View From Up Here

One Canadian's views on Politics, Books, Podcasts and random stuff

Everyone chill

Everyone should really think. I keep hearing everyone (here, here and here are examples) saying that this Alabama special election was some kind of bellwether. It might be, but it probably isn’t.

All of the folks using these results to extrapolate 2018 or 2020’s results are being both silly and misleading.

Alabama saw 2.1 million voters turnout in 2016 to vote in the Presidential election, they saw 800,000 fewer voters last night. Basically 63% of Alabama’s number from 2016. Of course special elections always see low turnouts. No news there. That’s what makes them unreliable as a cause for jubilation of the Democratic side.

Democrats got lucky because Trump, Bannon and Moore caused a perfect storm of idiocy that even Alabamians couldn’t accept. That certainly won’t always be the case.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, folks.

Brexit update

Big Brexit news.

The British government’s governing Conservatives lost 12 of their own in a vote to prevent Parliament from having a vote on a future Brexit deal. This will likely further politicize Theresa May’s negotiations with Brussels and make a real Brexit deal before the March 2019 deadline even less likely than it already was.

Seriously, you can’t help but feel for May. Everyone was talking about how capable a manager she was when she was elected leader. Now everyone is talking about how terribly she’s managed Brexit. Though not a very capable politician, I think she’s proven to be a pretty good manager. This is just an impossible job, especially after the last election, that pretty much no one could do any better at.

Each negotiation position taken is complicated by or risks alienating Northern Ireland, Scotland, free movement, the entire city of London, immigration, or the different wings of the conservative party.

Brexit is a rubik’s cube of shit. No matter what happens next, things will just get messier and any future deal, if even completed, will smell terrible.

A half minute of hope.

I’m happy.

Truly content.

Alabama came to its senses and elected Doug Jones over Roy Moore. And Republicans wasted no time in attacking Steve Bannon, blaming him for this electoral fiasco. Great news. Bannon is a disgusting buffoon and needs to go back to the dark smelly basement from whence he surely came.

With any luck, Trump will finally follow his fellow partisans lead and turn on Bannon in the coming months. Hopefully Bannon will lash out, turning the Breitbart-reading mob against Trump. This fracturing of the Republican base would open a multi-lane highway to victory that even these weak and incompetent Democrats could navigate through.

This positive thinking also assumes Republicans would be willing to fracture their own political base in order to do the right thing…

Oh yeah… they’ll never do that. They’re too craven, too weak and too trapped in the present to think of how history will judge them.

That thirty seconds or so of positivity felt real good and was a welcome respite from the last 18 months of sadness. For a half minute there, I thought this might be the beginning of the end of this long nightmare, but Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others are far too cowardly to make that possible.

Now it’s back to reality I guess…

The Reverse Marshall Plan

The American economy is the lifeblood of Western financial life. Its innovations in services and its consumption are the engine of the world. Yes, the Chinese economy is growing fast and will soon overtake America’s as the world’s largest. But in terms of its contribution to the lives of people where I live (Canada) or just about any other developed economy — America is most important. Americans buy our goods and raw materials, our technologies and services, and their consumption drives ours.

The fact is that developed economies are driven by consumption not production. That’s been the case for decades. Whether it’s a long term problem or a short term characteristic is debatable. What’s not debatable is that America’s desire for new internet services or used rail signs or baseball cards to collect or new, smarter vacuum cleaners and its wish to get all of these things quickly and cheaply drives growth both in developed countries (who try and keep up with demand and service these needs) and developing economies (who make the vacuums.)

Which brings us to what has to happen. All of us non-American countries need to start saving. I know what you’re thinking: we don’t have any money to spare either — and you’re right. But we have to start saving because America is in the process of committing economic suicide. It’s taking its already unequal tax code and making it way way worse. It’s actually going to end up curbing its long-term consumption by moving the tax burden away from the wealthy and rich to the middling and poor.

So in about fifteen years or so, we’re gonna need to bail them out. We’ll need to plan a reverse Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was one of the great achievements in twentieth century history. Arguably for the first time, a victor in a major way paid billions of dollars to rebuild those countries that they defeated in a world war in an effort to prevent a repeat conflict and prevent the spread of communism. The Marshall Plan featured American companies and its government providing billions in raw materials, finished materials, and cash to European governments to get their economies going. The growing consumer economies of Western Europe in the 1950s were the result. And their consumption helped fuel America’s economy as well. We — those of us outside the United States, but dependent on its consumption — will need to resuscitate its lower and middle classes economic demand once the new Republican tax plan arrives at its logical end.

Rather than fighting a world war, America has decided to fight a class war. Sure, it’s unnamed and seldom discussed (America’s refusal to talk class is one of it’s greatest modern weaknesses) but that’s what it is. It’s going to change how Americans pay taxes by gratuitously favouring those capable of incorporating themselves as a company, punishing wage earners, and reducing America’s ability to deal with future recessions by further increasing its already troubling national debt.

Many suggest that it’s improper to look at this tax plan in isolation. “It looks bad in the short term, but even if it doesn’t result in huge growth, it’ll force everyone to the table for entitlement reforms.” This amazing and increasingly pervasive Republican Congress logic defies sense. They weren’t even able to change Obamacare, something they all apparently agreed on (and still may not even pass their tax plan as of today) but everyone should buy the idea that they’ll be able to affect significant change to the most politically radioactive parts of American policy. No chance.

So they’re undermining their own consumption-driven economy, reducing their capacity to make macroeconomic adjustment for the next downturn by driving up their debt and (likely) reducing their governments revenues to boot.

Western World: we’re going to need to repay the debts of the 1940s. America will need economic reconstruction just like Western Europe after World War II after undertaking its own war on itself.

We just have to figure out how we’re going to pay for it.

On Glenn Greenwald and the stupid media

I think Glenn Greenwald is at best, naive. Most likely he’s a paid Russian propagandist.

But he’s right on this week.

He did an excellent job (minus the subtle — and baseless — Russia inquiry undermining) of describing a serious problem. Not that all media is secretly in service of some CIA cabal like he generally seems to suggest.  It’s that the “mainstream” media in the United States once again did what it seems to do quite often: in its excitement to show everyone how terrible Donald Trump is, it actually ended up strengthening Trump by undermining itself. This is a big part of Trump’s success. CNN, NBC, CBS and others just need to do better if they’re gonna be an antidote to Trump’s lying and negative scapegoating.

Last week 03/12 – 09/12

Podcasts:

NPR Politics, Flynn Pleads Guilty and Senate Get Closer To Passing Tax Overhaul Bill

FT Politics, Settling the Brexit bill and Carbyn vs. bankers

Amanpour, Obstruction of Justice and ‘Hamilton’

FiveThirtyEight Politics, Are Taxes A Pyrrhic Victory?

Deep State Radio, Dumber by Design

Rational Security, The “When You’re President They Let You Do It” Edition

Talking Politics, How Democracy Ends

National Review, The Editors’, Franken’s Time

Books:

Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda

Articles:

Glenn Greenwald, The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened

Mollie Hemingway, 18 Questions CNN Needs To Answer After Getting Busted For Fake News

Rex Murphy, Notley held up her end of the deal. If only Trudeau would do the same

Dan Boylan and Guy Taylor, Obama-led intel fiasco paved way for Russian subversion

Nicholas Thompson, Our Minds Have Been Hijacked By Our Phones, Tristan Harris Wants to Rescue Them

David Brooks, The G.O.P. Is Rotting

Masha Gessen, The Invention of a New Kind of Political Party in Sweden

Ehud Barak, We Must Save Israel From Its Government

A few random thoughts

  • Though not a great book, Donna Brazile’s Hacks is a book that, had Hillary won would’ve been just another pat-on-the-back bore; instead, a picture of a financially, intellectually, and morally bankrupt political party brought to its knees by an indifferent president and a pathetically weak-willed chairperson.
  • Tom Friedman’s rosy fluff piece on Saudi Arabia’s “reformist” Crown Prince is revolting. Political prisoners and the brutal war in Yemen are barely discussed. I understand wanting to see on the bright side and stay optimistic on the potential for things to change in the kingdom, but to totally ignore the many concerning issues present in Saudi Arabia is journalistic negligence.
  • The tax plan passed the US Senate. Unless talks fall apart, it’s likely that the bill will go to President Trump for signature by Christmas. Good luck, America. I hope this isn’t going to be as bad as it looks, but I think it will. Looking forward to some day in March 2025 when the Dow hits 35,000 on the same day that the debt hits $25 trillion and the unemployment rate hits 10%. Giving away hundreds of billions to rich people who don’t need it while taking away any macroeconomic room to maneuver in a future recession.

Last week 26/11 – 02/12

Books:

Donna Brazile,  Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House 

James M. McPherson,  Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

Podcasts:

Deep State Radio, The Void

FT Politics, Hammond’s Budget success and the Irish border conundrum

The Global Politico, Trump’s Russia Problem with Ambassador Kurt Volker

National Review: The Editors, The Pretender to the CFPB

The Spectator: Americano, Is the special relationship under threat?

Articles/Essays:

Gwyn Morgan, A fairy tale of Canada doing good for the world has become a nightmare

Jan-Werner Müller, Capitalism in One Family

Rich Lowry, Conyers scandal shows what Dems really think about harassment

Daniel W. Drezner, Donald Trump’s revealed opinion about why he won the 2016 election

Nancy Gibbs, How America Became So Divided

Thomas L. Friedman, Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last

Michael Harris, Singh’s primary political problem isn’t Trudeau. It’s premiers.

Jacob Hamburger, The Closing of the American Mind

Last week 19/11 – 25/11

Books:

Tah-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power

Nick Hornby, Funny Girl

Podcasts:

The New Yorker: Politics and More, From Obama to Trump: Ten Years of The Political Scene

Talking Politics, Jan-Werner Müller on Populism

FT Politics, The Brexit Mutineers and how the City of London will survive

FP’s The Editor’s Roundtable, Spies, Lies and the Murder of a President

FT Politics, Budget 2017 Special: Fiscal Phil’s housing gamble

National Review: The Editors, Episode 65: An Avalanche of Accusations

Talking Politics, David Miliband

Articles:

Conrad Black, Trump is already the most successful U.S. president since Ronald Reagan

Howard Blum, Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned

Adam Serwer, The Nationalist’s Delusion

David Brooks, The Siege Mentality Problem

Conrad Black and Trump

First and foremost, I think Conrad Black is brilliant. He’s highly intelligent, an above average historian, an accomplished writer, and one of the more engaging and elegant interviews out there. He’s also an asshole. Total and complete.

I’m not going to bother getting into Black’s crimes and subsequent prison sentence. The apparent arbitrariness of white collar prosecutions and convictions in the United States makes it tough to say that he’s any worse than the countless others who have gone unpunished both before and after him. But he is a pompous asshole and is a lot more Trump-like than he seems.

The blatant normalization of Trump by Black in his recent National Post article is proof enough. Sure, he cloaks the fawning admirations he clearly feels for him with a few negative (though underplayed) criticisms. In the end, though he suggests (as does his title) brazenly that Trump is the best president since Reagan.

But Black’s biases betray him. We know he’s a conservative — there’s nothing wrong with that — in fact, in many of his criticisms of the Canadian media and our prime minister, I am in his company. But he, like so many other closet nationalists like Trump not for his policies or his ideas, but for his bluster and capacity to anger. It is the very fact that Trump has the Canadian (actually global) media and intelligentsia against him that prompts Black’s applause. Because, secretly, Black’s insecurities are his driver. They are what push him to Trump. His pathetic desperation to be recognized by those now disgusted by Trump is why he claims to love the 45th president.

Like so many other conservatives, Black’s weakness is that even though he is more than intelligent enough to know what Trump is doing to everything from world order to free trade, he will go along with it just because Trump angers the people he resents: those that turned on him many years ago. Liberals, the media, academics: those that came to call him a criminal; they are all angered by Trump, so he must be on the other side.

The only thing worse than a poorly educated Trump fan is one smart enough to know what Trump actually stands for.

 

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