Konspiracy Korner: Shock and Awe
This fantasy has been a profound disappointment, Dept.


A longtime pillar of the SSI community sent in an interesting political link.  He can identify himself below if so inclined.  As we know, it's good to be sensitive about identity 

;- )

Scott Adams writes the Dilbert comic and also writes very "fresh," smart, intriguing business / political material.  Today he wrote an article, "Is President Trump Doing Management Wrong?"  Our SSI amigo was curious about how this article would look from ... wait for it ... a chessplayer's lens.




Trump is not cut from the same cloth as was George Washington.  He's not even cut from the same cloth as Bill Clinton or W. Bush.  We all regret that.  

The public Donald Trump is an unpleasant man by any standards, much less by Presidential standards.  But let's talk about something else for one thread.


=== F-500 CEOs vs ENTREPENEURS === 

Adams points out that an entrepeneur "does" business differently from the way a huge company does it.  At SSI we have discussed many times the fact that a "COMMITTEE" does most things worse than an individual genius does them; twenty decent tournament players can't possibly discuss their chess plans together and compete with a human grandmaster.  The "consultation" crew is probably worse at chess than is the best single player among them...

But!  That consultation group will, absolutely will, avoid stupid blunders.  It will avoid creativity, will avoid third-order thinking, and will avoid blunders.  It will INEVITABLY make fewer mistakes than its best player playing alone.  It is far, FAR safer and more "solid" -- in chess they say "sound" -- than a single player.  Committees avoid catastrophes.

"On average" the committee is inferior to the single player; keep in mind that the single player is a BETTER player than the committee.  And nobody paints Rembrandt's Night Watch by committee.  Well, that's a bad example; The Night Watch does look like a committee painted it .... maybe we need a discussion thread for that painting.  It has a wonderful egalitarian theme.

From a business standpoint, Adams points out (correctly) that the entrepeneur wants to release a beta version, test it, get feedback, and adjust.  T-Mobile?!  NO WAY.  They want things right before the customer SEES them.  

Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator, complained publicly that Trump's EO on immigration was okay in substance, but had been released too fast.  (Many Republican congressmen did help work on the EO.)  Graham and John McCain were appalled at the very appearance of an entrepeneur-style decision.  In this case they might have been right from a perception standpoint; if Trump had announced the same thing with his Cabinet standing around him, ready to explain everything on the spot, backlash would have been different.  

But that's not Trump's way.  He revels in drama.  The point is, Senators are accustomed to glacier-like movement, are comfortable with it.  The question is whether they are too comfortable with it, or whether Trump is going to get hoist by his own petard here.

Are we all too used to gridlock?  Or is there a real concern for panic?  Sometimes the stock market is helpful data there.  You could argue this week's stock market both ways.



Anybody who disagrees with Trump, hates his speed and impulsiveness.  Anybody who agrees with him, loves his speed and decisiveness.  Let's not talk about whether you are glad or angry about the THINGS Trump is doing; it's boring to "discuss" that --  because we already know whether you loved or hated this last week, based on the (D) or (R) by your name.  

This is a process question.  Whether it is Hillary or Trump or Obama or Clinton or Bush, what do you think about a President who wants to do five or ten times as much as anybody preceding her?


I will say this much:  I think it is AMUSING the way that Trump changes the subject at will.  He took a shot to the man region, the first real body blow, over the immigration pause.  Immediately, he Tweeted that he'll be announcing for Supreme Court.  He has done this his whole life, "erase" bad coverage with splashy announcements.

Future generations will refer to this as the Trump Tactic.  All Presidents will deploy the strategem.  When Paul Morphy started using "centralization" in chess in 1857, it worked great.  Everybody now plays that way.  Trump's "splash announcements" work -- for his point of view -- fabulously.  Democrats of course hate them from Trump, as Republicans would hate them from Hillary.  Morally, I think they're rather neutral; the person is simply changing the subject.  Annoying but not evil in the sense that lying is evil.



1.  Well, flurry of action.  EO's are hardly the only thing he's been doing.  You've got the Cabinet, the back-channel and front-channel massaging of business leaders, the meetings with heads of state, the PR, on and on and on.  There is no question that a huge amount of things are happening.  Until last week, none of us realized it was possible for Washington, D.C. to move so quickly.

Scott Adams says that if he gets away with it, he will obviously become "the most effective President in history."  Most effective at evil or weal, that's a different subject.  We're talking about what it means for a President to do so much, regardless of party.


2.  For those who just joined us, "Shock and Awe" is a military term.  Its goal is to render opponents CONFUSED and feeling HELPLESS.  Trump, for ten days, has certainly accomplished this objective.  For example, the New York Times cannot run six headlines in one day on six major things that Trump did yesterday; it doesn't have time to find one wound and pick at it.  For example example, 100% of Trump's Cabinet picks are going to be confirmed.  

He's winning, yuuuge.  At the 10-day point, you understand.  But it's all the more amazing, for the fact that the Democrats, the protesters in the street, the media, AND THE BUSH-ROMNEY REPUBLICANS have fought him tooth and nail.  One guy takes on the whole country?  ... and wipes them out?

For SURE the momentum is going to change at some point.  Would welcome your thoughts as to when and with what consequence; not what you hope happens, but what you Denizens' agile minds PREDICT will happen.  Trump will lose the second quarter, it says here; what happens then I don't know.


3i.  Trump started as an entrepeneur-type businessman, but then became a CEO-type businessman.  He learned to cut through New York City zoning officials; he's using those tactics to cut through Congress.  He was accused of political inexperience, of not knowing how to talk to Senators.  Perhaps that assumption needs a revisit.

Barack Obama was very young, and very inexperienced, compared to Hillary.  It didn't matter in the slightest.  He handled his Presidency beautifully.  The same was true of Eisenhower, except the age part.  It would seem that our Presidents do not need much experience in politics.


3.  The Founding Fathers made a "Committee" out of the country, not a small-business startup.  They had in mind for the government to do little.

3b.  Trump is working within the Committee system, acting legally with respect to Congress and the Supreme Court.  

3c.  Do you think the Founding Fathers would say, "well, if you can push it through this giant lumbering government mill, more power to you.  You wouldn't be able to accomplish this if the forces of democracy were not with you."

Or do you think they would say, "We did not intend for any President to push through ideas before Congress has had proper time to deliberate."

Or do you think they would say, "The Fourth Estate (the free press) is broken, our democracy is therefore broken, and harsh means are justified.  If Congress started doing horrible things, then the Supreme Court would be justified to ratchet up its actions to match."

Or do you think they would say "We are so ashamed of Donald Trump personally, that we don't even want to discuss politics any more."  ... :- )


4.  Bill James has a free article up, in front of the paywall, "How Democrats Can Win Kansas."  In it, he makes the point that Bernie supporters and Trump supporters agree on one yuge thing.  For too long, Washington D.C. has cared about itself, and not about us.

Did you know that over $30,000 in lobbying money is given to Congressmen -- PER DAY, PER MEMBER?  On average.  Lobbying expenditures in D.C. are over $17M per day.  Scary, eh?

I would think all Denizens appreciate the fact that, whether it come from Bernie or The Donald, the politicians have been dealt a shock to their (self-serving) system.  They've got to be wondering whether the days are over, when they could feed at the trough at will.


5.  From a chessplayer's standpoint, what are the benefits and demerits of frantically aggressive strategy?

4a.  At lower levels, it works great.

4b.  At higher levels, it blows up in your face.

4c.  Players at the level in the Seattle Chess Club, who are very, VERY good players ... it's almost impossible for them to be too aggressive.  At that level, the best defense is truly a good offense.  But at master level, caution and precision dominate.  The smallest over-extension WILL bring defeat.

So, from a chessplayer's perspective ... are Chuck Schumer and Pinch Sulzberger grandmaster-level strategists?  (Adams' article points out that all media outlets are repeating the mantra "CHAOS" right now, and he wonders how the media synchronizes on these talking points.)  Is "democracy as a concept" a grandmaster-level strategist?  How about TRUTH as a concept -- will facts and logic rise above the noise, given time?

Can any of those forces "refute" over-aggressive play from Trump?

From a short-term political standpoint -- say, 50 years' time -- I do think that the best defense IS a good offense.  It has worked for CBS News / The Washington Post since the Viet Nam war.  I mean that dispassionately.  The media has been glad to destroy its enemies, such as Richard Nixon, any time the media chooses to go itself into hyper-aggressive mode.  

Trump is simply taking the "stay on offense" tactic to the Nth degree.  Would that be smart or stupid, coming from Trump or Hillary or Obama or Ellison?  Trump has many enemies with snake eyes on, with soul-vows to destroy him (as they did Nixon) or die trying.  It will be fascinating to see who wins.  I'd give Trump a 20%, 30% chance.


Moe Dog is an actual politician of accomplishment; would be very eager to hear his thoughts on the "Shock and Awe" strategy.  Dilbert says there is no baseline to compare it to, no President in history who tried the same thing.





National Review online, perhaps.  Not sure.

But somebody commented that the most frustrating thing (to the other side) about Trump's scurry of activity/EO's is that they are generally pretty popular, individually, with the American folk.  He's sort of an uncontrolled (it may seem) train hurdling down the tracks, but he gets exactly to where he waid he was going.

Immigration reform?  Pretty popular.

Vetting of immigrants/refugees from ISIS"linked" areas?  Pretty popular.

Federal funds for abortion?  Not very popular.

TPP?  Not very popular.

Reducing regulation?  Pretty popular.

Keystone Pipeline?  Pretty popular.

Edit:  Forgot Sanctuary Cities, didn't I?  Not very darn popular, even in California.


None of that means, of course, that protesters won't march and chant, but they do so essentially after they've lost the shortterm fight.  I don't see any of those areas where the Court will ultimately step in and block such action.

Trump has beat them and the Democratic Caucus. 

And he did it in about 240 hours.  It is driving some folks nuts.

To tell you the truth, which is fair that I do, I think I can only really differ with Trump on one of the issues above.  I wrote in Paul Ryan, btw.

Polls seem to show that people generally don't "like" Trump (approval ratings are below the waterline, generally) but they like his policies.

People eventually "liked" Obama, while still not liking his policies.

I find Trump a bit less "authoritarian" than Obama.  Obama's message was often "Take this, it's for your own good!"  His Citizen of the Workd schpiel eventually played poorly here, too.  IMHO, Obama lived in a presidential world where all problems are complicated and the critical element is how a president presents the problem-solution to the American people, who need his "explaining."  Trump sees problems and solutions as relatively simple. He's a man used to making decisions quickly, often on the fly.  The last ten days shouldn't surprise anyone.

As a history teacher, I find Obama most like Woodrow Wilson, of 20th Century presidents.  An egghead, one who was sure he and his ilk knew better.  I am not being critical, just pointing out what I think was his presidential approach. He had that Wilsonian detachment with people, as well.  With a bit of time and massaging, he felt he could convince you as to his righteousness.  He was a crusader, but a cerebral one.

Trump reminds me at times of Teddy Roosevelt, at times of Franklin Roosevelt (his impatience) and at others of Harry Truman.  I especially like the Teddy/Truman comparison, but there are some FDR similarities, too.  All three of them really liked people and we're "men of the little guy."  Teddy and FDR even pulled that off despite the silver spoon they were born with.  I think they all brought a rousing/charging style to the presidency, one that the common man appreciated.  They could be obstinate, but they liked people, too.  Like Obama, Trump is also a crusader, but one following a different battle cry. 

"Deus Vult?"  Obama sees god in the details.  Trumps finds god in action.

Obama could have a laser focus on minutiae, Trump's is on getting to a quick winning deal. 

I make no effort to predict Trump's eventually Presidential ranking.  I don't know if he gets much done way down the line, as he may wear everybody out, GOP Capitol Hillsters, as well.  But I will give him this: He does what he said he would do.  There should have been no surprises so far.

And I long ago came around to the idea that he is likely better for the nation than Ms. Clinton would have been.  That said, Margo Channing was ahead of her day:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKHUGvde7KU

Of course,  your mileage may vary.




Getting your thoughts on these items is like being able to follow you around on a work-share day :- )

Question:  what would be your own reaction to the Obama-Trump dilemma?  Be liked, and your policies disliked, or the reverse?  ... you remember Dilbert being threatened by the Prince of Heck:  "You have two choices.  Meaningful work at minimum wage, or nice pay and your work burned in front of you at the end of each day."  Dilbert:  Wow!  They're BOTH better than my current job!  Wally, you might want to get in on this!"

Arne's picture

I was rereading Morris's Colonel Roosevelt bio last night. Some links between the 1912 and 2016 pres. campaigns are striking. For instance, TR said of Taft during the campaign in April: "He has been disloyal to every canon of ordinary decency and fair dealing.... Such conduct represents the very crookedest type of a crooked deal."

Then, in July 1915, on WW I, as he was getting angrier and angrier about Wilson's "too proud to fight" mentality, Roosevelt said: "The time for words on the part of this nation has long passed. The time for deeds has come."

For sure, on the personal details, the TR/Trump comparison splinters-Trump not an outdoorsman, not at all scholarly, not an explorer-but we can still learn some things from looking at Trump as a bit of a TR echo.


As you may know, Taft was hand picked by TR in 1908 to succeed him.  They had been best friends as young men arrived in Washington.

Yet four years later, they were bitter rivals, and TR's Bull Moose run ushered in Woodrow Wilson.  (In my mind, Wilson is sadly underrated.)

Anyway, TR's career as a trust buster and bitter opponent of corruption is the thing that makes him diametrically opposed to Trump.  In TR's day, Trump would have been his #1 target.  


are solid gold.  Got any others?

Hillary would have to be compared to a male President, but still ... George W.?  ... I'd be amazed if you had a good comp for Bill Clinton.

But thanks for the ones given.  Coolidge is a fascinating comp that hadn't occurred to me at all.  Teddy Roosevelt ... I think Trump's supporters would be delighted with that one.  Truman... isn't he Bill James' choice for worst President of all time?  :: smiles ::  And what caused you to pair him with Trump - the bare-knuckle brawls, perhaps?


A great subject in itself.  Personally view your take as perceptive.  

James (also a centrist) claims that the blue states resent the red states' attempts to participate in U.S. policy.  I thought Obama was cut from that cloth, seeing himself as a teacher (your word) whose job it was to educate America towards globalism and his other core beliefs.  As a matter of style I tremendously appreciate the "braininess" of his approach.

Trump is a negotiator; he does not resent an opposing view or try to suppress it ("I don't blame China.  I blame us.").  But he certainly wants to "win," and as crushingly as possible.

 In a conference room he shoots for consensus, but I think only as an expediency - not usually having a win-win spirit long term.  His greed for personal victory doesn't leave a lot of room for a win-win scenario.


Truman liked people, I think.  His win in '48, sneaking it out over Dewey, was really a result of his whirlwind campaign, one that spoke plain, right to the people.  Trump may have borrowed some of that iin the last couple of weeks.

Truman was not afraid of the tough decision, popular or not.  Hiroshima (which he didn't think was that tough of decision), Israel, Berlin Airlift, Marshall Plan, canning MacArthur, desegregation of military (by an EO), Korea, etc.....

Hard political nuts to crack, but he waded in, moved quickly and decisively. He acted!  He wasn't particularly popular (ala Trump) but I think folks (like him or not) admired his plain talking ways.

Hillary?  I'm not sure I can come up with a decent presidential comp.  Well, Obama is probably the best, but that one is unfair.  I'm not sure any 20th Century president was as unlikeable as Ms. Clinton, nor did any return the favor with such aplomb.  My sense is that people were "in her way."  That includes most staffers, secret service agents, voters and other hoi polloi.

Surprisingly, she was generally well liked by her senate colleagues and I think she generally liked them.  They were "equals," of course,

While her husband was all about connecting with "the people" (no pun intended), she had no skill set for it.  In some ways, I think a Hillary presidency would have been a regal one.  Not as in the "Camelot" Kennedy way, but in the Queen Elizabeth II sense.  There would have always been an extra-thick layer of insulation between she and the nation, and a coldness coming from her. 

Maybe Hoover and Nixon are the best templates.  And I don't mean that in any derogatory way.  Hoover's actions to forestall the impact of The Crash were active and aggressive,  for their time.   But he had little ability to connect with people.  Nixon's first term was one of the most revolutionary in modern history: EPA, China, SALT, Title IX, ended the draft, etc.   He had no connection with the people, however.

He was a brilliant, but deeply flawed man. Hillary is not in his intellectual-political class, but she wold have lived in a White House with a gate-keeper mentality around her.  I hadn't thought about it until right now, but she would have been surrounded by "All the Queen's Men (and Women)."  There is a Nixon-ness to her, personally, not politically.


During the election season, I had Trump pegged almost entirely incorrectly.

I believed that he was (a) not genuine about any of his campaign promises and that he would govern as a leftist (b) not competent to make political deals because they don't operate like business deals and (c) likely to be too difficult to work with to get any sort of traction in the legislature and thus too likely to try to do everything with executive action. I also believed the appeal he had with his supporters during the primaries was rooted in a new strand of isolationism and populism and not in core American principles of generosity, liberty, and faith.

It, so far, looks like (a) he was deathly genuine about his campaign promises, at least insofar as he can accomplish them given the system in which he is operating (b) entirely capable of sizing up his political position and applying business acumen to cutting directly to what the best move for him is, within the law and (c) very difficult to work with but also the BMOC.  He grabbed the GOP by the man-berries during the primary fight, then he grabbed HRC and her campaign team by the hair, and now he is grabbing congress, holding down their heads against those little desks they use on the hill, and demanding that they say uncle. I way...way underestimated his alpha status.  Oh...and he has the media sniffing its own behind in an endless tailspin like the silliest golden retriever.

The problem is...

We actually aren't supposed to be run like a business with that sort of efficiency because one man with too much ambition can seriously endanger our representative framework and separated and limited powers. If he is too successful, he will establish a precedent by which our entire way of life could be destroyed by an equally effective crusader from the wrong political strain. And if he fails, he will set back the causes he champions for fifty years and likely destroy the Republican brand.

The media's coordinated assault on him will either work or it will not.  So far, most Americans don't seem to be taking the media narrative as gospel, but I think what could happen is that even the folks who generally support him may get really tired of being hated by their friends and watching protests in the cities nonstop as the press screams about chaotic white house and capital hill in disarray. Because one thing about Americans is...we like peace. We got tired of fighting the war on terror until the terrorist attacks got frequent enough that we decided not fighting it was not bringing us peace.We got tired of fighting in Vietnam and watching the protests over it and the damage it did to our boys. We get tired of political melodrama...and we seem to always self-correct whenever one party gets too much power. If the story of Trump's presidency begins to look like it disturbs the peace too much and makes life hard to live for his defenders...we'll probably forget how badly we wanted Washington to change and long for the days when there wasn't constant scandal from the press, riots in the cities, and bluster from the president.


and that's sayin' a lot.  Very interesting to see your evolving opinions of the situation.  Inspiring, even, that you refused to marry your NeverTrump position, that on such an emotional subject you have been quite willing to reconsider.

Kudos mate.

tjm's picture

Any president can issue a flurry of executive orders. Most have preferred to be more modest and respectful of institutions. That said, Trump never even hinted he'd be that so, yes, what he said is what we get. But you shouldn't confuse a bunch of presidential edicts with governing. The reason the founders prefered restraint was because they recognized most problems as complicated and solutions as difficult.

Banning immigrants from a handful of countries is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, much less a solution to terrorism. But it sounds good, I guess, if you're a certain kind of political being. Look: 9/11 was dreamed up by a Pakistani, funded by a Saudi, executed by a mixed bag of people only one of whom, a Yemeni, would have been affected by the new order and he was blocked from coming to the US anyway - he couldn't get a visa becaus ehe was a suspected economic migrant.

Moe, to suggest that Obama was unpopular and his policies moreso is simply wrong. Obama left office the most popular and beloved, least scandalous president of the last half century. People liked Obamacare if you called it something else. They loved the policies underlaying it hence Trump and the GOP are struggling to find anything to replace it without duplicating the thing they were replacing. Most Americans are worried about climate change. Most Americans favor progressive taxation. Most Americans think alternative energy is a good idea. Most Americans think qualified voters ought to be allowed to vote. These aren't my opinions - they're borne out again and again in surveys.

And I'd put Hilary's nearest analog as George H W Bush, a dedicated careerist from more or less the middle of the political spectrum.

To the larger point: Of course, people want to get things done. Quick action is preferred over inaction. But what has actually been done other than to alienate most of the world except Putin? Do we really want to destroy the global order because it was tilted to the benfit of rich people? Do we not want economic and security cooperation? Do we not want a more inter-connected world rather than an isloated, hostile one?

Doc, Trump was never an entrepeneur, at least not as we've come to define it. He's a commercial real estate developer. Think Martin Selig. He didn't care about anything but making a deal. Terms? Who cares? It's somebody else's money. That's why he could walk away from so many bankruptcies. It was always OPM. When he finally got driven out of that busines by uncooperative lenders, he brcame a branding impresario. Calling that an entrepeneur is belittling to those who actually are. 

I don't get it.



Will cheerfully agree that Trump has things in his business past that are nothing to be proud of.  This is an important point for sure.  For some reason it got little emphasis during the election cycle.


A gentle question here to a man I respect very highly.  If Trump hasn't actually done anything domestically, why the protests over the pipelines and Obamacare and Wall directives etc?  :- )  Seems to me that, for better or for worse, he's been quite impactful domestically.

SeattleDude89's picture

Long-time reader of this great site, which creates a really unique space for discussion. I normally just enjoy the baseball articles but this one compelled me to give my $0.02. I am scared and sad for my country, and the world right now. A few things like scare me:

- Steve Bannon (of far-right white nationalist publication Breitbart, which traffics in hatred and anger toward Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks, and women) is helping craft foreign and domestic policy, and literally replaced the Joint Chiefs/Director of National Intelligence on the National Security Council. Bannon was quoted as wanting to "destroy the State" - his vision of the western world doesn't leave any room for anyone who isn't a white Christian. I am Christian and I find this terrifying. 

- A world turning in on itself. Trump has promised to make America an isolationist country, and he's following through on that promise. Who that doesn't leave room for: immigrants from other countries, or even refugees fleeing unspeakable violence. I'm saddened by the tens of thousands of Syrians who will now likely die because we turned our back on them. Since 9/11, the US has let in 785,000 refugees. Of those, three were arrested for plotting terrorist attacks. The refugee process takes 12-24 months to vet, and is the least logical way for a terrorist to plan an attack. Americans have a 0.00003% chance of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist.

- Jeff Sessions, future head of DOJ. Sessions is a man with such extreme racial prejudice that he was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his racist views. He has expressed disdain for the Voting Rights Act, and would very likely take Civil Rights act back decades. He would also be very unlikely to take up police brutality cases, and would likely make it even harder for police to be ever be charged for wrongful killings/beatings.

- Trump. Trump encouraged Russia to hack into Hillary's emails, and it did. Trump lied about Obama's birth certificate. Trump didn't divest his businesses and will now be enriching himself through the presidency at the expense of American citizens (the definition of a kleptocracy). Trump is turning his back on our allies, on NATO, on the EU, and has cozied up with Putin, the authoritarian who murders journalists. Trump lied about crowd sizes, lied about voter fraud, and I fear for the lies he'll tell when a real crisis hits. I see Trump as a man devoid of empathy or morality, who destorys anyone who crosses him. He's made an enemy of the free press, which is a play out of the authoritarian playbook.

For these and many other reasons I'm sad and scared. It feels like the world is getting darker and more afraid of itself. Nationalism "otherizes" everyone on the outside, and it feels like that is happening both here in the US and in Europe. With that eventually comes fear and hatred of those others - particularly if they don't look like you or practice the same religion as you. I am sad for legal and illegal immigrants in the US, for Muslim Americans, for African Americans, because they will become the targets in the next 4-8 years. I want to live in the America built on immigrants, and built on equality and justice for all, built on inclusion of all those "yearning to breathe free."

Hey, I'm also particularly looking forward to Spring Training. 


.. not sure whether you seek feedback on all that, or not.  Certainly there are a lot of people - maybe 30% of the country even? - who are very, very upset and fearful about Trump's administration.  The question is to what extent they have talked themselves into that fear.  I'd be afraid if Adolf Hitler became President, too.  :- )

Here is a Dilbert blog post on the subject of Trump-as-Hitler, if you're interested.

Your comment very concisely stated the view of Trump as hatemonger.  Personally, am ready to leave you with the last word on that subject unless you solicit pushback.

Peace, bro' :- )


Will giv you a tip of the cap about Bannon.  Trump, IMO, erred with that pick....if for no other reason (and there are likely others) than the optics it created.

Welcome aboard.


First, I think I agree with the Hillary/GW comp.  Both from political powerhouses/dynasties (Bill Clinton earned his cred the hard way, by reaching across the aisle and working with Gingrich--who was *easily* the most powerful non-Presidential figure in Americal politics of the last few decades) and both are quasi-centrists with authoritarian bends.  Both are clearly capable administrators, both are exceptionally experienced--even for world leaders--and both are products of the same political climate.

I saw some poll numbers on Obama recently.  Can't find the link (it was linked from an article featured on Breitbart which compared rolling averages of presidential approval ratings) but basically it put Obama in the bottom five from the last hundred plus years of American presidencies.  His first 1-2 years were exceptionally high, the next five were truly disastrous on average, and the last year plus was back up to near-historically good.  The way I read that is simple: when Obama's in front of the camera, people love him.  When he's not in front of the camera, people *don't* like the policies which are governing their lives.  In a sense, I think Obama *is* convinced that all he needs to do is hold the country's hand and they'll go along with him--because that's what the data seems to suggest happens!  He stops holding everyone's hands and we get grumbly about the policies; he holds our hands again and we're smitten with him.  He's got 25 Charisma and he knows how to use it.

Also, you can say that Trump has alienated everyone but Russia all you want--it doesn't *seem* to be reflected in the sources I read.  The UK is head-over-heels about the possibility of carving out new, long-term relationships with the USA and the feeling is clearly mutual.  Here in the Philippines, where I live, President Duterte has had nothing but good things to say about Trump (especially when contrasted with what Duterte said about Obama and his administration).  Even non-Merkelite Germans (of which there are a growing number) speak favorably of Trump, and Southern Europe is presently being swept by the same anti-establishment/anti-globalist wave that has already hit the PI, the UK, and the USA.  (edit to add: Israel is over the moon about Trump's stance on the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular, from everything I've read)

He's *definitely* picking a fight with China and Mexico, the nations themselves, but he's been saying he'd do that for the last year and a half (actually, it's been about thirty years that he's been harping on trade deficits since the early 80s.  (Here is a video which compiled--somewhat dramatically--clips of him speaking about the Presidency as a possible goal as far back as 1980)

It's understandably frightening for most of us that he's doing precisely what he said he would--even, I imagine, for Trump's most ardent supporters.  We're just not used to this level of accuracy and *gulp* honesty.


I'll decline to take the bait, thanks ;-)

I will say, however, that I know at least six people here (one first-hand acquaintance, the other five friends or family of people I know) who quit meth (shabu, as it's locally called) because of Duterte's stance on drugs.  What's that worth to a society from the 30,000 foot view?

As to the death squads, no, it's not true.  What Duterte did (chillingly, but also brilliantly) was empower armed citizens to defend themselves against drug-related crimes.  Back in Davao, during Typhoon Haiyan(?? the big one from like four years ago...) and the ensuing aftermath, as Mayor of Davao city, he looked into the camera like Clint Eastwood and told his constituents 'Shoot looters and thieves in the foot--if you shoot them in the foot, I won't bring charges against you.  And if you don't have a gun, break their legs and call the police."

Need I actually say that there was, essentially, ZERO looting in areas friendly to Duterte?

So he did much the same in terms of the drug-related crime here.  He basically put a soft bounty on drug dealers and people engaged in drug-related crime (10,000pesos, or about $200, for a wounding-and-detainment of drug-related criminals, and up to 50,000pesos for drug dealers, I think--I don't remember the details).  In Cebu City, on the first day following Duterte's proclamation, I think three or four drug dealers were killed by off-duty cops during the commission of crimes (assault, theft, something else...details escape me since it's been the better part of a year now).

So it's not like he's empowering Death Squads, complete with skull masks, to go around killing people.  It's very much a Wild West type of system, and I think the total number of drug-related deaths (of suspected criminals IN THE COMMISSION OF CRIMES) is up to like 6,000 since he took office.

The landscape here is RADICALLY different, though.  You need to understand that, first off.  For example, if a <18 year old kid threatens you with a gun and steals your car, you literally can't do ANYTHING physical to him or you go to jail.  It's an old rule from the Aquino takeover post-Marcos, and it's predictably been abused to the hilt by criminals who enlist young teenage boys to do ALL of their stealing while the adult stands watch over the affair from a short remove.  I've seen gangs of kids jump into truck beds, with pistols tucked in their belts, to steal shovels/axes/whatever was in the back of the pickup.  So a little perspective is important, I think.

It's *that* environment that prompted the Filipinos to elect Duterte with a pretty clear mandate (40% of the vote in an open, Parliamentarian system that routinely sees low-30%'s win) to restore law and order.


Your last paragraph is amazing, pulling the logic together.  "It's THAT environment that prompted ..."   Probably the cleanest and most powerful way I've ever seen context set.  Am going to swipe your construct and use it often in my job.


but it did have a serious subtext, and you provided it.  thanks for that.

I guess I'm just a bleeding heart liberal, but the thought of empowering one citizen to shoot another scares me.  Yes, I accept that the landscape is very different there.

But how many votes in our Congress do you think that kind of proposal could muster?  


Too big a country.  Once you lose control of the herd of cats, you won't get it back.  You can give a citizen the right to keep a gun in his home and keep control of that, without Armageddon I think.  But you give every citizen $200 for a knee shot on a drug dealer, in this country ... well, a lot of people do enjoy Purge and Saw movies.  Maybe it would be interesting to see it in real life. .....

Diderot, I used to be a bleeding-heart liberal *most especially* on guns, and then somebody took me shooting (plinking) and I lost my fear of guns, and now like most shooters I think guns are pretty ;- ) and that did indeed change my politics on self-defense.  FWIW.


Doc, you raise in me the image of a skiier standing on the side of the slopes for three months...without a flake of snow.

Then--out of nowhere--a blizzard and an avalanche!  No one can cram more ideas into a single post than you.  I feel incapable of responding to everything you raise.

So i'll start with a brief comment on what appears so far above...and then add some fuel to the fire.

First, with all respect (honestly), I see you and Moe as calmly talking to each other inside the bubble...unaware of what's going on outside.

On the other hand, Matt and TJM--who I do not suspect to be political 'brothers'--range from actual fact to near brilliance.  I can't read those posts enough.

So, apologies in advance for noses put out of joint, but here are some bullet points:

--Donald Trump is president.  I accept that.  But for the second time in 16 years, the will of the people has been overturned. First by Scalia, then by Putin.  I wonder how the GOP would respond if the shoe were on their foot?

--I understand the idea of 'genius' vs. 'committee'.  Well said. But in what sense (other than brand manipulation) would you consider Trump that genius?  I won't even venture a guess as to his IQ.  But I sincerely believe that the man is mentally ill.  In a full, clinical sense.  He has a disorder.  And he leads th nation.

--Part of his brand is bravado, which is easily accomplished in the short term with the executive orders.  But how long can this 'subject changing' last?  I think his long term viability is about that of a single Fourth fo July firework lasting until October.  He will burn himself out.  But he will still be expected to govern.

--I am baffled with the idea that he's a 'negotiator'.  I'll wait for one, single example.  The point here is that when he acts like the bully, he makes enemies.  The little guy he stiffs on a contract to decorate Mar A Lago can't fight back--he'll get buried in court.  But when you give Lindsay Graham's cell phone number on national TV...or discredit the heroism of John McCain...you've made enemies for life.  

--Congress is 'bought'?  Shocking!  We've had this discussion before.  The key now is who do the spineless McConnell and Ryan bow down to in the end?  Trump?  Or the businesspeople who realize Trump's moves will hurt THEIR businesses?  That will be interesting.

--The truest moments of this presidency so far came when different spokespeope said, "facts don't matter anymore"...and "alternative facts" counter the truth...and that the true opposition wasn't the Democrats, but the media.  This is the real battle.  I don't thnk the Orwellian analogies are overblown one bit.  Democracy is more fragile than most people realize.  

Finally, in the end, I have to say that personally I've had it with people saying, "don't blame me--I didn't vote for him!"

Whatever the motivation, if you didn't cast a vote for Hillary, all that follows is on you.  

Thanks for raising a topic that's been laying in repose for too long.


As I've said, Trump was not my guy.  But then, neither was Hillary.  My gal, I mean.

I will limit my further comment to this:  In each and every Florida count and recount, in 2000, George Bush was the winner.  Every one.  

Bush won Florida. 

Will of the people?  Don't we have a constitutional method for choosing presidents?  Isn't that the constitutional method for determining the will of the people?

And a silly (I admit) reminder:  60.2% of the votes cast in 1860 were not cast for Abe Lincoln.  He had a plurality, but no majority.  Not even close.  Was he not a legimately elected president?

Heck, Bill Clinton never got a majority.  So how do we define "Will of the People?"  The constitutional fathers foresaw such multi-candidate events.  They pretty much had their act together on that one.

Appreciating the back and forth.


In that section I was only musing about the sharp drawbacks (and benefits) to a Committee concept - the spirit of which Trump defies.  Actually I'm pretty sure Trump is NOT a genius.  Not sure he would score better than you Diderot or TJM or Matt on an IQ test, either.


On the 'alternative facts' meme, what Conway and Spicer meant was that people can differ as to which data apply.  A few days ago, Spicer compared it to different weather reports.  Certainly they expressed themselves badly in that case, but even after they clarify, they will be represented as cheerfully disagreeing the truth.

Conway made another slip of phrase, "we can disagree with the facts" and of course she meant "we can disagree on the facts."  Had Barack Obama made that slip, I doubt the NYT would have made a meme out of it.


Kudos!  To you and TJM (and Matt) sticking up for your beliefs.  Not everybody will join a discussion in which most of the thoughts are expressed from the other point of view.


So Snopes took it on and essentially concluded that, according to the best data and metrics available to them, he's more like mid-140's.  Note: this doesn't mean Snopes (which wears its political bias pretty proudly on its sleeve) is claiming Trump's IQ is 140-something.  They're simply compiling opinions built on methods that range from 'serviceable' to 'downright dependable' in predicting the IQ's of college attendees by looking at SAT's, etc..

In the 150's, he's generationally-gifted.  In the 140's, he's merely exceptional and--even among the well-educated--the heavy favorite to be the smartest guy in the room.  'cept here at SSI--and I mean that only ~1/4 tongue-in-cheek.


He has a disjointed, almost incoherent way of responding to live questions that annoys me constantly.  As though he is reaching for facts and can't access them as fast as he would like.  Doesn't mean he's not smart; a lot of super-smart people do that.

Tremendous to draw out you and Rick!  I guess we need more Konspiracy Korners?!


That's one thing that just cracks me up.  I actually *feel* like, when I'm watching him speak, I follow almost perfectly with what he's saying.  It all flows in a way that makes sense (to me, anyway...).  But if you read his transcripts, like with that NYT sit-down awhile ago, it's mind-boggling to try sifting through it.

And that is *weird* isn't it?  He's a master promoter (*perhaps* the greatest human promotional machine in living memory) but he has a hard time getting three linked sentences out before he pivots off to a new (albeit *usually* related) subject.

As always, I'm a big fan of the Korners ;-)  Keep 'em coming!


I think a lot of smart people stumble around in person when arguing their point because their brain is moving too quickly for them to keep up verbally or because they are struggling with their in-moment strategy in debate or when questioned. Not saying that's why Trump does it, but, in person, without the benefit of being able to think through what to type and edit it before clicking the post button, I get tripped up a lot.

And...150 isn't generational giftedness - 175 is generational giftedness.  Stephen Hawking's IQ is purported to be around 190 and I have a friend whose IQ is in the 180s (he is dying slowly and painfully from cancer so your prayers are welcome for his recovery).  My own IQ has been tested a dozen times in several different ways because it was interesting enough to state educators that they wanted it measured carefully.  And, FWIW, the answers diverged by more than you'd think.  I've gotten scored at anywhere from 142 to 169 and the best guess is probably 155.  But I don't consider myself generationally gifted. :\


My IQ tests (the ones that are more than the pop-ups you run into on the internet) put be right in there, too.  146 on the MENSA scale and 156 standard are the numbers I've hit multiple times and, yeah, I don't consider myself generationally gifted either.  So there's that.  But I *think* you and I are both near the cusp of Triple Nine Society territory?  Also: I really *was* only 1/4 tongue-in-cheek with that 'smartest guy in the room' quip.

I was just using the temrinology employed in the attached articles to the Snopes page, when they employed the terms 'generationally gifted.'  For sure, neither of us should be in the room with Stephen Hawking for fear of dumbing him down via osmosis.

Sorry to hear about your friend :(


We'll put a "Slow" tab up for SABRMatt, Jonez, and Dr. D at SSI.  The others can then resume their conversation.


Sorry to hear about your friend Matt.  Prayers offered.


Florida: there was no clear winner.  Frustrating as it seems, no one really knows the answer as to who really won.  The media consortium determined that had the recount continued in the way Gore requested, Bush would have probably prevailed.

But if a full statewide recount were conducted, Gore probably would have won.  (BTW, the media consortium included lefty rags like the Wall Street Journal.)

Will of the people: in my mind, he/she with the most votes should win, because that demonstrates the will of the people, doesn't it?  And I wonder had GWB and Trump both lost with the majority of votes whether the Electoral College would still be in place today.  


Trump Tower, Trump airlines, Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump vitamins(?), The Apprentice. Most business ideas fail, but Trump figured out his persona and name was a winner.  

Trump knows how to sell, and that is key to an entrepreneur - sell the vision and fill in the details later.  He sold himself to America. Actually, I see him as the Billy Beane of big league politics: he found underappreciated assets (the deplorables) and rode to victory on half the budget of his opponent - after destroying Jeb Bush in similar fashion.

He sees America like a billionaire team owner sees his city fans: his joy is in bringing his fans joy, and it of course feeds his ego to do so as well. He says they will win so much they will get sick of it. I think of Kraft, Tom Brady and the Pats when I hear that. Boston fans are spoiled by success. Sick of winning? Well, they sure take it for granted anyway. It's interesting the affinity the Pat leadership and Trump share. Co-incidence? Trump's inaugural sounded like something a big league owner would give to his fans after buying a team. Those in the streets see America as a global community. Trump sees the global community as a global competition, the way a Seahawk fan sees the Packers and 49ers. Seahawks first. 

I wanted to see if Trump had the discipline to stay on message and finish strong, after straying all over the map and taking that Access Hollywood body blow. That would have destroyed any other politician that did not have the press covering his back. I think he has a real affinity for his deplorables, and I think he got it when they didn't abandon him then. I think he really feels he owes it to them to keep his promises.

Thanks for indulging me, Doc. And Terry, I am still working on your 9-11 book. Solid reportage and at times I can see myself in Germany, and the flats and streets. I'm having a real hard time keeping all those characters and names straight. You know what would have been helpful? A nickname that descrIbes each one's personality, like the seven dwarfs. 

tjm's picture

In the business, we refer to that as the million Mohammeds problem. Point taken.


Is that F-500 companies take feedback first and act later.  Trump when he designed and launched his golf course company, TV show, pageants, etc., got busy first and talked later.  RISK is the point here.  Obviously Trump is comfortable with risk ...

In TJM's and Diderot's defense, I'll bring up the point that Trump sees it as kicking a soccer ball around, but Europe scolds him that a nation is not a soccer ball; it's a Faberge egg.  LOL.  We could argue about how fragile America is or isn't, though.


then we have an eventual problem, correct? He will eventually over play his hand and get us into real trouble. I don't think its too hard to see how that will play out whether its war with Iran or tough talk with China (South China Sea, US debt) or any of these trade deals he's reconsidering. They might go just fine, many people think he's off to a fabulous start policy-wise, but assuming the US is playing a master level game and not local level, its only a matter of time that mistakes will be made.  

Obviously, I WANT Trump to be sucessful; I like where I live. It would be nice to see D.C. shaken up a bit and so far its working. It just seems like the experts (my echo chamber) don't agree with his approach. I am interested in seeing just how far the GOP will go to support their guy, but with McConnell (the traitor) in there, I really can't see him pulling the E-brake on annnnything. 



I most did certainly say that most people "liked" Obama.  I used the " " because he went from popular to unpopular to popular, again.  The surge at the end was (IMHO) mostly due to the nasty campaign going on at the same time, not to his governing abilities.

Climate Change?  Most Americans are worried about climate change and do support alternative energy, but most still support the Keystone Pipeline, by a wide margin.

And most American do not support the Paris Accords.

Progressive taxes?  Trump supports a 3-bracket progressive tax code. Mosty Americans support tax cuts, as well.  I think Trump does, too.   I would prefer a Flat Tax, btw.  I didn't mention tax cuts, but I appreciate you bringing it up.

Please remind me on the "qualifed voter" issue?  Is there one?  Trump is concerned about "unqualifed voters" voting.  We should all be.  My uncle is a Canadian citizen, has never been an American Citizen, even though he's been here for nearly 60 years and is a US Army vet.  With Oregon's new automatic voter registration law (linked to driver's licenses) he was recently informed that he was now a registered voter, Independent, in Oregon.  I imagine he's not the only one.

Nixon was pretty centrist in his policies, but I specifically mentioned that my comps for Hillary-Nixon were not political; they personal and insularly.  Hillary the MOR candidate would have won, even the Electoral Count.  But she isn't very MOR, or at lease wasn't perceived that way by a significantly large number of voters.  I'm not sure I get the G.H.W. Bush comparison, but will consider carefully.  As I said, I think she best comps to Obama, and others are a bit of a reach, although I sort of like the limited NIxon comp I made.

Most of the people of the world have been alienated?  Such was said, in their first days, about Reagan and Bush, the younger, too.  But the English just voted for the most conservative referendum in their history (OK, it's close, anyway); France is a mess; Germany it recoiling from its own failed immigration policies; Russia, as many on the left would have us all believe, is dancing a joyful jig; Israel? Alienated? Really?; Haven't heard much ado from India;  The Saudis?  I bet not!  And so it goes. China is reevaluating, surely, but that's because their own ecnomic interest is a bit cloudier right now. 

And like it or not, a President's oath isn't to Preserve, Protect and Defend global order.  And even if it were, global order and globalism aren't necessarily the same thing (altough you did not actually make that point, I must admit).  BTW, along those lines, I think Trump's one policy error so far has been the TPP withdrawal.  He was dead right on the Keystone and the DAPL and I've even got some street cred in the alternative energy sector.  

As I've said, I didn't vote for President Trump.  I don't have to defend a ballot cast.  He has personal and professional issues that kept me from going his way. Government (or campaign) by tweet offends the dinosaur in me.  He will never be a classic statesman as he won't have the demanding patience for statecraft, but I will stand by my appraisal; he's better for the US than a Hillary presidency.   Had she the political skills of her husband she would be nominating a supreme court justice today. She doesn't.  

Donald Trump was a deeply flawed candidate.  Hillary was just a bit more so.

Up to this point, while I can dislike his tweeting style, I can't really disagree with many of his actions.  I'm not a fan of EO's, but there is little  (real and legal) concern that Trump has violated law or constitution in his actions.

He's done what he said he would do and done it promptly.  That isn't always the presidential case.



OBF's picture

Voting systems...  But that 6.5% could have tripled, and been 100% for Clinton and it still wouldn't have changed the popular vote outcome....

of course they are all just estimates and projections anyways.

If we are going to fix some of Voting Paradigm issues we have, I would rather focus on our first past the post voting that is antiquated and allowance for gerrymandering...

tjm's picture

I keep inadvertantly erasing my response so that by now I'm more irritated by myself than I am by Moe! Sheesh, can't even learn how to hate properly. The failure of the liberal imagination, I'd guess.

That said, a couple points:

On qualified voters - did he not just claim that many millions of same just voted for Hillary and therefore is launching a massive investigation into the election he kinda won? Maybe I missed something.

On progressive taxes, c'mon. Reducing the progressiivity but leaving some remaining in code if not in actual incidence doesn't count. You're being disengenuous.

World alienation: Almost all of Europe and Asia are in shock. Our security arrangements are in question. Our trade regime is in tatters. Wouldn't we be shocked if people weren't alienated?

I never sugested that Trump had violated anything other than common sense, but I'd be very surprised if the immigration ban was upheld in court as it was transparently aimed at particular religionists. Still, the EO was a provocation not a policy. It's Steve Bannon ginning up the white nationalists hordes.

I'll stop as I guess almost nobody wants us to go on with this discussion. Would love to have it instead over a beer sometime. Speaking of which, I'll be in Seattle for the launch of Off Speed in May. We should all gather to throw beer cups at one another and to insist that Doc get his hair styled. Come in for a game, Moe.


"I never suggested that Trump had violated anything but common sense" - brought the house down.


Almost nobody wants you and Moe to go on with your discussion?  You are kidding, right?  Even if that were true, the reader could scroll down.


On the alienation point:  have to take Moe's side on this one.  I remember the Soviet-planted hysteria over Reagan's ICBM armageddon.  

His comps on W. Bush and Reagan are compelling, IMHO.  Any hawkish Republican prez is going to be seen by Democrats as a grave danger.  Republicans on the other hand sincerely believe in peace though strength and deterrence.

I'm guessing you remember Eisenhower and JFK, amigo, arguing about which man was contributing to a missile gap against the Soviets?  Trump's uncompromising "don't mess with us" shtick used to be taken as a given in America.  I don't agree with President Obama that nicer = safer.  Not with these guys we're dealing with.

As to the trade talk, I think the same principle applies on a smaller scale.  Only Nixon could go to China :- )

tjm's picture

"Republicans on the other hand sincerely believe in peace though strength and deterrence." What? You think Democrats don't believe this? Scoop Jackson, anybody?Except possibly for Jimmy Carter every post-war Democratic president has contributed to building the securoty apparatus of the US.

The trade and security regimes that have been constructed since the end of WWII are the largest reasons we haven't had another global war. They're not perfect whatsoever, but they've worked. The questionis how do you make them work better for everyone. I'd humbly suggest that taking apart NATO and the EU might not be the best way to achieve this.

The fact is that the only two legitimate existential threats to the US are Russia and China. Radical Islam is not. That doesn't mean it's not a problem. It is, but it doesn't threaten the country. When trying to address potential solutions to it the physcicians rule ought to be applied - first do no harm. The immigration ban does great harm for very little reward.


He's an acclaimed neuroscientist/philosopher/atheist who is anything but a fan of Trump.  I think he called him something like 'the world's most dangerous clown' in the days following the election.  So obviously not a Trump supporter by any stretch.

But Harris, for a few years now, has been banging the drum about the 'Defense of Civilization' as something that nearly zero Leftists recognize as important, and which only fractionally more Righties understand well enough to comment on it.  But Harris had a brilliant line a year or so ago in one of his podcasts, talking about Ben Carson (who, it should be said, Harris has little more than contempt for) and saying (paraphrased), "Even a religiously deluded buffoon like Ben Carson better understands the nature of the religious clash between the West and Islam than Noam Chomsky does--and this is a HUGE problem for the Left--because more and more NOBODY on the Left seems to acknowledge this issue as important."  He's also spoken at some length with others--some leftists, some righties--about the subject of preserving Western Civilization in the face of the many enemies which surround it.

Harris is Jewish (though obviously, being an atheist, not a practicing or believing one) and he is an incredibly potent voice for liberalism.  He is not a 'white nationalist' and, while he doesn't like much--if anything--that Trump has done, he does recognize that one needn't be a bigot or xenophobe to stand opposed to policies which would erode Western Civilization's strength and position in the world.  Certainly all xenophobic Westerners would be interested in isolationist policies; but of equal certainty is that not all those in favor of isolationist parties are xenophobic.

The West gave the world most of the things within arm's reach of where you're sitting--and it did so in the last hundred and fifty years.  It's worth protecting REGARDLESS of one's skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, or political affiliation.

I submit, for your consideration, the possibility that Steve Bannon *isn't* simply a Nazi-of-a-different-color and that the people who read Breitbart *aren't* predominantly xenophobic hatemongers who yearn to goose-step down Pennsylvania Ave.  If Bannon *isn't* the Second Coming of Herman Goering, and his readers *aren't* Nazis-in-hiding, how would we know it? (to borrow-and-repurpose that A-bomb of a line dropped by Doc, courtesy of Thomas Sowell).

I'm interested to hear your reply :-)  SSI is at its best when cool heads engage in thoughtful debate here in the Korner.

tjm's picture

Sam Harris is an interesting guy. Thanks for bringing him up. He's a cognitive neuroscientist which is a distinctively different creature, at least as much psychologist as anatomist. FWIW I agree with his view of the Abrahamic religions, or at least his view that they have been misused especially by myth-obsessed fundamentalists. My own view is that belief is fine and can be a very good thing. It's the certainty of the one true belief that causes problems in the world. In that regard, Muslims, Christians and Jews have more in common than they have separating themselves.

But to say that no one on the left appreciates the frictions betweem Islam and the West is just being silly. Obama for one has been quite articulate on this. The differences among intellectuals on the left and the right are in what prescriptions they would apply to resolve the frictions. To say it's a clash of civilizations is to overestimate the problem, I think. Obviously, Trump/Bannon don't. I think overestimating the size of the problem leads you to develop solutions that are ill-suited. We would never have invade Iraq, for example, if we had a properly scaled notion of what Al Qaeda was and what are abilities to effect change in the world were.

We're not going to solve the problems within Islam. In fact, much of what we do makes them worse, makes it harder for cooler voices within Islam to be heard and respected. I would include this immigration ban among them.


++ We're not going to solve the problems within Islam. In fact, much of what we do makes them worse, makes it harder for cooler voices within Islam to be heard and respected. I would include this immigration ban among them. ++

Framed that way, this is a very powerful line of reasoning.  Double off the wall Terry.  Leaving a crack in the wood :- )


You claim that the EO was nakedly aimed at "certain religionists".

Given that the rule includes no mention of religious affiliation, lists only seven countries and leaves out about 90% of the Arab Muslim world, is directed toward fighting terrorism (I think it does so in about the least effective and least practical way imaginable, so I'm not in favor of the measure, FWIW), and that the ban applies to Christians and Yazidis just as much as it applies to Muslims (though he says he may eventually push Christians and Yazidis to the front of the exemption list because they are in greater danger of being killed)...

I'm gonna have to say...nope.

tjm's picture


I'm not saying that being Muslim was the only qualification for being banned but do you think it's coincidence that every country on the list is majority Muslim. There is no rationale to the list. There is no problem for it to solve and if there was it wouldn't be people from these countries necessarily.

None of the domestic terror incidents of the last few years came from these places. None of the 9/11 hijackers came from these places. 

This is not a serious attempt to deal with the problem of terrorism. which is a large and complicated issue. This is pure Bannon theater.


Candidate Trump originally said "Muslim ban," not through malevolence I don't believe, but through breathtaking naivete.  His legal team took that general sentiment and pointed out that he was ten degrees off where he needed to be.

Rasmussen has the country favoring this EO by 53-33, so it's a mainstream idea.  But I will cheerfully grant you that the talking heads on TV are being disingenuous when they imply, "We are not even THINKING about Islam."  Of course they are.

But they're sincere about wanting to treat non-radical Muslims fairly.  Trump is a worldly guy and am sure he's had many Islamic associates -- unlike me.  87% of world Muslims are unaffected.


As usual an outstanding konspiracy korner and comments. I have been watching these first weeks of the Trump era with great interest, and especially how it is being reported by the mainstream media.

Looking outside of the MSM, I ran across an article by Abi Wilkinson in the Jacobin magazine. (More about how I found it in a moment.) The article is entitled The Specter of Democracy. It starts with an insightful deconstruction of a New Yorker cartoon, but here is the quotation that got me to read the whole thing.

“That nobody could possibly do a better job than the professionals is a core belief of elite liberalism. Suspicious of mass democracy and emboldened by the fall of the Soviet Union, elite liberals came to assume that we’d reached the end of history—that every other social order had been tried and proven inferior. Capitalist democracy, stewarded by sharp, well-intentioned experts, had allegedly emerged from the scrum as the unquestioned victor. For people like this, it’s been hard to understand the increasing rejection of the political and economic consensus as anything other than an outbreak of irrationality and self-sabotage. While there may be room to fine tune, why would anyone want to tear down or significantly alter something as good as what we’ve got? If politics is about nothing more than the effective administration of the current system … experience and technical expertise are the primary requirements.”

One of the outgrowths of the Enlightenment was the idea that the scientific method when applied to social and political systems would triumph in the same way the hard sciences of physics and chemistry had triumphed in explaining the physical world. For example, Henri de Saint-Simon envisioned a government run by bankers, lawyers, accountants, and other such technocrats/experts – a government controlled by the central planning of a small elite. It is an idea that has thrived (up to now) in late 20th and early 21st century America. Its foundation is the belief that there is one set of Truths, all in harmony with each other, merely waiting to be discovered, and technocratic scientism is the way to do it. To oppose this is irrational, because what rational person rejects the Truth that will lead to Utopia?

Trump is not a technocrat, nor a scientific manager. From their point of view he undoubtedly is a disturber of the peace, a purveyor of irrationality and self-sabotage threatening a carefully constructed world order.

A rather breathless Politico article a few days ago described how Trump is making all these executive orders without consulting anyone in the agencies, or any lawyers, or anyone with any real knowledge of the rules and procedures and protocols, (Obama sure didn’t do it that way) and golly what a mess. The managerial elite are in fear for their professional lives, and they are going down (if they go down) swinging. But I give Trump a puncher’s chance all the same.

Not being a regular reader of the extreme left wing socialist/Marxist press, I ran across the excerpt from Abi’s article quoted above in a blog called zeroanthropology.net by a Canadian anthropology professor named Maximillian Forte. In May, shortly after Trump won the nomination, he wrote an article predicting Trump’s victory in the election, citing 12 reasons, which, given the event, now seem pretty well-argued. The quotation from Abi came in a post entitled The Dying Days of Liberalism, which is a thorough trashing of HRC, not something you want to read without your blood pressure medication if you are an HRC fan.


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