The Most Logical Explanation

Published at 07:29 on 11 August 2022

Hubris: Trump deliberately chose not to return all the documents he stole simply because he thought he could get away with it. And he did get away with it… until his hubris got to the point where he started boasting about getting away with it. Then someone who learned about this (directly or indirectly) due to the boasting chose to squeal, quite likely because the stool pigeon was himself under a cloud and cut a deal to lighten his or her likely punishment.

Given his hubris, it is conceivable that Trump allowed multiple individuals to see examples of the deliberately retained documents. This allowed the tattle-tale to be explicit and specific. This in turn allowed the authorities to verify that indeed, those particular documents were missing. Affidavits from both were then presented to a magistrate who promptly signed off on a search warrant.

This is all vintage Trump, and it does not require much speculation on anything more sinister. On the latter, I am reluctant to do that. We have seen, time and time again, anti-Trump sources being “certain” that serious dirt was about to doom Trump… only to be disappointed when it turns out that while the truth is on the sordid side, it is far less lurid than speculated.

So no, I am not at this stage expecting any of the stolen documents to contain any big bombshells.

The Worst Take of All

Published at 20:16 on 9 August 2022

“This is unwise. It will just provoke them.”

Really, now. That is what some voices are saying.

First off, this didn’t start with Trump. Trump certainly represented taking it to a whole new level, but the sickness was evident at least 20 years ago, when another president lied his way into a war and then ignored both domestic and international law and ordered suspects be tortured during interrogation. A series of crimes for which there was very little, if any, accountability.

And that happened, mind you, only after decades of the most milquetoast “opposition” to right-wing politics by the Democratic Party.

Which itself happened after another criminal Republican president got off scot-free for his crimes when his handpicked Republican successor pardoned him.

So can we shut up already about the positively moronic claim that there is nothing that can be done about the increasing lawlessness and fascism of the American Right other than continued appeasement? Get it straight: just about all that has been done is appease, appease, appease and it has not pacified them one bit.

No, the lesson has been that you can get away with it (and hey, why not push the envelope a little further and see if you can get away with even more).

Of course there is a risk of more political violence. The rub is, just about everything indicates that flinching from that risk won’t ultimately avoid violence, any more than the appeasement of Hitler in 1938 avoided a war with Hitler.

There is no safe option. The situation in the USA has been allowed to degrade literally for decades, and the payments on this backsliding are now coming due with compound interest. All that remains are various sorts of dangerous options. Making a firm stand against fascism is in fact the best and least dangerous option.

The Odds of Accountability Just Went Up

Published at 19:23 on 8 August 2022

Way up, in fact. When I wrote this, the odds of Trump being prosecuted were about 60%. I would say they are now more like 80–85%, possibly even higher.

Searching a former president’s residence is a very high-profile thing. It is, so far as I know, unprecedented. This means that the disgusting precedent of considering presidents above the law is apparently now at long last dead.

The FBI and Department of Justice would not do such a thing unless they were very sure they were likely to acquire something good and incriminating in the search. Like it or not, the bar on getting this approved was almost certainly significantly higher than if you or I were accused of stealing classified government papers.

As such, the odds are high they did find some really good dirt on Trump today. Which in turn makes for high odds that charges and a prosecution are in the cards.

Walls Finally Closing in on Trump?

Published at 08:41 on 4 August 2022

I don’t have time at the moment to list all the reasons (this is a big part of it), but it really seems as if they might finally be. I still do not have much respect for the generally rotten state of American political culture, but I would estimate that right now signals indicate that odds are slightly in favour of Trump and his top cronies in fascism getting prosecuted.

For liberty and an open society to survive in the USA, the above must happen. It is a “this town isn’t big enough for the both of us” situation: either fascism will crush democracy, or democracy will crush fascism.

And yes, this is advocating for using the power of the State to crush a political movement. And yes, that is an incredibly dangerous thing to advocate for. The USA is in an incredibly dangerous position. Safety is simply not an immediate option. Refraining from crushing the fascists will not preserve liberty; it will merely make it inevitable that the fascists will crush democracy.

The means exist: the fascists broke a large number of existing laws in their effort to remain in power despite losing an election. Enforce those laws and you crush the fascist movement. All that needs to be done is to abandon the disgusting precedent that those high up enough in power ought to be exempt from the laws that apply to everybody else.

Trump and his cronies should get their day in court. They should be allowed to go after prosecutorial misconduct. They should be allowed to argue for their innocence. If convicted and sentenced, they should be entitled to standards of humane treatment, and should be allowed to file lawsuits against the state if those standards are violated.

Under the current rules of the game, they will be. If the fascists are not crushed and are allowed to gain power, they will extend none of these niceties to those whom they crush.

It is them or us. Crush them. It may be indelicate to say it, but it really is that simple.

Azov Brigade Terrorist Determination

Published at 07:10 on 2 August 2022

So Russia has determined that the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment is a terrorist group. Two comments:

  1. Knowing the nature of the regiment, it is hard to feel all that sorry about this.
  2. Those upset about the precedent this establishes for the treatment of prisoners of war need to realize that the horses left this particular barn over twenty years ago. Specifically, they left it the moment the USA declared those captured in Afghanistan would be neither prisoners of war (with Geneva Convention rights), nor normal criminals (with rights under the US Constitution).

So, Trump is Being Investigated

Published at 23:04 on 26 July 2022

That’s good news.

It is also not the end of the story. Odds still disfavour Trump being prosecuted. The disgusting deference of the American political system to the powerful is still intact. It is going to take a lot to change it. Maybe this will be the start of that change. I hope it will. But it is hardly certain.

The Expected Happens

Published at 09:44 on 25 June 2022

Nothing happened yesterday that wasn’t expected to happen this month. As to what happens in response, it pays to revisit something I posted here last month.

But so much for the response. Let us now consider the follow-ups the Right is planning:

  • Banning same-sex marriage (source).
  • Banning contraception (ibid.).
  • Re-criminalizing homosexuality (ibid.).
  • Re-federalizing abortion policy, in order to ban it nationwide (source).

Because, really now, why wouldn’t they? They have (or are likely to have) the power, and the Left is across the board to incompetent too stop them, despite having a majority behind us on all three issues. Politics is about pursuing power to get what you want, and presently every last little bit of evidence points to the Right having the ability to successfully pursue that power.

Don’t like it? Learn to act more strategically and forcefully.

The Difference in the Situation

Published at 21:26 on 20 June 2022

There are two differences, one in favour of the West, and one in favour of Russia.

The difference in favour of the West is that Russia is not the USSR of old: it may be a nuclear power, but it is not a superpower. Russia is a huge country, but its economy is smaller than Italy’s… and that was before the sanctions imposed on it in response to the Ukraine invasion.

The difference in favour of Russia is that the USA is not the USA of old: it is still a superpower, but it is one in a process of accelerating decline, and teetering on the verge of a transition to a fascist regime with a Russia-friendly government.

I would be very surprised if Putin has not figured that latter point into his current strategy. More than likely, he his hoping to tread water in that war until the USA completes that transition and the alliance against the Putin regime collapses.

This also means that the long-term prognosis for Russia in this conflict nowhere near as obviously bleak as the Establishment pundits agree it is.

The Tide Turns in Russia’s Favour

Published at 07:02 on 18 June 2022

It’s pretty clear from the stories that Russia is now making territorial gains. This is not a surprise; revisit what I wrote as the conflict was just getting underway:

Finally, another warning: the tide can turn. Odds are, in fact, tilted towards things not always coming out as much in Ukraine’s favour as they have been so far. Remember the part above about Russia doing badly? No nation deliberately tries to do badly. The Russian forces are at this moment certainly trying to correct their mistakes. Not all of these measures will fail. Therefore, Russia is all but sure to, at least at times, start faring at least somewhat better than they have so far. Virtually every conflict has its advances and retreats; no side is immune to setbacks or missteps.

Russia is making gains. Slow, incremental, ones but gains nonetheless. This is largely due to Russia shifting its strategy to the one that was always clearly the most practical one.

But again, the battle is not the war. Russian forces have already been badly degraded by Russia’s earlier pursuit of foolish and unrealistic strategies, and this damage cannot easily be undone. Staying the course means the long term outlook is of Ukraine likely prevailing. Even in the best analysis, this thing is likely to be long and painful.

Finally there is a major difference between the situation of the West in the present time and the situation of it during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. More on that later.

Questions About Lasqueti Island

Published at 22:31 on 30 May 2022

I just got back from a (quickie, not nearly enough time) trip there, and it begs a number of questions. Namely is it a paradise or a Potemkin village, a model or a cop-out?

On one hand, the general vibe there is amazing, even if the place is more developed and technologically-impacted than I had imagined. Yes, there are more cars and roads (which, although almost entirely unpaved, are wider and better-travelled by motor vehicles than I had imagined), but it is still a beautiful place with an amazing aesthetic.

On the other hand, there is basically nothing definitive to rule it out being Santa Cruz North. (The latter is a small coastal city just south of San Francisco that has huge pretensions about being some sort of alternative and model for the rest of the country, but the reality beneath the veneer is that most of the worst dysfunctions of American life remain, in spades, and are largely not being challenged by its residents. The overall pattern is more of escapism and self-delusion than of an alternate model.)

There are, in fact, some worrying signs, first and foremost amongst them the growing proliferation (the structures are mostly new) of “snob gates” — very fancy gates across driveways on the main road, gates that do far more than just demarcate a private road to a private home. These are gates that literally scream “You may not be able to see my fancy house, but you better believe I have one behind those trees. Look and me and give my owner the social status his money entitles him to!”

The reaction of the one Lasquetian I pointed the gates out to on the ferry ride back was also troubling. He seemed taken aback about my very use of the term “snob gate;” it all gave me the distinct feeling I had committed a faux pas by traducing his blessed island. He evidently could not perceive the troubling trend.

The choice to use the term accidental Eden in the book I read while staying there (plus the largely self-congratulatory close to that book) could also be troubling. It all mirrors a lot of how Santa Cruz residents see themselves.

As one of my travel partners pointed out, it’s also all White people there. At least, all the people we saw were White.

Ultimately “back to the land” can be a sell-out. It can legitimize using one’s racial and class privileges to disengage from a world that desperately needs engaging (and changing). It is not enough to merely “live by example” (and what sort of example does an almost total lack of racial diversity say)?

Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about building hippie havens… if they are somehow used as a base with which to engage the world. This can, at its simplest, be merely to function as a refuge from that wider world where those in need of such can recuperate and repair. But the danger of refuges is that they can very easily lead to escapism.

So far, however, the jury is out. To reiterate, it was a quickie trip. There just wasn’t enough time to do the sort of investigating to see which attitudes and trends predominate.