Democrats want to take over government but can’t make up their minds about governance

The Democrats are a flighty bunch. Since January 2017 they have been all over the place looking for a narrative that can gain traction with voters. So far, they have come up with the following:

1. Trump the Pussy Grabber is Not Fit for President
2. Trump the Russian Sympathizer is not Fit for President
3. Trump the Disloyal Friend to Canada is not Fit for President
4. Trump the Banger of Porn Stars is not Fit for President
5. Trump the Disruptor of Immigrant Latino Families is not Fit for President

So far, five major ones but the President’s first term is still young.
Do any of these issues have anything to do with how Mr. Trump is running the political economy? How does admitting on a video tape made in 2005 on the set of a soap opera that he approaches women like a boar translate in to his implementation of commerce policy?

Is Russia really an enemy of the United States? Granted Russia probably still is a little pissed 100 years after American troops known as the Polar Bear Expedition invaded northern Russia back in 1918 and the United States may be tired of Russia referring to Soviet Union soldiers passing themselves off as just technical “experts” in the Vietnam War, but forty-plus years since the Vietnam War was declared over, and no official hostilities recorded on either side, Democrats simply can’t convert the “Russia ain’t our friend and Trump talked to them” into any substantive narrative for the better informed.

While women on the Left may find Canada’s Boy Toy prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to be a hottie, does Mr. Trump’s trade disagreement with Mr. Trudeau over steel and timber imports amount to the president being a poor manager of foreign policy or economic affairs? Not at all. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement and section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the President has wide power to address unfair or discriminatory practices of a foreign country. Ally or not, if the President determines via an International Trade Commission or United States Trade Representative investigation of Canada, why should America’s friends in the Great White North get cut any slack versus its friends south of the border?

The Trump/Stormy Daniels narrative tells me that Mr. Trump is no saint. Did Mr. Trump, during the run up to the November 2016 elections, pay off Stormy Daniels to avoid the embarrassment of knocking boots with a porn star while married in 2006? I don’t know nor care. That’s a private marital problem and Democrats who are gung-ho for an impeachment should at least provide evidence where Mr. Trump denied otherwise unimportant, non-government related incidences to federal officials ala Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Lastly, there is Donald Trump the Disruptor of Latino Families. Mr. Trump implemented a policy, in development since December 2017, to separate children from parents who cross the United States-Mexico border without documentation. The Democrats argue that such acts are cruel and that such cruelty is not what America is about and is further evidence of Mr. Trump’s despicable character. But while Mr. Trump may be auditioning for Machiavellian of the Month, the Democrats never argue that his policy is illegal. By the Administration’s admission, the separation policy is designed to scare parents, to make them think twice about making the trek through central America and Mexico. For the majority of Trump supporters, Mr. Trump’s prosecutorial discretion and scare tactic in this case is on point.

So, what is really going on with the Democrats? Their scatter-brained approach to keeping the President in check is so unfocused and non-sticky that by the end of December they will need a fresh batch of heart-tugging, nonpolicy-based narratives to toss at the American electorate. I suspect the Democrats will spend 2019 ensuring that 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls tie and spin these events.

It won’t work, because a more important event will take place during 2019: the slow down of the economy. Americans will spend more time worrying about how to feed their own children.

There is too much “we” in our mindless political analyses

Recently I saw a meme on my Facebook feed that asked, “How did my freedom end up in Afghanistan?” As July 4th approaches I cringe at the thought of all the patriotic messages that will be spewed especially by Blacks born here in the United States. Their thoughtless blithering on “freedoms” and “blessings” form the basis for the observation in the Afghan meme.

Thoughtless because it is beyond me how a small Central Asian country that has poppy as its main crop could pose any danger to my ability to walk around my neighborhood; eat my turkey sub; write this blog post; apply for a job; or watch a movie.  Yes, the Afghans are notorious for rightfully kicking the asses of imperialist British and Russian invaders, but if anyone’s freedom is being threatened, it is that of the Afghans who have a 150 year of more long history of battling uninvited guests.

Blacks in America should be especially mindful of latching on to the “we” word.  A group of people who only saw their rights as citizens fully incorporated by law within the past 60 years should be pulling back from the assimilation rhetoric of current misguided or disingenuous political leaders.  So quick to be accepted are blacks that it is easy to spout the mindless adages that will flow more freely than beer during July 4th.

It is too easy for blacks to scream that the Russians attacked “our” election process.  Really? How so? Did the Russians stop 20 million eligible black voters from going to the polls and choosing Hillary Clinton?  How is it “our” process when diverse voices within the black population can nary get support from fellow blacks?

The second problem with “we” is that it reinforces the myth that the black population is a political monolith.  Black over-indexing in support for the Democrats creates group speak and gives the Democratic Party the emotional, Pavlovian responses that make good sound bites for television talking heads and thirty-second video clips for MSNBC.

The appropriate unit of analysis for reflection should be “I”. Democracy and the partisan politics that flow from it have made Americans fearful of sounding selfish or anti-social. Avoiding the “we” is painted as anti-collective and creating disharmony.  Focusing on the “I” fears collectivists, especially the collectivists on the Left because the “I” means operating in an environment of mental and emotional discipline, and when operating in the space raises the chance that the individuals says, “Hey. Not so fast, collective. That’s not where I want to go.”

It is time to pursue more independent thinking. Time to stop fearing the “I”.

Donald Trump and James Comey: Does uncouth equate to bad morals and impeachment?

In my best Heath Ledger/Joker voice, “Batman has no jurisdiction.” I think of this line today after reading a report in Reuters about former Federal Bureau of Investigations director James Comey’s assessment of the morality of current president Donald Trump. The book, set for release tomorrow, will detail Mr Comey’s four month tenure in the Trump administration. Mr Comey asserts that Mr Trump is morally unfit to sit in the Oval Office.

The assertion is likely to lift the spirits of many anti-Trump voters who have been hoping that the President’s alleged links to the Russian government will turn into a political noose and lead to an early exit from the White House. Mr Trump has been relatively out of the media spotlight for the past week given the Congressional hearings that were held regarding Facebook’s privacy shenanigans. He has managed to reassert himself quickly into the headlines with last Friday’s missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapon facilities. I suspect that attention will be diverted away from Syria long enough for Democrats to push their talking points and roil up their base.

So far the most tawdry event noted in Mr Comey’s assessment of Mr Trump is an alleged incident involving Mr Trump’s presence in a Moscow hotel room where two prostitutes were allegedly urinating on themselves. Being in the presence of this type of behavior would be off-putting to most Americans. Mr Trump has denied witnessing the event and Mr Comey admits he has no firm evidence the event happened or that Mr Trump was even present if the event happened at all.

One question that comes to mind is, assuming that the event occurred, should the event give buoyancy to arguments from the left that Mr Trump be impeached? My answer is no. Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution reads:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The event is alleged to have happened in 2013, almost four years before Mr Trump took office. In addition, if watching prostitutes pee on themselves in Moscow is legal, I see a very weak argument for convicting him of a crime. “Batman” has no jurisdiction in Moscow.

Another question I have is, what is immoral behavior and does such behavior disqualify a president? Morals are defined as standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and what is not acceptable for a person to do. Morals are personal codes until society expresses its disagreement with them and codifies that dissatisfaction in law or statute. As head of a democratic nation-state, Mr Trump is expected by many Americans to manage his personal code within the parameters of community expectations. For a man who reportedly has no problem expressing a tough guy Queens personality, being a boar may not go over well with a progressive socialite from San Francisco. Such behavior, whether it occurred prior to or during the presidency may considered disqualification as head of state, if not head of government.

Going forward, the allegations will not mean much for capital markets. They do not speak to Mr Trump’s management of public capital or the institutions that manage or influence the allocation or distribution of capital. The allegations do put a further dent in Mr Trump’s ability to persuade, probably the most important power a president has. And in the political marketplace, bad optics drives down a political actor’s brand and market value.

The Russian attack on democracy was ineffective because they don’t understand democracy.

American democracy is about the creation of a political marketplace where the taxpayer receives certain protective services in exchange for her vote. These services include police services, fire services, transportation services, commercial trade platforms, cultural services, legal and regulatory frameworks, and education services, to name a few. They are delivered by local, state, and federal governments and their costs are recovered by government in the form of property, sales, and income taxes and other fees.

Politicians squabble before, during, and after the election season on how best these services should be delivered, how much the government should pay to deliver them, and how much of the bill the taxpayer should foot for the government’s efforts. Classical liberal, progressive, and conservative philosophies collide during these debates and the clash of perspective is most apparent during election season when more people are paying attention. To secure the majority of voter approval for position and philosophy, politicians engage in the blood sport of electioneering, a blood sport that includes embellishments, character assassinations, and a lot of misinformation.

Reports abound of how a Russian firm, the Internet Research Agency, entered the political fray between 2014 and 2016 and used social media posts, tweets, and blogs to upset the elections. Their activity during an election year would have been business as usual were it not for their status as foreign agents conducting these activities. Whether or not they upset the political markets with their activity will be hard to determine.

For example, will investigators be able to say that the cost of the exchange of the vote for services increased due to Russian interference? I see no data that describes politicians seeking higher taxes for government spending as a result of any information provided by Russian trolls.

Did any information introduced into the political markets by the Internet Research Agency cause voters to leave the market? I have heard one argument that black voter participation fell because of Russian disinformation about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has drawn the ire of some blacks as a result of her description of black teenagers as “predators” and her Clinton Foundation taking financial advantage of earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. It is questionable whether any additional misinformation by the Russians could have created any further negative view of Mrs Clinton by blacks. She may have done enough on her own.

American democracy bases societal cohesion on the vote, the ability of the masses to elect its leaders. Leaders promise, as I laid out before, protective services. But what would happen to the democratically-based cohesion if the dependence of Americans on protective services were drastically reduced or eliminated? What if more Americans had 3-D printers and could manufacture their own tools or furniture? What if more Americans grew their own vegetables in their own apartments? What if more Americans were able to take advantage of devices that use unlicensed spectrum in order to form their own local communications networks and reduce their communications expenses? What if more Americans used solar or wind to energize their homes? What if engineers could design apartment buildings such that each unit could take advantage of solar energy?

A true attack on American democracy would be a demonstration of how to live independent of the political elites that thrive on the electorate’s unwillingness to be or ignorance of independence. Whether a democracy or an authoritarian regime, nation-states are about centralizing power. When they attack each other, destroying the core is all that is needed for the knockout punch. Given the Russian Federation’s history of allowing true freedom, an attack on democracy based on independent sovereignty would be thinking way outside the box.

No, American democracy was never really attacked by the Russians. It simply got poked by a player who didn’t have the legal credentials to enter the ring.

 

How we long for the switchboard operator and virtual spilled tea

During the tumultuous 1960s, someone reminded DARPA that the network of connected computers it created could not be turned on its own people. The guys and gals of the agency had an “a-ha” moment in the late 1980s and decided to pass it off to private sector agents who could then, via an open source technology and a consumerist market narrative, invite the nerds from Bellvue and Arkham to create an insidious surveillance mechanism that you now call the internet.

Getting Americans, who once had a distrust of the CIA and FBI for violating their privacy rights, to spill almost all their personal beings into a computer via digital bulletin boards at first was no simple feat. The first drawing board blew up during the 2000-2001 recession. Amazon was one of the very few consumer-centric companies to survive the downturn. The internet was apparently dead ….until 11 September 2001.

The internet found its two-fold purpose. In private hands under the guise of “democratic openness”, “free speech”, “innovation”, and “market capitalism”, well-off college students would drop out of their undergrad and graduate programs and do the surveillance bidding of government by creating search portals and social media alluring enough to get unsuspecting consumers to look up information they once obtained from newspapers, the barber shop, grocery stores, and Friday night tea parties in exchange for the handing over of their personal (and typically mundane, boring) information.

The second portion of its purpose would be turned outward. Making up for the lack of human intel on the ground in the Middle East, the internet could be used to leverage messaging campaigns to spur revolt, as countries such as Egypt and Libya can attest to.

One has to wonder if the chickens have come full circle to roost as the vanguard of domestic surveillance, i.e. social media, now see its faculties leveraged by Russia as The Great Bear seeks pay back for the dent in its Middle East influence, due in part to the democracy narrative spread by the FANGs.

Yes. Life was simpler when Ruth Buzzy ran the switch board and encyclopedias, radio, television, and tea time gave you all the information you needed .

.@facebook’s role as a digital archive threatened by #Russia and itself…

Robert Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russian nationals for defrauding the United States by using fraudulent means to leverage social media in order to spread during the 2016 campaign season doesn’t intentionally pick on Facebook as a villain. Members of Congress are asking how the Russian-based Internet Research Agency using 100 or so employees, could have circumvented 22,000 Facebook employees and introduce their “digital political hack” into American cyberspace.

Members of Congress have been acting since last fall when Facebook provided documentation that its platform via paid advertising had been used to send targeted messaging via certain Facebook pages to divide the electorate. For example, H.R. 4077 is a bill designed to increase the amount of transparency in electioneering communication.  Introduced in October 2017, the bill aims for accountability and disclosure of who is behind the financing of paid social media users or, as they are affectionately called, “trolls.”

A companion bill, S. 1989, was introduced at the same time in the U.S. Senate.

S. 625, introduced in the U.S. Senate in March 2017 provides the Unites States Attorney General with investigative tools to flesh out foreign agents using social media to disrupt U.S. elections.  The bill requires prosecution of social media users failing to make this disclosure.

Congress hasn’t gone directly (yet) at Facebook or other social media properties. For the political left, especially members of the net neutrality posse, passing any legislation that hints at slowing down the growth of the very same edge providers that they have been protecting would send a message that they are as dysfunctional as some of the electorate already thinks. Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, has been a proponent of net neutrality rules. They have, to various degrees, built their business models on advertising driven by the free content and personal information that they “hack” from consumers. They make their advertising services available globally and unfortunately for them, their social media levers were pulled expertly by Russian nationals.

Facebook, probably inadvertently, has become a digital archive of America’s thoughts and opinions. Instead of having to rummage through personal libraries in order to learn about what Americans are thinking, historians now have access to digital living history, ironically made open by the openness of the internet. Crackdowns on social media would do more damage to openness than poorly forecasted bad gateway behavior of internet access providers. Net neutrality proponents wouldn’t have to worry about degraded access to content. They would have the bigger problem of congressional regulation of content.

Mr Mueller’s indictment has surmised that the digital hacking of the United States’ electoral system is continuing. Russian nationals may have done some adjusting since 2016 to better avoid detection, problem via some more openness themselves by complying with foreign agent registration laws. As for Facebook, changes in its business model may be on the way.