracy if it doesn’t elect the people I like?  And that seems to be exactly the conclusion that UC Irvine Professor Shawn Rosenberg has come to, as noted in this Politico article.

“Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.

His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.””

Reading that paragraph, I rub my chin and thoughtfully consider the meaning behind the text and can only conclude…

HaHaHaHah!

So “society’s “elites”—experts and public figures” have lost control of the narrative so democracy stinks.

Of course, the left has always been a bit transactional when it comes to Enlightenment concepts like representative government and individual rights.  They by and large agree with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that democracy is a train, and when it takes you where you want to go, you get off.  They are not as explicit as the Turkish President was in saying that, but it’s fairly easy to read between the lines given the #resistance and the more or less permanent coup that’s been ongoing since inauguration of President Trump.

In another left leaning “end of democracy” porn, this time from The Atlantic, How America Ends, senior editor Yoni Appelbaum, goes down the predictable, yet totally opposite of reality view of; what if Trump and his supporters don’t accept the consequences of his all but inevitable defeat in 2020?  Or as he states, “democracy depends on the consent of the losers.” In its own way, that’s actually profound.  But he’s got his article aimed at the wrong direction.  Appelbaum and his allies in the media specifically and the left in general, never consented or accepted their loss in 2016. They’ve totally rejected the election results, and have acted in a way that regards the current administration as totally illegitimate.

I wrote about this strain on the idea of representative government back on Inauguration Day in 2017 when I posted how gob smacked I was that the left still hadn’t got over their election defeat.  Well here we are almost 3 years later and in the midst of an absurd impeachment battle, it’s clear to me that the left isn’t wired for democracy.  The problem is, both sides have to accept the rules to make representative government work, and since one side has categorically rejected the rules, Rosenberg’s prediction, “democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail,” is likely to come true.

 

Crisis of Infinite Earths: The Endgame of the Arrowverse

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a big fan of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the massive fan payoff that was Avengers: Endgame.  DC’s movie universe has not fared so well.  You know things are bad when the two biggest characters in their franchise, Superman and Batman, both get “fired” in the same month.  But on TV, it’s a different story…

The Arrowverse, the interconnected TV DC superhero shows that run on the CW network, have established a rather amazing, Marvel-like history and inter-connectivity with multiple superheroes, associated cast, and…well everything that Marvel accomplished on the big screen, although on a TV budget.  Starting with Arrow; that premiered in 2012 with one well trained vigilante, it’s spawned several more superhero shows, including this year’s freshman show Batwoman, multiple Earth’s, multiple aliens, and at least two god-like entities.

Now it looks like the CW is getting ready to Endgame their massive creation by adapting the comic book crossover classic Crisis on Infinite Earths. This is the biggest comic book event in history now on the small screen. The Crisis story is too big to summarize, but let me give it a try:  A mysterious godlike entity based on antimatter wants to destroy all the universes in the multiverse to amass more power, while another mysterious godlike entity tries to stop him by recruiting an army of superheroes from many different universes.  Great battles ensue that eventually leaves only a few universes intact, including the main “Earth” which has been combined with other earths.  There is a great cost in superheroes as both the Flash and Supergirl die in the crisis.

Whew…barely touched the surface, but you can see how daunting that is for the CW to pull this off with their “Arrowverse;” it’s collection of DC based TV shows that will be the focus of this 5 episode crossover event. The amount of planning across shows that have gone into this is nothing short of amazing.  All of the shows have been feeding bits and pieces of the story since their fall premieres, with Arrow, involved almost solely with Crisis related matters this season.  But of course, Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, is destined to die in the crisis, which is another way of saying he didn’t renew his contract and the show is coming to an end.  However, a big crossover requires big stakes, and I’ll be sitting down munching popcorn when Crisis kicks off Sunday, December 8th on Supergirl.

Supergirl — “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One” — Image Number: CRS_S5__8x12_300dpi.jpg — Pictured: LaMonica Garrett as The Monitor, Ruby Rose as Batwoman, Audrey Marie Anderson as Harbinger, Brandon Routh as Superman, Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor, David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz, Stephen Amell as Green Arrow, Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Grant Gustin as The Flash, Cress Williams as Black Lightning, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory/Heatwave, Carlos Valdes as Vibe, Candice Patton as Iris West – Allen, John Wesley Shipp as Flash 90, Matt Ryan as Constantine, Bitsie Tulloch as Lois Lane and Tyler Hoechlin as Superman — Photo: The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Universal Basic Income and the Dearth of Good Ideas

Andrew Yang isn’t doing gangbusters in the Democratic polling, but of the bottom tier Democratic candidates, he was one of two that I found most interesting (the other of course being Tulsi Gabbard).  Although when you aggregate all of his mostly left leaning positions, there is no way I could have voted for him.  However I acknowledge that he was out there with a message that needs to be addressed; and that message?  The Robot Apocalypse of course!  Not the Skynet-destroy-all-humans, but the Skynet-destroy-all-jobs type.

I’ve been worrying about this for several years, and wrote about it in 2014 when I discussed the problem.

Automation over time has made things easier for us since it’s reduced the demand of physical labor, which we’ve benefited from.  But automation is not only continuing to reduce the number of boring, repetitious jobs, it’s now going after higher end jobs.  An Oxford Study predicted that 47% of US jobs could be lost to automation in 20 years.  Burger flippers and baristas for sure, but also lawyers and doctors are at risk. There is a lot fewer tax preparers now then there were in the days before tax preparation software.  So it’s not just low end drudge jobs that will be going away, it’s upper end jobs that require education that used to provide a lot of middle class and upper middle class incomes.

These long term trends will lead to pretty dire economic consequences in our lifetimes.

If these trends continue, with more and newer jobs being for the more educated class and few new low skilled jobs created, what are we going to do with people who are just not smart enough? We are improving automation along the lines of Moore’s Law, but there isn’t a Moore’s Law for human intelligence or ability. That is my concern. Not that we hit the Singularity and every human is unemployed and targeted for termination, but that the gradual change in the economy means few jobs for people on the  left hand side of the Bell Curve. We’ll have a growing cadre of people permanently unemployable no matter how great the stock market is doing or how much increase in GDP there is.

So it’s the economic and social robot apocalypse that I worry about.  And in the several years since I’ve really become aware of the issue, there just hasn’t been a good solution presented.  Yeah I know, “more money for education!”  After all, look how well that’s worked out?  But wait; there is one more go-to idea when the issue of automation eliminating jobs comes up; Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Andrew Yang’s proposal is the Freedom Dividend.”  As Yang’s campaign website put it, “Technology is quickly displacing a large number of workers, and the pace will only increase as automation and other forms of artificial intelligence become more advanced. ⅓ of American workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030 according to McKinsey. This has the potential to destabilize our economy and society if unaddressed.” 

He’s not wrong about the problem but the solution?

“Andrew would implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor.”

Whee!  Free Money!

“Other than regular increases to keep up the cost of living, any change to the Freedom Dividend would require a constitutional amendment. It will be illegal to lend or borrow against one’s Dividend. “

Well good luck enforcing that one.

So to the question, what do we do about no jobs, Yang’s answer is simply free money.  However I will give Yang credit. Unlike most advocates of UBI, Yang actually has a way to pay for it, a 10% Value Added Tax.  That is at least a more honest answer than the one you usually get from UBI advocates, which range from “the rich,” some version of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), or an Ocasio-Cortez-esque “You Just Pay for it.”

Free money sounds great and I can absolutely see the attraction to it.  Would I like an extra thousand bucks a month?  Absolutely!  Most people, and certainly a voting majority, could use extra cash each month.  In fact, it’s hard not to even discuss UBI without fantasizing about what we would do with the money.  It’s almost like lotto winnings, and like lotto winnings, it would wreak havoc on the recipients.

As much as I would love an extra twelve thousand bucks a year, Universal Basic Income is a total disaster as a social policy. We already have some great examples of a society dependent on welfare.  We have ghettos all over this country, of all races, in which cash benefits have totally flipped the incentive structures that a normal society has.  The bourgeois norms of thrift, work ethic, and responsibility have totally broken down in those areas, and I can’t imagine anyone who would want to replicate that nationwide.  In spite of Yang’s alleged safeguards, it’s easy to see how this would reorder politics into those who want to increase benefits (for the people!) and those who want to hold the line.  If history is any guide, the hold the line types are destined to lose.

UBI as a societal cancer probably won’t discourage those who want the government to make it rain with dollars, but even if UBI was the smartest idea ever, why would you want to institute it now?  Unemployment rates across all demographic groups are at historic lows. It certainly sounds difficult to justify a multi-trillion dollar program for a problem that has not arrived yet, and we don’t have a clear idea when it will arrive.  Of course, when the automation hammer falls, it’s not going to fall on the people who advocate for it now, primarily young people who can’t wait for an extra thousand bucks a month for weed and pizza.  It will hit people, in the way automation advances always have, on middle aged and older workers who suddenly find themselves laid off in their 40’s or 50’s with a set of work skills that are now obsolete. Common sense would seem to dictate that at the point it becomes a real societal problem, a program to provide a bridge for older workers to retirement would make more sense than starting a Freedom Dividend retirement program for people who are just graduating from high school.

The robot job apocalypse is a real issue that needs to be addressed.  The only solution out there, UBI however, is probably the dumbest of all answers. UBI doesn’t fix the problem.  People who are left unemployed by automation will still be unemployed, they’ll just have a long term welfare/unemployment check to buy groceries and pay rent. Of course, I didn’t have a solution in 2014 and I still don’t have one, but I don’t want to make things worse with an idiotic universal basic income scam.  It’s simply an end-stage democracy idea to buy votes.

This election season has the Democrats running on a maximum wish list of items that totaled up, exceed the GDP of the entire world, let alone the United States.  Between a Medicare for all, Green New Deal, Fee healthcare for illegals, and free college for all, the country would have long been a smoking financial ruin before UBI ever got put on the agenda.

Andrew Yang won’t get the nomination, but like reparations, UBI will continue to exist as a Democratic talking point and will probably show up as an issue in every Presidential election from here on out.  Why not?  It’s only money.

What Michael Bloomberg is Thinking

Back in September I predicted that Elizabeth Warren would probably be the Democratic nominee, and I’m still sticking with that, but there is a new wrinkle afoot.  Last week’s announcement Michael Bloomberg was preparing to file to qualify for the Alabama Democratic primary seems rather a late entry for what should be a serious contender. Bloomberg has been one of those perennial “will he or won’t he” types during previous election periods.  But absent a compelling ideology other than nanny-statism, he wasn’t going to waste time, money, and effort for a simple issue or statement campaign.  He wouldn’t be making a point, he would want to win.

This doesn’t mean that Bloomberg is definitely going to run, but it’s clear he’s serious enough to make sure his options are open, since he’s having his team run down other filing deadlines.  Now why would a billionaire do that?

My guess that Bloomberg’s thinking on this runs like this:  Biden is faltering and it’s clear by now that he is probably not going to be the nominee.  He’s showing his age too much on the campaign trail.  Elizabeth Warren is rising and is far more popular with the kook base that energizes Democratic primaries.  Of her sins, she has two that are unforgivable:  A wealth tax and her desire to break up the social media monopolies.  What’s worse, she actually seems to be serious, not simply throwing out boob-bait to the hippies.  This has suddenly caught the attention of the oligarchs that are running the country.  Mark Zuckerberg of all people is suddenly talking about free speech!  Bill Gates is suddenly hesitant about a wealth tax after praising it as recently as September.

Of course, back in September Bill Gates probably thought that Biden was the likely nominee.  Now his pious (and phony) virtue signaling is getting a little too real.  A potential Bloomberg candidacy could represent an opportunity for Wall Street and Twitter/Facebook/Google to buy their own candidate, and they have lots of money and lots of social media savvy to do just that.  It’s unclear if having lots of money and the ability to manipulate search engines and banning accounts can substitute for base activism (and of course votes) but the rich Democrats who have bankrolled the Democrats for decades may finally have run out the end of the rope and discovered they’re the ones dangling from it.

 

My Netflix Reviews: Time Travel Edition

As a long time science fiction fan, I can tell you that traditionally, much of what passes for science fiction in movies and TV is crap.  Some of it campy crap, which can still be fun (like Sharknado) but most of it is just crap-crap; earnest low budget attempts that are just not well thought out and terrible.  However I’ve has a bit of good luck recently on Netflix with a couple of recent time travel related movies.  These are two I would actually recommend without embarrassment.

First up, In the Shadow of the Moon, begins in 1988 when a young Philadelphia cop, Thomas Lockhart, with a pregnant wife is on the trail of a seeming female serial killer who he corners in a subway station where she begins mentioning detailed information about his life, before being hit by a train and killed.  The police close the case and that’s that until 9 years later when the exact same type of murders occur, with an identical suspect.  Since I’ve already said this was a time travel movie, you can put two and two together and guess there is a connection.  However how the connection reveals itself gives us a moody drama as Lockhart’s life implodes as he becomes more and more obsessed with tracking down the serial killer and discovering the why of these victims.

There are plenty of SJW points to be accumulated here as a white supremacy group plays a role.  This is the Trump era after all! However, the clever conclusion of the film more than makes up for whatever social justice points the writers are trying to score.  It’s still a well done story.

Time Trap was originally a video-on-demand film before Netflix obtained it.  An archeology professor who has spent years trying to find his hippie parents who vanished in the 1970’s discovers their old van, apparently untouched after all these years, outside a hidden cave system.  He goes into the cave exploring and…

…some of his students, trying to locate the missing professor, organize a little search party, find the van, the professor’s car and a cave system, go exploring and…

…and it’s a trap.  It’s no spoiler to say that time moves differently inside these caves.  That’s actually part of the movie description, but how that affects the characters, and how long it takes them to figure out what’s going on, is part of the fun.  They have either all the time in the world, or almost no time at all, to figure out the mystery.  That’s a matter of perspective.

Anyway both of these movies were surprisingly thought provoking and I give them two thumbs up.

 

More Hysteria Over Another Syria Withdrawal

I must be the only person left who is not in a full-fledged panic over President Trump’s decision to pull out 50 to 150 US troops in northern Syria.  In fact, every news article on the issue that I came across dealt more with the “backlash” to the decision rather than the actual decision itself.

Of course the decision shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.  It’s very much in line with the Trump Doctrine.  Trump views foreign policy through a narrow lens of US national interest, an abhorrent concept to most of our media and political establishment.  Trump’s withdrawal of troops leaves northern Syria open to Turkish attack, which is…bad I guess, but I’m not sure what the alternative is.  We are allied with Kurdish groups that are categorized as terrorist groups by Turkey, our NATO ally.

I believe it was a good decision to withdraw, or at least a “not bad” decision, but it was, as usual with Trump, handled poorly. It came out of the blue when really he should have called in the relevant GOP senators and briefed them on his rationale so they would at least have understood his reasoning, even if they disagreed with it. Instead, they’re caught flatfooted. However I think at this point we know Trump just isn’t going to do that, so every few months he makes a unilateral decision that catches everyone by surprise, with no media or PR prep.

As for the decision itself, at some point we are going to have to realize that we are trapped in a military alliance with an Islamic authoritarian that we have very little foreign policy agreement with. This decision is a good example, while we have interests with the Kurds and interests with the Turks, and they both want to kill each other. I sympathize with the Kurds and admit they’ve gotten a raw deal historically, and if there was true justice in the world, they should have their own state.

However Turkey is in NATO. So that’s that. No one wants to deal with the consequences of that, and it gets brushed over in our public discourse, but it’s at the root with dealing with the Kurds. We can’t accept that if it were not for NATO, Turkey would be, if not an enemy, at least an adversery.  We really need to have a discussion about NATO.  In a post-cold war era, does it really make sense that we’re joined at the hip with an increasingly erratic Erdoğan?  Either the United States doesn’t belong in NATO or Turkey doesn’t.  I’d rather not wait until we’re dragged into a war not of our choosing to think about dealing with this.