What’s Going On

Published at 14:27 on 31 January 2017

The Trump Regime is Not Stupid or Incompetent

Please, let’s stop saying this. It makes no sense. Worse, one of the most serious mistakes you can make in any struggle is to underestimate your opponent.

For openers, Trump ran an astoundingly successful campaign (winning despite spending less on his campaign than his opponents and despite having a mostly hostile mass media). Was it chaotic? Yes. Was it divisive and highly offensive to many people? Yes again. But all that’s irrelevant for the purpose of judging campaign success. The purpose of a campaign is to win an election, and in that Trump succeeded.

Moreover, very little he has done since gaining office is stupid or incompetent, either. Take the controversial “Muslim ban” executive order, for example. It is not a bug that it was needlessly cruel or chaotic. It is a feature. The order was designed in no small part to illustrate that the Trump Regime is willing to be as cruel as possible to those it demonizes, and as powerful as possible in doing so. It also served to demonstrate the willingness of at least some ICE agents to ignore the court order, at least initially. Expect those agents to be rewarded and promoted.

Yes, it is accurate to refer to it as a “Muslim ban” order. The order was intended to be as close to an actual Muslim ban as its authors believed could pass Constitutional muster.

Steve Bannon is the Real Brains of the Regime

Any lingering doubts about that should have been cleared up by the recent elevation of Bannon to the National Security Council and the demotion of the Joint Chief of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. Steve Bannon is widely acknowledged to be the author of the “Muslim ban” executive order.

Steve Bannon is a Fascist

Bannon is on record as saying his Breitbart website is “the platform for the alt-right.” By any objective measure the so-called alt-right is a fascist movement, advocating racism, authoritarianism, and nationalism, and being hostile to democracy and equality.

When a person spreads a political point of view, the logical conclusion is that person is doing so to advocate that point of view. Those who advocate fascism are known as fascists.

Therefore the Trump Regime is a Fascist Regime

At this point, it becomes axiomatic. A regime run by a fascist adhering to fascist principles is by definition a fascist regime.

The fascist nature of the Trump regime explains the lack of mention of Jews in the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the fact that the White House chose that day itself to issue the “Muslim ban” order, and the thinly-veiled antisemitism in Trump’s own campaign.

We Have Our Own Article 48

Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution was the path to Hitler making himself dictator and ruling by decree. It was unnecessary for Hitler to repeal Germany’s democratic constitution in order to become a dictator; everything Hitler did was legal and according to the letter of the law. It is often assumed that the US Constitution has no comparable weakness and thus the risk of a fascist dictatorship is significantly less here than it was in Germany. Not so.

Our Article 48 is the presidential pardon power. The president can order his subordinates to break the law and then pardon them if they are caught. In fact, this is already being planned; Newt Gingrich has advocated the pardon power be used as such.

The Right to Free Speech is Already Starting to Be Repealed

Trump filed for reelection the day he was inaugurated. That means the 2020 presidential campaign is already technically underway. Nonprofit organizations are forbidden from advocating for or against political candidates during campaigns, therefore it is now technically illegal for any nonprofit to criticize Trump, and Federal election law can (and doubtless will) be used to persecute such organizations.

Trump is Probably Planning His Gestapo

Any totalitarian government needs a secret police force that operates completely or mostly above the law. Trump is planning to do this by tripling the number of ICE agents. It is little known, but ICE agents are exempt from the normal rules against search and seizure, and most of the country’s population, and in particular most of the left-leaning population, already lies within zones where ICE is authorized to operate.

Worse, ICE already has an established reputation of ignoring those limits and operating outside that area. It also bears pointing out that the ICE is one of the most rabidly pro-Trump parts of the civil service, and thus will be willing to go beyond the letter the law that grants them their already excessively broad powers. Finally, pardons can be used to get those ICE who do get prosecuted out of jail free.

Initially the repression will be targeted against people who appear to be Mexican or Muslim, but it could be easily extended to just about anyone. They couldn’t easily jail people indefinitely, but lower-level harassment by detaining opponents for a number of days while their “eligibility to be in the country is investigated” would certainly be possible. Note that this could cause people to be dismissed from their jobs for reason of excessive absence.

Lies, Lies, Lies

It’s well-known that Trump tells lies. A lot. But he doesn’t do so because he’s stupid or inept. All his lies serve very deliberate and intentional purposes.

Some lies are told for the pure purpose of exerting control over both his opposition (who are manipulated into a perpetual state of hyperventilating over Trump’s dishonesty) and his followers (who are manipulated into believing anything their Dear Leader says, no matter how obviously false). Trump’s lies about the size of the crowds at his inauguration fit into this category.

Trump is Probably Planning to Undermine Elections

Some lies also have deeper, more sinister purposes beyond the above. His lie about winning the popular vote despite election results to the contrary (because so many undocumented aliens voted) falls into this category. Obviously, that lie is also calculated to whip up xenophobia. But it also carries a logical implication: if it is true, then the inescapable conclusion is that the election process in certain states (conveniently, ones with Democratic majorities) is corrupt and in need of being cleaned up.

I believe Trump plans to twist Civil Rights laws intended to ensure minorities have the right to vote to the purpose of ensuring that the minority (and in some cases, even the white Democratic) vote is suppressed.

Trump’s Achilles Heel: Hubris

Trump is on the far right, but ironically his greatest weakness is one that has historically plagued authoritarian leftists: an excessive belief in the power of government coercion to achieve desired aims.

Consider how he has already placed the USA and Mexico on the brink of a trade war because he actually believes he can make Mexico agree to pay for the border wall. Trump and Bannon are acutely aware of how patriotism and nationalism can be used to their advantage, but utterly unaware of how the vast majority of those in every country have a similar sense of national dignity.

Mexico won’t agree to pay for the wall even if such a refusal prompts US sanctions that hurt the Mexican economy more than just paying for the wall will. When this happens, the Mexicans will tend to support their leadership for opposing Yankee aggression and defending their national dignity, blaming the crisis 100% on the USA. The resulting economic hardship will then prompt an increase in the number of Mexicans attempting to cross the border illegally.

The sanctions are likely to take the form of tariffs. Though Mexico will be hurt by these, it will be impossible for the cost of these to be borne solely on the Mexican side; they will inevitably disrupt supply chains and impose higher costs on US businesses and consumers.

Trump’s rule is likely, therefore, to evoke a pattern familiar to anyone who has studied Venezuela under Hugo Chavez: do something ham-fisted and authoritarian, have it predictably blow up as the Law of Unintended Consequences manifests, and then double down on the ham-fisted authoritarianism. Rinse, lather, repeat.

The good thing about this is it will end up hurting practically everyone, big capitalists included, the Rust Belt working class included. This will in turn motivate opposition to Trump. Venezuela had a huge underclass which formed Chavez’s base. Part of the reason his regime lasted so long was that Venezuelan society was so unequal that even though his policies were making the economy overall poorer, his base overall tended to be better off as a result of the new programs Chavez created. Trump will not enjoy this degree of long-term immunity to the overall harm he causes.

A Reichstag Fire is Inevitable unless Trump is Stopped

All available external evidence indicates Trump’s disdain for the intelligence community continues. So doubtless significant intelligence about terrorist threats is or will be ignored. Moreover, the Muslim ban order has served alienate Muslims worldwide, and the fight against terrorism requires the cooperation of allies in Muslim-majority areas of the world. It’s not for nothing that an unprecedented number of retired national security officials opposed Trump.

Therefore an increase in terrorism is all but inevitable. Expect the reaction to be as hysterical and draconian as possible. It is likely that basic civil liberties will be restricted in response if Trump is at the helm.

We’re in a Race Condition

Where we are now is basically a race condition between the various types of damage done by the regime’s hubris. If the damage that cannot be easily spun into rationales to impose a dictatorship dominates, it will be possible to limit the overall damage Trump does. Otherwise, a truly horrifying future awaits.

What’s important at this time is to oppose and undermine as much as possible while we still can do so at relatively low personal risk, while at the same time preparing ourselves for the worst-case scenario.

So, Here’s the Story, Democrats

Published at 23:31 on 23 January 2017

Today Trump tore up the TPP, a piece of capitalist trash I’ve long wanted to see suffer precisely this fate. And I’m hardly alone on this. I’m way out there (with respect to the norm) generally but most Americans share my disbelief in corporate globalization.

Hillary claimed to oppose the TPP, too, of course. But here’s the crux of the matter: she did so only after pushed to by Bernie. Frankly, she was never quite believable in her promise. She’s a lifelong free-trader. I honestly can’t say that I’d trust her to have done what Trump just did.

And I’m saying this as a left anarchist who fucking hates Trump and the horse he rode in on.

In light of all that, can you see why your party lost so humiliatingly last November, Democrats?

And remember, you don’t have to give up on any of your core principles. Good old fashioned left-liberalism of the sort LBJ pushed and Slick Willie turned his back on will do the trick. I’m a queer feminist, but I will be upset not in the least bit if you add a nice big helping of class consciousness to your identity politics. In fact, I’ll love it.

That assumes left-liberalism is still more of a core principle in your party than craven centrist triangulation, of course. So, is it?

So, Where Do We Stand?

Published at 23:56 on 22 January 2017

Some points:

  1. The marches had only a very limited effect, which will soon dissipate. We must understand this. Yes, it is worthy to celebrate their large size. Yes, they helped delegitimatize Trump. But they’re just a blip in time. They must be merely the opening battle of a prolonged struggle.
  2. Trump is still Trump. He still believes — fervently — that he is the greatest man on Earth and the greatest president ever, and has surrounded himself with sycophants who indulge him in this belief. Therefore the marches can be expected to have very little effect on Trump himself, beyond provoking him into a display of pettyness about them.
  3. Conservatives are still conservatives. They are still following, by and large, their historical role of being fascism’s enablers. The honorable dissidents amongst them, such as Evan McMullin, are still in the minority.
  4. The Democratic Party is still the Democratic Party. It is still infested with the craven political triangulators who coronated Hillary and thereby paved the way for Trump. On the other hand, it also remains, like it or not, the only opposition there is in the halls of government.
  5. The US political system remains. Its checks and balances, a mix of genuine attempts to prevent tyranny and cynical attempts to preserve white male supremacy, have still failed to prevent a tyrant from being elected.

Given the above:

  1. It’s a total waste of time to work on convincing Trump of anything. Don’t convince, oppose and taunt. He’s thin-skinned. He’ll continue acting childish and demonstrating his unfitness for office.
  2. It can be good to particularly carp on basic Constitutional stuff like the Emoluments Clause. If this is done enough, and Trump’s already-low popularity tanks, it might start making enough conservatives realize that they need to abandon this sinking ship.
  3. Push the Democrats hard to stand firm, like the Tea Partiers did for the Republicans against Obama.
  4. But don’t be limited to electoral politics. The system has demonstrated its failure. This can itself be a liberating thing for those who oppose Trump: the legality of his victory becomes irrelevant once one considers the system’s legitimacy irrelevant. Groups like the Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition are trying to come up with ways to build a new society in the shell of the old. Support them.

Today’s Womxn’s March

Published at 21:41 on 21 January 2017

The ferry was abnormally crowded for a Saturday morning today. Pink cat hats and protest signs were in evidence. This was despite it being the “late” boat that was sure to miss the start of the rally at Judkins Park. I had ridden my bike on the boat so as to compress time on the Seattle end and help make up for my tardiness.

It turns out not to have mattered. Throngs were walking along the sidewalks of Jackson Street on the way to the park. The sidewalks grew ever more crowded as each side street contributed its share of pedestrians. Eventually the sidewalks spilled over and the pedestrians took half the street. At that point, I parked my bike and started walking. This was a good half-mile from the park.

Soon the pedestrian traffic grew to the point where it took the whole street. This wasn’t the protest march, mind you, it was merely the pedestrian traffic heading to the pre-march rally. Three blocks from the park, everything stopped. The park was full and had the crowd had spilled out into the neighborhood street grid. I never got closer to the park for the opening rally.

Eventually, very slowly, the crowd started moving in fits and starts. There were big pauses as side-streets disgorged their share of marchers onto the main route. Cheers were passed in waves that bounced back and forth along the route. Turnout had exceeded all expectations (at least 130,000) and head of the march reached the end before the tail had started.

I spent nearly two hours waiting for the end to reach Seattle Center. There had apparently been speakers scheduled at Seattle Center but they were cancelled because the crowd was too big for the venue. It’s the largest political protest march in Seattle history, and Seattle is not alone in having vastly higher than expected turnouts.

The question is, will the energy and outrage hold. If it does, there is real hope.

Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Ensure Eight Full Years of Trump

Published at 22:08 on 19 January 2017

This document has been circulating quite a bit in liberal circles since the election.

While the Tea Party tactics did eventually succeed, it’s worth pointing out that it took eight years for them to do so. Do we want an eight-year Trump presidency? Really?

No, I’m not saying it’s bereft of any useful information on tactics, only that following it faithfully might lead to truly disastrous results.

Remember the 9/11 Conspiracy Kooks?

Published at 12:30 on 19 January 2017

Remember their claims that a building couldn’t just collapse from heat weakening structural members and therefore it had to be a controlled demolition? Remember the claim it hadn’t happened elsewhere, ever?

Well, now it has.

What Should I, Personally, Do about Trump?

Published at 08:43 on 8 January 2017

It’s something I’ve been pondering ever since the results of the election last November. Not whether or not to be part of the resistance, of course: it’s a given that I will be part of it. But how (and more importantly how much, particularly initially) to be part of it is still an issue.

It’s a given that I shouldn’t simply cling to my class privilege and let that compromise my activism. In turn that means I must be willing to risk my home and my material possessions. When I decided to try giving being more settled one last try, it was always on the basis of giving it up and bailing if it didn’t work out. I never anticipated it not working out in this particular way, but the nature of the future is that you cannot always anticipate it. Unexpected turns of events happen.

But, as with many things, it’s not so simple. Let’s play with Establishment economics a bit; it’s still very relevant, considering we still have an Establishment economic system.

It’s possible Trump will start a trade war. Some talk as if its a certainty. I disagree; the capitalist class has a lot of influence in Washington, DC, and a trade war would be bad for business. But it’s definitely a possibility: the capitalist class has gambled — incorrectly — that it can control a fascist more than once, only to later regret its mistake.

If a trade war happens, stagflation is the likely result. That’s because free trade has been the modus operandi for three decades or so, with the result (as Trump keeps correctly pointing out) that US manufacturing jobs have been decimated. Most of those factories closed a decade or more ago. The machinery has been removed and shipped abroad and the buildings have fallen into ruins. It’s called the Rust Belt for a reason.

The result is that at present there simply is not enough domestic manufacturing capacity to supply anything near the domestic demand for manufactured items. If tariffs increase the cost of imported goods buy 25%, 33%, or more, it simply won’t be possible to dodge them by shifting to now-cheaper domestically-made goods. In fact, the few remaining domestic manufacturers will now earn super-profits, because the tariffs will raise the market value of their goods to the price of the tariffed imported ones.

Those super-profits will attract investment in expanding domestic manufacturing, of course, but such expansion cannot happen immediately. It takes time to plan and build a factory. Moreover, building a factory takes extensive amounts of manufactured goods to accomplish (and remember, the trade war has just increased the price of those).

So a trade war will cause a series of price shocks for manufactured goods to hit the economy, much like OPEC caused a series of price shocks for energy to hit the economy in the 1970’s. The result will be the same: stagflation.

That will cause many people to suffer, as prices increase and economic opportunity declines. Hanging on to my home will serve me as a hedge against inflation (and a very effective one, since it’s a leveraged purchase). That will leave me better equipped to financially back the resistance. Moreover, I have room to host a roommate, and can use that space to host a fellow member of the resistance at a below-market rent.

So the correct course to take is at this time unclear. Maybe there will be a trade war, maybe there won’t be. Even if there is, maybe the resistance will most need my help in ways other than financial and housing.

It’s also quite likely that Trump will be impeached and not serve out his full term. Many observers have already predicted this, including both Allan Lichtman and Michael Moore, both of whom correctly foresaw that a Trump win was either likely or possible. In that case, the struggle will be transformed into a far more mundane one of opposition to a more traditionally conservative administration.

All I can say is, at this stage, it is not the time to make any rash decisions with my life. I suspect the correct course to take will manifest itself within six to twelve months.

Beware the Fog of War

Published at 08:40 on 6 January 2017

I believe Glenn Greenwald errs on the side of dismissing Russian influence in American politics (more about that below), but he does have a point about the “Russia hacked our electric grid” story.

Basically, Russia didn’t “hack the grid.” The hacked computer was a laptop that played no role in controlling the electric grid. Hacking an electric utility is not the same thing as hacking the electric grid.

The reason I believe Russia is significantly involved is not simply that the US intelligence community asserts so, but that it makes larger sense in the context of many observable unclassified facts.

By contrast, the claims of the Bush regime about Iraq being a threat were not believable in the context of observable unclassified facts:

  • The intelligence community actually disagreed with many of the things Bush was saying publicly. Whistleblowers such as Joseph Wilson, and scandals like the regime’s retaliation against his wife resulted.
  • UN weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter and Hans Blix disagreed that Iraq was stockpiling WMD.
  • Saddam Hussein was a secular nationalist and Islamists such as Al Qaeda were his ideological enemies. There was no reason to believe Iraq had any connection whatsoever with the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, sometimes the intelligence community lies at the behest of the White House. But sometimes it tells the truth. Sometimes it lies but the lie is minor and doesn’t discredit a larger truth. We do not live in a simplistic melodrama world where institutions are either lying evildoers or truthful protagonists. This applies to the Russian government as much as it does to the US intelligence community.

In this case, the thesis that the intelligence community is generally being accurate and truthful is the one that is more consistent with observable reality. Moreover, the thesis that Russia did not hack the grid agrees with observable reality far more than the claim that it did.

Dry-Erase Markers and Central Heating

Published at 16:09 on 5 January 2017

The fomer requires the latter to work properly. If a room is colder than about 60 °F (15.5 °C) dry erase markers cease to dry-erase so easily.

Since my home doesn’t have central heating (it has individual space heaters in each room), and I’ve been trying to live like the British used to prior to the 1970s (typically heat the main room in the home only), my home office is typically around 50 °F (10 °C) in the mornings (yes, British houses used to get colder than that in the old days during cold spells, but my place is of fairly recent construction and is thus well-insulated).

Why do that? First, it saves money. It also promotes comfort while outdoors, since the temperature difference is not so great. Most importantly, it reduces my ecological impact. And no, it’s not any great amount of suffering. Cold is why blankets and layers exist. Plus, the propane heater in my living room kicks out a fair amount of radiant heat, so if I’m on the couch in front if it, I can feel plenty warm even if the room is on the chilly side.

Cloud from Fraser Outflow Upslope Wind

Published at 16:31 on 3 January 2017


Cloud formed by cold outflow winds from the Fraser Canyon.

Something told me that I should go to the Grand Forest Hilltop and look at the Olympics this afternoon. I didn’t expect to see this cloud formation, but when I saw it it was no mystery why it is there, while the rest of the sky is cloudless under dry high pressure.

Were having cold outflow winds this week. As the dry interior air from the BC interior exits the Fraser Valley and crosses the Salish Sea, it picks up moisture from the relatively warm (about 50 °F) salt water. When that wind hits the Olympic Mountains, some of it is forced to rise and cool, causing the moisture to condense and form that cloud. Sometimes the effect is profound enough to cause an area of snow to fall on that region.