The FBI’s Russia Shield

The prevailing assumption regarding the Russian investigation is that it is a big nothing cooked up by bitter Democrats and promoted by the media to avoid facing up to the reality of the 2016 election. Once it became clear that the Podesta e-mails were causing trouble for Clinton, her people started chanting “Russian hacking” at every press conference, as if they had an exotic form of Tourette’s syndrome. It has all the hallmarks of a Clinton media scam. They repeat something over and over, knowing the press will echo it.

The appointment of a special prosecutor has been viewed as an effort by the Trump administration to put the issue to bed. The press was never going to stop talking about and the Democrats were going to keep screaming about it. Name a special prosecutor and everyone has shut up about it. Mueller will spend a year and millions of dollars to discover there is nothing to the claims. That’s the official version. What if it is something else entirely? What if the special prosecutor is just an excuse to handle some other matter?

The rule of thumb with political scandals is they fall into one of three buckets. There is the sex scandal, as with Bill Clinton. Then there are the money scandals, involving graft and public corruption. Hillary Clinton is the obvious example here. Then there is the personal scandal. This is the scandal where hurt feelings or a broken promise result in one member of the political class dishing dirt on another. Watergate was this type of scandal at its core. Mark Felt was angry at being passed over so he ratted out people to the press.

That is the odd thing about the Russia business. It has none of the markings of a political scandal. It works as a media event, as it ticks a lot of boxes for the press. They get to trade on salacious rumors for a while, without having to do any real reporting. Throw in some conspiracy theories and the Boris Badenov angle and it fills the news cycles for a few weeks. Otherwise, there is not enough to this Russian conspiracy to warrant a phone call from the FBI, much less a full blown investigation.

That’s what makes the appointment of a special prosecutor so strange. The guy who convinced Trump to fire the FBI Director was Rod Rosenstein. He’s pretty much a career Justice Department hand. Trump accepted his recommendation and fired Comey. Then Rosenstein ended up as the guy handling the phony Russia story after Sessions mysteriously recused himself. Trump then went on a rampage for a few weeks complaining about Sessions, even hinting that he may fire him over it.

Rosenstein then recommended a special prosecutor. The guy he recommended is a close friend of Comey and the former FBI Directory, Robert Mueller. In fact, Mueller preceded Comey in the job. Forgotten in all the excitement is the fact that Trump claimed the Obama people had bugged Trump Tower. The new was full of stories that the FBI may have got a former Trump adviser on a wire. Of course, we now know that the Obama Administration was running a widespread domestic surveillance operation.

Then there are things that seem unrelated, but maybe not. Comey personally handled the Clinton e-mail probe. He is either a world class bungler or he had a reason to bungle it. Either way, he bungled it. He also appears to have perjured himself in his Congressional testimony. In one case, he later amended his testimony when it became obvious he made false statements under oath. Maybe Comey was trying to hide something, but the more plausible answer is that he is just not very good at this sort of work.

Regardless, there should be a whole bunch of attention on the FBI right now. At the minimum, they have been outlandishly incompetent over the last half of the Obama Administration. That should warrant a house cleaning. Alternatively, they may have been corrupted by the Obama Administration. It’s clear that Samantha Power was abusing her authority with regards to domestic surveillance. It is not unreasonable to assume the FBI was compromised in some way during Comey’s tenure.

That may be what’s really going on with the special prosecutor. The phony Russia scandal provided an excuse to bring in a political pro like Mueller to clean up the mess left by Comey and the Obama Administration. The FBI is not supposed to be spying on Americans without a warrant and they are really not supposed to be listening in on politicians. Someone signed off on bugging Trump Tower, during and after the presidential election. Who knows what other shenanigans have been going on.

The most likely answer for why a special prosecutor was appointed is that it was an easy way to get the whole thing out of the White House. Since the story is bogus and Mueller surely knows it is bogus, it will be a nice patronage program for a year or two and then the whole thing goes away. The second most likely answer is that Mueller’s job is to clean up the mess left by Comey and protect the reputation of the FBI, maybe even some other intelligence agencies. That way, no one gets hurt the problems are quietly fixed.

What this is not. is an investigation about Russia meddling in the election.

The Trump Gambit

For a few weeks, Trump has been saying and doing things that don’t seem to make a lot of sense. The black pill interpretation is that he has decided to cuck on all of his promises and cave into the establishment. Of course, the anti-Trump loons are claiming they were right all along and Trump is now finking on his stupid voters. Then you have the mouth breathers that hoot about 5-D chess all the time. The more likely explanation is that Trump is making a calculated gamble on himself and his read on public opinion.

Take the DACA controvery. Trump can count, so he knows the Democrats have far fewer members in both houses of Congress than the Republicans. He can cut all the deals he likes with Pelosi and Schumer, but those deals will go nowhere without the GOP leadership, as they control the legislative agenda. The game was to embarrass Ryan and Mitchell. By making it look like the Democrats were willing to work with him, he forced the GOP to make its own moves on immigration. It’s petty, but it works.

The other point of the exercise was to get people talking about immigration in a way that works in his favor. News stories about “dreamers” makes him look bad. He rightly figured that his voters would get mad over his rumored cave and they would take it out on the GOP leadership. It would also trigger the immigration patriots to fire off a million proposals for fixing immigration. From Trump’s perspective, turmoil is good as it gets his people fired up, looking for a fight and it forces the GOP leadership to respond.

Trump did not get this far by not understanding the political map. He knows he is the leader of the White Party, that has been forced to vote within the Republican Party. He certainly never says it like that, but he is an old school New Yorker. He understands the skins game better than most. His opposition is not the Democrats. His enemy is the GOP, that has traditionally served to blunt the interests of the White Party. Therefore, Trump needs to keep the fires burning for the coming fights in the the Republican primaries.

You see glimpses of what’s coming in the Alabama Senate Race. The White Party is lining up behind Judge Moore, mostly because he is not on the side of Mitch McConnell. Trump has endorsed the establishment guy, claiming to do so out of party loyalty. At the same time, an army of Trump surrogates are in the state endorsing Moore. Even Trump has given mixed signals about his endorsement of Luther Strange. There’s a wink-wink quality to all of it. It’s theater and everyone in the audience is in on the gag.

Next year, there will be a bunch of candidates running against GOP incumbents, promising to support the Trump agenda. There will be Democrat challengers making the right noises on immigration and trade. How successful these challengers are will depend a lot upon how things go in Washington the next six months. That’s the message Trump is trying to send to guys like Ryan and McConnell, who seem to be trapped in a fantasy world where the 2016 election never happened and they are beloved figures on the Right.

From Trump’s perspective, the result on Tuesday opens up opportunities. If Strange pulls a miracle and wins the election, then Trump will be tweeting about how he can deliver votes even for a bozo like Strange. If Moore wins, then Trump will tweet that he tried to be loyal to McConnell and the GOP, but they refused to learn from past mistakes. In a few hours, no one will remember that he endorsed the loser. Instead, the story will be about the impending disaster for the establishment GOP in the coming primaries.

There is risk to what Trump is doing in Alabama. If Luther Strange wins, the White Party will be discouraged and may start to turn on Trump. At the minimum, it gives the anti-Trump loons ammunition to accuse Trump of finking on his base. It could also embolden guys like Ryan, who are convinced that Trump has no base. On the other hand, a win by Moore and the same cucks will argue that Trump can’t deliver votes, so they are wise to oppose him. You can be sure they have those op-eds written and ready to send.

It’s a gamble, but Trump is a guy who thinks he can make something out of anything, as long as he has options. Whether it was by design or serendipity, this election is a referendum on the GOP establishment. The most likely outcome, according to polling, is a Moore win and maybe a very big win. Trump will not only take credit for it, but start to bet his winnings on the belief he can scare the GOP into passing his agenda items. They may hold the result against him, but Trump is betting they cave and play ball with him.

The reason it is a good gamble is the pressure on leadership will now come from their own ranks. Ryan and McConnell can keep discipline as long as they can promise their members they will keep their seats. If the rank and file start thinking they are safer with Trump or that Trump will back their challengers, then it is game over for Ryan and McConnell. They have to play ball. From Trump’s perspective, he has everything to game and nothing to lose. Ryan and McConnell can’t hate him more than they already do.

The Idiot

The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Like most Russian literature, it is a big book full of complicated characters, with funny names. The central character of the novel, Prince Myshkin, is a young man whose good intentions and decency are taken to be stupidity by the worldly characters of the novel. The title is intended to be ironic. His naivete is assumed to be due to stupidity. The novel is a study of what happens when such a person is put in a world populated by people lacking basic decency and morality.

Our cultural elites use something similar to promote the values of the ruling classes through movies and television. The movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is the classic example. The twist our betters put on it is the innocent adventurer taking on the corrupt system holds all of the values cherished by our actual ruling class. Meanwhile, the fictional villains are always people who sound like the critics of managerial state democracy. Even so, the basic theme is the same. We have the naif versus the cabal of the cynical.

Whether as propaganda or psychological study, the central question is whether a corrupt and malignant system can be changed or defeated by a morally good person. The Hollywood version will on occasion have the white hat defeated, for the purpose of reinforcing some element of the one true faith. Usually though, the the good guy triumphs over the system. This propaganda has been so effective, most American truly think that by assiduously obeying every rule they will one day have their country back.

One of those Americans seems to be President Trump. The back story to his run is that he was motivated to run, after being disrespected by various on-line propagandists like Jonah Goldberg. Trump could not understand why a billionaire like him was mocked, by guys like Goldberg, who are nothing more than servants to rich men like Trump. To Trump, this made no sense. He was motivated to run in order to prove to these people that he could do anything they can do, but even better. There’s nothing bigger than President.

Since his victory, Trump has been searching around for some way to be accepted by the political class. He assumed that winning the election would also win him the respect of official Washington. Instead, they locked shields to oppose him, even installing a special prosecutor to dig around in his life for a way to impeach him. Unable to figure out why he is treated like a skunk at the picnic, he has flailed around looking for something to give away in order to get the respect he craves.

Now, he is willing to fink on his voters by breaking every promise he made during the campaign. That’s why he is dealing with Chuck Schumer. The sole reason for Schumer to exist in Washington is to guide troublesome Republicans through the process of committing political suicide. In the case of Trump, that means going for amnesty, abandoning the wall and supporting candidates who hate him. It is not enough that Trump fink on his voters. He must humiliate himself in front of them as well.

This is not to say that Trump is just a craven liar. He is one of the few people in the financial elite who embraces those old ideas of civic responsibility and fair play that used to define the American elite. Trump is from an age when it was your duty to uphold the rules and be a good example to others. He naively thinks that is how things still work. They don’t, which is why the ruling elite looks at him as odious interloper. They don’t hate him as much as they hate what he represents. They also think he is an idiot because of it.

One of the main critiques, from the Dissident Right, of Buckley Conservatives, is that they naively cling to ideas that are no longer applicable. Waving around the Constitution, for example, when the document is now interpreted to mean the opposite of what the Founders intended, is idiotic. The foolish embrace of principal, when it means sure defeat, is proof that the alleged opposition to the managerial state is either composed of fools, or traitors sent to subvert any real opposition to the status quo.

Now, much of what comes from the alt-right is ignorant chanting that is not based in anything but frustration with their fringe status. Even so, they are not wrong to point out that the Civic Nationalists and the alt-lite are naive and foolish to think they can talk the other side into turning away from their suicidal course. Every attempt to affect change within the system, is bound to fail, as the rules of the system are designed to protect and perpetuate the status quo. The people in charge are not going to quit on their stool.

“We’re not voting our way out of this” is a popular way of making this point. That’s not entirely true, but it is a useful way to put it. Simply electing people who say the right things is not changing a system that has been corrupted to defend the interests of the two percent. The system, as it stands, must be subverted and destabilized. That does not happen at the ballot box. That’s what we’re seeing with Trump. He is being swallowed up by a system designed for that purpose. You don’t beat it by playing by the rules.

It is hard to know if Trump will pull out of his death spiral. He has shown a willingness to reverse course if he feels he has made an error. It’s also possible that he fears Mueller has something on him or his kids and he is hoping to trade away your future for his dignity and freedom. Maybe it all just part of the chaos that Trump seems to enjoy. Regardless, it is another reminder that the people putting their trust in the system are idiots. The system is not the solution to out problems as a society. The system is the problem.

The Corrupt Midget

News brings word that the pint sized pundit, Ben Shapiro, is going to Berkeley to give a another speech. Judging by his twitter activity, he is hoping it will attract Antifa and be shut down by the city. It’s hard to know exactly. He could also be playing it the other way, hoping the event goes off without a problem. That way, he can blame the growing army to his right for the recent crackdown of speech by our masters. Like all of the boys and girls who color inside the lines, Shapiro needs to believe safety is a virtue.

Either way, this stunt is just that, a stunt to draw attention to himself, as well as an effort to re-establish his brand of Progressive punditry, as the extreme edge of acceptable. Calling Shapiro a Progressive may strike some people as weird, but that’s the truth of it. He embraces all of the blank slate arguments of the Left. He takes, as a given, that the Left’s moral framework is the default for society. You see that in his twitter rants about the alt-right. Shapiro is a man of the Left, just the lagging edge of it.

Shapiro is a also a notorious pen for hire, a guy who will say anything if you write a big enough check. He used to say nice things about Trump and the issues that Trump is now championing. Then the Wilks brothers hired him to be an anti-Trump loon, so he went full-on NeverTrump last year. Now that there is money to be made on the Trump train, Shapiro and all the other faux right-wing grifters have got on-board with Trump. One gets the sense that if Antifa writes him a check, he could be persuaded to support communism.

Of course, as that Charles Johnson piece reminds us, Shapiro was in on the Michelle Fields hoax a year ago. For those who have forgotten, she claimed to have been assaulted by a Trump campaign staffer at an event. Shapiro and several other fake conservatives demanded Trump quit the campaign over it. Shapiro even quit Breitbart over it, coincidentally just when the Wilks brothers check cleared. Video later revealed that the staffer in question merely brushed past Fields and she had been lying.

That’s the thing about our chattering classes. They are never called to answer for their perfidy. Fields still gets on TV as a pundit, despite having been exposed as something of a sociopath. Shapiro was never pressed to explain his role in that affair. National Review is happy to give him a platform, as no doubt the Wilks brothers are stroking checks to them too. There’s little doubt that Sloppy Williamson was paid to write those insane anti-Trump columns last year. Even by his standards, they were a cornucopia of crack-pottery.

Since Charlottesville, Shapiro has been taking every opportunity to condemn the alt-right and you see that in the linked twitter rant. The game he is playing is the moral equivalence strategy. He keeps equating the alt-right with Antifa, comparing what you don’t see, with what you do see. People hear about the alt-right, but they see black clad lunatics toppling over statues and smashing windows in street riots. Chad and Stacey out in the suburbs can be forgiven for confusing the two and condemning both.

That’s the role guys like Shapiro play for the Left. These so-called conservatives happily define the boundaries between what is and what is not acceptable on the Right. He and his fellow pens-for-hire are the palace guard, defining the outer boundary of the political Right. It’s why they are more worked up over the alt-right than the violent left-wing mobs of Antifa. The former is a real threat to their position, while the latter is good for selling books no one will read and building their media brand.

The other angle Shapiro is working is the flattery scam. He invests a lot of time and effort in presenting himself as the thinking man’s right-winger. That in itself reveals something about him. His appeal is that smart normies can feel like intellectuals because they listen to Ben Shapiro. The fact that he can say he supports free speech and in the same thread condemn the speech of everyone to his Right reveals him to be a pseudo-intellectual moral nullity. He’s an obsequious rumpswab, who will say anything for a buck.

It is just another example of the corruption of the Official Right™. They may as well be actors, hired by the Left to play a role in the Prog political drama. They will never bite the hand that feeds them. It’s why they are falling all over themselves to signal to the Left that they are perfectly OK with cracking down on dissident speech. It’s not about ideology. It is about the paycheck. If the boundary of the Right gets pushed out, guys like Shapiro are no longer useful. It’s why their guns are always pointed at us, rather than the Left.

The Forever War

The Imperial Government is a lot like a super tanker. It moves slowly, but it is so huge it is nearly impossible to stop and impossible to steer. The best a capable leader can do is nudge it slightly off its current path, a slight course correction, or maybe re-arrange some of the things on the deck. Otherwise, the sheer momentum of the thing makes piloting it impossible. Generations of bad ideas have been loaded into the super tanker that is the American Empire. Only a giant rip in the hull will stop it from plodding along.

That’s what we’re seeing with Trump. He was full of big talk about ratcheting back US commitments around the world, particularly in pointless sinkholes like Afghanistan, where we have been killing people for going on a generation. If you wanted to be precise and date our involvement to when we first put advisers on the ground, We have been in Afghanistan for 37 years now. Operation Cyclone was started under Carter and became the program the Reagan administration used to unseat the Soviet Union.

Now Trump is promising to make sure we are there for a 40th anniversary.

President Trump unveiled his plan for Afghanistan after seven months of deliberation Monday evening, announcing tweaks around the edges of the current strategy instead of a different approach.
He announced five “core pillars” to the approach: getting rid of any timelines for how long U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan; using all elements of power, including diplomatic and economic; getting tougher on Pakistan; getting India to help more with economic development; and expanding authorities for U.S. forces to fight terrorists.

What the president did not announce was how many more U.S. troops would head to Afghanistan, which he decided earlier this year to leave up to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to determine.

He did, however, say the U.S. would no longer talk about troop levels or drawdown dates, making it unclear whether troop increases would be announced. There are currently about 8,400 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and the president has reportedly approved of a plan to send about 4,000 more.

The obvious pointlessness of this endeavor is finally admitted. Trump layered on a thick coating of his usual bullshit when announcing this, but the truth is, no one knows why we’re there anymore or what we are trying to accomplish. We’re just going to remain there doing stuff because the generals now running American foreign policy like being in Afghanistan playing warlord. They got Trump to sign off on looser rules of engagement, so they can have some more fun shooting the locals, but otherwise it is more of the same.

That’s the thing we’re seeing that no one seems to be discussing. The civilian arm of the government is no longer in control of American military policy. In the Bush years, it was obvious that Cheney ran the show, with a bunch of generals and former generals, but at least Cheney was a civilian. Obama was just a figurehead in all aspects, but there were still a few civilians in the military policy loop. Trump has turned it all over to dazzling mediocrities like Mattis and Kelly.

The other aspect of this is the decision to hide from the public the details of what is going in Afghanistan. No more troop levels, no more timelines and no more answering questions about what in the hell we are doing there. You see, in the managerial state, you are no longer a citizen with the right to ask questions of your government and they are no longer obligated to explain things to you. It’s above your pay grade. But hey, you’re empowered and encouraged to fulfill your potential in an inclusive, welcoming environment!

Even the military has not escaped the corrosive effects of managerialism. This war is a managerial state war, where no one ever asks hard questions of their managers or even thinks much about it.  Decisions are made, meetings are held, action plans are drawn up and someone does a presentation to a committee. People get to put their participation on their resume. They get to put down that they were on a committee that conjured a program with a ridiculous name like “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Some people console themselves with the belief that eventually the empire will be bled dry and our rulers will have no choice but to pull back. The trouble with that is our rulers can go on pillaging the middle class to finance this stuff for a long time. There’s nothing the people can do about it, short of open revolt. No matter which party they put in charge, the polices remain the same. Trump was supposed to be the warning shot, but instead he is turning into another kibble thrown into the maw of the managerial state.

America is now committed to being in Afghanistan for a few more years, bringing our engagement to at least four decades. The Brits hung around the place for roughly 90 years. The First Afghan War started in 1839 and the last British expats were evacuated in 1929 after a tribal uprising. Afghanistan had become independent in 1919, but the Brits hung around to “help.” Given that American rulers are much dumber than the old British colonials, it is safe to say that this is America’s forever war.

 

 

The Trumpening So Far

One of the more amusing aspects of the 2016 election was how the pearl clutchers of Conservative Inc. would rush out of their hobbit dens every week, shrieking, “That’s it! Trump is finished!” It was always after Trump mocked their virtue in some way. They would carry on like it was just a matter of time before their adoring public rallied to their banner and chased away the evil dirt monster. They are still waiting for anyone to show up and take their side. Meanwhile Trump has completed his sixth month in office.

Since January, another pattern has emerged. The Fake News makes up a story and the commentariat carries on as if it is fact. A few months ago, the Fake News swore that Bannon was about to be fired. That did not happen so they moved onto Kushner. His alleged ties to Tsar Alexander were going to force him out. Now, the Fake News swears that Trump is about to fire Sessions. Suddenly everyone in Conservative Inc, who hated Sessions, is now defending him as a great statesman and politician.

The key to understanding Trump has always been that he loves drama. The never ending quarrel is what gets him up in the morning. He thrives in chaos and when he cannot find it, he creates it. The reason is Trump is an opportunist. That’s his nature. He seeks to maximize what he has in order to leverage it into a chance to catch someone sleeping, so he can get a bargain in his next deal. This post from two years ago described Trump pretty well and it is holding up now that he is in the White House.

There’s another aspect of Trump that has always been true, but is taking center stage now that he is in the White House. Two decades ago, he was often compared to George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees. Like Steinbrenner, Trump is an unpredictable and often impetuous boss. He gets mad at people for no sensible reason and he hold grudges that make even less sense. Steinbrenner fired people for trivial reasons, but would then hire them back. That’s what we see with Trump now.

The reason Trump was so perfect for the reality show The Apprentice was that he had the reputation for being the hot-headed boss. It was not hard for Trump to be convincing when he would say his catchphrase, “You’re fired!” It was something that people imagined he said every week, because he had the reputation for firing people. It may have been exaggerated, but we see now that Trump is not only a tough boss, bu he can be petty and small. His treatment of Sessions is childish and pointless.

The thing is though, guys like Steinbrenner and Trump got very rich in the toughest of businesses. The reason is they had a knack for creating chaos, forcing people out of their comfortable positions. An enemy on the move is vulnerable. By creating a whirlwind of chaos, Trump gets everyone moving and inevitably, making mistakes. One possible reason for the paralysis in Washington right now is that the snowflakes in the GOP are too frightened to move. They have never experienced anything like this and they are scared.

From the perspective of the Dissident Right, this is a good result. Most of the GOP are liars, who have been finking on their voters for years. Their inability and unwillingness to repeal ObamaCare has exposed this to even the most naive voters. Of course, Trump’s penchant for creating chaos has collapsed the Washington media. Even the most gullible is now assuming the news is fake. The ability of the political class to peddle their agit-prop has been greatly diminished because Trump has destroyed the media universe.

On the other hand, Trump’s mad man management style is keeping him from getting anything through Congress. He thinks he can wear down people like Ryan and McConnell, but he is misreading the situation. Being Speaker is not like being the CEO of a company. Leadership can only enforce discipline by withholding favors and that has a limit. Ryan can’t fire uncooperative members of his caucus. Trumps’ bullying style is probably making that task harder for the leadership.

Of course, the bigger issue is Team Trump does not know what they are doing. Jared Kushner was good at marrying well and maybe he is good at business, but he does not have the slightest clue about Washington politics. Trump’s penchant for relying on family over smart advisers is fine in business, because Trump is usually the smartest guy in the room. In politics, the only person less qualified than Trump is his daughter, who he seems to rely on more than political strategists like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon.

Regardless, six months into the Trumpening and there is plenty to disappoint and dishearten his voters. His vacillating on immigration is the most worrisome. It’s why he is in the White House. His unwillingness to bring the hammer down on recalcitrant Republicans is mind boggling. Instead of tormenting Sessions, he should be blasting the bugmen of the GOP. Again, Trump’s impulse to keep everyone on edge, even his allies, makes supporting him an exhausting and unrewarding endeavor.

On the other other hand, Trump did not get to this point by doing things like a normal politician so it would not make sense for him to try to become a normal politician. His unconventional style has worked when the professionals said it would fail. A point worth making again is that you can’t judge Trump by traditional metrics. He’s a once in a century political force who will be judged more on what he destroys than on what he creates. He is the destroyer of worlds, because the world of Washington needs destroying.

Trump Fu

In the last couple of weeks, it seems that everyone has celebrated and castigated Trump, sometimes on the same day. Examining the range of opinions on Trump’s presidency so far is like looking through a kaleidoscope. No matter how gently you hold it up to your eye, you see something different than last time you looked through it. In normal times, it is easy to know where everyone stands. The Liberals think the Republican president is Hitler and they think the Democrat is Jesus. The Right adjust accordingly.

With Trump, all of the pundits are standing in the darkness, silhouetted by a wall of light and sound. We can sort of see them moving and we hear noises, but it is hard to know who is saying what about whom. Every once in a while a face from the crowd pops into view and says something good or ill about Trump. One minute Bill Kristol is sneering about Trump and then all of sudden Lindsey Graham is praising Trump. The Alt-Right is one minute hooting about Syria and then praising the new border push.

It really is exhausting, but it is part of how Trump plays the game. It is a good reminder that traditional metrics are not much use when judging Trump the politician. It’s also why he mowed down the GOP field with a cell phone and a twitter account. It was not that he broke their rules. It was that they wasted a lot of time complaining about Trump breaking their rules. Meanwhile, Trump was out giving voters a reason to support him. It is a classic form of political distraction that Trump has adopted to the modern communication age.

Similarly, Trump is wildly unpredictable, at least he seems unpredictable. That’s a big part of how he plays the game. He wants everyone to think the range of choices for him include some collection of unknown options that no one has yet to consider. That keeps foes on the defensive, making them tentative, even when they have the advantage. By appearing to have no clear strategy and routinely breaking old habits, Trump appears to be a wild man, who is capable of anything. Therefore, there’s no way to plan for him.

The big weapon Trump has in this regard is his willingness to attack unexpectedly. He always looks to attack when everyone is sure it is foolish to do so. He went to the very pro-military state of South Carolina and called John McCain a loser for getting shot down and captured by the Vietnamese. He questioned McCain’s conduct as a prisoner. The media howled about how he went too far, but his opponents suddenly got very nervous as they realized they could never relax around Trump. He could attack at any moment.

Another thing about Trump  that makes him an extreme outlier in national politics is that he is not an ideologue. Most of our politicians are quite stupid. All of their intellectual energy is focused on the endless scheming and game playing that is politics. What passes for ideology in American politics is really just a laundry list of policies aimed at buying votes from interest groups. That’s why they sound like robots. They stick to the script, even in the face of a public revolt, because that’s the safe and easy way to do it.

That’s not Trump. He is not married to any policy. In the campaign, he would regularly say something one day and then take it back two days later when it proved to be unpopular. It is safe to assume, for example, that Trump has zero interest in health care. He’ll sign off on anything that is popular with the voters. He’s also willing to dump a bad policy without worrying a bit about being called a hypocrite or inconsistent. Trump is practical about these things. If it does not work, he tosses it aside and moves onto to the next thing.

This will be terribly frustrating for partisans, but Trump is a goal oriented guy. The never ending circus has a point. In the case of the Syrian attack and the blow up with the Russians, it is looking like the point of it all was to play a little domestic politics, but a whole lot of international politics. The way he handled the Chinese leader last week is looking like a game to get the Chinese to do something about North Korea, in order to save face. The “Crazy Trump” act hurling missiles at Syria is excellent cover.

It’s easy to read way too much into these accounts, but the Chinese are now saying extremely bellicose things to the North Koreans. Bush and Obama used every trick they knew to get the Chinese to address the North Koreans and failed. Suddenly, the Chinese are issuing ultimatums. It could simply a be a coincidence and China has been planning to rid themselves of the Kim family for a while, but it is hard to imagine anything like this happening under the last four presidents. They lacked the boldness to try it.

None of this is to suggest that Trump is going to be good for our team, however you interpret that. It’s just that using the old metrics to assess Trump is a category error. He’s not a regular politician and these are not regular times. No one should have imagined Trump as their white knight. At best, Trump flips over the tables and creates enough chaos to give those outside official Washington a chance to join the fight. Trump the Destroyer of Worlds is going to be exhausting for everyone. That’s just part of the deal.

The Wages of Proportionalism

Ethical theories like utilitarianism, say that an action is right or wrong, depending on the consequences it produces. A deed is judged as good if it has a good result. The intentions of the actor are of little or no consequence, because what matters is the final result. Similarly, the deed has no intrinsic morality because the morality is entirely dependent on the results. The most common expression for this is that the ends justify the means. Most of what we think of as the Left falls into this ethical category.

The obvious alternative to this is what Jeremy Bentham called deontological ethics or deontology. This loosely means the knowledge of what is right and proper. A Catholic, for example, acts in accordance with the teachings of the Church. A lawyer conducts himself in accordance with the demands of Lucifer. The act is good or evil intrinsically, regardless of downstream outcomes. What matters is the fidelity to principle or a moral code. The means justifies the ends is the most common formulation of this.

Then there is Proportionalism, which was discussed in this post with regards to how our rulers manage race relations in the current age. That is the ethical theory that says it is never right to go against a principle, unless a proportionate reason would justify it. For example, discrimination is always wrong, unless doing so mitigates some greater wrong. Affirmative action is the policy of discriminating against living whites, based on their race, in order to address the racism of white people too dead to be punished.

The obvious danger of utilitarianism and pragmatist is that it gives license to all sorts of horrible things. A despot, for example, can kill wantonly, claiming it is necessary in order to achieve some greater purpose. Similarly, a pathological adherence to principle, or simply adherence to some bizarre moral philosophy like Nazism, can lead to monstrous ends. Even so, there’s at least a principled argument to be made in order to limit or block the despot and the zealot. There are rules against which they can be judged.

In the modern age, our rulers are quick to point out these things when criticizing whatever it is they are railing against at the moment. They favor Proportionalism because it allows them to make the rules up as they go along, in the moment, in order to take maximum advantage. Proportionalism lets them bet both sides of the wager. When it suits them, they can assiduously apply the rules. When the rules are inconvenient, they can claim that a rigid adherence to principle is not in the public interest.

This moral ambiguity has worked reasonably well, but it is proving to be their undoing as we see with the ongoing spying scandal in Washington. The political class is now faced with an impossible choice. They can pretend that none of this happened and hope Trump stops dumping details about it into the alternative media. That’s pretty much what happened with the Susan Rice story that was handed to Cernovich. That’s an unknowable unknown because Trump plays by a different set of rules and has unknown motives.

There’s also the problem of letting what Team Obama did go unpunished. It sanctions this sort of activity and exactly no one wants the executive having that sort of power. Imagine if a soulless sociopath like Clinton had won the election and had the power to unleash the intelligence agencies on her enemies. On a regular basis, assassins would be gunning down political figures on the streets of Washington. The organized and brazen abuse of power that went on in the last year cannot be left unaddressed.

That, of course, leads to the other unpleasant option. Investigating the former staff of the former president for the crime of domestic espionage and perhaps conspiring to undermine the election is no small thing. After all, that former president is the most precious trophy of the party that runs Washington. That party has been willing to excuse just about anything in order to win political fights. No one knows what sort of dirt Team Obama has at their disposal to use in a bloody political war over this.

That brings it all back to Trump. This latest twist was rather obviously a White House caper. They had the goods on Susan Rice and probably several others so they found a willing outlet. This is one of the oldest political tricks. You find an obscure reporter looking to make a name for himself and you give him the scoop of his lifetime. In this day, a blogger works even better because they don’t have to clear things with a boss. Picking Cernovich is the sort of flourish that a guy like Trump would find amusing.

It’s also a reminder to the political class that Trump is a fast learner and he is willing to play the hardest of hardball. Trump is a leverage guy. He always looks at what he has in order to leverage it to get something else. He’s just turned this Russian hacking nonsense into a weapon he can now use on the political class. The Republicans don’t want to go to war with the Democrats and the Democrats don’t want anymore of their soldiers getting dimed out to ambitious bloggers looking to make a name for themselves.

It is the inevitable end to Proportionalism. In the 90’s, the Left made all sorts of compromises in order to win elections with the Clintons. The Right decided to do the same the following decade with Bush and the neocons. As a result, the political class lost their moral authority. Team Obama had no reason to obey the rules, because no one was obeying the rules. There was always some proportionate reason to justify violating principle. After all, they let the IRS caper pass. Why not some domestic spying?

The Truth About Health Care

Humans live in a finite world. The universe may be infinite, but the world of man is finite. There’s only so much stuff. Because there is only so much stuff, there’s always going to be a shortage of the stuff that people tend to like or need. It’s not always a desperate shortage, but there’s never enough so that everyone can take what they want. There’s always going to be one more hand reaching for the last item just after it is gone.

This is a basic axiom of life and one of the foundation truths of economics. It’s even a foundation truth of communism, which assumes scarcity can only be mitigated, but never fully eliminated, by the elimination of profit. Economists of all stripes work from the assumption that scarcity is an immutable fact of the human condition. The question they wrestle with is how to increase supply and distribute the results.

What this means is that all goods and services must be rationed. Since there’s never enough to meet the maximum demand, there has to be some way to say “no” to people demanding the goods or services. The most common way to do this is price. The poor guy who wants a Mercedes is told he cannot have a Mercedes by the big numbers on the price tag. This is how the supply of luxury cars is rationed.

The other way to ration goods and services is for men with guns to take control of the supply and create rules for who can and who cannot have access to the stuff.  Rocket propelled grenades are not very expensive. An RPG can be had for around $500 and the rounds are about $100. The government, at least in America, controls the supply of RPG’s and determines who can have them. In other words, the government rations the supply of RPG’s in America.

This is an iron law of economics. All goods and services are rationed. This is true for health care too. There are no exceptions to this law. Thus, the First Truth of Health Care: No health care plan or system can ever be taken seriously unless it addresses, up front, how it will say “No, you cannot have it” to people who want it. At some point, someone has to tell the patient they cannot have whatever it is they want or need.

In America, rationing is mostly done by price, but increasingly the state is taking over this role. In Britain, most people are denied services by the long lines for those services. The long wait times for basic services is a form of rationing. If you can deliver X per day and the demand is for 2X, you solve this by giving people numbers and having them wait a long time until their number is called. This is socialized medicine in nutshell.

The fact is, most people could pay out of pocket, for their health services. It is only when poor people get old or have accidents when they need someone to pay for their medical care. Most middle-class people should be able to put away a little every payday to reserve for their later years. That is, if they were not being taxed into poverty by the current system in America that has seen prices rise five times the inflation rate.

Thus, the Second Truth of Health Care: The current insurance model is just a wealth transfer from the middle-class to the health care industry, in order to cover the cost of poor people and the metastasizing layer of people who live off the system. Those is really just a tax. Most people use about 5% of their plan for themselves, the rest is used to pay for poor people and the army of people who work in the system.

That’s the thing politicians never want to discuss, which is the whole reason they are talking about health care in the first place. How does a modern society pay for the poor, who cannot afford needed medical services? How to we address the free riders on the system? More important, how much are we willing to pay for the health services to the poor? There’s a limit to all of this and that’s the question that always has to be answered.

Of course, one of the paradoxes of modern life is that you can get very rich off the poor, which is why liquor stores and furniture rental shops dot the ghetto. In the social welfare game, the point is to lay a massive guilt trip on the public, and grease the right political palms, in order to get the middle class to look the other way as their money is siphoned off for one program or another for the poor, always administered by a rich guy coincidentally.

Thus, the Third Truth of Health Care: Health services are a massive skimming operation. Today, the one area of the economy that “grows” is the health care industry. Every year, more and more people pile into that wagon, mostly in administrative roles. The number of nurses and doctors does not grow very much, but the number of bureaucrats grows like a weed.

Then you have the pill makers, machine makers, research people and lawyers. There are always lots and lots of lawyers. The health care industry is massive and government dependent. It’s why rub rooms are now called message therapy centers. They are angling to get it on the racket, by having their service declared an essential health care service. That way, you will be paying for some guy to get a happy ending.

That’s why reforming health care has become an impossibility. As soon as anyone makes any noises about fixing the system, the army of lobbyists, hired by every vested interest, shows up to bury the reformers. If they are not able to kill the idea of reform entirely, they set about corrupting it into another grift that their clients can use to get a free shot at your wallet. The only people not represented in these efforts are the voters. They get no say.

This is the main reason Trump’s efforts to address the problems of ObamaCare failed last week. What Ryan and the other crooks in the GOP were hoping to do is pass a bill that made it easier for their paymasters to skim money from the rate payers, while providing fewer services. Ryan’s bill was just an attempt to help the people feeding at the trough get a little fatter off the middle-class. Its failure suggests we have reached the end phase.

Talk to anyone responsible for paying health insurance premiums and they will tell you that the rates are reaching the point where they cannot be paid. When premiums are going up by multiples of inflation, there can be only one result. Once rates pass a certain level, people stop paying those premiums. You get black markets, non-compliance and a system that can only persist through brute coercion. Soon after you get collapse.

The Political Class Murders Itself

The point at which the Roman Republic moved from republic to empire is generally placed at the point when the Senate granted Octavian almost unlimited power and he adopted the title Augustus. Some historians argue it was when Caesar crossed the Rubicon or when Octavian defeated Antony at Actium. The implication is that once the transition was started, there was no turning back. The more useful analysis is to think of it as a process, with roots in the Republic, that evolved to the point where dictatorship was inevitable.

The die was most likely cast when the Republic began to compromise its own rules for limiting and distributing power. The system they had created was a reflection of the tribal realities of the early republic. In order to keep any one family from gaining too much power, they systematically limited the time anyone served in office. The system also forced an apprenticeship on those who went into public life. This had the benefit of making public men buy into the system. Therefore they were willing to defend it.

That meant the system had a policing mechanism to sort out enemies before they could cause trouble. An ambitious young man could not skip any steps on his way up the ladder, so once he got up the ladder, he was not agreeing to any changes in the process. Defending the system was a way to defend one’s prerogatives, but also a way to defend the system from lunatics. Verpus Maximus may be smart and talented, but he was not only going to wait his turn, he was going to do all the jobs necessary to prove his worth.

This system started to break down with the rivalry of Sulla and Marius. Sulla was the first man to hold the office of consul twice. He also got away with marching an army on Rome itself, in order to defeat his rival, Marius. Both of these acts were supposed to be disqualifying, but exceptions were made for expediency. Sulla sided with the Senate so the Senate bent the rules to serve themselves. A good case can be made that this is the point when it was all over for the Republic.

It was just a matter of time before someone used Sulla as a precedent.

It is a good lesson to keep in mind as the politicians in the Imperial Capital wrangle over what could be a very dangerous scandal for them.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes declared Wednesday that members of Donald Trump’s transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under inadvertent surveillance following November’s presidential election.

The White House and Trump’s allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president’s much-maligned claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that’s not what his new information shows.

Democrats, meanwhile, cried foul.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, cast doubt on Nunes’ claims in a fiery statement and blasted the chairman for not first sharing the information with him or other committee members.

Schiff also slammed Nunes for briefing the White House on Wednesday afternoon given that the Intelligence Committee is in the middle of an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, including possible collusion with the Trump team.

The political class chased Nixon out of town for talking about the use of the FBI and CIA as weapons against political opponents. The rule in politics has been that the use of the IRS or the intelligence agencies was expressly prohibited. There could be no exceptions for obvious reasons, as it would give these bureaucracies dangerous power. That was the lesson of Hoover. If the CIA or IRS are allowed to use their powers to gather dirt on elected officials, then they can control elected officials. That’s the end of democracy.

Of course, there’s another reason to take certain weapons off the table in politics. That’s self preservation. In prior ages, where the winners had the losers killed, the challengers would always have as their goal, the death of the current ruler. That prompted the ruler to get ahead of the curve and have any potential challengers killed, before they could be any trouble. This was Stalin’s game and he just about gutted the the intellectual and political elite of Russia in the process. They still have not recovered from it.

That’s what makes this so dangerous. It’s now clear what happened. The Obama people started spying on Trump once he had the nomination or perhaps even earlier. They may have started earlier with an eye on helping the Republicans knock him off in the primary, but that’s not clear. They figured that Clinton was a lock so they were not careful about covering their tracks. The Clinton people are as dirty as it gets so they were not going to be ratting on anyone over it. If anything, they would expand on it.

This is where the Russian hacking story comes into the picture. Once disaster struck and Team Obama realized they had a problem, they needed cover, so they started with the Russian hacking nonsense. They would then claim that it was all an accident and they were just trying to prevent Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale from attacking our democracy! It’s also why Obama signed a retroactive Executive Order giving cover to the intel agencies for their domestic spying activities. They were creating a cover story.

The complication is that it appears that at least one person has perjured himself over this and that one person is FBI Director Comey. There’s no way to square his testimony with these new revelations. The best he can do is split hairs and claim he was not part of the spying effort. Of course, there’s no way to touch him as he runs the FBI. In fact, there’s no way to investigate any of the intelligence organizations. This is the point where many of the robot historians of the future will say the American political class murdered itself.

Unless there is some will to address it, and that’s highly unlikely, we now have a new normal where highly politicized intelligence agencies are used by both sides to discredit one another and discredit any attempts to reform the system. It’s no longer a game of rules. It is a zero sum  game of power and that cycle only ends one way, with someone marching their army on the capital and taking control. As with Rome, whoever emerges as the dictator will not have murdered the system. The system will have murdered itself.