Friday, August 26, 2016

Ann Coulter on Donald Trump's Pivot

Well, well, well. It seems all that "deport 'em all" talk from Donald Trump was (as many of us explained) a bunch of crap and that he'd waltz away from that line leaving his followers holding the bag.

Chief among them here is Ann Coulter, who cannot bring herself to believe that her hero/fearless leader would walk away from their commonly held approach to immigration. It MUST be the influence of others!  It simply CANNOT be that the man hasn't a political principle in his body--can it?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Trump is a Cuck

Delicious news today of Donny Trump "evolving" even further on his signature issue, immigration. You remember Donny Trump, right Trumpkins? The guy who said he'd depart 11 million illegal immigrants?  Well--just like reports coming out of the winter NYT Editorial Board session (in which he is rumored to have asserted that the deportation threat was simply a bargaining position), it seems that not only is he not committed to a policy of deporting them, he is open to a path to legality.

Ann your office. And Laura Ingraham. And Jeff Sessions....

Simply put--while the hard over faction on immigration coalesced around the Cheetoh Duce in order to indulge their nativist fantasies, the math is just not on their side and it is getting progressively worse. Even Trump understands this--which is why his deportation policy was bullshit all along, and why (now that he is on his way to a thumping in November), he is open to altering his immigration position. No one is going to be elected President in this country who advocates rounding up 11 million people and forcibly deporting them.

You've had your fun. You've had your tantrum. You succeeded in nominating someone who wasn't "GOPe". And now you will suffer a defeat that makes Romney and McCain look like conquerors.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Bleeding, Dazed Syrian Boy and America's Role in the World

Omran Daqneesh, 5 Years Old
This is a bit of a ramble, so be kind.

Five year old Omran Daqneesh pictured to the left, has become an international icon for the ongoing civil war in Syria. This evocative photo has shown up in my social media feeds many times in the past couple of days, usually posted there by someone rightfully offended by its brutality. As a friend on Facebook put it, the boy is bleeding from the head--her children of the same age wail in pain at the appearance of a papercut. The poor boy is likely in shock, and just what horrors he witnessed leading to his condition are unknown to me.

What is known to me is that what is going on in Syria--war, civil or otherwise--is a feature of the human condition, not a bug. Every time we get a little big for our britches and begin to think that we--the special generation of human civilization--have turned the corner on hate and inhumane treatment of each other, a new instance of evil pops up. Rwanda. Srebenica. Halabja. Aleppo. It would be nice to think that we have put aside slaughtering each other as a method of resolving conflict, but it just ain't so. Rough men with guns face other rough men with guns and then kill each others' women and children in the process. It is as it has ever been.

To quote Theoden, King of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings, "...what can be done against such reckless hate?"  This is the question people have been asking themselves on social media, and their utter helplessness is evident in the words they use.

What brought this to my attention was that a few instances of the picture were posted by people who I know to be considerably left of center, people who are all too happy to "Feel the Bern" or to jump on the "if only we built 10 fewer F-35's everyone could go to college free" train. It got me thinking. There are ways to stop this. In fact, military force has an almost unique capacity to "settle" questions of war and peace and grievance. But war is ugly, and violent, and expensive in blood and treasure. Since Omran isn't sitting in an ambulance in Cincinnati, but in Aleppo, the movement of a force large enough to stop the violence in Syria would be halfway around the world, and even if we DID know how to use such a force in trying to stop it, there are many people in the United States who look at Omran and say, "I'm sorry, but this isn't our fight. Stopping it isn't worth the bones of a single Alabamian Infantryman (to steal from Bismark). It is sad, but we should stay out."

This is not an unreasonable position. Simply put, policy made on the basis of emotion generated by a photograph--whether it is of a small bleeding boy or a journalist having his throat cut--is bad policy. Decisions on war and peace must be derived of our national interests. But here--HERE is the rub. What are our national interests? I can tell you what the Administration thinks they are, and I generally agree with them--but that's not the question for my readers today. What do YOU think they are?

I actually think that keeping people from slaughtering each other is in our interest. It is in our interest because it is in our interest to continue to be seen as a beacon of hope and responsibility. It is in our interest to be counted on, to be trusted, to be admired. All of these things roll up in how we act in the world and how we are viewed. I am not particularly concerned with the spread of freedom and democracy in the world, though I vouchsafe that these are good things. I am concerned with the spread of death and inhumanity, with chaos and torture and blood. Bringing freedom and sustainable democratic government to a place is one thing--stopping its people from killing each other is another.

There are a lot of people who believe that in these times of stagnating wages and runaway entitlement spending, the last thing we should be thinking about is another overseas military adventure, especially one in the Middle East. Some think we need to think only about our own borders, about ballistic missile defense, about keeping terrorists out, and let our rich allies around the world worry about their own backyards. As long as were are safe and secure here, why care about all the brushfires around the world? One of the reasons people feel this way is that they are fundamentally aware of the fact that our military is already stretched to the breaking point, that readiness is dropping dramatically, that procurement isn't keeping up with the threats. So why waste even that capacity and capability we have on tangential stuff?  Again--reasonable thinking, although it does nothing to address the fact that the military is in decline as a result of political choices made in order to manage national decline.

Others think that we spend too much on defense, that we are safe here protected by two big oceans, and that we ought to spend more on social programs and other domestic priorities at the expense of military spending.

I'm here to offer another view, one that is greatly out of fashion in certain circles of the Artist Formerly Known as the GOP (TAFKATGOP), and that is we find ourselves today increasingly embracing neo-isolationism NOT because it is the right thing to do, but because we are running out of choices. We have begun to turn our backs on the role of being the leader of the free world, the indispensable nation, the big guy on the block, the nation in charge. We are choosing decline, and isolationism is the path of choice for a declining power.  We look at our $17T economy and we cry "we don't have enough money". We spend $7.4B every year on Halloween ($500M on costumes for our pets), $65B on soft drinks, $101B on beer, $80B on cigarettes, $21B on video games, $40B on lawn care, $8B on Christmas Cares, $4B on pet grooming, $10B on romance novels and $11B on bottled water--which we can get for free from the tap--but we  don't have the money to field a military capable of doing the things that a great and benevolent power MUST consider doing. We are CHOOSING to decline, we are CHOOSING to dramatically cut back on how much we spend on our military as a function of our national wealth, and we are yes---choosing to sit back and watch as yet another festering sore of inhumanity raises its ugly middle finger at us and says, "you can't do a thing about this".

We are the nation that drew two red-lines and then didn't enforce them. We are the nation that "leads from behind".  We are the nation that is attempting to gracefully manage its decline and keep the music playing as long as possible.

This is not the America I grew up in. This is a defeatist, negative, self-obsessed, and entitled America that is increasingly nourished in its victimization by politicians who continue to tell us what we "deserve" rather than explain what our obligations are. How quaint and out of place JFK's words on "...what you can do for your country" sound today in our "what's in it for me?" culture. Trump's call to "Make America Great Again" is actually something I agree with, but for the fact that what made us great comprises the targets against which his entire philosophy is aimed.

So, if you look at that picture of that little boy and say, "My God, isn't there something we can do?" , the answer is yes, there is. There are a number of military options that could dramatically reduce the human suffering and discord on the ground in Syria. But all of them will be expensive. All of them will mean the death of Americans, many of them. All of them include "troops on the ground", because troops on the ground are the way wars are won. All of them would (and should) require sacrifice on the part  of the American people. And if "sacrifice" to you means that "the rich pay their fair share", then you don't understand what "sacrifice" means.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Musings from the United Lounge

I have about two hours to kill here at the SFO Terminal 3 United Lounge (one of two in this terminal, methinks), so I thought I'd spend a little time with you and share some random thoughts before boarding the redeye for my earplugged and eyepatched slumber home.

I am apparently leaving heaven (San Diego, 75 and sunny all week) to head back into the belly of the summer beast in Easton--95 plus for the next three days at least. I actually kind of like it when it is that hot--as long as there is air conditioning to escape to. I remember a few years back when we hadn't renovated yet and there was no was brutal.

The Summer Olympics seem to have no hold on me. I haven't watched one second of coverage, although Twitter is aflame with constant news of our Olympians. It was not ever thus--I used to be a huge Olympics fan--but the television coverage quality has dramatically declined even as the amount of coverage has exploded. Additionally, I simply cannot stomach night after night of swimming. It seems endless. I have nothing against swimming or swimmers--I simply can't watch it as a spectator sport. Maybe the last ten meters.

I spent the day on the piers at the 32nd street Naval Base in San Diego--as I've said before, I don't miss being in the Navy, even a little bit. Until I get near ships. When I see those magnificent beasts, it is stirring. I miss it greatly.  But then I leave the piers and I am back to this life.

Earlier today, I read something stunning. Donald Trump has one field office in the state of Florida. One. Fourth biggest state in the country. Battleground state. One field office. 90 days from the election. I simply will not accept any accusation that Trump loses this election because he was abandoned by people like me. 1) we were never with him and 2) he has never run a campaign capable of winning. I am told he is similarly under-organized in Ohio.

After the last election, I did a lot of soul searching, and I came to two conclusions. The first was that Romney's "you didn't build that" concentration on "Job Creators" was a mistake--he should have been concentrating on job holders--the people who don't create jobs but who really want to keep theirs and to make a little more money doing it. Those people felt ignored by Romney (and don't by the way, feel ignored by Trump).  The second was that I would never again let my heart overwhelm my head when it came to polls. I got so swept up in the size and the enthusiasm of the Romney rallies at the end, that I simply disbelieved poll after poll in battleground states that showed him trailing. I thought they oversampled Democrats. I thought they weren't getting the momentum right.  I thought wrong.

My point is, I wonder if Trumpkins are going to have any moments of self-reflection when this election is over. Will they admit that the man is an embarrassment? Will they admit that his utter lack of interest in policy and actually solving problems bothered them? Will they admit that his terrible campaign organization was not a bug, but a feature of the Trump way? Will they admit anything?

The United Lounge is quite crowded and chatty. Because I am in San Francisco, there are young earnest people talking into their cellphones CONDUCTING IMPORTANT BUSINESS FOR ALL TO HEAR. There is a bit of preening in this town, and the lounge here is a place to watch it on display.

I absolutely shredded my diet this week. I only worked out once and I ate poorly and to excess. I'm going to have to get myself back in gear in the next few weeks. The trail mix they put out in the United Lounge is absolute FOODCRACK.

Conversation with a Trump Supporter

I had a lengthy back and forth text message exchange with a Trump supporter yesterday. I'll protect his identity, as he has neither given nor have I sought his permission to characterize the chat here.

Things started with his sending me a link to a story of Republicans who were coming out in support of Hillary, and that he had been reading these stories looking for my name. I indicated that he obviously didn't know me very well or had not been reading what I've been saying--that I would vote for neither Trump nor Clinton.

He predicted a coming schism in the party. I agreed, offering though that a party has to believe in something, has to have a set of ideas around which it coalesces. He then asserted that "the base" voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and that non-support of folks like me will "cost us the election". "Rush and Sean Hannity and all the rest will be very hard on guys like you...expect incoming of the thermonuclear variety".

I answered that Trump's base isn't the GOP's base. With Trump out of the way, the base will be different. I pointed to Paul Ryan's victory in his primary---he overwhelmingly beat an opponent supported by the Trump machine. I did this as by way of pointing out Trump as a cult of personality, rather than a movement or a party of ideas.

Then I moved onto something that has been on my mind for a while. "One additional thing. Your team...has made it clear throughout this election that I and my team are the problem, that we need to be overthrown, and that you didn't need us to win because Trump would bring so many people to the party. Ok, we're calling that bluff. We'll test that theory on November 8th. All this talk about it is the establishment's fault if he loses would make at LEAST a little sense if all along the way he and his supporters hadn't told us they don't need us."

He answered, "I never said I didn't need you. I said we needed you , you  weren't there for we had been for your since RR (Ronald Reagan)....Do you think Trump will actually run anything? If Trump appoints John Bolton do you think Trump will run State? The man is not a politician. He needs help and you guys can provide that help and get your way too!"

I reminded him that in the elections in which he (and presumably those like him) had been there for candidtes I found more to my liking, that no one told him and those who thought like him that we didn't need him. We however, we establishment types, had heard it FROM THE BEGINNING of the Trump campaign, and now they're going to have to live with it. "We cannot be both the cause of our nation's problems and the answer to his."

He answered, "my point is that we should all take a step back and think about the consequences. We are where we are, not where you wanted to be, but here nonetheless. Do you really want 8 years of this liar? With zero influence, severe if not fatal damage to the conservative movement? Are your hurt feelings, disappointment and pride worth that? Bryan, we need you guys and whatever influence you have you must put all this shit aside and get onboard."

My response: "the damage to the conservative movement was done by nominating a liberal democrat who told a bunch of people with grievances that he knows how to fix them. And he doesn't."

His response "...the guy is a clean slate. People like you could run the show with very little effort. He was nominated because of immigration and trade, two issues you just happen to be on the wrong side of."

I answered "So I disagree with him on two issues (not so much on immigration) and I can't trust him on the rest. Sign me up!"


The man with who I had this chat is a friend and is uncommonly intelligent. But this conversation reinforced a couple of things for me:

1. The rhetoric and the narrative of the defeat is firmly locking in place. "Trump lost because establishment Republicans walked away from him, which is unfair because we stuck by you when you nominated McCain and Romney, etc."  Essentially, we (the establishment) expected you (the non establishment) to be good boys and vote for our guy, so we should do the same now.  I simply don't buy this. First of all, no one in the establishment went around saying that we don't "need" people to be with us. No one in the establishment went around saying, "the country is in sad shape, and it is the fault of non-establishment Republicans". But both of these things--from the beginning--have been said by the Trump movement. And that is it has never been a "Republican movement". It has had a rump group of disaffected Republicans joined by a large number of previously apoltical folks and another group of swing voters without party identity. This is also why, when Trump goes down in flames, whatever continues to exist of the GOP will look much like the GOP of before Trump.

2. The suggestion that Trump as President would be a figurehead is breathtaking. This is not the way I vote. I vote for someone who I believe will responsibly execute the office and whose policy preferenes expressed over a long time coincide with mine, leaving me comfortable that on the tough calls, he or she will go with me. I have no desire to elect a "blank slate", someone who likes the mansions and the jet but who will not actually be the President and preside over the Executive Branch.

When I was in the Navy, I lost my temper now and then. Anyone who every worked for me will verify that nothing--and I mean nothing--got me madder than 1) seeing a problem or crisis coming 2) explaining that it was coming and that action needed to be taken 3) assigning that action 4) action not taken or taken incorrectly 5) crisis or problem explodes.  This election has been that. I have been wrong about Donald Trump all along the way. Every single prediction about his viability or success that I made was wrong. But where I think I have been right all along was in seeing that his nomination would destroy the party because a huge number of Republicans---traditional, yes "establishment" Republicans--found the man personally and politically detestable. His Black-Swan-like win of the GOP nomination was NOT a sign of his acceptance as a Republican--it was a sign of his talent as a marketeer and his ability to build a coalition that was ultimately incapable of gaining 270 votes in the electoral college.

I called this. We called this. You (Trumpkins) said we were the problem and you don't need us. No let's see how this all works out.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top Ten Trump Excuses for Losing

On Wednesday, November 9th, presumably the never camera shy Donald Trump may have an opportunity to talk to the media and give the American people his reasons for losing. In anticipation, I provide you with the Top Ten such excuses, add yours as they come to you!

10. "It doesn't matter to me. I only got in this race because Bill Clinton asked me to."

9.  "The establishment didn't want me to win. They were always against me. No one tried harder than me to win them over."

8.  "My people just didn't show up. The Blacks. The Gays. The Hispanics. The Women. These people love me. All the polls showed it."

7.  "How could I have lost? All my friends voted for me."

6.  "Get out the vote efforts are overrated."

5.  "The election was rigged. Did you see that last Drudge poll?"

4.  "The media were against me from the start."

3. "Hillary Clinton will make a great President. She and Bill are very good friends. They attended my wedding."

2. "This is ridiculous. She spent $11.90 for every vote and I spent $3.00. Look at the return I got. Am I a great businessman or what?"

1. "I never intended to win, and I really never wanted to be President. Why would I? I have the greatest job in the world already running my many successful businesses."

My Women Return

In a couple of hours, I will head to the train station to pick up The Kitten and the Kittens after their having been away for nearly a month.

In that time, my life went on at a new pace and rhythm, indulging my great capacity for selfishness while simultaneously yearning for human contact. This is a big place to occupy by oneself, even though the five occupants (me, two dogs, two cats) seem to occupy the same space most of the time (though the dogs don't get to sleep on the big bed). They simply aren't much for good conversation.

I have spent far too much time on Twitter in The Kittens' absence, but then also worked far too much because I had little to distract me from either. I transported my work area from the ManCave to the kitchen table in order to make use of the better view and also to not feel completely cut off from the world as I sometimes do out there.

My main housekeeping challenge has been animal hair, the one contibutor to messiness over which I had little control. I wouldn't say I'm frighteningly neat, but there is order where I reign, and as I so infrequently reign in the big house, it has been quite orderly. I will have to fight the impulse to try and maintain this state when they return later, as all it ever does is cause discord (they being not quite as fastidious as I).

When I was courting the Kitten, she used to make fun of my refrigerator, which was carefully and selectively stocked with a few condiments, coffee creamer, diet coke, some fresh vegetables, and leftover Chinese food (there was always leftover Chinese food). It was roomy and all of its contents could be surveyed from a quick glance at the door. She lampooned it as a "bachelor" refrigerator, that it looked as if no one lived there (hmph). This is how our family refrigerator looks today--it still has far too many dubious condiments (what in God's name is "Cashew Butter?), but it will not survive the first post-return trip to the market.

What I miss most is laughter. We all like to laugh, but our own laughter simply doesn't provide the same charge as the laughter of others. The Kitten is pretty clever, and while she is not a fan of my sarcasm, can be devlishly sarcastic herself (mine is sometimes a bit much, as some of you know). The older Kitten has a big, deep laugh, which sometimes seems odd coming from someone her size, but when I hear it, it instantly perks me up. I'll be downstairs doing something and I'll hear it from upstairs--and it will shortly be followed by the younger Kitten joining in. I wonder if my parents ever sat around by themselves and just listened to the laughter of their six kids, or smaller subsets thereof? It really is quite renewing.

We have a few weeks as a foursome before school starts, including another attempt on my part at a "staycation" (went into DC/Pentagon for three meetings that week). I have begun informing folks that I'm actually going to make this one stick, but we'll see.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sorry to Leave You Hanging

It's been a while since we last chatted, and it is entirely my fault. Not that I haven't tried--I've started and then stopped five separate blog posts since my last post, but then walk away from them for some reason related to just being disgusted with the subject matter.

I had a chat on the phone with a friend yesterday who -- when observing Donald Trump's meltdown -- said "you must be happy about this". I answered honestly. I am content. I am self-satisfied that I have finally started to get something right about his candidacy. I am pleased that the election is slipping away from him a little bit more every day.  But happy?

Am I happy that the Republican Party has been virtually destroyed by this man? No. Am I happy that his grievance candidacy has paved the way for the election of someone almost as unfitted as he for the office? No. Am I happy that lions of the GOP cannot seem to recognize that the time is long past for them to cut the line on this sea-anchor and get underway again? No. Am I happy that the Senate increasingly looks lost? No. Am I happy that the House is headed in that same direction? No.

Content is really the best word I can apply to where I am right now. I am content that I will not be following a Republican I admire into government next year. I am content that I have stayed true to my inner ideological compass, something that before this election, I sometimes wondered if I had. I am content that we are likely to have a President in 2017 with whom I mostly disagree--I've gotten used to that in the past 7.5 years. I am content that we will not have a President who appears to threaten our prosperity, our liberty, and our security.

I have a lot of friends who write to me privately asking "what comes next?" I don't know. I dearly hope the GOP panjandrums bail on Trump quickly so that they can save some shred of personal decency in addition to a flicker of hope to maintain the Senate and a rump party upon which to rebuild. I want to see the party address ACTUAL conditions that helped lead to Trump's rise without indulging some of his followers' nativist and racist tendencies. I want to see a GOP that focuses on "the bottom 80%"--not just Paul Ryan's poverty agenda (which is essential), but also shoring up the middle class. But I'm not talking about middle class entitlements. I'm talking about growth oriented tax and economic policies that lead to businesses expanding and wages rising. I want to see a GOP that begins to think about COMPROMISING on issues that mean something to it, in order to achieve victories on issues that REALLY MEAN something to it.

But happy? No. I'm not happy about all this. I'm really quite heartsick about it.

UPDATD: Please see the comments. Someone quite correctly pointed out that my use of the phrase "his followers' nativist and racist tendencies" was out of line. I was totally mistaken for doing so, as it made it sound as though I believe all of Trump's supporters are nativist/racists. I've changed it to reflect my view that only some are.

Friday, July 22, 2016


My women have abandoned me for their summer travels, and so I sit here at my kitchen table writing this blog post for the few people who will read it. The ManCave being too dark, I've moved myself here to enjoye the view and the light, although it puts me in the position of being keeper of the dogs, who feel that coming in and out of the house at oddly spaced intervals is their canine right. Another thing, I have dogs who know how to tell time, or at least close to it. The practice around this house is to feed them when we wake in the morning and then again at 5PM. Damn if these dogs don't start getting squirrly at 4:45PM.

I have a colossal amount of work to do, so much that I'll be working tonight, Saturday and Sunday here at my little desk view of paradise. This is is because of two things: 1) I am overextended, as I generally am in the summer for some reason and 2) I am unable to not nip onto Twitter at regular intervals and snark a bit to the masses. Please avail yourelf of the Twitter tool I have at the bottom of my main page if you'd like to see some of my offerings.

This is a big empty house when there are no girlies giggling or sounds coming from the various things the Kitten has playing on her computer while she works. A full week into this tomorrow morning (I was in SD for the first few days of their travels), with 2.5 weeks more to go.

This is my "Staycation" week. It was supposed to be my "Go to Cleveland for the RNC" week, but then, well, you know what happened there. So then I put my foot down and said that while the girls were gone, I'd have a no joke week off here to do as I please. Well, I've had to carry my ass into DC three times this week, and it hasn't made me a happy camper. I have another Staycation on the books for the week ending in Labor Day, and I damn well mean to be ruthless about observing it.

My annual war with the poolside crepe myrtle has begun, a little later this year. I have begged and begged the Kitten to trim it back, but she is a bit of a tree-whisperer and will hear nothing of it. Now I know some of you out there are thinking "hey, she's gone, go ahead and trim it back", but those sort of tactics do not serve me well here. As my friend Fred says, "while initially amusing, ultimately self-destructive".

One of the benefits of my being by myself is eating, although I eat pretty damn well when the crew is here. But I've taken to trying to eat some of the things that have accumulated in our freezer that seem never to make it onto the dinner menu. For some odd reason, I found two lobster tails in there this afternoon (of undetermined age), and so I cooked them up and warmed the bit of ribeye I put aside last night for an ersatz "surf and turf".  Whilst rummaging, I also came across a number of bags of frozen scallops, which could prove tasty. I just need not be too picky on the expiration dates.

It has been a beautiful summer week here, and by the looks of the weather report, we have another week of hot and sunny ahead of us. Of concern looming on the horizon is some rain late in the week. I'm having a few folks over for a cookout a week from now, and would dearly like it to be a nice day.

Ok---I'm rambling--have a great Friday night.

A Letter to a Republican Friend about to Help Team Trump

Over at War on the Rocks, I've written a letter to a friend contemplating going to work for the Trump Campaign.

We've done it, friends. We have nominated a pro-choice, anti-2A, statist, single-payer healthcare loving, eminent domain pushing, twice-divorced, serial adulterer as the GOP nominee.

For years I have argued for a GOP candidate who de-emphasized social issues--well, Donald Trump did exactly that last night. The only problem is that he also de-emphasized everything else that the GOP has been about.

Enjoy the bonfire, folks.
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