White replacement theory is so painfully dumb

In my last post, I noted that Trump famously said he likes the uneducated. I’m not surprised, since Trump is appallingly uneducated. But he can relate to them. But Republicans in general seem to prefer the uneducated because they will believe any sort of crap they throw out there.

White replacement theory is just the latest example. It was made tragically manifest Saturday with a shooting in Buffalo, New York by a white guy from Conklin, New York. Conklin is a stone’s throw from where I spent my formative years, in Endwell, near Binghamton. I remember our area as being painfully White, so much so that I don’t recall seeing my first Black person until I was in my teens.

It was less so last time I visited. But I have a feeling Conklin remains pretty lily White. Anyhow the alleged shooter, Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin was echoing the theory’s talking points of plenty of others in the G.O.P. including, most prominently, Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. The theory, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is that there is a conspiracy among elites to replace White people with people of color.

You notice that it’s always a conspiracy? It can’t happen as a result of natural forces; it must be some vast left wing conspiracy at work. Like Trump’s idea that China had a weapon to create hurricanes, it’s an idea so painfully dumb it actually makes my head hurt. It’s just laughable that anyone would actually believe this crap. But Gendron apparently did. He was so animated by it he allegedly killed ten Black people including a store security guard, and wounded three others. He pleaded not guilty, but he has a 180-page screed you can read if you got the stomach for it and, of course, for a while it was streamed live on Twitch from his helmet cam.

We know that skin color amounts to less than one percent of our DNA. So we are all fundamentally the same. White replacement theory makes about as much sense as a conspiracy than that blondes or pug-nosed people control the world. If someone came to me with the latter idea and they sincerely believed it, I would do my best to get them to see a mental health professional. The same is true with anyone who believes (fill in the blank) are engaged in a massive, hidden conspiracy to (fill in the blank).

These theories seem to be attractive because it’s a way to make sense of the nonsensical. It’s like believing that God is love and God is hate at the same time. Something has to bridge the divide if you are to maintain any semblance of sanity, so something laughable must be invented. There are no grand conspiracies. There is no Trilateral Commission. Trump lost the 2020 election too and it was likely the most secure national election of all time.

If you were concerned about White replacement though, a lot of what the Right is doing is counterproductive. Take the expected Supreme Court decision expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. For the most part, white women aren’t going to have a problem getting an abortion. We know this because it was the case when it was last illegal. It will be a problem for people of color who are predominantly poorer. Anti-abortionists, many of whom are also racists, are making worse the very problem they decry.

Birth rates are higher among minorities because it’s harder to get abortions, it’s harder to afford birth control and when you are economically challenged you are often put at disproportionate risk for incidents like violence, rape, and marital abuse. Good Catholics won’t use contraception, but most Catholics look the other way on what the Church teaches them.

Catholicism might explain why Hispanic Americans have a higher birthrate compared to Whites. But it doesn’t explain the birthrates among Blacks, who are not disproportionately Catholic. My black friends tend to have more children mostly because they are more likely to have had dysfunctional relationships, which is likely largely a result of living at the margins most of their lives.

The reverse is true. The birthrate among Whites is down not because of a grand conspiracy, but because they have more control over whether to opt to have a family or not. The average age of a mother having a first child in the United States is now 30. Having babies is not a priority, and easy access to contraception and abortion makes it easier to avoid.

That’s because having kids today is darn expensive, at least if you don’t want them to grow up in poverty and have something resembling a first-world lifestyle. We stopped at one child because we figured this out thirty years ago. Indeed, the cost of raising just our daughter was at least $200,000, and likely a lot more than that, and that included a discounted public education. With two kids, it’s not clear we’d now both be retired and debt free.

If you want more White babies, I dunno, maybe make it cheaper to have kids? For example, childcare could be subsidized, like is true in much of Europe. But we can’t have that; it’s socialism. Maybe grant parental leave to new mothers and fathers? Except for a handful of states, that’s also seen as socialism by Republicans. Maybe subsidize baby formula and disposable diapers? More socialism, naturally. Oh, and maybe robustly fund the public schools so our kids don’t grow up believing racist crap like this? Republicans though seem to want to get rid of public schools altogether and keeping kids from being enlightened seems to be the animus behind “woke” laws.

If the United States was to be a nation for Whites, then maybe we shouldn’t have invited over so many minorities? Of course most Black Americans are ancestors of slaves so they had no choice in the matter. But Southern plantation owners had no such qualms and needed someone to pick their cotton for cheap. We brought over so many minorities and people of color mostly so Whites could live their lifestyles on the cheap. Our country didn’t build itself. It was largely built on the backs of slaves and the oppressed.

Now people that those who believe in the White replacement theory want them gone, or at least oppressed and disempowered. Because that’s like totally fair because having people near them with a different skin hue makes them very nervous.

To me, fully enfranchising all Americans is long overdue and would demonstrate America at its best. What’s really going on is that Whites are reaping what they have sown. Many just don’t want to pay the price.

Blogging in unprecedented and depressing times

Well, this is new: two new email subscribers to my blog in less than twenty four hours! Welcome! Occam’s Razor is a very obscure back corner of the internet, so it’s flattering when I get new subscribers. I hope you find it is worth your time.

In 2002, when I started blogging, it was chic. For a time it was glorious to be a blogger, even an obscure blogger like me that likes to publish anonymously. I rode a wave. I’d routinely get hundreds of page views a day with no effort. Also, people would leave comments.

But things rarely stay novel on the Internet. Blogging got commercialized and monetized. Tech firms found ways to move readers to aggregator sites and social networks that were more interesting and more profitable. To get your blog read, you generally needed to be some sort of minor celebrity, or, more recently, attach yourself to a major blogging platform like Substack. That’s why I’ve ruminated ending the blog in December when I hit the twenty year mark. Now, maybe not so much.

In truth, to succeed in blogging you had to work hard at it: posting regularly and spending a lot of time marketing it. Then you had to hope that people would want to read your blog. I simply didn’t have the energy to give it that kind of attention. I care enough about the blog to try to post to it regularly and to make a post as interesting and insightful as I can, but not enough to market it. Besides, it’s not a blog for most people. It’s a blog for the intellectually curious, or at least I hope it’s that.

I’m a guy that thinks a lot. It’s human to look for meaning in life even though with so much chaos in life it’s doubtful that much meaning can really be ascribed to it. Still, I’m convinced that that while not everything in life has meaning, a lot of it does. When I can piece together these inferences, it’s hard for me not to share my insights here.

It’s clear to me that we live in unprecedented times. Things are more likely to end badly than not as all sorts of macro forces are at work. We simply lack the national and international will to change things at the moment. There are attempts, like the Paris Climate Accords. But because we live in a world of countries, and each one is autonomous, there’s no way to orchestrate the change that is needed. As disorder gets worse, it may spur the change that is needed. Vested interests though are hard at work to keep this from happening.

We are being played. Republicans play to the fears of their base, and actually inflame those fears to make things worse. In the last ten years it’s gotten clearly Orwellian. Republicans in general simply refuse to accept facts. Trump himself said he loves the uneducated. No wonder because he’s appallingly ignorant on so many levels. The latest example reported recently is that he thought China was using weapons to create hurricanes.

It’s but just one example of an endless supply of baseless and supremely ignorant ideas Trump and Republicans in general wallow in all the time, like Hunter Biden’s laptop. It’s done to acquire power because it’s well known that appears to emotion easily out trump appeals to reason. It’s just that in 2016 Trump somehow got put into office and could actually try to act on this crazy stuff. Naturally he was inclined to believe anything that kept him from examining his own logic.

If we feel it is true, then it must be right, regardless of whether science says otherwise. The American west is quickly drying up as the planet heats up. There won’t be the water to sustain the people who live there. They’ll be migrating east, for the most part. It’s not a question of if, but when. Climate change is happening, but even as Indians die from heat so intense their bodies can’t keep up with it, the skeptics won’t entertain the idea that climate change is the root cause.

It’s getting worse and quickly accelerating. So what are people doing? In America, is seems they are mostly migrating to Florida, whose coastlines are already being ravaged. In twenty years Miami will mostly be underwater. My sister retired from Fort Lauderdale to Titusville. Her house rests on a bluff of sorts about thirty feet above sea level. Good for her but it’s a stopgap measure. She just likes to boat. The most valuable land in the future isn’t in Florida, it is already for sale at bargain prices in states like Ohio and New York where the climate will still accommodate people. Instead, people are moving in droves to doomed states like Florida. It makes no sense.

Just to mitigate climate change around the edges will require rethinking and redoing everything. The American lifestyle is simply not sustainable. It requires people to act and think logically and coherently. It means trusting in scientists. It means hunkering down, eating less meat and living more like a village lifestyle than a jetsetter’s lifestyle. It means having fewer children, reclaiming blighted areas and ending deforestation. At some point it will means closing economic markets like Brazil and, yes, potentially the United States, until we act sustainably.

That’s what’s required. But I’m betting we’ll continually choose to fall over our own tied shoelaces instead.

Republicans are dancing to the Pied Piper

Attention Republicans, or should I say lemmings: you are being misled. Right off the cliff, I mean.

I hate to break this to you, but you guys (and gals) are painfully easy to manipulate. All your opinion leaders have to do is play to your prejudices and you fall in line like enthusiastic sheep welcoming the glory of the slaughterhouse.

I am sure there are “woke” Republicans, in the sense that some of these sheep know what awaits them. I don’t think there are many of them. Most came out as Never Trumpers years ago and have been scorned by their own party. Others are lying low, like Jeb Bush, hoping for a day when all this madness is gone and they will be in vogue again.

Just as P.T. Barnum observed there’s a sucker born every minute, the rest of us “woke” people realize there’s at least one new Republican sheep anxious to bound toward the slaughterhouse born every minute too. Indeed, plenty of these sheep have bounded so hard they didn’t make it and fell over dead along the way. They were unmasked and unvaccinated, for the most part.

After all, their ultimate opinion leader, Donald Trump, told them the pandemic was largely fake news and flouted common sense rules to mitigate the spread of the disease. You guys ate it up because if there’s anything guaranteed to get you riled up, it’s “owning the libs” and appealing to your sense of aggrievement and self-righteousness.

The libs, by the way were, for the most part, busy limiting social contact, masking and getting vaccinations and boosters as soon as they could. Of course you wanted the opposite of that. By definition in your mind anything a liberal does must be wrong, so you had to head in the opposite direction. In the past though you might have ambled in that direction. Now you sprint in that direction.

Your opinion leaders don’t think and behave at all like you. Take Tucker Carlson. When was the last time you wore a bowtie? What about Sean Hannity? When was the last time you wore a suit and parted your hair in the middle? What about Donald Trump? How many of you got at least $100M seeder money from your father? How many of you self-reliant types had a big daddy to bail you out when you kept tripping over your own shoelaces? How many of you go years between going to church, as is typical of Donald Trump, who shows up maybe at an odd funeral? How many of you choose golf and country club dining over a NASCAR race, a shooting range and dinner at an Applebees? How many of you got vaccinated and boosted while Fox News tracks employees vaccination statuses and requires masks in many meetings? In short, aren’t your leaders full of hypocrisy? Why can’t you see their bullshit? The rest of us can.

It’s because they know how to pull your strings and as I said, it’s not hard. If I wanted to use you like grist in the mill I could do so as well; I’d just have to lose a sense of conscience, which for them is long gone. Arguably, Donald Trump never developed one. Worse, these conscienceless people’s habits have turned you into arguably horrible people.

Just five years ago, I knew of conservatives ago really didn’t care if people were gay and had no problem with gay marriage. It was live and let live for a lot of these people back then as many were libertarian in spirit. Much of their overt racism was gone too. Today, it’s all back, baby, because your opinion leaders like Donald Trump know these fears are easily rekindled.

And that’s what it’s all about: keeping you afraid. They know that our most powerful motivator is fear. It’s in their interest to keep you feeling afraid because when you feel afraid you vote for them. Your ability to believe ludicrous crap is apparently bottomless, such as the 2020 election was somehow “stolen” when there was virtually no evidence this was true, as attested by many judges who were appointed by Donald Trump.

And when they are in power, they are glad to pick your pocket. They do it indirectly with obscene tax cuts for the rich. But they also do it directly, like by channeling your donations to Trump’s PACs into his own pocket.

You are not just being used; you are being abused. You are being treated badly. You are like an abused wife certain it must be something she did that’s responsible for making her husband beat her. At root, they’ve recognized that you don’t have much self-esteem and they can use your faults against you and to profit them. And you are dying needlessly by the hundreds of thousands, mostly from covid-19, because you are under their spell. It must be the liberal’s fault that you got the disease. It all must be part of some massive conspiracy when in truth massive conspiracies are virtually impossible to pull off.

I don’t expect you to wake up and smell the coffee, as Ann Landers used to say. Most of you won’t make it to the end of this. The rest of us pity you and, yes, fear you too. Your opinion leaders have created tens of millions of loose cannons. All the rest of us can do is hope that when they go off we can avoid most of the shrapnel and that your exalted leaders take direct hits. Believe me they deserve your retribution.

Pondering the Ukraine war endgame

I guess it’s good news that so many Americans now hate Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a way, I’m surprised because about 30% of voters tend to vote Republican and whatever Dear Leader (Trump) says goes. Trump has never hid is fascist inclinations. Indeed, he sensed them in the party and brought them to life. Trump’s initial praise of Putin’s invasion though was quickly tempered when he discovered it wasn’t working with his base.

Granted, the Republican Party in mostly Southern states has certainly not given up its fascist tendencies. They’re taking a mile instead of an inch. In Missouri, it’s likely that it will soon be a crime for a woman to go out of state for an abortion, a law which I suspect violates the interstate commerce clause of our U.S. constitution and will probably get invalidated. In Florida, you can’t say gay or LGBTQ and keep your job, at least if you are a public school teacher. This also seems to violate basic civil liberties and probably won’t stand up in a federal court either. Meanwhile, in Texas, which is all about ensuring parental rights by making sure students can’t get banned books in its schools, is perfectly fine with taking away parental rights to make decisions about helping their transgender kids get the hormones and surgeries they need to thrive. It’s an anti-freedom agenda masquerading as a freedom agenda. These sorts of policies would feel very much at home in fascist Russia.

But there is something about waging an unprovoked war on a neighboring country has them siding with Democrats, for unknown reasons. Or maybe it is sort of known. Ukraine is overwhelmingly White. When they get to see it up close on the news, it’s not hard to picture that happening here. They don’t want that. It might interfere with their church services and affect the value of their stock portfolios.

So on this issue pretty much exclusively they are aligning with the civilized world and even (ick!) Democrats. You know they are serious when they are for banning oil from Russia, even though it would push up oil prices at home. Their campaign ads will say otherwise, but they can’t hide their votes in Congress.

In the ten days since I wrote about Ukraine, not a whole lot has changed. Certainly a lot more people are dead, the carnage is increasing and likely people are beginning to starve, on both sides. A massive Ukrainian nuclear power plant had a close call and hospitals and residences have been blown up, but Russia hasn’t really gained any ground since March 3. It occupies at best about ten percent of the country, it has few troops in reserve, and logistical difficulties make some sort of partial retreat, or at least troop consolidation, likely.

But Russia still has nukes, and Vladimir Putin has ordered his nuclear force on high alert and has made vague statements like he might start a nuclear war unilaterally. If he is determined to win in Ukraine, nukes would probably do it. There likely wouldn’t be many Ukrainians left afterward. But he’s already reviled across the world, so it’s not implausible that he might use them.

Ukrainians are calling for a no fly zone over their country, enforced by NATO. If I lived there I’d want one too. But it’s a really bad idea if you consider nuclear war worse than horrendous bloodshed in Ukraine. I am grateful we have a president that knows this and won’t put our armed forced into play in or over Ukraine. Had Trump won reelection, he’d probably have encouraged Putin to do his worst to the country.

No one wants to see this continue but it’s hard to see an endgame. That’s not to say the future is hard to predict. This is becoming Putin’s quagmire. There is no face saving way to get out of it and declare a partial victory. It’s unclear if he even understands that he is losing. He’s surrounded by people who have survived by honing their skills as yes men. By controlling the Internet and the press, most Russians don’t understand what’s really going on and are cheering him on.

With time though it will be impossible for them not to figure out that their Dear Leader made a huge mistake. Their currency is becoming worthless and getting goods and services from outside the country is becoming impossible. With time, things will just stop working for lack of parts and people who can fix them. Putin can’t hide the closures of so many western businesses in the country, particularly the local McDonalds. Its military is already bogged down and supplying it will become increasingly problematic. As body bags keep returning regularly, it will become difficult to hide the scope of his misadventure. Moreover, most Russians are used to the Internet and richer Russians used to foreign vacations. They will resent what they have lost.

That’s not to say Putin won’t retain power. He has a powerful police state and saying anything not the party line can get you fifteen years in prison. But his focus will inevitably turn inward. His failures could tip him into the selective use of nuclear weapons. He doesn’t appear to be one of these people that can accept defeat or accept compromises.

So for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis there is a real possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. It may be the use of one tactical nuclear weapon, say a neutron bomb over Kyiv, or a bunch to quickly take control of major cities. Putin does not appear to be suicidal, which is what their use on the West would result in. But he’s a hard man to read other than he’s infinitely stubborn and unwilling to compromise, traits that unfortunately resemble the vast majority of Republicans in power too.

If we can keep Putin from using his nuclear weapons (a big if), it is likely that in a year or two this will resolve itself. Russia is likely to grind to a halt to be held together through intimidation and force of arms. While it may hold itself together, it will be a shell of its former self and increasingly unable to maintain even basic services. A new Russian revolution is certainly possible, but unlikely. Anarchy and large scale national dysfunction is the more likely result.

I don’t think socially-distanced Vladimir Putin will be alive in two years. I think it’s much more likely that someone close to him puts a bullet in his head first.

Trump is pretty much insane … and unelectable

It was quite a weekend for our ex-“president”. At a rally in Texas he said lots of memorable things, at least if you are trying to sound insane and deranged.

Perhaps the most remarkable was that the Vice President can select the next president. That’s right: all that presidential campaigning is pretty much irrelevant because apparently actual votes no longer count. When Congress meets to certify the votes in the Electoral College, apparently the Vice President can decide which of these electoral votes to recognize because by law they must preside over the session.

This is great news if you are a wannabee dictator but not such great news if you take this seriously and look to January 2025. Then presumably still vice president Kamala Harris could declare that she will recognize Electoral College votes from only those states that voted for Joe Biden. What? This might not add up to 270 Electoral Votes? No matter, according to Trump the Veep makes the call.

This was one theory advanced by John Eastman, a former Justice Department official that mentioned the idea but disavowed it when pressed. His second was the idea that the Vice President could decide that certain states electoral college votes were in dispute, so they couldn’t be counted, so the result would be determined by the House, where each state gets one vote. With the majority of states being red (because there are a lot of rural states) guess who wins? That’s too nuanced for Donald Trump though.

When the United States was founded, the powers of the president worried the founding fathers. They looked for the most benign word possible to express their intent and picked president, because a president by definition merely presides over an institution. They wanted it clear that the real constitutional authority rested in Congress, which makes law. The job of the president was to ensure that Congress’s laws were faithfully executed. It’s right there in the president’s oath of office. The mere idea that the nation’s second presider, the Vice President, could decide who the main presider of the country would be would have been seen as preposterous. But Trump says with a straight face that this is what the law says.

Oh, and then there was that other stuff he said at the rally: that when he becomes president again he will pardon all those involved in January 6. So much for trying to faithfully execute the laws of the United States! All those laws about interfering with the process of government and seditious conspiracy don’t matter and are trumped by his “get out of jail free” pardon power, a power he used liberally to pardon his numerous cronies. It’s not hard to get away with it when a partisan Senate will refuse to convict any Republican president.

Trump went on to admit he pressured Mike Pence to overturn the election, which is an admission that he tried to instigate a coup. He wanted the military to seize voting machines in states where he didn’t like the vote. He was obviously caught on tape pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes he didn’t have that would let him carry the state, which may lead to a criminal indictment in that state by the Fulton County district attorney. His henchman Rudy Giuliani coordinated sets of alternative electoral certifications from states he clearly lost, all in the hopes that Mike Pence might recognize them. He was looking to declare a national emergency to assert powers he didn’t have. And he might have gotten away with it if Vice President Pence had not showed he was a true patriot by simply doing what the law required of him: preside over watching as electoral votes were counted in Congress.

It will surprise no one when Trump announces he is running for president again in 2024. Whether he could “win” the vote though depends entirely on how willing the states are to corrupt the election process. Trump hasn’t won more adherents since he lost to Joe Biden by nine million real votes and 74 electoral votes. Smart Republicans realize they can improve their odds of winning dramatically by nominating someone like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis instead.

Right now they are just afraid to come out publicly for the idea. The Trump brand has lost its luster. Republicans want someone crazier than Trump, but craftier too. Trump is damaged goods and not loony enough for the base anymore.

I for one am hoping that Trump does run again. It’s the best way to reelect Joe Biden. A strong majority of the country simply loathes Donald Trump.

1/6 could have been a lot worse

A year has come and gone since a violent gang of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol. At the time I remember trying to keep my wife calm by projecting false confidence that it would soon get under control.

It did, but not before a lot of damage to the building, injuries, defacements and the deaths of at least five people. A year later, more than seven hundred people have been charged with crimes from the event, most of them misdemeanors. It’s only in the last week or so that we’ve seen charges of seditious conspiracy against a number of leaders of the so-called “Oath Keepers”.

We were lucky. We were not lucky in preparing the necessary law enforcement for the event, which I warned about on January 3, 2021. It was entirely foreseeable. But we were lucky in that it wasn’t a whole lot worse.

Obviously, it was very bad. The last ones to breach the Capitol were the British army during the War of 1812. This time it was our own citizens. It was very bad for those who died or were injured. Many of those injured incurred permanent disabilities, mostly PTSD. A few of them took their own lives. It was brutal and crazy but with one exception no guns were used, at least by the insurrectionists. Their most lethal weapons were apparently bear spray and flag staffs. The gallows they placed on the Capitol’s frontage was symbolic; it wasn’t tall enough to actually hang anyone or sturdy enough to finish the job.

The insurrectionists’ intentions though were clear enough: they wanted to overturn the results of the presidential election. They succeeded in postponing the process to the wee hours of January 7.

The Oath Keepers though were likely not the only group with firearms on standby. You have to have a firearms permit from the city to bring guns into the District of Columbia. The Oath Keepers kept a cache of firearms in their hotel in Arlington waiting for the moment to bring them in. They weren’t ready, at least at the insurrection’s start, to break the law so flagrantly. The result was a violent melee in and around the Capitol fought mostly with bear spray, flag staffs, Billy clubs and fists.

Imagine the scene if these insurrectionists had come with guns, which would likely have been the more lethal, semiautomatic types. Imagine the casualties on both sides. Members of Congress likely would have been among them, with dozens, if not hundreds, killed. There would likely have been many more of the insurrectionists dead and wounded.

Most likely the insurrectionists would not have succeeded and most likely most of them would be dead. That’s because the National Mission Force was on standby. With shoot to kill orders and armed with all the technology and training needed, they would have brought the situation under control with stunning and quick lethality.

If you have to have an insurrection, as bad as it was, what transpired was about the best possible outcome. Casualties were mostly property and not people. Firearms were almost not used. There was no particular moment that could be used to recruit others to try again. The insurrectionists showed stunning stupidity by streaming a lot of it and leaving electronic footprints all over the place that could be used to charge them. They came off very badly as seemingly unwashed, untrained hotheads who didn’t know what they were doing.

This doesn’t excuse the botched preparations to fully protect the Capitol or our former president’s obvious incitement of a riot, sedition and his foot dragging to get the situation under control. I do hope that eventually he is brought up on relevant charges because it’s clear to anyone with a brain, on both sides of the aisle, that Trump was instrumental in the whole thing. It was entirely preventable. He just had to civilly accept the result that he lost, and wouldn’t.

It’s unlikely that the Capitol will ever be breached again by insurrectionists, or anyone. That’s not to say civil war is impossible or attempts to overthrow the government can’t happen. But it’s likely to happen through corruption of the system, which has been underway for a long time now.

Biden is being presidential

I’m trying to remember the last time we had a president do something actually presidential … in a major way I mean. I’m not sure it has happened in my living memory, until recently.

Joe Biden is getting us out of Afghanistan, albeit with a large amount of pandemonium and confusion that comes with the decision. He’s proactively doing something no modern president has done. He’s fixing a mistake Bush, Obama and Trump dodged.

Most presidents want the veneer of being presidential, not to demonstrate the real thing. Even Barack Obama knew our presence in Afghanistan was doomed to fail; he just couldn’t pull off what he wanted to do, which was get us out of there entirely. In 2009, he surged troops there but also said he would get us out of in 2014, signifying to the Taliban that they just needed to wait. “Out of there” amounted to leaving a substantial number of troops in the country indefinitely while proclaiming that our war there was over. Like Bush before him, we were going to stand up an independent country that wouldn’t need us forever. And like in Vietnam, his generals and his State Department prettied up the reports to put lipstick on the pig. It was all a house of cards, something Obama probably knew but couldn’t find the strength to do.

Biden became presidential by doing what needed to be done and actually getting us out of there. It’s an effort obviously still underway. It doesn’t appear that he will change his mind and I hope he doesn’t. We’ve needed to be gone for a long time. This was always doomed to be an unwinnable war.

Granted, as Senator after September 11, Biden voted with virtually all of the rest of Congress to effectively wage war against Afghanistan. We were actually at war with those who caused September 11, and at the time al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were holed up on Afghanistan. In fact what led us to war in Afghanistan was achieved about eighteen months later when bin Laden left Afghanistan and went into hiding in Pakistan. That was the time to get out of the country.

It should be noted that President Bush turned down two opportunities to have the Taliban work as our agents. They were quite willing to turn over bin Laden to us; he just didn’t like their conditions, which would leave them in charge. Instead, he spurned them and we went on another righteous but pointless excursion of nation building. It was window dressing for what we really wanted: an imperialistic state there that we basically controlled. We controlled the government by making it impossible for them to exist without our funding and expertise.

This experiment in nation building was, like most of the others that preceded it, doomed from the start. More than ninety five percent of Afghanistan’s people are illiterate. It’s a third-world country that the U.S. expected could quickly evolve to act like a first-world country. Not surprisingly, it didn’t. We set up a lot of Potemkin cities to provide us with the illusion that Afghanistan could be a democracy, merely to make ourselves feel better.

For all practical purposes though, Afghanistan is not a country. It is too ethnically divided to be one. Multiple states are possible perhaps run by the ethnic minorities in that part of the “country”. Trying to make it one just proved how impossible a task it actually was.

As the saying goes, you got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Biden became presidential by folding our hand and acknowledging reality. It was sustained only by spending vast amounts of money and by wearing rose colored glasses.

With the possible exception of Japan, we’ve done a lousy job of nation building. We like the idea of spreading democracy but are inept at doing so. The latest twist is that right here in our country many of our own citizens are working hard to ensure the U.S. becomes an autocracy. Many of Biden’s biggest critics on Afghanistan would be quite happy if our government looked and lot like their new Taliban-run government, just with Americans praying to a different deity.

I had misgivings about our war on terror from the start. I was in a tiny fringe, but it drove me to seek compatriots online on sites like Daily Kos. Everyone else I knew was excited to rally behind President Bush. I was concerned about mission creep and my concerns were justified.

This blog started in December 2002, after September 11. But if you read this post from eighteen years ago, you will read that I was in Washington D.C. with thousands of others protesting what looked like and became our imminent invasion of Iraq. That turned out to be a huge folly too. The lessons of Vietnam remained stuck in my brain at least.

While Vice President, Biden was the dissenting voice urging President Obama to get us out of Afghanistan. All these years later, as president he took the opportunity to do what should have been done more than fifteen years ago. Yes, it’s miserable to many Afghanis and of course we should get out as many interpreters, allies and legitimate refugees there as possible. But out we should get and Biden should stick to his plan. It’s also risky for Joe Biden’s reelection strategy, but it’s what needed to be done. To be presidential, you must put the country’s needs above your own political needs.

The real problem is not in Afghanistan, but in our own country. We have to give up the illusion that the United States’ might can impose order and our will where it cannot. It’s folly to try. We keep making the same mistake over and over again.

But in the minds of too many Americans, this is a delusion they cannot give up. Our country is not all that special and epic mistakes like these simply enforce this impression on the rest of the world, which largely doesn’t buy into our bullshit anyhow.

Trump for … Speaker of the House?

Yes, this is a thing. Certain Republicans want Donald Trump to be the next Speaker of the House! And Trump isn’t saying no way.

I would think that after being president, being Speaker of the House of Representatives would be something of a letdown. The speaker does get security, but hardly the perks of being president of the United States. There is no dedicated DC mansion for the Speaker, no Air Force One, or even Air Force Two or Air Force Three. The Speaker can ask the Air Force if they have a spare jet available if there is some important event they need to attend away from Washington. No guarantee they will get the jet though. When granted, it’s usually to take a high ranking congressional delegation somewhere.

You would think that if Trump wanted to be Speaker he would need to win an election to the House of Representatives. Florida is scheduled to gain a representative as a result of reapportionment. Draw the new districts carefully to create an open seat in West Palm Beach and hope that all the moneyed people there vote for him. It could be done although he could lose such an election.

Fortunately for Trump, he doesn’t have to run for Congress at all. He just has to hope that Republicans retake the House in 2022 and that Republicans then use their majority to make him speaker. It’s never been done before, as previous speakers have always come from existing members of the House. But the U.S. constitution is clear, even if most people haven’t paid attention to this part: “The House of Representatives shall chuse (sic) their Speaker and other Officers.”

It would set up a strange situation because to cast a vote in the House you have to be elected to the House. So Speaker Trump would not be able to cast any votes. In theory, anyone could be Speaker if a majority of the House votes for the person and that includes non-citizens, minors, and, presumably, a cute labradoodle.

What power would Trump have as Speaker? For one thing, if he messes up, he could be easily tossed asunder. Speakers don’t have terms, though they usually serve the two-year term of the Congress. If a speaker falls out of favor, they can be replaced by a majority vote of the members of the House. There’s little likelihood of that given that Republicans are such toadies for the man. It’s easy to predict though that if Trump were elected speaker, he would do just as good a job at it as he did as president. Which means he would royally f*** things up.

There’s not a whole lot that the Speaker actually has to do, which would appeal to Trump. The good thing is that you get to preside over the House, which means you can start and end House sessions. It’s pretty boring stuff though, which is why it is a duty typically delegated out to a speaker tempore, generally some junior members of the House. Listening to all the drivel that amounts to a typical House session is a chore. Trump would not listen and, assuming his Twitter account is restored, would be tweeting from the Speaker’s chair.

The Speaker is the third in the line of succession in the event of the untimely demise of the president and vice president. That would appeal to Trump. The Speaker also has a lot of say on who sits on prominent House committees but also has some curious assignments, like administering the House audio and video broadcast systems. Other than that though, the office’s powers are mostly what you can get away with and no doubt Trump would push the envelope. It’s not hard to see him trying to not advance any government funding bills just because he doesn’t like them.

Frankly, Trump would find the job mostly a bore. Given that he felt the same way about being president, he’d likely be a largely absent speaker. He’s constitutionally unable to focus on anything, but if your goal is to make government less focused, he might excel in that way. It might be fun for him for a month or two. But he would resent the attention given to the President of the United States, whose prestige is something his office could not begin to match.

Hopefully, Democrats will retain the House in the 2022 election and it will be a moot point, at least until 2024. Given Trump’s ego though he’s more likely to make another run for the presidency than want to be speaker in 2025, assuming Republicans then retake the House. Being speaker would garner him some attention, but at best it would be second fiddle attention. Given his ego, it’s easier to see him ultimately figuring the job is beneath him.

And, in fact, he’s simply not up to doing the job in any way that would be seen as even minimally competent. So I’m hoping he won’t even try. If he does try and somehow succeeds, he would become his own worst enemy. Already amnesia is kicking in among the public on his disastrous presidency. A disastrous speakership would help us remember what an utter loser and fool that man has always been.

A real constitutional crisis is well underway

I was hoping Trump’s defeat would lead to the death of the Republican Party. Obviously that didn’t happen. It is fair to say that the Republican Party is basically the Trump Party now, so in that sense it is dead. Ronald Reagan, for example, would not recognize the party, although he did much to put it on its present course. Its mission now is to echo whatever Donald Trump says and to remove if possible the few remaining Republicans who dare to criticize him. It’s unstated but obvious mission is to end democracy in the United States leaving only Republicans in charge.

Since Trump’s defeat, the party’s behavior has been truly appalling. They will leave no stone unturned in their quest to regain power, but it must be on their terms. They have tacitly conceded that they cannot win power fairly, so most of their effort is to ensure it is won unfairly.

Many of the prerequisites have been long in place, in particular the extreme right-wing bent of the federal courts. Most of their focus is on voter suppression of those they don’t want to vote. But many states are passing laws that make it impossible for election officials to do their job. Among these is to charge these officials with felonies if they send out an unsolicited absentee voter application or leave an absentee drop box unguarded. Georgia has given the state legislature permission to remove local election officials, or simply to overturn the results of the popular vote for the presidency if they don’t like the outcome. None of these actions are in the democratic spirit, but are signs of desperation for a party for whom losing power fairly is no longer an option.

January 6 should have been the acme of their awfulness. Now it appears to be the first true skirmish of our next civil war, like lobbing the first cannon ball at Fort Sumner. They appear willing to kill democracy to save it for themselves. Basically, it’s a party of traitors. Now the rest of us have to figure out what to do about it.

Legislatively, the answer is H.R. 1, the For the People Act. It would prohibit exactly the sorts of legislative excesses we are now seeing, including gerrymandering and voter suppression. Getting it enacted into law though is a very tough job for Democrats. It currently would need to pass cloture in the Senate, which means it would require sixty votes to end debate on it and bring it to a vote. With a 50/50 Senate, that won’t happen unless Democrats either find the spine to end the filibuster rule or make an exception in this case. Without it, the likelihood is that Republican election law changes in many states will give the party the wins they need to retake the House in 2022.

These other laws tilt the 2024 presidential election in their favor too, even more than it already is. Assuming President Biden runs for reelection, he would need a commanding victory. So far at least with his popularity at 62%, that at least seems plausible. Of course, a lot can happen in the interim, and you can count on Republicans in Congress to do just this. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his focus is just to obstruct every Biden initiative.

None of this matters if you rig the system. If Republicans regain their House majority, the next January 6 (actually January 8, 2025) won’t require an insurrection for Republicans to get a Republican president regardless of the Electoral College vote. They simply have to stand united and refuse to certify the results, which then allows the House to decide who the next president will be. In this scenario, the representatives of each state cast one vote as a bloc, so if a majority of states have a majority of Republicans representing them in the U.S. House of Representatives, they get to overturn the Electoral College and the popular vote.

As for presidential elections in 2028, 2032 etc., simply repeat. This is clearly where the party is going. They don’t intend to ever lose again and if it kills democracy in the process, so be it.

To change the way a president is selected would require a constitutional amendment. Good luck getting that passed by three-quarters of the states. There is some hope if the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact get passed by enough states, but that has stalled in recent years. Perhaps Democrats should focus their effort there.

In short, this is a four-alarm fire for our democracy. If we weren’t in a constitutional crisis before, clearly we are now. Fixing the problem looks increasingly unlikely.

The Trump circus may be over

You wouldn’t know it from all the trepidation from elected Republicans, but it looks like Republicans are starting to move past Donald Trump. In a recent NBC News poll, when Republicans were asked which they supported more, Trump or their party, 44% said Trump and 50% said their party. The Party of Trump seems to be slowly de-Trumpifying.

Why then are Republican Party leaders so scared? It’s likely because Trump is a master bully. However, Trump simply doesn’t have the microphone he used to have. He’s largely banned from social media. He may make an occasional appearance on a conservative talk show, but even Fox News seems to be putting him in their rear view mirror.

Trump also seems to be losing interest in being at the center of attention. The pattern of daily life at Mar-a-Lago must be appealing to him: the daily eighteen holes of golf and his gold-leaf office in what used to be the wedding chapel. In any event, it used to be easy for him to command attention. He had Twitter. He was president. Now he largely stays at Mar-a-Lago and if he has something to say, even his supporters aren’t hearing much about it.

I’ll bet he’s still drinking a lot of Diet Coke, but probably resents having to pay for it. In any event, the nonstop tweeting must have been exhausting, even for Trump. Just because you have a narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t mean it’s an easy condition to deal with. Likely some part of him is glad to no longer be president and to have a much simpler life.

It may also be that Trump is running nervous. He doesn’t have the legal protections he used to. He incited the January 6th Capitol rioters. It would not be too hard a case to prove if a criminal or civil case was made of it. Civil cases are probably coming, but the criminal ones are doubtlessly more worrying. He may be heeding advice from counsel for a change to lie low.

Granted, it sure appears that even though Republicans may be de-Trumpifying, many still believe that his reelection was somehow stolen from him. Republicans in Arizona are trying to get possession of all the votes cast in Maricopa County to have them examined by their own forensics firm with no actual experience in forensics. One hopes saner heads will prevail because once they have access to the ballots with no open auditing of their process, they can be massaged any way that fits Arizona Republicans’ narrative. The votes have already been audited a number of times with no fraud found. They just didn’t give the results Trump and Republicans wanted.

It’s not too hard to figure out. Trump never was a popular president. His approval rating never got above the mid 40s. He left office with 40% approval and his approval level is now in the thirties. Trump’s election was something of a fluke, but four years of Trump never enamored him with the general public. If Trump is serious about running again in 2024, it’s hard to see how he could win without a huge amount of voter disenfranchisement, which Republican legislatures seem all too happy to implement. Trump has branded himself with Americans and they really despise his brand.

Or it could be that Republicans are slowly moving on. That doesn’t mean they haven’t embraced most of Donald Trump’s ideas, but hearing less from Trump means he’s not their constant focus of attention. Voter suppression to win elections is not a great strategy. Also not a great strategy: refusing to wear a mask. It just speeds up the process of reducing the number of Republicans out there.

I find Rep. Lynn Cheney (R-WY) pretty reprehensible, but she is one of the few Republicans in a position of power speaking out against Trump. So far at least she hasn’t lost her position in the Republican House leadership. Her fundraising seems to be steady. Fearlessly speaking out against Trump is risky but has a potential upside in that it distinguishes her in the future as someone willing to tell the truth. She is primed to benefit if Trump’s popularity proves fleeting.

Because even with voter suppression, Republicans who haven’t lost their minds know they don’t have a good hand, and Trump is weighing them down. They can’t do much to appeal to independents while Trump is controlling the party, simply because they don’t have an appealing message to independents, who tend to align more with Democrats and Joe Biden, perhaps in reaction to Trump.

Maybe even most Republicans are tired of the Trump show and want to move on. As one person polled by NBC News put it:

The best thing about Joe Biden (as president) is I don’t have to think about Joe Biden.

Amen, say most Americans, including, I suspect, now even a majority of Republicans.