Explanation Found

The Washington Post frets over Trump’s appointment of three former military men to senior positions in his administration (emphasis mine):

Trump’s heavy reliance on military leaders marks a departure from the previous three presidents, who tapped a few generals for the highest jobs with mixed success and relied mostly on people who had spent decades in civilian service, as politicians or academics or lawyers.

And doesn’t that just about sum up everything that was wrong with the previous three administrations?

Trump, for better or worse, was elected as an agent of change: at least he appears to be living up to those expectations, for now.

(H/T Bayou Renaissance Man)

An Unproven China

Streetwise Professor has put up a post regarding Donald Trump’s possible policy towards China, which includes a paragraph on the Chinese military capability:

Chinese military power is increasing dramatically. This is perhaps most evident at sea, where the Chinese navy has increased in size, sophistication, and operational expertise. Submarines are still a weak spot, but increasing numbers of more capable ships, combined with a strong geographic position (a long coastline with many good ports, now augmented by the man-made islands in the South China Sea) and dramatically improved air forces, long range surface-to-surface missiles, and an improving air defense system make the Chinese a formidable force in the Asian littoral. They certainly pose an anti-access/area denial threat that makes the US military deeply uneasy.

I’ll not argue with this, it is hard to imagine China’s military isn’t improving with all the money and technology being thrown at it.  What I don’t agree with is a comment by “FTR” underneath:

China will be the dominant power. There’s really no stopping it, try as the Communist Party might. Even if long-term per capita development remains below the west thanks to the inefficiency and corruption of the party, it will still be the world’s largest economy from sheer population alone. Correspondingly, the military will eventually match or exceed American capabilities. Just as the United Kingdom couldn’t block the rise of the more populous Germany or America, China will take the pole position.

People often talk about the future of China in terms of inevitability, as if their enormous population is the one factor that will propel them to the top of the pile.  Me, I’m not so sure.

I remember writing ages ago – I forget where – that quality is inherent in a culture and not every culture has it to the same degree.  The Chinese have grown their economy from a very low base by engaging in low-level manufacturing of things Westerners want to buy, and made technological progress by copying what the West has been doing for years.  This will be enough to bring improvements, but I don’t think one can draw a line through the progress, extrapolate it 20 years into the future, and conclude China will be top dog.  A lot of the stuff the Chinese produce is utter junk.  Most of their own designs – meaning, those they have not bought or stolen – are rubbish which nobody with money or standards wants.  People talk about the incredible learning rate of the Chinese, but I think most of this comes from having the bleedin’ obvious pointed out to them.  I don’t think it means they will necessarily be able to do what any economic superpower needs to do – innovate, and produce quality goods.

It is not just a matter of time.  The British have had plenty of time to learn how to build a decent house, but seemingly can’t.  For whatever reason, we put up with shit that some other nationalities don’t.  Our cars were also crap (I used to be an amateur Land Rover mechanic: I found some of the bolts/screws were metric, some imperial, and the remainder some obscure thread nobody had heard of in two generations), whereas the Germans and Japanese made them properly.  I will believe the Chinese have mastered technology not when they have built a high-speed rail to much government fanfare based on a design they copied from Siemens without permission, but when an international airline orders a batch of Chinese aircraft instead of Boeing or Airbus.  Until then, the jury is out on whether they can produce quality goods or differentiate themselves when it comes to innovation.  Perhaps they will manage it – I’m not saying they won’t – I’m just saying that thus far they haven’t proven much and fears of them taking over the world might be a little premature.

Which brings me onto the Chinese military.

When I was a student I came back from a night out and found my apartment had been burgled and all my stuff stolen.  This was rather unsurprising given I lived in Manchester, but nevertheless I had been rather stupid and not gotten insured.  Eager not to get burned again I replaced the goods out of my own pocket and got some insurance.  The company I dealt with were very reasonable and I got covered in short order, and so I happily told my eldest brother that I had found a good insurance company.  His reply was that you normally find out if an insurance company is any good when the times comes for them to pay out.  Wise words, indeed.

Similarly, a military normally finds out if they are any good or not when they have to actually fight.  Manpower numbers, training levels, budgets, equipment specs, number of ships/tanks/planes etc. are all good indicators as is historical performance and the culture from whence the personnel comes, but none of this really counts until they are involved in some serious action.  History is littered with examples of supposedly superior forces being proven to be useless (the Russian navies in the Russo-Japanese War, for example) and of theoretically weak armies being surprisingly hard nuts to crack (e.g. the Finns in the Winter War).  I wrote here that Turkey’s intervention into Syria might end up putting a dent in what I think is probably a rather outdated reputation of their army, as they haven’t done any proper fighting in generations.

Other than a few skirmishes, the Chinese have not had a proper fight since the Korean War.  By contrast, the Americans – perhaps for this very reason – seem keen on fighting in one way or another practically non-stop, as do the Brits.  The US Navy hasn’t been properly tested in a long time, and nor has its air force.  But American ground troops have, as have their logistics capabilities.  True, they’ve not fought an all-out large scale war but they have come far closer than anyone else with Afghanistan and the Iraq War.  Their weapons and personnel have been tested in the field and, although sometimes have come up wanting, it is at least known that they work.  The Chinese?  Well, it’s all theoretical, isn’t it?

I think what would hamper the Chinese military more than anything is the same thing that could bring China to its knees anyway: an unaccountable Communist Party facing off against an increasingly wealthy and well-informed middle class.  During the Korean War, Mao was able to send hundreds of thousands of Chinese to be slaughtered without any domestic backlash: being slaughtered seemed to be a pretty routine way of life in 1950s China, especially if you complained about it.  But China has changed.

Let’s supposing China does decide to flex its military muscles in the South China sea.  They could probably lose quite a few men and a lot of material before they’d hear any grumbling at home, and – like Putin over Crimea – they could dress up the capture of a few hundred square miles of land as a major strategic victory which has saved the face of the nation and proven that it’s rightful place is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Sorry, I nodded off just thinking about such a speech.  But should they decide on a bolder adventure, such as a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, they will almost certainly incur enormous casualties – something everyone assumes they would just absorb.

But would they?  China’s one-child policy has left most households with a single son.  Could the mothers of the quarter-of-a-million soldiers who are going to die capturing Taiwan please step forward and tell me how robust is your national pride?  Are they really going to be motivated by the same ultra-nationalistic propaganda used in the Korean War when the body bags start coming home (or the bodies washing up on the beaches) in 2030?  If their military is found wanting and catastrophic flaws are found in their doctrine, equipment, leadership, and men it could easily lead to an internal revolution – either from the military themselves or a middle class who are fed up of a CP who have badly overestimated the popularity of their own geopolitical ambitions.  As with their economy, I don’t think it is a given that the Chinese military will be any good simply because it is big and they have spent a lot of money on it.  As yet, they are completely unproven.

I’m sure the Chinese leadership knows that any bold military adventure would need to succeed very quickly or they could find the domestic situation slipping out of their control., and that for all the hype their military has yet to be put to even a simple test.  By contrast, the Americans know they can fight deeply unpopular wars and life goes on much as before, and that their military is up to the task.  With General Mattis now on board hopefully preventing anything idiotic from happening, Trump probably doesn’t have too much to worry about from China.

Praising Pinochet

Following the death of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, many people have looked at how various world leaders and media outlets reported this event and contrasted it with how they reacted to the death of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet in 2006.

This article takes the New York Times to task over the matter:

The New York Times described Fidel Castro as a “fiery apostle of the revolution” and Cuba’s “maximum leader” in its Saturday obituary for the infamous and brutal dictator.

Here’s how The Times opened the article:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90.

The Daily Caller’s Jaime Weinstein brought attention to how differently the news outlet opened its obituary for Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 2006:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption, died yesterday at the Military Hospital of Santiago. He was 91.

This is wholly unsurprising: large numbers of western academics, politicians, journalists and their fellow travellers have for decades excused or ignored everything from repressions to mass-murder provided the perpetrators were socialist and/or anti-American, and I believe the proper response is to call them out on it whenever it appears.  Highlighting how they treat Castro’s death in contrast to that of Pinochet is one way of doing this.  However, where I part company from some people is in praising Pinochet in any way.  The criticism of the NYT above ought to be that they are painting Castro in a positive light, not that they are too harsh on Pinochet.

I don’t believe for one minute that had Salvador Allende continued in power Chile would have become anything other than a run-of-the-mill socialist basket-case complete with customary repressions and murder, and nor do I subscribe to the myth that the CIA were involved in the coup that deposed him.  And if I’m honest, I don’t think Pinochet’s greatest crime was kicking out an elected President who was taking the country in the wrong direction: I don’t support military coups, but I’m not going to shed too many tears over that one.

What I object to is the police state, repressions, disappearances, and murders that followed.  I don’t care whether Pinochet “saved” Chile from communism and ran a half-decent economy (even assuming they are true): it is possible to do these things without torturing and raping students and chucking them out of aircraft over the ocean.  We get pissed off when people overlook Castro’s thuggery when praising Cuba’s literacy rate, we shouldn’t do the same thing for Pinochet.  Yes, I get the realpolitik of the Cold War and the importance of defeating Communism, but that was a long time ago and we don’t need to make excuses for the thugs who were on our side any longer.

Oh, how must America’s foes tremble!

This BBC interview with the outgoing head of the CIA is illuminating:

In the first interview by a CIA director with the British media, John Brennan outlined a number of areas where he said the new administration needed to act with “prudence and discipline” – these included the language used regarding terrorism, relations with Russia, the Iran nuclear deal and the way in which the CIA’s own covert capabilities were employed.

This is a bit like Enron’s Kenneth Lay telling the receivers how they ought to proceed from here as he’s being led from the building in handcuffs.

Mr Brennan offered a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria arguing that both the Syrian regime and the Russians were responsible for a slaughter of civilians which he described as “outrageous”.

Thank God we have the CIA and their network of spooks to tell us that.

The administration of President Barack Obama has pursued a policy of supporting moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria.

Which has been a disaster because the support has been lukewarm and given without a clear objective, and those “moderate rebels” are mostly jihadists.

The CIA director said that he believed the US needed to continue that support to help rebels withstand what he called an “onslaught” carried out by Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

Which is exactly wrong, and why their policy has been a disaster.  The US may have had a window of opportunity to end the civil war by backing the opposition forces in a serious manner with the objective of overthrowing Assad, but that opportunity is long gone.  I’m not saying this was sensible or doable, but that was one of the options.  Once Russia entered the picture, Assad’s survival was assured and the only thing the US is achieving by half-heartedly supporting the rebels is dragging this damned war out even longer and giving jihadists some handy weapons and training.

Russian continued to hold the key to Syria’s future, he said, but he expressed scepticism about its willingness to come to any kind of deal.

Why should it?  Russia has nailed its colours to the mast, and it has what it wants: Assad in power, friendly relations with Turkey, and the US spinning in circles.

He said Moscow had been “disingenuous” in their negotiating tactics, seeking to draw the process out in order to “choke” Aleppo.

Now there’s a surprise, eh?  Is this the sort of valuable information the outgoing head of the CIA is going to be passing on to his successor, then?

“I do not have confidence that the Russians are going to relent until they are able to achieve as much tactical battlefield successes as possible,” he said.

Thus confirming the CIA is as adept at Kremlinology as anyone with an internet connection and a functioning brain.

The incoming Trump administration has suggested it may try to work more closely with Russia on a number of issues.

The horror!

“I think President Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises,” Mr Brennan told the BBC, arguing Moscow had failed to deliver in the past.

Translation: the Russians have run rings around us for the past 8 years, mainly because we have been idiots.  Trump ought not to try to emulate us too much.

On the role of Russia in trying to influence the US election by hacking and releasing information, the CIA director confirmed Russia had sought to carry out such activity but said he would defer to domestic counterparts as to the impact.

Russia had sought to influence the election, or it had influenced the election?  These are weasel-words.

He did confirm that he had conversations with his Russian opposite numbers to challenge them over these actions and warn them that such activity would backfire.

A warning the US media could have done with.

The US should not “stoop to their level” or risk escalation by responding in kind to Russian hacking, but he said there were other ways of ensuring Russia understood such activity was unacceptable.

We’re all ears, sir.

Another area where he warned Donald Trump’s incoming team was over their position taken during the campaign to abandon the nuclear deal with Iran.

“I think it would be disastrous. It really would,” Mr Brennan told the BBC.

Disastrous how?  For the US?  For Iran?  For Barack Obama’s “legacy”?

“First of all for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented.”

Unless that agreement was widely viewed as the unilateral actions of a President who decided he could do whatever he wanted and didn’t see the need to consult Congress on the matter, and many people warned that this agreement was therefore illegitimate.

He said such a move would risk strengthening hardliners in Iran and risk other states pursuing nuclear programmes in response to a renewed Iranian effort.

Ah yes, because the Iranian hardliners have been completely sidelined by this agreement and moderates have swept to the fore, haven’t they?

Terrorism remains an over-riding concern. The team planning external attacks within the so-called Islamic State remained “very active” and, he said, was seeking to demonstrate that – despite setbacks on the battlefield – it still had the ability to carry out attacks against the West.

Not a “junior varsity”, in other words.

President-elect Trump has said he would consider resuming waterboarding if he thought it would be effective. John Brennan made clear he thought that would be a mistake.

Yes, and Trump has spoken to General James Mattis about this, who told him torture doesn’t work, and Trump appears to have listened.  Not that the BBC mentions this at all.

The CIA director said he had not yet sat down with the new team to discuss the capabilities and programmes the CIA has but he was ready to do so.

“There are a lot of people out there who read the papers and listened to a news broadcasts where the facts may be a bit – you know – off. And so I want to make sure the new team understands what the reality is. It ultimately will be up to them to decide how to carry out their responsibilities.”

The CIA director is assuming the incoming Trump administration gets its facts from the news, and needs to put them straight?  I’ll just leave that one there.

Some members of the new administration, such as Gen Michael Flynn, have talked of the US needing to recognise it was in a “world war” with Islamist militants.

When asked if language about “world wars” was helpful, the CIA director said…

…”ah, this must be one of the infamous leading questions the BBC excels in, designed to put words in my mouth!”

Actually no, he didn’t. Instead he said:

the new team needed to be “disciplined in the language that they use (and) the messages that they send. Because if they are not disciplined, their language will be exploited by the terrorist and extremist organizations as a way to portray the United States and the government as being anti-Islamic and we are not.”

I think what he’s saying is Trump’s team should continue Obama’s policy of refusing to call Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism in case Islamic terrorists get upset.  He’s not quite gotten the measure of Trump yet, has he?

Mr Brennan said President Obama had asked US intelligence to “dig down” on whether the transition period might be exploited by adversaries.

My guess is America’s adversaries will try to capture as much ground as possible while lame-duck Obama is still in office, knowing full well life is going to get a lot tougher next January.  For example.

I think we can write off the CIA, or at least its upper management, as being yet another institution that has been politicised to the point of uselessness.  I wonder if Brennan’s counterpart in the FSB would have fretted about what language gets used to describe terrorists?

Fidel Castro: Not a Communist Revolutionary, just a Common Thug

In the aftermath of his death, there appear to be rather a lot of people labouring under the assumption that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was a communist revolutionary.  In fact he was nothing of the kind, as John Lewis Gaddis explains in his book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (pages 179-181).  Following his overthrow of the Batista regime in 1959, Castro visited the US in order to drum up support for his new rule, even going so far as to give nervous assurances that he had no communists in his government on NBC’s Meet the Press.  As Gaddis writes:

Castro began his career as a revolutionary with no ideology at all: he was a student politician turned street fighter turned guerrilla, a voracious reader, an interminable speaker, and a pretty good baseball player.  The only ideas that appear to have driven him were a lust for power, a willingness to use violent means to get it, and an unwillingness to share it once he had it.  If he followed any example, it was that of Napolean, not Marx.

[It] seems more likely that Marxism-Leninism appealed to Castro for domestic and personal reasons.  As an authoritarian and historically determined ideology, it provided the best possible excuse for not holding elections, which might allow future rivals to emerge.  And if taking this path should attract support from the Soviet Union, then so much the better.

Having failed to win the support of the Eisenhower administration, who knew exactly what sort of man they were dealing with, Castro adopted communism purely for opportunistic and practical reasons.  He was about as much a socialist revolutionary as he was a democrat.  Naturally, the Soviets fell over themselves to shower any third-world thug who paid lip-service to communism with money, weapons, and other support and they did just that with Castro – even though his adoption of their ideology came to them as a complete surprise.

Many people think the USA is responsible for Castro’s rise and continuation in power, but most of the blame lies squarely on Moscow’s doorstep: without their cynical support in those early stages, Castro’s brutal dictatorship would likely have been over much more quickly.

Gay Men: A Problem After All

Owen Jones reports on what happens when a game of victimhood poker takes place when normal people have long left the table:

Racism is a serious problem within the LGBT community and needs to be addressed. Despite the determination of many minority ethnic LGBT people to do just that, it is not happening. “How can I be a bigot when I am myself a member of an oppressed minority?” is a prevailing attitude among some white LGBT people.

An attitude which prevails because of years of browbeating people into believing bigotry is based on who you are and not what you do or say.

But another far more pernicious reason is that the LGBT world revolves around white gay men to the exclusion of others.

So white gay men are a problem now? Here’s what I said the other day:

And that will be their downfall: they are so mainstream they won’t be able to maintain this minority, victim status for much longer and it is a matter of time before they come into conflict with the feminists and transgender lobbyists in the victimhood stakes.  Give it a few years and we’ll see gay men being discriminated against and passed over in favour of other designated victim groups simply for being men – gay or not.

Let me just swap out “a few years” for “a few months”.  Back to Owen:

According to research by FS magazine, an astonishing 80% of black men, 79% of Asian men and 75% of south Asian men have experienced racism on the gay scene.

This manifests itself in numerous ways. Some are rejected because of their ethnicity; on the other hand, some are objectified because of it. On dating sites and apps, profiles abound that say “no Asians” or “no black people”, casually excluding entire ethnic groups.

People have physical preferences when selecting a sexual partner?  Who knew?  Of course, this has been known for years in relation to heterosexual dating sites, but by implying it is unique to gays Owen Jones can get paid to write a column on it.

It’s like a “bastardised ‘No dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ signs”, as Anthony Lorenzo puts it. “On apps like Grindr,” writes Matthew Rodriguez, “gay men brandish their racial dating preferences with all the same unapologetic bravado that straight men reserve for their favourite baseball team.”

Grindr is an app for gay men to hook-up with one another for meaningless one-time sex.  How odd that this should not only contain users’ preferences but also boorish behaviour.  But here’s what I wrote the other day:

I genuinely think within five years we’ll have seen a case where an escort or prostitute is sued for discrimination, and dating apps and websites are being put under pressure to remove preferences based on race and other criteria.

We’re moving in that direction, aren’t we? Back to Owen:

Homi tells me he has Persian ancestry, and is “sometimes mistaken for being Greek, Italian, Spanish, etc”. Once, at a nightclub, he was relentlessly pursued by a fellow patron. Eventually, he was asked: “Where are you from?” When Homi answered India, the man was horrified. “I’m so sorry – I don’t do Indians! Indians are not my type.”

This suggests it is not appearance or skin colour that is the issue, but cultural background.  Presumably this isn’t important in homosexual relationships.

And it is not simply a western phenomenon. Luan, a Brazilian journalist, tells me his country has a “Eurocentric image of beauty” and there is a “cult of the white man, which is absurd, given more than half the population is black or brown”.

Thanks heavens this is not true of heterosexuals and Owen is able to provide us with a rare insight into race relations in Brazil through the prism of gay dating.

Others speak of their experiences of being rejected by door staff at LGBT venues. Michel, a south Asian man, tells me of being turned away because “you don’t look gay”, and being called a “dirty Paki”. He says it has got worse since the Orlando nightclub massacre, where the gunman was Muslim.

The gunman was Muslim?  I’m glad that’s been cleared up.

And then there’s the other side of the equation: objectification. Malik tells about his experiences of what he describes as the near “fetishisation” of race. The rejection of people based on ethnicity is bad enough, he says, “but it can be just as gross when someone reduces you to your ethnicity, without consent, when dating/hooking up”. His Arab heritage was objectified and stereotyped by some would-be lovers, even down to presuming his sexual role.

I can sympathise.  Coming from Wales, everybody assumes I prefer sheep to women.  That they are wholly correct on this point does not negate the fact that I am nonetheless subject to appalling racist bigotry based on where I was born.

When the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – a famed London LGBT venue – hosted a “blackface” drag act, Chardine Taylor-Stone launched the Stop Rainbow Racism campaign. The drag act featured “exaggerated neck rolling, finger snapping displays of ‘sassiness’, bad weaves” and other racial stereotypes, she says.

Whereas they should have just stuck to limp-wristed mincing and avoided mimicking stereotypical behaviour.

LGBT publications are guilty too. Historically, they’ve been dominated by white men, have neglected issues of race, and have portrayed white men as objects of beauty.

How dare they.

There has been positive change in recent months, one leading black gay journalist tells me, but only because of the work of ethnic minority LGBT individuals “holding magazines to account, setting up their own nights across the scene” and using social media, blogs, podcasts and boycotts to force change.

That rumbling sound you can hear is the bus under which white gay men are about to be thrown.

While LGBT people are much more likely than heterosexuals to suffer from mental distress, the level is even higher among ethnic minorities. Undoubtedly, racism plays a role. As Rodriguez puts it, seeing dating app profiles rejecting entire ethnic groups causes “internalised racism, decreased self-esteem and psychological distress.”

Trawling dating apps doesn’t bring happiness?  Who would have thought?

Many of the rights and freedoms that all LGBT people won were down to the struggles of black and minority ethnic people: at the Stonewall riots, for example,non-white protesters. The least that white LGBT people can do is to reciprocate and confront racism within their own ranks. Shangela, an actor, tells me that racism from the LGBT community “hurts more because it’s coming from people that I’m meant to share a kinship with”.

That’s the problem with expecting people to share your values based on their subscription to various victim groups.

The far-right movements on the march across the western world are consciously trying to co-opt the LGBT rights campaign for their own agenda.

Beware the rise of the Queermacht!

This week, Milo Yiannopolous – a gay attention-seeker who has become an icon of the US far right – was at the centre of a media storm because a platform to speak at his old school was withdrawn. In the Netherlands, the anti-immigrant right was led by a gay man, Pim Fortuyn, until his assassination. In France, reportedly a third of married gay couples support the far-right National Front.

Why, it’s almost as if a person’s sexual preferences don’t define their politics.

Being oppressed yourself does not mean you are incapable of oppressing others: far from it.

And the basis of 99% of Grievance Studies courses in American academia collapses in a heap.

Racism Fails to Appear

Weren’t we all told that Donald Trump was “openly racist” and has “uncontrollable fits of rage over perceived slights“?

Yes, we were.

So what’s all this, then?

Donald Trump has named South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the UN, US media report.

She is the first non-white female cabinet-level official appointed within the Trump administration.

Mrs Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants and had been a vocal critic of Mr Trump on the campaign trail.

Mrs Haley endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio during the Republican primaries, later throwing her support behind Senator Ted Cruz – Mr Trump’s final rival before he became the party’s nominee.

I guess we’ve been told shite.

This is also worth mentioning:

The Indian-American, who is in her second and final term as governor, was elected in 2010, riding the wave of the Republican Tea Party with the support of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Prior to becoming the state’s chief executive, she served six years as a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

Whereas the current US ambassador to the UN:

is a Harvard academic, a former war correspondent and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

As a journalist she reported from places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe and tried to get officials to pay attention to human rights issues.

I guess she was appointed in the days before “experience” and “qualified” became words bandied about by the Democrats.

President Barack Obama announced her nomination by describing her as one of America’s “foremost thinkers on foreign policy”.

Ah yes, she was.

Front Page News

It’s not difficult to see why people’s interest in the mainstream media is collapsing.  Here’s the BBC dealing with today’s major issues on its front page:

Melania Trump’s White House snub: Appalling or good parenting?

The revelation that Melania and Barron Trump would not be joining Donald in the White House in January has raised eyebrows in some quarters, and garnered praise in others.

The president-elect has said Mrs Trump and Barron will move to Washington “very soon, after he’s finished with school”, but has not put an actual date on the move.

A family choosing not to move with the father’s new job because of schooling is a “snub” according to the BBC.

William Seale, a White House Historical Association historian and author of The President’s House, said President Grover Cleveland’s wife, Frances Folsom Cleveland, only lived in the White House during social season.

“The concern of children staying back to finish school – that’s more typical than not,” Mr Seale said.

“It seems not very unusual to me that she would want the child to finish this year of school. I don’t find it very surprising.”

The BBC had to consult an author and historian specialising in American Presidential families in order to learn that this is a non-story.  But first they took heed of, erm, a random Twitter user:

“First Family resides in White House as a symbol of our country to us and and the world,” wrote one Twitter user, Pamela Benbow. “Melania Trump’s decision is appalling.”

This is what the BBC would call “balance”.

[I]t is not out of character for Mrs Trump, who has repeatedly stressed that Barron, 10, is her focus – staying at home during the campaign to care for him in Trump Towers.

What a bitch, eh?  Get this on the front page, quick!

Donald Trump According to a Political Scientist

According to N. Turkuler Isiksel, an Assistant Professor of the Core Curriculum at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, Trump is going to instigate regime change in the USA.

Those of us who witnessed illiberal populist movements take hold in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere are watching the election of Donald Trump with a particularly acute sense of foreboding.

But as we’ll find out in due course, your fears are largely based on assumptions that would only make sense in the corridors of Ivy League Political Science departments.

Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook.

Such as winning elections.

Don’t look for ways to soothe your sense of alarm, or assume that a Trump presidency might turn out less harmful than he has so far indicated. Autocrats almost always turn out worse than they seem before coming to power.

Donald Trump – who has never held political office and has yet to assume one – is already branded an autocrat.  Presumably those clever people in Ivy League Political Science departments just know this, in the same way they all knew Hillary would win the election.

A presidential candidate who has uncontrollable fits of rage over perceived slights from a former beauty queen is likely to use every resource available to him to hound his enemies.

Begging the question there, aren’t we?  Or are we to believe a Twitter spat is an “uncontrollable fit of rage”?

In the United States, those powers are formidable indeed, ranging from a nuclear arsenal to the boundless surveillance powers of the NSA.

And just like that we move from Twitter spats to nuclear weapons.  Political analysis at its finest.

Don’t expect the Republican establishment to rein him in, as few Republicans were courageous enough to disavow his candidacy even when he appeared to be losing the election.

Oh, how times have changed since October 9th when the NYT was generating timelines telling us why and when no less than 160 senior Republicans refused to endorse Trump.  Presumably our Assistant Professor at Columbia doesn’t have access to Google.

Don’t count on the elaborate system of checks and balances instituted by the founders. James Madison’s ingenious machine was designed to withstand the mundane incompetence, greed, and short-sightedness of politicians, but it cannot weather the onslaught of an aspiring tyrant hell-bent on destroying it.

I’ll not bother to provide evidence that Trump is an aspiring tyrant hell-bent on destroying the constitutional foundations of the United States, but let’s just assume he is, okay?  Otherwise my article would look a bit silly.

Consider that the separation of powers, the primary mechanism Madison envisaged for holding tyranny at bay,

Why yes, let’s consider this.  Now why wasn’t this a problem when Obama was issuing Executive Orders and saying “I have a pen and a phone”?  See, the problem with turning a blind eye when your guy runs roughshod over checks and balances is that one day somebody you don’t like might be in charge.

is all but irrelevant while Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the presidency—particularly once they get their hands on key federal judicial appointments.

How dare they get voted in by the citizenry!

All autocrats set about dismantling countervailing power structures, but with the inauspicious ideological alignment of all three branches of government, Trump won’t even have to try.

So Trump probably won’t behave like an autocrat, or carry out any of the things normally associated with autocrats, but he is still an autocrat, because I say so.  Got it.

If you trust in freedom of expression to expose the autocratic machinations of a Trump administration, think again.

And of course, the last eight years of Democrat rule have not witnessed an erosion of the right to freedom of expression, oh no!  Christian bakers may beg to differ.

It is no coincidence that Erdoğan and Trump are both litigious in the extreme, regularly using personal lawsuits to bludgeon their critics into quiescence.

Trump – a property developer – has sued people.  So has Erdogan, who is President of Turkey.  Therefore Trump is just like Erdogan.  I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced!

Autocrats understand that freedom of expression is fragile, and seek to stifle it by hook or by crook.

This at a time when Ben Shapiro is being banned from speaking at De Paul university – on the topic of Campus Intolerance no less.  Presumably Trump’s henchmen have already infiltrated universities and are clamping down on free speech.  That’s quick work.

The American free speech tradition is stronger than Russia’s or Turkey’s, but a hyper-sensitive, bullying White House press office could easily cow the media into favorable reporting.

That ship sailed a long time ago, I’m afraid.  But it didn’t leave the harbour under a Republican flag.

Conservative “news” outlets already enjoy overwhelming dominance in the United States, and Trump’s singular genius is for manipulating the media.

Sorry, what?  I mean seriously, this article is about what you’d expect from somebody who inhabits the echo chamber of Columbia’s Political Science department, but does she really believe this?  Did she not follow the media’s election coverage?  Pretty much every single major organ opposed Trump, catastrophically so.  Where was Trump’s manipulative genius there?  The author is either spectacularly ignorant or lying.  I have no idea which.

That, after all, is how he fueled the birther movement that in turn made him into a political force.

A political force that nobody saw coming and nobody took seriously until late last Tuesday evening, about eight years after his birther comments.

Finally, he can also be expected, like Berlusconi, to create his own private media empire to shape the “truth” to which a large part of the electorate is exposed.

More predictions, eh?  You’d have thought the American Left would have put these on hold for a while, wouldn’t you?  What’s Trump gonna do, buy a newspaper which has thrown its credibility down the toilet and is hemorrhaging money by the millions?  Uh-huh.

Progressives err in assuming that the worst danger of a Trump presidency is the reversal of Obama legacy, including the Affordable Care Act, the vindication of the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people, the Iran deal, and progress on climate change. There will surely be an all-out assault on these achievements.

Funny, because both the Iran deal and the Paris agreement were pushed through without Congressional approval as Obama didn’t think them necessary.  And the gay marriage decision was ram-rodded through the Judicial branch because there was no way it would pass through the Legislature.  What were you saying earlier about checks and balances on Executive power? Ah, but Obama did it so they are “achievements”.  Whereas Trump – who, we must remind ourselves, has not yet taken office – will be a tyrant because the wholly elected Legislative branch might agree with him.

And Obamacare?  Yes, that scraped through the House but nobody bothered to read it.  Which might be why it is now collapsing into an unworkable mess and people are facing enormous premium hikes which drove them into the voting booths by the million to vote for Trump.

It is a struggle between those who believe in preserving the imperfect but serviceable constitutional system of the republic, and those who will try to undermine it.

Oh yes, because nobody personifies the preservation of and respect for constitutional systems like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

For all his abhorrent policy positions, a President Cruz could have been counted on to observe the strictures of constitutional democracy, such as the peaceful alternation of power through free and fair elections. Trump gives us every reason to suspect that he will not.

Alas, readers who were expecting those reasons to be listed will be disappointed.

If the tactics of Putin, Orbán, Erdoğan, and other populists are any guide, we can expect Trump to do everything he has either threatened to do or baselessly accused the Democrats of doing: fomenting violence and voter intimidation, rigging elections, spying on, prosecuting, and imprisoning his opponents, silencing the press, and more.

It’s almost as if the author wants this to happen, out of pure spite for Hillary’s loss.  Tell me, oh wise one: where is the violence coming from now?

Like other illiberal populists, Trump is capable of inflicting irreparable damage to this country’s institutions within a relatively short space of time.

Like deploying the IRS against political opponents?  Appointing compliant lackeys to the DoJ?  Applying political pressure on the FBI?  Persecuting the head of the CIA for an extra-marital affair?  Calling police forces nationwide racist?  Thank goodness none of this happened under the careful stewardship of Barack Obama, eh?

What we therefore have to prepare to resist is not policy change; it is regime change.

There’s nothing Lefty academics like more than fighting imaginary wars from their comfortable offices on hefty salaries.

This is why it is essential to protest early and often. Citizens of consolidated democracies have absorbed a genteel lesson: if our side loses, we wait our turn until the next election. Under normal circumstances, the internalization of that lesson is essential to democracy’s stability. When those in power are poised to destroy constitutional safeguards, however, hanging on in quiet desperation until the next election can be fatal to democracy.

Instead, Americans must tap into their rich and proud tradition of civic resistance, whose highlights are the twentieth-century civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War. Civic action needs to begin now. We must claim public squares before Trump takes office, marching in droves and communicating a clear message that his brand of autocracy shall not pass.

Translation: my side lost the election fair and square and in my demented state I have invented a scenario where America is about to slide into unchecked tyranny.  Therefore we should protest the results of this election and refuse to let the new President do his job.

This in an article bemoaming the lack of respect afforded to the democratic process by Erdogan and Putin respectively.

This civic resistance must bring together not just progressives of all stripes—including Black Lives Matter activists, unions, and the climate justice movement—but also immigrants, LGBTQ people, conservatives, libertarians, religious groups, veterans, teachers, students, people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities;

The usual hotch-potch of the professionally aggrieved, in other words.  What’s the common cause here, again?

in short, all those who believe that political disagreements should only be resolved within the framework of constitutional democracy.

By holding a free and fair election, for example?  Now there’s an idea.

You couldn’t make it up.  But an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University plainly could.

Pitiful stuff.

Lame Duck Talking

Lacks a touch of self-awareness old Barack, doesn’t he?  This from the BBC:

Barack Obama has warned of a “rise in a crude sort of nationalism” following the Brexit and US presidential votes.

Speaking in Greece on his final foreign trip, he said: “We have to guard against… tribalism built around an ‘us’ or a ‘them’.”

This from the chap who went from promises of being a Great Uniter to running an administration in which an “us” and “them” mentality was the central pillar.

He said the US was painfully aware of the danger of divisions “along lines of race or religion or ethnicity”.

Indeed, we have all the race riots and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement during your Presidency to remind us.

He also put the victory of Donald Trump down to “the view of the American people to just shake things up”.

With those things to be shaken up being what you call your “legacy”.  Obamacare, for example.

He said again that he had been surprised by Mr Trump’s victory.

Well, yes.  Clearly you believed the polls along with all the other idiots.

Mr Obama said the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the US vote showed that people generally were now “less certain of their national identities and place in the world” and that had produced populist movements both on the left and the right.

Sorry, what?  The UK leaving the EU meant the British were less certain of their national identity?  Would he apply this same logic to Kenya becoming independent, I wonder?

He said a suspicion of globalisation and elites, wrapped up in issues of religious or ethnic or cultural identity was “a volatile mix”.

And have you made this situation better or worse during your time in office, Mr President?

Mr Obama insisted his vision – where “the future will be decided by what we have in common, rather than what leads us into conflict” – was the right one.

Yet somehow he exacerbated the divisions in the nation over which he presided.  Why, it’s almost as if his “vision” has little to do with how he actually governed.

He also said he was responsible for facilitating a good transition, presenting to Mr Trump his best ideas about how to move the country forward.

Er, yes. Thanks for that.  But you thought the best person to move the country forward was Hillary Clinton.  Now if you’d just leave the keys to the White House over there…

Mr Obama will be using the European leg of his trip to try to reassure leaders about future US commitment to its international alliances.

“Future” in this case meaning the next eight weeks or so.

Greek anarchist and left-wing groups are now holding protests “against the representative of imperialist powers”.

Video footage showed a number of protesters on one street pushing up against police in riot gear, before they were forced back.

If Trump has any sense he’ll give the place a wide berth.