Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Charlie Foxtrot: the evergreen defence procurement post

I should just cite Kim Nossal and then run, but I can't help myself: I am not a fan of the Canadian Fighter Replacement Adventure.  Today, the Canadian government announced a decision on how to replace the aging F-18s: buy more old ones as an interim measure and then hold a competition.  Oh, but this new competition has two key features: 2022 as the target for a decision AND the Screw Boeing clause.  Let me explain my take.

First, the Liberals are here because the Conservatives also dithered and played politics with this decision.  Oh, and the NDP had fun with it as well.

Second, yes, Canada has been through this before, but whatever was gleaned from past competitions (in Canada, by the Danes, by the Aussies, whoever) apparently was not "fair" enough for the various companies to agree to use as a basis for a new competition.  Me?  I am lazy, so I would figure that if I had done a bunch of homework and then had to go back to the same project, I would not do so much new research.  I would build on prior work.  Apparently, this is not acceptable to the competitors.  Indeed, Sweden's  Saab was not in past competitions  because they thought they would lose (oh, and guess what, they will lose this time too--interoperability with US/NATO is a fundamental requirement and Sweden is not a NATO country so its planes tend not to be as interoperable [I think]).  Still, the fact that they can't build on the previous work means five years of effort to get a contract?!

Third, yeah, five years.  Wow.  A good reason for this might be that the folks who would do the work on this are working on the interim plane.  Oh, that.  This is a key part of the puzzle--the need to buy 18 F-18s from Australia (at a bargain since they don't want them anymore*) to fill in a capability gap.  This capability gap is the idea that Canada does not have enough planes to do a full NORAD emergency and a full NATO emergency at the same time.  My experiences with military folks says that the government could say that they would be willing to take on some risk by having fewer planes as it is unlikely that Canada would experience both emergencies simultaneously.  Risk is always present--the question is how much and how mitigated.  Anyhow, the other part of the interim thing is this--when the new planes are bought, the old ones must go.  That is the rules of interim purchasing I learned when this stuff came up the first time.
*  People are worried that this will be as bad as buying used subs from the UK, but that is very different.  A) The subs were out of commission and rusting, the planes not so much; B) the subs apparently were partly involved in UK's nuke weapon program, so much of the info about how to run/maintain the subs were not available to the Canadians; C) Canada has heaps and heaps of experience with F-18s.

I get that it took time for this government to figure out what it needed--88 planes!  And more time via the Defence Policy Review that would make it clear that this government would be willing to spend the money.  So, I could have said that they dithered for two years, but I think a fair assessment is that this decision could have been announced six months ago, maybe, but not any earlier than that.  Still, why take until 2022?  Maybe it takes that long, but I am skeptical.  I think a big problem is that the Review did not really address is exactly how will Canada do procurement better/faster.  This decision does not fill me with confidence that they have figured out how to do stuff better.

Which gets me to the fun part--the Screw Boeing clause.  The government has decided that it does not want to buy big, expensive stuff from companies that hurt Canadian businesses--which is Boeing which has pushed the US government to penalize Bombardier (the most favored Canadian company) for dumping planes into the American market.  Sure, they can say it is aimed to incentivize any company to treat Canadian firms well, but this has Boeing written all over it.  The smart play, one they seem prepared to do, is to have this policy apply to all major purchases from now on.  Still, how does this get operationalized in a non-lawsuit attracting kind of way?  No idea.

I still hate the idea of an interim purchase, and I don't really buy the need to fill the gap with temporary planes which pushes the calendar for buying the permanent planes.  But all this stuff is part of a pattern well named Charlie Foxtrot (military for clusterfuck).  Situation Normal All Fucked Up (SNAFU) works as well.

I am glad a decision has been made.... but I am wondering if it will get re-made again and again.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Defeatism, Separatism, and Misunderstanding Canada: Steve's Annoyed

I have been seeing this floating around on the internet
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and it combines several triggers: a depressing view of democracy, a willingness to sell out or betray those on the wrong side of a line, and, yes, cluelessness about Canada.  Sure, I get it--Canada is wonderful, and Trump's America sucks, but, damn, what a dumb meme that is actually several dumb ideas combined into one.

First, democracy means accepting defeat.  It does not mean submission, but accepting defeat and the moving on to come back.  Yes, Trump is thoroughly awful, and is doing much damage.  But before people even joke about giving up, which is what secession would be, let's give 2018 a try, shall we?  That is, until Trump and the GOP change the rules (which they are trying to do via #voterfraudfraud), how about focusing one's humor and efforts on defeating their legislation (the tax bill ain't law yet) and defeating the GOP candidates in the various elections between now and 2021? 

Second, despite all the blue and red maps out there, there are many, many people in the yellow states in that map who do not support Trump nor the Republicans.  I am not just talking about Colorado and Virginia and Maryland but Democrats and independents in Texas and Florida and Arizona and even Montana and Utah.  This map reeks of white liberal arrogance (and I am a white semi-liberal).  What happens to all the brown people left behind in Trump's lesser America?  Right now, the GOP can't revise the Constitution at will, but could if you take out the Democratic bastions of New York, Massachusetts, New England (well, sort of with NH and Maine being shaky at best) and the West Coast?  It also gives up on the dream of the future--the Democrats competing in Texas, winning Arizona and so forth.  Sure, #voterfraudfraud makes that harder, but the future of the GOP is dim unless they learn how to keep their white voters while appealing to non-whites.  Let's not give up too soon, shall we?

Third, Canadians had fun this morning posting a series of things about Canada that would flip out Americans, even liberal ones.  I will not list all of that, but this kind of meme is just wonderfully ignorant about Canada. For one thing, Canada might not want all of these states, as it would upset a variety of power structures--Quebec would fear being inundated by Anglophones, Alberta would fear being marginalized by left/centrist voters and dwarfed by California.  Indeed, a key brake on irredentism are those who would lose by being part of a greater entity.  For another, Canadians define themselves in large part by not being Americans.  So, what would Canada be if one adds in so many people that Canadians are a minority (remember, California is about equal to Canada in population so the math here is quite easy)?  So, there's that. 
And then there is the stuff my Canadian friends mentioned--stronger unions than American are used to, far more tolerance of cartels, some limitations on free speech, that whole constitutional monarchy thing, bags of milk (ok, that is an Ontario/Quebec thing), too much damn hockey on SportsCentre, the metric system and on and on.

It is easy is to idealize Canada from afar, but, despite what liberal Americans might think, it is not just a colder version of Washington (the state) and Vermont. 

Sure, I am crapping on a silly meme.  But it helps to breed yet more ignorance about both American democracy and about Canada.  So, don't mind me when I put a 😠 on your facebook feed when you post it. There are far funnier, more apt memes that one can circulate in one's annoyance that the awfulness that is Trump and the Republican Party.  For instance:

Hegemonic Abdication Theory

Looks like we need to develop some new theory as Trump/Tillerson/Kushner/etc are now doing something that might unprecedented: simply giving up a country's position as the main provider of public goods that stabilize much of the international system--the hegemon.  Putting aside whether hegemons are benign or not, the basic idea is that stability requires either one actor to provide some key contributions or a small group (but cooperation is hard).*
* I don't do IPE nor have I read any of this stuff in a decade or two, so let me remind the readers this is the semi-spew--things are half-baked here.  If other folks have said this, I invoke Steve Martin of the 1970s

What are these things?  A stable currency that is convertible and can be used as a medium of exchange, a large and open market so that countries can continue to export even in hard times, a willingness to enforce freedom of the seas so that trade can flow with little interruption, and supporting international institutions that facilitate exchanges (minimize the transaction costs). The basic idea is that the hegemon provides a buffer in hard times so that countries do not engage in ultimately self-destructive and other-destructive competitive policies that undermine the stability of the system.

Lots of debate in International Relations whether one needs a hegemon for this stuff to exist.  It is clear that it is easier to maintain the system after a hegemon (so Keohane argued) than perhaps to build a system sans hegemon.  Anyhow, leadership can be costly, but the leader can write the rules in ways that make the system work for them.  The US certainly did so after WWII: the rules were written to help the US but also help its allies, and this "benevolence" was largely aimed at the Soviet Union and Communism--providing the public goods for a capitalist world economy was part of containment.  After the decline of the Soviet Union, it still made sense to provide these goods because the US benefits from stability even if there are some costs.

I had considered long ago something called hegemonic instability theory--that one can cooperate to build bits and pieces of order in international relations (regimes) as long as the hegemon is not hostile to the endeavor.  That cooperation can develop among small groups which can then be enlarged to include most countries as long as the hegemon does not try to disturb stuff.

Well, we are now in need of some hegemonic abdication theory: under what conditions will a leader of the international system simply give up its role?  The obvious answer is: when it is no longer able or interested.  In the aftermath of WWI, the British realized that their role as hegemon was over, as they were exhausted by the war and their growth, their economy was no longer so strong that they could dominate the international economy and provide the goods.  They wanted to hand it over to the US, but the US was largely uninterested... which helped to exacerbate the Great Depression.  The US could have played a role to mitigate the damage, but chose policies that made everything worse.

Now? The US can still play the old role.  Despite decades of declinism, the US could still play this role and did so in 2008-09. Sure, being hegemon means that its economic troubles get exported to the rest of the world (sorry), but it also means that it can lead the cooperation to make sure that things don't get worse.  So, is it no longer in the interest of the US as a country?  Is instability preferred now by American companies and sectors of the economy?  Um, no. Despite the love of "disruption" in the modern business jargon, I am pretty sure that most firms and most sectors prefer stable exchange rates, open export markets, and a general level of stability in all things international.  If Hillary Clinton had won last year, we would not be taking about abdication.

So, Hegemonic Abdication Theory needs to build in an additional variable?  Stupidity? Xenophobia? The Trump Administration seems quite willing to abandon pretty much everything the US has built since WWII--any multilateral effort is fair game, no matter how beneficial for the US or how small the costs.  Tis no accident that the label America First was a thing in the 1930s and now again--it may or may not mean isolationism and withdrawal from the world, but it certainly means a refusal to cooperate, a strong preference for unilateralism.  I guess we need to go back to Ruggie and the social purpose that gets attached to power--that American hegemony (and the British one before it) were inherently liberal enterprises--as in free trade and all that.  The US has lost its social purpose as it is now polarized and led by someone who is illiberal to the core.  The strange thing is that his party is willing to follow him over the cliff, that the stock market is so in love with deregulation and tax cuts that they don't seem to mind the crash that is ahead when markets shut down as the international trading order falls apart.

So, Hegemonic Abdication Theory requires that the most powerful economy (still) is led by those who are illiberal?  I guess so.  That is far as I am getting on a Sunday morning.  Any suggestions for refining this theory?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Canadian Foreign Policy Is Broken?

I was invited to chat with a visiting official from an Asian country, and it led to an epiphany:
There is something profoundly wrong with Canada's foreign policy-making process.

How so?  I am a victim of wishful thinking, as I read into the TPP mess that perhaps Trudeau was being clever, holding out for concessions.  Nope, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the negotiations went far beyond what he was expecting, that there is some gap between the negotiators in Global Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office.  I have no idea where the responsibility lies although I have heard bad things about both GAC (understaffed, under-experienced these days) and PMO (way too stretched). 

Going to China and failing to start a negotiation, however smart or problematic the idea of a Free Trade Agreement with China is (I tend to view China as Tony Soprano), going all the way there and getting nothing?  What is the point?

I am not an expert on either Canadian foreign policy nor on Canada-Asian relations (although the latter would be cool since good food and all that), but expending a heap of political capital, upsetting trading partners and then getting nada?  Not good.  Something to keep an eye on.

Conferences, Workshops, Presentations, Oh My

This week was very busy with two different events in Ottawa (ok, many, with several conflicting with the two I was involved in): the Year Ahead conference that the Centre on Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies (a NPSIA center) ran and a Canadian Defence Workshop run by several friends of mine.  The former covered a variety of issues facing Canada and its pals over the next year--North Korea, the Mideast, Russia/Ukraine, many missions (or not), the US, and Cyber stuff.  The latter covered pretty much the entire range of Canadian defence dynamics and challenges.  I learned a lot from both, but can't simply present the storify of each since, well, storify is acting up.  So, what did I learn and what did I say?

The Year Ahead:
  • Trump has delegated the decision making over whether to do freedom of navigation cruises through the South China Sea to Pacific Command, so more of these are happening (Ankit Panda)
  • China is having more sway in part because ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Naitons) is divided on the South China Sea, so the members can't agree on what to do (Panda).
  • Relations between the US and China are likely to sour in the year ahead (Panda).
  • ISIS will remain a threat AND continues to have ties to the Syrian regime, which uses it when it needs to raise the spectre of jihadism for regime maintenance (Barak Barfi)
  • Iran is more dedicated to its proxies than Saudi Arabia to its own proxies (Barfi)
  • That I get annoyed when folks call Trump an isolationist because, thus far, what he has demonstrated is not less involvement in the world but more unilateralist involvement. I also get annoyed when folks say that Obama was anti-Israel.  He might have been anti-Netanyahu, but that is something else entirely.
  • That I should invite Monica Toft of the Fletcher School (Tufts) more often.  She couldn't stay long but dropped a ton of knowledge about UN and other interventions--that they tend to prolong conflicts, that supporting rebels ends conflicts faster, and more.
  • Inviting Canadian generals is always a good idea.  Brigadier General David Anderson was very interesting both on and off stage, although I am reluctant to repeat what he said since officials and officers have less latitude to be cited.
  • I talked about alliance dynamics, with the punchline that coalitions/alliances involve countries having to manage their own domestic coalition politics, and Trump makes that harder since he is toxic in Europe (and Canada).  
  • Jim Fergusson of Manitoba discussed the complexities of US-Canadian defence arrangements.  
  • Christopher Sands was very interesting, presenting a series of angles on the US-Canadian trade relationship, leaving me thinking that we are all doomed despite his sunny disposition.  He did produce the best line of the day: "Trump would kick a bunny."  And yeah, Canada is a bunny.
  • Sands argued that Canada should try to give Trump as many minor victories as possible to assuage him and hope that he does not obsess about the points of difference.
  • The last panel was on cyber stuff, and I was too fried to either live tweet or remember (sorry).
The Canadian Defence Workshop (only a few highlights as my note-taking/life-tweeting was inconsistent):
  • Sheryl Lightfoot of UBC presented three stages of First Nations-mil interactions/dynamics, which was all new info to me.  I have a very shallow knowledge of Canadian military history and Canadian mythology underplays how badly the First Nations have been treated.
  • Adam Chapnick of the Canadian Forces College: our strategy development process is broken as the military can't admit failure, outcomes hinge less on Canada than the alliance/coalition we are with so outcomes are hard to measure, and, oh yeah, outcomes are really hard to measure. Canada tends to make the big decisions and then develop the strategy afterwards (F35/F18/F-whatever anyone?).
  • Adam Lajeunesse: CA arctic policy is misunderstood, media focuses on equipment (ships/planes, things with pretty pictures).
  • Alex Bolt (JAG): really informed us of the imperatives of taking the legal stuff seriously--not an afterthought but should be part of the strategy development.  When will CAF be lawful targets is a big deal.  What is this "direct party in hostilities" stuff?  Very informative.  I should have asked my combat/not combat question.  But I was addled by two days of conferences and getting ready for my presentation.
  • That Phil Lagasse set a fun trap for me by having a key public servant as my discussant, and thus one who had much to say about my take on Canadian civil-military relations.
  • That observers of the frequent Phil-Steve banter on twitter may see us being hostile to each other, which made the both of us laugh.  
  • Oh, and that I may have dark powers that I never exposed before:
David Welch had fun with the Rummy-esque hand gesture.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Good Politics and the Right Thing To Do, Franken Edition

I have long been a fan of Franken. I have most, if not all of his books.  I really enjoyed him actually doing quite well as a Senator, as he did try to hold government officials/appointees accountable.  He accidentally trapped Sessions in a lie that will keep on dogging the highest law enforcement official in the land.  And, yes, he has to go.  It is both the right thing to do and good politics.

Franken is a serial sexual harasser and perhaps even serial sexual assaulter (groping counts, doesn't it?).  This is not the case of him saying something once or acting inappropriately once--it is a pattern of behavior that he is not denying although he has underplayed what is clearly something quite systemic in his own character.  He does not belong in the Senate, he should not be representing people nor should he be paid by taxpayers with public funds.  Everything he does now is tainted.  The Democratic Party needs to have some core values and treating women decently should be one of them.  Franken may have done good things for women in general, but he has bad for the individual women he has encountered.  Franken leaving or getting kicked out is the right thing to do. 

It is also, conveniently, good politics. Not just that the Governor of Minnesota will appoint a Democrat so it does not affect the balance of political control of the Senate in the short term (that someone has to run in 2018 to replace Franken could be dicey).  It is good politics because the Democrats are increasingly becoming the party of consistent values and the GOP is the party of opportunism.  This ain't bad optics going forward.  More importantly, it is good politics because women are more than half of the electorate, and the gender gap already favors the Dems and will favor them more so.  Sure, more than a few women have other interests/identities that cause them to vote against their interests as women---they may be rich, they may love their guns, they may be racist, or whatever.*  Still, alienating some women by being the party of sexual assault is not going to help the GOP, and by drawing a clear line between the Democrats and the Republicans on this, the Democrats will benefit.  The GOP can suppress the vote of minorities and the young via #voterfraudfraud voter id laws, but how can they suppress the female vote?  I am sure they will find a way, but it is much harder.
* Yeah, I am still bitter about white women voting for Trump, which upset my prediction last fall and gave us this darkest timeline.
Anyhow, I will get over the heartbreak of having a guy I have long favored turn out to be sleazy and hurtful to those who was supposed to be helping. Will the GOP get over being the party that preferred a child molester in the Senate and an admitted sexual assaulter in the White House?  I am not so sure.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Concluding Civ-Mil Class With Mushroom Clouds?

Today was the last day of my NPSIA Civil-Military Relations class.  For the past few weeks, the students presented their papers, asking a variety of interesting questions about the civil-military dynamics around the world.  The papers ranged from addressing 1st gen civ-mil questions--coup or no coup--to 2nd gen--why do democracies have trouble controlling their militaries--to 3rd gen--cooperation between civilians and military in the field.  I learned a great deal about many places, so, of course, I popped the joyful balloon of learning with the crisis du jour:
The lack of civilian control of the military in the US might get us all killed.

We have an active general serving as National Security Adviser, HR McMaster, saying time is running out on North Korea.  The last thing you want in a nuclear crisis with a country with vulnerable nuclear weapons is to tell them that they are in a "use them or lose them" situation.   That would be bad enough, but the US and South Korea have started an exercise with hundreds of planes including a simulation of attacking North Korea.  How will North Korea know this is not just this simulation is not actually the preparation or the start of a first strike?

Most of the civilian experts on this stuff that I am familiar with are very concerned about the combination of: fears of preemption, accidents, inadvertent escalation, and egos.  Who are the civilians in this US government who can put the brakes on these kinds of exercises?  Who can tell the President this exercise and McMaster's stances are BAD?  Tillerson?  Please, that amateur is not just the #worstsecstate but on his way out.  He has no wisdom and no sway.  Mattis?  Has anyone seen Mattis lately?  He is really well read, everyone says.  Has he read Schelling?  Jervis? Posen? The stuff on nuclear war near misses?  Oh, and he is not really a civilian, as his mindset has not had a chance to change (tis the anniversary of this post).  Oh and the key spots in State and the Office of the Secretary of Defense--Assistant Secretaries of State/Defense for East Asia--remain unfilled as far as I can tell. 

Which makes Trump the primary civilian responsible for making sure that the US military does not make any moves that might cause North Korea to launch its weapons because its leaders fear that a preemptive strike is on its way or is imminent.  I would never put "Trump" and "responsible" in the same sentence except as a question, and, yeah, we know the answer: not responsible.

So, I ended the semester scaring my students.  I guess I should not have seen Krampus recently.

Ten Years and a Wakeup

Thanks to FB, I was reminded that this week was a big deal ten years ago for me.  I had one of the best job opportunities of my life and I blew it and then I flew off to Afghanistan. 

While I was not yet unhappy at my old place, the opportunity to be in the DC area--both to be close to family and to that center of the IR world--was pretty damn attractive.  Perhaps too much so as I choked during the job talk.  And it was one of those that is before lunch, so I spent lunch apologizing, knowing that I was a dead man walking for the rest of the afternoon.  It turned out ok, as five years later, I got a really cool job in a great city.  So, yeah, my career has gone the way I thought it would, but I am happy with how it has worked out.

One of the strange things about that job talk was I was thinking as much about the next opportunity as the one in front of me.  In the good old days, the Canadian Dept of National Defence would take random or not so random collections of academics to wherever the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed.  This time: Kabul and Kandahar.  The timing was great both for my research and for, well, our safety.  I had just started the NATO book research with Dave Auerswald, which was originally going to compare the NATO missions in Bosnia and Kosovo to the one in Afghanistan and to the unilateral mission in Iraq.  Instead, Afghanistan ate the book, as there was so much variation in the one case, and James Blunt helped to shift our focus.  December of 2007 was also a relatively safe time to do this kind of trip--at the time, Afghanistan seemed to be the war we could win, compared to the very, very violent Iraq war in mid-surge. 

I had never been to any part of Asia, and I had never been in a war zone.  Just the experience of getting one's flak jacket, helmet, etc in Dubai where Camp Mirage was (we were not supposed to identify where the Canadian base in the Mideast was although wikipedia knew it) was startling.  Flying in a C-130 was ... loud and uncomfortable, but not a bad way to start the transition to Afghanistan.  We landed in Kandahar and had to transfer to get to Kabul, displacing a group of advisers and Afghan officers--perhaps the first hint that the priorities might be a bit backwards. 

In Kabul, we were driven around in a two car convey, briefly daily on how to respond if we got attacked and told to look out for rubble alongside the roads, which might mask a roadside bomb.  Um, there is rubble all over the place.  Anyhow, we met with Afghan politicians, we were impressed by the Afghan Aussies who ran a media empire, we met with UN officials (the soon to be lamented Chris Alexander), we met with embassy folks, and we slept in NATO facilities with a doghouse with my name on it:

We then got flown back to Kandahar for several days of briefings, meetings and what passed for tourism.  We very much drank from the fire hose as we received a ton of info, even as we realized that we were actually a component of an information operation ... aimed at the Canadian public.  Not a great choice, I think, since we tend to be critical, but still we developed favorable views of the CAF and what it was doing.  Indeed, we even got to see the temporary detainment facility, which was presented pretty honestly--that the Canadians would hold onto prisoners if and when the Afghans treated them poorly.  Too bad the politicians back home couldn't grasp the realities of this.  We learned a lot from informal discussion as well.  We went to Canada house where the Canadian troops spent their off-hours (I finished second in a poker game!), and heard more critical takes on the mission there than in the official briefings.  We also went off and found the Canadian media tent even though we were supposed to avoid them.  Oops?  We even crossed the road to check out a boneyard--old Soviet tanks!

We were helicoptered (coo1!) to the Provincial Reconstruction Team, where we got to see the whole of government effort writ small-- the diplomats, the aid people, the police trainers and the soldiers.  They seemed quite cooperative, but, well, things were different back home. 

It was a pretty impressive trip, and helped me catch up quickly on the geography, the personalities, and the realities of Afghanistan.  "Wait, you are saying the half brother of the President runs this province and is the Al Capone of Kandahar?!"  It definitely made it easier to write the book.  And I got to spend a heap of time with some great Canadian scholars who are much of the backbone of the Canadian defence community (including a future colleague at NPSIA).  It almost made me forget how badly I bombed that job talk. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Flynn Flipping Means What?

Folks who pay attention to me (ok, my Mom and a few others) might notice a contradiction: I took great delight to see Flynn flip on Trump and the Cult of the Corrupt yet I also don't think impeachment is going to happen.  How to make sense of this?

To start, as I have said before, I don't think impeachment is going to happen.  Ryan and McConnell control the agendas of both houses, so impeachment can't get going.  If the Dems take back both houses in 2018, which is unlikely but possible, then the Dems would need to flip 15-16 or so GOP votes in the Senate as the impeachment requires a majority vote in the House but 2/3s to convict in the Senate--see Bill Clinton. Oh, and the GOP is not going to impeach Trump because they need his core voters and impeaching Trump would alienate them for a long, long time.  The tax cut vote suggests that these GOP folks are not profiles in courage.

Anyhow, why I am happy about Flynn flipping?

First, I am trying to avoid that whole hobgoblin of little minds.  [Oh, and if I had bet on Flynn getting indicted/arrested in 2017, I would be a bit wealtheir]

Second, schadenfreude is a thing.  I am taking joy and happiness from the suffering of bad people--Flynn, Flynn Jr, Jared, Don Jr, Trump.

Third, all this stuff is eroding support for Trump with the latest polls 33 in favor, 62 against in good economic times.  He is more underwater than Trump inc.  And this matters because while it might not lead to impeachment, it makes it harder for GOP folks to stand up for and support Trump AND

Fourth, to win in 2018, the Dems don't have to make the entire GOP leave Trump, but if it can get a small percentage of those who would otherwise vote for their rep to either not show up or vote for someone else, then the Democratic wave can be a thing.  While that might not get us impeachment, a Democratic majority in the House and/or Senate would make it much harder for the GOP to do damage like they just did with the tax bill.  That stuff can't get reversed until the Dems have both houses and the White House, but they can be more effective at blocking stuff after 2018.  Oh, and they can start investigating Trump and his team of corrupt arsonists day after day as they then would control the agendas of the relevant committees.

Fifth, only Trump is protected from prosecution before being impeached (and maybe Pence?).  Don Jr., Jared, and other awful folks (Ivanka, pretty please) can be prosecuted.  Notice that this batch of info does not include money, but I am sure that Mueller is tracking the dollars, just as he did with Manafort.  So, h/t to my brother for reminding of this one.

Sixth, there is that schadenfreude thing again--Trump and his folks are so thoroughly awful that, yes, I want to see them suffer.  And nothing causes Trump to suffer more than to have low popularity ratings and to be welcomed everywhere with chants of "lock him up."

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tax Bill Insta-Reactions

I guess the first question is: how different is it from the House bill?  Because we could be going through this all again if the House GOP insists on doing stuff that is beyond the pale for Collins and ....

Oh, who am I kidding?  This bill is supremely awful and was not regular order, so McCain flipped (which was predictable but still annoying and frustrating) and Collins sold out Maine.  Flake is, well, flakey.  At least Murkowski got a key priority for some of her constituents--more drilling where the wildlife used to be protected. Only Corker proved to have some scruples somewhere.

The only real solace I can take from this tax bill, which is destined to hurt most Americans and also hurt America in the world, is that the GOP will pay a huge price for it.  They created so many easy ads for the Democrats:
  • "My opponent made it easier for you to buy and maintain a private plane while taking away tax deductions for teachers to buy equipment for the classroom."
  • "You lost your access to health care, but at least you can afford the one school in the US that got a tax deduction (Hillsdale College)."
  • "Hey, remember when the GOP cared about deficits?  Good times"
  • "Kiss medicare and medicaid goodbye"
 Ok, I suck at ad-writing, but it is pretty clear that this bill is best named, by Pod Saves America, "The Donor Relief Act."  Complete with clips of GOP folks saying that they were doing this for the donors and clear evidence that the GOP cut and pasted from the lists the lobbyists sent to Santa.  Yes, Fox and Breitbart will cover it in a way to disguise this stuff, but the Democrats just need to get a few percentage points of GOP voters to realize that the party in power of both houses and the White House have just stacked the deck against them.  Sure, the Dems can screw this up, but I do think the voting last month (so long ago) indicates that the Republicans are going to lose in 2018 in a big way, and even more so now that the Dems are armed with this bill.

What is the difference between Dems and GOP these days?  Look at this tax bill.