Monday, December 12, 2016

Some Quick Hits

On the Rapidly-Approaching Advent of the Drumpfenreich
Conflict of Interest - As Trump himself has said, there is none.  It's all about his self-interest.  See, no conflict!
Blind Trust - Trump already has it; it was conferred upon him by about 65 million deluded voters.
Celebrity Apprentice - He should have President Obama host it, and he can be the apprentice who gets pushed around.  I would pay to see that (he could keep his share of the profits).
Intelligence agency disrespect - Fits perfectly with Trump's persona; he has no respect for anyone's intelligence except his own.
Power without a Mandate - We are about to see an experiment come to life before our eyes:  Can a radical movement which has majority opposition, but controls all the levers of government impose its will?  If it is ruthless enough and/or clever enough to provide the "bread and circuses" the public demands, it could succeed.  We have plenty of examples from history, though not in American history (Russian Revolution, Fascist coup of Italy, rise of Nazism)--though it is near sacrilege to suggest, the  closest in our history might be Abraham Lincoln's rise to power . The test of Trump's triumph of will comes in 2020--short of major scandal, there will be only internal dissent before then which can stop him and the Republicans--and the answer will likely be determined by a small number of voters.  0.1% of national voters moving from Trump to Clinton in four states--Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida--would have given Clinton as decisive an Electoral College "landslide" as the one Trump claims.

The Russia/Putin Thing - It's hard to be sure how this dynamic situation may play out.  The facts are all in dispute, regarding anything the Russians may have gotten from their hacking efforts on the Republicans.  Probably not much, as frankly, the Wikileaks from the Democratic Committee were not all that impressive.  There is no doubt that Putin & Co. wanted Trump to win, but little reason for them to think their efforts were making a difference. Unless....unless their technique is so good that they were able to hack voting tallies in the key states and erase all trace of their efforts.  Something we will never know.

The Cabinet - It's basically looking like a suicide pact:  anti-labor man in Labor, anti-environmentalist in the EPA, an Education Secretary who wants to gut the public schools.  Same for Interior; State looks like it will go to a fossil-fuel dealmaker with deep Russian ties--a recipient from Russia of the Order of Friendship.  The only ones who look as though they will be committed to the mission of their agencies are Defense and National Security.  (And Trump can forget about CIA helping out; at least FBI might...) Heidi Heitkamp will be given a job with Agriculture; she will take it to avoid the embarrassment of losing her Senate re-election, and the Republicans will get another  Senator (by replacement).  Trump's best appointee is probably South Carolina Nikki Haley, but he picked her for a job he could neglect entirely (Ambassador to the U.N.), and to get a critic out of the way and elevate a supporter (the state's Lt. Governor). Then there's Attorney General-to-be Sessions:  he will be hopelessly bottled up by courts that will block him at every step.   Finally, his legislative liaison seems to be  Speaker Ryan, who will be turned loose to cut agency budgets and entitlements left and right;  the apparent governing strategy will be to shrink the government's regulatory and services to grow the military.

Though I believe that, short of clear misbehavior by the nominees, a President should be able to get the Cabinet he or she wants, Trump will be getting the worst advice in the world--not least from his co-chiefs of staff, Reince "Rancid Priapus" Priebus, to provide the views of the sell-out party establishment and Steve "Race" Bannon, that of the loony extremists. Still, I don't think it will quite play out the way his advisers may want:  the civil servants will put up resistance to anything too radical in the way of self-destruction.  If Trump has any redeeming quality, it will be the benefit in this case that he doesn't listen to anyone very much.

The Taiwan Call Gambit - I don't object to the President-elect's taking a phone call from the President of Taiwan.  It should have been, and apparently was, a carefully-considered move  taken under advisement.  In itself, it is not a big deal, though it violated protocol around the US official "One China" policy it has maintained, under the People's Republic's careful watch, for forty years or so. The US does not need to slavishly follow China's dictates, and this was perhaps an opportune moment to show that.  Still, Trump must be extremely careful--there is no more certain way to escalate tensions with China to the point of actual military conflict than to go too far with Taiwan, such as endorsing its President's aspiration to make it into an independent nation.  He must not listen to people like John Bolton, who I hear is due to be Deputy Secretary of State, who will get the US into a war at every possible opportunity.

France and Italy - So, what nation will be next to join the nativist, nationalist bandwagon? I have heard that South Korea, in the wake of the popular insurrection leading to the President's impeachment, but I really don't understand the dynamics of that country to have an opinion.

France has the opportunity coming up; Marine Le Pen has all the elements of a Trumpist upset in the making.  She gets the benefits of all the racist, bigoted dog-whistle support derived from her father's movement; she is much more intelligent and nuanced in her platform than he.  Still, the smart money is on the nominee of the center-right party, Francois Fillon, who may be able to rally support from all the parties to his left if the alternative is Le Pen.  The Left is its usual, fractured self:  incumbent President Hollande, suffering from one of the lowest approval ratings I have seen for a head of state not under indictment, has opted not to run again, so his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, is the likely nominee for the Socialists; however, there are at least a couple others who will run from leftist parties, which will make it difficult for Valls to finish in the top two and reach the runoff.

Italy has just resoundingly rejected the referendum to reform the Constitution and make its upper house non-elective, seemingly on the model of Britain's House of Lords.  Hard to imagine this would be viewed as an improvement, but the real point was to take away that body's ability to prevent legislation, which it has frequently done in the past.  The defeat led to the immediate resignation of Matteo Renzi, probably the most intellectually honest and uncorrupted politician Italy has had in the last century (with the possible exceptions of Enrico Berlinguer and Aldo Moro); the good news, is that, in Italy's republic, defeat does not mean disappearance--political careers all seem to go on indefinitely.  There will be a caretaker government headed by Renzi's party, which still has a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which could persist as long as 2018.  When the elections come, though, we should beware a possible combination of the non-partisan, populist Five Star Movement somehow combining with the nativist Northern League (those "takers" from the South being their Other, along with all the other foreigners) to follow the Trumpist trend.  I would look for the movement to fall apart before that can happen, though.

So, What Country Can Claim to Lead the Free World in the Meantime? - Germany is one obvious candidate; though it doesn't seem to want to lead in the usual way. which is probably a plus.  Angela Merkel's Germany has shown great leadership in maintaining the European Union and in providing refuge to asylum seekers. Now, she will be put to the test in Germany's national elections; there is a lot of resentment, even within her party coalition, but I see no one who can refute her stands who has the stature needed.

There are a couple of candidates from the Third World, nations with vital, contested democratic elections.  Indonesia, under its Obamaian President Widodo, and India, the largest democracy in the world,  Think about it.

More Folks Heading for the Exit
John Glenn - Glenn is an exception to the rule proposed by one of my friends never to trust a man with two first names.  He was the most trustworthy person one can imagine.  His life story would make a great movie (should be played by Ed Harris, who had the role of Glenn in The Right Stuff): Marine, test pilot, astronaut, Senator, Presidential candidate, the fall in the bathtub, his wife and her conquering of stuttering.  Although altogether good, it would not be boring.  I have to admit that I wanted Senator Glenn to get the Democratic nomination in 1984--send a cat to catch a rat (Reagan), I thought.  He turned out to be a very unsuccessful candidate, unfortunately, though it's hard to imagine he could have done worse than the party's ticket (Mondale/Ferraro) did.

Greg Lake - Only months after his more famous bandmate, Keith Emerson, progressive rock guitarist Greg Lake has died.  He was one of my favorites in the 1970's; he was idealistic and talented.  His first major claim to fame was as bass player, vocalist and contributor to the first two King Crimson albums (he knew Crimson's mastermind Robert Fripp from school days); then he saw a major opportunity joining with master keyboard man Emerson of The Nice and drummer Karl Palmer (Atomic Rooster).  ELP made it big for several years, with Lake's lyrics and guitars providing a counterpoint to Emerson's showy instrumentals. When the world passed him by, he eased into a quiet retirement in the English countryside.  Smart.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

Rick Perry for Department of Energy--this confirms my suspicion that Trump is setting up his Cabinet to be the naysayers, which will give him the opportunity to disregard them and be the generous one. We shall see.