Category Archives: American Politics

On the way out…

I don’t think Trump is going anywhere soon. But, if the lawsuits fail and the great steal succeeds, the Donald could leave in a blaze of glory.

“More than half of the prison inmates in the United States are non-violent offenders. In 2006, for example, there were 1,331,100 people imprisoned, only 667,900 of those were convicted of violent crimes.” wisegeek 2013 (Yes, I am lazy…but you get the idea)

One of the few “plenary” powers of the President of the United States is pardons and commutations. There is literally nothing to stop Trump from pardoning or commuting the sentences of well over 600,000 currently incarcerated people. (And the US being the US, a majority of those would not be white.)

It would be a revolutionary fuck you to the author of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994), good old Joe Biden. It would also be real justice on a scale unknown in the history of the United States.

(My middle son, Sam, brought this up. He’s not wrong.)

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Transition This

Michigan certified – in the face of rather strong evidence of miscounting and outright fraud – Joe Biden as the Presidential winner. This triggered a minor functionary, who had the pleasure of death threats, to release transition money to Biden. (Not yet President Elect Biden, if that happens it won’t happen until mid-December.)

One of my delightfully anti-Trump children texted, “Stick a fork in it”. Not yet. On the one hand I want to see what Rudy and the “official” Trump legal team will come up in Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and so on. On the other, I’d like to see what the unofficial Trump supporters, led by the estimable Sydney Powell come up with on the broader, and more criminal, question of coordinated electronic and paper tampering with the vote. Is there the hard evidence it would take to convince a court or is it all just smoke and hand waving?

Biden is doing just what I would expect a presumptive Presidential winner to do, naming his Cabinet and senior staff picks. Nothing wrong with that although the radical left of the Democratic Party are unlikely to be happy with the very Establishment picks so far. I suspect the Biden people will have cast the Biden Adminstration down to the Assistant Deputy Secretary level by the time the Trump litigation is decided.

Of course, the Democrats and more than a few Republicans of a RINO inclination, are suggesting that Trump concede. Michael Walsh makes a very strong case for why that should be the very last thing Trump does.

“Trump similarly grasps that to stand down now, even in the face of overwhelming opposition—some of it coming from within his own ranks—would spell an ignominious end to his presidency and demoralize his voting legions. To leave an open question of whether our porous and multifarious systems of voting are easily manipulated and therefore untrustworthy would be to do the nation a great disservice.

As we’ve seen throughout the past four years, appeasement doesn’t work. No matter what the duly elected president of the United States did, there was no satisfying the rabid left and its media lackeys, short of Trump’s expulsion from office, however effected.”

If there is proof of the widespread fraud which gave the election to Biden that needs to be exposed. The Courts may be reluctant to had the election to the victim of that fraud, but it is critical that such fraud as can be proven be addressed if only to shame its perpetrators into fixing a genuinely crappy electoral system. And, on the other hand, if Biden’s election was, more or less, clean, it is important that this finding be affirmed.

The Democrats spent four years denying the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency for no particularly good reason. The legitimacy of the Presidency of the winner of the 2020 Presidential election is going to be an open question until the very real legal questions surrounding the vote and the count are determined in Court.

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Orange Man Wins Bigly

If you read MSM, especially Canadian MSM, the US Presidential Election is over and Joe Biden will cruise to an easy victory in both the popular vote and in the swing states where US elections are decided. The polls say so. End of story.

It is trite to point out that the polls said the same thing about Hillary in 2016, yet here we are.

Elections are about a lot of things, policy, personality, demographics, ground game, likeability and so on. They serve as an outlet for the fears and frustrations of the electorate and an opportunity to express tribal loyalty. The 2020 US Presidential Election is really an up or down vote on Donald Trump.

In 2016 Trump short circuited the system by providing an alternative to a genuinely despised woman whose “turn” it was. If I had a vote, which I don’t because Canadian, I would not have voted for Trump, I would have voted against Hillary. I did not like Trump the man and was not at all excited at the prospect of “President Trump”.

This has changed a bit for 2020. He’s still an Orange Oaf but, in the face of multiple challenges, COVID 19 being only the most recent, he has managed to execute the office far better than I anticipated. No new wars, lots of new judges, de-regulation, tax cuts, a booming pre-COVID economy which led to very low unemployment generally and record lows for Blacks and Latinos. He has shown remarkable restraint in the face of the Antifa/BLM provocations and deference to the place of the States in the American Constitution on both COVID and the riots. For a rank amateur, often advised by people who did not share his agenda, Trump’s first term was a success.

Which is just one of the reasons I think he will be given a second term.

There are lots of others. Up until he beat COVID (we hope) in a weekend, Trump was running a real, old time, campaign. Flying into swing states and doing hanger rallies in places no Presidential candidate has been to in a century. Pulling 10,000 here, 20,000 there. And, of course, harvesting the data on all the people who wanted tickets.

The boat parades (apparently not organized by the campaign), truck parades and car parades, the spontaneous rally outside Walter Reed, even the Trump supporters greeting Biden when he occasionally campaigns, all indicate real enthusiasm for Trump. Biden’s campaign knows it can’t put on this sort of show so it is not even trying.

Trump is, first and foremost, a showman. He loves the crowds, the cheers, the signs. He has developed a rally “patter” with entertaining asides, imitations, jokes, insults all worked into the teleprompter material. His timing isn’t perfect but he never runs into “Please clap.” moments. Most of all, Trump always looks like he is having a ton of fun being with his people.

Now, if that was the whole of the Trump campaign it might very well beat the lame effort of the Dems and Joe Biden; but it is not:

“Although Stepien faces an unprecedented challenge — trailing in some national polls by double-digits with an unpopular incumbent in the midst of a pandemic — he has what Republicans believe is a crucial advantage over Democratic opponent Joe Biden: the Republican Party’s sophisticated, billion-dollar get-out-the vote operation.

Trump Victory, the joint operation between the RNC and the Trump campaign, has an army of 2,000 paid field staffers in 17 states and more than 2 million volunteers making phone calls and knocking on doors. The field operation claims to have made more than 90 million voter contacts in the cycle, including 12 million door knocks since they resumed the practice in June.

In just the last week, according to Trump Victory spokesman Rick Gorka, volunteers have knocked on more than 533,000 doors across the key states of North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia.” cnn (September 10, 2020)

For years political consultants maintained that campaigns were won with advertising mainly on TV. Markets were saturated, consultants well paid – it was like selling soap. Now, fewer and fewer people are watching TV and if they are they have more than five channels to watch. National markets have collapsed, local markets are fighting for a share of fewer and fewer viewers. People get their news, their entertainment and their political views from the fragmented, siloed world of the internet. On the internet you can target very specifically, but you cannot really reach an undifferentiated mass audience.

Trump’s campaign figured that out in 2016 but it has had four years to figure out how to bypass both TV, mainstream media and the internet’s silos. A phone call is fine but the ultimate outreach to the undecided voter in key states is good, old fashioned, door knocking. It’s a big country, but in the states which matter, hundreds of thousands of direct contacts and a big data operation can make a huge difference.

Demographics matter too and here Trump has a huge advantage, he has nowhere to go but up with black Americans and Latinos. In 2016 Trump got 8% of black votes. According to exit polls in 2016 Trump got 29% of the Latino vote. For the past four years Trump has made a point of courting black and Latino voters. More importantly, in the pre-Covid economy employment rates for both groups hit historic highs. Will that translate to votes? I suspect it will, the question is how many. Much is made of the “shy” Trump vote. Realistically, you would have to be a very brave black person in a black community, to show any support for Trump. We’ll see how that goes but a tiny increase – and I mean 3% – in Trump voting in black and Latino demographics would have huge electoral consequences.

The final piece of the Trump victory is the gift of Joe Biden. No one hates Joe in the way people hated Hillary. He’s old, a bit dazed, corrupt, lousy at retail politics, bereft of policy and saddled with a VP candidate someone referred to as Hillary in blackface. But no one hates him. They just don’t like him very much. Even his supporters have bumper stickers saying “Settle for Biden”.

Incumbency is tough to defeat. People know who Donald Trump is. There are plenty of people who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and are looking forward to not voting for him in 2020. Just as there are lots who voted for Trump and will again. But no one is affirmatively voting for Joe Biden.

Which leads to the final reason why Trump will win. People who support Trump will all show up, most of the people who hate Trump will show up too, though likely not all – and there is no one who actually supports Joe Biden. Elections are decided by the people who actually vote. Trump’s job is to make sure every single one of his supporters and leaners (secret or otherwise) feels motivated enough to vote. And that is exactly what Trump and his organization are doing.

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Bumps

My eldest son and I have a lively online conversation which has gone on for years. We disagree about a lot but recently we have agreed that the stock market is heading towards a crash. Not an if, a when. Oddly, we both see the end of September as the likely date. Simon cites market history, I am inclined to go with people understanding “events” and responding to that understanding. Here are a few.

The American Election Whether you are a Trump fan or a Biden supporter does not matter because the Election itself is the market event. Markets could live with either a Trump or a Biden victory; what they cannot live with is the growing possibility that the Election will not be decided on Election Day. In critical states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, mail in ballots cannot begin to be counted until the polls are actually closed on Election Day. (You can get all the details in this excellent article, Why We Are Facing The Biggest Election Nightmare In Modern American History No Matter Who Ends Up Winning by Michael Snyder.)

Leaving aside the issues of fraud which arise with mail in ballots, the biggest problem is just how unlikely it is that we will know who has won the Presidency for days, perhaps weeks, after the polls have formally closed. The very definition of uncertainty.

Markets hate uncertainty and as the likelihood of a protracted vote count becomes more obvious the overall market is likely to become, in a word, skittish. Given that the general markets in the US, and to a degree in Canada, are already at all time highs, that will certainly tend towards defensive selling and profit taking. Which, in normal times, would actually be healthy. But these are not normal times.

COVID I think a plausible argument can be made that COVID, the disease, is abating. Case counts may pop here and there but that is almost always an artifact of more testing. Hospitalizations and death counts are low and going lower. The return to school will probably pop case counts in some places, but it is unlikely to have much impact on how many people get really, really sick. As one writer said about Sweden, “All the kindling is gone.” Which is pretty harsh but also, likely, accurate. COVID kills the elderly and the compromised; it is no fun for the rest of us but it is survivable.

However, the economic consequences of COVID, consequences which are entirely political rather than medical, are ripping through Western economies. Lockdowns, business closures, mandatory masking, broad layoffs, work from home, mortgage deferrals, evictions and eviction moratoriums are all in full swing. The idea of flattening the curve has given way to the goal of either avoiding or mitigating “the second wave”. The “vaccine” is variously “a month or two away”, “ready in 2021” or “very unlikely to be effective whenever it’s ready”.

Of course, the entire COVID “crisis” has become politicized with those on the left convinced that without masks and shutdowns we will all die, and those on the right certain that unless the economy restarts we’ll all die poor. Maskers see non-maskers as selfish, non-maskers see masks as a symbol of conformity. Democratic states wear their masks and their crashing economies as proud symbols of anti-Trump resistance. And so on.

From the market’s perspective the main effect of COVID is the creation of fear and uncertainty. While there are plenty of Robinhood traders happy to make good money day trading, there are also plenty of people eyeing the exits and wondering if “the top” has, in fact, arrived. The Robinhooders represent a tiny fraction of the very deep American stock market. If, as will almost certainly happen, they are hit with significant losses on their most recent FANG trades or if Tesla sinks like a stone, the overall markets won’t miss them. However, if the broader market becomes worried, the dash for the exits could be very ugly indeed. A so-called “second wave” of COVID, even if it is largely fictional could trigger a rush to cash out.

Antifa, BLM, protests, riots and arson In themselves, the various demonstrations and riots inspired by BLM and made nasty by Antifa, are largely irrelevant to all but a few hundred square blocks of a few American cities. (Yes, the craven pandering of big business and major league sports is obnoxious, but it is also very much a passing moment.) Applying a bit of crowd control and arresting leaders and organizers can, and has, shut the riots down where it has been allowed by politicians to happen. So far, BLM and Antifa have been denied the martyrs they need to grow.

In terms of economics, Antifa/BLM have caused several billion dollars worth of damage and made retailers more reluctant to locate in certain areas of certain American cities. However, America is a big place with a big economy, so the costs are relatively tiny. (Not so tiny for small businesses which have been torched.)

Psychologically and politically, the idea that there are nightly riots and that downtowns of relatively small cities like Kenosha could be razed is just one more shock to the system. The fact that police forces have been told to stand down in the face of the rioters and that state level prosecutors have declined to charge the rioters, erodes the faith people have in the overall system.

The fact that there are disturbances virtually every night drives home the message that there is no safety in the US. This is not actually true, the bulk of the United States will never see a BLM/Antifa protest much less riot; but that doesn’t actually matter. The riots and the seemingly impossible to appease demonstrators create a mood, a sense of unease.

Markets reflect the confidence of investors. Where that confidence is eroded the conditions are created for a crunch.

March and the Second Wave In late March we had what people called a mini-crash. The Dow, S&P 500, NASDAQ dropped hard as did the markets in other G-20 countries. At one point virtually every market in the world was off 25%. At the time commentators suggested this was a one time reaction to the economic effects of COVID.

The March crash very quickly reversed itself. The Fed turned on the money pipe and markets all over the world staged V shaped recoveries to the point where, last week the DOW, S&P 500 and NASDAQ were all at or near their all time highs.

But is it real? The March mini-crash suggested that the markets could be spooked easily. That they could recognize the immense economic implications of COVID. However, the speed of the recovery to new highs, suggests that the mini-crash did nothing to re-align the market’s value with the underlying realities of a collapsed GDP, very high unemployment and an accelerating “real” inflation rate.


Market crashes are sometimes triggered by a single event, the collapse of a bank, a commodity crash, or even a small war; but, more often, they happen when investors “lose confidence”. The end of the dot com bubble was not about the internet suddenly being useless, it was about millions of people saying, at more or less the same time, none of these dot com companies make any sense at these prices. It also happened when the overall economy was strong, American politics were in balance and there was no political pandemic battering the real economy.

The V shaped recovery from the March mini-crash suggests strongly that the real “correction” has not occurred yet. Remember, that in the dot com bubble and crash the NASDAQ went from a high of 4798 in March 2000 to a low of just of 1000 in two years.

Currently, the NASDAQ is at 11,313.

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The Virtue of Doing Nothing

I was delighted to see that BLM and Antifa have taken over a small area of Seattle declaring it “autonomous”, forbidding the police from entering and putting up perimeter fencing. I was even happier to note the emergence of a seriously alpha black guy named Raz as the self-appointed warlord of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

There are all sorts of hard heads, up to and including President Trump himself, who want this nonsense ended right now. “Send in the police, the National Guard, the 82 Airborne, Seal Team 6!” Crush the Antifa louts like the roaches they are.

Tactically and strategically sending in law enforcement, much less the military, would be a monumental error.

Antifa (and to a lesser degree, BLM) contains some very smart, very well read, people and those people have made it their business to look at asymmetrical warfare in detail. They are well aware that they cannot defend the CHAZ against even a token show of force on the part of the authorities. However, not for nothing is armed end of Antifa called the John Brown Gun Club.

John Brown was an abolitionist. He was convinced that slavery was against God and, very much in second place, against the principles up which the United States had been founded. He wanted to start a serious insurection and to that end, with a small force, attacked an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry Virginia in October 1859. He succeeded but word reached the Federal government and troops were sent to quell the insurrection. Under the direction of then Colonel Robert E. Lee, Brown was wounded and then captured. He was then tried for treason and hung. Just before his hanging on December 2, 1859, Brown uttered a prophetic forewarning of the coming Civil War: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Brown was right and the Civil War began a bit later in 1861.

The strategists at Antifa will have also studied the various interations of the Irish Rebellion, the defeat of the British in India, the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa and the various actions of the Palestinians against the Israelis. Of course they have, in many ways it is impossible to study history or political science or “studies” without being exposed to these David and Goliath contests.

The brighter lights of Antifa will have understood the essential lesson of these struggles: you win by losing. Ideally in the bloodiest way possible.

Insurrectionists, at least the smart ones, know that they are not fighting the police or national guard or 82 Airborne with any hope of winning. Instead they are trying to lose to an enemy whose excesses will revolt the general run of the population.

Now, to beat an insurrection, you have to take away its oxygen and let it choke out on its own. For CHAZ the oxygen is attention. The romance of the barricades and audacity of insurrection attracts media attention which allows the Antifa people to seize the mic and make assorted demands. (Including, charmingly, a return of racial segregation.)

Any escalation on the part of the authorities will simply feed the flames. Sending in the riot police under a cloud of tear gas and a hail of rubber bullets (cliches but that’s how this stuff is written) is ideal fuel for the Antifa fire. All the better if a big, strong, articulate black man like Raz is gunned down.

At this moment the very best thing the authorities can do is a very vigorous “nothing”. No response whatsoever. Ignore the demands, ignore the spray paint, ignore the barricades and the stolen fences.

Let Antifa and BLM dig themselves in good and deep. Let the inherent tension between Brother Raz and his people and the revolutionary intellectuals of Antifa have a chance to work their magic. Let the logistical nightmare of 500 extra people in a small neighbourhood work itself out. Keep the water and power on. Perhaps jam cell and wifi signals. Surveil the Hell out of the place and don’t be shy. Keep a large and obvious drone presence so that the insurrectionists know they are being watched.

The ignominious collapse of the CHAZ is only a matter of time and patience. It might take a week, it might take a month, but without martyrs to sustain it, CHAZ will join Occupy in the scrapheap of history.

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Market Timing the Surreal

stock trading, COVID-19, Robinhood

Very smart investment gurus tend to agree: you cannot time the markets. That is, you almost never know where the top of a market is and it is nigh on impossible to pick a bottom.

Some go further and pronounce that picking individual stock or commodity is a fool’s errant and that simply “buying the index” is about the best you can do.

I tend to agree with this view except in the most extreme circumstances and then in only a few of those circumstances. For example, I don’t think the crash of 2008/2009 could have been predicted by any one who was not intimately familiar with the shitshow that was securitized mortgage lending and its implications for over leveraged banks. And, even per “The Big Short”, had you known all of that, the consequences for the overall market of what was essentially a banking crisis were far from predictable.

On the other hand, the bursting of the dot com bubble in March of 2000 was a matter of when not if and it was pretty obvious for at least a year before it finally burst. For a real bubble to form you need novice investors putting value on companies which have no earnings and you need people trading shares for the sake of trading. In the run up to the 2000 crash “day traders” were the new financial heros and people were raising a billion dollars to sell reams of copy paper or fifty pound bags of dog food online.

In the winter of 1928 Joe Kennedy, father of JFK and major stock market player, stopped to get his shoes shined. The shoeshine boy leaned in and said, “Buy Hindenburg”. Kennedy began unwinding his positions saying, “You know it’s time to sell when shoeshine boys give you stock tips. This bull market is over.”

I had a similar experience in late 1999 when a friend took out a mortgage on her condo to buy shares in the billion dollar online copy paper empire. She had a perfectly good job in retail garden supplies. Remembering Kennedy, I advised another friend that her Nortel was looking a bit overbought. As it happened she sold quite near the peak.

The 2020 equivalent of the shoeshine boy is the perfect storm is the free trading platform, robinhood.com. This is a nicely designed site where you can trade shares on your computer or phone. It has become very, very popular with younger, new investors. My late 1990’s day trading pals would have killed for this sort of interface and no brokers fees. It has spawned a whole host of reddit chats, twitter streams and countless YouTube videos on the excitement of swing trading. (One fun spot to watch Robinhood is the https://robintrack.net/leaderboard which shows which stocks the people on Robinhood are buying. It is a bit slow and buggy but a great front row seat.)

What is striking about the robinhood.com world is that it revolves around trading rather than any sort of “investing”. You hop into APPL in the morning, see if you can make a couple of bucks by noon and move onto the next thing. And Apple is a real, solvent, company.

Robinhood has been in the news recently because the herd has charged into the shares of a number of companies which are either in or near bankruptcy. Hertz Rent-a-Car dropped from $20 to $0.50 in three months as the market realized that with no travelers there would be no car rentals. Interestingly, we learn from robintrack.net that at $20 there were a little over 1000 users holding, as Hertz crashed the Robinhood users piled in, at $0.55 there were 44,000 and there are now 158,000. And many will have made money, lots of money, trading the gyrating price from $0.50 to back up to $5.00.

In the run up to the crash of October 1929, long after Joe Kennedy had pulled his money from the market, retail traders were coining it trading the “swings” on margin accounts. It didn’t matter what the company actually did, it was going up. The same “irrational exuberance” was a big feature in the dot com bubble.

Justifying the current trading frenzy are all sorts of snappy phrases, “You can’t fight the Fed” is a favourite. “V” shaped recovery is another. There is a sense that age of the dinosaurs, the Warren Buffets and the Carl Ichans is over, that fresh, app driven approaches to investing, and more importantly, trading have been unleashed.

The election and Presidency of Donald Trump created a sense that we had all stepped into an unanticipated world. At the best of times, Trump is unpredictable and the reactions to Trump are off the scale of normal political response. Then COVID and the huge economic uncertainty it has unleashed came crashing onto the stage. Then the George Floyd convulsion layered on another coat of unreality. In fact, surreality.

Day trading surreality seems entirely crazy but it is also a huge tell. Rail traffic has crashed but rails stocks are up, the US is officially in recession but the NASDAQ hit an all time high on Monday, all measures of the real economy are cratering but the stock markets are flying.

The thing about surrealism is that it depends on reality remaining fixed for its often intoxicating effects. Dali’s melting clocks are striking because they do not conform to how we know real clocks look and behave. Stepping away from a surrealist experience there is a snap back to reality. Sometimes you see that reality differently, but it is there nonetheless.

The Robinhood day trading, options fueled, herd investing suggests very strongly that a harsh, perhaps very harsh, snap back is pending. What triggers that snap back is unknown (and therefore impossible to time). It could be as simple a the closure of a bankrupt commercial mortgage fund or the end of banks mortgage deferrals. Whatever it is will be enough for retail investors to start liquidating their positions.

The lessons of the 1929 crash and the 2000 dot com bust were simple – get out early and be in no hurry to get back in. Right now the dinosaurs like Buffet and Ichan are sitting on stacks of cash. Just like Joe Kennedy was when Wall Street swan dived in October 1929. They got that cash by selling their shares to shoeshine boys and the bright lights at Robinhood.

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Losing Touch

I have been paying a bit of attention to the impeachment hearings conducted by the Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives. I was politically aware when the Nixon hearings occurred and followed the Clinton impeachment. In both cases the public was engaged and, while there were obviously partisan considerations, the elected officials seemed to take their responsibilities seriously.

Taking responsibilities seriously means a number of things: first and foremost, due process and a respect for evidence. Second, being clear about what is being alleged. Third, looking for a measure of bi-partisan support for the process. Fourth, a sense of fairness.

There is no legal requirement for any of these things. After all, impeachment we are endlessly told, is a political not a legal process. However, because the process is so deeply political it is unlikely to succeed without a political consensus supporting it. At the moment it looks very much as if the parade of witnesses in front of the Schiff committee have failed to create a strong, or even partial consensus in favour of impeachment.

Polling on fairly complicated questions is equivocal but it can give a sense of where the country is comfortable. For there to be any chance that sufficient Republicans in the Senate will vote for impeachment, the polls would have had to turn in favour of impeachment. Probably by a large margin. This has not happened and the fantastically one sided hearings under Chairman Schiff have not helped.

Which raises a huge problem for the Democrat party. To dyed in the wool Democrats the fact Trump is in office at all is an abuse of that office and impeachment on any grounds whatsoever makes total sense. They cannot imagine how this could be anything but self-evident. Which has meant that they were deeply careless in constructing their impeachment case. They paid no attention to what actually was the “impeachable offence” they were going after. They rigged the rules so that only their witnesses were heard and rigged them even further by creating a procedure designed to put the minority at a significant disadvantage cross examining those witnesses. They were blatant about this rigging.

The perception of unfairness, once established, is difficult to deal with but this was not the worst error the Democrats made. The worst error was believing that a startlingly insignificant bit of Presidential action (or inaction) the proof of which was ambiguous at best would galvanize the American People to demand Trump’s removal. There is no coming back from this misjudgment. All the more so because the action was so boring.

No one outside bureaucratic circles in Washington is the least bit interested in what Trump may have said or implied to some guy with an unpronounceable name who is the President of Ukraine which most Americans could not find on a map. There is no “blue dress”, no “18 minute gap” – there are just assorted, rather self-important, bureaucrats who overheard or heard from a colleague that the American President behaved inappropriately.

Of course, the President in question, has a talent for cutting to the chase and when he released the transcript of his call with the President of Ukraine, the air went out of the Democrats’ impeachment balloon.

The House of Representatives is on its Thanksgiving recess which means that the Representatives will be back in their districts. The media frenzy will die down and Congressmen and women are going to be talking to their constituents. If the impeachment hearings had been successful they would be hearing support for a vote on articles of impeachment. However, given the shambles of Schiff’s show, the best the Democrats can hope for is indifference, the worst will be independents telling them to forget impeachment and to get on with the business of the nation.

At a guess, following Thanksgiving, Nancy Pelosi will be looking for a way to end the whole impeachment show. She has very few good alternatives. She might well lose a vote on articles of impeachment. She could likely win a censure motion but that will not satisfy the rabid base. Perhaps her best bet would be to allow a low key report from the Intelligence committee to go to the Judiciary committee and then sit on it for a couple of months before announcing that it was up to the American people to throw Trump out in the next election.

No matter which way Pelosi jumps, losing touch with the American people on the question of impeachment is going to hurt the Democrats politically. It has solidified Trump’s base, annoyed independents and called into question the Democrats’ judgement which could cost them seats in Congress and the Senate. Plus, though this will only become clear in the next few weeks, it has fatally compromised Democratic front runner Joe Bidden.

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Impeachment for the Hell of it

Asking a foreign leader for assistance in an ongoing investigation is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanour. Releasing the transcript of that conversation and the so-called “whistle blower’s” complaint about that conversation is not a cover-up.

President Trump is an exceptionally lucky man. A less lucky man would be facing an intelligent opposition led by people of integrity who had at least some clue as to the workings of the American Constitution. Instead, he faces a group of idiots convinced that the impeachment provisions of the Constitution are there so the House of Representatives can kick a President out of office for pretty much any reason at all.

The spectacle of the Democratic Party “impeaching the “motherf*cker” out of pique will, I suspect, pretty much ensure Trump’s re-election. All of the potential Democratic nominees will have to at least pretend to support the bogus effort. Which will leave them trying to pretend that somewhere at the bottom of the pile of horseshit there really is a pony.

The by-catch on this lame effort is Joe Biden. Corrupt or not, Biden is going to have to explain how, somehow, his son secured a Ukrainian sinecure for which he was entirely unqualified. Bluster will not do it as he’ll have the other Democratic candidates gunning for him. I am not sorry to see Biden sink but, realistically, he was the Democrat with the best chance of beating Trump.

When the Republicans impeached but did not convict Bill Clinton it was a hugely partisan affair. However, the actual articles of impeachment – lying under oath and obstruction of justice – had been thoroughly investigated and there was little doubt that Clinton had actually done the deeds. A Democratic minority in the Senate, along with several Republicans, found Clinton not guilty. It was a partisan impeachment and a partisan acquittal.

Which the Trump impeachment most certainly is in the House of Representatives. However, the huge difference is that, unlike Clinton, Trump has not actually done anything wrong. He has not lied, he has not covered up. Which will make the baying of the House Democrats sound all the more partisan. Clinton spent a lot of political capital defending himself, Trump will likely accrue political capital simply by pointing out the worthlessness of the charges against him and the nastiness of his accusers.

There is every chance that, as the hollowness of the accusations becomes apparent, Democratic members of the House in close races will actually be harmed by the sheer partisanship of the attacks on the Presidency. Flipping the House and retaining the Senate are now well within Trump’s reach.

Of course, Trump now has the opportunity to let justice takes its course with the various FBI, DOJ and IC people who were involved in the Russia fraud and, with them, the nasty pieces of work who abused their positions to exonerate Hillary on her emails and misused the spying capacity of the United States to surveil Trump and his campaign.

Trump is a very lucky man indeed.

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Being smarter about Iran

It is always a mistake to read ZeroHedge before finishing your first cup of coffee. I made that mistake today and came across this article Jerusalem Post: U.S. Bombing Of Iran “Will Be Massive But Will Be Limited To A Specific Target”.

The article outlines all the ways that this approach to war with Iran would be folly and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the points made, the general point that massive force however strategically deployed will almost certainly produce results that the US and the rest of the world will not like one little bit. While you can bomb the Hell out of Iran, Iran has a number of retaliatory options rangine from the possibility of an EMP hit (they may have a rudimentary nuke) to closing the Strait of Hormuz to using Hezbollah sleeper cells in the US to hit critical infrastructure. While I have no doubt the US could beat Iran in a straight war, it would be long, bloody, politically suicidal for Trump and nasty for ordinary Americans.

Worse, it would be a strategic error. If the US leaves its current sanctions in place the Iranian economy will grind to something of a halt. Support for the current Iranian regime, already shakey, will decline. Yes, the current regime will continue with its provocations – I have no doubt it was Iranians who put holes in the sides of two tankers. But, so what?

Exciting as a hot war with Iran would be for assorted policy wonks, it would be an expensive exercise in futility compared to a longer term cold war with some clever extras.

First off, the Americans should make it very clear to the Iranians and the world that while they are committed to freedom of navigation, they are not interested in massive responses to minor incidents. If there is to be any response at all to the tanker mines (if that is what they were) it should be very local indeed. Find the boat in the video and sink it (or one very much like it – no need to be too picky).

Second, using US cyber assets – such as they are – it is time to see just how effectively infrastructure can be disrupted rather than destroyed. A sense of humour would be a huge asset here. Being able to cut into TV broadcasts is one thing, telling jokes at the Ayatollah’s expense is another.

Third, the Israelis did a very good business in the selective assasination of Iran’s nuclear scientists. A similar tactic against Iranian civil and military officials engaged in terrorism or attacks on shipping would be throughly demoralizing for the Iranian regime.

Fourth, use US, Arab, Iranian and Israeli inteligence assets to mount a serious campaign of exposure against the corruption of the clerics and Revolutionary Guard. There is a lot of evidence that a great deal of the wealth in Iran since the Islamic Revolution has flowed to these two groups. Expose that and conduct a campaign world wide to freeze and seize those assets.

Fifth, roll up Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard operating outside Iran. Again, this need not be a shock and awe operation. Just the relentless raiding of rocket storehouses, arms depots, command and control infrastructure where ever it is located. Yes, there will be some unexplained explosions in southern Lebannon and in Syria. But there may be raids in South America and in the US and Canada. This would have the double effect of blunting Iran’s capacity to attack outside its borders and would, consequently, improve the safety of various civilian populations.

Sixth, and this should be done in any event, get to work hardening and creating redundancies in key infrastructure. A few years ago someone, who was never caught, was shooting up transformers at remote electrical substations in the US. The fact is that the grid in the US remains open to cyber attack, EMP attack, a guy with a 50 cal sniper rifle and a Carrington Event: how quickly it can recover is a matter of preparation.

President Trump has suggested that the Iraq and Afghani wars were expensive wastes of time. A war with Iran would be much more expensive and just as much a waste of time. The US and its allies have plenty of tools to fight a cool war of attrition which would be relatively cheap, have clearly defined goals and which, over time, would neuter the hardliners in Iran.

If Trump wants more people to think he is indeed “a stable genius” he’ll resist the temptation to get into an overt shooting war with Iran. Instead, he and his allies will fight from the shadows and beat the Iranian hardliners without dropping a single, traceable, bomb. (There maybe some Hellfires here and there.)

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Over Reach

Nancy Pelosi and the MSM are breathlessly announcing the demise of the hated Trump. He caved on the shutdown/border showdown and now it is just a matter of time before he resigns, is impeached or neutered by the fearsome force which is the Democratically controlled House of Representatives. And even if he limps home to finish his term, there is just no way for him to get re-elected after this debacle. And Russia – Pelosi is more than happy to suggest Trump is Putin’s puppet.

I didn’t think much of Trump calling off the shutdown. No doubt he had his reasons and he is pushing the idea that it is a three week hiatus; but the fact is that Trump lost that round and losing is not something which Trump is very good at. I don’t hold out much hope that the Dems will suddenly see the light on the border in three weeks and vote the funds. Nor do I think that going the “Emergency” route is likely to work simply because there will be a judge somewhere who will enjoin the Emergency declaration.

Nope, Trump needs to do something which is immune to Congressional funding and which is a much less juicy judicial target. That something is, frankly, building the wall by Presidential fiat. The how is to use Department of Defence and Department of Homeland Security funds and get going. The “Wall” itself is a not particularly good idea – there are more sophisticated ways of controlling the Southern border – but it is a huge symbol of determination. It needs to get started and if that means an end run around Congress, Trump’s predecessor did that same sort of end run to get ObamaCare up and running.

However, the Wall per se is not going to be enough to turn it around for Trump. He actually needs to take the fight to the Democrats and to the deep state itself. The indictment of Roger Stone (for “crimes” which have nothing to do with Russian collusion but rather having to do with lying to Congress – a crime everyone from James Comey to Lisa Page and Andrew McCabe have committed from inside the FBI/DOJ) means it is time to start laying out the criminal conduct of the FBI/DOJ. It means it is time to re-open the question of Hillary’s emails and how the FBI entirely mishandled that case.

The Democrats are going to spend the next two years throwing muck at Trump. It will do Trump no good at all to sit on the evidence of ongoing Democratic Party/FBI/DOJ criminal actions.

At the same time, we will have the pleasure of watching the Democratic Party nominate a Presidential candidate. My clever middle son suggests that their best bet will be the sort of candidate who I would not vote for in a million years. (My older son is too busy gloating to give the matter much thought.) The list of potential Democratic Party Presidential nominees I would not vote for is very long indeed. But Sam’s point is well taken. If the Democrats want to beat Trump they can’t work on the basis that virtually any candidate can get the job done. After all, the most qualified (and entitled) candidate of her generation lost.

Trump is going to spend the next six months to a year shoring up his base as the cliche goes. But as he does that he is also going to be picking away at key Democratic Party support. A few points in the black community, a few more with Hispanics, done right Trump could be formidable.

This is particularly true if the Democrats have a real donnybrook of a nomination fight. In a field with Irish Hispanics, fake Indians and Jamaican East Indian gals who slept their way to the top, the entertainment potential is Huge. And there is nothing more vicious than an identity-driven, virtue signalling, fight on the left. Particularly when most of the contenders have come up in an environment in which any sort of accommodation or concession will be seen as betrayal. The Twitter brigades will be out in full force and there will be no need for Russian bots to thoroughly demoralize the many losing sides in the Democratic race.

Trump was certainly hurt by the shutdown/border retreat.

But, if you are going to shoot a lion you better be damned sure to kill the lion. Trump’s retreat was not a mortal blow, the question is whether it was a flesh wound or something more serious. We’ll see over the next few weeks and then the next year.

The hyenas in the Democratic Party and the MSM have, I suspect, once again over-reached.

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