Category Archives: Politics

And it’s Coach Kavy for three points

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a long way from the socon’s dreams of kicking Roe to the curb. He has a gold-plated resume, is judicially conservative in the best sense of that term, was in the Whitehouse on 9/11 and will be tough to defeat in the Senate. American legal beagles will have fun with some of his decisions and they are welcome to it. What I am interested in is how Trump has evolved.

Kavanaugh is a savvy pick. He’ll have all the Republicans – even the lovely lady Senators worried about Roe – and including the RINOs because of his Bush connections. He has fairly limited exposure in terms of red flags to the dwindling minority of Democrats who take Supreme Court nominations seriously. (He is, of course, Hitler to the loonies, but so would anyone Trump picked.)

Which means that, unless there is a tape of his grabbing someone’s nether parts, he’ll be confirmed and Trump will take the easy win. This is smart.

The difference between a professional and an amateur is in what they do when it is fourth down, six yards to go, on the thirty-five yard line with a 14 point lead going into halftime. Sure, you could run the touchdown play and rack up the points. But a pro will kick the field goal. It is the percentage move.

Trump has four months to the mid-terms. Winning the Senate should be fairly easy, but the House of Representatives is a bit more of a struggle. Being able to point to a string of victories – Gorsuch was a win, Korea was the beginning of a win, the unemployment rate and the worker shortage are wins, the black and Latino unemployment rates are big wins, a few days of summitry may turn up some wins – with which to build momentum. And a pro will anticipate losses – Mueller, even without an actual crime, is hurting, so are unneeded trade wars and the price of gas seems to be going up – and will understand that he has to take the hits.

But going into the locker room at halftime with a 17 point lead is way better than being ahead by a couple of touchdowns. Apparently, Trump gets that.

Winning the game means being re-elected in 2020. Being able to point to solid, confirmed, SCOTUS appointments will be a big part of that re-election campaign.

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Things just got real

Justin Trudeau, in a bizarre performance at the final press conference of the G-7 conference, managed to thoroughly piss off Donald Trump. To the point that Trump called him dishonest.

Now the Donald is going to be occupied with North Korea for the next few days and, at a guess, having withdrawn America’s consent to the G-7 communique may simply forget Trudeau’s deeply cowardly remarks. (It is cowardly to say things about a person when they have left the building when you had the opportunity to say them to that person’s face.) That is the best Trudeau can hope for. More likely, Trump will have detailed a hard man in a suit to run the numbers on Canada’s trade with the US and find out just how many cars we send south every year. These are not hard answers to find and when those numbers go back to Trump there is very little to stop him from dropping a 25% tariff on those cars.

I said over at Kate’s that the Americans see trade negotiations as business, the Canadians see them as politics.

From a business perspective, a 25% tariff on cars made in Canada will lead to more cars being made in the US. The transition will be a bit uncomfortable for a number of large US companies but in the overall American economy, it will be a blip.

In Canada? In Canada, more specifically Ontario, the destruction of the auto industry would be a full scale, all hands on deck, disaster. Realistically, the auto sector is Ontario’s largest private sector employer and the largest manufacturing sector. Being priced out of the US market would kill tens of thousands of well-paid jobs.

Trump has taken the measure of Trudeau and his tiny, annoying, Minister of External Affairs, Chrystia Freeland and concluded they are featherweights. Which means that Canada is potentially screwed because Trump has no faith in our leadership. You don’t call people dishonest publically if you plan to do business with them.

It is unlikely that Trudeau will be aware of just how badly he has failed for a few days. The Canadian media are heavily invested in a narrative which has Justin standing up to the big, bad, Trump. Trudeau’s tone-deaf advisors are, no doubt, revelling in the fact they got lots of “gender” language into the communique.

It will take a few days for the more sober side of the media to realize what peril Trudeau has put us in. And a few more for the geniuses in the PMO to figure out that Trump is not playing the same game as they are.

When they do figure it out the question will arise, “What the fuck do we do now?”

As I am quite sure Butz and his posse read this blog I have a simple suggestion.

Normally, I would have suggested they get in touch with Simon Reisman who negotiated both the Auto-Pac and NAFTA. Alas, Reisman is dead.

Second best by a long shot? Brian Mulroney. A man I have next to no time for but who a) managed to get Canadians onboard for NAFTA, b) was a quite successful Canadian Prime Minister, c) is wired into both Trump World and broad swaths of corporate America.

If Trudeau could get Mulroney to do it Mulroney would be going into the US with a serious, well thought out, everything on the table, pitch. Likely starting with first principles – no tariffs, no subsidies, no non-tariff barriers. Be prepared to dump dairy and end transhipment of Chinese steel. And pitch it to the Trump people as the template for the deals which could be made with the EU, Japan, India and so on. (China is a whole other thing.)

The key point here is that Canada has to move, and move quickly, away from the finger-wagging politics of gender inclusion and climate change to a hard-nosed business approach to getting the best deal we can with an America which is now willing to put its own interests first.

Our leverage is that, while Trump is perfectly willing to talk tough, he also seems to like having a few friends. Canada, notwithstanding our dolt of a PM, has been and could be the staunch friend Trump needs.

Mulroney might just be able to pull this off. Here’s why:

[Back story: Peter Newman released a set of transcripts of Mulroney “unbuttoned” without Mulroney’s consent.]

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The problem of monoculture

I used to live in one of the most productive forestry areas in Canada. It was the perfect growing environment for trees, especially conifers. And it was, as the expression goes, a “tree farm”. Every forty years the forest owner would come in and cut down hundreds of acres of trees and then, assiduously, replant them. All the trees were of the same species and all were, depending on where they were in the cycle, exactly the same height. Miles and miles and mile of Douglas Firs. The monotony was only broken in the small areas which were set aside either as old growth or as stream allowances. There you’d find cedars, broadleaf maple, arbutus and many other species. But that was only a tiny, less than 1%, of the land. It was a monoculture and very efficient if you were trying to maximize the growth of what the companies call “fiber”.

A political landscape can become a monoculture. Essentially only a limited range of ideas are allowed to flourish, ideas outside that range are suppressed or, more often, ignored. Within a political monoculture you may have a variety of parties but each is limited to the ideas within the range. Preferment – as it was called in a gentler time – is limited to people who accept the limits of the landscape.

This sort of political monoculture can persist for several generations and produce statesmen of varying talents all of whom want to accomplish one or another of the central tenets of the monoculture in preference to the others; but all of whom are in agreement as to the limits of acceptable political discourse. In a stable society this sort of acceptance of the limits of debate can make a lot of sense and create a political world in which the essential stability is preserved. A concept which is philosophically attractive to a certain sort of conservative in the small “c” sense of that term.

There are three threats to the monocultural forests where I lived: fire, blight and economics. Fire is obvious and would be a threat to any forest no matter how diverse. (We’ll leave questions of regeneration to ecologists and foresters.) Blight, whether mold or insect, is a huge threat because of the complete lack of diversity. Economics are a threat because what you planted forty years before may not be in demand forty years on. Fire is a rapid threat, blight a medium term threat and economics a constant threat.

A political monoculture has its own forms of threat but they all come down to a challenge to the stability of the society in which the political monoculture has been operating. The problem for the political monoculture is that, pretty much by definition, the assumption of stability is axiomatic. Asking questions going to the assumption of stability is outside the terms of the monoculture. So those questions and the policy prescriptions which flow from them will either be suppressed or ignored.

What can challenge the assumption of societal stability? A wide variety of things. Demographic decline, the erosion of the society’s economic foundation, runaway economic inequality, external threats or the internal inability to manage problems as they arise all can challenge the stability assumption. So can technology, communications and failures to adapt to changing conditions. If a large fraction of the society is rendered powerless or redundant, stability can be challenged.

The problem a political monoculture has is that it lacks even the vocabulary to address such systemic challenges.

Of which, more, later.

 

 

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They’re all at it

My friend Phil wrote to ask what I thought of the current groping scandal engulfing his home state Senator Al Franken. Truth to tell, I don’t think much of any of the current groping/molestation/sexual assault/rape charges flying around. I would love to say that I was shocked and appalled, but I’m not. Not because non-consensual sexual activity is ever acceptable. It isn’t. Rather because, short of going full Mike Pence and never being alone with a woman who is not your wife, every man is open to the accusations and in the current climate of “I believe the woman” has no possible comeback. Worse, the “crime” has been defined down to such a degree that the British Minister of Defence felt compelled to resign over a “knee grazing” incident which a) happened inadvertently, b) did not outrage the owner of the knee in question, c) occurred fifteen years ago and went unremarked ever since.

Lots of pixels have been spilt making fine distinctions between assorted levels of groping, outright assault, feelings of discomfort and so on. Even more have died in trying to discern what level of historic evidence should be required before a man loses his career, is shunned by his colleagues and is replaced by Christopher Plummer.

Frankly, I think it is all a huge waste of time in almost every case. Sen. Franken was idiotic enough to have a picture snapped of his grope (which was not, by the way, the worst allegation made against him). In most of the other cases, the evidence is ten or twenty or even forty-year-old memories of encounters where drugs and drink were ubiquitous and modern standards of “sober, enthusiastic consent” were unknown. Of course, there were power imbalances; Monica did not arrive in the Oval with a penchant for cigars. And Bill was simply following in the footsteps of JFK and LBJ. Was he wrong? Of course, he was, so was Jack Kennedy getting blowjobs from 19-year-old interns. Harvey Weinstein, pig that he is, was in the tradition of Hollywood producers stretching back to silent films. (Kennedy’s father among them.) No one could possibly be surprised.

As to the furor surrounding Judge Moore, there is only one accusation which I consider disqualifying if true and that is the outlying charge that Moore took a 14-year-old girl back to his home and tried to become intimate with her. I say outlying because all the other initial instances were with girls old enough to consent and whose testimony suggested that Moore was pretty much a gent throughout. (And yes, there is lots creepy about a 32-year-old guy taking a 16-year-old girl out. But that, to my mind is not disqualifying if the behaviour has not continued.) [The woman with the yearbook – and Gloria Allred as her lawyer – is not plausible until she turns the yearbook over for handwriting analysis. Right now I suspect she is Moore’s best chance to discredit all the stories.] But the Moore matters all turn on evidence which is 30 or 40 years old and which has only come to light a month before a hotly contested election. He has a perfect right to push back.

And so it goes. Right this instant, as at the height of the Salem witch trials, a denunciation becomes a conviction in the flick of a tweet. Plausibility is now a matter of sheer numbers with 5 apparently being the magic number.  There is no defence and heartfelt contrition, as Sen.Franken is discovering, is not enough. The Salem witch trials burnt themselves out but not until 19 people had been hung and one “pressed” to death with heavy rocks. They ended for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was that “spectral evidence”, essentially dreams and hallucinations, was no longer accepted at face value.

At a certain point, and I suspect we are getting close to that point, the rush to accuse men of sexually inappropriate (and what an awful word that is) behaviour on the basis of shaky, historical, evidence will collide with the entirely devastating consequences for the men so accused. Sheep will be sorted from goats. Rapists like Clinton or Weinstein will, finally, be flung into outer darkness. So, I am afraid, will goofs like Al Franken who are dumb enough to have incriminating photos floating around. But the evidentiary standard is going to tighten as well. Dim chanting of “I believe the woman.” will be replaced with, “No ruin without evidence.”

But there are a few things we can learn from the current hysteria. First, very powerful men take advantage of that power. This is a reminder, not news. A nodding acquaintance with Roman history, or British or French monarchs, or the biography of Lloyd George or Asquith for that matter, not to mention Kissinger’s aphorism that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” will serve to confirm this fact. Reading Keith Richard’s wonderful autobiography, Life, will serve to confirm this in another sphere.

Second, power is situational. The VP marketing for a tiny company may be in a position of relative power vis a vis his staff and the vendors who want to sell to that company. It is a pretty sure thing that if you looked at the conduct of 100 such VPs you’d find a few, perhaps more than a few, who after a few drinks got very handsy indeed.

Third, none of this is a secret. We all knew. We all know. And “we” in this case includes women as well as men. Which is why I am not shocked nor, realistically, should anyone be who has spent time in the business, entertainment or political worlds. In fact, just day to day life will throw up instances of men using position to “get at” women. It is wrong and disgusting but it is also the way of the world and knowing that is part of growing up.

Optimistically, it is possible that the current generation of men, as they enter adulthood will have absorbed more egalitarian principles. But I doubt it. Against all the schoolmarm indoctrination about “appropriate” behaviour and “sober, enthusiastic, consent”, are ranged the full impacts of internet porn, hip-hop culture and a thoroughly sexualized media and advertising industry. Worse, the feminist doctrines of female sexual emancipation have created a Tinder culture where women are just as likely as men to swipe right and hook up. Obviously not every woman is on the hunt, but enough are to complicate things.

Even more complicating is the fact women have been known to use their beauty to get ahead.  The wonderful, and very beautiful, Nancy Huston writes,

“My beauty has gotten me many places, to some of which I very badly wanted to go, and to some of which I did not want to go at all. Over the years, I’ve watched it attack and corrode borders, then take me with it into foreign territories. Borders are ideas erected between age groups, social classes, all sorts of hierarchical entities, in order that society may function as predictably and as decently as possible. They are not solid brick walls. Beauty eats them away. This is the truth; we’ve all seen it happen, though it happens differently in different places” Dealing with What’s Dealt (excerpt)

While I am quite certain the current mania will pass, the underlying issues of sexuality, consent and power are not being addressed. Nor do I think they will be. Like a lot of other human behaviour, it is pretty much impossible to come up with top down rules governing sexually charged behaviour between adults. I suppose a company might make it a firing offence to be alone with a member of the opposite (or same, because, gay) sex. But I can’t see that working very well and, fairly quickly, it would be routinely ignored. And would a rule against older men dating younger women get off the ground? Should we go back to the days of chaperones? (Which, in the current climate, maybe an emerging Hollywood profession.)  I don’t think any set of rules dealing with sexuality will work.

A more promising avenue is an ethical philosophical commitment to treating all people as ends in themselves. Whether it is sex or business or school gate acquaintanceship,  it makes sense to treat people with kindness and respect rather than as mere instruments. This sort of approach would take a long time to gain traction but, in the long run, solves a lot more problems than just sexual misbehaviour. It is more than a little utopian but it is something you can teach your children right now. It is also something which HR departments, schools and universities,  can use in place of the brain dead “zero tolerance” dogma which gets in the way of a healthy business or learning environment. Best of all, it provides a framework for conduct and a scaffold for dealing with misconduct. It recognizes that “all or nothing” is an entirely inhuman way of understanding human behaviour.

A commitment to treating people as ends in themselves would also provide a means for individuals to redeem behaviour which fell beneath that standard. Instead of mouthing platitudes, Sen. Franken, possibly with the help of an applied ethicist, could set about making amends to the woman (well, women, it appears) he groped and, in the process, actually set his sights higher. Even criminal acts, such as Clinton’s or Weinstein’s rapes, while attracting criminal sanction, could also involve making amends.

I am deeply skeptical about the efficacy of any top down “rules” for behaviour; but I am deeply optimistic that men and women can learn simple, universally applicable, ethical principles and apply them in day to day life. We may not always meet those ethical goals, but having them at all is a good first step.

 

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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.

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Sheep from goats

The mayhem in Charlottesville was pretty much locked in when the Swastika was unfurled and neo-Nazi chants about Jews filled the air. The antifa people are usually exaggerating when they go on about how nationalist=white supremacist=Nazi, but in Charlottesville that reasoning was not wrong.

Here’s the thing: if Nazis, real live Jew hating Nazis, join your protest and you let them, their stench will infect everything you do. Over on the left people are at pains to distance themselves from BlackBloc whack jobs. The right needs to do the same thing with Nazis.

This is not a question of free speech or free association: the Nazis have a perfect right to both; rather it is a question of whether of not the resurgent right wants to accept Nazis tagging along for the ride. If the right and alt-right people are OK with Nazis in their midst then they will simply lose the vast majority of their supporters. However, if they make it very clear that Nazis are unwelcome they can carry on an build support. And by “making it clear” I mean to the point that Nazis at right wing gatherings are more likely to be punched by alt-right people than antifa.

If the Nazis want to organize their own demos they can go right ahead; but the serious right need to make sure that there is no place for Nazis on the right side of the aisle.

(And, just to avoid confusion, America’s own KKK needs to be bunged in the same barrel as Nazis.)

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CNN Blackmails a 15 year old??

Out in Twitter Land at  there is a very interesting story emerging about the silly Trump WWF/CNN tweet. Apparently, CNN took it upon themselves to track down the perpetrator of this lese majeste. While they can’t quite find the evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians they were able to find the evilton. Who is 15.

CNN nobly declined to publish his name while referring to him as “the man” who created the video.

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
Huge mistake.
What CNN has now done is let loose the firestorm of Reddit, 4Chan and 8 Chan on their unsuspecting heads. Internet rule is you do not threaten to “dox” someone, especially some 15 year old kid with a silly sense of humour unless you are willing to reap the consequences.
At the moment Twitter is hosting the address and home details of Wolf Blitzer’s house. And it will get worse. Much, much worse.

Once the “anything goes with CNN” meme gets going there is an army of technically sophisticated, boundary free, kids out there ready, willing and able to hack feeds, websites and create brilliant memes.

End of CNN? Not likely. Rather the end of CNN as any sort of respected news source. Those kids are brilliant and seriously without constraints. Pretty much anything can happen when they take up a cause. And looking at Twitter tonight they are ready to roll.

You think BLM is irritating…wait until you see 4 Chan unleashed.

Update: Trump’s tweet tomorrow:

Kid had spunk. Funny guy. CNN blackmails him….He’s coming to the White House. Like the clock guy.

Update #2: So CNN is saying that it was not a 15 year old they were attempting to blackmail, it was an adult. Oddly, this does not seem to have helped their case much.
Plus, there seems to be a good chance that the meme Trump used was not the meme the “kid” actually made. (OK, it is Buzzfeed via Twitchy but still more reputable than CNN.)
As predicted the internet has gone nuts with the meme jihad dumping all over CNN.
Once again, the lefty media establishment’s total lack of any sense of humour is forcing errors. Add to that the MSM’s complete lack of any sort of crisis management skills and you have the perfect storm.
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Yappers

Br'er_Rabbit_and_Tar-BabyTrump.

There really has never been a President anything like Trump. Or a Presidency.

There was a fair bit of anti-Bush sentiment, and Reagan was often attacked, and, of course, Nixon was vilified long before Watergate; but for sheer, sustained, noise, anti-Trump campaigning by the Democrats and the mainstream media is an order of magnitude or two greater. Everything is a potentially impeachable offence or an indication that Trump is mentally unbalanced or both. The never-Trumpers in the RINO section of the Republican party are having a great time suggesting that Trump is a threat and a menace and needs a good impeaching.

In the hysteria virtually any bit of information, regardless of source, so long as it is anti-Trump, is a page one story. Anonymous sources say Trump revealed super secret stuff to the Russians? Perfect, Wapo is on the job and he’s a traitor or an incompetent or both. Doesn’t matter that the people in the room heard nothing of the sort. Impeach him! Guy phones the NYT with a pull quote from a memo that former FBI Director Comey wrote to file on a meeting with Trump? Quote says Trump said, ““I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump allegedly told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”” which is clearly the biggest obstruction of justice since Nixon wanted Archibald Cox fired.

At this point, Trump supporters usually say, “but the White House could have handled this better.” I don’t. I don’t say that because there is no “handling” the mainstream media, rabid Democrats and charging RINOs.

Trump and his people have to make a choice between conforming to the norms of a Washington Presidency or simply saying that was what Trump was elected to fix.

“I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests,” Trump said. “I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.” (Breitbart)

It is an audacious position to take. It will only work if Trump sticks to his guns and backs up his people. And it will only work if some of those people are smart enough to be silent officially while working very hard and very quietly. Trump was elected as an oppositional President and he does best when he is opposing.

An encouraging sign is the Congressional reaction to the Comey “memo”. Unlike the NYT, Congressional  Committees have subpoena power. They want to see the Comey memo. And, perhaps more to the point, Senators and Representatives are asking to see Comey memos on his conversations during the Obama administration. In particular, they are looking for memos to file vis a vis the decision not to prosecute Hilly.

The Trump remark about Flynn, assuming it was made as Comey is reported as having recorded, is not an obvious candidate for an obstruction of justice charge. It might be an impeachable offence as an abuse of Presidential power but, as written, that would be a stretch. But, by leaking the contents of his memo to file, Comey has put his archive of such memos into play.

I don’t have any sense that Trump or the White House staff know much about “damage control”; however, they have a good deal of capacity to, in the words of a former President, punch back twice as hard. To do that they need to ignore the storm and fury of the Washington establishment and the legacy media and go for kill shots with live ammunition. The Comey memo archive is a great place to start.

Maxime!

 

Bernier, O'LearyPaul Wells suggests that Kevin O’Leary was a clown. No kidding. But the clown served a purpose in corralling all the silly votes – the people who think Canada needs its very own Trump – into one big cotton box. Now they have been released and asked to support the only adult in the PC zoo: Maxime Bernier.

Over at Kate’s place there are assorted dimwits nattering on about “French guy”. Let them natter. In actual fact, Maxime is the one actual conservative in this race. Libertarian on social policy, free market on economic policy. Our Red Tory friends will take to their fainting couches at the possibility of a real conservative winning.

Meanwhile, conservatives who like to win elections have to take a serious look at Bernier. He’ll carry Quebec seats, likely quite a lot of them. He’ll play well in the West because, other than really fossilized old anti-Quebec bigots, he understands a free market spirit.

In “vote rich” Ontario? Hard to say. He’ll certainly get up the nose of the Star and I am not entirely sure he is polite enough for the Globe and Mail; but I can see the guy doing well in the ‘burbs. He’s not a Rob Ford populist, he’s about 90 times smarter than Ford; but he can throw a softball and, I bet, cook a hot dog.

What Bernier is not, and why I think he should win, is an elite Central Canadian. He is willing to look at pipelines, the end of supply management on the farm, killing the CBC. Detail stuff which actually matters.

It is tough to find a CPC candidate with much going on, with that bit of charisma which matters. It is even tougher to spot one who might just take down our boy Justin (who apparently thinks its cool his dad got his little brother off pot charges).  Bernier looks like and sounds like the adult in the room.

And now he likely has the votes. Quick, can you remember four CPC candidates’ names other than O’Leary and Bernier? You might get one or two but Bernier pulled out in front two months ago and looks likely to stay there.

In spite of the the Ontario, Red Tory, dummies it is possible that the CPC might just elect someone who can beat Trudeau. Pure fluke but there you go.

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Bully! A Splendid Little War

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.33.08 AM

So The Donald has sent in the cruise missiles in response to the Syrian sarin gas assault on its own people.

Sending 59 cruise missiles with conventional warheads and then sitting down to dinner with the Chinese President pretty much establishes Trump as a “tough guy”. But will he be smart enough to leave it at that?

In a very real sense, Trump has redrawn the “red line” which Obama and Kerry allowed to fade to palest pink. Served notice that “there is a new Sheriff in town” to quote an awful lot of pro-Trump blogs. Which, I suspect, most international players had already noticed.

The question is whether Trump is able to enjoy an American casualty free battle and move on to the next thing on his agenda. Obama demonstrated in Libya that regime change may, or may not, be for the better. Generally, it seems to be a bad idea in the Middle East simply because the next regime may be worse than the one you “changed”. During the campaign, Trump seemed to get that. Does he now?

Assad needs to go. Murderous barbarian and all. However, he needs to go when there is some idea of a better thing to replace him. That might be a new regime or it might be the carve up of both Syria and Iraq and the end of the Sykes-Picot travesty which has haunted the Middle East for nearly a hundred years.

Regime change could be accomplished with a lot of money, a few Russian Spetsnaz and a dozen bullets. But what then?

Unwinding Sykes-Picot is a much larger and, strategically, more intelligent enterprise. Defeat ISIS and then carve out the Sunni, Kurd and Shia enclaves being sensitive to the worries of the Turks and the position of the minorities. That is the work of a negotiator and a statesman. And it is something which will involve Putin as well as Trump. No bad thing that.

Right at the moment, Russia is hanging on by a thread. Demographically, economically it is in huge trouble. For Putin to survive he needs to seem indispensable. Trump can give him that. Putin can give Trump essentially nothing. Other than his nukes and his special forces, he is the Tsar of a gradually dying nation and only massive help from America can really save him. Monkeys can climb a very long way up trees, it is the getting down part which is tricky.

Syria offers Putin the opportunity to act as and be seen as a statesman.  With Trump’s help, he can open the book on Sykes-Picot and facilitate the reformation of Syria and Iraq into a loose confederation of ethnically and religiously homogenous statelets. Between the Americans and the Russians, all of the factions can be brought to the table and, with luck, disarmed and sent on their way. None of the resulting states will be heard of again for generations.

Trump has played the first card of a strategy which will likely take a few years to play out. By being willing to punish actions which are against all agreed-upon international norms Trump makes it clear that hard power is a real thing for America again.

Trump knew the world was watching and he gave them a show. Now we’ll see what he does with the attention.

 

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