The Morning Joe Prediction Challenge

Amidst the usual freak-outs and hair pulling about Trump, North Korea, Trump, Mueller, Trump, the RUSSIANS, and of course Trump, Joe Scarborough had time to be fumed at Trump for yet another reason: This time it’s personal.  Joe’s good personal friend Mark Sanford lost his House seat primary to pro-Trumper Katie Arrington.  Whether or not Trump’s tweet calling Sanford “unhelpful” and saying he was better off in Argentina had anything to do with it is hard to say, but it sure wasn’t helpful to Sanford.  This of course led to another amusing unhinged rant by Joe.  Check this out!

There is a lot to unpack in this ten minute segment, too much in fact!  But what I wanted to focus on starts at around the 8:30 mark, when Joe declares his prediction, that there will be a “massive Democratic wave this fall.”

You heard it here first folks (because few people other than me watch the show).

I’ve also made a prediction, noted here, that there will NOT be a “massive Democratic wave” and that the GOP will keep control of the House. So who is the better political analyst, Joe Scarborough or me? Time will tell, but if I’m right, Joe should fly me to New York and feed me, and if I’m wrong, I’ll write a mea culpa on my inaccurate prediction.

Gentlemen, place your bets.

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Trump Flips the G-7 Script

Trade has been a large component of the weekend news blather due to the G-7 Comedy Revue hosted by Canada with President Trump leading the charge against America’s allies.  After being lambasted by the leaders of the G-7 countries for increasing tariffs against them, Trump dropped a couple of bombs.  The first was the suggestion that maybe Russia should rejoin the group, causing spasms in anti-Trump Muellerites (“I knew it!  Got ‘em!”). And the second was that maybe the G-7 shouldn’t have any tariffs or subsidies between them at all.  With that, Trump drops the mic, says peace out losers, I’m going to Singapore to bring global peace…later.

That

Is

Hilarious!

Somehow, Trump manages to turn it around, after being criticized as a protectionist; he leaves the G-7 meeting dropping the most free trade friendly proposal ever, leaving it to the establishment class to explain why Trump’s protectionism is bad, but that Trump’s free trade ideas are also bad because…TRUMP!

Although the Singapore summit may drown out a lot of the usual media backlash to Trump’s G-7 smack down, it’s hard to not be in awe of how Trump turned the criticism of him on trade right back on the other members of the G-7, demanding they liberalize their economies.  Something of course, they have no intention of doing, thereby illustrating Trump’s point that free trade isn’t free trade if it only runs one way.

And in a related trade note, that standard bearer of the conventional wisdom, The Atlantic, ran a piece Friday called, Normalizing Trade Relations with China Was a Mistake. Admittedly, it was written by Reihan Salam, The Atlantic’s one of two token conservatives remaining (after giving Kevin Williamson the boot), but I thought it was interesting that Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffery Goldberg retweeted the article, calling it “bracing.” Goldberg is as conventional wisdom as conventional wisdom gets, and if he’s willing to take another look at a position that he’s slavishly supported for years, that may signal the beginning of the establishment looking at trade Trump’s way, rather than K Street’s way.

That would be big.  More winning?

Why a Balanced Budget Amendment Should be a GOP Priority

Fiscal Discipline was struck another blow this week when Rand Paul’s balanced budget plan was voted down in the senate after gaining the support of only 20 senators.  It’s no surprise that fiscal restraint isn’t popular, but that’s an embarrassingly low number of allegedly Republican senators (obviously no Democrats voted for it).

Rand’s version of the “Penny Plan” would have capped federal spending and restrict spending growth to 1% annually.  In DC terms, that’s an austere cut. No one can really claim to be shocked that the GOP would be against it.  It has virtually no history of the kind of fiscal discipline that it claims to espouse.   But I’m not really grieving about this plan going down.  A plan to promise cuts in the future is about as useless as a Paul Ryan show vote on a theoretical budget that will never be implemented.  It’s simply theater.

Far more serious was the loss in the House back in April of the Balanced Budget Amendment.  This hardy perennial was defeated by failing to get a two thirds vote, 233 in favor to 184 against.  Interestingly the House was able to rally to pass a 1.3 Trillion Omnibus spending bill only a few weeks prior to that vote.  I guess they can agree on some things.  Just not on some of the most important things.

If you want to see who voted yea or nay, check it out here.

If you are a fiscal conservative or even someone who doesn’t want the country to collapse in fiscal disaster, there is no greater priority than a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Unfortunately there are many factions on the right who oppose a Balanced Budget Amendment, such as the Club for Growth and The Heritage Foundation.  These groups oppose anything that might lead to an increase in taxes.  Better deficit spending as far as the eye can see than an extra penny for taxes.

This is extremely shortsighted.

If in fact, Demography is Destiny (the working hypothesis I’ve been going by for years), at some point the Republicans as they are currently configured will be untenable as a national party.  Once they lose control of national power for good, then here comes the California model of governance for the rest of the nation.  California, in its plan to be the next Venezuela, seemingly has no stop sticks from preventing it from going off the rails, yet they put a stop on a plan to provide single payer healthcare for the entire state, an idea that the majority of people and politicians in the state support.

Why is that?

The reason obviously is that they couldn’t pay for it.  It would have doubled the state budget, requiring massive tax increases in a state that already pays high taxes.

And that’s the rub.  The trick to keeping Democrats from fiscally destroying the country after all the GOP brakes are gone is making them pay for it by raising taxes; something that ultimately, they are as loath to do as any cigar chomping, monocle wearing, GOP banker type.

One of the few long term priorities that can outlast the GOP of the Bushes, Ryan, and McConnell is a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.  It actually forces the difficult choices that we’ve been avoiding for decades.  A super majority of Democrats running the Intersectional States of America decades from now would still be constrained in funding Single Payer, UBI, and assorted other fantasies if there were a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Taxes might be high and the economy might stink, but that’s better than the currency being worthless.

 

 

The Trumpification of Homeland

Homeland is not the only show that’s been thrown for a loop (still!) by the 2016 elections.  I’ve mentioned a few others previously, and this television season, even Mayor Oliver Queen from Arrow is being impeached.  It’s an epidemic I tell ya…

But the King and Queen of all Trump-tastrophes is Showtime’s Homeland.  Its two season #resist has finally, mercifully, ended.  It’s a sad detour for what had been one of the better quality shows on television, or at least premium cable.  For those not familiar with the show, it’s a national security thriller starring Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a crack CIA analyst who is (was) secretly bipolar.  Her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) treats her like a daughter, and constantly puts his career at risk for Carrie’s crazy analytical hunches, which often enough, turn out to be dead right.  After several seasons of fighting Islamic terror, Iranian terror, finally, show goes after the greatest threat of all, Carrie takes on the Trumpian patriarchy.

To summarize last year’s season 6 quickly (spoilers!), Carrie is out of the CIA and is working for an NGO in New York.  This takes place after the US presidential election in which the woman candidate, Elizabeth Keane, defeats whoever the old white male was.  Keane is all for downsizing the US presence in the Middle East; a position she is guided to by Carrie, who is secretly an advisor to the transition team.  But the evil neocon patriarchy isn’t done yet, and launches a false flag terrorist bombing in NYC, with one of Carrie’s Muslim clients as the patsy.

This was around episode 5 or 6 when the producer’s world collapsed, Donald Trump won the election.

“At one point each season, we are writing scripts contemporaneously with real events happening. That occurred this season around episode five or six when the election happened, and we realized that we were gonna have to change the narrative a little bit. The first thing we wanted to address was this idea that our election was influenced by another force; by fake news, which struck us as a very right topic to construct a story around. Sock puppets were actually already part of the story, then we introduced O’Keefe in episode five instead of eight, which we’d planned originally.”

So enter an Alex Jones like figure, Brett O’Keefe, who is involved with the sinister deep state forces trying to keep a sister down, and engages in a social media war against President-elect Keane, using fake twitter accounts and doctored video.

It’s pretty clear at this point where the producers originally intended to go and where they made changes.  The deep state and its social media fake news allies go after Keane, and eventually decide to launch an assassination attempt, which is thwarted, and Keane takes the oath of office and becomes President.  At this point, Keane morphs into Donald Trump, reeking with authoritarian paranoia, begins mass arrests of national security, defense, and intelligence officials (including Saul).  Carrie is shut out from the White House and democracy dies in darkness…

My wife and I couldn’t believe what an abortion season 6 had turned into. The Homeland writers’ room actually took their post-election breakdown and wrecked their TV show with it.

To me, it was so bad that I thought the only logical recourse was to have Carrie step out of the shower with the entire season having been just a dream, and then back overseas for some international intrigue.  No such luck.  Instead we got season 7, the pussyhat season.  I knew it was going to be bad when the opening credits showed rebel flag waving rednecks and Klansmen in full KKK regalia.  Did that have anything to do with season 7?  Nope, but the show did shine a spotlight on its greatest fear, flyover country rural whites, armed and angry.  Were rural whites the big bad for the season?  Close but no cigar, and it’s not even a spoiler to tell you who the real big bad of the season is:

THE RUSSIANS!

If you couldn’t have figured that out before the season even started, you haven’t been paying attention.

In the rush to un-Trump President Keane, the show decides to put all the previous deep state blame on one General, who is sentenced to prison and promptly assassinated.  Whoa, what luck!  So Keane releases the 200 plus conspirators and maybe conspirators, including Saul, and makes him National Security Advisor.  So the deep state enemies are now the good guys, and the bad President is now good again.

So after a season fighting poor whites, the Russians, and a Congressional plot to 25th Amendment President Keane out of office, Keane ends up resigning anyway because half the country already thinks she’s a liar.  I suppose this was to be the writer’s suggestion for Trump: Resign now.

Oh and Carrie is crazy again.

I’ve no doubt Showtime, the producers, writers and actors are all very smug about how they’ve wrecked their show, but it seems a sad end even though the show is getting another season.  Alas poor Homeland, Hollywood wrecked you…

 

Politics is downstream from Roseanne

When I sat down last night to give the new Roseanne revival a try, I had no idea that plenty of other Americans were sitting down as well, a lot more, 18.1 million according to the ratings.  That’s not nutin’.

It was actually much as I remembered the old Roseanne; wise cracks and working class angst. Twenty years later, nobody’s life is really great.  Becky’s husband has died and she is resorting to desperate measures to make ends meet, Darlene has moved back home having lost her job, and DJ is back from the military, after serving in Syria.  But satisfying nostalgia isn’t what got me curious enough to tune in, it was this:

Roseanne is a Trump supporter.

At first glance, that seems a big leap from the character during the original run of the show.  She definitely pulled left during the original run of the show, as did  Roseanne Barr herself, but times change, and some of the same factors that would lead Roseanne Conner to pull the lever for Trump led leftist Roseanne Barr, who previously had run for the Presidential nomination of the Green Party in 2012, to support Trump in 2016.

In a way, that’s not that inconceivable a change.  Tens of thousands of Obama voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania went for Trump in 2016 during an election year in which Trump was the only candidate speaking to their concerns.

Television is a vast wasteland as far as the right is concerned, with virtually every network and every show on those networks as left leaning avatars for the Democratic Party.  Not always overtly, but the liberal worldview is the subtext behind virtually everything in pop culture.  In almost any other show, a Trump supporter would be a walk on villain; racist, sexist, and homophobic. We have not seen a sympathetic portrayal of a Trump supporter since ABC cancelled Last Man Standing last year.  I assume that the show, even with solid ratings, was a smug slap in the face to ABC executives so soon after the election.  But there’s been time to heal so it looks like TV is willing to give a character who’s politics are not to the left of Murphy Brown (another show being revived) another try.

Andrew Breitbart, the late conservative publisher was fond of saying that “politics is downstream from culture,” meaning that if political bias is imbedded in popular culture, than most of the political battle has already been won since those are the premises that everyone already accepts without thinking.  On TV, everyone knows that corporations are evil, and activists are good.  It’s as much a part of the scenery as a brownstone on Land & Order: SVU.

So it’s nice that there will be a Trump supporter shown on TV without devil horns.  And don’t get me started on how the devil gets a more sympathetic portrayal on TV than conservatives…

 

 

Morning Joe Makes the Case for John Bolton

Although I can see the reason that Trump fired H.R. McMaster, Trump’s most recent National Security Advisor, I admit I’m not much of a fan of his replacement, John Bolton.

Bolton’s never met a war he didn’t like, and doesn’t see any diplomatic quagmire that can’t be fixed with a little pre-emptive bombing.  So…not my cup of tea, and no surprise, he was panic inducing to the whimpering girls and man-girls of MSNBC. In a Morning Joe video called, “Former Ambassador is scared by naming of John Bolton,” the shaking and shivering is cringe inducing.

0:35 Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul says he’s scared by Bolton (man up you pussy!).

1:05 Former Ambassador McFaul says John Bolton will prefer military solutions in North Korea.

5:00 Reporter Courtney Kube makes gratuitous reference to The Hunger Games (?).

8:15 Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas frets that not only North Korea has to be nervous, our allies in the region have to be nervous. She notes that Bolton had previously been banned from negotiations by North Korea, who called him a “bloodsucker,” and “scum.”

11:30 McFaul says that Trump is putting together a team to go to war with North Korea.

Mika ended the segment by noting how disturbing it all was.

Ha!

Although this resembled the usual media hair on fire reaction to anything Trump does, it actually provided a little information that helped me put the Bolton hire into perspective. First, I don’t disagree that Bolton has publicly stated positions that polish his war-monger credentials, since he penned an op ed last month calling on a preemptive strike to eliminate North Korea’s missile program.

What was really interesting to me however, was that Bolton was a known player to the North Koreans, having been the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security when he made a 2003 speech, in which “he described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a “tyrannical dictator” and saying that, for North Koreans under Kim’s rule, “life is a hellish nightmare.” In response, a North Korean spokesman said “such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks.””

And that’s when it hit me that Trump might be favoring him because of his bad reputation with the North Koreans, not in spite of it.

I’ve mentioned before my four theories of Trump’s operating system.  In this case, the typical liberal/establishment/media view would be theory one, Trump is all id who saw Bolton on Fox news who said some tough things, and Trump liked it.  But this looks like a theory three situation, in which Trump is putting on a show, in this case for the North Koreans.  Trump in negotiating likes for his opponents to think he will do anything, and what better optic to underscore that point than by firing McMaster for bomb thrower Bolton right before the beginning of high level negotiations with the outlaw state?

I’m suspecting the “chaos” of the revolving door White House might instead be more that Trump is hiring temps for piecemeal work.  In this case, Bolton was the perfect foil to frighten the Norks, thinking that a guy who has been advocating bombing of North Korea now has the President’s ear before the beginning of talks between the two countries.  Hopefully after Bolton has served his purpose he will be shown the revolving door.

 

Trump Out-Trumped by Congress

In sharp contrast with Trump’s successful win with January’s Schumer shutdown, it looks like in the fight over the Omnibus Spending Bill, Trump found himself out Trumped by Congress.  Don’t let it be said that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have not learned anything since the Trump train rolled into town. McConnell and Ryan finally decided to pick up Art of the Deal, and see if they could use it against the President.

Turns out they can.

The bill was a terrible bill, not because of the overspending, which is sort of built into the woodwork of a Trump Presidency.  Trump, although he dislikes deficits in a general way, is not interested in slashing and burning the federal budget in the way Reagan wanted to.  On the critical issue of immigration, Sanctuary cities will continue to flout the law.  The bill continues to provide funding for them.  And although Trump did get some money for border security, the money can’t be used to build the wall; the signature election promise of this President.  If you can’t squeeze even one dollar of a 1.3 Trillion dollar spending bill to build the wall, you’re failing.

So how did the swamp win such a victory?  It helped that they ignored their own rule to provide 72 hours for members to review the bill, wrote the bill in secret, and most importantly, after the bill passed the senate, immediate took a recess and left town.  These bozos won’t be back for two weeks, meaning if Trump had vetoed the bill, we would have been stuck in government shut down mode until after Easter.  It would have been hard to turn around that sort of media attack putting the blame firmly on Trump for weeks, with Congressional Republicans agreeing, “Yep it’s Trump’s fault.”

After praising the bill earlier in the week, Trump began to realize that he was getting hosed, and during his press conference for the bill signing today, it was obvious that he was pissed stating, “There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill but we were in a sense forced if we want to build our military, we were forced to have. There are some things that we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress that I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it, it’s only hours old.”

The truth is, Trump got taken because he forgot that his biggest enemies aren’t the Democrats, but the Republicans, who are actually in charge and have power, McConnell, and Ryan.  McConnell knows how to throw stop sticks in a President’s agenda; he did it to Obama for years.  Now he’s throwing his considerable legislative skills against an enemy far more threatening to insider interests, Donald Trump.

Hopefully a lesson was learned by Trump to not forget who the real enemies are.