Trump’s payroll tax deferral: It’s just burning down the country to collect the insurance money.

There are many ways to describe the GOP policy of running up the debt and then using it to justify draconian cuts in public spending. Bruce Bartlett called the Two-Santa Theory. I prefer a more direct and honest description: Burning down the country to collect the insurance money.

It’s a really simple scheme when you look at it. You run up the debt via tax cuts targeted at your donors. You privatize everything, transferring it to the same donors who got bags of cash in the form of tax giveaways and subsidies. You then loot the nation’s insurance fund, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to undo the damage of the tax cuts.

Trump’s executive order is a new take on this scheme: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/memorandum-deferring-payroll-tax-obligations-light-ongoing-covid-19-disaster/

Here he is just ceasing to collect payroll taxes, which directly fund social security. This is being done without any cuts to spending or new taxes to offset them; simply to decrease the funds social security will have available to meet future obligations. He knows damn well that most tax payers will not be able to pay six months or a year of deferred payroll taxes so he is counting on the next administration to have to pay for this with cuts when the bill comes due.

This is burning the insurance money to keep the country burning.

The ongoing threat of Trump’s cancel culture.

In just this past year Trump has attempted to block John Bolton’s book, Mary Trump’s book and Michael Cohen’s book. I don’t think I hear a single peep from the cancel culture scolds on any of those. Did we all miss it? Realizing that Trump is only the president and he simply can not do the harm that some dirty hippie on social media might be able to do by saying the magic phrase “cancel” might explain why no one was concerned. What would the reasonable explanation why none of the army of right wing scolds called out Trump out for attempting to cancel three authors in just one year? What could that reason be?

Looking back, the lack of principled stand for free speech in this case has just embolden Trump to embrace cancel culture to even bigger extremes.

“The media will be barred from the Republican national convention where Donald Trump is set to be renominated as presidential candidate later this month, a spokeswoman said on Saturday, citing coronavirus restrictions.”

Here we have Trump and the Republican party attempting to cancel the whole of the media.

From: theguardian.com https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/02/media-to-be-banned-from-republican-convention-due-to-coronavirus-restrictions

And it keeps getting worse!

Trump on Monday set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer, failing which he said he will shut down the app in the country. In an unusual declaration, Trump also said any deal would have to include a “substantial amount of money” coming to the US Treasury.

This is the rare Cancel-culture hat trick, combining censorship, direct interference in the market with a socialist spin, demanding the government get a cut.

From: CNN Trump says TikTok sale can go through but only if the US gets a cut https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/03/tech/tiktok-acquisition-trump-treasury/index.html

The lack of comment from the free speech right on Trump’s cancel culture makes no sense until you consider the possibility they only have interest in free speech when there is an opportunity to take a condescending tone towards liberals.

Obamagate is just Benghazi 2.0

Bill Barr’s DOJ has just released a report showing that the 29 FISA warrants met the appropriate standards, showing that the Russia investigation wasn’t a hoax or a witch hunt. And this can mean only one thing: there will be multiple investigations into those 29 FISA warrants.

Obamagate is just Benghazi 2.0. So expect a never ending stream of new investigations that go nowhere.

“The Department of Justice has completed its review of the 29 FISA applications that were the subject of preliminary findings by the DOJ Inspector General (OIG) in March 2020.  We are pleased that our review of these applications concluded that all contained sufficient basis for probable cause and uncovered only two material errors, neither of which invalidated the authorizations granted by the FISA Court.   These findings, together with the more than 40 corrective actions undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Division, should instill confidence in the FBI’s use of FISA authorities.  We would like to express our appreciation to the OIG for their focus on the Department’s use of its national security authority.  We remain committed to improving the FISA process to ensure that we use these tools consistent with the law and our obligations to the FISA Court.  The ability to surveil and to investigate using FISA authorities remains critical to confronting current national security threats, including election interference, Chinese espionage and terrorism.”

Source: Statement of Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers on the Public Release of the Department’s Findings with Respect to the 29 FISA Applications that Were the Subject of the March 2020 OIG Preliminary Report | OPA | Department of Justice

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: President Trump appointed Jared to lead the task force.

This is an amazing and in depth article in Vanity Fair points that out something we should all already know. The Republican party is willing to play politics with American lives. In this case, they were willing to do nothing in the face of a pandemic, allow the virus to kill American citizens and use those deaths to attack Democratic governors.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Source: How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air” | Vanity Fair

No of this should be shocking to those who know that six years later, Flint still lacks access to safe drinking water. Or that the GOP still blocks every 9/11 first responder bill, possibly out of habit while using first responders as a prop. Or that they regularly vote against disaster relief when it comes to blue states while demanding disaster relief in their home states.

This is why the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: President Trump appointed Jared to lead the task force. Mobsters don’t hire family members for their competence. They pick family members because they are unlikely to talk to the FBI. They pick family members for blind loyalty.

Why I don’t trust libertarians when it comes to policing and neither should you.

My facebook feeds are packed with libertarians making excuses for use of force and people so very confused about the libertarians siding with the state and its guns. I am not confused or surprised. Libertarianism is a very violent and extremely hierarchical philosophy and has alway been. It has always taken the very rational Lockean hierarchy of life, liberty and property and flipped it to be about property being primary and a pre-condition for liberty and life.

“Police may use such coercive methods [as beating and torturing suspects] provided that the suspect turns out to be guilty, and provided that the police are treated themselves as criminal suspects if the suspect is not proven guilty. For, in that case, the rule of no force against non-criminals would still apply. Suppose, for example, that police beat and torture a suspected murderer to find information… If the suspect turns out to be guilty, then the police should be exonerated…” — Murray Rothbard, from the ironically titled book The Ethics of Liberty

I have always read as “If you are wealthy and have access to legal services, the police should in no way treat you like a criminal. If you are poor, the police can beat a confession out of you” This is hardly a unique view in libertarian land. There are plenty of examples of libertarian thinkers making excuses for force, when it is people like them who will benefit and people not like that that will be targets of that force. Don’t accept their claim that this is about liberty. It isn’t and never has been. It’s an extreme hierarchy where there are people at the top, which the law protects but doesn’t hold responsible and those at the bottom which the law holds responsible but doesn’t protect.

 [The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… [W]hat was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence. Their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out, so that you can live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it…. Any white person who could bring the element of civilization had the right to take over this country. — Ayn Rand

No one should be shocked that this is her opinion here. In atlas shrugged, her hero John Galt says this:

“We will open the gates of our city to those who deserve to enter, a city of smokestacks, pipe lines, orchards, markets and inviolate homes. We will act as the rallying center for such hidden outposts as you’ll build. With the sign of the dollar as our symbol—the sign of free trade and free minds—we will move to reclaim this country once more from the impotent savages who never discovered its nature, its meaning, its splendor. Those who choose to join us, will join us; those who don’t, will not have the power to stop us; hordes of savages have never been an obstacle to men who carried the banner of the mind.

It should be clear that this is what she thinks. If you don’t think like her, you’re a savage and no one need to respect your claims. Again, people at the top, which the law protects but doesn’t hold responsible and those at the bottom which the law holds responsible but doesn’t protect.

And libertarianism is also very cool with cancel culture and always has been.

“As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society.” — Hans-Hermann Hoppe from Democracy: The God That Failed.

CNN: Tucker Carlson’s top writer quits after secretly posting racist and sexist remarks in online forum

Source: Tucker Carlson’s top writer quits after secretly posting racist and sexist remarks in online forum – CNN

This is an instance of what I call the Three’s Company Defense. If you aren’t familiar with the show Three’s Company, let me give you a quick synopsis: It was a 1970s sitcom where every episode revolved around some misunderstanding; often suggestively sexual in nature, that existed largely as a vehicle to put Don Knott’s supernatural facial reactions on your TV.

Let me now propose that any time someone is defending the Tucker’s show from charges of racist dog whistles or claims there are no racist undertones, or suggests that this is all a hoax, just a big ol’ misunderstanding, that is the Three’s Company defense. These are all coincidences. They aren’t racist, it was just Janet about to sew a button on Jack’s pants. That should not be considered credible, knowing that many prominent racists are fans and the head writer was outed for making racist comments

Why don’t Republicans know what American values, history and culture are?

Looking back at historic events and people involved, putting it in context and attempting to evaluate those people and events with modern understanding is history. That is literally what history is and what historians do.

Statues aren’t history. The story of why those statues are there, what they meant for the people who put them there, why those people were chosen; that’s history. This is why every attempt to revive the symbols of the confederacy is an attempt to rewrite history. Taking down the statues and putting them in museums isn’t erasing history. It is history.

Insisting that you can not criticize some historical figures, reevaluate their contributions, discuss negative things about them in the light of modern understanding isn’t protecting history. It is literal political correctness and it harms our values, history and culture.

More importantly, no one taking away American values, history, and culture because those statues do not represent America. They represent Confederate culture and Confederate values. That Republicans do not understand this is both shocking and not at all surprising.

I honestly do not know what is wrong with the Republicans anymore. I keep hearing “they aren’t being taught what I was!” yeah, no shit. We know more now. Having you kids taught exactly what you were taught assumes we haven’t learned anything. Having your kids taught something new means you did your job.

Actual historians have looked over events and historical figures with new eyes and with new understanding and now we know more. When Johnny Boomer was in school in 1960, it is very likely that all of his text books were written by people who simply never questioned the idea of white christian male rule as an immutable fact of life. When I was in school it was likely that all my text books were written by people who never considered LGBT rights leading to marriage equality.

So it would be irresponsible to teach kids about the founders without discussing slavery. And it would be irresponsible to exclude the existence of the LGBT community. It would be irresponsible to ignore the work that went into documenting structural racism. We no longer teach kids to use typewriters, slide rules and manual spreadsheets using ledger paper anymore either. Times change and it would be disservice to teach kids the 1960 Johnny Boomer curriculum for the sake of Republican feelings.

Louie Gohmert invoked The Air Bud Rule

While the House Judiciary Committee was conducting official business the Republican Party objected to on entirely political grounds, meaning that the investigation would uncover republican criminality and corruption they wish to leave covered, one representative, Louie Gohmert decided that he would disrupt the hearing by making noise. When confronted about this, he stated “Then there’s no rules about when you can make noise

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/06/24/louie-gohmert-bangs-table-judiciary-hearing-vpx.cnn

So what does this have to do with Air Bud? Oddly enough, I think you can understand a lot about the GOP by watching Air Bud.

If you’ve never seen it, Air Bud is a 1997 Disney Movie about a dog named Buddy who can play basketball. And as Disney plot mechanics demand, Buddy is a truly good boy when it comes to playing basketball. The conceit is that Buddy gets to play and win an important championship game because there is technically no rule about dogs playing basketball.

While that is certainly true, there is no reason to think that Springfield Massachusetts’ Dr. Naismith had intended that his game would include canine athletes when he invented the game in 1891.

Let’s get back to Louie Gohmert. While it is true that there may not be an explicit rule about making noise by taping a microphone, there is also no reason to think the founders had intended that disruption of the procedure would be the way to object to a witness going long a few minutes long in his testimony to congress.

In the same vein, there was no rule about a standing filibuster. No rule about having multiple Benghazi investigations after the first failed to uncover criminality. No rule about having an impeachment without witnesses. And so on. Sure, there are norms about these things but not explicit rules. And like in Air Bud, there is no reason to think the founders intended the legislature would work this way.

John DiIulio called them Mayberry Machiavelli in 2002, telling Ron Suskind

What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.

In 2012’s Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann described the issue in It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the Politics of Extremism describing

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

While Louie Gohmert is most certainly an idiot, it would be wrong to dismiss this as just idiocy. Louie Gohmert didn’t even bother to ask the witness any questions because Gohmert wasn’t thinking about the witness. When you look at Air Bud as being a deliberate norm destruction tactic because they are focused on GOP losses in November and other electoral objectives, this makes sense.

Some people only know one amendment and they don’t understand consequences.

I think everyone knows that guy. The one says he needs all those guns because he must defend liberty. And while I support an individual right to bare arms, I never actually think that liberty is the reason why that guy wants those guns. I’ve been to gun shows. I’ve fired long guns. I can tell the the difference the major types of firearms. I’ve seen the gun culture props they sell at gun shows.

Those guys have been busy talking about Antifa. And BLM. And arguing that the protests justify their arguments about guns. They need them to protect themselves from BLM and Antifa. Did you see the riots? The vandalism? All the looting?

So I have a whole list questions for those second amendment defenders who spend all that time bragging about how willing they are to use arms to defend themselves and thier liberty from government tyranny.

If there is any looting, vandalism or arson will you and your side obey curfews and allow the police to restore order before continuing?

If looting, vandalism and arson occurring during your gallant defense of liberty, does that invalidate it?

Will innocent civilians be killed in your defense of liberty? Will uniformed police, national guard or US military be killed in your defense of liberty?

Why do I see so many fake liberal hunting licenses but I never see any tyrannical government agent hunting licenses? How is this related to defending your liberty from government tyranny.

Why do I see so many symbols of vigilantes combined with symbols of support for law enforcement? Do you guys know the difference between vigilantes and law enforcement?

So…. Will your defense of liberty be free of looting, vandalism and arson? Will civilians be killed? Will the police be shot at? What side do you expect the police to be on? Would it be free of grievance killing of political opponents? Would there be a difference between vigilantes and law enforcement? Explain it to me. Own it.

What I always conclude is they want those guns because they want to shoot at and kill political opponents, which I usually assume means liberals, activists, people who call them racists for flying a racist flag; and not the police which they assume will be on their side and empower them to kill. And they assume the they will get away with blaming the looting and vandalism on the other side.

So go ahead and shoot deer. But don’t lie to me at tell me it’s about liberty.

Thrilling Tales of Chickenshit Conservatism: BLM Edition

When someone claims to support the policing reforms being won by the BLM protests but insists they can not support BLM because they prefer ‘all lives matter’ they are engaging in a disingenuous tactic I call Chickenshit Conservatism, taking a cue from the Dead Kennedy’s song Chickenshit Conformist.

I consider Chickenshit Conservatism to be a special case of what is commonly called bothsiderism. When used correctly, it’s a bad faith tactic for turning an indefensible position into an unquestionable status quo. This seems to be increasingly common on Facebook where racists, fascists and swamp dwellers want to spread a message even of just letting bad things happen to other people, even when that position is unpopular.

Step one: Agree to the liberal position or positions of your interlocutor. Start off by saying you agree that racism is bad. That police brutality is bad. They have no place in our society. You may be doing this because you agree or because you don’t think the status quo is actually racist. But you can just as easily do it because you don’t mind the racism but know it is indefensible.

Step two: Recite the litany of Clinton and Obama failings. And this is why this is such an effective strategy-the Democratic party doesn’t have a great record on policing, and have some responsibility for the awful policies on mandatory minimums, the war on drugs, mass incarceration etc, so they have a point. That’s all mostly true. By reciting the litany you can build the empathy those of us on the left crave and make totally sensible claims.

Step three: Ignore, dismiss or grossly misrepresent all attempts at reform while defending the counterargument with unsourced or just made up factoids.

They might say “Defund the police? But when happens if I call 911?” You can calmly point out that no one is actually talking about defunding down to zero dollars. Of course there will still be armed police officers. “But crime is going up!” they counter. You calmly cite figures showing that crime is in fact going down. Why aren’t they doing something about the looting? Well, that’s what the police should be doing, isn’t it?

What’s happening here is sometimes called sealioning and this can be exhausting. They will keep asking questions and citing reasons why they can’t support any change while ignoring anything you say in response. The big point here is that they will never actually defend the conservative position nor the status quo. They might appeal to bipartisanship but then ignore that only one party has interest in fixing anything. Don’t think you can ever satisfy their criteria for change. They aren’t looking for solutions, they want permission to support a position they know is indefensible in polite company. They want a clear conscience while they look the other way.

The closer: Insist that the status quo will get better if we are all just had more patience. Give it time.

At some point you just get fed up and your interlocutor either walks away or they walk away with some half-ass comment about the alternatives not being viable and we should just wait and see. This is the tell. Just as many people are being hurt by looting. No one is being helped by the rioting. Things will just get better.

There seem to be three ways to handle this

  1. Call it out. Say “I don’t actually think you want to consider alternatives, I really think you’re looking for an excuse to support the status quo.” and then walk away.
  2. Use judo. “Can you tell me what policies or changes you would support and why?” “Oh, you haven’t seen any or thought about any? well what news sources do you read?” “Oh, you haven’t read much news? Well what sources do you normally trust?” and keep going. What you want is to get them into some self reflection.
  3. Confront their lack of skin in the game. What if you are wrong? Who is hurt if you are wrong? Get them to admit they aren’t actually effected by the problem they are willing to stand by and ignore.

And stay tuned for more tales of chickenshit conservatism.