Sunday, February 19, 2017

Clinton Interferes in Russian Elections



From an academic paper published by Hamilton College (located, interestingly enough, in Clinton, New York):

Immediately after coming to power, the Clinton administration declared the consolidation of market and democratic institutions in Russia to be a vital American interest. The administration’s central tactic for promoting this outcome was to help Boris Yeltsin remain in power….

…Strobe Talbott, his chief adviser on the former Soviet Union, observes in his memoirs, the president himself quickly became “the U.S. government’s principal Russia hand, and so he remained for the duration of his presidency.”

Pot, meet kettle (translation: Hillary, meet Bill):

President Bill Clinton meddled in Russian affairs in the 1990s and helped Boris Yeltsin get elected to a second term, political analyst Dick Morris told Newsmax TV.

"When I worked for Clinton, Clinton called me and said, 'I want to get Yeltsin elected as president of Russia against Gennady Zyuganov, who was the communist who was running against him. Putin was Zyuganov's major backer.

This was not a passive attempt by Clinton; “Dick, can you go do something about this Yeltsin guy; I have some work to do at my desk.”  No, Clinton was completely immersed in Yeltsin’s political future:

"It became public that Clinton would meet with me every week. We would review the polling that was being done for Yeltsin that was being done by a colleague of mine, who was sending it to me every week. We, Clinton and I, would go through it and Bill would pick up the hotline and talk to Yeltsin and tell him what commercials to run, where to campaign, what positions to take. He basically became Yeltsin's political consultant.

Bill was more successful advising Boris that he was at advising Hillary, it seems.

Of course, given that Yeltsin was a very popular figure in Russia, while the meddling might be ethically questionable it really had little influence

… Yeltsin faced growing opposition at home to his efforts to liberalize the economy and enact democratic reforms in Russia.

What? Yeltsin faced opposition at home?  Would a Clinton – any Clinton – disallow democracy from running its course?  From the academic paper cited above:

[We find]…that the U.S. government during Clinton’s years as president lent support, both material and moral, to Boris Yeltsin for the purpose of keeping him in power—is not open to dispute. …much of this aid was explicitly justified as necessary to help Russia’s president prevail in his intractable power struggle with a hostile legislature.

That doesn’t seem very respectful of representative government, does it?

In the meantime, Clinton initiates a modification to Mt. Rushmore:

…a year and a half into the [Chechnya] conflict, after tens of thousands of civilians had been killed but also just two months before the Russian presidential elections of 1996, Clinton publicly defended Yeltsin by comparing the war to Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to preserve the union.

This is a laugh-riot.  Yeltsin killed a few thousand; Lincoln killed over 700,000.  There is no comparison.  How does this paltry effort get Yeltsin into the club?  It seems a very cavalier attitude for Clinton to have taken. 

Anyway, whatever happened to “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”?  (Oh, never mind…)

In his autobiography, Clinton openly acknowledges that strengthening Yeltsin against his domestic opponents was one of his central concerns throughout his presidency.

Clinton is all for democracy except when he is against it, I guess.  A characteristic shared by others in his family.

Not everyone viewed Clinton’s efforts favorably:

An even more strident critique is offered by Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski, who castigate President Yeltsin for “illegally suspending the constitution and dissolving the Russian parliament,” as well as more generally introducing “an authoritarian police regime.”

Authoritarian police regime?  Bill Clinton supported police-state autocrat who suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament?

Moreover, they bemoan [Yeltsin’s] victory in the presidential election of 1996 and suggest that his opponent, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) Gennady Zyuganov, would have formed a more representative government.

A more representative government?  Sounds more like Putin than Yeltsin.

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating. …[Some] claim that the poll numbers are manipulated, although most Western polling firms arrive at similar figures.

Obviously those polling firms – both Russian and western – haven’t included in their sampling the Russians living and working within the Washington beltway.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Where Are We Headed? (Part II)



I have given further thought to this topic, first explored here.  I will first offer a few points from the earlier post:

Codevilla: We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end.

Zman: If what it takes to break the stranglehold this cult has on society is a dictator willing to toss a few judges from a helicopter, then sign me up for dictatorship.

Bionic: It would be nice to have a Gorbachev.

My reference to Gorbachev is in reference to a political leader who led through a relatively peaceful dissolution of empire; it would be nice if the US had such an individual.

I wrote and published the above on Saturday the 11th.  Since then, events have transpired that bring much more clarity…and make evident the level of risk.  Let’s just say a Gorbachev isn’t enough.

Trump was already facing a congress in which all the democrats and half or more of the republicans were seething that he won, were seething at what he represents, and were seething at many of the policies for which he advocated – and high on that list was rapprochement with Russia.

Now we have this:

President Donald Trump asked his national security adviser to resign after White House lawyers reviewed a warning from the Justice Department that Michael Flynn had misled officials about his conversations with a Russian envoy and could be vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn, bad on many things, was reasonably good on the issue of peaceful relations with Russia and on reforming the many three letter covert agencies.

The White House counsel, Don McGahn, "determined that there was not a legal issue but a trust issue," Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters on Tuesday.

Whatever the truth and however this is spun by the White House, it is blood in the water for the sharks circling Trump.

The Saker says it better than I could (emphasis in original):

THIS IS ABOUT POWER.  As in, who is boss?  Who is number one?  Who is the alpha dog?  The President or the ‘deep state’?  That is what this is all about – showing everybody who is in charge.

FLYNN’S DOWNFALL IS A MESSAGE.  A message to all those who hate Trump and what Trump represents.  And that message is simple: we are back in control and the party is on!

It does not matter what the reasons were behind Flynn’s departure; all that matters is how the opposition views this event – and how it will embolden the opposition.  For example, ask Dan Rather (from Zero Hedge):

This Russia scandal is…cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged.

We need an independent investigation. Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth.

So…where are we headed? 

There is blood in the water.  Trump has turned over a key staff member in record time.  It may be too late to do anything to repair the damage, let alone take the offensive (as I have suggested before; making a long story short, with Trump coming clean on JFK as a start).

Those opposed to Trump (in congress pretty much all democrats and probably most republicans; large swaths of the deep state; the mainstream media; academicians; actors and musicians; rioters like those at Berkeley – in other words, most anyone with power or supporting Power) will not stop until either a) Trump is out, or b) Trump cuts them off at the knees.

I won’t pretend to understand the possible steps through this minefield as well as I assume Trump does.  He has done plenty of swimming with sharks; maybe not this many sharks and not all this deadly all at the same time, but he has experience in this game. 

My one thought: playing mean may not win, but playing nice is certain to lose.  Change the rules of the game and put them on the defensive – this is the most likely path to victory.

The phenomenon that is Trump is the first opportunity since the maturity of the deep state to call into question the deep state.  There is and will be nothing peaceful about this.

So what happens to the rest of us while this drama plays itself out?

I don’t know.

If Trump is forced out of office using such means (or even if the pestering never ends), will his supporters stand still and take it?  If riots such as at Berkeley continue and expand, will the shotguns (whether held by law enforcement or civilian) stay in the closet?

Whatever happens (and much of it will be very bad), there are two absolute goods that will come from all of this:

First, the battle lines are becoming ever clearer.  The deep state is exposing itself as never before; the media has already been fully exposed as the deep state’s Pravda; most democrats and republicans are on the same team – and opposed to humanity.

Second, the international standing of the US government is becoming ever weaker.  It is one thing to be political during an election; what happened before this election it was laughable – in our era, new lows were set in so many ways.  Globally, the standing of US politics took as big a hit as imaginable…

…or so most people thought.  Most people believed that come election night, the drama would be over.  Hahahahahahaha; the joke is on them. 

This is about as third-world-banana-republic as it gets. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

No Imaginary Evil




The Fallacy of Limited Government

De Jouvenel concludes his examination on Power with a look at the liberal case for limited government.  He holds an imaginary conversation with his liberal counterpart, Émile Faguet:

The state, you tell us, has a normal sphere of competence.  Agreed.  But how do you define it?

To assure internal order and external security.

What has determined it?

The nature of society which is formed for the defense of all against aggression from without and of each man against assault by his neighbor.

But at this point I pull you up.  Who compels me to subscribe to your conception of society?

At which point de Jouvenel describes the different viewpoints of the different members of this society – where for each, the interpretation and application of this “normal sphere of competence” means significantly different things.

Then what becomes of your “normal sphere”?  It is now nothing but your conception of what the public authority ought to be; it is in my view a narrow, out-of-date conception, which does not respond to my needs.  I oppose to it my conception.

To the call of “external security,” de Jouvenel points out that the neighboring states have commanded all resources within their state toward the military; it seems, then, that Power should also control all resources here as well.

Power has never regarded as forbidden territory the domains of social and economic interests.

No, it hasn’t.

Government of Laws vs. Government of Men

De Jouvenel describes a government of laws in three steps, one building on the other:

The material world is governed by laws, to which we, as physical beings, are necessarily subject.

He offers the example of gravity.

He builds on this with his definition of the “natural laws of society.”  For example, nomadic shepherds whose pastures are ruined by drought must move, or else they will die.  This is not a mechanical law, as it is with gravity; de Jouvenel describes these laws as “vital” laws.

Neither of the above types can be ignored or violated without consequence.

Finally, the moral law which can be violated and the civil law which can be transgressed.

The moral law prescribes what is good absolutely, the civil law what is useful to society.

(I find the inclusion of “civil law” as described here a bit problematic.  “Useful to society” is like the General Welfare Clause; it sounds equally dangerous.  Given my overall understanding of de Jouvenel’s work, I am will to consider that I am not understanding this point clearly.)

We see, then, that government by the laws is, in essence, that in which those rules are sanctioned which are of useful effect to men dedicated to the good….

For de Jouvenel, and on this I agree, “men dedicated to the good” would be the natural aristocracy of old.  Today’s aristocrats – today’s “nobles” – are nothing more than puppets of the Power that props them up in order to ensure willing compliance from these artificial leaders.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

“Where Are We Headed?”



…I was asked by a friend, in reference to this piece at the Zman blog.

Before I offer my reply, a couple of lines from the Zman blog post; the basic idea is that the only way to clean house is for Trump to play the strongman:

For the last three decades, probably longer, the guys allegedly on the side of the rest of us, have been obsessed with playing by the rules. The thing I don’t fear is that Trump will “go too far” or fail to respect the rules of the game. I don’t care about those rules anymore. Those rules are the bars of the cage.

In reference to the Ninth Circuit judges ruling against Trump’s immigration order:

If what it takes to break the stranglehold this cult has on society is a dictator willing to toss a few judges from a helicopter, then sign me up for dictatorship.

With the brief introduction out of the way, my reply (slightly modified) to the query: where are we headed?

---------------------------------

It is difficult to contemplate because it has the potential to be very personal; also because there are few - if any - places that one might comfortably use as refuge.

I think of Codevilla, who I reviewed here.  From his conclusion:

We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end.

Trump isn’t the fear; it's what comes after Trump.  It's what the people will demand - those on the right will demand a more overt police state (in addition to taking matters into their own hands), and who can blame them?  Those on the left will increase their looting and burning until the police and those who take defense into their own hands start shooting.  How that circle of violence ends, who can say?

I think of the French Revolution - and one of many reasons I do not have wishes along the same line as presented in the Zman piece; the first strongman might cut the heads off of your enemy, the next strongman will decide you are the enemy.  In the end, anyone who had the inkling to stand up to the strongman is headless and dead - then what?

This does not mean I have a reasonable alternative to the Zman’s wishes; again, where we are headed is a difficult question to contemplate because there are no good answers.  The best I can offer is for men of goodwill to make common cause with Trump on those issues where we have common cause; he is the first president in my lifetime to make allowable much which has been previously unallowable in terms of discussion and action.

Beyond this, the only peaceful way out is secession and decentralization; even at least some on the left are now speaking favorably of this.  Unfortunately, neither Trump nor any president will likely want to be known as the president who disbanded the United States.  Anyway, we also know both the bloodshed and how this ended seven score and twelve years ago

It would be nice to have a Gorbachev.

Trump, Libertarians, and Trade



Introduction

From my post on the positive aspects of Trump for those who favor libertarianism and decentralization – certainly when compared with the alternatives – I offer one of the several positive items:

He questions trade deals.  I understand the dilemma that this presents for libertarians and free market types, but we can’t have it both ways: we know that the so-called “free trade” foisted on us isn’t free trade, it is government management crony trade.

The Challenge

Matt Welch at Reason has since come out with a post precisely on this dilemma:

Libertarians have long been sensitive to the paradox near the heart of international tariff-reduction projects of the past seven decades. On one hand, increasingly free global trade flows have irrefutably played an outsized role in lifting a billion people out of poverty in the last quarter-century alone. On the other, multilateral trade agreements by definition create institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), beyond the direct reach of sovereign democratic polities.

A reasonably good statement; unfortunately, not leaving well enough alone….

Those of us who have accepted that trade-off have found ourselves for decades having to both defend and try to improve from within the "Washington consensus" on liberalizing tariffs. But now that that consensus has been repudiated at the polls all over the Western world, it's time for the other side of that intra-libertarian argument to make its free trade case within an imperfect vessel.

Why must those on “the other side of that intra-libertarian argument…make its free trade case within an imperfect vessel”?  Commonly referred to as the Hegelian dialectic, why must libertarians (or anyone else) limit their arguments to a pre-determined set of boundaries?

So the ball's in your court, Thomas Massie, Daniel Hannan, Ron Paul, and all the other libertarians who have argued for years that free trade agreements aren't the same thing as free trade.

Welch is asking the impossible: play within these non-libertarian boundaries and come up with a libertarian solution.  There is no libertarian solution within those boundaries: free trade agreements are not only not the same thing as free trade; they are not even free trade agreements.

The Rebuttal

Why didn’t Welch ask for Murray Rothbard to offer his arguments as to why (managed, but most certainly not) free trade agreements are not free trade?  I will ask Murray:

I’m puzzled. I’d like to know why so many free-marketeers, so many free-market think-tanks and pundits, are not simply pro-Nafta, but are fervently, frantically, almost hysterically pro-Nafta.

To quote the king: is a puzzlement.

Look, I can understand, though not agree with, mild approval. An old libertarian friend of mine, for example, told me that he was mildly pro-Nafta but not really interested in the entire topic. That seems sensible.

I can understand mild approval as well; I also do not agree.

There is no libertarian answer within these pre-established boundaries.  The only libertarian answer is to get government out of the trade business; this option isn’t offered.  So on what libertarian basis would I disagree?

World Government…

…as offered by Welch (cited above but also here for reference):

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Pathetic New York Times



What else can you call it?

One more time, on the “bromance” between Trump and Putin….

Moral Equivalence?

“You got a lot of killers,” Mr. Trump told Bill O’Reilly of the slavishly pro-Trump Fox News. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

The editors at the Times take exception to this:

…rather than endorsing American exceptionalism, Mr. Trump seemed to appreciate Mr. Putin’s brutality…

I find nothing in Trump’s comments to suggest he “appreciates” Putin’s brutality.  Trump merely stated, in the form of a question, an undeniable fact.

The editors of the Times are very good at listing in some detail Putin’s transgressions – not all of which have any factual basis (but facts cannot be allowed to get in the way of these editors).

There is a Wikipedia page dedicated to all US military operations since 1775.  I count 70 US military operations since 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union.  There is no such page for Russia; there are two unique pages – one for Syria and one for Ukraine.  That’s it.  Off of the top of my head, I would add Georgia.

The US military interventions span the globe; the Russian military interventions are either directly on the borders of Russia or to a close, long-time ally.  The US military interventions have killed, wounded or displaced countless millions of people.  The Russian interventions?  I will guess in the tens or hundreds of thousands at most.

Do the editors of the Times dare deal with reality?  No.  Not on this topic.

Speaking of Martians

On to the next topic:

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.

Martians value “freedom of the press and tolerance”?  Are these really universal values?  Returning to this planet, are these valued in so-called US allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel? 

The Times might consider – these so-called universal values may not be universal and in any case are not the business of the US government outside of the United States.  Tolerance is not the business of the US government within the United States, either.  The Constitution offers freedom of the press; it says nothing of tolerance.

The Ends Justify the Means

The Times, like all apologists for the military empire that is the United States, accepts immorality if the (advertised) ends are noble:

At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy…

Ask the millions of dead, wounded and displaced if they appreciate the “freedom and democracy” that they have achieved via US intervention.  The ends justify the means only for those who benefits from “the ends,” and not for those who suffer through “the means.”

Whatever one might say about Hussein in Iraq, Ghaddafi in Libya, or Assad in Syria, the people in these countries weren’t dying by the millions before the United States intervened on their behalf.

…sometimes with extraordinary results, as when Germany and Japan evolved after World War II from vanquished enemies into trusted, prosperous allies.

This isn’t “recent decades.”  This is more than seventy years ago.  And it would be more accurate to describe Germany and Japan as vassal states, not “allies.”

A Stopped Clock…

The Times gets one thing right:

…Mr. Trump has…laid the groundwork for an aggressive campaign that could lead to conflict with Iran…

I wish Trump wouldn’t take actions that could lead to conflict with Iran.  One reason Trump won the election is because many people in the United States are tired of war and are tired of paying for war.

Do you want to see terrorism and the refugee crisis lose steam?  How about just stop bombing people.  The Times could endorse precisely this policy – you know, the opposite of the policy endorsed by their preferred candidate.