On The 60 Minutes Steve Bannon Interview

I missed the original airing of this on 60 Minutes, but I went back to watch it and folks, It’s actually worth watching.

Try Viemo here or the 60 Minutes site here.

Just a couple of observations:

Charlie Rose barely asked any questions, he mostly let Bannon talk, or at least he did on the original full hour and twenty minute version I saw (sadly now gone from the web). Rose might have looked like an interviewing tiger on the portion that actually aired, but on the full interview, Rose could have been asleep for large stretches and no one would have noticed.

Rose only seems to become animated when discussing the Access Hollywood video and immigration.  It’s as if he still doesn’t understand why the Access Hollywood video didn’t end Trump’s Presidential bid.  As for immigration, he simply repeated the rote “nation of immigrants” line and had no argument to Bannon’s counter arguments.

Because of Rose’s general lethargy, Bannon totally dominated the direction of the entire and really got to show just how brilliant the guy actually is.  His discourse on his history with Donald Trump included dates, meetings, and important news articles and the reporters who wrote them.  All off the top of his head.

Bannon gives every indication of being a backseat driver to an administration he is technically no longer a part of.  If you support Trumpism, that’s good news.

 

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When the News No Longer Resembles News

I honestly think I’ve had about enough.  If you happened to catch Chuck Todd’s apoplectic reaction to President Trump’s news conference on Tuesday.

What made me reach my breaking point came at about the 1:34 mark, “…when was the last time you saw a President of the United States defend the cause of White Nationalists?”

It’s an insane smear, but I’ve no doubt that Todd was being totally sincere in his belief that Trump was rooting for the Nazi’s.  As for me, I’ve been a news junkie for decades. Up until the internet made it ridiculous, I had a subscription to the local newspaper and I would make sure I caught a steady stream of news shows on cable and the traditional nightly news. Most mornings I would have the morning news shows on in the background while I worked. So generally, I’ve watched a lot of news.  Not just hours a week but hours a day.

But I’ve never felt so estranged from what newspaper columns and talking heads on cable are babbling about as I have this year. It’s as if they are living not just in a different moral universe, but a different factual one as well. Their editorial decisions seem like they are being made by college student government rather than seasoned, professional editors. How can you spend 8 months on wall to wall Russia when there has yet to be any actual evidence of a Russia collusion story?  It’s simply a daily rehashing of a burned out conspiracy theory.

I’m tuning out the news more and more these days.  I can get all my news online with a lot less wasted time and no smug pomposity; which is particularly galling with their track record of inaccuracy.  After the election, it occurred to me that I would have been better informed if I had spent 18 months leading up to the election just reading Scott Adams’ blog than the hundreds of hours wasted watching Morning Joe.

Hopefully, when this age of mass hysteria and moral panic has passed, and the news media has returned to some sort of semblance of normalcy, I can return to getting my media news junkie fix.  But for now, I’ll be a lot healthier if I’m off the stuff.

12 steps…

Four Theories on Trump vs Sessions

My general thoughts and feelings on Trump’s constant attacking of Jeff Sessions is that it’s disgraceful and shows poor leadership to be attacking a loyal subordinate in such a passive aggressive (and sometimes not so passive) and very public way.  Sessions isn’t in some random cabinet post; he’s the Attorney General, and almost everything that Trump wants in domestic policy depends on Sessions.  That’s doubly true when you’re talking about issues like immigration.  Sessions is really the only “Trumpist” in the cabinet.  Everyone else could care less about Trump’s ideas.  So without Sessions; there is no logical replacement (or at least one that the Senate would confirm-Sorry Kris Kobach) to carry on Trump’s policies.  Regardless of what happened to the rest of Trump’s Presidency, Trumpism would be over.

So why would Trump be acting in such a crazy way?  CNN has beclowned itself trying to puzzle that one out, but going through the interwebs, I’ve seen 4 theories that might explain Trump’s attack on his only ally, Jeff Sessions.

One.  Trump’s a madman.

In this case, Trump is just as he appears to be.  He’s gone into a rage because of the Mueller investigation, and can’t stop himself from sniping at Sessions because he doesn’t really want to fire him but wants him gone and hopes if he is humiliated publicly often enough, Sessions will just resign.  Who Trump gets to replace him and how that takes care of his Mueller issue are just problems for another day.  The main thing is to get rid of someone who Trump feels failed him.  That this will damage him with a large section of the conservative base doesn’t matter.  Trump angry now!

Two.  Trump is Mr. Magoo.

This is the theory of the Lion of the Blogosphere.  According to the Lion, Trump is just bouncing around from situation to situation, but through sheer luck and happenstance; he winds up smelling like a rose. Trump’s speech in which he mentioned the effects of immigration in Sweden is a good example. After making a comment about the problems being caused in Sweden by immigrants, Trump was roundly mocked on social media and the weekend political shows, only to have immigrant riots break out in Sweden days later.  Was Trump a prescient social scientist, or did he get lucky on counting on Muslims being Muslim?  My magic 8 ball says “signs point to yes.”  In any case, Trump one; Media smart-asses zero.

Three.  Trump is pulling a professional wrestlingwork.” Having worked with professional wrestling before, Trump is well aware how wrestling is much more like a soap opera for dudes than an athletic contest.  There is a lot of drama in the wrestling story lines and sometimes a heel can get into a feud and then it turns out he has a secret alliance with the babyface!  Yeah!  The day is saved!  In this scenario, Trump and Sessions are working together to draw out and crystallize support for Sessions by having Trump attacking him.  Suddenly, every media person and Democrat (I know, same thing) who hated Sessions suddenly rush to his support. This gives Sessions freedom of action for things that will be unpopular to the Democrats/Media because if Trump is mad at Sessions, that must be good.

Four.  5D Chess. In the Scott Adams version, Trump is like Spock, if Spock were a New York real estate developer and hotel and casino owner.  Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a Star Trek spin off:  Star Trek: Las Vulcan.  Where pleasure is logical… In this scenario, Trump is running all of the various media scenarios through his mind palace, war gaming the responses of the various media networks and politicians to insulate Sessions from future criticism similar to theory three; set a public distance between Sessions and Trump to give Sessions a free hand.

Which do I think is the mostly likely?  Well I think we’ve seen signs of all four over the course of the Trump campaign and Presidency, although there could well be a lot of overlap.  When Trump tweeted the punching CNN gif, did he know what the media reaction would be and that it ultimately would make the media look extremely stupid, or did he Mr Magoo his way into that situation?  It’s hard to say.  There is a lot of overlap between theories one and two and theories three and four.  But when it comes to Sessions, I hope it’s a theory three & four scenario, but I fear it may be a theory one & two.

 

Syrian Dead Babies and all the other Dead Babies

Oops they’ve done it again.  Syria has launched a chemical weapons attack against its own people, with of course the main casualties being, “the children.”  In fact those dead babies may have totally overturned US foreign policy.  As the Guardian reports:

“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact,” Trump told reporters in the rose garden. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much … You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

This was the first alleged attack by the regime using sarin since 2013, when the nerve agent was dumped on an opposition-controlled area of Damascus. More than 1,000 people perished. This latest attack – after a deal brokered by Russia, in which Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons stockpile – “crossed a lot of lines for me”, Trump said.

He went on: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was. That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines.”

So a defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, to stay out of the Syrian Civil War, is now seemingly overturned by dead babies.  Now, I’m anti dead babies myself, particularly babies dead due to a sarin gas attack, but these are not the first dead babies in the Syrian Civil War, and I’m a bit of a skeptic that we should allow dead babies to control US foreign policy.

So considering Trump’s past positions on Syria…

…I admit I’m disappointed that a pretty firm twitter and campaign position has been overturned by “…innocent babies, babies, little babies…”  There were dead babies in 2013 too.  In fact all civil wars, civil strife, famine, plague, and every other malady that smacks mankind upside the head has plenty of dead babies in them.  But it’s not the first time dead babies have altered policy.  Remember this little tyke?

Of course, the real story was a lot less desperate fleeing-from-civil-war and a lot more dad-wants-free-dental-care.

So although Trump disappointed me by launching a cruise missile attack because of dead babies (and made himself look easily manipulated), there is an upside for him.  Politically, this attack against Syria appears popular.  When McCain/Graham, the neocon establishment, and the Democrats, are all praising the President, for many the first time ever, that will probably help polling for the next few days.  And who knows, maybe this action will actually give Trump some leverage with China in dealing with the North Korea situation.  In my opinion, what happens in North Korea is far more important than anything that’s happening in Syria.

Meanwhile, there were more dead babies piling up like cordwood all over the world, but we don’t care about them, only the dead babies that feature a frantic western newsman or are nicely photographed for Western media consumption.

No matter our new Dead Babies Foreign Policy, Syria remains intractable. As I wrote almost two years ago, the only reasonable solution for Syria is partition, which is an impossibility as long as the Russians are standing beside their ally Bashir Al-Assad.

Hopefully this is a one off attack and US foreign policy, and Trump’s attention, doesn’t get strangled by trying to figure out how to do the impossible and wipe every tear from every Syrian eye.

 

Ryan Care taught me one thing…

The collapse of Ryan Care was probably the first big failure of the young Trump administration (not counting the tweets-4D chess and all that). And to that, as on many things, I’m of two minds.  For all of its flaws, being able to block grant Medicaid funds to the states and capping its growth would be a major victory; a major reform of a major entitlement program.  Just that would have been a major administration accomplishment.

On the other hand…the bill was seriously flawed in virtually every other way and didn’t meet the President’s goal of providing coverage for everyone.  And even worse than the flaws of the bill, it revealed how amateurish the Republican House was.  It was like they had not even considered the idea of writing a health care bill until a few weeks ago.  And when they did, they repeated every bad Democratic mistake in doing it by keeping the bill writing secret to exclude… not Democrats but the real enemy; other Republicans.  And in fact, it was Republicans that ultimately killed their own reform plan.  Democrats just had to sit by and eat popcorn.

This of course, is yet another example of why the GOP has the amply deserved moniker of the stupid party.  Democrats usually have a handy bill just sitting on the hard drive of Democratic Congressional servers just waiting for a crisis.  You know, so they cannot waste it.  School shooting?  Just hit print and run out to the House floor waving a fully written Gun Control bill, “for the children.”

With Republicans, after passing multiple repeal bills during the Obama years, including having a full replacement bill in committee in 2013, the Options Act, suddenly became the proverbial deer in the headlights; “Wait we won?  That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

So after thinking that the GOP had at least a draft of a consensus plan tucked away waiting for its own opportunity, it soon became obvious that there had probably been not a single meeting or discussion on it until recently.  So after crafting a bill in secret with zero input from any effected groups, it turned out there was no constituency for the bill.  Even the late lamented Options Act had buy in from several conservative think tanks, and Tea Party groups.  No conservative groups even had a peek at it until it was unveiled.

Sorry, but that’s not how you do things.

But…none of that was the “one thing” that Ryan Care taught me.

Have you ever noticed that you never hear the left clamoring for Medicaid for all? Since Medicaid has no premiums, co pays, or deductibles, it’s truly free healthcare (from the consumer point of view). Meanwhile regular Medicare has an 80/20 cost share. Medicaid has lower provider reimbursement rates than Medicare so in theory it should be cheaper. Why shouldn’t the left/liberals/Democrats like Medicaid as the basis of a national healthcare plan over Medicare?

The other day I was on a forum discussing the late, unlamented Ryan plan, and how it weans off Medicaid funds to the states with a different formula over the years. Some left leaning poster complained that means the states would have to raise taxes to make up the difference!  Well duh, but if you’re liberal, shouldn’t that be a feature rather than a bug?  Don’t those guys love taxes, the higher the better?  How could increasing taxes be a flaw in a health care reform plan if you’re liberal?

Epiphany time. Unlike Medicare, which is fully federally funded, states have to pitch in for the cost (not counting the expanded Obamacare version) for Medicaid. Medicare, or any fully federal plan is paid for by deficit spending, so no one is really paying for it (yet) but the states have to tax real money to pay for things like expanding healthcare for people in their own state.  That’s why even the bluest states don’t have their own universal healthcare plans. Vermont tried to do it and spent three years trying to make it work before abandoning it because of taxes.  California is attempting to do it now, and the lessons of its attempt on this regard will be instructive.  I’m not sure any state can afford both a 50 billion dollar bullet train to nowhere and single payer health insurance.

So the lesson?  That’s how you defang the left: Make them pay for it.  A Balanced Budget Amendment would do more to rein in the Democratic Party than any comparative cluster of policy reforms that will be undone by the next Democratic administration.  The basic tools in the Congress and in statehouses across the country are all there to make it happen. Democrats love the rhetoric of raising taxes on the rich but the reality is that the rich are much of their constituency, and it’s not clear how far that constituency is willing to go if every single thing the Democrats want they had to pay for up front.

I’d like to find out.

Predictions for 2017

Given how well I did with my 2016 Predictions I thought I would give it another go and see what I thought would be likely for 2017.

At least 3 terrorist attacks in Western Europe resulting in double digit casualties.  Why?  Because Muslims will continue to be Muslim.

Angela Merkel wins the Nobel Peace Prize.  Because that is exactly the kind of retarded thing the Nobel Prize Committee would do.

Most of the ObamaCare (ACA) legislation will be repealed.  I say most because there are a few items that may be either too politically popular (keeping kids on their parent’s plan until 26) or were already part of Republican replacement plans (pre-existing conditions).

The FED will raise interest rates by at least three-quarters of a point.  The FED just recently raised the short term interest rates by a quarter of a point, the first increase in 2016.  This strikes me as a totally political decision, since Janet Yellen was a target of Trump and I’ve no doubt she’ll raise rates at least another ¾ of a point in 2017 in hopes of stalling the economy to punish Trump for his impertinence.

Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump will be introduced in the House.  Why?  Because the Democrats are already talking about that now.  Waiting until Trump is President is merely a formality.

There will be at least one assassination attempt against Donald Trump this year. When the media has been promoting the “literally Hitler” meme for the past year, would it be surprising that some earnest liberals take the Dead Zone option and try to take Greg Stillson out?

Marine Le Pen will be elected President of France.  Although Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission predicted an establishment deal to elect a Muslim political party winning the Presidency of France, in real life the current populist uprising may hit the French shores quicker than you can say The Camp of the Saints. Brexit, Trump, and the constant Islamic terrorist attacks may cause a public revulsion where people will just say, “enough.”  In some ways, that would be a bigger deal than Trump winning the Presidency.  The French establishment has been fighting populist nationalism a lot longer than the American GOP-Democratic-Media alliance.  So if that goes, dominos will fall all over Europe with dismal prospects for the EU.  That would slide in nicely with another prediction of mine, that the EU will be mostly undone by 2020.

Not really a prediction, more of a certainty, but every foreign policy decision made by the Trump White House will be called either idiotic or ignorant.

A Positive Trumpian Vision

On election night/morning, I was up way too late (or early) basking in the glory that was the Trumpening, when I was pinged on Facebook Messenger by a friend who was also up way too late (or early). We discussed our various states of happiness and satisfaction at seeing the smug wiped from liberal commentators’ faces live on TV.  It was a glorious evening, but my friend was also hopeful that this would change the direction of my posting.  In other words, my blog, in regard to political matters, had gotten way too depressing; decline, doom and gloom…it doesn’t make cheery reading sometimes, and I couldn’t argue with his point.  In fact, I had recognized that myself.  Although I’ve loved arguing and discussing politics, for the past two years I’ve mostly stopped bringing it up around company simply because I’ve recognized that I don’t have very much hopeful to say, and even I don’t want to hear the same doom and gloom.  Of course, if someone else brought up politics, then I had no problem contributing to the discussion figuring, “Eh, you asked for it.”  But I knew that there was no point in me bringing it up or discussing it when it did nothing but make me a buzz kill.  Besides, there were other things to talk about.

But if there was anything that should make me hopeful about the future, a Trump victory, against all odds, with a Republican House and Senate should do the trick. And although there are plenty of negative things I could write about what that might mean, I think I owe myself at least one positive post on what a Trump administration could mean for arresting American Decline.

My central thesis on Democratic politics over the past couple of decades, and what’s wrong with American politics, goes back to Identity Politics. More and more we’re voting by tribe, rather than on issues.  With the major defeat Democrats have suffered, some of them are being introspective and are trying to see where they went wrong.  In The New York Times, The End of Identity Liberalism, explores whether Democrats had gone too far in dividing, and then buying votes, by identity.

“…But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions…”

So I think it’s fair to say that the white working class did notice that they were excluded from Hillary Clinton’s America.  Not only did they not count, they were considered part of the problem. Some Democrats went even further and felt White Men were a problem to be dealt with.  If you are promising a Caucasian Kristallnacht, that’s not a way to win votes; at least white working class votes.  But this was no bug in the Clinton election machine; this was supposed to be a feature. The Obama 2012 re-election campaign explicitly excluded White Males as part of a re-election strategy.  Clinton planned to simply copy what worked with Obama; a coalition of the fringes implicitly against White Men. I don’t think the Democrats current soul searching on identity politics will last long.  Already they are considering Congressman Keith Ellison, 9/11 Truther, a far left ideologue and Muslim for DNC Chairman, Ellison is, as they might have said on 30 Rock, is a “two-for.” Whether that’s the right choice for a party rethinking its commitment to identity politics is obvious.

But that leaves an opening for a Trumpian alternative.  It’s not a new idea.  Paleo conservatism referred to it as Economic Nationalism, and Columnist Steve Sailer refers to it as Citizenism, or Civic Nationalism.  Basically, it’s a governing philosophy that prioritizes Americans and American national interests over more nebulous ideological goals.  This of course is much of what Trump stands for, and stands apart from much current Republican or Democratic platform planks.

Trade: Trade should serve the interests of American workers.  Opening markets is great, but labor cost shopping to set up American factories in other countries to dump the more expensive labor costs of the US, only to turn around and import those manufactured goods back to the US tariff free.

Immigration: The goals of US immigration policy should be to benefit American workers. It’s not to ease the unemployment problems of other countries (Mexico) or to provide coolie labor to American corporations (Indian coders) so they can fire more expensive American workers.

Foreign Policy: The goal of US foreign policy should be to advance US national interests, not to subordinate those interests to other nations or groups of nations, i.e. “the world.”  Although often the goals of the world and the United States may coincide, like the Gulf War.  Other times, they won’t, such as in Kosovo and Libya (and Syria could be added to the mix).

These are all policies that in theory should be attractive to the working and middle classes across all cultural, ethnic, or racial lines.  In a rational political culture, people would tend to vote their class interests.  However the US, in the throes of multi-cultural nonsense and identity politics people tend to vote their demographics.  Not in a perfect sense, and in the US in the 21st Century, your identity group isn’t simply “blood, soil, and gods.”  It can be your sexual orientation, your gender identity, or if you view yourself as “elite” or not.  But in modern America, your hyphen in most cases outweighs your identity as simply an American.

But still, this is mostly an ethnic/racial thing.  And most people who identify hyphen-American identify by their ethnic or racial group. After being told for decades by the overarching leftist oriented culture that is the most important defining thing about a person, good old fashioned assimilation has been stopped in its tracks. This of course spells doom to Republican or any version of Conservative politics, however writer John O’Sullivan wrote a brilliant piece in National Review called The Latino Voting Surge that Never Happened.  For me the surprise that a magazine that had defined itself in opposition to Donald Trump seems to have bended the knee and has for the most part accepted that Trump is the President elect.  In some ways, I imagine this acceptance was just as difficult for NR as it was for Hillary Clinton.  In any case, I encourage you to read the article, however these excerpts summarize the argument:

“That brings us to the second political conclusion: If Republicans campaign on the basis of the real ethnic nature of American society, they can win most elections most of the time. What is that real nature? Democrats and their allies like to present the electoral choice as one between a party of white America in retreat and one of minority America on the advance. As we have seen, however, their “white America” is a misnomer for a mainstream America that incorporates assimilated minorities so comfortably that they are generally unaware of having once belonged to a minority.” 

In other words, as I’ve said before, race may or may not be a social construct, but being white definitely is.

 “Pre-election commentary tended to suggest that, whether he intended it or not, Trump was the focus of a new politics of “white identity.” Some of Trump’s casual racial remarks certainly pointed in that direction. But his entire campaign, encapsulated in his slogan “Make America Great Again,” was directed to reviving a strong politics of national identity encompassing all Americans. Maybe the best way of accounting for the Latino vote, for instance, would be to say that Trump’s insulting remarks were ultimately outweighed by the fact that he presented a strong image of leadership that would put the interests of all Americans first. It is not hard to imagine that a Republican candidate who ran on a politics of cultivating and celebrating a generous American national identity but who also treated his opponents courteously and all citizens with respect would make his Majority-Minority coalition into a dominant electoral coalition in a less ravaged society.”

So everyone can be white!

Even within my demography is destiny worldview, I had left myself an out, as I wrote two years ago in Some Snags in the Inevitable Decline and Death of the GOP.  Every non white group isn’t African American, and is not going to give 90% of their vote to Democrats based on a paper bag skin tone test. And in the long run, every non white group isn’t even non white.  On some level, the Democrats recognize this and are fighting back:

”The White House is putting forward a proposal to add a new racial category for people from the Middle East and North Africa under what would be the biggest realignment of federal racial definitions in decades.

If approved, the new designation could appear on census forms in 2020 and could have far-reaching implications for racial identity, anti-discrimination laws and health research.

Under current law, people from the Middle East are considered white, the legacy of century-old court rulings in which Syrian Americans argued that they should not be considered Asian — because that designation would deny them citizenship under the1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. But scholars and community leaders say more and more people with their roots in the Middle East find themselves caught between white, black and Asian classifications that don’t fully reflect their identities.”

If the Democrats thought they could get away with it, they would create 100 different racial categories and end the non-Hispanic white majority right now.  So in the same way I noted a Trumpian political platform that should be attractive to a broad majority of Americans, there is a social agenda needed to unhinge the left’s Balkanization of the country:

The Census: Get rid of the Hispanic category.  It serves no useful purpose and serves a lot of dangerous ones.  It’s a pseudo racial category that’s an attempt to keep anyone from a country where Spanish is the dominate language in the same downtrodden group, from a classics professor from Barcelona to an illiterate Guatemalan peasant. Although these are ultimately political decisions, I would trade having a Mestizo category in order to get rid of the Hispanic category.  At least Mestizo’s can arguably claim to be sort of a racial category.  Obviously I would oppose adding a separate Middle Eastern category.

Promote the Mainstream:  I think O’Sullivan really hit on something when he suggested that white America is really mainstream America.  So maybe it should just be referred to that way, in words and speeches, the goal is bringing everyone into mainstream America.

Junk Affirmative Action:  Affirmative Action has been a very effective tool in splitting up the country.  “Diverse” vs White People.   This is the pivot that has created the current social situation where the Democratic Party is partly defined in opposition to white people.  Middle Easterners would be a lot less interested in defining themselves as non white if they were not able to take advantage of minority small business loans and other affirmative action programs.  Take away the giveaway advantages of being non white and people would be less interested in defining themselves that way.  At least for the near term, I would still keep affirmative action for African Americans and Native Americans.  At least those two groups can plausibly claim historic discrimination that’s damaged current prospects, something that other ethnic categories can’t plausibly claim.

A combination of these political and social planks could create a governing platform for a new governing majority in America, mainstream Americans.  Of course this hinges on how successful a Trump Presidency is.  Considering how improbable a Trump Presidency was in the first place, I’m going to bet on continued winning.