A Letter from the Judgmental Left

Martin Longman writes A Letter to Mr. Medford of South Carolina, a Trump voter who asks for understanding of his moral defense for his November vote.

In Aardvark’s estimation, Longman hits the nail on the head. Read it all. Longman concludes this way:

So, again, we know it’s hard to make the choice to vote against the party that best represents your value system. We would struggle mightily to make that kind of decision. But there are no shortage of Republicans who told you to do precisely that because they saw, in Trump, someone who was uniquely unsuited to be president due to flaws in his character and questions about his grip on reality. You didn’t listen to us, or to them, and you chose to prioritize other factors more highly than any concerns about Trump.

You are being morally judged for this decision. We believe that you will come to learn that you made a mistake, but what we’re really interested in is making sure you understand where we’re coming from.

We don’t think it is okay that Donald Trump is the president of the United States. We think this should have been obvious when it came time to vote. And we think that it tells us something about the morals of people that they would overlook his Birtherism and his race-baiting and his characteristics that we discourage in our own children and his treatment of women, and still support him because they have other priorities that are more important to them.

Now, if you want to make a moral defense of your decision, we’re all ears. Thank you for listening to our moral defense of our position.

Best regards,

The Judgmental Left

Knots

knots

Some of us, of a certain age and of a certain time, will remember the book published by R.D. Laing in 1972, titled Knots. (I checked. You can still buy it on Amazon; prices range between $2 and $2,128.) If you don’t know Laing’s book or don’t remember it, the illustration above will give you an idea of its contents.

Here is an update. We may call it the Naked Emperor Knot.

I am wearing a gorgeous, specially tailored, new suit of clothes.

There are many others like it in my closet.

My beloved minions all praise my wonderful wardrobe.

But the New York Times and CNN claim I am naked.

Therefore the New York Times and CNN are liars and enemies of the people.

I have 650 high level posts that remain vacant. Other jobs I need to fill number several thousand.

I will appoint only honest people, who can see that I am wearing beautiful clothing, to fill these jobs.

If you want a government job, you must convince me that you sincerely believe I am not naked.

And you must publicly testify to the beauty of my wardrobe.

Better a non-functioning government than a government filled with liars.

emperor

“What Has Donald Trump been Smoking?” Asked the Prime Minister

swedish-massacre

Trump at the rally on Saturday:

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Former Swedish PM asks ‘what has Trump been smoking?’ as country ridicules President’s attack claim

 The former Prime Minister of Sweden has asked “what has Donald Trump been smoking?” after the President alluded to a mystery recent attack in the country.

Swedes reacted with general confusion after Mr Trump said “look what’s happening last night in Sweden” after listing a series of past terror attacks in Europe, during a speech at a rally in Florida.

Aftonbladet newspaper, a Swedish tabloid, listed some events that had happened in the country on that night, including police chasing a drunk driver, a man being treated for severe burns and an avalanche warning.

Dear Mr. President, Please Fire My Ass. Hugz and Kisses. Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Mattis disagrees with Trump, says he does not see media as the enemy

 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday that he does not see the media as the enemy of the American people, disagreeing with a claim made Friday by President Trump.

Mattis, asked directly about Trump’s criticism of the media, said he has had “some rather contentious times with the press” but considers the institution “a constituency that we deal with.” The defense secretary added: “I don’t have any issues with the press myself.” …

“Welcome to democracy,” Mattis said. “It’s at times wildly contentious. It’s at times quite sporting. But the bottom line is this is the best form of government that we can come up with. So, the military’s job is to hold the line, and to hold the line, and to hold the line while our government sorts out the way ahead and our people speak. We don’t have any disarray inside the military, and that’s where my responsibility resides.”

Reading the Right Wing Media So You Don’t Have To

I don’t read it either, but, thankfully, Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly does. In Right Wing Media on the Bannon vs Priebus Power Struggle, she describes how Breitbart and NewsMax—obviously spoon fed by Steve Bannon—are depicting the chaos in the White House as a power struggle between the “GOP establishment” and the True Trumpistas.

In wingnut land, it isn’t the “intelligence community” that is Trump’s enemy, nor is it “the media.” The enemy is the “establishment” in the form of Mike Pence and Reince Pribus. Pence and Pribus are the people responsible for the tragic loss of that great patriot Mike Flynn.

How long will it take the Mad King to figure out that Mike Pence is waiting for hm to screw up so badly, and so undeniably, that Mike Pence becomes president?

Aardvark is taking bets on how long it will take before Trump denounces Pence as a traitor. A month? Two weeks? A couple of days?

Camuccini, Vincenzo, 1771-1844; The Death of Julius Caesar

Allô, Monde. Ici John McCain.

REMARKS BY SASC CHAIRMAN JOHN McCAIN AT THE 2017 MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following remarks today at the 2017 Munich Security Conference:

“Thank you, Ian, for that kind introduction. Let me also thank the German government and people, as always, for their warm and gracious welcome.

“Not every American understands the absolutely vital role that Germany and its honorable Chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, are playing in defense of the idea and the conscience of the West. But for all of us who do, let me say thank you.

“My friends: In the four decades I have attended this conference, I cannot recall a year where its purpose was more necessary or more important.

“The next panel asks us to consider whether the West will survive. In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism. Not this year. If ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.

“This question was real, half a century ago, for Ewald von Kleist and the founders of this conference. Indeed, it is why they first started coming to Munich. They did not assume the West would survive, because they had seen its near annihilation. They saw open markets give way to beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism, and the poverty that imposed. They saw a world order fracture into clashing ethnic and nationalist passions, and the misery that wrought. They saw the rise of hostile great powers, and the failure of deterrence, and the wars that followed.

“From the ashes of the most awful calamity in human history was born what we call the West—a new, and different, and better kind of world order … one based not on blood-and-soil nationalism, or spheres of influence, or conquest of the weak by the strong, but rather on universal values, rule of law, open commerce, and respect for national sovereignty and independence. Indeed, the entire idea of the West is that it open to any person or any nation that honors and upholds these values.

“The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades did not happen by accident. It happened not only because of the appeal of our values, but because we backed them with our power and persevered in their defense. Our predecessors did not believe in the end of history—or that it bends, inevitably, toward justice. That is up to us. That requires our persistent, painstaking effort. And that is why we come to Munich, year after year after year.

“What would von Kleist’s generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it.

“They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.

“They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

“They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

“They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.

“But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West … that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without … and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will.

“All of us must accept our share of the blame for this turn of events. We grew complacent. We made mistakes. At times we tried to do too much, and at others we failed to do enough. We lost touch with many of our people. We have been too slow to recognize and respond to their hardships. We need to face up to these realities, but this does not mean losing hope and retreating. That we must not do.

“I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That is not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That is not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation.

“Make no mistake, my friends: These are dangerous times, but you should not count America out, and we should not count each other out. We must be prudent, but we cannot wring our hands and wallow in self-doubt. We must appreciate the limits of our power, but we cannot allow ourselves to question the rightness and goodness of the West. We must understand and learn from our mistakes, but we cannot be paralyzed by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. That is the definition of decadence. And that is how world orders really do decline and fall.

“This is exactly what our adversaries want. This is their goal. They have no meaningful allies, so they seek to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other. They know that their power and influence are inferior to ours, so they seek to subvert us, and erode our resolve to resist, and terrorize us into passivity. They know they have little to offer the world beyond selfishness and fear, so they seek to undermine our confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.

“We must take our own side in this fight. We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values—that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair … and that even though we will inevitably take losses and suffer setbacks, through it all, so long as people of goodwill and courage refuse to lose faith in the West, it will endure.

“That is why we come to Munich, year in and year out—to revitalize our common moral purpose, our belief that our values are worth the fighting for. Because in the final analysis, the survival of the West is not just a material struggle; it is now, and has always been, a moral struggle. Now more than ever, we must not forget this.

“During one of the darkest years of the early Cold War, William Faulkner delivered a short speech in Stockholm upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. ‘I decline to accept the end of man,’ Faulkner said. ‘I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.’

“Even now, when the temptation to despair is greatest, I refuse to accept the end of the West. I refuse to accept the demise of our world order. I refuse to accept that our greatest triumphs cannot once again spring from our moments of greatest peril, as they have so many times before. I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries. I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it—for if we do not, who will?”

Channeling His Inner Lenin

leninenemies

When Aardvark was a wee lad down in the heart of Dixie—only knee high to a grasshopper, as his father would have said—the older folks used to chuckle about “Life, the magazine for people who can’t read,” and “Time, the magazine for people who can’t think.”

The thought underlying these kneeslapping witticisms was that Time and Life were reporting that some southern white people were, some of the time, badly mistreating some southern black people.

This was extremely unwelcome information. As the song put it so well, “Look away! Look away! Look awat\y! Dixieland.”

There is a direct line between “the magazine for people who can’t think” and a press that is “the enemy of the American people.” Racist language has ripened into full blown totalitarian language.

Maybe Trump knew he was echoing Lenin. Or maybe he didn’t know what he was saying.

Either way, this will not end well.

Are These People High or What?

Keith Olbermann answers his own rhetorical question. Please play it to the end.

Along the way you will learn the good news: 23 percent of Trump supporters disagree with the claim that a Muslim ban is justified because  of the Bowling Green Massacre.

The bad news: 51 percent of Trump supporters are really concerned about the Bowling Green Massacre.

Also, check out the number of Trump supporters who think that Trump gets to overturn judicial decisions he doesn’t like.

Dunning, Kruger, Canute, and Confucius

canute

Though of mature years, Aardvark still relishes learning new information, new ideas, new concepts. This morning I am pleased to share with you, gentle reader, the news that Donald Trump is the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Many of you, I am sure, are fully knowledgeable on this topic. For many of you, Dunning and Kruger are as familiar as Freud and Jung.

But in case you, like Aardvark, are not among the cognoscenti, please read Jonathan Chait on how Donald Trump Thinks He’s Good at Being President.

Donald Trump’s disorienting, surreal press conference contained one moment of pristine clarity, when the president predicted, “Tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves.’” This prediction, while quite correct, raises the question of why Trump thought it was a good idea to hold a media event whose principal effect would be to produce headlines depicting him as rambling and unhinged. Reports from the administration have supplied the answer, which is quite simple: His boasts spring from a place of utter, self-delusional conviction. … …

Trump, as many have noted, is the world’s highest-profile case of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the phenomenon by which incompetent people are unable to gauge their own competence. Of course, Trump is not bereft of talent. He mastered the technique of using the media to raise his profile, flooding the news with arresting quotes and tidbits and scandal, turning the ordinary heir to a real-estate portfolio into America’s most famous rich person — a branding triumph that he leveraged into a lucrative licensing operation, some outright swindles, and, most crucially, a television show in which he played a brilliant executive.

All the evidence suggests Trump truly believes he is the character he plays on television. And now that he is surrounded by courtiers and the trappings of power, and constantly flattered by powerful people who are secretly terrified of his incompetence, he is convinced of it more deeply than he ever has been before.

The link in Chait’s post takes you to Donald Trump, the Dunning-Kruger President, where you may read all about it.

As was so often the case, Confucius captured the essence of the thing:

knowledge

You Can’t Have it Both Ways This Time

Eugene Robinson makes a point that a lot of people have, more or less simultaneously, figured out: if the stuff the low life criminal leakers are leaking is fake, then they aren’t criminal because they aren’t leaking classified information at all, they are leaking stuff they made up.

Conversely, if the leakers are criminally leaking real classified information, then it isn’t fake.

But Eugene Robinson, being Eugene Robinson, says it really well:

It is unclear whether Trump is trying to fool the nation or fool himself. Witness one of the angry tweets he sent out Thursday morning: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story — RUSSIA. Fake news!”

Let me take a moment to unpack the misinterpretations, distortions and contradictions jammed into those two sentences. …

[T]he tweet ends with what has become Trump’s favorite way to dismiss anything he’d rather not hear: “Fake news!” But why would his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, step down over inauthentic news reports? In other tweets Thursday morning, Trump attacked “low-life leakers” in the intelligence community — thus essentially confirming that leaked information about the Russia connection is genuine, not “fake.” Not even a president can have it both ways.

The Dictatorship of the Bubbateriat

proletariat

To mock the fake news conference this afternoon would be like taking candy from a baby. It is beneath Aardvark’s dignity, and he will not do it. Besides, gentle readers, I am sure that you have mocked copiously on your own, without my help.

What, we ask ourselves once again, is the method in this madness? The immediate answer is not hard to suss out. The fake news conference, together with the planned weekend mass rally in Florida, is intended to rile up the bubbateriat, who will in turn scare the bejeesus out of any Republicans in Congress who might be inclined to say, investigate Trump’s Russian ties. The roiling masses will strike terror into the hearts of Trump’s enemies and unenthusiastic camp followers.

As an added bonus, maybe the enraged bubbateriat will take to the streets to countermarch against the hordes of progressive protesters.

Such, plainly, is the master plan, the brilliant strategic thinking that inspires the mad king.

But will it work?

Well, I, for one, am really looking forward to the Florida rally, as an indication of where they were headed.

I grew up among lots of people who are now Trump supporters. They have proved to be a gullible lot, but there surely are limits to their gullibility. My mother would have seen through Trump in a New York minute.

Perhaps we can take solace from Jennifer Rubin, to whom the wish is, forever and always, the father to the thought. This evening she writes,

n President Trump’s rambling, combative and at times incoherent news conference, he declared his administration is “a fine-tuned machine,” something few people not employed in the White House believe. He argues “Russia is fake news” — yet fired national security adviser Michael Flynn over information revealed by the media. He asserts he’s accomplished so much, yet his most noteworthy “accomplishments” have been failures — the enjoined travel ban, the rows with Australia and Mexico, the firestorm raised by his team’s purported contacts with Russia during the campaign (which he refused to deny, saying only that he had no dealings with the Russians). …

The latest Pew poll reveals that “Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: 39% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove.” He remains a divisive president, with “75% either approve or disapprove of Trump strongly, compared with just 17% who feel less strongly. Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve.” We find it noteworthy that the intensity is highest among anti-Trump forces. …

While majorities think he is keeping his promises and is a strong leader, the rest of his character gets a strong thumbs down. “Majorities say that Trump is not even tempered (68%), is not a good communicator (63%), is not trustworthy (59%), is not well-informed (57%) and does not care about ‘people like me’ (56%).”

Ponder that 29% “strongly approve” number. That’s Trump’s core, and they will be with him a while longer, but their enthusiasm will dampen. And, don’t forget, most of them are nice people, with little inclination to act like Brownshirts or Bolsheviks.

No dictatorship of the bubbateriat for you, Donald.

Of course, I may be wrong. If so, it’s time for a toga party.

Knives and Gunfights, or, The Difference Between Trump and Hitler

knife

What is the difference between Trump and Hitler? Many are asking Aardvark this question. Throughout the world, Enquiring Minds Want to Know.

Aardvark, regrettably, is no expert on twentieth century European history. But I am pretty sure of this: Hitler knew that you do not bring a knife to a gunfight.

It is the morning of February 16—almost, but not quite, a month into our national descent into madness. In his inauguration speech Trump declared war on American political institutions. His spokespuppets have declared war on facts. But venom and ridicule are poor substitutes for jackboots.

He has declared war on the courts, and the courts have reciprocated. When the time comes for Trump to order disobedience to court orders, will the government follow? I don’t think so.

Trump has  declared war on our intelligence agencies. This morning’s news is that he and Steve Bannon will bring in a billionaire buddy to overhaul the intelligence agencies. The gentlemen in question is said to be a great expert in chewing up companies and spitting out the pieces. I think we will see who gets chewed up and spit out.

Trump may not be the anti-Christ, but he is the anti-Sunzi. He doesn’t know his own weakensses and he doesn’t know his enemies’ strengths. In a hundred battles, a hundred defeats.

What to do next? What’s the inevitable next step in his playbook? MASS RALLIES! MASS RALLIES!

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Rallying

tough

I have long predicted that when things get tough, President Trumplethinskin will try to revive himself, and revive his fortunes, by holding rallies. This evening we get word that—to cap off one of the most surreal weeks in American history—there will be a big rally at the Orlando airport.

We’ll see what happens, but Aardvark suspects that lots of folks who turn up at the rally will be fellow progressives. Trump, I suspect, may find it a less than festive event.

And speaking of the surreal, shortly after shitcanning his ass, we learn from President Big Man, he of the small hands and the giant ego, that

Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media – as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly. I think, in addition to that, from intelligence – papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal actions, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time – before me. But now it’s really going on, and people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally – I stress that – illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.

And last, but far from least, Andy Puzdner, we hardly knew ye. And now we won’t have you to kick around any longer.

As you leave, be sure not to let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you.pudzner

The Mole in the Situation Room

shitstorm

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, February 16. Over at Faux News, someone unfortunately named Dr. Ablow writes, Relax, Trump is stone cold sane. Well, that’s good to know.

Meanwhile, the reality based community is in a major freakout over incompetence or worse at the White House. But you knew that already, and, like Chris Matthews, you demand of Aardvark, “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Well, here’s something I didn’t know till I read it this morning:

[S]ome of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office. Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway? A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets.

Martin Longman argues that the Blackmail Story Doesn’t Add Up. His piece is lengthy. His reasoning is convoluted but plausible. Conclusion: the intelligence agencies took down Flynn because they were persuaded he was Russia’s mole in the Situation Room.

Trump’s response this morning? Release a terrifying tweetstorm of invective at the intelligence agencies.

Just like Dr. Ablow said, Trump is stone cold sane. He knows who his enemies are.

Impeach the President

This day, Valentine’s Day, 2017, is the day Benedict Arnold went to the Watergate to deal with the Cuban missle crisis.

Questions abound and exegeses multiply. For example, Sean Spicer just offered a new chronology for Mike Flynn’s ouster. It raises still more questions.

Others do this sort of thing a damn sight better than me, so I will leave the questions alone. Except for one:

What happens when Michael Flynn, realizing that he is a scapegoat and a fool, goes Deep Throat?

What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?

nixon

This evening Josh Marshall has a useful elaboration of a thought that occurred to Aardvark this afternoon. I’ll bet it occurred to you, too.

Michael Flynn apparently lied to Mike Pence about what he was up to with the Ruskies. He probably lied to other folks too.

But isn’t it reasonable to suppose that when Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, he was acting with Trump’s knowledge and approval?

I’d put it that even a superficial examination of the facts points toward that conclusion. Marshall lays out the case in greater detail.

And let’s war game this thing one step further. If Trump is now compelled to shit can Flynn, what revelations can we expect from Flynn in retaliation?

Don’t you love the smell of napalm in the morning?

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Aardvark.

Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists. They believed that God, the Divine Clockmaker, had wound up the universe, set it going, and then stepped back. But, at least for some of them, their experiences during the Revolution made them rethink their theology. So high had been the odds against them, that they came to believe there really was a Divine Providence that blessed America.

Well, we need some of that old fashioned Divine Providence again, because the odds are that we’re in for multiple tragedies.

There is Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down.

The President discusses national secrets in a public dining room.

Decisions affecting national security exhibit malevolence tempered by incompetence.

Is economic policy any better? Paul Krugman writes,

And on economics — well, there’s nobody home. The Council of Economic Advisers, which is supposed to provide technical expertise, has been demoted from cabinet rank, but that hardly matters, since nobody has been nominated to serve. Remember all that talk about a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan? If you do, please remind the White House, which hasn’t offered even a ghost of a concrete proposal.

But let me not be too hard on the Tweeter-in-chief: disdain for expertise is general in his party. For example, the most influential Republican economists aren’t serious academics with a conservative bent, of whom there are many; they’re known hacks who literally can’t get a number right.

Or consider the current G.O.P. panic over health care. Many in the party seem shocked to learn that repealing any major part of Obamacare will cause tens of millions to lose insurance. Anyone who studied the issue could have told them years ago how the pieces of health reform fit together, and why. In fact, many of us did, repeatedly. But competent analysis wasn’t wanted.

This evening we learn that Justice Dept. warned that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say. And, from another source, we are told that the President will interview David Petraeus as a possible replacement for General Flynn. I hope Petraeus accepts the job–on the condition that he can bring along his mistress, because he is going to need all the comfort he can get.

Plainly, reason and common sense have failed us. Democracy has chosen unwisely.

If we survive, it will be because God has Blessed America Again.