Last Trump Post of the Week!

Everywhere today has been stories about the incredible garbage fire/dumpster fire/train wreck-plane crash combo that is the Trump campaign. There’s really little need to rehash it: thinking he can put California in play (or at least pretending to); trying to compete in New York (!) with his top NY aide Carl Paladino (!!); not raising money, not building a staff, having no national or regional ground game, thinking that his twitter feed is enough of a rapid response team (that’s literally true), etc. The polls are beginning to separate, even before the Obama/Warren/clinching the nomination bump (and well before Bernie’s voters step back and realize the real stakes).

There’ll be some ups and downs, and some Clinton scandals and “scandals”, more of the latter, but this will be a dominant theme. And it’ll hurt. After all, the predicate of his entire fucking campaign is that he’s the world’s best manager, and everyone says he is the best leader, and it’s called leadership, ok, and a lot of people say that Mr. Trump, you’re the best leader in business, ok?  That he can’t be bothered to hire a single competent person outside of Paul Manafort- that he thinks Carl Paladino is his New York whisperer- shows that, again, to be as big a lie as anything in his lifetime full of them.

But just for fun, let’s have one more quote about why he doesn’t need to raise money, certainly not the $1 billion he pledged to raise a month ago (sensing a pattern?):

 Naturally, he’s backtracked on that figure, telling Bloomberg, “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.

What an unbelievable chump. Never mind that his calculations are ridiculous. He’s such an insecure and arrogant dipshit that he’s bragging about being able to get interviews when he is the nominee for President of the United States. You know who else can get all the interviews they want? Hillary Clinton. And every single major party candidate for President in the history of any medium. This is not a strategic edge. What a ludicrous chump.

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Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the UN: A Case Study in Power

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Rubble in the beautiful Old City. Image from timesofisrael.

In the civil war that rocked Yemen in the 1960s, regional and international powers choose sides, and used a local conflagration as a breeding ground for proxy battles, most notably between royalism, as led by Saudi Arabia, and republicanism, led by Egypt and Nasser. Needless to say, there were Cold War mechanisms as well, as there were in every conflict around then. The war in Yemen was considered not just a war for Yemen, but one where the right system could prevail. Nasser was beaten and battered. He lost 15,000 men in that conflict, about as many as in the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel combined, and indeed, the drain of Yemen contributed mightily to the humiliating loss in the Six Day War.

That’s not to say Egypt was the big loser. The chaos and savagery of regional hatred made the war in Yemen bitter and more cruel than it had to be, with Egyptian forces using chemical weapons to try to gain back ground they had lost.  Looking at today’s overlapping civil wars in Yemen, where the Saudis, for both historical and immediate reasons, have pummeled the Yemeni people with a hellish barrage, not much has changed.

Saudi outrages against human rights, particularly the rights of children, in their indiscriminate campaign, led to the UN putting the Arab-led coalition on a child right’s blacklist. This was a big deal, a huge diplomatic strike against any moral ground the Saudis might have had. Needless to say, this provoked outrage, and this week the blacklist was lifted.

A damning investigation by Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy claimed that the Saudis threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in UN funding unless they were removed from the list, a blatant act of bribery (though, from the Saudi point of view, it was sheer interest). Needless to say, the Sauds deny this report, saying “We did not use threats or intimidation and we did not talk about funding,” and that the report was changed after the UN had a joint review with the Alliance.

Interestingly, the UN all but admits that this is what happened. Ban Ki Moon said yesterday that he stood by the report, and that this was the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make, but that he “had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many UN programmes.”

This, in a way, is correct, and show the tragedy of power. There isn’t much that the UN can do without money, which gives rich nations like Saudi Arabia, and powerful ones like the US and Russia, all the control. These are games played in air-conditioned rooms over millions of lives, over numbers on a spreadsheet. The UN backing down, almost understandably, demonstrates that blackmail works, and that the way the system is set up blackmail can always work, if you have the money to make it happen. Ban, and anyone else who is thinking globally, and not just about their own little corner, have to do a dreadful balancing act.

It’s the tragedy of Yemeni history writ large, but also strangely small. Decisions that impact it aren’t made in Yemen, and they are barely made with Yemen in mind. The battles that take place on its soil almost ignore local conditions, or rather only see local concerns through the prism of power. Saudi Arabia understands Yemen better than any other country in the world, and understands how to work with and manipulate the tribal system, but even they got sucked into the battle partly because of the idea that Iran was supporting the Houthis (who are, lineage-wise, the same people the Saudis supported in the 60s). And now Saudi Arabia, who has always wanted a Yemen that is divided and weak but still stable enough not to be chaotic, is helping to make sure that there is a vast and heavily-populated failed state on its southern border. That the Saudis, like the Egyptians, will suffer for their heavy-handedness is cold comfort to the people ground down, like so many mountains in the implacable progress of erosion, by powerful forces who see their lives worth pennies on the dollar.

Euro 2016, Trump’s Con, and More Quick Hits

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Suas an Irish!

  • The Guardian has a fun little article today on Euro 2016, helping Americans choose what team they should root for by finding the closest analogy to a local squad. Ireland was compared to the Buffalo Bills which is…not ideal. Northern Ireland got the Raptors, which is too boring to even be tragic. The analogy for the Cubs was Poland, and I am sure there is a joke there somewhere, but we daren’t touch it. The best description was for Spain, who is your team if you like the Red Sox. “Years without success for one of the sport’s big teams? Check! A resurgence with titles galore at the start of the 21st century? Double check! A nagging feeling that their very best years may be behind them? Check! Check and triple check!” Left out: you’re probably an asshole. 
  • Speaking of the Cubs, as a White Sox fan, let me assure you that, the post at the beginning of the year notwithstanding, we’re never going to speak of baseball again. Bitterly shouting “Big Game James!” every 5th day might be the only joy left in my life.
  • Programming note for next week: we’re going to have a lot of posts on the Waukesha Diversion, which will have a final decision by the end of the month (and it looks like a go). This is a complicated issue, which is key for how we’ll use water in the coming dry years, and really hinges on the role the geography and geology play in our lives. Hope you like Great Lakes stuff!
  • Jim Newell has a smart piece on how Donald Trump might actually bankrupt the GOP by running in places like New Jersey and California. Key line: “There is something about Trump’s personality that makes him believe he needs a marquee media-centric state like California. He probably doesn’t see the typical Republican strategy of cleaning up in the South and the Plains as “flashy” enough for his brand.” This is, I think, correct, and wish Newell had gone a little further with it. The entire idea of Donald Trump, as businessman, is using flash to cover up enormous deficits and kicking the can down the road. Most of us call it lying, but Trump has always known there are a lot of people dumb enough to believe something, and then fail to check on it later (remember his claims that his birth certificate investigators couldn’t believe what they’ve been finding? That’s no different than saying “Everyone says this casino is going to be a huge success!) That’s been the key to his campaign as well. Promises, based on his name and “success”, that everything is going to be good, just believe me. It’s why he keeps saying that he’ll be so Presidential you’ll vomit in terror, ok?   The sell, the con, is to say something is going to be great to hypnotize the gulls and hope they give you money, and then never follow through. The point isn’t to change, but to convince people that you will, and then keep doing it, over and over. He relies on the sunk cost fallacy. People have invested so much that they hope, this time, he means it, and that it’ll pay off. That has worked for him, weirdly, in business. He always flees before the bills come due, usually literally.  I’m not particularly optimistic, but I think that there’s a chance a lifetime of fraudulence could blow up in his face, and the entire image could come shattering down. At the very least, isn’t it pretty to think so?

Elizabeth Warren: The Natural

 

Pictured: A savage talent

 

I think Elizabeth Warren cemented herself as one of the canniest politicians working right now when, last week, she came out swinging against superdelegates, calling them unfair, and voting to “‘thoroughly, objectively and transparently’ study the superdelegate system before the 2020 presidential election.” This puts her on the side of angels, of course, (sort of) but it also was a smart and polite way but unmistakeable way to tell Bernie Sanders, whose whole campaign was counting on flipping supers against the will of the voters, to back off. It was brilliant.

Refusing to endorse either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton during the primary season might have been the smartest and savviest move of any politician this season (admittedly, the fumbling flat-footed jackassery of every single Republican trying to figure out what to do about the monster they helped birth makes this a small field). I know that, anecdotally, there was some grumbling from the left about Warren’s refusal to get behind Bernie, the Only True Progressive, and from their perspective, that’s fair. Warren was acting like a typical politician, keeping her powder dry.

But that’s because Warren is, in many ways, a typical politician, in the sense that she is an absolute professional, who understands exactly how politics works. She knows how to get things done, and seems to have an unerring instinct for when to attack and when to lay back. Her endorsement of Clinton got nearly as big of headlines as Obama’s, even though both were inevitable, and now not only does she get to be the bridge between the activist left and Hillary’s relative center, but she gets to be seen as such.

This isn’t just smart positioning, personally. It helps the party achieve its goals of destroying Donald Trump so badly that it creates a whirlpool-level drag on the downticket, flipping the Senate and, in the best (nearly impossible, but what is June but for dreaming) case, taking back the House. The media will probably stop paying attention to Sanders altogether somewhere around the convention, unless he decides to burn down the house, which he won’t. That leaves Warren, whom the media already loves, as the fearless voice of progressive activism, but this one steeped in an understanding, borne from experience, of how things really work. Bernie, of course, knows how politics works, but he ran an explicitly anti-political campaign. It’s really hard to start talking about how to play politics after doing so. Warren can now adopt that coalition, working closely with Sanders, and try to lead it into actual change.

The media’s fascination with her also allows her to be the main point, after Obama (who clearly can’t wait), and Clinton, of course, to attack Trump. And she’s going to be great. She already is. She’s a smart, brilliant, witty-as-hell woman who has zero respect for Trump. She isn’t one of those “he’s a bully but what a man!” types. She sees him as a fraud and a showman, a lucky dope who is emblematic of everything gross and iniquitous about this country, and isn’t afraid to say it. That’s the kind of person (emphasis on woman) who makes him the angriest, and least able to respond, reducing him even more to a pile of spluttering non-sequiturs.

I hope she doesn’t take the VP position, as much as I’d like to see her with a higher profile. She can do battle in the Senate, which she’s quickly mastering. A true activist, with the ear of President Clinton, who knows how to play politics as well as she does the media, and who is fearless in standing up to the real enemy, can help make the Senate reclaim its role as half a co-equal branch. We don’t need all the talent in the White House. A Clinton Presidency and a Warren leadership role is the best chance for real progress.