So, this may come as a surprise, but I super duper hate Donald Trump. Sure, I don’t like his policy. I very much disagree with Republicans. But I don’t hate Republicans, at least, not for their policy. Sure, I think their religious trappings are incredibly hypocritical and their anti-regulation bullshit puts our country at risk, BUT I DON’T HATE THEM.

I hate Trump.

It’s the way he and his ilk attempt to control narratives. They’ll say anything to get their way. I’m pretty sure most of us can agree that politicians are self-serving liars no matter their politics. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about getting criticism from the media (strong criticism that is deserved) and declaring the media is THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE??? What people? How does that even make sense?

I’m talking about attacking the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office before they even knew what the CBO would say. Why’s that? Well, they were well aware of how the CBO would run the numbers and knew it wouldn’t be pretty. We’re talking about an organization of economists here. For the most part, economists do not skew liberal.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just the stuff that stands out in my mind. It holds with a pattern. Don’t like something? Call it fake news. What makes it fake? It makes wittle Drumpf feel bad inside. Facts, sure, the media does report facts, but these facts are so hurtful! Poor Trump. I feel so bad for that rich fucking scumbag.

I would hardly be the first person pointing out that this administration, led by this fucking thin-skinned man-child, basically just lies constantly. That brings me to the whole Obama is tapping his wires thing. Like, are you fucking kidding me?

I try to imagine being a Republican with integrity right now. I can’t imagine it, but surely it would suck. The best we have is John McCain and we all know he doesn’t have enough integrity to actually do more than complain a bit here and there.

Trump is a nightmare. Our collective nightmare. Anybody who values facts, journalism, and science is cringing constantly. I wish I could enjoy the media constantly squeezing him, but what good has it done? We know he’s lying, but conservatives seem to be okay with that.

So that’s where we are. I fucking hate Trump because he’s turned the Republicans into something I’m finding increasingly pathetic and despicable.

To my great sadness, I can find no solace in the progressive movements. We have to stop eating our own. We have to stop engaging in this out-liberaling. It’s okay to ally ourselves with people that we disagree with. We’ve got to fight Trump and his lying bullshit administration. This is too important to do anything less.

A Dismal Month of Trump

One month and the United States is already careening off into catastrophe. I was certainly not optimistic. I suspected terrible things would happen. But not this fast and not this bad.

So, let’s start with the fact that Trump didn’t vet his candidates for the cabinet. His team failed to pinpoint that Flynn was going to be a massive embarrassment that illegally was in talks with the Russian government. Flynn then lied about it and made Trump and his entire staff look like the incompetent fucks that they are. Not only that, but there was communication with Russian intelligence during the entire candidacy of Trump. While that doesn’t seem to be illegal, it shows a level of pandering and bootlicking that I’ve come to associate with Trump. Between that and the two Russian stooges, Rex Tillerson and Paul Manafort, it’s shaping up to be a presidency that will cozy up to the ruthless autocrat Putin. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned kind of guy that likes real elections and free press, but that strikes me as pretty fucking scummy.

Trump pretends to be strong by using hyperbolic language that really doesn’t make sense. But he’s not strong. He’s an compulsive liar that seems to need to boast to make himself feel better about his deficiencies. He hasn’t been able to run an effective White House at all. Even worse, now he’s holding a ‘situation room’ in his shit club with random ass people there, which isn’t illegal or all that terrible, but is just so typically scattered and un-presidential that I’m not remotely surprised.

Wait, though, there’s an even bigger issue. Trump is on a collision course to provoke a war in China. First, he very publicly insults China by calling Taiwan right away (and let’s not forget the mind boggling berating of the Australian PM). He goes with Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, who actually indicated that the US would prevent China from accessing their bases in the South China Sea (also known as directly starting a war).

Because Trump is apparently a yippy dog (Russian lap dog?), he then decides that his blustering/barking was maybe too much and finally gives China a call to say, “Hey, let’s do that One China policy where we ignore that Taiwan is totally a distinct country.” You know, it’s just that little thing that we’ve been doing since 1972 to prevent nuclear war.

That’s where we are. Potentially on the brink of AN ACTUAL WAR. WITH CHINA. Fucking hell. For what? Why start all this AND THEN BACK DOWN? What the fuck is that even supposed to mean? Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he backed down. It just doesn’t make any sense. The whole Trump policy is incoherent.

I genuinely hope somebody has a plan. I really don’t want to get into another war, with China, Russia, or any country. Let’s not forget how much of a disaster invading Iraq turned out to be. And Iraq wasn’t even a fair fight.

Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. My biggest concern is a constitutional crisis. This administration has repeatedly shown a disregard for the law. Let’s not forget that Trump publicly announced that the ELECTION ITSELF was only valid if he won. Even still, without any evidence or proof, he claims there was tons of voter fraud. What bullshit.

Then there’s the blatantly illegal ban on Muslims (putting it like that is definitely a simplification and fairly inaccurate, but you know what I mean). The courts are handling that one, for now. There’s Kellyanne Conway who somehow forgot that she shouldn’t be trying to sell Ivanka’s clothing. Of course, as previously mentioned, Flynn. Oh, and Trump’s extremely un-presidential attacks on sitting judges.

This cadre of ethically challenged people scare the shit out of me. They have no respect for rule of law. I worry that when something doesn’t go their way in the courts, Trump and crew will try to ignore it. I hope, if that day comes, Congress is ready to act. We might just have to impeach this motherfucker.


A Message to the Media

So I keep seeing a lot of rumors and fear-mongering among liberals. Even the actual media keeps reporting on the rumors of who is going to be nominated or shit like that. It’s really irritating me. Look, guys, I know precisely how bad a Trump presidency with a fully Republican House AND Senate is going to be. There’s no way this won’t be horrific.

HOWEVER! Let’s get upset when they’ve actually done those terrible things instead of crying about it now. At this point, it’s not so different from the half-truths or lies of the right. Let’s rise above this, please.

See, I’m sick of reading about Trump. I don’t want to be miserable and anxious all the time. So, for the moment, let me be oblivious. Stop freaking out prematurely and allow me to relax in the last days of the Obama presidency.

Impropriety in Government Hacking

It’s an obvious and well-known fact that governments hack each other all day, every day. While I think it’s stupid and potentially dangerous, it’s roughly the same as the rampant spying that exists between even friendly nations (ie Israel/US). I might not like it, but that doesn’t stop it from being standard. And if something is standard, then even my dislike doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to happen.

Now that I’ve established that, I feel it’s important to finally touch on the release of DNC materials to Wikileaks. Specifically, about how the DNC was so poorly led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Make no mistake, this lady was incompetetant, irresponsibly, and stupid. And this leak in no way implicated Clinton or illigimized her candicacy. Again, just establishing our ground.

Moving on, let’s take a peek on the why and how. The US government is fairly certain, according to many sources, that the culprits were Russian government hackers. It isn’t concrete enough to get Obama talking about it and starting a serious diplomatic row, but it is concrete enough that nearly every source says it with confidence. As I said in the first paragraph, I’m not thrilled with international espionage, but it’s fair game at this point. Russians can hack the US. The US can hack Russians.

The problem comes with the release of the information. That’s an entirely different story that goes many directions. For one, the Russian government specifically timed this to hurt Clinton in the campaign. That’s fucked up. Even worse is the reason why. The Russians prefer Trump because he’d be Putin’s lapdog. So here we’ve got international espionage playing out in American politics, where the leaders of foreign nations are manipulating the citizens of the US for political purposes. I don’t like that one bit.

Then we’ve got Wikileaks. I was never thrilled with Wikileaks. While the anonymous and random release of information can be informative, it can also ruin some damn good diplomacy. And remember, diplomacy is what we have INSTEAD OF WAR. Diplomacy, even though it’s often veiled in secrecy and can seem undemocratic, is an excellent way to come to a thoroughly decent agreement that wouldn’t be possible if the discussion happened entirely in the public realm. Diplomacy saves lives. And when Wikileaks releases information, it’s not vetted, it doesn’t protect the innocent, it doesn’t consider the ramifications or care who gets screwed. Wikileaks just releases all of it.

It’s a lot like my opinion of Manning versus Snowden. Manning released a bunch of classified but not really important information in great big dumps. Snowden contacts reports to vet the information so he could disclose a very important thing being kept from the American people. Manning caused a bunch of problems without much payoff. Snowden responsibly informed the US and the world of deplorable world spanning spying that we all expected existed, but nobody could definitively prove.

And what does Wikileaks do now? They release information with the specific goal, according to Assange, of hurting Clinton’s campaign. This Australian national is attempting to butt into American elections by cooperating with Russian spies. Snowden might be living in Russia, accepting Russian aid, but Snowden isn’t helping them. No, that’s Assange and his personal vendetta, one that could put a stupid and dangerous president in power in the US.

That, of course, brings me back to Snowden. We need to end that travesty. Let him come home. Stop forcing him in bed with the Russians. It’s absurd. The man is a national treasure.

Back on track, my larger point is this: releasing information is good. Leaks are good. I will absolutely not dispute that. HOWEVER, using foreign hackers to manipulation the electorate is bad.

Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump

The state of international relations isn’t great. Obama has been a very cautious leader, and while he’s avoided anything terrible, he also hasn’t solved anything. Overall, I think he’s done fine. But now the US has a choice. More Obama (Clinton) or Trump (shit, literally a piece of shit). With the current babbling that Trump pretends are words, it’s worth looking at issues with US foreign policy.

First, I want to go over a few issues with the Trump campaign in terms of international diplomacy (in other words, forget about the race baiting, the blind religious intolerance, and let’s just stick with pure foreign policy).

It starts with wanting to disband NATO even while being unaware of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. There’s the disquieting fact that one of Trump’s advisers was the architect of Viktor Yanukovych’s campaign for reelection before the protests (during which police snipers murdered quite a few protesters) and subsequent flight of Yanukovych. Here’s a tidbit from a very interesting article that frames the situation nicely:

Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government. And now Mr. Manafort has taken on a much larger campaign, seeking to turn Donald J. Trump into a winning presidential candidate.

There’s the fact that he wants to DESTROY our trade relationship with China in spite of the fact that if we did that, everything we buy would be way, way more expensive. It’s something people don’t seem to think about when they talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs. Anyway, back to foreign policy.

There’s the troublesome praise of petty tyrants like Saddam and Kim Jong Un, not to mention Putin, Assad, and Gaddaffi. And even as he praises Assad, he wants to get the US involved in another war in the Middle East, or maybe he’s changed his mind and now he wants to magically make Turkey go single-handedly defeat ISIS? It’s impossible to say.

I probably failed to mention something. In fact, I didn’t even mean to write that much. So let’s go back to the issues with NATO. Is there any merit in somehow forcing the other members to do more? Well, that’s a thorny issue. How would we do that? By somehow renegotiating trade deals? Because that sounds like a titanic task that would require a lot of things to go right. The fact is, we have no real way of making our allies up their commitment. The only real thing we can do is lower our commitments, thereby putting them in danger.

The horrible thing is, Trump is (shudder) right (gag) about one thing. Our allies in NATO aren’t carrying their weight. If Estonia is so afraid of being invaded, they need to start acting like it. THey need to militarize like crazy. Of course, no doubt that would be met by an equal militarization and further breakdown of relations between Estonia and Russia. The same goes for Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. So what does this mean? Does that preclude these countries from building up their armies?

One thing that I do know is these countries do have something to fear. Russia fought an actual war with Georgia to snip away Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia outright invaded Crimea and then quietly send their “little green men” into Ukraine. If I lived in Latvia, I would be very worried about Putin trying something like that.

So, if we know there’s something to fear and there’s no good way to beef up the threatened countries without the US unilaterally doing it alone (which is a bad idea and would definitely escalate the issues), then what options are there? If Latvia won’t spend the money and the UK won’t spend the money, is it really the obligation of the US to potentially get involved in a massively destructive conflict? And if the answer is no, are we really going to let international bullies run free?

Personally, I think the United States is the reason there’s been no wars between nations (that is, excluding civil wars like Libya, South Sudan, Syria, etc). The US is the world police, for good or for ill. Once the US stops doing that, all hell is going to break loose. There will be wars between nations primarily led by dictators. It will be bad. Is it so expensive that the US can’t afford (literally use of afford) to head off these conflicts? Isn’t it better to be the pushy world cop than to let open warfare come to the fore? I don’t know. My gut says yes, but the chance of being wrong is potentially catastrophic. Global thermonuclear war, anyone?

Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Monroe Doctrine, so here’s a primer. The Monroe Doctrine started off as a rather innocent way of declaring that the European powers of the day wouldn’t be allowed to form any new colonies in the Americas. Obviously, it was more complicated than that, but it doesn’t matter because the real issue with the Monroe Doctrine came much, much later. During the Cold War, the US used the Monroe Doctrine as an excuse to do a bunch of slimy, disgusting stuff in an attempt to stop communism from spreading.

In reality, the Monroe Doctrine was basically saying that the Americas were the domain of the US and the US alone. No other country was allowed to intervene, only us. It was basically a statement of regional imperialism. As I said, slimy. Yet, now that the US is a global power, even THE global power, we can no longer support the type of actions we used to perform under the Monroe Doctrine. We can’t overthrow a regime just because we don’t like it. In terms of the public perception and voter power, the best we can do is something like the no fly zone in Libya. We can’t go in and assassinate people, or arm people. At least, if it were revealed that the CIA was doing that, not only would the world be furious, but the American people would punish whoever allowed it. Of that, I am certain. Even if it was the US assassinating Putin or some such nonsense.

The point of bringing up the Monroe Doctrine is to discuss regional supremacy. As in, is it okay for Russia to claim regional supremacy? How about China? When China claims the South China Sea in the Chinese equivalent to the Monroe Doctrine, is that okay?

First off, my gut says no. Regional supremacy was scummy when the US did it and it’s no less scummy when other countries do it. The problem is imperialism. The US might not be great when it comes to being world cop (the debacle of the Iraq War comes to mind), but at the same time, are we really going to let China muscle in? My gut says the US is right to do freedom of navigation patrols and potentially antagonize China.

Look at Vietnam. They fought a war with the US. But you know who else they fought a war with? China. Cambodia. Ever heard of the Khmer Rouge? They were insane, murderous, and terrible in every way. China backed the Khmer Rouge because it was ostensibly a communist movement (it was also insane). Yet, for some mind numbing reason, Pol Pot was absolutely certain that Vietnam wanted to destroy Cambodia, so he intentionally and repeatedly slaughtered Vietnamese villages on the border (also purged everyone inside Cambodia who might be Vietnamese). In the end, Vietnam really had no choice but to go secure the border, and when the attacks wouldn’t stop, they took over all of Cambodia and removed the scourge that was the Khmer Rouge.

And the entire world sanctioned them. China was furious and immediately invaded Vietnam. The two had several border wars. They had conflicts in the South China Sea. Now Vietnam is allied with the US because China is a regional power that wants to bully them.

Stepping back, let’s view this through the Trump lens. Consider that China and the US are best buddies when it comes to trade. We need each other. Our relations are good and strong in that regard. A real war between the US and China would be horrific for both sides. This ain’t no US/Russia conflict. And what does Trump want to do? He wants to destroy that bond.

So consider our options here. Either we have regional power players who bully their neighbors and simply take what they want, or we have a very expensive apparatus funded by US taxpayers to prevent truly devastating wars. These are the options. People like Putin who seize the reigns of power are bullies and you have to have someone to stand up to them, so stare them down and warn them off. Trump wouldn’t be that guy. Trump would smile and talk about how Putin is a GREAT guy.

The smashing success of Czech monetary policy — The Market Monetarist

If we look around the world there has been very few monetary policy success stories from 2008 and onwards. However, there is a success story that unfortunately largely has been untold and that is the success of monetary policy in the Czech Republic after November 2013 when the Czech central bank (CNB) decided to fundamentally […]

via The smashing success of Czech monetary policy — The Market Monetarist

A Coup Either Way

Turkey was doomed once the coup began. Either there would be rule by a military dictator who seized control or there would be rule by a democratically elected dictator who seized control. The coup cut both ways. As soon as it began, democracy itself was the toll.

Reactions to Terrorism

I read an article about how the West doesn’t show the same attention to terrorism in places like Iraq and Bangladesh than it does to France (the whole je suis paris thing, the flags, etc). On one hand, I totally get that. Why is everybody so aghast about terrorism in France and the US, but when there’s terrorism in Mali or Tunisia, not much of anything?

I think there’s four reasons. The first and most simple is just that a country full of Europeans being attacked is clearly going to resonate with more with Europeans or Americans. It’s a matter of likeness. It’s got to do with putting yourself in that situation. For instance, I simply cannot put myself in Bangladesh. It just doesn’t work. I can’t imagine being a Syrian. That just doesn’t compute. Not to say that makes it okay, because obviously it does not. More, I mean to say, similarities make the horror much more visceral.

There’s also a matter of scale and method. A gunman in a crowded place is viciously effective. The attack on the Bataclan is what we remembered the most. The attack on Pulse in Orlando. We don’t as much remember the smaller attacks that happened on the same day as the Bataclan attack because they weren’t nearly so terrible. Now, in that regard, the terrorist attacks in Turkey and Iraq are on par with the attack on the Bataclan.

That brings us to the third part. It’s difficult for most Westerners to distinguish between Turkey and Iraq. Sure, you and I know that Turkey is a very, very different country. For instance, Turkey is full of Turks and some Kurds. It’s not full of Arabs. Syria? Many Arabs and also some Kurds. That’s literally the first thing that comes to mind. The differences beyond that are diverse and expansive. But my point is, the attacks on Turkey didn’t have the same reaction because it’s harder for most Americans to distinguish Turkey from the other areas of the Middle East.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s move on to the fourth part: the most important difference between an attack on Iraq and the US is merely one of repetition. Ever since the early days of the US occupation in Iraq, there’s been tons of suicide bombings. The amount of terrorism in Iraq has numbed us. It’s impossible to be too shocked. If Iraq didn’t have any more terrorist bombings, I’d be pleasantly surprised. But that’s absurd. We all know there’s going to be more terrorism in Iraq. It’s going to be a long time before that’s fixed.

And there’s Bangladesh. The assassination of the bloggers shocked and concerned me. I was horrified that progressives were being targeted. Then came the massacre at the cafe and now a shooting a festival. We’re running into that repetition thing again. The more it happens, the less notable and the less shocking it is.

So, to the irritated and lonely people across the world wondering why the West is silent, there’s four reasons why. A few more attacks in Paris and it’ll be nothing more than a news item. It’s a sad excuse, I know, but that doesn’t mean that people in Europe and America don’t care. If nothing else, I care, I know which country is which, and I’m with you guys.

Fear wins

As most of you probably heard by now, the UK voted to leave the EU. That is, rural England voted to leave the EU. Scotland sure as fuck didn’t vote to leave and London was strikingly remain. But the totals are clear. On this Financial Times article, someone left a remarkable comment that’s been bouncing around the various media.

A quick note on the first three tragedies. Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term from the dearth of jobs and investment. They have merely swapped one distant and unreachable elite for another one. Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors. Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy. When the facts met the myths they were as useless as bullets bouncing off the bodies of aliens in a HG Wells novel. When Michael Gove said ‘the British people are sick of experts’ he was right. But can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has lead to anything other than bigotry?