No Turning Back Now

In a nutshell: the last forty years (since Reagan) has been an exploration of the neo-conservative proposition that the only legitimate way to negotiate the distribution of power is the free market. It led initially to deregulation and then “trickle-down economics.” As the evidence mounted that those strategies were failing, the ideologues used their control of government to rig the system so that the subscribers to the ideology enjoyed financial success — a “tinkle-down” economics that undermined the operation of the free market.

What we are witnessing in 2020 is demonstration after demonstration that the profit motive, left unchecked, creates fragile systems that cannot survive disruption. To survive in this era, the public at large will move to make the economic elite irrelevant. That is evident in political exercises that insist “we will take care of those threatened by economic and political disenfranchisement.” Examples include the CARES and HEROES acts, lining up to vote during a pandemic, giving away food and drink to BLM protesters. The elite can attempt to pull the financial rug out from under these efforts, but what they will discover is that it is far easier to nationalize assets than it is to buy them. People without a stake in the system, looking into a future with no opportunity, will construct a parallel economy built around value, rather than profit.

A Hill of Beans to Die On?

Just finished listening to Maddow’s interview of Mary Trump.

I find the juxtaposition with Trump’s promotion of Goya beans to be unnerving. Hayes profiled the polling that shows that while Trump is heading for a disastrous loss in November, the majority of self-identifying Republicans consider their loyalty to be to Trump rather than the GoP. Trump’s falling poll numbers are thus an indication that those loyal to the GoP are exiting the party.

In this context, the only rational goal of the man who promised to “run the nation like a business” is to seek to cash in on his position. Investigative reporting shows that Trump is laundering money of uncertain origin through his golf courses. Given the misappropriation of inaugural funds, I would not be at all surprised to learn that Trump is siphoning money from his re-election campaign into his private accounts.

The promotion of Goya beans from the Oval Office is of a piece with this hypothesis. How much has Goya contributed to the Trump campaign?

I suggested here that bookies would find it profitable to run a lottery on Trump’s state of refuge following his departure from the White House. His lack of attention to the COVID crisis may reflect his acceptance of the fact that his loss is inevitable, a vicious punishment for the electorate that is betraying him. I think that following his loss, his only interest, between November and January, is going to be arranging his flight to a state that will guarantee him non-extradition.

Foaming at the Mouth

The degree to which the Republican grandees have abandoned the Constitution is revealed in their justification for suppressing mail-in voting:

If we allow mail-in voting, no Republican will ever be elected President.

Hello: last I checked, the United States was a representative democracy. That means that dogmatists can expected to be checked by the will of the people. When your policies make you unelectable, you need to change your policies.

In other words, what the Trump, McConnel, and their ilk are saying is “if we want to have another Republican president, we will have to abandon our corrupt crony-capitalism Federal racket.”

Which, actually, is just fine by me.

Coronavirus Lawsuit Brief

Whereas the greatly red state of Mississippi has established precedent in filing suit against China for damages arising from mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak;

Whereas the Executive Branch headed by Donald Trump has engaged in similar mishandling for political purposes, including:

  • Lying regarding the likelihood and potential severity of the epidemic,
  • Use of federal resources to promote and execute policies for Donald Trump’s personal financial and political benefit, and
  • Malignantly removing personnel essential to control of the pandemic when their honest counsel exposes Presidential incompetence and self-serving;

Whereas the Senate Republican majority did empower these acts in condoning similar conduct by President Trump as regards attempts to suborn US policy to coerce Ukraine to create a false narrative to damage a political rival;

Whereas the States run by Democratic Administrations have, through malfeasance and incompetence in the Federal Executive, suffered ten times the loss of life and economic activity than would have been endured had the Executive acted according to policies established by the prior Democratic Administration;

Therefore do these states file suit to act as follows pending control of the epidemic throughout these United States:

  1. Sequester all Federal Tax revenues;
  2. Establish Reserve Banks to ensure sufficient liquidity to allow their citizens to purchase essentials of life; and
  3. Confiscate goods, revenues, and assets in their States held by private companies chartered in States that both voted for Candidate Trump in 2016 and that failed to sanction the aforementioned conduct during the Ukraine impeachment.

Indentured to Incompetence

When the Clinton Administration briefed the incoming Bush team, they emphasized the importance of sending a clear response to the bombing of the USS Cole. The Bush foreign policy team sneered, proclaiming the Cole a “Clinton failure,” and went merrily about strong-arming Russia and China to modify nuclear weapons treaties to allow the design, test, and deployment of a nuclear missile shield. Remembering the inanity of the designs promoted during the Reagan and Bush era, I shook my head. Some in positions of influence tried to trumpet warnings: Tom Daschle, Democratic head of the Senate majority, stood on the Capital steps late in the summer of 2001 to voice his concern that the Bush team was baiting the wrong bear.

Daschle’s priority was international Islamic terrorism. It took only a month for his fears to be realized, horrifically, with the event known now simply as “9/11.”

The cost multiplier for inaction was astonishing, and certainly enormously satisfying to bin Ladin and those inspired by his an example. A meaningful response to the Cole would have cost perhaps $10 million. The response to the coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Congress – involving two wars, time-consuming and costly restrictions on travel, and interruption of international commerce – mounted into the trillions of dollars. For every dollar not spent on prudent prevention, we spent nearly a million dollars.

Swallowing their criticism, the rational party accepted the outcome of the Bush Administrations incompetence as “the new normal.”

Today, with the nation’s economy smothered by pandemic, the apologists for the Trump Administration insist that this is “the new normal.” But step back into the last Democratic executive, a man excoriated by Trump’s “Birther” movement, and we see that this is nothing normal at all. The Zika and H1N1 threats were effectively neutered by the Obama Administration. The total number of lives lost was in the low thousands, with no significant impact on the economy.

The lessons learned from those efforts were institutionalized in protocols for international cooperation led by a team directly in the White House itself.

While I respect the Office of the Presidency, my scorn for Trump is complete due to his utter contempt for the office itself. The Presidency is not a man, it is an institutional process for coordinated decision-making and action. Information is fed into the White House and plans flow out. Trump has not only besmirched the office, he has decimated the processes built over two hundred years to empower presidents to accomplish the nation’s goals. The motivation for those willful acts is Trump’s record of corrupt business dealings, evidenced even during his campaign as he attempted to wield his political prominence to influence civil cases already in progress. Once in office, he systematically bent the powers of his office toward destruction of the institutions assigned to prosecute his corruption.

While the politicization of the security and foreign policy services may be the longest-lasting of those institutional rapes, in real time we are finding ourselves again indentured to incompetence in the Executive Branch. Elimination of Obama’s pandemic action team left the world without a leader in the reaction to COVID-19. The early response to the disease has already cost trillions of dollars, and we can expect the death toll to rise toward 100,000 American lives. Millions of jobs have been lost under the weight of business failures. The obligations of missed payments and unfulfilled contracts will take years to unravel in the court system.

And Trump’s supporters shrug their shoulders and mourn “This is the new normal.” No it’s not. It’s the old abnormal. Wake up, and if you’re unwilling to vote for a Democrat, at least stay home until your party can prop up a candidate with at least minimal competence. I, for one, am tired of being indentured to your blind loyalty.

“We Will Get Through This”

No we won’t, Donald. Hundreds of thousands of us will get sick, perhaps 100,000 will be unable to resume their previous life because of lung damage, tens of thousands will die.

All because you did not act when the Democratic caucus advised you on February 5th that you needed funding to plan for the outbreak. All because you downplayed the danger and allowed people to continue to congregate. All because you did not act to ensure supplies and equipment were in place.

You can “play by instinct” and do your word salad and monitor your Tweet likes to find out what plays well with your base. You may escape blame. But the hospitals and governors will assemble the numbers and you will be called to account in the next election.

You said we’d “win so much you’ll get tired of winning.” Well we’re dying instead, and even Twitter won’t save you from that contrast when November comes around.

WTFU

I’ll re-iterate yesterday’s point in secular terms. Prior administrations, recognizing the disastrous costs of a future pandemic, established an office directly within the White House to ensure international coordination when new diseases are detected. This reflected recognition that the primary spawning ground is currently Southeast Asia. It is in tracking Asian outbreaks of influenza that we build our current flu vaccines.

Prior administrations used the White House office to prevent the spread of MERS and SARS and Ebola. The Trump Administration, in some kind of “Make America Great Again” isolationist pique, dismantled that office. Thus when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, there was no one to lead the response. Worse, the President downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, and deflected blame to others when it began to make inroads in American communities.

The end result of this strategy was visible in yesterday’s CDC press release. In the most ridiculous display of sycophancy imaginable, the CDC head spoke fawningly of Trump’s initiative in helping to “flatten the curve” of infection. What this means, people, is that they recognize that the disease is out of control. 60-70% of Americans will be infected, with fatalities up in the high hundreds of thousands or low millions. Their only goal is to slow the rate of infection to avoid saturating the American health care system. If that happens, fatalities could reach into tens of millions.

To characterize this as a laudable outcome is simply absurd. That it is being touted in press conferences is tantamount to admission that Trump behind the scenes is threatening to fire anyone who does not flatter his leadership. He is holding the American public hostage to his ego. Obviously the President does not recognize that he abdicates leadership with statements that he’s “not responsible for anything.” Followed by “someone in my Administration did it,” it’s clear that his paranoia has grown from the “Deep State” to blanket his own people.

Those in the Republican Party who projected this faker into the Oval Office have much to answer for. You should have helped the Democrats throw him out on his ear.

Politics and Faith

The Universal Church has a number of forum posts on the proper role of professional ministry in polities. The latest dialog began this week. Here is my response:

Spirituality is the negotiation of the boundaries between the “I” and the “we.” Culturally we have two manifestations of that process. Religion attempts to merge us back into the Unconditional Love from which we emanated. Politics seeks union under conventions promulgated by human law.

It may not seem that those two things are contradictory, but they are. Unconditional Love is permissive – it does not pass judgment (“God sends his rain to fall on the good and evil alike.”), reserving its agency to healing those wounded by evil. Law is repressive – it defines what is allowed, and deploys agents to prevent and punish transgressions.

The proper role of religious authority in politics is then as follows: When asked for a political opinion, ask: “What wrongdoing motivated this policy? How can we heal those so wronged? If that healing is accomplished, do we still need this policy?”

It should be noticed that in excluding politics, people of faith can testify without ambiguity that it was the inspiration of Divine Authority that allowed them to achieve their goals.

I note that the most impressive confrontations in the Bible are with people of faith before political leaders. Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and Jesus and the Apostles themselves are all inspiration examples. In our day examples include Gandhi and MLK Jr.

Ponzi Crime Spree

Watching Trump and his legal team (led by William Barr) go about their business, I can’t figure out the end game. They are trying to run out the statue of limitations on tax and insurance fraud by committing obstruction of justice and ignoring Congressional subpoenas? It’s crimes piled on crimes, sucking in more and more people every day, like some kind of Ponzi scheme in reverse.

What do the Russians have on Trump? On Barr? On the Republican Party? Why are people lining up to go to jail?