Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Removing the Watchdogs, Part 1

In what one can easily assume is a sign of things to come, House Republicans have now voted to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its oversight ability.


Instead, it will now be up to the congressional Committee on Ethics to police itself.  This was pushed through in secret without debate and, interestingly, over the objections of Speaker Paul Ryan (among others).

In effect, the House Republicans have unilaterally removed a key ethics watchdog.  Given that they are going to be trying to ramrod through their agenda while they control all three chambers, it's understandable why they may not wish to have anyone keeping tabs on the lobbyists who knock on their doors, dinners they attend, gifts they may or may not receive, and promises they make behind closed doors in exchange for votes and favors.  Anyone who believes they will actually police themselves...well, they probably voted for Trump.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's Not Just Me

I spoke yesterday with one of my long-time friends (and former Centrist Dude blog subject) for the first time since the election.  On some level, I had been avoiding the conversation because it was likely to devolve into a comiseration.  But I couldn't, or at least shouldn't, avoid it forever so I picked up the phone, which went something like this:

"Randall!  How the hell are you?"
"Well, I'm...uh...nervous laughter...I don't know how to answer that.  I feel like I'm watching a hurricane 5 days out, all the models have us in the cone, and everyone around me seems to be going about business as usual."
"I wish I didn't know what you were talking about, but unfortunately I do."

Note: not a single mention of politics or Donald Trump.  We had most recently been discussing the Cubs.  We talk business.  Yes we talk politics, but we are not in lockstep politically.

We're both making contingency plans to off-shore and not telling those around us about it.  We both see the same signs of fascism and willing participants in the government who can encourage and foment its implementation.  It was cathartic to hear someone else echo almost precisely what I've been thinking and feeling.  And to logically lay out why I'm neither crazy nor alarmist.  There is always the possibility that we both are those things, of course.  But I'm beginning to think it's crazier for me to keep that line of thinking open.  It's certainly less productive as it gives me an excuse to slow preparations.

The line he uttered that I shall use as the model for the next year: "The smart Jews got out early."

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Fascist Playbook Continues

As reported this morning in Politico, Trump is planning to keep his own security detail instead of turning everything over to the Secret Service.

Not only is this a breach of protocol, it's going to make things more difficult for the Secret Service to actively protect him, which may sound like a good idea to a lot of people, but it may have the opposite effect.  I can see a plausible scenario where Trump declares coordination will be "too difficult" and he will increase the size and scope of his private detail, in essence creating his own paramilitary group.  From there it's not much of a stretch to see the "need" to expand the group to other areas: security squads permanently encamped in cities and communities deemed dangerous or in need of observation.  New York, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco...any place that the case can be made to "clean up."  His detail is already forcibly roughing up protesters at the rallies on his "Thank You" tour, so it's not a stretch to start increasing the ranks.  After all, white, uneducated, low-skilled workers need jobs, and cracking skulls doesn't require a lot of education.  But it does do well with blind loyalty.

I'm not suggesting that this IS going to happen, but I am seeing more of the signs that it may well happen.  After all, it is Chapter 2 of the Fascist Playbook.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama says that "now we're feeling what not having hope feels like."  Commentary I'm seeing from those on the right, and commentary that I've heard from my family tell me just how much a sizeable swath of the country doesn't seem to grasp what we're dealing with.

This is not about "my candidate" losing, or a Republican winning.  This is not business as usual.  This is about a terrible shitstorm being wrought by someone who is too stupid and arrogant to understand just how incompetent he is.  The party he represents isn't the issue.  If he were a Democrat I'd feel exactly the same way.

It seems so ridiculously obvious to me that I've questioned if I'm being alarmist, even though that is not my tendency at all.  But every day I see fresh evidence that I am not incorrect.  Today Trump is tweeting this:
"China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in an unpresidented act."

Let's start with the fact that China's "act" can be laid at Trump's feet for his irresponsible and ill-thought out public questioning of our public stance with China and Taiwan.  But "Unpresidented"?  Are you fucking kidding me?

That's what I'd like to fucking do to you, you fucking low-life moron.

This is not a politician with a vision different from mine.  This is a clueless, reckless human being.  He's not even in office yet. This is going to really be bad.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Courtesy of Robert Reich, here's a quote from FDR's VP Henry Wallace that rings eerily true 72 years later:

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity .…They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

Having absorbed volumes about Mussolini many years ago, I see in Trump a pattern so similar that it's as if he's following a script.  Listen/observe in macro, not to one or two specific comments.  He is a master of obfuscation and double-speak, but if you cut out the noise and concentrate on the substance his path is very obvious.  Unable to be taken seriously by career politicians, he is coalescing those with economic and military power in an effort to wrest political power for himself.  Trump doesn't want to be President, he wants to be El Duce.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Most of us have been snubbed in our lives.  Trying to land the big client only for it to be made obvious that they consider you too small-time.  A coach not giving you the opportunity in a team sport because of their preconceived notion about you.  A high school clique from which you are shunned.   A sorority you were denied entry into.  A venue you can't play because you're not on the current list of hot local acts.  And so on.

For Donald Trump it was not being allowed into the inner circle of Manhattan society, no matter how much money he had.

Most people get over the hurt feelings.  Even if you land the client or the gig or are befriended by a clique member there's a little voice in most of our heads telling us to stay cool.  But Mr. Trump seems intent on rubbing people's noses in it, because his emotional development was arrested at the age of 15.  He is the embodiment of what my friend Guy Forsyth penned: "I wonder how the world sees us: rich without equal, powerful beyond compare, a spoiled teenager waving a gun in their faces."  So he courts Mitt Romney simply to pull his hand away and say "psych!"  He nominates cabinet members that are unconventional, not to shake things up but to thumb his nose at the people who never let him in the club.  His "thank you" tour is full of nanny nanny boo boo commentary about the media, Hillary, even those to whom he's made part of his administration (Reince Priebus, for instance) because they dared to denounce him.

That same lack of discipline or ability to know when to let something go has caused him to pick a fight with the CIA over their assessment of Russian hacking.  And now he asked for records of civil servants in the Departments of Energy and Interior that worked on any climate change projects, presumably as a threat to fire them.  Mind you, these are career employees who likely did what they were told.

This pattern is not going to be modified nor applied with any reasonable filter.  The man is 70 years old; he's not going to change.  He simply has development that's been arrested for 55 years.

Speaking of cabinet picks: Rick Perry to head a Department that he couldn't remember he wanted to shut down.  That should work out well.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Donald Trump is in favor of the tactics used by Phillipine President Rodrigo Duerte.  If you don't know, Duerte has been employing facist-style paramilitary groups (think of the Nazi's SS and the Italian Fascists Brown Shirts) for quite some time to murder citizens it deems bad in a thinly disguised war on drugs.  Trump told Duerte that he's handling this non-judicial and violent mode "in the right way."

This all seems to be part of a pattern.  Trump continually talks about how bad the crime is in America, even though it is statistically inaccurate.  He speaks of the need to grow the military, and instead of demilarizing our beefed-up local police forces he wants to give them even more weaponry and leeway.

Note a pattern here?

So Trump is now following the facist playbook almost verbatim:
1) Beef up law enforcement and tacitly encourage vigilantism

2) Increase the military.  Next up will be: go looking for a conflict that can be easily won & touted. In Italy it was Ethiopia.  In Germany it was the Rhineland and then Czechoslovakia.  In Spain it was a coup attempt that led to civil war.  The low-hanging fruits appear to be Syria and Libya.  Preach peace while all the while gearing up for conflict.

3) Cozy up to the largest economic companies in the country to make their success tied to the administration's success, at least in the way it can be spun.  Remove as many impediments as possible to allow them to conduct business unfettered.  (I.e., "We're doing so well economically; look at the money Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil are doing.  So my plan is working.")

4) Wrap it in patriotic slogans and rhetoric to suggest that any opposition is both unpatriotic and a domestic enemy.

This is completely in keeping with Trump's admiration of Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Erdogan.  It's likely that he'll find other strongmen around the world who he'll suddenly respect and admire, as it legitimizes the tactics that he is pursuing.