Category Archives: American Politics

No there there

The mighty Mueller and his gunsels have rooted and dug and investigated and produced indictments: for doubtful business dealings predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign.

The dummy brigade is going nuts with our own Warren “Lying Jackal” Kinsella announcing, “And there can be no doubt, now, that Trump’s campaign was effectively run out of the Kremlin.”

As there is nothing at all in the indictment of Manafort and Gates which relates to the Trump campaign Warren and his ilk are forced to rely on the boiler plate “Conspiracy Against the United States of America”. As it is this “United States of America” which is proffering the charges and this same entity in its guise of the Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury whom Manafort is alleged to have defrauded, it is difficult to imagine how else Mueller would have framed the charges.

But, dummy chorus aside, is there anything in the indictment which puts the finger on Trump? On a quick reading I would say there isn’t. It may not have been the smartest thing in the world to hire a guy with Manafort’s connections to doubtful dictators and assorted oligarchs; but against that is balanced the fact that as Trump became aware of those links he first demoted and then fired Manafort.

Maybe these charges are part of a clever leverage scheme to get Manafort, facing an eternity in Federal Prison and the forfeiture of any assets the Feds can trace, to sing. Right out of G-man 101. That is, at best, a maybe. The fact the charges were brought at all suggests that whatever Manafort knew was not enough to avoid liability for his alleged sins. He has, after all, been interviewed by the Special Prosecutors’ office on several occasions and that would have been the time to cut a deal. That these charges have been proffered suggests no deal was done. Now there is, of course, still time for “all of this to go away” if Manafort has something interesting on Trump. But why would he have held it back? I doubt he thought Mueller was just joking around in those earlier meetings.

All of which leads me to suspect that Manafort does not, in fact, have “it” where “it” is the smoking gun of Trump/Russia collusion. And I also suspect that Manafort has a pretty good defence worked out. (And he may be backstopped by the promise of a pardon but I would doubt it; no reason for Trump to pardon a guy on stuff he did a decade ago unless that guy had the real, live, smoking gun.)

Trump, correctly in my view, is taking the position that nothing in the Manafort/Gates indictment has anything to do with Trump or his campaign.Which leaves the partisan ankle biters at CNN with nothing much more than the guilty plea of a campaign volunteer named Papadopoulos. What was he guilty of? Lying to the FBI regarding dates upon which he, apparently on his own initiative,  had conversations with various Russians. Not a great moment for the Trump world but also a very long way from proving collusion. And, with the guilty plea in place, assuming that Papadopoulos had anything to tell, chances are pretty good he’s told it.

Mueller has been on the job for months. He has a team of prosecutors and agents who have looked at every element of the Trump campaign. They have come up with some pretty routine alleged tax evasion and a guy lying to the FBI about the dates of meetings and conversations with Russians. Is Mueller saving “the good stuff” for Christmas? Is he hoping that Trump will suddenly begin to conspire to “cover up” and render himself vunerable? Hard to say but, at a guess, this wimpy set of charges about business activities predating Manafort’s involvement with the Trump campaign are pretty much the best Mueller has. That could change, but he will have to do much better than this to provide impeachment ammunition. Much better.

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

A Plenary Power

A conversation:

Aide: They are charging Mr. X with obstruction of justice.

The President: What did he do?

Aide: He had a conversation with a Russian. Then he lied about it to a guy who turned out to be your Veep.

The President: The dirty dog. Tell him to plead guilty and I’ll pardon him that day.

Aide: But you can’t do that.

The President: Just watch me.

Aide: But that might be obstruction of justice right there.

The President: Counsel, what’s a plenary power?

White House Counsel (shaking slightly): It is an absolute, unqualified, power.

The President: And is that the Pardon Power I have per ” Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment“. I looked it up on Wiki.

White House Counsel: Well, in a manner of speaking, Sir.

The President: Good to know. And Counsel, would you tell Mueller that any more chickenshit charges are going to be pardoned. And do that with a public letter. He’s going to have to do way better than this to get something to stick. And how are you coming on the “dirty” dossier to the FISA Court and the FBI dropping the Uranium One investigation about Bill and Hilly. I don’t want to waste my time dealing with chickenshit when there are real crimes to look into.

Aide: Thank you Mr. President.

 

 

Tagged , ,

Bannon 1, Flake 0, GOPe -5

Steve BannonJeff Flake is pretty much the poster boy for country club Republicanism. Responsible, moderate, no boat rocking, no deplorables and certainly never Trump.

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, devoted to free trade, pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party” Jeff Flake

It is not entirely clear when traditional conservatives became “pro-immigration” but it is clear that conservatives in general, if they favour immigration at all, are pro “legal” immigration. As to limited government and free markets, Flake has been in Washington since 2001. Has the government been limited? Have markets become freer? As to free trade, neither W nor Obama nor the Congress of the United States has been very interested in trade.

Flake’s retirement in the face of the fact he was 15 to 20 points behind in the Republican primary suggests that Steve Bannon’s strategy of playing a bit of hardball with RINOs is working. Bannon’s agenda, which interestingly includes “legal” immigration in place of illegal, a genuine reduction in the scope of government and a recognition that unlimited “free trade” with countries which pay a tenth of American wages may not be such a good deal, is resonating amongst Republican and even independent voters. A couple of decades of economic stagnation in which poor people, black and white, stayed poor and their ranks were swelled by other people falling out of the middle class, suggests the consensus elite positions on these sorts of issues may not be working so terribly well.

Bannon was smart enough to realize that an America First agenda spoke to the needs of the American people in a way the elite solutions had long since failed to do. Bannon was also smart enough to realize that the crooked timber of Trump was strong enough to push these ideas into the civic forum. MAGA is a silly slogan but it touched people who were, in fact, better off twenty years ago before they were given the blessing of GOPe and Obama.

The Bannonite insurgency in the Republican Party rests on the simple premise that if things are not working you try to change them. Obamacare was ill-conceived at the go and relied upon illegal appropriations from the President to work at all. All Trump had to do was stop making those appropriations and, Obamacare will, slowly and likely painfully, collapse. Now, I don’t think the Republicans have any particularly good replacement for Obamacare; but its collapse will at least mean that the GOPe will not be able to vote with the Democrats to keep the Rube Goldberg structure on life support. Same story with the “Dreamers”. Simply by refusing to extend Obama’s Executive Orders for non-enforcement, the problem is kicked back to Congress where it belongs.

I don’t think Trump has been a very good President but simply by refusing to extend decisions made in the Obama era, he is reducing the harm done. For fans of limited government, as Flake professes to be, reducing Executive overreach and pushing law making to the legislative branch of the government is a very good start indeed.

Bannon recognized that voters on the right were fed up with voting for Republican canidates only to have them turn into Democrats in drag when they hit Washington. The very idea of primarying fine old GOPe canidates proves pretty conclusively that Bannon is far too rude to be admitted to any decent country club. And, as he racks up the wins, he will also increase his power in the Republican Party.

If we assume, along with the increasingly deranged media, that Trump is, at best, an entirely hollow man without a policy thought to bless himself with and with no time for the Republican Party, the defenders of the GOPe status quo are people like Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. These are not popular men nor do they have much unity of purpose save staying in office or collecting fat consulting fees. These are the great minds who brought a disgusted American People “Jeb!”.

For Bannon, wind at his back, crushing this outdated, policy free, cabal is the work of a single primary season. Two down, six, well five because Cruz gets a bye, Senators to go, a number of flakey Representatives as well. Bannon is on a roll and it is not obvious what will stop him from reforming the Republican Party into an America First, populist machine.

(And I note that the Democratic party is in even worse shape with little in the way of vision or leadership and a bunch of “woke” kids convinced that what the party needs is 24/7 identity politics with a healthy dose of really incoherent socialism to reduce the bugbear of “inequality” and promote the panecea of “diversity”. That, and Hilly and Bubba are very much in the frame for accepting Uranium One payments which look, well, rather like Russian bribes.)

Tagged , ,

Bannon 1, GOPe -5

Judge Roy Moore is about the last person I would want to see in the US Senate. But, and here’s the thing, he has the right friends and, more importantly, the right enemies. He thrashed swamp creature Luther Strange in the Republican runoff primary tonight.

No doubt he will bring his God-fearing, fundamentalist, Christian principles to Washington and enjoy a richly deserved obscurity in a back corner of the Senate. All of which does not matter.

The fight here is against “business as usual” in Washington and a win for McConnell backed Strange would have been all about continuing the dysfunction which is Washington politics.

Steve Bannon understood that and went all in for Moore simply for the message it would carry.

The message was received loud and clear by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker who announced he was not running again in 2018. As a RINO, Corker was pretty certain to be primaried. So he quit. A number of other quasi Republicans are expected to do much the same thing in the next few weeks.

The Moore win, in the face of a 30 million dollar campaign and the lukewarm endorsement of Strange by Trump (apparently under pressure from the useless GOPe), has made Bannon and Brietbart the single most imposing political machine in the US. It is dedicated to Trump but the old Trump, not the shiny new, Democrat-leaning, confection of the generals and the Kushners.

Now, from what I can see, Trump hates losing. He hates making mistakes. Supporting Strange for a handful of McConnell’s magic beans was a mistake. But, and here is the thing, Bannon is smart enough to let Trump climb down with Grace. However, Bannon is not going to stop in Alabama or Tennessee. Leaving out Tennessee, there are seven Republican seats in play. Several RINOs need ejection.

At a guess, we have seen the last time Trump is going to intervene in a primary fight where Bannon has a preferred candidate. It didn’t work this time and there is no reason to believe it will work in other races. Which leaves the table open for Bannon to run against GOPe wherever they pop up. Flake in Arizona is the obvious target, but there are several others.

Bannon has Mercer money, lots of it, available for the right fights. He has Breitbart. He has an all-star cast of deplorables from Sarah Palin to Phil Robertson to Nigel Farage (which I think is hysterical). He has an agenda which actually contains policy. Most of all he has the fact that the Senate and House Republicans can’t seem to get anything done even with a sitting President.

As Trump’s adventures in football are demonstrating, Trump knows how to keep his base onside; but Trump without Bannon is an empty suit. Fortunately, Bannon is well aware of this and is taking full advantage. The Generals and the GOPe leadership may think they have the Donald in harness but they couldn’t deliver in Alabama and it is unlikely Trump will risk another humiliation at the hand of his biggest, and smartest supporter.

Some whacko Alabama judge won a runoff election tonight, Steve Bannon gained control of the electoral fortunes of the entire Republican Party. Bannon was wasted inside the White House. It was like asking Captain Kidd to command a Royal Navy Man ‘o War, he could do the job but never be comfortable in the position. Now Bannon is loose.

Tagged , ,

Endgame for the Left

When AfD won 13 percent of the vote in Germany the immediate reaction of the very,very, hard left was to attack the victory party.

Of course it was. Because the antifa people are, frankly, idiots. Idiots with fascist tendencies and a propensity for random street violence if they think some icon of the left is under attack.

Viewed on any sort of time horizon, antifa, BLM, SJWs and the rest of the Left’s storm troopers will fade into obscurity in a matter of a year or two. But the damage they will do to the “respectable” left will last for decades.

Radical minorities, splinters, if they are violent enough, will ensure that the left is tainted as violence supporting for a very long time. The more intelligent of the antifa idiots are willing to see this as a very good thing because it will drive the frail, democracy supporting, lefties out of the left.

For the moderate left antifa presents, along with vicious identity politics, the endgame for Progressivism. Empowered, deeply ahistorical, children with no impulse control will deliver election after election the centre and to the right. Which will be fine with antifa; but which will kill a hundred years of serious socialist infiltration. The normals will wake up and begin to fight back.

The most delightful part, from a right-wing perspective, is that the moderate left can’t figure out how to disown the lefty babies of antifa nor can it quite unwind the identitarian idiocy it has done so much to nurture. The wilderness looms large.

Tagged ,

When Steve Bannon Leaves the Room

Donald Trump, McMaster, generals

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

“I want to pardon that Sheriff. I’m not kidding. That son of a bitch judge had it in for my friend. So the Hell with him. I’m going to pardon him. I can do that right.”

“You can Mr. President. But to weather that storm you have to clear the decks. Look Presidential. And nothing looks more Presidential than committing a few thousand of our soldiers to let Afghanistan be Afghanistan.” said a General.

“But that is lame. Go big or, better still, go home. I said that. The people loved it. Every deplorable knows no one wins Afghanistan and we’re all about winning.”

“Yes Sir!” said Kelly snapping to attention. “And we’re going to win. Win bigly. Because no one has ever had the commitment to winning in the Stan that you do, Sir.”

“Great. We’ll be great and we’ll make Afghanistan great again. Just like the US of A. Just like that. But we do the pardon for my buddy.”

“We do Sir.” said another General. “But we have, as the expression goes, a person of colour in the woodpile.”

“We do? Well, let’s nuke that woodpile. I hate disloyalty. Don’t much like the sort of people who hang around in woodpiles. But won’t they call me a racist? I mean, you told me that once we hired a person of colour there was just no way to say “You’re Fired.””

“Good news, Sir. He’s not actually a POC, he’s an anti-Islam, British Hungarian American. You can fire him anytime. He’s a friend of Bannon’s and Flynn thought he was a good guy.” said a General.

“Hungarian? Sad…My first wife was Hungarian.”

“Czech actually, Sir.” said a Colonel bucking for a promotion.

“Same fucking thing. Nasty bunch. Cost a lot of money that divorce. And then Marla. Wasted a lot of money there but how did this guy get into the woodpile in the first place?”

“Bannon.” said two Generals and a Colonel.

“He told you Gorka was a smart guy. You believed him and now look what he’s done. He basically said your Afghanistan strategy was idiotic. He had to go.” said a General. “But now that he has you can pardon that Sheriff  guy.”

“Great. That will be huuuuuge”

“It will, Sir.” said a General, “Unless I miss my bet, it will be bigger than Charlottesville. Too bad about the hurricane. Steps on the message a bit.”

“Hurricane, Smeriscane, Texas had it coming. You just watch. I’ll handle the hurricane.  Sure, the hurricane is coming in like Merryweather, (which is pretty funny ok), but I’ll hit it like McGregor. You guys got any money on that fight? Vegas is going to get pasted. I am so pissed that the Secret Service won’t let me sit ringside.”

Two Generals and a Colonel snap to attention.

“Yes Sir. Pardon papers will be on your desk in ten minutes. We already have the Gorka resignation. Troops out to the Stan next week. Sir!”

“And, Mr. President, I have a hundred bucks that says McGregor doesn’t land a punch. Not one.” said the very ambitious Colonel.

“Done.”

POTUS wandered back to the Family Residence secure in the knowledge that the Colonel had never heard of “clients golf”. He looked like an excellent candidate to run a firebase in…well, some God forsaken place in Afghanistan.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Ritual

Boston…3000-10,000 lefties and antifa people are going to go and crush a free speech demo. Vancouver, I am informed that 1800+ antifa and allies will go and disrupt an anti-immigration event at city hall. Apparently, there are other demos and counter demos planned for Saturday.

Delightfully, even the rational right can provoke the irrational left into creating the conditions of its own destruction. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to parse whether or not the Boston event or the Vancouver event will be infested with Nazis or if they are events organized by reasonable people in support of reasonable positions. And neither, I am happy to say, does the left. There will be bad think at these events and that is sufficient.

Now, antifa has a short half-life. It managed to avoid exposure at Charlottesville largely because some whack job in a car killed someone. But they can’t count on that every time. Taking a sack of bricks with you to a “counter protest” is pretty much reckless negligence. In Boston the police are setting up a cordon and plan to strip participants of such tools of free speech as bats, two inch thick flag poles, guns, knives and, yes, bricks and really big rocks. Might work. Hard to say. Antifa better hope it does because the first time they actually manage to kill a Nazi – or more likely a bystander – they are on their way out.

Plus, and I suspect the Vancouver activity could produce this, when the antifa rioters are denied their preferred target of suspected Nazis and white supremacists and guys in polo shirts, what are they going to do? At a guess heave a few bricks through the windows of assorted icons of capitalism. A block or two away from Vancouver City Hall, and pretty much on the route to the Skytrain station, there are all sorts of windows to smash and, hey, stuff to “liberate”. Again, a perfect opportunity for the antifa drones to demonstrate their radical cred and lose any, limited, sympathy the general population and the political classes might have for their “anti-Nazi” activity.

I leave you with Sir Mick and Keith’s lyric,

“Street Fighting Man”

Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
But what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man
No
Hey! Think the time is right for a palace revolution
But where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s no place for a street fighting man
No
Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants
Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There’s no place for a street fighting man
No

As I think about the Vancouver scenario it occurs to me I am thinking too small. The famous Stanley Cup riot in 2011 attracted bridge and tunnel kids from all over the Lower Mainland. At some point, antifa events will gain the same sort of following. After all, where else can you get social licence to loot, punch and generally behave badly.

Update: Saturday has come and gone. In Boston, while there was a bit of bad behaviour on the part of the massive anti-free speech crowd, everything was pretty calm. In Vancouver, while antifa were present, many, much smarter people showed up at the anti-imigration rally. The very few anti-imigration people who showed up didn’t stay long. Rumour has it that they were sprayed….with silly string. Now this is genius. Nazis have about as much of a sense of humour as 3rd wave feminists and ridicule is far more effect that a sharp jab to the chin.

Tagged , ,

After The Rebel….Breitbart Canada

My sense is that the Rebel is swirling round the drain. Canadaland reports that Kory Teneycke, ex of Harper’s PMO and ex of Sun newspapers was the guy who spoke to the English chaps who are suggesting Ez may not be entirely straight with his contributors’ money. That’s a lot of fire power to send to calm a couple of disgruntled contract workers. Ez says he’s being blackmailed. Could be.

The resignations continue and it is not at all obvious who would be interested in climbing on board the heavily listing Rebel.

The brand has become pretty toxic pretty quickly.

At the same time, the need for a Canadian, right of center, media outlet is apparent. There has been talk of Breitbart Canada for several years but there was little movement, in part because The Rebel had effectively occupied the niche. Now? Well, Bannon is back and looking to expand Brietbart’s influence. Ez has to be looking for a way out and his few remaining assets are a mailing list, some You-tube subscribers and some video equipment. Buy those assets, say good-bye and good luck to Ez but retain him as a consultant for a six month grace period, then look around for some decent presenters and some smart, “not a Nazi” rightie, journalists. Voilà, Breitbart-Canada.

Bannon out, Swamp wins

If you go back and read this blog you’ll find that, at best, my support for Trump per se was lukewarm. The negative reason for my support was that I thought and think that Hillary is a crook and would have made a terrible President. But the positive reason really came down to the fact I liked Steve Bannon and thought he had a pretty clear grasp of what has been going wrong in the US.

Now he’s out. Jumped or pushed? No doubt we’ll find out in due course. But it is the end of any chance of a usefully disruptive Presidency. Without Bannon Trump will become an increasingly conventional President. Any chance of actually changing the largely corrupt Washington culture vanishes.

Which means we are left with Trump and no good reason (other than at least he’s not Hillary) to support him. The markets surged on the announcement. (Update: and then fell back) More business as usual. No danger of disruptive change. In fact, with Bannon gone, there will be next to no pushback to GOPe policy or lack thereof.

Now the Trump administration will continue to careen from screwup to screwup but without even the possibility that there will emerge constructive change as well as endless goofs. Worse, the focus of the Whitehouse will switch to preserving the Trump Presidency which will mean a strict policy of risk avoidance. No doubt many of my American friends will welcome a renewed commitment to not rocking the boat. It is much less terrifying to simply sink beneath the waves of bureaucratic and political corruption without making too much fuss.

On the upside, as my son pointed out to me, with Bannon gone, I can join in the fun of mocking the orange vulgarian secure in the knowledge that whether he stays or goes, nothing is going to get any better in America and there is every chance things will get a great deal worse.

(Update for a pal: At a guess the Sage of Minnesota will be wrong as to Trump’s departure by Labour Day, it will probably be worse than that. Essentially, with Bannon out of the White House, Trump will remain President in name only. He’ll sign what is put in front of him, make the occasional, well-scripted speech and behave himself. He will become increasingly “Presidential” and his press will improve. But he will actually accomplish nothing at all.)

Upper Date: Steve Bannon himself is thinking along the same lines as he says in an interview with The Weekly Standard:

Bannon believes that those who will now try to influence Trump will hope to turn him in a sharply different direction.

“I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” he says. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling, I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency—and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville—his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”

 

Tagged ,

Bannon Uncut

This is a very interesting but rather surprising interview with Steve Bannon in, of all places, The American Prospect. Go read the whole thing but a couple of quotes:

“We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

The reason why Steve Bannon draws so much fire is that he really does not give a rat’s ass for the established formulations of the Washington Establishment. “They got us” never passes the lips of the right sort of people. 100,000 artillery tubes pointed at Seoul are just not the sort of thing people talk about. But Bannon does.

My sense is that Trump’s Presidency is on the edge. If the MSM/GOPe/Dem narrative gains much more traction he’ll be locked in the White House with pretty much zero power until he quits, is hit by the 25th Amendment or is impeached for some sort of high crime the likes of which have never been seen before.

There is exactly one way out for Trump and that is to embrace Bannon and embrace his base. The trimming, the business councils, the McMasters down the hall. Ivanka and Jared down the other hall. None of that is actually getting the job done. For Trump to come out of the Charlotteville idiocy intact he needs to get back to his populist base. He needs to wage jihad against antifa and the demonization of the right as “Nazis”. And to do that he needs a real strategist. Bannon is the only one he’s got. Tell Kelly to keep the trains running, tell Bannon to figure out where they should go.

Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: