Cliff Mass Is a Dishonest Crank

Remember when the last carbon tax, I-732, was being voted on? The one whose corporate-funded Big Green backers failed to consider the wishes of tribes and minority groups? The one that those of us on the left, by and large, held our noses and voted for despite its warts? The one that Cliff Mass dishonestly blamed the left for its failure at the polls?

Fast forward to the present moment. There’s a new carbon tax measure coming up on the ballot, I-1631. You’d think that maybe Mr. Suck-it-up-and-compromise (in relation to I-732) would be advocating people who share his center-right politics to suck it up, compromise, and support I-1631 even though it has a laundry list of lefty things in it?

Ha, ha. Think again.

Probably nobody knows more about local weather patterns than Cliff Mass. His blog and book have significantly helped me understand the complex weather patterns of this region and why forecasters often fail to accurately predict what’s going to happen (although on that latter point, their accuracy has improved significantly in the decades since I first moved here).

But when he comes to politics, he’s a total crank, a complete victim of his own strong emotions and biases.

Elizabeth Warren Is Being Very Stupid

First, she orders a genetic test.

Then, she loudly trumpets the results.

She chooses to do this in October of a critically important midterm election year, when it is important to stay on message as being a responsible check on Trump.

She chooses not to first run this harebrained scheme past Native Americans (i.e. known Native Americans, with more than a minute trace Native American blood in their veins) first.

Now it’s all predictably blowing up. She has effectively handed a gift on a silver platter to the fascist side.

And she’s trying to portray herself as having the sort of judgement it takes to make a good president?


The New NAFTA Is a Steaming Load

Some examples:

  • It forces a restrictive intellectual property rights regime on all signers, making copyright law significantly more oppressive in Canada and Mexico,
  • It expands patent protection so that US-owned drug companies can gouge the ill and desperate for a longer time,
  • It contains exemptions for the oil industry, to protect it from attempts by Mexico to re-nationalize it, and
  • It enshrines the concept of corporate personhood.

See here and here for details. Carp on these, and the Democrats have a good pretext for deep-sixing it.

Even Establishment Pundits Are Using the I-Word

Earlier I wrote:

Even if no other allegations surface and it becomes increasingly clear that Kavanaugh lied to the Senate under oath to secure his approval, we’re still talking about impeachment material. Perjury is a crime.

Now even some Establishment pundits are starting to say the same thing.

It’s sort of a lost opportunity at the moment. I firmly believe that the perjury (and Ed Whelan slander conspiracy) lines were more powerful ones to pursue than the Ford allegation ones. As much as the Ford allegations are a big red hot button for anyone with feminist sensibilities, they did still allegedly happen over thirty years ago, when Kavanaugh was in high school.

Both factors served to dilute the force of the allegations. (What would liberals think if Republicans blocked a liberal Supreme Court nominee because of what he might have done in High School? Think about it.) By contrast, the alleged perjury and slander conspiracy happened this year. That makes them much more relevant as an insight into Kavanaugh’s character, particularly when coupled with Kavanaugh’s outbursts before the Senate committee. Would it have been easier to make a few GOP senators waver if those allegations were the ones that had been carped on? We will now never know.

It’s a pity, really. Tom Nichols and other anti-Trump conservatives were pointing this out. Some prominent liberal voices like Dana Milbank were saying the same thing. But it generally was considered somehow politically incorrect and disrespectful of women to aggressively pursue the slander and perjury lines—as if someone cannot continue to believe Ford and believe it is politically more strategic to pursue a line that’s more likely to win you a few crucial allies.

Politics is war by other means, and in war you don’t have the luxury of ignoring information just because it’s not as fun for you to pay attention to it as it is to pay attention to other information (or because you don’t admire the bearer of it as much as you do the bearer of other information). Not, that is, unless winning the war is important to you. Here’s Saul Alinsky writing in Rules for Radicals:

The basic requirement for the understanding of the politics of change is to recognize the world as it is. We must work with it on its terms if we are to change it to the kind of world we would like it to be. We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be.

Here’s Sun-Tzu in The Art of War:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

So here we are. Now what? Above, I’ve shown how ignoring voices on the moderate Right hurt the fight against Kavanaugh. Now we’re in a place where ignoring the insights of the radical Left will most hurt the fight. There is no inconsistency here; in fact, there is a consistency: ignoring relevant information hurts the struggle, no matter where that information comes from.

Congress, even a Congress with a Democratic Party majority in both houses, is highly unlikely to do so much as lift a pinky finger against Kavanaugh unless forced to by pressure from below. Impeachment is merely a tool, nothing more. The tool is now usable. The real battle must move to the grassroots: create organizations capable of disrupting the status quo, then at strategic times disrupt it, and do it in ways that offer the ruling class the hope of less disruption if they use impeachment to remove Kavanaugh.

I’ve written here time and time again how history shows ruling elites (and the Democratic Party is merely one wing of the ruling elite Establishment) almost never do a damn thing for the masses unless forced to. Either way this thing ends up playing out, we are about to see another example of this.

It’s Looking Like NAFTA Might Not Much Matter

One day on, and not much attention is being paid to it. That’s the case even amongst the pro-Trump crowd, as one can easily ascertain by visiting Fox News; here’s a shot of what their site looks like this morning (caution: large image). There’s a lot of taking partisan sides in the battle over the Kavanaugh nomination, but nothing on the successful NAFTA renegotiation, despite the latter being an indisputable accomplishment.

So we’re apparently now at a stage where even Trump’s supporters are not paying attention to his accomplishments. A certain four letter acronym comes to mind.

Trump Pulls a Rabbit out of His Hat

Make no mistake, the new NAFTA deal (now rebranded USMCA) is a rare policy win for the Trump Regime. I may walk it back when more details are known, but it really does seem to be a positive accomplishment, incorporating provisions to at least ameliorate some of the worst things about the NAFTA.

The question now is: what will the Democrats do in response? Will they dig in with reflexive opposition, and end up hurting themselves? If they do, they will ironically be much like Trump with his reflexive opposition to anything and everything that Obama did, just because Obama did it. They will only do damage to their party’s prospects—and they will deserve the damage.

It’s a good thing when governments take the position of the working class, instead of just the position of the ruling elite, into consideration when making agreements. If you can’t admit that, you’re obviously a political phony who cares more about partisanship than anything else, and any criticisms you make about the GOP putting party over country will ring hollow.

Yes, it’s inconvenient to admit one’s opponents just got something right, particularly when the opponents have the level of overall general vileness that the Trumpists do. However, as Bertrand Russell once observed:

Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

And once one gets over the initial flash of inconvenience, it becomes evident that this is actually a huge opportunity for embattled Red State Democrats. If they play this thing right, by praising the new trade deal as a much-needed win for the working class, they have just created some much-needed campaign ammunition that they are not being reflexively anti-Trump when they do things like block his odious and unqualified Supreme Court nominations.

It’s rather harder for those further left to openly praise the new deal, of course. There’s a solution there, too: keep your mouth shut about it. Support it quietly, not loudly. Be loud in your criticism of Trump’s many evils and quiet in your praise of the few good things in his generally awful agenda. There’s ways to propagandize without lying, and those ways tend to be the better ways (see the Russell quote above).

Or try total honesty for a change, and openly say that:

  • NAFTA was weak in the labor and environmental department,
  • The proposed changes will be an improvement,
  • The centrists in your party enabled the likes of Trump by passing anti-worker deals such as NAFTA in the first place, and
  • Your politics can deliver positive accomplishments like renegotiating bad trade deals without all the fascistic bigotry and authoritarianism of Trump.

If you’re really any sort of leftist (and not just a professed one), none of the above should be all that hard to do.

One Final Kav Post

Dana Milbank just nailed it in The Washington Post: The veracity of the allegations against Kavanaugh (which do merit, but which are unlikely to receive, further investigation) have now become pretty much a moot point for deciding whether or not he is Supreme Court grade material. His temper tantrums yesterday demonstrated beyond a doubt that he is not. He’s not even fit to serve as judge in the lower court where he presently does.

The Rednecks Have a Point

Public schools in rural, conservative areas are starting to ban yoga. In fact, the entire state of Alabama has, throughout their K-12 public education system.

As the subject of this post indicates, they have a point. A very good point, in fact. Yoga is not merely a physical activity; it is very much part of the Hindu religion. Schools should not be in the business of imposing compulsory religious practices on children. This is as true for religious practices popular in left-wing and countercultural circles as it is for ones popular in conservative, traditionalist ones.

Yoga proponents cite studies that show yoga is beneficial for children. This is largely irrelevant. There are studies that show regular churchgoers live longer. There are studies that show people who pray regularly are healthier than those who don’t. If “it benefits children” is a blanket excuse for crossing the church-state barrier, then congratulations: you’ve just made the case for compulsory Christian prayer in public schools.

There is a way to bring the benefits of yoga’s physical activity to children without violating the separation of church and state: study the yoga poses, use them to design a religion-neutral calisthenics program, and have students do that instead of yoga in gym class.

If a child’s parents feel strongly that traditional spiritual yoga would be beneficial, they are free to enroll their child in the privately-run, privately-funded, after-school yoga program of their choice—much like Christian parents are free to enroll their children in their church’s Sunday School program.

Fair’s fair—no special rights for Christians or New Agers.

Fahrenheit 11/9

Because I’ve seen most of Moore’s movies, going back to Roger & Me, I made a point to see Fahrenheit 11/9 while it was still playing in the theatres.

Compared to his other movies, it’s more rambling and unfocused. Although its stated focus is Trump, it spends a significant fraction of its footage exploring the Flint water crisis. That’s not to say I don’t recommend it; its documenting of the various aspects of the Flint water crisis is alone enough reason to see the film. I had no idea the crisis was so bad, or the state government led by Rick Snyder was so complicit in the poisoning of an entire city.

The amount of time the film spends on Flint makes me suspect that Moore had initially been filming footage for a followup to Roger & Me and decided to shift gears after Trump’s unexpected victory. (Although Moore had been one of the few voices warning of such a possibility, it seems clear to me that he was still taken aback when it actually happened.)

One of the film’s weak points is its inconsistent portrayal of Donald Trump. It starts out with what I believe to be an accurate one: as a buffoon who basically stumbled his way into the presidency, aided by a monstrously incompetent opponent. But after the introduction, it tries to paint Trump in a more sinister and calculating light, focusing on the parallels between Trump and the Nazis. While I’ve done that myself (for good reason: there are parallels), it’s important not to lose sight of Trump’s incompetence.

Another inconsistency comes up when it comes to civil rights, a panicked public, and the all-too-often willingness to sacrifice essential liberty in the name of temporary safety. It mentions 9/11 and the Reichstag Fire. But the film also approvingly cites the movement to increase the governments’ power to disarm the public in response to well-publicized tragedies like the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School. The contradiction is particularly jarring right at the end of the film, which is accomplished via a series of vignettes recapitulating the main points the film made. The juxtaposition came off as more than a little ironic to me.

The film vaguely hints at more revolutionary politics a few times, talking about how “the whole damn system” is the problem. I wish it had gone into a bit more detail of that aspect, particularly how capitalist propaganda paves the way for fascist propaganda and sometimes a fascist state. (There’s just not that big a difference between the level of disregard for basic facts that it takes to convince the masses that the class hierarchy of bourgeois “democracy” is in their best interest, and what it takes to convince them that a fascist dictatorship is.)

It is important to realize that despite his left-of-center politics and his filmmaking skills, Michael Moore is still not in any real sense a revolutionary. As such, there are limits to the depth of any analysis and insight he has to offer. It’s questionable whether the capitalist system would allow a film with an eloquent revolutionary voice to be widely distributed. (It is, alas, even more questionable whether the present-day ghetto of inward-looking radical politics could even produce such a film.)

But I digress; so much for film’s weak points. In its favor, the film really does pull few punches when naming the guilty parties. The Democratic Party establishment gets a well-deserved roasting for its abandonment of the working class and its pandering to corporate interests. Hillary Clinton gets portrayed as the out-of-touch Establishment figure with shockingly poor judgment that the actually is. And, to reiterate, the film’s exposé about Flint is worth the price of admission alone.

Inverted Standards

The chattering classes are spending a fair amount of time on the story that Rosenstein might have considered encouraging Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

While that does put Rosenstein at risk of dismissal, it is important to note that legally this is nowhere near as bad as stealing papers from Trump’s desk. The 25th is a constitutionally-endorsed act of insubordination, designed to protect the country against a president incapable of performing his duties. By contrast, there’s nothing in the US Constitution about it being OK for staffers to hide presidential papers they don’t like.