Thursday, September 28, 2017

Republican Civil War, Let's Get it On

As we shoe-gaze over the embarrassment of the pretender to the Presidency's twitterpations, America is teetering on the brink of calamity spawned by an ineffectual majority party. Congress has until December to pass a tax reform bill that will give Wall Street enough of a lift to overcome the downdraft of Fed tightening. A promise of relief in next year's tax provisions could provide the positive sentiment to keep us airborne long enough to provide a not-so-hard landing. The GOP, however, shows itself to be so aggrieved over its supposed leader that passing major legislation is unlikely, if only for their perverse pleasure in turning popular opinion further against the cheat executive. leading to his eventual impeachment.

Trumpeting a call to arms by his basest base, the disappointed dictator could then incite uprisings by Trumpists across the country, making articles of impeachment too parlous at this point (Rep. Al Green's (D - Tex.) righteous bid notwithstanding). Yet, as Old Blowhard's popularity shrivels with each legislative loss, continued Republican fecklessness could lower the potential of such civil war until they decide to lower the boom on the tyrant. To risk a recession by failing to pass a tax bill favoring the middle class, however, also raises the risk of civil war - a class war, rather than the race war that would come about by a premature move to Dump Trump.

War actually looks likely on several fronts (Korea, Iran, America) and Fourth Turning adherents are already expecting it. It is tempting to say that, based on the secular cycles of American history, war is inevitable in the next 5 years. To be ready, true Americans should try to identify public enemy #1 and be prepared to fight them (should it come to that) rather than expend too much blood and treasure on campaigns against #2 or #3. IMHO, our major problem isn't with fascists on the other side of the world, it is with fascism at home. We are too strong militarily to worry about nuclear attacks from anyone. The biggest near-term threat we face is fascist Trumpists who would make us more of an aggressor reich.

To avoid that calamity, the best scenario could be a bloodless civil war fought among members of the Republican party, which appears to be starting already. When the next national elections are held, a fractured Republican party could provide an opening for an upstart party like the Greens to turn this country on its head. All the better if a bloodless coup occurs in the meantime.
by Chris Goodwin

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Czar Gazing

Democracy, as a way to govern nation-states, is on the decline. With the help of Russia, politically four centuries behind the West, the U.S. could be headed for czarist rule. The Russian word czar comes from "caesar" and was the title first assumed by Ivan the Awesome (or the more popular pejorative, "the Terrible").

If our political regression stays in step with our fall back through the growth of civilization to agrarianism, we could see an autocrat in power in a decade or so. Czar Barron has a certain ring to it.
Czar Donald sounds cartoonish, but since we don't execute traitors anymore, Junior may be first in line to inherit the throne after the patriarch croaks. He might want to change that to "The Don" to give it more of a fear factor and to divert attention from the history of his ascent at the behest of Russian propagandists. Oh, wait... the Don is a Russian river.

Aww. Who cares what people think? Junior might be found guilty of conspiring with a foreign government to influence our elections, but Old Blowhard will surely pardon him as soon as Congress shows no capacity to invoke impeachment in spite of the so-called President's failure to faithfully execute the laws, receipt of emoluments, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. Continuity is so key to establishment politicians that they would sell the country into totalitarianism. Continuity may then come in the form of dynastic periods.


On the other hand, if Congress decides that 400 years of progress in democracy is worth preserving, they may cast off their inhibitions and send Blowhard to prison, or at very least replace him. That's a lot to ask of Congress. The disruption of continuity may cost them their jobs, because when the people who are supposed to run this country - the voters - are given their next chance, they could use the opportunity to bring in new leadership to start the transition to a more federated form of democratic government suited to the limitations of our situation.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pulling Threads

Reading Joe Scarborough's opinion column today about Blowhard's base sticking through thick and thin, and then finding an analysis of personalist rule that well describes how this is becoming more commonplace in authoritarian states, I went back through the lead-in summaries on Amy Siskind's weekly authoritarianism tracker to tease out the threads that have emerged as themes under our dictator-in-the-making.
This consolidated chronology, in which themes are identified by color, is a value add to the presentation on Medium which doesn't tell you much until you click on a given week. If you start at the bottom of this post, you can track the train wreck from inauguration day to this month. Go to Amy's Medium page to drill down into the gory details, or Aaron Dietz' tableau tool, if you have the geek chops for it. I hope you find my exercise in curation to be enlightening.

December 9, 2017
Trump forcefully backed an accused pedophile, signed off on the largest elimination of protected land in US history, and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — all while he continued to disparage the FBI, DOJ, and our free press.
As his inner-circle continues to shrink, Trump takes actions which move our country towards isolationism, corruption, and kleptocracy.

December 2, 2017
Attacks on, and deconstruction of our free press is happening at an alarming rate, as conservative billionaires buy up media outlets, some of which are then precipitously shuttered. Republicans in the Senate passed a tax bill whose primary beneficiary will be people like Trump and regime members, without any debate, scoring, hearings, or even a chance for senators to read a bill which impacts one-sixth of the US economy.
Trump continued his bigoted attacks on marginalized communities, dividing us at home and embarrassing our country on the world stage. There was disturbing reporting on Trump’s mental health, including his continued belief in conspiracy theories.
Flynn’s testimony in court documents ties in Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Flynn’s ongoing cooperation will likely ensnare many higher-ups, including Trump.

November 25, 2017
Trump’s deconstruction of the executive branch continues, as agencies go unstaffed or are led by regime members who are revoking regulations and winding down staffing. Kleptocracy and insider dealings continue, although Trump’s tarnished name and brand is hurting him financially on several fronts. 

November 18, 2017
This week the Russia probe entered Trump’s inner-circle, as more lines of direct and indirect communications surfaced, and efforts at cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia were revealed.

November 11, 2017
...more ties between the Trump campaign and Russia were exposed, and questions surfaced as to the knowledge and engagement of senior people on the campaign, including Trump.

November 5, 2017
Trump made his most aggressive statements against the DOJ, FBI, and court systems for not doing what he thinks they should do. Alarm bells of authoritarianism and not normal were ringing, as were warnings from even some Republicans not to interfere with the Mueller investigation.

October 28, 2017
The Trump regime continued their attacks on rights and protections, while the Republican Party split deepened after a historic anti-Trump/save our country speech by Senator Jeff Flake.
The week closed with the unexpected news that the Mueller probe has produced its first results: charges filed in federal court.  The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico worsened amid news of an insider-deal and cover-ups, as Trump continued to turn a blind eye of indifference.

October 21, 2017
Investigations of Russian interference quietly progressed on several fronts, and alarmingly Trump and some prominent regime members continue to deny the existence of, and take steps to protect against Russian involvement.

October 14, 2017
The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico worsened with the inadequate response by the federal government. Amid criticism, Trump threatened to pull out, but later backed off.
Trump remains silent on both California’s deadliest wildfires and the deadliest combat incident since he took office. He continues to focus on undoing Obama’s legacy, piece-by-piece.

October 7, 2017
Trump’s tin-ear and lack of empathy to [the unfolding humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico and USVI, and the deadliest mass shooting in modern history in Las Vegas]  were conspicuous in his ominous “calm before the storm” statement Thursday.
 As with every weekly list, this week rights and protections were taken away from women and marginalized communities.

September 30, 2017
The regime’s late and inadequate response to Hurricane Maria is the clearest fallout of Trump’s unstaffed federal agencies.
This week Trump’s regime came under increased scrutiny for blatant and irreverent kleptocracy. HHS Secretary Price was the first casualty from unfolding scandals of several regime members involving millions spent on chartered and military flights, and other wasted taxpayer money. 

September 23, 2017
As Mueller zeroes in on Manafort and Flynn, almost every Trump campaigner and WH staffer, past and present, is being drawn in to the expanding Russia probe. This week several regime members drew heat for unrepentant kleptocracy.
DHS informed 21 states they were targeted by Russia, strangely a year later and on a late afternoon on Friday. Trump, who benefitted from a slight approval rating reprieve courtesy of positive media coverage, continues to deny Russian involvement and to act erratically and unbefitting of the office on both foreign policy and domestic issues. Trump also continues to ignore what is shaping up to be a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

September 16, 2017
Russia’s use of social media to influence the US election, possibly with help from the Trump regime. As well, a slew of reporting continued to build the evolving mosaic of connections and quid pro quo between members of the Trump regime and Putin allies.
Trump’s short-lived pivot ended abruptly late in the week when he again evoked “both sides” on Charlottesville, then started an embarrassing tweet storm about a tragic bombing in London.
September 9, 2017
This week the Mueller probe edged towards engulfing Trump’s entire inner-circle. Also of great import, Facebook finally admitted to the company’s role in allowing Russian bots to infiltrate our election. Speculation grew that a foreign entity influenced our election, and that the Trump campaign was complicit.
This week the Trump regime continued its assault on marginalized communities and women, rescinding DACA and taking away protections for victims of campus sexual assault. 
September 2, 2017
News reports indicate the Mueller probe in moving ahead on many fronts, and uncovering damaging evidence about the Trump regime.
Stories less covered continue to detail bigotry towards, and stripping away rights and protections of, marginalized communities and women. Another continuing theme is the dismantling of government programs and initiatives, alongside instituting authoritarian measures.
August 26, 2017
Mueller probe is closing in on Trump and his regime. News stories indicate that despite Trump’s public indifference and belittlement of the probe, he is privately consumed by it, and acting in ways which could well be construed as, and lead to charges for, obstruction of justice.
In the two weeks since Charlottesville, our country is consumed in flames of hate, and Trump is fanning those flames. As well, he continues his unimpeded march to authoritarian power, neutralizing the judicial branch with an unethical pardon, and attacking members of his own party in an effort to silence them. So far, the latter is largely working, and as this week comes to a close, remaining checks and balances to save our democracy are eroding, and Trump appears to feel fully in power.
August 19, 2017
Trump’s comments on Charlottesville legitimized the worst of us, and spawned a watershed moment for our country. His remarks were met with widespread condemnation and reactions, and precipitated a mass exodus of corporate CEOs, wiping away any lingering doubts that Trump’s goals were ever truly linked to job creation. 
This week in Trump’s shrinking, chaotic regime it became even clearer that Trump answers to no one but himself. He continues to attack and attempt to intimidate Republicans into submission, as part of his continuing efforts to consolidate power.
August 12, 2017
Without provocation, Trump made aggressive statements towards three countries, and escalated the possibility of nuclear war with N. Korea. The country continued to burn in hate as violence surrounding a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville led to a state of emergency in Virginia.
Other troubling trends continued this week including: an increase of media controlled by Trump and his allies, an unstaffed and unprepared executive branch, and steps taken to suppress the vote in future elections. Even with his new chief of staff, it is apparent Trump is consolidating power and answering to no one. He is also stepping up his attacks on the legislative branch.
August 5, 2017
Trump and his regime’s white nationalist push became more conspicuous and aggressive. Trump continues to irreverently lie — one such false statement on Donald Jr.’s June 9 meeting could directly implicate him in covering up the Russia scandal, which entered a new phase as Mueller impaneled a grand jury in Washington DC.
Trump seems prepared to fight Congress, along with battles he is already waging against the judicial branch and the media.
July 29, 2017
Trump distracted and played to his remaining base all week by targeting marginalized groups, and ramping up hateful rhetoric.
Republicans are turning on Trump — this week, not just in words this week, but in actions. And in response, by firing Priebus and replacing him with a general, Trump seems to be preparing for an aggressive approach towards the legislative branch.
July 22, 2017
Trump’s ties to Russia came increasingly front and center, as news of a second, clandestine meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 surfaced, and Trump moved forward with actions that seemed oddly pro-Moscow. Trump also caused alarm on both sides by raising the specter of firing Mueller and the possibility of pardoning himself and members of his regime.
For the first time this week there was bi-partisan reaction: there were resignations, and pushback from national security officials who called out Russia for election meddling. Also of major importance, Congress agreed on an outline for a bi-partisan bill to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia — a direct repudiation of Trump.
July 15, 2017
Donald Jr.’s emails, the first direct evidence of possible collusion and intent between the Trump campaign and Russia, dominated media coverage and conversation. But as with each week, amidst the bedlam, there were a myriad of less-covered, important stories on how the fabric of our country is changing, and kleptocracy is omnipresent.
July 8, 2017
Trump alienated our allies while cozying up to authoritarians, followed by his embarrassing behavior at the NATO and G7 meetings, culminated this week at the G20 with US isolationism.



Trump amped-up his assault on the media, including encouraging violence. With this, Trump has distracted the country and media, and taken back the narrative. In the atmosphere of chaos, this week also stands out for the number of important stories that received little or no media coverage.
July 1, 2017
This week the first evidence of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia surfaced. Several key members of the Trump regime could be ensnared.
Trump continued to use hate to keep his base engaged, while marginalizing and ignoring those not white, straight, Christian and male. Through deportation and immigration bans, and continually peeling away rights and protections from women, PoC, LGBTQ, and Muslim and Jewish Americans, Trump is changing the character of our country, and the world is noticing.
June 24, 2017
The unusual process undertaken by McConnell in attempting to pass AHCA without Senate input or public support. Alarming evidence that Russia may have tampered with 2016 Election Day results, and possibly with help from the Trump campaign. The Trump regime taking steps to shut down access for the media, while our country burns in bigotry and hate.
Trump-Russia is still the dominant theme, as investigations open on new fronts, and Trump regime members go quiet and lawyer up. Trump continues to deny Russian interference, which will undoubtedly lead to it continuing in upcoming elections — of course to his benefit.
June 17, 2017
Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice — a fact he confirmed through a tweet. With his increasingly erratic behavior, Trump has become his own worst enemy. While investigations by the House, Senate, FBI, federal investigators and special counsel into Trump-Russia steam ahead, Trump’s continued efforts to interfere with investigations may prove to be his ultimate undoing.
This week the tentacles of the Trump-Russia probe reached new members of the Trump regime, and several chose to lawyer up. Congress is singularly focused on Trump-Russia, save for McConnell’s odd, clandestine AHCA efforts.
June 10, 2017
This week all eyes were on the Comey testimony, which opened the door for what could be obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House, legislative progress has largely come to a halt amid weekly and sometimes daily bombshells, as all eyes turn to the Trump-Russia scandal.
June 3, 2017
Even before Megyn Kelly’s prime-time interview of Putin, Russia has become a national obsession. Several bombshells on Trump-Russia broke this week, as the collusion puzzle continues to piece together. And seemingly at Putin’s behest, a new world order is shaping with Trump distancing himself from our democratic allies, and cozying up to brutal authoritarian states.
May 27, 2017
Trump-Russia scandal reached the inner circle of Trump’s WH, as bombshells revealed Kushner is a central focus of the FBI investigation. The Trump regime established a war room as the walls of Trump-Russia cave in on them, with breaking news daily.
Trump distancing our country from our traditional allies, and instead cozying up to brutal authoritarians. Human rights abroad are no longer a priority — the focus seems to have shifted to where the Trump organization has properties.
May 20, 2017
Trump’s ties to, and efforts to undermine the investigation into Russia.
Although the biggest headline of the week was the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia, of equal importance was the diurnal harbingers of our fading democracy. Trump’s WH invitation to yet another brutal authoritarian: Ergodan of Turkey, and the ensuing melee outside the Turkish embassy in DC, is a wake-up call for us all.
May 13, 2017
What stands out in Week 26 is our normalization of a leader who bold-faced lies to us, and the ease with which Trump continues to indulge in this behavior. Trump fired the FBI director in charge of investigating him and his regime’s ties to Russia, and admitted he did so because of the investigation.
May 6, 2017
The Trump regime of billionaires and sycophants - with most Republicans cowering along in lock-step — continue to act and take actions that are greedy and cruel. As we hit Week 25, every subgroup of Americans not white, straight and male has been a target.
This week the authoritarian themes of silencing dissent, and consolidating power and wealth were also front and center.
April 29, 2017
This week, Speaker Ryan acknowledged Russian interference. Trump’s involvement has evolved from a “Trump-Russia probe” to a “Trump-Russia scandal,” and this week, to a “Trump-Russia cover-up.” As this unfolds, concern grows that Trump will seek to distract attention by starting a war. The one constant throughout the weeks is Trump’s attempts to enrich himself and his regime through a growing list of conflicts of interest and corruption.
April 22, 2017
 What stands out in Week 23 is the kleptocracy — a pattern of conflicts of interest and pay-to-play — and the Trump regime’s utter irreverence towards ethics and past standards.

Trump seems focused on enriching himself, his regime, and his business contacts. The pace and boldness of corruption whiff of a man who is aware his days in this gig are numbered.
April 15, 2017
This week, the word “probe” progressed to “scandal,” signaling an acceptance that some sort of collusion occurred.
April 1, 2017
Russia’s interference in our election is now an accepted notion, and words like “collusion” and “cover up” entered the fray this week as all eyes turned to examining the Trump regime’s role.
March 18, 2017
Trump isn’t all that interested in typical legislative stuff like passing healthcare or his budget — his passion and focus are on enriching himself, and making America white.
March 11, 2017
Trump and his regime’s ties to Russia, conflicts of interest, and the dysfunctional and largely unstaffed executive branch.
Under the auspices of Trump’s #2 Bannon, our democracy as we know it is transitioning under a term used widely this week: the Deep State. Know this term! A Deep State is a paranoid, authoritarian vision of a regime under siege and being infiltrated — in this case by Obama and his loyalists. This authoritarian vision has been used by the Trump regime as justification by for their ever-increasing need to consolidate power into the hands of a trusted few — transforming our democracy into an authoritarian state, and making it harder to get to the truth on the many troubling matters.
March 4, 2017
This week’s theme was undoubtedly the continued taint of the Trump regime for their ties to Russia.
February 25, 2017
The first was Trump’s lack of empathy — the cruelty and heartlessness towards Americans not white, straight, Christian and male. Trump and his regime continued to target the defenseless, including transgender individuals, Native Americans and people of color. The second theme was Russia: ties between the Trump regime and Russia are continuing to pour out — meanwhile, the regime is actively seeking to suppress information.
February 18, 2017
An overarching theme to watch is the consolidation of power: positions in the executive branch are going unfilled and layoffs continue. Meanwhile, Trump, his children, and his small circle of insiders are making all major decisions domestically and abroad.
February 4, 2017

Ukraine, and the many abuses of power to silence dissent and stomp on ethics. Conflicts of interest abound, unfettered.
January 28,2017

This week, there were numerous articles about Trump transforming America into an authoritarian state (examples hereherehereherehere).
January 21, 2017
Russian interference in our election, including possible Trump team complicity.






Saturday, September 9, 2017

America's Approaching Storm

Most people think that fascism is a political concept that emerged in 20th century Europe, but the first use of that label in a political context appeared five centuries ago when Gustavus Eriksson (popularly known as Vasa, from the Latin fascis, meaning "bundle") unified Swedish rebel mobs to overthrow their Danish colonial overlords.  The image evoked is that of a bundle of straight sticks held tightly together, thereby forming an unbreakable pole.

"Hurricane" by jaci XIII
Today's use of the word "fascist" carries the same meaning, modernized by recent historical occurrence under Mussolini and his ilk. Fascism places unity above everything else, including individual liberty. It demands a mindset of ruthless efficiency, leading to acts of inhumane expediency. It is extremely undemocratic, i.e. tending to totalitarianism, relying on conformity at all levels of society. The most obvious example of a fascist government today is North Korea.

North Korea's fascism can be understood by the desperation that arose from that country's circumstances following the Korean war. Sometimes fascism is necessary for a nation's survival when beset by overwhelming odds. Continual fascism could result in national collapse, or, at best, widespread disenchantment among the citizenry. External opposition, meanwhile, fuels a fascist regime's resolve.

The trajectory of last century's experiments in fascism was boiled down to the following per Columbia University professor emeritus Robert Paxton:
  1. Ideological formation and the creation of a party with quasi-military cadres. Talk of national humiliation, lost vigor, and the failures of liberalism and democracy.
  2. Entry of the party into national politics. Intimidation of rivals, and planned acts of “redemptive violence” against suspect minorities and radical rivals.
  3. Arrival in government, often in alliance with conservatives.
  4. Exercise of power, in concert with institutions and business. The regime expands its control at home: restricting the press and democratic processes, corporatizing business, and collectivizing the people. Abroad, it asserts itself militarily.
  5. Radicalization or entropy: Some fascists go down in a Götterdämmerung, but most die of boredom.
It is not North Korea that has sparked fascist stirrings in the American polity. For that, we need only look one state away, at China which is emerging from their fascist past that originated with Mao Tse-Tung. Surprised by China's emergence as an economic superpower, the U.S. is feeling threatened to the point that a significant percentage of Americans are veering toward fascism as protection of all that they have ever hoped for in life.

This growing sector of the populace is not commonly associated with white supremacist groups, but their racism is manifested in xenophobic ideas and behaviors for which "Make America Great Again" is their catchphrase. Fascism is fashionable in America today. We can see the five-step trajectory above being followed by Old Blowhard's populist revolt, now at step 4. Tom Toles' keen eye has detected a trajectory that breaks the first item in that step down into more detail. His forecast storm track puts governing norms, rule of law, peace, and voting rights in Hurricane Donald's destructive path. When the storm makes landfall and democracy is devastated, fascism will be seen as the path to recovery. After that, prepare for business to be more corporatized, i.e. oligopolized, society to be collectivized, and militarism pervasive. 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Long War Ahead

Old Blowhard may say he doesn't subscribe to theories of climate change, but he sure is prepping like a true believer. Following the widespread disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey, his most substantive response was to re-establish the 1033 Program that allows local law enforcement access to excess military equipment. Four million internally displaced, dripping, and dispossessed persons must look pretty scary to a man who only loves a crowd when they are cheering for him. Unfortunately for him, the extra military gear probably won't be on hand in time for other states to guard the elites in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

by Alexander Muse

How unwittingly we drift into totalitarianism. Instead of taking a more humane counterinsurgency approach, our military-industrial complex overproduced lethal weapons and profuse national security apparati in a panicked reaction against Islamic terrorism. We are left with so many military "goods" that we can't help but put them to some use - even if it is right here at home. Here we see the "gross" in our domestic product.

Those of dark complexion are already under threat from forces paid to protect all. One more major hurricane ought to be enough to mobilize thousands of federal law enforcement branches to "protect" potential victims from the chaos that we fear would ensue. This is how the Washington establishment fights the war on climate change - putting deadly weapons in the hands of those whose job it is to make sure all is well.
It's a war, and climate change will not make us change!  Some will have to die, but they must be orderly about it! It is their civic duty to sacrifice for the elite. Those who do not accept their fate will be put in their place. 
Politicians content themselves through such hard decisions. Approaches that involve more equitable sacrifice to save the planet from climate disasters are possible. Hard decisions involving self-sacrifice, however, are the kind that the power elites are loath to entertain.





 

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