Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Worst American shares his pain with us.

I'll begin this final, pre-inauguration political post by revisiting a fellow whose current agony is supremely well-deserved. The monstrous supreme liar of the right, and treasonous worst man in America, is not some screeching troll or white supremacist, or richly-paid Murdochian TV-shill, nor even one of the conniving oligarchs who - obeying dullard, gene-programmed reflex - scheme (against their true self-interest) to restore 6000 years of insipid feudalism. Obeying unsapient, inherited drives, they at least have the excuse of delusion.

No, the worst American is a genteel-sounding intellectual who takes pains to come across as smooth and well-reasoned. One who can see, clear-eyed, the choice between either helping or wrecking the Great Enlightenment Experiment that has been led by our republic and that gave humanity its first real hope. A man who chose - like Plato - to use his erudition against our Periclean revolution.

Let's be clear, George F. Will tried hard to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee - or president - not for the sake of the nation, but in fear of the train wreck that now looms before American conservatism. No longer the party of Goldwater or Buckley, its plummeting average levels of education and IQ would cause any honest intellect deep misgivings. But then, Mr. Will was key to helping turn the GOP into the New Know Nothings, waging war not only upon science, but every fact-grounded profession in American life. Well, all but four, and shots have already been fired at two of the last-standing.
Case in point, this travesty of sophistry, condemning U.S. foreign policy, under Barack Obama: "Two seemingly unimpressed nations are Russia, which is dismembering a European nation (Ukraine), and China, which is shredding international law by turning the world’s most important waterway, the South China Sea, into militarized Chinese territory."

Standard GOP catechism, sure, Except, not even liberal journalists or pundits seem willing to ask: "how did Ukraine become a 'European nation'?"  

One of the charmingly obdurate traits of nearly all Americans is their inability to scan history. But not George Will. He knows that Ukraine was a reliable Russian satrapy or obedient client state until 2014, when popular uprisings and then free elections ousted Moscow's puppet, Yanukovich, in the worst disaster to Russian hegemonism since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was the year Ukraine -- vast Ukraine -- became European.

Moreover, whom did Vladimir Putin and the Russian press openly blame for this calamity, bringing Europe within a few hundred kilometers of Moscow? Why, those machiavellian chessmaster-manipulators and insidious cold war fighters, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton! Just look at a map and view the last few years as V. Putin sees them. Read his actual (yes, actual) statements on the matter and vows of vengeance. His nibble-backs in Crimea and the Donbas, for which the U.S. rightwing kvells in admiration, are trifles, by comparison. 

Mr. Putin's only counter-move of equivalent magnitude was... getting Donald Trump. And yes, I admit that America is a bigger prize than the Donbas. Likewise, the U.S. Navy patrols the South China Sea with regularity, making clear that a 12-mile radius is all that China has won around each of its stunningly vulnerable, sitting-duck outposts, gained - temporarily - at incredible cost in both money and goodwill. This is something that symbolism obsessed conservatives never get. What matters is what's actual! No wonder they abolished the Office of Technology Assessment from Congress, banishing facts, as they recently tried to banish ethics. But George Will knows all this. I never called him a confederate dunce. He is one of the manipulators. Like the main character in Vonnegut's Mother Night, he is a Svengali in the cause of an oligarchic putsch whose aim is the permanent replacement of truth with truthiness. The confederacy has taken Washington. And though Mr. Will would have preferred other generals, he will now do his duty by his new caudillo and help to keep it. Oh, read Will's essay and notice the technique! Proclaim the absurd as a given! For example: "The fact that the world is more disorderly and less lawful than when Obama became president..." The staggering gall of such proclamations is the power of their counterfactual madness! One small example: when Obama entered office, not a single major U.S. Army or Marine unit was rated "fully combat ready" (FCR). Our reserve units had virtually been destroyed and America's reputation was around our ankles. Allies had dropped away from us like peeling skin.

Today? 100% of major U.S. active duty military units are FCR. The National Guard and reserves - devastated and ruined under Bush - are now repaired. Oh,but do show me any major, foreign-organized terror attacks on our homeland, during the "disorderly" Obama years. Show me one.
There are almost no major, attributable metrics of U.S. national health that did not improve (most of them a lot) across spans of the last two Democratic presidencies. And almost none that did not decline or plummet across both Bush Administrations, including even conservative desiderata like military readiness, stock valuations, entrepreneurship and yes, federal fiscal responsibility. A sane, fact-grounded person might be expected to notice this, which is why all fact-grounded professions have left the GOP, in droves. 

This is why the central obsession on today's right is not racism, or misogyny, or any of the other distractions. It is hatred of fact-grounded professions. Including especially journalism, the craft and high calling that Mr. Will betrays, daily. Am I the only observer who noticed that just one of the major GOP figures of the last 20 years was even mentioned at the recent Republican National Convention? Neither Bush Senior nor Junior, nor Cheney, nor the convicted felons Hastert and DeLay, nor Boehner, McConnell, McCain or Romney was referred-to, even in passing! Only the censured serial polygamist (though fascinating sci fi author) Newt Gingrich, whose revenge on the others was (I admit) delicious. 

Oh, such pride in your party's track record! Such validation for trusting this cult, again, with even a burnt match.

== Skewer the lies ==

Did you notice that the whole basis for Donald Trump's recent rejection of the Intelligence Community -- for citing Russian interference in US elections -- has been "these are the same folks who saw WMDs in Iraq!" Neglecting to mention that the WMD episode featured bullying of the IC by one outrageously immature Republican president, exactly as Trump himself is loudly threatening to do.

Elsewhere I show how one can compare GOP and Democratic presidents not by whether they wage war -- (all of them do, sometimes in error, though the mostly-beneficent American Pax has been worth fighting for) -- but how they wage it. I show how time and again, Democratic doctrine has been to listen to the generals and apply force as surgically as possible. That approach doesn't always go well! In Somalia, the scalpel was too small and thin, for example. But the bludgeon approach preferred by Republican presidents is a proved failure.

(Watch as the three generals DT has appointed provide surface cover for a wave of firings and forced retirements that will 'cleanse' - Erdogan-syle - both the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Military Officer Corps. Let us pray that the best of the three -- James Mattis -- will dig in his heels.)

Mr. Will can see all of this with utter clarity, and crafts his philippics accordingly. Oh, there are times when I almost sympathize with this devil. He is a gifted polemicist, as when he concludes: 

"Soon, foreign policy will be conducted by a man who, although in 2010 he said WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange deserves the death penalty, now seems to trust Assange on the subject of Russian hacking more than he trusts the consensus of the nation’s $53 billion civilian intelligence institutions. Time passes and, we are told, brings progress." All of it spot on. But then, that is how top level savanarolas operate. Every time Mr. Will criticizes Donald Trump, it will be accompanied by a "but..." that helps to staunch hemorrhages of sane conservatives to the other side. Oh, it's clear Mr. Will is currently in pain. Pain that he so richly deserves, for his endless, clever, deceitful treasons. He knows this will not go well for the Confederacy that he strove so hard to revive. And I nurse no guilt over the schaedenfreude I feel, for this evil man's agony.

== The Worst Man redux ==

Oh, but since I wrote the preceding passages -- setting them aside for other matters -- America's worst person continued his deliberate sabotage of reason. 

In this latest bit, George Will cites the "Sokal Hoax" to prove that the entire opposition to U.S. conservatism is just as crazy as (he now admits) conservatism has become. That is the narrative of today's right, hand crafted by Mr. George Will, along with Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and every other shill for returning us to feudalism.

"Yes, it's clear my side has gone insane... but... but... but democrats are just as bad!   
"Yeah, that's the ticket. Liberals are worse!"

Yes, the Sokal Hoax was and remains a delightfully on-target, hilarious entrapment and evisceration of the postmodernist fad pushed by far-left, science-hating, faux-intellectuals. In 1996, Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York Universitysubmitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies -- "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" -- proposing that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. "At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist." 

The avid acceptance by far-lefty postmodernists of deliberately concocted drivel helped to severely discredit that noxious movement, whose emphasis on incantation, magical thinking, masturbatory indignation and hostility to science shares voluptuous commonalities with similar cults on the right. Except that George Will fails to note crucial facts:

1) The Sokal Affair revealed that science is ready and able to defend itself, quite capably. 

2) For all their many faults, the editors of Social Text owned up to their mistakes and instituted reforms, something that similar liars on the right never do, always doubling down on their incantations.

3) The far-left may contain some bilious haters of science (see Science Left Behind: Feel-good fallacies and the rise of the anti-scientific left by Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell), but the entire American right today consists of science haters, waging war - indeed - on every knowledge profession in American life, from journalism, teaching, civil service, medicine, economics, diplomacy, law, etc. all the way to - recently - the United States military and intelligence officer corps.  

There is a world of difference between "far" and "entire"... as there is between "contains" and "consists." 

Mr. Will knows all of this. That fact -- his open-eyed and conscious choice to lie in service of monstrous treason -- has helped to bring America to this state, while driving both education and IQ levels in the deliberately-lobotomized Republican Party to historic lows. This has paid off well for Mr. Will and his neo-feudalist masters. Indeed, if we continue, and somehow survive, then the world of Idiocracy will erect statues to this horrid little man.


Anonymous said...

Putin did more than just help get Trump elected, he has helped to intensify the crisis of legitimacy for the US government. The polarization in the US is spiraling towards a crisis level. I am not at all sure that the US government as we know it will survive the next 10 years.

Alfred Differ said...

Yet another Doom And Gloom prediction.

The thing to try is to place odds on the event you think might happen and then see if anyone is willing to gamble money on it. No one need be sure of anything, but if the odds for your scenario are less than 1 in 100, I'll pretend I'm certain that you are incorrect.

And I am certain that the US government as we know it will be here a decade from now.

Alfred Differ said...

I admit I don't pay much attention to Will. I recognize him and know him to argue for Conservatives, but I rarely give him much time. Has he shown any evidence that he actually knows his opponents?

I ask because someone who tries to lump us all together using the Sokal Hoax could be guilty of living in a bubble. I am asking because I'd like to eliminate this possible interpretation.

TCB said...

This just in: Thom Hartmann interviewed the author of the following article today: The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump The Election Is In Plain Sight.

In a nutshell: Why did James Comey go public with a big ball of nothingburger on Hillary Clinton's e-mails just in time to sway the election?

Because Trump, Erik Prince, and Rudy Giuliani, plus some rogue agents in the NY FBI office and NYPD police, threatened Comey; if he didn't comment on the e-mails, they were going to go public with a very slanderous version of the same story.

"All of the major actors in the conspiracy have already confessed to its particulars either in word or in deed; moreover, all of the major actors have publicly exhibited consciousness of guilt after the fact. This assessment has already been the subject of articles in news outlets on both sides of the political spectrum, but has not yet received substantial investigation by major media."


"The full extent of Prince’s lies on November 4th, all of which were Trump campaign disinformation delivered by an adviser and major donor to the campaign, are too numerous and spectacular to list here. Two brief quotes from Breitbart’s interview with Prince should suffice":

and then follows some stuff about money laundering and a "sex island."

Meanwhile, Trumps' friends in the FBI and elsewhere were making sure the far more serious charges against Trump stayed under wraps.

Read the whole article. It's fire.

Jay P Hailey said...

I am really not a big fan of "The ends justify the means" types of arguments.

Scott Horton likes to interview folks about Ukraine from time to time.

We have victoria Neuland's leaked telephone call BEFORE the Maidan uprising, describing who she wanted to pick for the post uprising Ukrainian gov't.

So I have always been of the mind that the Ukraine crisis is something the US had a hand in starting and making worse. I really have never bought the narrative that the whole thing is "Russian Aggression".

LarryHart said...

On the eve of destruction, as it were, I'm getting awfully fed up awfully fast with those who actively aided and abetted Trump's rise to power now, when it's too late to actually change anything, expressing misgivings and issuing dire warnings.

I say this as someone who rarely swears and who (regulars here know full well) rarely stoops to personal anger:

Where the fuck were they when they could have actually made a difference?

You laughed and jeered at me and mine and purposely voted for a candidate and a party who will make our lives miserable, and now when it's about to happen, you suddenly realize he will make your life even more miserable? And now you're worried? Well, excuse me for being such a terrible liberal on this subject, but I'm through sympathizing with my murderers.

As Mrs. Hamilton puts it so eloquently, I hope that you burn!

(That's not aimed at anyone here, btw)

LarryHart said...

But seriously, we could have used Trump's 30% approval rating back in November.

This is shaping up to be the anthem for the next four years...

The cavalry’s not coming. Alex, listen,
There’s only one way for us to win this
Provoke outrage, outright
Don’t engage, strike by night.
Remain relentless ‘til their troops take flight.

Make it impossible to justify the cost of the fight.

Hit ‘em quick, get out fast!
Stay alive ‘til this horror show is past.
We’re gonna fly a lot of flags half-mast.

Raise a glass!

Hercules Mulligan:
I'll go back to New York and my apprenticeship.

I ask for French aid, I pray that France has sent a ship.

John Laurens:
I'll stay at work with Hamilton.
We write essays against slavery,
And every day’s a test of our camaraderie
And bravery

We cut supply lines. We steal contraband
We pick and choose our battles and places to take a stand.

Jumper said...

Well, David, is it better to smooth the edges off this article and submit it to the Washington Post, or just run it here as is?

And note to Robert: there are lots of groups whose only requirement for membership is a simple affirmation. This suggests self-radicalizers have all sorts of sketchy organizations to claim as their own. Me, I'm a Bokononist. Because I thought that to myself in my head. (Saying it here is only secondary.)

TCB said...

Jumper, just want you to know I am pressing the soles of my feet against my monitor as I read your post.

LarryHart said...


I aspired to being a Bokononist in college, if only to get girls to let me touch their feet.

LarryHart said...

Ok, just as some of us were posting about Bokononism, I turned on Norman Goldman's radio show, and he was playing a clip of President Obama saying "The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world."

Which, to readers of the book in question (Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle) is eerily appropriate. Didn't Bokonon teach that every death ends the world?

Jumper said...

I told my mom years ago not to mistake growing old with a perception that things are getting worse. After some shock she grew to appreciate the perception.


It struck me that Trump is reminding me of Yeltsin.

donzelion said...

re Ukraine: Bravo, Dr. Brin, for bringing something up so few pay attention to.

George Will is part of the "when facts are against you, rewrite history" crowd. In the American version of the story, appealing among righwingers with functional memories, the "Orange Revolution" came on Bush's watch, threw out the corrupt rascal bastards, and saved the country - only for Obama to lose it (just as he 'lost' Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

It's an age-old tactic (Nixon was winning in Vietnam, but the Democrats in Congress blocked victory that was just around the corner) that works primarily because very very few Republicans paid attention to what followed the "Orange Revolution" (when the entire thing imploded as Russia threw its weight around and capitalized on internal corruption).

Which to me is the most intriguing point: will history be re-written through propaganda, when the extent of most people's knowledge amounts to a wikipedia article? We can watch the edit stream.

Alfred Differ said...

I was reading Stratfor a few years ago when they were talking about events in Ukraine. They obviously disagreed with labeling them all as European, but they did point out that the people in the western half often self-identified that way. The border has moved around historically and the far west has often been governed by non-Russians.

What was most telling about Stratfor's analysis, though, come from their observation that 'Ukraine' is a word that can be translated and not just a country name. From Russian it means border/frontier. Historically, it is where other empires have fought each other because it can be easily attacked, but is difficult to defend from a distance. Crimea is often governed by someone other than the owner of the western regions. The Dnieper River is somewhat defensible and has marked contested borders in the past, but local armies can deal with it and history shows how... often.

The only nations well situated to contest Russian influence in western Ukraine are Germany and Poland. They don't have to send armies, though. Getting Russia to spend money defending their interests in eastern Ukraine is enough to limit Russia's options elsewhere. A contested Ukraine, therefore, is the most likely policy for nations interested in occupying Russian attention somewhere other than were Putin would place it. Whether our President likes this or not, American citizens can support this kind of activity. Talk to them. Russian leadership has trouble distinguishing between the acts of Americans and the acts of America.

Anonymous said...

Fascism vs Neoliberalism w/ Chris Hedges

LarryHart said...

Awake this morning with no more sleep between now and the debacle in D.C., my mood is captured most eloquently by a line of monologue that Dave Sim had one of his characters reading off of a men's room wall:

The topic is too sensitive standing here pissing razor blades.

A final bit of advice from George Washington (in "Hamilton") to the incoming president:

Winning is easy, young man.
Governing's harder.

And to the outgoing president and the American people:

Let me tell you what I wish I'd known
When I was young and dreamed of glory:
You have no control
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.
I know that we can win.
I know that greatness lies in you.
But remember, from here on in
History has its eyes on you.

Oh, and from King George III to America (with a slight name change) :

President Donald Trump?

Good luck!

Unknown said...

What is this about the Ukraine not being in Europe? Europe ends at the Urals, if I am not mistaken. Whatever government that country may have, Ukrainians have fought for independence for a century (almost always with unpleasant allies but its the 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' thing). I have known Ukrainians for all of my 69 years. One cannot deny their aspirations of nationhood and self-determination. The way that people in the US treat East Europeans is exceeding instrumental and does not take into account their right to decide their own destinies. Whether or not Americans admit it, they still think the legitimate countries in Europe are on its Western side. Grrr.
I am a super Brin fan but I had to speak to this. Joanna in Lima, Peru

Jumper said...

Well said.

LarryHart said...

Stephanie Miller, on WCPT radio (Chicago's Progressive Talk) did a parody of the Four Seasons song "Stay" which I was almost tearing up at. From what I can remember:

O-ba-ma, stay
Just a little bit longer.
Please, please, please,
Tell me that you will.

Now if the voters don't mind

A.F. Rey said...

LarryHart, is this what you are referring to?

LarryHart said...

@A. F. Rey,

No, that's the real song with pictures of Obama illustrating it. Same sentiment, but Stephanie Miller had a parody song with alternate lyrics (like "O-ba-ma stay" instead of "Oh, won't you stay")

LarryHart said...

BTW, there's a scene in the 1970s movie "An Unmarried Woman" in which (predictably) the Jill Clayburgh character's ex-husband tells her that the other woman he left her for has left him instead, and he asks her to take him back. He even pleads the case, "Can't you see me as someone who was sick for a long time, and has recovered? Can't you do that?" And she has to inform him that "It doesn't work that way."

That's going to be the Confederacy after its love affair with Cheetolini.

LarryHart said...

I forget which Vonnegut book--"Jailbird" maybe--when something bad happened and the weather turned rainy or gloomy, the narrator would say "Nature sympathized". He then explained that the expression was meant ironically, to point out the fact that in reality, nature couldn't care less.

In the gloom and drizzle here in Chicago, which seems to be mirrored in DC at the same time, that's what comes to mind.

Nature sympathizes.

Continuing to free-associate as one memory after another is pulled out of my brain by association with today's doings. Now it's the moment in the first episode of "Batman" I ever watched, "Batman's Anniversary", in which the Riddler has hidden a demolecularizer somewhere in police headquarters, and if they don't give him complete control over Gotham City, he will destroy the building. A tv news announcer ticks off the minutes before the building (in which Commissioner Gordon has vowed to stay) will be doomed.

That's what it feels like right now.

And I somehow doubt the Bat-copter is going to show up with two thousand pounds of sodium di-chloride.

LarryHart said...

We shall overcome.
We shall overcome.
We shall overcome some day.

God bless the United States of America.

LarryHart said...

1461 days (exactly) until inauguration day 2021

John Kurman said...

America is more resilient than you think. Small comfort, true, but.. if we got through 12 years of Reagan/Bush, 8 years of Cheney, we can get through 2 years of Trump, and then 2 years of Pence.

Unknown said...

You think it'll take two years, John? I mean, as of this moment, dude's in violation of his oath of office (can't exactly support and defend the Constitution while violating its provisions...). I don't think it'll take two whole years before the Rs realize the massive error they've committed, and move to impeach Donnie (and it's not like his popularity poll numbers will do much to deter the idea).

I mean, Pence is a horrible choice too, and Ryan not much better - but at base, they're politicians, and it should be possible to deal with them.

LarryHart said...

If You-Know-Who is removed from office and Pence becomes president, is there a new Veep, or does that office remain vacant for the remainder of the term? I don't remember that aspect of what happened after President Nixon resigned.

I ask because if there is no vice-president, then that's at least one half fewer Republican Senators.

Alfred Differ said...

A new VP is chosen by appointment and confirmed by majority vote in both houses of Congress. Amendment #25, Section #2

Alfred Differ said...

So... I'm currently inclined to think Trump will serve all four years. I suspect the folks who want impeachment and conviction early are misleading themselves when they think there will be enough support for it to happen. Censure might happen, but removal won't I believe.

I'm not sure what odds to assign to this gut feeling, though. I'm curious what others here might assign to it. 8)

Jeff B. said...

I hope and pray for impeachment. If nothing else, the Indiana reversal of Pence's anti-gay legislation shows he is susceptible to public opinion and pressure. But I really fear that it's not going to happen; I'm only giving it a 50% chance. Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on their own destructive agenda, and as long as Trump stays out of the way then they'll be fine letting him act as their lightning rod and distracting everyone til it's too late.

The only wild card is if we actually do uncover convincing hard evidence of a direct link to the Kremlin. And somehow the intel community will ever be able to state this with enough certainty even if they get results in their current investigation.

And, in case all this isn't enough, the White House and other exec branch websites have already purged all mention of climate change, combatting police brutality... (and I think I'm missing a few...)And is suddenly reporting that murders were up 50% in DC in 2016, when they actually fell.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Joanna: "One cannot deny their aspirations of nationhood and self-determination. The way that people in the US treat East Europeans is exceeding instrumental and does not take into account their right to decide their own destinies. Whether or not Americans admit it, they still think the legitimate countries in Europe are on its Western side. Grrr."

Well, to be fair, most Americans are only *familiar* with countries on the Western side. Hand a map of Europe to an average American and they will correctly label England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy... maybe Poland and some Scandinavian countries... and then for everything past that will probably go "I dunno". Hard to feel unity with countries you don't really know exist.

That said, the degree of engagement has generally coincided with "how much can we do about it". Since Putin, for completely selfish reasons, refuses to concede the legitimate existence of a separate Ukrainian identity... how much Ukraine can even *be* supported depends heavily on how much the rest of Europe supports them. Unlike nearly all the rest of Europe, America can't even *get* anyone or anything there without assistance. Whereas the bear is sitting *right there* and knows them intimately.

@LarryHart: Under the terms of the 25th Amendment, Section 2, the new President nominates a Veep who is confirmed by majority vote of both Houses. This is how Gerald Ford ascended despite never being elected by the people; he was Agnew's replacement. Nelson Rockefeller became Vice President after Ford's elevation.

Ryan only becomes President if Trump and Pence are both removed so rapidly that no Vice President is named; realistically, if both men have to go, some compromise candidate will be named by Pence on his way out. But while I can easily imagine scenarios for removing Trump, I have a much harder time imagining Pence meeting the threshold for removal. Unless *even weirder* things happen, I expect Pence to finish out the term as the 46th President.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Jeff B.: " long as Trump stays out of the way..." Does that sound like him to you? Or is he more likely to throw up roadblocks just for the attention?

@Alfred: It's possible, but if the Russian connection truly exists, it will happen only if Trump learns from history and deliberately throws whatever cut-out there were to the wolves. Plausible deniability. If he tries to protect those who were loyal to him, well, he continues down a well-trod path.

Jeff B. said...

Alfred, I can see Congress moving to impeachment if
1. a. there is irrefutable evidence uncovered re: Trump et al being directly, knowingly involved in suborning the election, and b. said evidence becomes public, and c. such evidence is picked up and appropriately publicized by the press.

2. He crosses Congress on something near and dear to them, or at least to the Tea Party wing. This might be the most unlikely scenario as I doubt Trump cares about any policy position enough to stick to his guns.

3. Trump begins showing signs of deliberately trying to accrue power in the executive, like a national police force, etc.

4. As Dr. Brin has stated, there's been a plan all along for the party establishment to reject him as a loose cannon and replace him with more conventional, amenable Pence.

I still only give it 50% over 4 years. I still think that for now at least he's extremely valuable to Congressional Republicans and party leadership as a distraction. Assuming, of course, that they actually do intent to force through all the actions they've claimed.

Jeff B. said...


I truly have not seen evidence that he believes in anything, besides himself. If Congress opposed something he wanted (or vice versa) then I see nothing to make me assume he'd have the backbone to stand up to them.

Thinking about it more, though, this could really lead to a fascinating conundrum which could bring Trump to oppose Congress. Many of Congress' stated plans (again, if they act on them) are highly unpopular. And Trump feeds on popularity; if he can actually public opinion and see overwhelming opposition to Congress, then, perhaps, he might choose "the people" over Congress.

LarryHart said...

I heard this on Norman Goldman's radio show. It's a bit gross, so caveat emptor. It's not the kind of joke I'd normally post, but this is the mood I'm in today:

Q: What's the difference between a chickpea and a garbanzo bean?

A: Trump never had a garbanzo bean on his face.

matthew said...

It's done.
Regarding Impeachment, I think the more pertinent question is whether there will BE an election in four years. Maybe even a question if there is an election in two years.

The Republicans have shown a willingness to hold onto power by any means. When there are marches of a million or so citizens protesting their government, I expect "emergency" laws will suspend elections until further notice. And, no, I do not believe our institutions will save us. It will come down to blood, blue versus red.

I await all the posts saying "it will never happen," just like the posts when I predicted Trump's victory.

Paul451 said...

I give 5% that Trump is impeached.

5% that he resigns rather than face charges, under a deal where Pence pardons him. A la Nixon/Ford.

90% he serves his entire term.

99% that he, his appointees, and Congress repeatedly and continuously abuse power, that more and more scandals emerge, and 90% that nothing happens about it.

90% that Republicans increase their Senate numbers in 2018.

90% that Trump runs for re-election in 2020.

And if so, 50% that Pence bows out for the second term and is replaced by a Trump insider. (If he's smarter than I give him credit for, Mattis. So 5%. If he's dumber, Prince or Mercer or their ilk. 50%. If he's worried about holding onto their states, Walker, Snyder or Kasich. 30%. Ryan, 5%. Giuliani, 5%.)

75% that the Democrat leadership backs either the most baggage-laden establishment candidate they can, the most charisma-free, or both, in the 2020 Dem primaries.

60% that Trump wins a second term. In which case, 95+% that he serves out that term.

LarryHart said...


While this election did cause me to doubt my predictive abilities, I don't think your scenario will in fact come to pass for one simple reason. The blue states won't go along.

What is perhaps more likely is that they control enough states to call a new constitutional convention and to ratify whatever the hell they please. The next battle has to be to stop them from controlling 38 states.

Zepp Jamieson said...

And so the Golden Reign of Putnik begins. I wish upon Will the gift of shame, that he might feel embarrassment at the monster he let slip.
Didn't see the speech today. We were under a flash flood warning,and I was watching the muddy river that was our street. Has to be the first time I've been threatened by a natural disaster and felt grateful for it.
My wife was even luckier. The snow is two feet below the eaves, and the power is out. If she's lucky, it's stay out until the Senate votes to convict...

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

And so the Golden Reign...


the power is out.

Though unintentionally, you're on a roll there.

Acacia H. said...

100 days.

Soon to be 99.

He will be impeached and removed from power.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

Ok. For the sake of formality then, if I wrote little coupons entitling the bearer to $1 on the condition that Trump serves all four years of his term, I could potentially sell them to Paul451 for up to $0.90 each before he might baulk. Jeff B’s price is about $0.50 each. If I placed the odds at 80%, I’d be willing to sell to Paul451, but not Jeff B. Right?

Coupon A: Trump serves out his term with no impeachment and conviction.
Pay Off: $1

Coupon B: Trump fails to serve out his term because he is impeached and convicted.
Pay Off: $1

Special Note: If Trump keels over somehow or Amendment #25 is used against him, impeachment and conviction will not have occurred and Coupon A pays off.

I’m curious what people would pay for both of these now since I also suspect there is a straddle to be found. In other words, I doubt the two prices will add to $1.

I don’t think it matters much to the bookmaker what reasons people apply to decide what prices they might willingly pay, but Jeff B’s list makes for interesting fodder that would cause prices to change in a resale market for these coupons. For example, if Paul451 was willing to pay $0.90/$0.10 the day the market opened and then considered reselling them 180 days later after “Trump shows signs of deliberately trying to accrue power in the executive”, we might expect one option to be better valued and the other lower. It would be an interesting thought experiment to think up what these market moving ideas would be in advance not just for price predictions, but because they are the events and behaviors we normalize if we haven’t decided ex ante that they are each a step too far.

Jeff B. said...

Dang it, just had my post eaten...

Alfred, I won't ever pretend to slightly understand bookmaking but your take is a fascinating exercise. However, my option #4- that the impeachment was planned all along- would be the "invisible" option, esp. if done right; one of my other options, or something along the lines of what Paul451 suggested would be cover justifying it.

Chris Ladd at Political Orphans had an interesting piece about how the sane Republican party grew to be enveloped by the crazies, by accommodating and ignoring them, as they encroached a little at a time, til they came to run the machine; the remaining leadership had no choice by that point but to play along.

If true, then this reduces odds of impeachment and removal by far, perhaps even to a chance smaller than what Paul451 suggests- if they were willing to (admittedly slowly) accommodate so much crazy, it would take tremendous levels of it from our new president to push them to react; they've essentially trained themselves to not react and to absorb any provocation. In this conceptualization I'd think it would take something on par with a minor nuclear exchange with China, or a Category X super-hurricane with inadequate response.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Special Note: If Trump keels over somehow or Amendment #25 is used against him, impeachment and conviction will not have occurred and Coupon A pays off.

While you certainly have the right to make that a ground rule, it needs to be stated up front, and my affect the odds that others are giving you. I certainly don't consider those to be cases of "serving out his term", so by the original two statements, neither coupon's condition would have been met. As if you were paying out on a coupon for "heads" and one for "tails", and the coin landed on its edge.

If I were betting on impeachment, I would want the rules stated in such a way that "He resigns as he's about to be impeached" counts in my favor. If I were the house paying off for him "failing to serve out his term because of impeachment", I wouldn't want to be liable for his resigning after a week because he doesn't like being president.

LarryHart said...


100 days.

Soon to be 99.

He will be impeached and removed from power.

The success of the prognosticative powers of Robert (and matthew) before the election would indicate that whatever Robert asserts has a good chance of coming to pass.

OTOH, the failure of anything that Larry would like to occur would indicate that we're stuck with Manicula for the next four (if not eight) years.

So I don't know which to put money on.

Arizsun Ahola said...

I can't see elections not happening in two and four years. Rank and file Americans, of either party, won't stand for that. How fair the elections are is a separate question. Unless the GO governs so catastrophically that they cannot redirect blame to "liberals" the GOP will gain Senate seats in 2018, too many Democrat held seats and too few GOP held seats are up for election.

I doubt there will be an impeachment. If Trump doesn't serve a full term it will be because he doesn't want a job that hard. More likely is that he lets Pence do all the work and just takes credit for it while taking a multi-year vacation on the public' dime.

Tim H. said...

There's a chance "Herr Drumph!" might pass like Nelson Rockefeller, trying to achieve circumcision via erosion.

LarryHart said...

@Tim H,

That sounds like it would be hilarious were I to understand what any of that means.


LarryHart said...

Aruzsun Aloha:

I can't see elections not happening in two and four years. Rank and file Americans, of either party, won't stand for that.

Not only that, the tv networks aren't likely to give up that revenue stream.

Lawrence P. said...

The US intelligence community has lied numerous times to the American public without any serious repercussions to themselves. To say they were bullied about Iraq's WMDs is disingenuous. The CIA was willing to underwrite the Bush admin lies ('slam-dunk case') of Saddam's WMDs in exchange for expanded institutional power and more control of Defense Dept. policies. Another recent example was James Clapper lying under sworn oath before congress that the NSA was not involved in domestic spying programs. The attitude the Intel community has towards the US public leans towards open contempt which is why I find it odd to hear democrats pushing the Russian tampering story. Though Russia is certainly capable of it, the intel community has not supplied any real evidence showing Russian involvement. Putting all your eggs in the Russia-did-it basket seems like a very foolish policy. For one, if it turns out to be untrue (which seems more and more likely given the paucity of evidence), the Democrats pushing this narrative will have seriously damaged their credibility. Secondly, it's not hard to imagine the situation reversed, where the CIA/FBI/NSA is asked to supply some justification for military action abroad or authoritarian domestic policy under Trump's admin and willingly supplies dubious evidence based on some backdoor agreement. If that happens, every gung-ho warmonger will dredge up every plea Democrats made to simply trust the patriotic intel community. They'll repeat day after day that anyone who does not accept the intelligence is a traitor, a foreign agent, etc. and point to the exact rhetoric some foolish democrats are making now.

Paul SB said...


I think Tim may be referring (in creative terminology) to the fact that Nelson Rockefeller died at the age of 70 in a private office with a 25 year old lady. The speculation was that he had his heart attack while engaged in an affair.

Anonymous said...

The year Ukraine became "European" was the year an uprising with overtly fascist elements toppled a democratically elected leader (Yanukovich) to make room for a billionaire oligarch (Poroshenko) who is just as corrupt and is happy to work with people like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Of course, collecting in a scenario where the U.S. government has ceased to exist would be interesting. No big upside to that bet, you're a loser either way.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I think Tim may be referring (in creative terminology) to the fact that Nelson Rockefeller died at the age of 70 in a private office with a 25 year old lady.

Ah, ok. I didn't think of that use of the word "pass", which made the rest of the sentence just look as if autocorrect had done a job on it.

Or maybe it was one of those funny excerpts from real history papers that get posted on line every so often. "Sir Francis Drake circumcised the earth with a 50 foot clipper."

The speculation was that he had his heart attack while engaged in an affair.

I always remember the line from "Hill Street Blues" where a drunken Renko called Captain Furillo at home to ask if the rumor was true that their sergeant had "deceased himself whilst in the act."

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, I had not realized that some folks had forgotten Nelson's dramatic exit from this world. And there are times I "Have my way with words", though I may be at a loss for them as we learn more about "Herr Drumph!"

raito said...


Stay was originally Maurice Williams. Not having heard the parody, I couldn't say which version was being emulated, though. It's been recorded many times.

Amusingly, a search for 'Stephanie Miller Stay' puts this comment page about 5 down from the top in results.

Nor are the people in the campaign biz likely to stand for a lack of elections for them to suck on.

Joanna Drzewieniecki,

I also agree with you about Ukraine. Every Ukrainian I've ever spoke to at least disliked Russia. And I don't really find that Ukraine was under Russia's thumb from the fall of the Soviet Union until Yanukovych's appointments. But given that those were the last decade or so, the point is probably moot. While Obama undoubtedly supported then events of 2014, the sentiment was always there.

My own ancestors in eastern Europe have had a rough go of it, too, politically. They kept getting lumped in with other regions, consolidated, broken apart, etc. Finally, they're back to somewhat where they were a few hundred years ago, albeit lumped in with a couple other areas. At least the mostly speak the same language.

My predictions:
No wall will be built.
Trump serves out his term.

But remember, in my voting life, the guy I want to win wins less than half the time.

Paul SB said...


My guys never win. I'm for the Tyson/Nye ticket, personally. Get some scientists in there. Nearly all our politicians are either lawyers or businessmen (like Donald Grope was anything new! Seriously?), once in awhile you get a military person or a doctor.

Dr. Brin,
Maybe this would be a good place to weigh in on the new cabinet picks. There's a whole lot to talk about, like the pick for Education who knows nothing abut education but wants it all privatized so only the rich get education, EPA who sues the EPA so we can forget about enforcement, Energy who is an old magnate (we can kiss the National Parks goodbye - time to drill and kill).

A.F. Rey said...

And another "encouraging" piece of news (from P.Z. Myers' Pharyngula): the Interior Department was ordered to shut down their Twitter accounts indefinitely because someone retweeted a news article that was unsympathetic to Trump.

The article makes it sound like it was some bureaucrat in the department got nervous about insulting his new boss, but considering Trump's "forgiving nature," I wouldn't be surprised that the Donald himself sent a quiet directive.

Dan Koifman said...

Dr. Brin,

I just listened to your Writing Excuses podcast interview and you blew me away. You are an incredible extemporaneous motivational speaker. I am interested in becoming a writer and found your talk very moving. Keep up the great work.

Dan Koifman

matthew said...

Trump's speech showed the clear imprint of Steve Bannon - white nationalism. Plus, the return to the rallying cry of "America First," a clear not-dog-whistle that Trump is going to rule as a fascist. Here is Breitbart crowing that their man is controlling the narrative.

Here is a history of "America First," the group that wanted America to join the Axis in WWII, or at best, stay out of the war.

How do I think that Trump will cancel elections (perhaps) in 2018 and (very likely) in 2020? I think the resistance to Trump will be criminalized via making protest unlawful (laws introduced in 5 states since Trump's win and counting) and the equation "liberal=terrorist" will be a major media push for the next four years. Trump's advisors have now seen that by simply repeating a lie over and over they can control the narrative. We have already seen that Republicans will stop at nothing to win elections. If they think they will gain seats in the Senate in 2018, they will allow the vote, if not they will not. There will be some national "emergency" that they will say makes it too unsafe to vote due to the crowds gathered.

Signs to watch for that indicate we are heading this direction:
1. The criminalization of protest. Already happening
2. A private security force controlled by Trump. Already happening.
3. Use of uniforms by Trumpanistias (Brownshirts)
4. Watch for signs of hidden money being spent to support the Black Block anarchists (responsible for 95% of the property damage during protests). Watch for an increase of social media postings encouraging violence at protests.
5. The use of "national emergency" to restrict public gathering. There will be a dry run where this is used not in the context of voting in order to normalize the idea.
6. Dedicated opposition to vote by mail and early voting. Anything that could be used to replace people standing in line at polls on election day.
7. A manufactured foreign conflict, preferably with a non-white nationality that allows demonization of a class of American minority.
8. An influx of overt nationalistic art and the destruction of non-Right approved art.
9. Anti-Disney boycotts, divestment, etc. Of all corporate America, Disney has the most invested in multiculturalism. We will see corporate HR policy as one of the bulwarks against racism, sexism, etc. Disney is the most visible symbol of this. Watch ABC programming for changes, too, as they are owned by Disney. Laugh when all the protests against Disney don't touch ESPN, which will conveniently be missed in all the calls to boycott.

Unknown said...

"Of course, collecting in a scenario where the U.S. government has ceased to exist would be interesting."

Okay, if there are no elections in four years, I owe you 50 cans of Spam (a veritable fortune in the Wastelands!) and 100 bottle caps (useless now, but wait until a hundred years after the Great War!).

JJJ said...

Canadians apparently turned away from Women's march, and also asked if they support Trump at border crossing.

Paul451 said...

OTOH, I am a member of a civilisation which does this:

Saturn's rings warped by tiny moon, Daphnis.

LarryHart said...


As in the novel Dune, the forms must be obeyed. Trump has a 30% approval rating and he hasn't even had time to screw anything up or break promises yet. Everybody by now knows that he "won" the election only because of fake news and voter suppression, and even so only by a few thousand votes in a few key states. The only reason he gets to reign is because the process is entirely run by the calendar. There is no constitutional mechanism for a do-over or a vote of no-confidence. He gets to be president because--and only because--the forms must be obeyed.

There is also no constitutional mechanism for postponing or cancelling a vote. For any reason. If somehow, it is able to happen anyway, then the moment it does, we are no longer functioning under the Constitution. What makes you think the local authorities in California, New York, or any large metropolitan area will go along with diktats from what will then be a de-jure as well as de-facto illegitimate regime occupying the nation's capital? Chicago's Mayor Emmanuel isn't going to order the police to act as Orange Hitler's gestapo, and I doubt even (Republican) Governor Rauner would do so.

And do you think the Disney Corporation would really just roll over and play dead?

donzelion said...

Interesting: looks like my post on Ukraine got eaten. That's a first for me...

Paul451: I really wish I didn't agree with your numbers, but we are where we are. Rather than impeachment itself, Republicans will enjoy Democrats excoriating the executive as they castrate the offices.

They'll do both a 'symbolic' castration (e.g., appointing people who oppose the offices they serve in, like Scott Pruitt in the EPA), and then a more meaningful one (after their people are in place, the data sets so painstakingly built up by Obama's crew will be eviscerated - deemed unreliable data noise and hence rendered useless for enforcement). Essentially, the groundwork Obama's people laid will be gutted so that nobody could use that data for governance for several years to come.

Which is why work like this - "Rogue Scientist Race to Save Climate Data from Trump" (Wired Magazine) - strikes me as potentially important. Symbolic? Valiant? Yes to both. Hopeless? Oh no, not by a long shot.

As for Republicans taking more seats in the Senate in '18 - looking at a map, I find that quite probable.

Anonymous said...

I think if the Repubs in Congress wanted to remove Trump via Impeachment it will be timed at least 2 years so that Pence (or Ryan or whoever) gets to run in the next 2 elections per the 22nd amendment. Since we tend to always reelect a sitting president they should be able to win the next 2 elections giving them 10 years total and republican control of the excuitive for 3 total terms. If they maintain their state majorities in 2020 they can redistrict via gerymander at will and keep their control of congress well into the 2020s. Dems have to have a wave year in 2020 and take both congress and the state legislatures to ever have a hope of winning in the next decade or two.

LarryHart said...


I don't remember whether or not you are in the U.S.

If you are, I have a serious question for you? Are you planning to emigrate ahead of all this bad s### that you expect to go down soon? I guess that's my equivalent of Dr Brin asking for bets, because if you honestly expect Trump and the Republicans to drastically curtail democracy and criminalize thoughtcrime as you seem to, I would expect you'd be plotting your escape right now.

It may sound like I'm snarking on you, but I'm really not. I'm wondering if you're just laying out a worst case scenario or if you honestly believe all of that bad stuff is imminent. It doesn't seem like it to me, but then I'm sitting in a huge metropolitan area in a blue state.

David Brin said...

Anonymous#1 ignores the point — that Putin blamed Obama and Clinton for losing his Ukrainian satrapy. Sure one issue is whether that event was good or bad. An anonymous coward has little credibility and I believe the Ukrainians I know, who swear that they will never be controlled by Moscow, ever again. But that is irrelevant to the main point — a point that terrifies Fox and American right media… that Obama and Clinton were, in Putin’s eyes — the competent ones he feared.

Paul SB — you wanted Mike Tyson to be president?

Dan K. Thanks for the encouragement. I give some good keynotes!

Matthew there are bulwarks DT would have to overcome, before openly oppressing. (1) The Civil Service, (2) Roberts and Alito, (3) Blue states simply doing their own thing and laughing at him, (4) alienating the law, intel and military officer corps (bad move), (5) whistleblowers, (6) us.

I am not casual about this! Expect attempts to change whistleblower laws. (And I blame Obama for not fighting to expand them.)

Yes, A Reichstag fire, a terror attack or a foreign war could tip things horribly. That’s when we’ll need #4 most.

David Brin said...



Jumper said...

I predict war soon.

Anonymous#1 said...

No you are right, you are playing 11-dimensional chess I see. Putin blaming Obama and Clinton is a good thing for US interests. Antagonizing Russia, a giant country you no longer have any real ideological reason to oppose, makes a ton of sense - normalizing relations with Russia would only make them less likely to work with American foes like China and Iran. You clearly understand the brilliant tactic of pushing all of your potential rivals into alliances with one another through short-sided antagonism. It also makes sense to risk confrontation with a nuclear state over a piece of earth that has almost no strategic value.

Since you like writing posts about how much you hate Nazis, why don't you ask the Ukrainians you "know" what they think of groups like the neo-Nazi Azov battalion?

brian t said...

Good News, Everyone! (?) Fox News is dropping George Will as a contributor:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous#1 wrote "...Russia, a giant country..."
Yes, physically Russia is a giant country, but it's GDP is only slightly larger than Canada's, yet Russia's population is three times that of Canada.
Russia's massive increase in military spending on the military is sending it towards another collapse, which is why Putin is so desperate to keep influence and territory. Putin is trying to expand his way out of economic troubles.

John said...

I think the majority of the points made are very well taken, but there are some aspects that can easily be falsified. Not all "the right" is antiscience, if that word even presently means anything beyond someone expressing doubts about someonelse's pet chicken-little issues. It is label being tossed around fairly indiscriminantly by the more extreme wings of the current opposing parties to label dissenting views. Being "right" (or "left") and being correct are distinct states, so it is well to keep in mind the "stopped clock" syndrome. Simply because most of the "issues" that concern some particular clique are either self-evidently mistaken or outright fantasy doesn't mean that another "concern" might not be well taken. Science can defend itself, but rarely on political timescales, a fact that lead Thomas Kuhn to delineate his "paradigm" argument, asserting that scientific advances often take place on generational scales.

I think that if we want to see science advance as rapidly as political people would like to think it does, then we need to evenly support ALL views, and allow selection to actually operate on the science itself rather than resort to nonsensical assertions about "scientific consensus." Kuhnian paradigms ARE concensus, simply because many scientists are too lazy to question authorities and others are far too eager to be seen as authorities. Political maneuver and the scramble for funding supersede good scientific practices.

Elle said...