The First Debate: a Few Observations

first debate

  1. Mi nombre es Arius Aardvark, y no soy candidato para presidente.
  2. I don’t think Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be the next president of the United States.
  3. The average IQ of these ten candidates is maybe 15 to 20 percent higher than that of the 2016 Republican field.
  4. A propos of point 3, I do not contend that Republicans as a group are that much less intelligent than Democrats as a group. The point is that Democrats prefer intelligent leaders, while Republicans prefer less intelligent government leaders.
  5. I remain deeply impressed by Pocahontas. (At least she didn’t tell us about growing up on the reservation.) Here’s the reason: her big issue—that rich folks are running a racket, and are picking your pocket—is profoundly true, profoundly important, and profoundly relevant to who’s going to win in 2020.

I come to this insight in part based on my life experience, much of which has involved being a well compensated water boy for the plutocracy, and in particular for the pharmaceutical companies.

I think that some of my fellow progressives who have had a different life experience—maybe they were schoolteachers or social workers or research scientists—hear what Pocahontas has to say, and it sounds shrill and exaggerated.

No ladies and germs. A trifle shrill it may be, but it’s all true. Every word of it.

Now, you could take the argument to the next step, and say, “Well, maybe it’s true that the rich people are scamming us all, but the most important issue is climate change, because climate changes threatens to kill us all.”

Or maybe you might think, “Well, what Pocahontas has to say about inequality is basically right, but I don’t think it’s a winning argument, politically.”

Those are legitimate debates. You could also legitimately think that Pocahontas is just a bit shrill.

But if you don’t understand the truth of what Elizabeth Warren is saying, then you lack a fundamental grasp of what is going on in this country.

Here’s a Hint on Strategery: Don’t Take the Hostage Unless You’re Prepared to Shoot the Hostage

hostage taker

Trump has set himself up, either to start a major war, or to look idiotic if he doesn’t start a major war.

Trump threatens ‘great and overwhelming force’ against Iran:

President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that an Iranian attack “on anything American” would result in a military response — just days after the White House scuttled a retaliatory strike against Tehran following the shoot-down of a U.S. surveillance drone.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!” the president wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s threat came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ridiculed the White House as “afflicted by mental retardation” following the administration’s announcement of new sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and several military commanders.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Talking about thinking four steps ahead in the chess game. The guy can’t even think one step ahead.

And another thing. Some people respond to bullying by bowing to the bulliy’s demands. Many do not.

I really don’t think the Ayatollah responds well to bullies. How the hell do you think he got to be the Ayatollah?

Why Donald Trump Didn’t Kiss That Footman


‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult

I am reminded, once again, of what happened when Oscar Wilde sued for defamation over the allegation that he was a “sodomite.” Here’s the crucial piece of cross-examination:

Counsel: How old is he?
Witness: He was about sixteen when I knew him. He was a servant at a certain house in High Street, Oxford, where Lord Alfred Douglas had rooms. I have stayed there several times. Grainger waited at table. I never dined with him. If it is one’s duty to serve, it is one’s duty to serve; and if it is one’s pleasure to dine, it is one’s pleasure to dine.
Counsel: Did you ever kiss him?
Witness: Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.

We’re So FUKT


This just in: this morning the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the long-standing statutory law preventing the registration of immoral or scandalous trademarks. In doing so, they vindicated the free speech rights of a gentlemen who wants to sell clothing branded with “FUKT” trademark. (You can buy the T-shirts on—available in men’s, women’s, and “youth” sizes. I will hazard the guess that the latter are the best sellers.)

I have not read the opinion or thought deeply about the constitutional issues, nor do I propose to do so. But two quick points.

One, even if he couldn’t brand his clothing as the FUKT brand, the gentlemen in question could still sell his clothes under some other brand label of his choosing, lettered with all the swear words he liked. It’s just that, without the trademark, he couldn’t enlist the government’s help in protecting himself from counterfeit FUKT brand garments.

Two, don’t you think our national discourse is already course enough as it is?


Smart and Smarter

Trump caught in an Iran trap. A smart analysis by Greg Sargent. An even smarter exposition by Jonathan Chait.


Greg Sargent, Mike Pence just revealed something important about Trump’s Iran decisions:

In an important essay, Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Niskanen Center notes that a key feature of the “malignant nationalism” animating Trump and his intellectual supporters is the notion that international integration that requires accepting any constraints on the nation’s prerogatives cannot ever be acknowledged to be succeeding.

Trump’s worldview did not permit an acknowledgment that the Iran deal — an imperfect but carefully negotiated settlement that our allies continued to favor — was preventing nuclear weapons. So he had to say it was weak and a failure, and he had to pull out. Instead, Trump vowed to be so unilaterally tough that he’d force total capitulation (without firing a shot) alone.

This has made war more likely, and as Susan E. Rice points out, avoiding it would involve recommitting to a diplomatic solution that would entail settling for something short of total capitulation. But Trump can’t do that. Yet he doesn’t appear to want war, either.

So, as the Pence interview shows, we’re trapped in a situation where Trump is lurching wildly between reluctance and belligerence, even as the situation continues to escalate.

Even Smarter

Jonathan Chait sees Trump’s aim as a rebranding exercise for the Iran nuclear deal, just what he really wanted—and still probably wants—is to rebrand Obamacare as Trumpcare. IMHO, absolutely right, and right on point.

Jonathan Chait, Why Trump Is So Confused About His Own Iran Policy:

Obviously, actual Iran hawks in the Republican foreign-policy elite didn’t design their policy around the objective of reducing anti-American chants. The chants were just an easy way of stoking resentment among the Fox News audience. What they didn’t quite count on was that one of those angry couch-potato grandfathers in their target demographic would be elected president.

So Trump hates the Iran deal. But he’s also not onboard with the actual conservative policy alternative, which is to use threats of war to force Iran to give up not only its nuclear program but also its support for militant proxies and possibly also (depending on which version of the strategy you listen to) its entire theocratic system of government.

Trump is now publicly describing his own national security adviser as a dangerous warmonger. “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk,” he tells NBC. “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay?”

What seems to be going on here is that Trump just assumed he could cut a better deal with Iran than Obama did, just as he assumed he could design a better health-care-reform law than Obama did. Just as Trump didn’t realize the actual Republican health-care plan was to take insurance away from people who couldn’t afford it on their own, he also didn’t realize the actual Republican Iran policy is a conflict ratchet that requires him to at least be willing to start a massive war.

So he’s trying to get out of his own mess with the strategy he used with NAFTA. Step one is to call the existing deal the worst agreement of all time and cancel it. Step two is to negotiate small tweaks. Step three is to declare the tweaked/rebranded deal to be the greatest treaty of all time.

The notion that Iran would become rich was the chief conservative complaint about the nuclear deal. Now