Category Archives: American Politics

2020 kicked off last night

Democrats take the House, Republicans take the Senate, Trump? Well that is more difficult.

For the first two years of his Presidency, Trump nominally enjoyed the “support” of both the House and the Senate. However, between the never Trumpers and the GOPe, that “support” was mixed at best. He was stuck with insane spending bills, hamstrung on immigration and required to make nice with members of his own party even as they refused to use their majorities to pass his legislation or confirm his appointees. He had serious opposition but he was limited by party loyalty from calling out that opposition.

No more.

Trump now has a Democratic opponent which is not just the mainstream media. Better still, it is an opponent which contains a legion of quite sensible, moderate, people and a wonderfully unhinged minority – many of whom are in line for Committee Chairmanships. If we have learned anything about Trump it is that he thrives on opposition.

At the same time, Trump’s people will have to recognize the weaknesses the House races outlined. Winning a second term and taking back the House requires some hard work from the White House. The Democrats held their urban base and there is no reason to think that will shift much in 2020, where there are gains to be made is in suburbia. Which means Trump has to combine running against the crazies in the Democratic Party with an appeal to suburban women. It’s a tough get because what drives suburban women crazy about Trump is more about demeanour and style rather than policy. The “tough guy, NYC real estate tycoon” persona is a hard sell on the school run.

Trump has about six months to get his White House in order, deal with Mueller, goad Maxime Waters into trying to impeach him, fire Jeff Sessions (and restore the rule of law), and reach out to the many, moderate, Democrats who will be going to Washington to get things done. In a sense he needs to be running on two tracks: the first in defiant opposition to the crazy wing of the Democratic/Media Party, the second is to rack up a steady string of accomplishments, bi-partisan engagement and reasonable appointments.

The way to win in the suburbs is to look less crazy and more competent than the Democratic alternative. Given that Trump is resolutely non-ideological and, so far as can be seen, has no non-negotiable policy positions whatsoever, running the Presidency on the basis of MAGA and America First, this should not be difficult.

Of course, that sort of strategy depends on the Democrats in the House being unable to restrain their crazies. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that the Democrats won’t give Trump the foil he needs. The party elders – if there are any left – may be able to persuade the hotheads that impeachment without any chance of conviction is a very bad idea. Or that holding hearings into the details of Trump’s 1984 tax return will not galvanize the citizenry.

The one great impediment to the restraint of the crazy wing of the Democratic Party is the Trump Derangement of the mainstream media. CNN, MSNBC, the networks, the NYT and WaPo and even Fox realized some time ago that opposing Trump was very, very good for business. But that opposition needs fresh meat every news cycle. Where better to find that fresh meat than in the crazy wing of the Democratic Party. Especially, if many of the crazies are now, portentously, House Committee Chair _______.

There are incentives for both Trump and the non-crazy wing of the Democrats to moderate the tone of political discourse in America. There are opposite incentives for the media and for the crazies. Television, and to a lesser degree, print media thrive on conflict. So do ambitious Committee Chairs and agenda driven “backbenchers”. It is a marriage made in Hell.

From Trump’s perspective, the media was and is the enemy. He is entirely unafraid of the media because two years of unrelenting hostility has not hurt him a bit. If anything, stoking the partisan fury of the MSM will simply help Trump appear reasonable in the suburbs he needs to win. If the media in its fury promotes the loudest, most divisive, craziest Democratic Party voices, Trump wins. Trump likes winning.

 

 

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Winning…sort of

It is still early but according to the NYT’s site the Democrats have picked up 25 seats in the House and lost a few in the Senate.

It’s too bad about the House. There will be mischief afoot as dimwits like Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters gain gavels and start “investigations”. Trump may well be impeached.

It won’t matter.

While it would certainly have been wonderful for the Republicans to keep the majority in the House, it was not critical. The House of Representatives was, deliberately, created as the weakest branch of the Federal government. The Senate, elected for six years, advises and consents on Cabinet appointments and the judiciary. The House does not. The House does have the capacity to initiate spending bills, enact laws and conduct investigations; but it has no significant veto power over a President. Of course, the House can, and probably will, impeach the President or a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court; but the trial of the action takes place in the Senate. The Republicans, specifically the Trump Republicans, won the Senate. Right now 51 (plus a sure pickup in Mississippi’s runoff election in a couple of weeks) to 42. The likely end numbers will be around 55 to 45.

From a Presidential point of view, a friendly Senate matters a lot. You can make a deal with the House, you can appoint away the Dem majority – keep that UN ambassadorship open for a statesmanlike Democrat – and you can position candidates to take back the House in the next election which is only two years away. Senators sit for six years and are far more consequential than Representatives.

If you looked where Trump rallied you see a series of Senate wins – Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. This was a calculation: re-enforce strength where it will matter for the rest of your Presidency.

I have no doubt Trump would have been delighted to have held the House, but he had to win the Senate. And he did.

The Blue Wave crashed against the breakwater of the Senate and, now, it’s done.

Onwards.

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Showing Up

Mid-Term Elections, Donald Trump, Brad ParscaleWith less than a day to Mid-Term election day polls are narrowing and pundits are coming up with all sorts of reasons why the Democrats will hold the House of Representatives. Most of the pundits – who are pretty universally Democrat-leaning – have conceded that the Republicans will hold the Senate but the House seems to offer the best chance for a Democratic victory. I wrote a month ago that I was not convinced that the House would swing Democrat and I ascribed that to the popularity of President Trump.

After a month of hectic campaigning, I see no reason to revise that thinking. In fact, if anything, the Republicans seem to have been galvanized by the Trump rallies, the Kavanaugh outrage and the poor people in the caravan(s) heading for America’s southern borders.

Early voting is up. Much higher than it usually is for mid-term elections. And in states where people are registered Democrats or Republicans, it appears more registered Republicans are voting early than Democrats.

2016 demonstrated that the polling model – generally and specifically – is badly broken. However, the question is whether the breakage is valanced in any way. The reason why polling is broken is that people are not as willing to answer their phones as they were twenty or even ten years ago and large numbers of people no longer have landlines. Their mobile is their only phone. And you cannot legally autodial cell phones. Ten years ago you could argue that the cell revolution skewed young and therefore young people were likely undersampled. In theory, young people were more likely to support Democrats thus the cell issue was valanced with Democratic Party support underreported.

To compensate for this, polling organizations overweight their samples to try and capture the missing Democratic support. It is a dark art and one which grows increasingly unreliable as more and more people become unreachable or unresponsive to pollsters.

The other huge change in the last decade is the waning of the influence of mass (and hugely liberal) media. Newspapers are in their death throes, network television is fighting for audience with cable and both are being sidelined by everything from Netflix to You-Tube to Facebook. Where people get their news and where they see advertising has profoundly changed.

A decade ago, in a tight race, a Party might make a strategic TV ad buy to haul its candidate across the finish line. Parties are still doing this but it is not at all obvious that races can be swung with a million dollar last-minute ad buy.

So how will the 50 or so House races which matter be decided?

I am pretty certain that many of these races will come down to which party gets out its vote, the good old-fashioned “ground game” with some information age bells and whistles.

Which is the reason I think the best indicator of tomorrow’s result is the surge in early registered Republican voting. The ground game begins long before the election and one of the key strategies is to get your identified voters to the polls as early as possible. The logic being that that reduces the amount of work which has to be done on election day. The Republicans spent a lot of time and a lot of money identifying their supporters in battleground states in the 2016 election. Those lists are fresh and available to candidates and campaigns.

E-Day tactics have not changed much in fifty years. A successful campaign will target its supporters who have not voted and get them to the polls. Phone calls and, even better, door knocks can make a huge difference in the final result. It is hard, not very glamorous, work.

But the Trump machine has done something no mid-term campaign in history has done: it has managed to get its activist core to register themselves as activists. This was the brilliance of the Trump rallies.

I very much doubt that a single mind was changed as Trump rocketed from hanger to hanger with Air Force One doing double duty as the world’s most exclusive stage prop. The rallies were all about affirmation, being part of something, knowing you were not alone. But they were also a brilliant way to collect GOTV data.

To go to a rally you had to register, online, for a ticket. Literally, tens of thousands of hard core Trump supporters registered. Over all I suspect well over a million people willingly gave up their emails and phone number for a chance to get a ticket to the Trumpaloza in their state. Which meant they self-identified as Trump Republicans. And it also gave individual campaigns lists of people who were likely to a) vote early, b) be willing to work on the GOTV effort, c) be ready, willing and able to knock on the doors for the E-Day effort.

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, is data driven. But he also understands that data without action is pointless. The rallies with their registrations have given the Republicans an army in the battlefield states the likes of which the Republicans have never had before.

We’ll see on Tuesday if it is enough to add seats in the Senate and hold the House.

It will depend on who shows up.

Update: Tuesday Afternoon. Reading anecdotal reports on turnout. The general trend seems to be high turnouts – at or better than Presidential – in red areas. Low turnout reported in some blue areas. You have to read a lot of reports to get a decent picture and there will be confirmation bias all over the place; but those trends are what will be needed for a red wave.

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Trump: the 19th/early 20th Century redux

Donald Trump, RallyAnother day, another packed out Trump rally. Set against the backdrop of Air Force One Trump delivered another, very odd, Trumpian stemwinder to the good people of Columbia, MO. There was not a lot new in this speech. Just the by now familiar hits on the media, firmness on borders and a fair bit of chest thumping about how well it has all gone to date. The fans never tire of this.

I don’t think for a second that Trump pays a lot of attention to the campaign strategies of the past; but he has inadvertently recovered the idea of a President, of a candidate, speaking directly to the electors. Neil Postman wrote about the Lincoln/Douglas debates which were all day affairs and reported verbatim in the popular press. 90 years later, Truman got aboard a train and made a speech – very likely much the same speech – at hundreds of stations across America.

Trump is not Truman and he certainly isn’t Lincoln, but he has a very keen sense of what works in the America he actually knows.

For a lot of American Presidents, the ascension to office marks the last time they really deal with Americans face to face. All of a sudden they have the access to TV and to journalists and, somehow, the stump speech gets lost in the green room.

Teddy Roosevelt essentially invented the whistlestop tour and he invented the White House press corps. He did both because he wanted to be able to speak directly to Americans, his Americans. His cousin, FDR, skipped past a largely hostile press with his Fireside Chats. Both men understood the necessity of speaking to Americans without filters and without spin. But, as television took over, that became something of a lost art.

Until Trump.

Frankly, I think Trump’s rallies owe more to Professional Wrestling than to a careful analysis of his predecessors’ communications strategies. But here’s the thing, Professional Wrestling is a wildly popular entertainment in the US. The Sunday morning talks, not so much.

Trump is all about open access. He can’t climb on a helicopter without holding an impromptu press conference. He is unworried about the talking points. What he wants to do is connect.

I am very confident that the GOP will win the Senate next Tuesday. The Map, the polls and so on. I am also confident that the Trump Republicans have a very clear shot at winning the House. Yes, I have seen the polls and the Cook Report and all manner of Nate Silver stats; I don’t think they actually matter. I think Trump has connected at a visceral level with his American people.

The House races, in aggregate, are very much like the Popular Vote in a Presidential election. You can lose the popular vote, and I think the Republican will poll fewer votes than the Democrats for the House, but the distribution of the votes is what actually matters. A district here, a district there and super majorities for the Democrats in Districts they have won for forty years, and a Republican majority will emerge. It might be tight, or it might not. It is quite possible that the Republicans will increase their majority in the House. It will depend on specific districts, specific races, and Trump’s people know that.

Trump likes winning. He is doing 11 campaign rallies in five days because he thinks it might be enough to win.

I think he’s right.

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Compassion, Caravans and Common Sense

caravan, Honduras, Donald TrumpAt the moment, in the south of Mexico, there are about 5000 people walking, bussing and being given lifts so that they can reach the American border in time to create really brilliant pre-election footage of nasty white men acting on the orders of the Orange Ogre beating up, if not outright shooting, the veneer of women and children who act as the vanguard for the caravan.

This is pretty clearly an organized operation. The Hondurans did not all wake up a week ago and decide, spontanously, to march to America. Who funded the organization is an interesting question which will almost certainly not be answered before the human tide rolls in. And it actually doesn’t matter because the issue does not go away because it turns out that Soros or the Democratic National Committee provided the money.

Migration, mass or otherwise, is likely to be the dominant issue in the 21st century. And not just any sort of migration; the migration of desperately poor people to wealthier places. Whether they are sub-Saharan Africans, Middle Eastern Muslims or the masses of the Central American poor, the issue is going to remain the same: what do weathy nations owe the people of poorer nations, if anything.

Truth to tell, the US could let the entire caravan into the country, sort out the obvious criminals and other undesirables and let the rest stay without breaking a sweat. 5000 people is simply not enough to really matter in the grand scheme of the United States. (And this may very well be what Trump ends up doing as it has the best political optics assuming the caravan makes it to the US border.)

The trouble with that solution is that it would rather obviously create a huge incentive for more caravans to set out. While 5000 people would be a drop in the bucket, 50,000 would be a huge problem and 500,000 would be catastrophic. The dilemma is how to be compassionate without creating the conditions favouring more caravans.

Americans are tremendously generous people and they have a remarkable capacity to get things done quickly and effectively. One potentially reasonable solution would be to set up processing stations deep inside Mexico with accomodation, food and even cash incentives to bring the caravaners of the march and into a process which would treat their asylum claims seriously and legally. Logistically, setting up the first processing station a hundred miles ahead of the caravan would not be easy, but it would also not be the only station.

This sort of approach would require the permission and support of the Mexican government but that should be relatively easy to secure. It would also require a serious commitment on the part of the Trump administration to actually understand what is driving the migrants. Again, not impossible.

Politically, putting resources into a line of processing stations up to the American border designed to blunt the force of the caravan seems like a solution which all but the most partisan anti-Trumpers could get behind. It would also set the stage for the second element of a compassionate and common sense solution.

The way to stop caravans is to work towards eliminating the conditions from which they arise. The caravan’s organizers began the caravan in a desperately poor part of a violent and gang ridden very nearly failed state. Make Honduras Great Again sounds a bit facile but, if the US wants to reduce pressure on its borders, it needs successful states in Central and South America.

Sixty years of American foreign policy in Central and South America has not done a speck of good. (I suspect because of a combination of misguided support for assorted dictators and billions of dollars of exactly the wrong sort of foreign aid.) There are lots of good ways to improve conditions in Central and South America but they mainly involve private investment and a willingness to trade aggressively with those countries. Taking a second and a third look at the costs of the “war on drugs” would also be a good idea.

Previous administrations were largely unable to tackle these sorts of iniatives if only because they could not think much outside the “foreign aid/”stable” government” box. Trump does not even know there is such a box.

Making progress in Central and South America using a new model which combined private investment with trade and provided support to the governments as they dealt with their gang problems would take time. But it would also provide Trump with a political theme above and beyond “Keep America Great” for the 2020 election.

 

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The Coming Trump Majority

For assorted Establishment/elite commentators the fact that Trump is still President is as astonishing as it is annoying. The 25th Amendment, impeachment, Mueller or simply the complete breakdown of the Administration were all more likely than Trump having a week like he had last week. Trade deal, Kavanaugh confirmation, lowest unemployment in 60 or is it 70 years: this can’t be happening but it is.

There are less than 30 days until the mid-term elections for all of the House of Representatives and about a third of the Senate. The MSM, the Establishment commentators and “nice people” generally are talking up “the Blue Wave” where university educated suburban women will rise as one and toss the orange ogre onto the scrap heap of history where he so obviously belongs. Then, with a majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats will be able to launch impeachment, conduct investigations and ensure the evil which is Trump will be sent to the Senate for a speedy impeachment trial and conviction. All will be right with the world.

The nice suburban ladies, the establishment media and right thinking people everywhere are, I am afraid, going to be in for a bit of a shock.

There is a chance that one or two Republican Senators may be defeated by Democrats, but there is a much better chance that those Republican Senate seats will hold and two or three sitting Democratic Senators will be defeated leaving the Senate at 53-56 Republicans and Trump entirely safe from conviction in a purely political impeachment.

The House is a tougher call. Hundreds of local races, lots of gerrymandering from both sides, polling all over the place with tiny sample sizes and often skewed questions. At the moment the Republicans hold 235 seats, the Democrats 193 seats and there are seven vacancies. That’s a margin of 43 seats so the “Blue Wave” has to take 22 to hold a tiny majority.

Conventional wisdom says that mid-term elections tend to result in a swing away from the sitting President’s party and that alone brings that 22 seat swing inside the realm of possibility. Add to that the President’s unpopularity…but wait, it turns out Trump is not particularly unpopular.

“The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 51% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-seven per cent (47%) disapprove.” link

(And for my lefty friends yelling, “But it is Rasmussen.” I note that Rasmussen was a whole lot closer to predicting Trump’s win over Hilly than virtually any other poll.)

However, politics is more than just day to day polling results. It is about momentum, engagement, enthusiasm and the “mood” of the electorate.

Kavanaugh was a huge win for Trump because Trump got the job done and because the Democrats were revealled as a bitter, nasty, bunch of people who were willing to stoop to anything to cling to some sort of power. Even Republican “never Trumpers” were forced to admit that Trump was infinitely better than the Dianne Feinsteins of this world. The nomination and hearings also confirmed that the Hollywood/media/Democratic party nexus was shrill, irrational and really very unpleasant. And, as a bonus, the underhandedness of the Democrats and Trump’s willingness to stand by his nominee cemented the Republican Party behind Trump and behind itself.

Kavanaugh also underlined the collapse of the audience and moral authority of traditional media. There was not even a hint of objectivity in the coverage: Ford just had be telling the truth and if you questioned that you were enabling rape. Which would be fine coming from the mouths of activists, but coming from news anchors and commentators it made millions of essentially open-minded people question why they were watching “this crap”.

Trump understands the collapse of the MSM and uses it ruthlessly. He mocks the media, he tweets over their heads and, perhaps most importantly, he holds rally after rally.

There has never been a President who has been willing to do three to five public events a week, week after week, targetted at the battleground states. No, Trump is not going to do a rally in New York City or LA. Why would he? There are no seats to be won in either city. But he is willing to go out into the red states and rouse the base. He’s relentless. And at every rally he brings home his message of tax cuts, low unemployment, jobs, the return of manufacturing, fair trade, doing right by veterans, restoring America’s place in the world.

The Democrats have nothing to compare: though Bill and Hilly are, apparently, going on a stadium tour with the cheapest seats $60 and the better seats $600. Trump is practising retail politics on a wholesale level and he is simply getting better and better at it.

All which leads me to think there is a better than even chance that Trump will, at least, hold the House. But there is also a very good chance that the generic polling is wrong and that the Trump led Republicans are going to do a lot better than a hold.

The fact is that there are not actually all that many college educated, white, suburban women and those that there are will not vote as a solid block. The travesty of the Kavanaugh hearings and the sheer cynicism of the Democratic Senators – not to mention the cheesy grandstanding of Booker and Harris and the liar Blumenthal – will have alienated more than a few of the suburban ladies. Especially women who have sons.

There are also a lot of non-college educated, non-white, non-suburban people who are actually doing well with Trump. Black unemployment is at an all-time low, Hispanic unemployment is also at an all-time low. These groups historically are in the Democratic Party’s pocket but that can change. If it does change, even a little, there are dozens of Congressional seats which come into play.

Trump likes to win. He has solid political advisors and they like to win. It has occured to the Republican leadership that they do a lot better with Trump’s support than when they oppose him. It has occured to dozens of Republican candidates that Trump’s endorsement moves votes.

For a growing number of Americans, Trump’s policies are beginning to make sense. They have more money in their pocket and their kids have better prospects.

Walking into the mid-term polling station a lot of voters will ask themselves if they want to vote to derail the Trump train or if they want to climb on board.

You’d have to give me odds, but I would not be at all surprised to see the Republican majority in the House get up to 250 seats and, in the Senate, to 56. But, realistically, if that happens it will not be a Republican majority, it will be a Trump majority.

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Character meets The Furies

Furies

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance. They were also called the Erinyes (angry ones). Known especially for pursuing people who had murdered family members, the Furies punished their victims by driving them mad. When not punishing wrongdoers on earth, they lived in the underworld and tortured the damned.

According to some stories, the Furies were sisters born from the blood of Uranus, the primaeval god of the sky, when he was wounded by his son Cronus*. In other stories, they were the children of Nyx(night). In either case, their primaeval origin set them apart from the other deities of the Greek and Roman pantheons.

Most tales mention three Furies: Allecto (endless), Tisiphone (punishment), and Megaera(jealous rage). Usually imagined as monstrous, foul-smelling hags, the sisters had bats’ wings, coal-black skin, and hair entwined with serpents. They carried torches, whips, and cups of venom with which to torment wrongdoers. The Furies could also appear as storm clouds or swarms of insects. http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Furies.html#ixzz5TDlXW176

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My American friends have gone through a couple of weeks in which scurrilous accusations threatened to ruin a man. Today that man was sworn in as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Furies have been defeated.

I have no idea what sort of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will be. Based on his record on the bench, I suspect he will be a bit less conservative than the liberals make him out to be. His Establishment credentials are impeccable and he is a good long way from the googly-eyed right.

For the Democrats, this rather staid man had to be the Devil himself. Apparently, the best way to rally the troops and the “Handmaidens” was to allege all manner of sexual impropriety. The evidence didn’t matter, the objective was smear and a smear which would motivate the democratic base. So, well, sex. Sexual assault. Frat bro behaviour. Drinking and such like.

It didn’t work.

Why it didn’t work is interesting because it came down to character. The character of Justice Kavanaugh and the character of President Donald Trump.

Kavanaugh was willing to stand up for himself, get angry, name names, and call out the Democratic smear. He showed the fight and the courage and the willingness to demand justice be done that I would hope any aspirant to the Supreme Court would have shown in the face of baseless allegations. He was willing to attack those baseless allegations and refute them as best he could.

Which showed real character and real grit. After all, Kavanaugh could have made it all go away by withdrawing his candidacy. Or he could have pretended to accept some or all of the allegations and provided an explanation. Instead, he stared down his Senatorial accusers and left them naked with their shabby accusations. He won his seat on the Court by refusing to play the scummy Democratic Party game.

However, the real show of character came from President Trump himself when he refused to withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Court. Trump thought he’d picked the right guy and he stuck by him. He didn’t have to. He could have withdrawn the nomination and moved on to the next person on the list.

Not how Trump plays. Trump plays to win. Trump plays to crush his opposition and, because he does, Trump never plays by the patty cake rules of the Washington Establishment. Trump was roundly criticized for imitating and mocking Dr Ford. Not “how the game” is played and so on.

Trump’s great gift is that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass how “the game is played”. He’ll make fun of people he thinks are lying, of people who are hypocrites (yes, Sen. Blumenthal, you get mocked for your non-service) and people who pull political stunts like Sen. Feinstein. He is not “Presidential” in any of the accepted senses of that term. My American friends elected a street fighter and Trump knows it.

Coming up to the mid-terms Trump is doing 3-4 MAGA rallies a week in states where the Republicans can win or hold Senate and House seats. No President has ever done that. 10,000 people in the room, 10-15,000 outside. Day after day, week after week.

In themselves, Trump’s rallies would probably hold the Senate and might, at a stretch, keep the House. But with the Kavanaugh win, the momentum has shifted. With the crazed anti-Kavanaugh harpies shouting down the Senate, Trump has his theme. “Elect them, you get this.”

Most fundamentally, Trump is underscoring a very serious point about American politics. Stand up guys can win. Simply by demonstrating their character, their resilience, their willingness to be truthful and forceful on their own behalf, stand up guys can win.

The “Resistance” is crumbling. Its Furies have been unleashed, its flying monkeys unchained, and they just bounced off.

I suspect Trump will be exploding more bombs over the next month. The October Surprises will all be coming from the White House. Trump’s character demands a denouement. A reckoning with what he is referring to as the “radical Democrats”. The looney women who were screaming in the Senate galleries, the deceitful Democratic Senators, the increasingly crazed mainstream media are all feeding into the season finale of Year 2 of the Trump Show. How will the viewers respond? Who will get voted off the island?

Thirty days from now we will know; but right now we know that Trump has given Republican Senators backbones, the Supreme Court an eminently qualified Justice and assorted celebrities, blue check media and whackadoo feminists, aneurysms.

It’s a good thing.

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Bullet Dodged

Apparently, there are still some adults left in Ottawa and they realized that Trump and his trade negotiators really were not bluffing. Soooo. NAFTA 2.0.

Frankly, I think we won by not actually losing. JT realized that the automotive trade was worth more than gender equality in trade terms. We keep trading with the US, they ship more dairy tariff-free, we get to buy up to $100 bucks an order online from Amazon without duty, keep a dispute mechanism, cultural industries (which apparently include banking, who knew?) exempted…But the big bonus is that we never again have to see Chrystia Freeland in a far too tight dress again. Thank you, President Trump.

Now, this sort of blows Justine’s prospects of running against the Tyrant Trump in a year. I mean, the Liberals will be there in spirit, but it will be impossible to spin this agreement as both a win for Canada and standing up to the big, orange, American bully.

Sensible people do what they need to do to get a deal they need. Encouragingly, there are still a few sensible people in Ottawa.

Update: Only a flesh wound,

“However, the USMCA includes language that requires signatories to give notice if they plan to negotiate a free trade deal with a “non-market country,” and to allow the other two signatories at least a month to review any agreement before it is signed. It explicitly states that if one of the signatories enters into such an agreement, the other two have the right to withdraw from the USMCA with six months’ notice.” national post

My charming elder son texted to suggest that I was full of it and that this deal was essentially NAFTA 2. No major changes.

Well, this language is a major change and a direct restriction on our sovereignty. I don’t think it is a particularly bad restriction but it does mean that the USMCA is more a trade bloc than a free trading area.

Sundance, over at The Conservative Treehouse sees this as a way of stopping the quaint Mexican and Canadian practice of allowing foreign companies to ship parts to those countries and then put the parts together and claim that the finished product is “Made in Canada/Mexico”.

I don’t think that is correct as it only deals with “free trade agreements” rather than the piecemeal import and re-export shenanigans which have characterized NAFTA. However, at a guess, that brokerage business will be curtailed by the rules going to place of origin which stud the various side letters.

Which, in my view, is no bad thing. It is one thing to buy your printed circuit boards from China, it is quite another to have entire control modules shipped in pieces and “assembled” by putting in a couple of screws in order to evade tariffs.

The Trumpians want to bring actual manufacturing home to the USA, or, at worst, to its trading partners Canada and Mexico. We can argue the economics of this but what Trump sees is jobs. Decent jobs to bring Americans – particularily black and Latino Americans – back into the workforce. So far he seems to be hitting that goal. So much so that there are now more jobs than (technically) unemployed people.

Creating an “employment” economy is very good news for the deplorables, black people and Latinos. Where the demand for labour increases so will its price. For a very long time America seemed to be mired in an economy in which the rich and the upper middle class took the lion’s share of the money and the struggling middle class and the poor and lumpen unemployed were left with crumbs, disability and oxy. Trump’s economics and his concept of “fair trade” seem to be shifting that trend. If he can keep it going he’ll win the mid-terms and he’ll win re-election.

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Inside FBI HQ

Brett Kavanaugh, TrumpThe Director: OK, McMullian. I know you are fairly new but, son, we’ve got a hot one for you.

McMullian: Yes Sir!

The Director: 35 or 36 years ago a seventeen-year-old boy is alleged to have grabbed a 15-year-old girl and thrown her on a bed. He is alleged to have tried to make out with her and he is alleged to have sexually assaulted her.

McMullian: Do we have the police report, Sir?

The Director: No.

McMullian: Witnesses?

The Director: Four, or maybe five. Not sure on that Agent.

McMullian: They were in the room?

The Director: Well she says one of them was and he “jumped on them” which let her escape.

McMullian: And where did this happen?

The Director: We don’t know.

McMullian: No problem…When?

The Director: We don’t know.

McMullian: Were the witnesses under oath?

The Director: Yup.

McMullian: So they remembered what happened?

The Director: Not exactly. They don’t remember any party at all.

McMullian: OK, so I’m to investigate a sexual assault which might have happened thirty-five or six years ago at an unknown location on an unknown date.

The Director: That’s right. And I need your report on my desk in 72 hours.

McMullian: Yes Sir.

The Director: And while you are at it McMullian, there is also an open case on a report of an incidence of unicorn farting in Maryland at roughly the same time. See what you can pick up.

McMullian: I’m on it, Sir.

The Director: POTUS want’s updates on the investigation. This could make your career.

McMullian: Does POTUS know there are no such things as unicorns?

The Director: I doubt it. But get’er done. Your country is depending on you.

McMullian: Yes Sir.

 

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Dealing with Tantrums

Democrats, Brett KavanaughAs any parent will tell you a three year old can make an awful lot of noise when he does not get what he wants. Parenting is about what to do when the three year old goes ballistic.

One thing which sometimes works is speaking calmly and rationally to the kid. That can take a while though and is often of little effect in the supermarket. You can go the other route and become angry and hope shock and awe will put out the tantrum. That sometimes works but, honestly, it probably does more harm than good. You can, of course, simply pick up your child – to the relief of bystanders and change venue.

Or you can actually hear what the child is screaming about and see if there is a way to fix the problem.

The Democrats are in the midst of a tantrum royale about Kavanaugh. The fact this is a problem of their own making is not something they are capable of hearing. Nor are they willing to look at the facts presented to date if only because there are so very few actual facts that scrutiny will collapse their narrative. Screaming “Rapist, FBI, #metoo, believe women” is the closest the Dems have come to an argument.

The trouble is that the Democrats have climbed a very long way up the tree of crazy, so far that it is now actually dangerous for them to climb down. Which is a problem for the Republicans and for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Much as I despise Senator Flake, his decision to vote the nomination out of committee but threaten to withhold his vote unless there is a short FBI investigation is a stroke of parenting genius. An FBI investigation does not reach conclusions – as Kavanaugh pointed out yesterday. Rather it looks for evidence and reports back on that evidence. There is no reason an investigation into Dr. Ford’s allegations needs to take very long. Five interviews. One with Ford and four with the people (they are not “witnesses” because they are saying there was nothing to see) who have all given sworn testimony that what Ford said occurred didn’t occur.

Now, were I Grassley I would want to secure Democratic buy in on the FBI probe – time limit and the single allegation. I suspect the Dems will hold out for the Ramirez allegation to be looked into as well. That would mean another dozen interviews. But the FBI is a big, sometimes efficient, organization and that is not beyond their capacity.

Will the FBI investigation resolve the allegations? No, because it will simply report the evidence and that evidence will be very much like the evidence we currently have. But the mere fact of an FBI investigation might just be enough to let the saner Democrats begin to carefully climb down the tree.

The objective here is not to prove or disprove the allegations against Kavanaugh – 35 years on, that is essentially impossible – the objective is to end the tantrum.

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