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trump

The factors that went into the Hillary loss/Trump win will keep historians and political scientists busy writing books for a decade, if not more. Some will adopt a monocausal theory and blame the emails, or the combination of Comey and the emails. Others will view it as a more a generalized phenomenon of how dysfunctional our politics have become. My own view, as I said in my last post, is that his success owes to the lingering effects of the 2007-09 Great Recession, which for anyone not living in the Wall Street-Washington corridor or the West Coast, is really the 2007-2016 Continuing Great Recession. And while the Iraq War began a long time ago, even its erstwhile supporters (other than Dick Cheney) view it as perhaps the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States. The “elites” of both left and right have shown conclusively that they’re about as competent as Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano up a flight of stairs.

DNC Leadership deciding the best way to get Hillary up all those steps.

DNC Leadership deciding the best way to get Hillary up all those steps.

Trump’s problem will begin not with his opposition from the left, but rather with his supporters on the far right. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the left at least has some idea of what to expect from a Trump Administration. The right, on the other hand, is in for some major disappointments. Though I don’t like to predict the future, I will make three predictions right now. First, there will never be a wall with Mexico. Second, there will never be a ban on entry of Muslims into the United States because they happen to be Muslim. Third, there will never be a deportation force running from house to house rounding up some 11 million undocumented (or illegal, if you prefer) immigrants. (And, by the way, Trump will not be locking up Hillary.)

The net effect of these and other unfulfilled promises will be to disappoint the neo-Nazi, KKK and alt-right types who supported Trump. Steve Bannon, an alt-right mouthpiece, will likewise lose a lot of support among his ilk. Economist Paul Krugman said that, during this election cycle, the problem with the left and the media was that they took Trump literally, but not seriously. A large majority of white voters, the “lost white voters,” many of whom are not racists, took him seriously but not literally. But to complete Krugman’s logic is to understand where Trump’s difficulties will begin: namely, with the people of the alt-right/white supremacist persuasion who took him both literally and seriously. That group comprises the racist element of the Republican right. When they learn, as they soon will, that there will be no wall, no deportation force, no ban on Muslims, etc., they will turn on him in a New York second. Everything costs something, and soon Trump will learn the high cost of the rhetoric that got him into the Oval Office.

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trump

New Donald Trump LE Six-Shooter boasts a groundbreaking windage adjustment technology.

In further support of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency, and in particular his positions on the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association has commissioned a new Limited Edition Trump Six-Shooter. In addition to regular iron sights, the accuracy of the handgun is enhanced by long orange fibers attached to the barrel that, when unfurled, indicate both wind speed and direction, as pictured above. The fibers can be combed over and tucked behind the ejection rod on the cylinder when not in use.

Though revolutionary in concept, the design follows in the traditional footsteps of the finest Colts and Remingtons that removed so many Bad Hombres from the Old West. But by far the most unique feature of the new LE Trump Six-Shooter is that, no matter where you point it, you wind up shooting yourself in the foot. It’s expected to be available on November 9.

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"Morning Joe" Scarborough

“Morning Joe” Scarborough

As far as TV talking heads go, Joe Scarborough is not the best, but he’s far from the worst. Still, every once in a while Joe makes a comment, apparently off-the-cuff, that makes no sense at all, as he did during his discussion of the Devolution of the GOP in his August 29, 2016 broadcast.

Scarborough’s jumping off point was a comparison between the demeanor of Bush the Elder (a/k/a, Bush 41, a/k/a George H.W.) and that of the GOP’s current presidential nominee, Prima Donald Trump.

Scarborough discussed his visit to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, which retains its beauty as a quaint New England coastal town, so long as you can forget who the current Maine governor is. Of Bush 41 Scarborough said:

They make others around them feel special despite the fact that they have lived the most remarkable of lives, serving in Congress, running the Republican National Committee, heading up the CIA, being the U.N. Ambassador as well as the U.S. Ambassador to China, serving as Ronald Reagan’s vice president and then leading America as the 41st president of the United States.

But good luck getting George or Barbara Bush talking about themselves. They just don’t do it and they never will. First of all, their parents didn’t allow it. And besides, that kind of thing wasn’t done in the world from which they came. It is just one small way that the ethos of Walker’s Point is so radically different from the mindset that infects Donald Trump’s garish corner office high above 5th Avenue in Trump Towers.

As [Jon] Meacham and I walked down the driveway after saying goodbye to the Bushes, Jon lamented the fact that the same Republican Party that nominated a man like Bush, who rarely spoke about himself, would a quarter century later select a reality TV showman who obsessively talked about little else. Meacham paraphrased Henry Adams in saying that the historical devolvement from Bush to Trump proves that Darwin’s theory of evolution was less compelling when applied to American politics.

Bush the Elder has a lot to be proud of. He served his country both in uniform and in government. He was a fighter pilot in WWII and was shot down in combat with Japanese forces. (As Trump might say,  he only likes fighter pilots who weren’t shot down, he’s gotta tellya.). I don’t take any of that away from Bush 41.

But Scarborough’s notion that not talking about yourself, or not tooting your own horn to say it more directly, is a virtue in and of itself that we all should strive for is absolute nonsense.

Of course Bush 41 never talked about himself. He never had to. He is a walking, breathing pillar of the Republican Establishment, and when the word “establishment” is used in connection with anyone in Clan Bush it is always spelled with a capital “E.”

Bush 41’s father was Prescott S. Bush, a former U.S. Senator for Connecticut, who was a Skull & Bones guy at Yale undergrad (as were Bush 41 and Bush 43), the secret frat where the scions of the Elite of the most elite Elites quaff alcoholic beverages prior to attaining a legal, if not responsible, drinking age and perform pranks that would look very different in 2016 than when they were supposedly performed (e.g., in 1918, when Prescott Bush allegedly led a nocturnal mission to exhume Geronimo’s skull).

(Oh, those kids!)

H.W.’s Wikipedia entry states that he started his business career as a sales clerk with Dresser Industries. Sounds like a humble beginning. But the entry goes on to state that Dresser was a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman, where his father, Prescott Bush, had served as a director for 22 years.

So, Joe Scarborough, please think about that for a minute. I’ll bet H.W. didn’t need to talk much about himself when he got that sales clerk job at Dresser. Suppose, Joe, that you were the supervisor of this new young sales clerk from the Northeast who likes to go by his dual middle initials “H.W.” What are the odds that you’d treat him a bit differently than some other poor schmoe sales clerk? Would you give H.W. a bad performance review, even if he deserved it?

Not if you wanted to keep your job.

Mind, I’m not saying H.W. didn’t do a terrific job as sales clerk. But when your pop sits on the Board of Directors of your employer’s corporate parent,  the reality of who’s the boss and who’s the new hire undergoes a fundamental alteration.

Prescott Bush, Bush 41 and Bush 43 all lived in a rarefied world of great oil wealth and Republican Establishment connections. Bush 43 is a case history all by himself, so I’ll leave that alone, but it’s obvious that, political campaigns aside, not one of them ever had to sell his abilities or his name to anyone to land a job.

I agree that Prima Donald Trump never stops running his mouth, and that’s bad for him and for anyone who’s forced to listen. But for ordinary mortals who have to hustle their butts to make a living, you’d better toot your own horn if you want to eat and keep a roof over your head.

bush-sheldon-p

Samuel Prescott Bush (1863-1948), grandfather of Bush 41

So Joe, before you go off on another tilt about praising modesty and silence as saintly virtues, maybe you should look into Samuel Prescott Bush’s life. He’s the guy who started the Bush family bankroll rolling. I’ll bet old Samuel P. Bush had substantial “book smarts” (he had an engineering degree from Stevens Institute) as well as “street smarts,” some business acumen (given where he started and where he wound up), plus a bit of luck.

I’m sure old Sam P. Bush had to brag a little bit about himself to get hired for his first job, and maybe for a few others.

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth B. Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth B. Ginsburg

As Mark Stern at Slate writes, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has decided to take a stand against a major party’s presidential candidate in a way that she—and arguably no prior justice—has ever done before.”

Apart from any principle as to what sitting judges should or should not say or do, the reason one doesn’t wrestle with a pig is that you get really dirty and, besides, the pig likes it.

Then again, anyone fortunate enough to reach her age and still be working a full-time job arguably has earned certain privileges, among them the right to make those comments.

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Trump Pout 4

Hats off to Daniel Henninger of the WSJ for a very fine neologism in his July 6, 2016 column: Trumpenproletariat. This represents a very creative mixing of the current Republican nominee’s name with Marx’s lumpenproletariat, and presents them essentially as opposite of the Perhapsburgs we wrote about a few days ago. Mr. Henninger states:

But for the longest time, the American media saw the Trump base as an “indefinite, disintegrated mass” of mostly angry, lower-middle-class white males. The early Trump adopters often looked like bikers, with or without jobs. The Trumpen proletariat.

Credit should be given where it’s due, and Mr. Henninger get’s today’s gold medal for new terminology. True, he expresses it as two words rather than the one in which it appears in German, but that’s just a quibble.

He mentions various things that have united people behind Trump, including “flatlined incomes and the sense of economic loss.” But he considers the real driver to be a backlash against political correctness, or PC. I don’t think that’s correct because if it were we’d have seen a revolt sooner. Conservative talk radio is just one outlet for letting some steam out of the PC kettle. Even Bill Maher, a die-hard liberal, critiques PC every week on his show.

Blaming PC as the prime mover behind Trump simply idealizes PC, and anything idealized is vastly overestimated. Incomes and economic anxiety are the real drivers. All of that brings us to another one of Marx’s terms: Verelendung, which does not have a direct English translation, but has been stated as increasing misery, “pauperization,” or “immiseration.” If, in 2016, the economy were steaming ahead at full tilt, if incomes were good, if job openings went unfilled instead of each one being mobbed by thousands of resumes, political correctness wouldn’t matter. Money issues have more to do with Trump than any amount of political correctness, and money issues are driving the Trump train.

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Archduke Franz Andrew Sullivan, a leading Perhapsburg

Archduke Franz Andrew Sullivan, a leading Perhapsburg

Because new things are happening in the world, and in the U.S. in particular, we need to find new ways to express ourselves so that we can make our thoughts clear to others. Accordingly, The Sparkspread brings you the first in a series of useful neologisms:

Perhapsburgs

(Noun; pronounced purr-haps-bergz).

This word derives from the English adverb perhaps and the proper name of the Habsburgs (in German, “b” is usually pronounced like “p” in English), the aristocratic family that ruled the Holy Roman Empire for about 400 years, and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its dissolution in the aftermath of World War I.

Perhapsburgs, in a word, think they might be kings, or at least aristocrats, and should be treated as such by the commoners.

Perhapsburgs can best be used as a descriptive noun for a clueless and out-of-touch financial, political and media elite. They remain in office or in their jobs, even as their entire world spins out of control, often, if not always, due to their mistakes. Political affiliation is not determinative of one’s character as a Perhapsburg. They can be Republicans, Democrats or Independents. A Perhapsburg knows what’s in the best interest of the common people better than the common people do. Democracy is flawed, in their view. That’s why the Rise of Trump and the Brexit have completely removed the floors from beneath their feet. We could call them “the elites,” but that’s a rather old and plain term and just doesn’t have as much oomph. Their sense of entitlement is vastly out of proportion to anything that their accomplishments can justify. Indeed, a peculiar characteristic of Perhapsburgs is that they fail upwards: often, the more massive their mistakes (e.g., Iraq War, Bank Bailout, AIG Bonuses, etc.), the more they tend to rise in the pompous hierarchy they have created for themselves.

In the United States today, the largest Perhapsburg habitat is the “Acela Corridor,” also known as the Wall Street-Washington Axis. Other cities have them as well, so don’t be surprised to find Perhapsburgs living in your town.

They know more about the Renminbi Index than they do about why many Americans have been unemployed for a year or more, or why all those stores on Main Street are covered with plywood sheets. And they don’t really care. The Perhapsburgs form an uppercrust in which everybody knows everybody else, and business and policy decisions are traded, one for the other, with only the interests of the Perhapsburgs considered. Thus, when a Perhapsburg proclaims: “This new international trade deal will be good for everybody,” the term “everybody” includes only other Perhapsburgs. The Washington Perhapsburgs exploit their political power to make themselves fabulously rich, while the Wall Street Perhapsburgs exploit their fabulous wealth (via campaign contributions, special interest PACs, etc.) to make themselves politically invincible. See? Good for everybody!

The Perhapsburgs have seen Trump, and they’ve seen Brexit, and they do not like what they see. They are threatened down to the soles of their Gucci loafers. The Perhapsburgs are very much like the German Herrenklub of aristocrats, Prussian junkers, wealthy industrialists and bankers who eventually shuffled Adolf Hitler into the Chancellorship, even though Hitler lost the 1932 election (he received about 30% of the vote, compared to Hindenburg’s 49%). Like the Perhapsburgs, the Herrenklub cast aside the results of a democratic election because they believed they could control that mustachioed little ex-corporal.

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Richard II, King of England

Richard II, King of England

Ah yes, back to those elites. They cannot stop calling the Brexit vote stupid. The contempt of the elites, both U.S. and English, for the voters of England knows no bounds. Like Andrew Sullivan on this side of The Pond, they think that England, like America with Trump, is suffering from too much democracy. Sullivan, and those of the punditocracy who condemn the Brexit vote and the Rise of the Trump Reich (as bad as that is) have it exactly backwards. Brexit and Trump are similar not because they reflect too much democracy, but because they reflect too little democracy.

In the EU, and at its center in Brussels, the heart of the issue is that there is a complete lack of democratic control. Edicts flow from a faceless, nameless bureaucracy in Brussels, and regardless of how well-intentioned any of its officials may be the fact remains that the ordinary people of England no longer have any voice in controlling their own lives. Here in America, we know the feeling when we have to press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 3 if we’d like to pay our bill, and so on. There’s never an option for the problem you’re calling about.

If you’re an Englishman (or -woman) trading equities or bonds in the City of London and making GBP750,000 gross per year, you may find many features of the EU annoying, but all-in-all it’s manageable and you’re making a good living, so your take is to keep calm and carry on.

But if you’re running a bed-and-breakfast in the Cotswolds and have to make sure that your guests’ sheets have a certain number of threads per square inch, well, your perspective is likely to be rather different.

The liberals and the Left in the U.S. (of which I consider myself a member) and Europe do themselves no favors by trying to characterize the Brexit and the Rise of the Trump Reich as some sort of contemporary Peasant Revolt. The more they do this, the more they fail to acknowledge the very legitimate concerns of the people over their disempowerment, and the more they encourage the very type of populism they profess to condemn. By persisting in this fundamental disrespect of the people and their votes, the elites confirm not only that they live in a bubble, but that that bubble is impenetrable.

Take the headline from today’s Huff Post: “Hate Crimes Skyrocket in UK”, posted above above a picture of some graffiti to the effect of “F#@k off Polish Scum.” Sorry Arianna, you’re way off the mark on this. Are there those among the Brexit voters who are xenophobic and racist, or worse? Sure. Likewise, there are some number of Trump supporters who would readily identify with these types. But does that mean that all of them are racist, or that the popular vote in favor of leaving the EU is some sort of collective racist or xenophobic act? Not at all. Arianna has committed the same sin for which she (and many others on the Left) correctly condemn Trump and others on the Right: she has characterized an entire group (Brexit “Leave” voters) as racists based on the graffiti painted on some wall by one or more of them. Yes, the graffiti is awful. But conceptually Huffington’s reaction to it is identical to Trump’s alleging that all Muslims know about terror plots of their co-religionists simply because they are co-religionists. Whether coming from Trump or Huffington, this type of idiocy rightfully deserves our rejection.

Peasant Revolt? Not really, but there are, nonetheless, a few parallels with 1381 worth noting.

Just as the U.S. (and to a lesser extent Britain) have waged a decade-plus long war in Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of thousands of U.S. and British lives (not to mention the locals) and trillions of dollars flushed into the latrine, Richard II through his uncle, John of Gaunt, led an equally catastrophic and prodigiously wasteful campaign in France to reassert Plantagenet control over Bordeaux and the Aquitaine. The peasants, naturally, had to pay for that disaster, just as we modern taxpayers have had to pay for our elites’ fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bailout of the banksters and their equally catastrophic gambling debts (a/k/a collateralized debt obligations, etc.).

Among other things, the peasants back in 1381 were very unhappy with villeinage, their status as serfs tied to the land and owned (that’s right, owned) by their landlords. Here in the modern U.S. (and likely in Britain, as well), our answer to villeinage is the mountain of debt, whether mortgage, educational, credit card, medical or other, that enables us peasants to fulfill our roles in the modern consumer economy. Feudalism 2.0.

Like the noblemen who accompanied Richard II to Mile End and Smithfield, our modern elites now stand aghast at the brazen insolence of the peasants, voting against what they’ve been told is in their best interest. Back in 1381, Wat Tyler, one of the leaders of the Peasant Revolt, raised the tensions quite a bit when he and his rebels met with Richard II.

Like some medieval Rodney Dangerfield, Richard II did not get any respect.

When he came face to face with the King, Wat Tyler did not take off his hat. Then, instead of waiting for the King to extend a hand to him first, Wat took the King’s hand and shook it roughly, just as one peasant farmer might greet another. Then Wat upped the ante. The King demanded that Tyler dismiss his men. Tyler not only refused, but said he’d be back to London in two weeks with forty thousand more men. Then he took a swig of ale (from a flagon with a dragon, not the chalice from the palace or the vessel with the pestle) and started tossing his dagger from hand to hand in front of Richard.

All this was just a tad over the top for Richard II’s knights, one of whom galloped at Wat and ran him through with a sword. End of Wat.

In response, the yeomen that Tyler had brought with him nocked their arrows and drew their bows. Richard II and his knights saw that they were about to become a human version of swiss cheese courtesy of the English longbow. But like most of his Plantagenet forbears, Richard was nothing if not a quick thinker. He defused the situation by saying that he would lead the peasants and abolish villeinage. Hmmmm. (He went back on his word a few months later.)

Maybe the contemporary peasants are in revolt. One thing’s for sure, our present-day elites find them revolting.

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