Two Points on the G7 Summit

Published at 08:08 on 26 August 2019

Trump is Scared of the Fellow Class

The business class is now very frightened of an imminent recession, and they have been using their lobbying power to read the riot act to Trump and underscore their disfavor with his trade war. This is why he made an attempt at being more cooperative at the summit.

There is No Better Trump

Trump has made fleeting attempts at being presidential before. The key word here is fleeting. The attempts never last. Trump lacks the maturity and discipline to stifle his gut impulses. As such, he will go back to being a combative buffoon, and sooner rather than later.

Made It

Published at 18:17 on 25 August 2019

Well, I made it. By some miracle, all the transactions closed on time Friday. Today was moving day and it went uneventfully. Now for the unpacking, cleaning up, fixing up, and customization at the new place.

It’s been something of an emotionally costly experience. I think this is for several reasons:

  1. I’ve never done a “leap of faith” move like this. The closest was in 2012 when I moved to Seattle without a job on the line. But then, I was pretty sure I could find one in my field, sogtware development (and I did, because at that point I had not quite aged to the point of becoming virtually unemployable in that field). This time, I’m not even sure what I will do for income yet (though I have some ideas).
  2. I put more of myself into my previous home than at any other home I’ve ever had. In Portland, I had a lot of my vision implemented by others. That was fun, and the result was great, but this time I did the painting and drywall work myself, teaching myself how to do the latter. Plus, I did more gardening than I’ve done anywhere else I’ve lived. Leaving all that has been like leaving a bit of myself behind.
  3. I’m older, and there’s probably an older person’s desire for stability at play here, too.

Maybe the thing to do at this point is to simply have more faith in the future. Going into this move, I really doubted that I’d be able to do what I just did: move from one owned home directly to another, without having to make any intermediate stop in temporary rental housing.

E-Begging, or, Needs versus Wants

Published at 14:12 on 22 August 2019

It seems as if GoFundMe requests are proliferating in my social network.

Now, if the predominant motive behind such requests were genuine instances of needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, or health care, I’d find it upsetting because it serves as evidence the economy is failing increasingly more people.

Most requests, however, are not for needs; they are for wants, things like name changes, transatlantic plane fares, recreational vehicles (that are used recreationally and not as a primary residence) and whatnot. I find that upsetting because of the whiny attitude of self-centered entitlement it represents.

Sorry, e-beggars, your wants are your problem—not mine. Figure out how to fund them yourself. I believe people are entitled to the necessities of life, but I do not believe anyone is entitled to luxuries at my expense.

That’s particularly the case given that we’re in a world where so many people are lacking basic needs, and in one where I am myself a person of limited means who can’t dream of things like taking a transatlantic vacation. And, guess what? I don’t go begging to other people to fund such luxuries which are unaffordable to me.

If I once more become able to afford discretionary donations, rest assured I will be making such donations to those who need them, not those who merely want them. After all, every dollar I would donate to fund a mere want is a dollar I cannot donate to fund a geniune need.

The Outcome Will Be Escalation

Published at 18:05 on 15 August 2019

No matter how I look at it, I can’t foresee any positive outcome from the coming round of dueling demonstrations in Portland. The far right is going to come away from it all feeling even more bitter and aggrieved, and even more justified (in their own minds) in using violence.

If Portland Antifa obliges the right-wingers’ wish and attacks first, and/or attacks non-fascists (and they might, given that multiple instances of past behavior indicate the presence of hotheads in that group), then of course there will be more grievance.

But suppose the right-wingers attack first (which is at least as likely), then what? The same thing, of course. That they started it will be irrelevant; a narrative, supported by the right-wing media, contrary to the facts will be developed. The quality of any evidence will be irrelevant. Video footage, for example, can easily be selectively edited to make aggressors look like the attacked.

Perhaps the best possible outcome would be something which, like Charlottsville, clearly exhibits the violence and depravity of the poliical right, and thus serves to further alienate moderates from it and Trump. (Let’s hope it will not be as violent and deadly as Charlottsville.) But even in that case, the right will walk away feeling that they are the ones being wronged, and as a result escalate their rhetoric and tactics (see above).

This is, at best, the end of the beginning. In no way is it the beginning of the end.

China, Trump, and the Future

Published at 09:51 on 13 August 2019

Per this, a big crackdown may be imminent in Hong Kong. It would hardly be unprecedented. The Tienanmen Square protests ended up in a big, ugly, violent crackdown, too.

From the standpoint of the Chinese Communist Party, that crackdown worked: single-party rule was preserved. It would therefore be no surprise whatsoever if the Party viewed this as a lesson from history that a crackdown is called for now in Hong Kong.

If that happens, expect relations between China and the West to swirl down the toilet. Trump’s tariffs won’t be scaled back; they will likely prove in retrospect to be the vanguard of a range of sanctions applied to the Beijing regime. Given the level of globalization in society, that in turn will likely provoke a recession.

Assuming a recession, Trump will be blamed for it by a significant chunk of the electorate. Presidents always are, even if they typically don’t have much to do with the recession; the business cycle exists no matter which party occupies the Oval Office. (If it comes as a big surprise to you that Establishment politics is illogical, there’s this bridge they’re selling between Manhattan and Brooklyn that I can let you have a great deal on.)

The root cause of it all was our ruling elite’s idiotic, end-of-history belief that capitalism and markets were the wave of the future, and would inevitably foster democracy and pluralism (therefore the currently-despotic nature of the regime in Beijing didn’t much matter). This was approximately as idiotic as the belief of Leninists that a socialist revolution must inevitably produce freedom, therefore any dictatorial measures pursued to secure the revolution must inevitably prove transitory (therefore so-called “workers’ states” like the USSR and Cuba must be supported). Politics and idiocy have a long history, particularly when it comes to unquestioning true believers (be they believers in capitalism, believers in Marxism, or believers in something else).

Ironically, that end-of-history belief was part of the bipartisan consensus that Trump (who distrusts globalization of any sort) disrespected and promised to overturn. In other words, the thing that sinks Trump may well prove to be something that Trump had little to do with, and not any of the evils for which he actually is culpable.

More on Which Democrat

Published at 07:37 on 3 August 2019

Time to expound a bit more on some subjects raised in yesterday’s entry.

Odds Really Do Favor Biden

His lead is so significant that it’s going to be difficult (but not impossible) for someone else to overtake him. Maybe of one of either Warren or Sanders dropped out and threw their support to the other that would happen, but I don’t see either candidate doing so before the convention.

Odds Favor Warren as His Running Mate

Biden is weak when it comes to the progressive base, and the two progressive candidates together command approximately as large a chunk of the primary vote as Biden himself does. It would be extremely unwise for Biden to ignore that. Then again, Biden has done extremely unwise things multiple times during his political career (e.g. supporting the Iraq War).

But let’s be optimistic and assume he knows better. That means picking a progressive standard-bearer, either Sanders or Warren, as his running mate. And it’s not going to be Sanders, whose independent, anti-Establishment streak annoys Establishment Democrats almost as much as Trump himself does.

On top of that, Warren is a woman, so choosing her lets the Democrats tick off an identity-politics feel-good box (and doing so may well help them appeal to female voters in key suburban swing districts).

It Will Be Necessary to Save Establishment Democrats from Their Own Incompetence

Having Warren stump for him in the general election will certainly be a help, but Biden will still be a weak candidate that fails to energize the base sufficiently. This is where Michael Moore’s “Operation Orange Crush” comes in. Running progressive ballot measures on popular issues in key swing states will energize the base, who will then tend to say “Well, what the hey, since I’m here to vote for {legal pot, a $15 minimum wage, etc.} anyhow I might as well cast a vote for Sleepy Joe, too.”

This Will Conveniently Save the Progressives from Their Own Incompetence

Biden, not Warren, will be at the top of the ballot, so the Democratic candidate won’t be campaigning for something stupid and unpopular like abolishing all private health insurance. The progressive issues being campaigned for will be the initiative campaigns on issues that actually do have popular support.

Biden Will Still Be a Hot Mess

The optimistic scenario has him kicking Trump out of office. Let’s assume that happens. It still means a Democratic Party led by Joe Biden, laboring under delusions about a bipartisanship that died long ago. Biden will continually be begging Republicans to love him, and will continually be frustrated when they don’t.

That preoccupation with foolish pandering will stop Biden from being able to do anything serious about the problems that created Trump in the first place. The GOP will remain as fascistic and Trumpy as ever, and be well-poised to make big gains when the business cycle does its inevitable thing and Biden gets blamed for it.

Don’t Harbor Delusions

It’s still the bourgeois state. It still leans strongly to the political right. It’s still biased to going fascist at times. This is still one of those times. The best we can hope for from electoral politics is a temporary reprieve. Any lasting solution will have to come from more grassroots organizing.

Which Democrat?

Published at 13:37 on 2 August 2019

If the primary were being held today, with the candidates polling like they are today, I would probably vote for Sanders. This would not be because I believe him to be a viable candidate, but because I believe him to be the most viable counterpoint to the most likely candidate (Biden).

On the subject of Biden, he has proved to be surprisingly resilient in spite of the damage Harris did to him in the June debates. I’m also sure he’s likely to be a Hillary-esque disaster, and if not that, a highly ineffectual president.

He’s just the sort of candidate Hillary was: a “safe” and “responsible” moderate choice who will turn off a chunk of the more progressive Democratic base while at the same time failing to enthuse enough crossover voters to win. If, despite that, he wins, the Republicans will make mincemeat of him once he’s in office, because he harbors laughably naïve delusions about bipartisanship being possible. Sorry, Joe, that era is dead. Republicans will absolutely despise you, and there is nothing you can do to change that.

Buttigieg gets it. As he said in the debate:

It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say. If we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists.

Buttigieg is still a moderate, not a progressive. But at least he’s far less deluded about the nature of the current situation than Biden (who seems to be living in the past) is. To some degree, he also realizes the old political center is dead (check out his plans for restructuring the Supreme Court). Alas, he’s not even polling at 10% right now, which means odds are he’s an also-ran. O’Rourke, Booker, Yang, Gabbard, Delaney, etc. basically are also-rans, and as such should be seriously considering leaving the stage.

On the subject of naïveté, we have both Sanders and Warren (and to a lesser degree Harris) going full steam ahead on single-payer health care despite the enormous pitfall of the unpopularity of making private insurance illegal, and the enormous stupidity of advocating the centralizing of something in the Federal executive branch while we’re simultaneously living a real-life example of the dangers of doing precisely that.

Anyhow, back to the subject of also-rans and viable candidates. Absent some unforeseen development, the Democratic Party nominee is going to be (in order of decreasing likelihood) Biden, Sanders, Warren, or Harris. Note that Biden currently has a huge lead, almost twice as much support as the next most popular candidate (Sanders). Therefore, odds are the nominee is probably going to be Biden.

Given that Mr. Establishment is the likely candidate, I would want Mr. Anti-Establishment, the outsider-ist candidate who isn’t an also-ran, to have as much influence as possible, to force Mr. Establishment to do a measure of triangulating to the left. That anti-Establishment candidate is clearly Sanders; he’s not even formally a member of the party under whose banner he’s running!

Of course, this is all a hypothetical. The primary is not being held today, and when it is being held, the candidates will doubtless be polling differently than they are today.