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November 26, 2020

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Intelligence breaks down into three main parts:
- information gathering
- analysis
- covert actions

The first two aren't particularly policy-driven. Data is data; what it means may be hard to figure out, but shouldn't be colored by what politicians want it to mean. The third, however, is very much policy-driven. What actions to take, and what methods are allowable are all about what policies the politicians are favoring.

All three parts of the intelligence comunity may need rebuilding. But rebuilding the intelligence gathering area shouldn't be particularly controversial. It will be difficult, thanks to Trump's loose lips outing some assets. The risk that he, or someone like him, might come along again is going to make recruitment especially difficult.

The analysis area doesn't put people at risk, so rebuilding doesn't have that handicap. But the experts who have been driven out are likely in new, much higher paying, jobs. Getting them back won't be easy. And rebuilding their level of expertise without them will take quite a while. But again, not controversial, except for those who dislike finding out things which conflict with their prejudices.

Covert operations are a whole different story. My sense is that Trump has done far less damage there. They weren't telling him stuff he didn't want to hear. And he favored big, splashy actions. So I expect he mostly ignored them. On the other hand, this is also where the most problematic stuff happened before Trump. So even without Trump, rebuilding is in order. But it will be important not to reject experienced folks from the first two groups, just because you favor changes in the third area.

Thanks wj, all of what you say is true, but I think (like some folks here) that simply restoring the American intelligence community back to what it was when Obama left actually is problematic.

https://www.justsecurity.org/73495/on-accountability-and-the-next-presidency-starting-with-the-cabinet/

How Biden (and hopefully Harris, the article points out that she didn't vote to confirm Haspel) handle this will be interesting.

he'll do fine. nothing and nobody is perfect. people who want to complain will find things to complain about. events outside his control will exert influence.

I agree emphatically with what lj says. The USA, and its intelligence services, need a moral compass. Torture is wrong, let's have people in charge who believe that.

Seconded.

Biden has mostly surrounded himself with liberal hawks with disastrous records on human rights and stupid policy decisions. Having said that, the news isn’t all bad. To some degree you can pressure these people. They now oppose the ( criminal) war they started in Yemen. They might or might not realize that we need to pull back from our forever war. I think their future record will most likely be mixed.

On torture, here is a piece about Haines—

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-proxy-war-over-joe-biden-adviser-avril-haines

One thing that is striking in the news coverage is the mutual love fest among these people. They mostly sound nice to work for. Except Tom Donilon. I don’t care about that.

Going down a list of issues

Torture— if we aren’t going to prosecute our high ranking war criminals and of course we aren’t, because rule of law is a stupid joke, we could at least not hire apologists for the people who tortured. Or who covered it up. And maybe investigate the CIA spying on Congress when they were investigating torture back in 2015. Prosecute the guilty there. You see, I don’t think we will prosecute high ranking torturers but one could just barely imagine prosecuting the CIA when it spies on the branch of government with the right to conduct oversight over them. If you want to talk about threats to our form of government, maybe allowing the CIA to get away with this might be something to rethink.

This won’t happen either.

Syria— Syria is the gigantic scandal that never became one. I expect honest mainstream histories about this when all of us are dead and nobody will care. The viewpoint expressed by mainstream foreign policy types like Blinken is that we did nothing and Assad slaughtered his people. This is incorrect. We supported Syrian rebels who fought side by side with jihadists like Al Nusra ( Al Qaeda in Syria). It was not one-sided. The Alawite population lost tens of thousands of its young men fighting for Assad because they feared genocide if the rebels won. Robert Worth, an exception among nyt reporters, said that US policy makers discussed what to do in case of a catastrophic success, meaning what do we do if the rebels won and started slaughtering religious minorities. Assad is a war criminal, but the war is largely discussed in utterly childish self serving terms in most of the press and Blinken and others can get away with saying we did nothing because Americans don’t notice what we do overseas unless Americans are dying in large numbers.

Trump imposed brutal sanctions on Syria, which I expect Biden will maintain. I don’t know this, but that brings up the next point.

Sanctions. Sanctions are a way for the US government to attack and impoverish and kill civilians without our press caring. Quite the opposite, in fact, The NYT will write stories about whether or not the sanctions are working and will write other stories about how the malevolent government of that country is causing its people to suffer. Sanctions are meant to cause suffering. We are imposing sanctions of this type on Iran, Syria and Venezuela. Their governments stink. We are deliberately adding to the misery.

Yemen— The Obama team started this. Trump made it even worse. After the killing of Khashoggi people started noticing just how bad Bonesaw was, except Trump. Trump was not Putin’s puppet, not if you go by policy, but he was Bonesaw and Bibi’s. He did everything they wanted except actually start a war with Iran.

Israel— Blinken and Biden have said it is crazy to link military aid to Israel with their behavior. The peace process is a joke anyway. The 2ss is dead. I assume Palestinians know this, even if the idiot PA sees a chance to restart the game. It is their only reason for existing.

I have been very negative, but there is something to be said for having normal people in charge as opposed to total destructive idiots like Pompeo.

Biden has failed already?

awesome.

....which was often too complacent about problems around the world, many of the problematic aspects of US foreign policy would remain in place.

Problematic may be an understatement, but if predictions are what you are looking for, well, that's easy! Here are mine:

The US will continue to be the world’s pre-eminent power, working assiduously to advance its interests (make the world safe for capital). Continued friction with Russia and China is assured. Support for Israel and the feudal Saudis will remain in place.

The national commitment to maintaining military super-superiority at incredible economic cost shall continue to not be seriously questioned.

The dogma of “free trade” will maintain its bipartisan hold on our economic and political elites.

We shall continue to ignore that real sacrifice on our part is required to effectively combat (on a global scale) anthropogenic climate change.

The developing world shall continue in its perceived role as an economic and foreign policy backwater, the world’s sweatshop.

Sign up to my newsletter for more. Good luck, Joe....and I mean it.

Come get me when Biden tells his appointees at State and Defense something other than, "We're the world's policeman of last resort, with tripwires at random points here and there, no matter how many carrier strike groups that takes."

Unless Ossoff and Warnock both win their runoffs, Biden will be faced with a Senate determined to kill his Presidency before it starts.

So if Biden is serious about his domestic agenda - and I believe he is - he is going to have to find the money somewhere.

Shifting funds from the massively OVERfunded DoD is one way to do that. Aside from big ticket items - rejoining the Iran nuclear treaty and working on global climate change politicies - he's likely to have to de-prioritize foreign entanglements.

Biden has failed already?

awesome.

Hey, even Donald acknowledged that Biden and his team were a step up. Of course, Biden isn't actually in office yet....

Shifting funds from the massively OVERfunded DoD is one way to do that.

Except that it isn't. At least not the way you seem to envision.

Congress passes the budget for DOD entirely separately from the other parts of the government. (Which aren't all done at once either.) Trump's attempts notwithstanding, it simply isn't,legal for the President to just move money from one budget to another.

From what I have heard, the hard part about fixing the State Department is that too many foreign office managers have left and the junior managers left behind have no one qualified and experienced enough who can evaluate their performance in order to promote them. That's not something that can be easily fixed unless an appeal to loyalty and duty brings some of the old hands back just to make the transition to new leadership possible.

And bringing back the old managers to do that will bring back a lot of the old views and policies with them, which will shape who gets promoted and left in charge for the next generation.

So whether we try to restore (which is what I expect from Biden) or we try to renovate, I think we are looking at a decade or two of far reduced capabilities.

And this is not even taking into account the naked partisanship of congressional oversight and all the crap with which they will flood the system.

The presidential power to fix and rebuild seems a lot smaller, slower, and more limited than the presidential power to monkey wrench the whole show.

There are still the likes of Joe Manchin that already promise to revive the Liebermann tradition of killing any meaningful change should the two Georgia races go in the Dems' favor.

Trump's attempts notwithstanding...

His best known effort -- shifting DoD construction funds to the border wall -- had at least an arguable connection to the authority Congress had granted. Not a good argument, granted, but there was an attempt to check all of the boxes.

I forgot the Iraq War. Silly me, but everyone forgets Iraq. It seemed important at the time, but it clearly didn’t matter. Biden was for it, of course.

And yeah, if some people can praise Biden for his choices, other people can point out the awful decisions some of these people have made in the past. I have read and heard mostly praise in the liberal press for these choices and yet they aren’t in office yet. I guess nobody should be saying anything.

There is zero accountability for actions that would put people in some war crimes tribunal if they lived in the wrong place, so a bit of bitter snarking on an obscure blog seems like a tiny price to pay. Sometimes they take abuse on their Twitter accounts too.


Donald, I wonder if you could tell me something. I'm not trying to be combative; I'm honestly curious.

Has there ever, i.e. since Washington, been a US administration which you could approve of? For that matter, has there ever been a country anywhere, ever, which has been run the way you think it should have been?

If not (which is the way I'd bet, but heaven knows I've been wrong lots of times), which US administration came closest to being acceptable?

This isn't the article I was thinking of, but it lays out some of the points I was thinking of

https://www.vox.com/2015/8/4/9094341/Biden-dove-Hillary-hawk

Other articles suggest that Biden's thinking has taking a dovish turn and he was, by many accounts, often the person taking that side of the spectrum in the Obama admin.

This Bruni column is also interesting in relation to all this.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/opinion/joe-biden-humility.html

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/11/23/the-old-man-in-the-piazza

However good things are there is always room for improvement. That means there is room for criticism.

However good things are there is always room for improvement.

note that Biden hasn't spent a millisecond in office yet.

However good things are

Yeah, things are really good!

Anticipatory Biden blaming is just the ticket!

However good things are there is always room for improvement. That means there is room for criticism.

Certainly true. Although I would have phrased it as "there is room for constructive criticism."

Which, in the case of appointments, would mean putting up some names of people who
a) do not have whatever negative quality is being objected to, of course.
b) do have equivalent levels of experience. Or at least sufficient expertise and management experience to make them viable in the position.
c) have some reasonable chance of getting approved by the Senate. Not matter how low your opinion of the members of the Senate (and mine is not particularly high), they still have veto power over appointments for hundreds of positions. Including all the cabinet members and agency heads.

None of us (that I know of) have been sufficiently involved that we can come up with suggestions for every position. But at least some plausible suggestions should be possible.

JFTR, Yellen looks like an excellent choice for Treasury.

note that Biden hasn't spent a millisecond in office yet.

This is undoubtedly true, and I for one am more than willing to see how it actually turns out. I mean, yes, the last four years has been a fucking nightmare.

However, it strikes me you are basically arguing that (Biden's) history is irrelevant, holds no predictive value, and taking it into account should simply be preemptively scorned...much like going to the track and turning your nose up in disgust at the mere thought of so much as even opening the Racing Form.

As they say, I respectfully dissent.

There is zero accountability for actions that would put people in some war crimes tribunal if they lived in the wrong place, so a bit of bitter snarking on an obscure blog seems like a tiny price to pay.

Yes. Dispute what people write head-on all you like, but the meta “stop saying those things” line is pretty lame considering the context of our conversations here. Donald’s not going to derail Biden’s presidency before it starts by writing foreign-policy criticisms on Obsidian Wings.

And with that from bobbyp and hairshirthedonist, my comment bases have all been covered.

Thanks, folks.

Donald’s not going to derail Biden’s presidency before it starts by writing foreign-policy criticisms on Obsidian Wings.

Quite true. (And true of us all.) But I do him what I see as the courtesy of assuming he is hoping to persuade some of us. Rather than just blowing off steam.

Not to say there's never a good reason to blow off steam. I'm sure I've done so here on occasion. But still, having relieved the pressure I feel some obligation to defend my position on the substance.

Donald’s not going to derail Biden’s presidency before it starts by writing foreign-policy criticisms on Obsidian Wings.

Nothing matters. With that, I am beginning to agree.

I mean, yes, the last four years has been a fucking nightmare.

Due more to laziness, incompetency, self-absorption than any inclination to doing the right thing, Trump has avoided some of the missteps of his predecessors.

Unlike his predecessors, he hasn't started any new military conflicts.

Trump has taken a lot of verbal and tweet shots at various media outlets and individual journalists. But it was Obama who prosecuted more whistleblowers, journalists, and their sources than all of his predecessors combined.

Unlike his predecessors, he hasn't started any new military conflicts.Unlike his predecessors, he hasn't started any new military conflicts.

Not for lack of trying. C.f. Iran. But, as you say, incompetence foiled him.

However, it strikes me you are basically arguing that (Biden's) history is irrelevant, holds no predictive value, and taking it into account should simply be preemptively scorned...much like going to the track and turning your nose up in disgust at the mere thought of so much as even opening the Racing Form.

i'm saying, again (3rd time now): Biden hasn't even started.

but here y'all are, making lists of how he's going to fail you.

can't wait to see if he actually will disappoint you? nope. gotta get pre-disappointed.

what's the opposite of hippie-punching? hippies punching?

Donald’s not going to derail Biden’s presidency before it starts by writing foreign-policy criticisms on Obsidian Wings.

no, he isn't.

but neither am i going to derail the The left by pointing out that they're upset about hypothetical situations that they have constructed for themselves.

if Biden fucks up, he fucks up. then we can all boo and hoo. but he isn't even on the job yet.

on second thought. maybe it's break time.

if Biden fucks up, he fucks up. then we can all boo and hoo.

And, I venture to predict, carry on about how various of the other potential candidates for the Democratic nomination wouldn't have done so. Ignoring the fact that part of the reason they wouldn't have done so is that they would most likely have lost to Trump. (I confess that the number of votes Trump racked up, and against someone who was no way a far lefty, was a seriously nasty shock.)

Nothing matters. With that, I am beginning to agree.

Which is obviously my point if you ignore the part about disputing people’s arguments head-on rather that telling them they should just shut the f**k up because of some imaginary powers they have to influence events.

We really don’t have to make political calculations about our rhetoric here. If you think someone’s wrong on substance, just explain why.

“ Has there ever, i.e. since Washington, been a US administration which you could approve of? ”

FDR. The Japanese internment thing was bad, but overall, FDR was a truly great President.


Go further back in time and comparisons start to get meaningless. The past is a different country.

But I don’t find the question very interesting. Focus on issues and not on which person or party you love. One thing that was funny when people said Bernie fans were a cult. An awful lot of Bernie fans would be first in line to scream at him on issues if he won, became President and screwed up on something— probably if he gave in to the Blob on some foreign policy decIsion.

We have had a crappy foreign policy under both parties. Biden supported some of those decisions and has chosen people with very mixed records. It doesn’t matter what cleek and I whine about here ( on opposite sides) , but I am glad real life whiners like Senator Wyden made it clear that some torture apologist like Morell is beyond the pale. And if some people praise his choices, others are free to point out the kinds of bad choices his choices have made.

All that said, I expect I will like some things Biden does and not like others. Not crazy about the foreign policy choices. Kerry as climate czar might be good. I am interested to see what he does on that subject. Yellen might be good. Trump and Bibi have just made it hard to bring back the Iranian nuclear deal, so I sympathize with Biden there.

I have a far left friend who says Trump hasn’t started any new wars, but as people here point out, it’s been partly dumb luck. He might yet start one with Iran. He could have started one with NK. He killed thousands of civilians ( possibly in the low tens of thousands) with his bombing in Iraq and Syria, according to the Airwars site. There was a bipartisan coalition forming to stop the war in Yemen. Trump kept it going.

But I sort of know what my friend means. Trump wasn’t the exact type of raving lunatic Bolton wanted him to be.

Thank you, Donald.

I personally am super twitchy about the Japanese internment. But then, I have relatives who were involved, and the personal touch makes a difference, in my experience.

rather that telling them they should just shut the f**k up because of some imaginary powers they have to influence events

Could you offer up a quote?

We really don’t have to make political calculations about our rhetoric here. If you think someone’s wrong on substance, just explain why.

We don't have to, but maybe we can? Or not - according to you - good to know your rules!

I firmly believe that our situation is somewhat Manichaean. (I'm all for shades of gray and chin-stroking generally - just not in politics right now.) We have two choices: Democracy or fascism. Democracy deserves our support, at least to the extent that the freaking President-elect can take office and try to deal with the sabotage that's occurred. Does this make me a DNC hack hippie puncher? I guess so, and I'm fine with it.

Look, real life whiners—

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/us/politics/biden-cabinet.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

I agree with Biden about Senators Warren and Sanders. They should stay where they are. I don’t get what they are thinking. ( I also think RBG should have retired. It isn’t about personal fulfillment.)

“ Democracy or fascism. ”

Torture is something fascists do. Morell is an apologist for torture, so if there is talk of picking him then the fight against fascism dictates that we oppose this possible choice.

Truthfully, that is false. Democratic governments have always committed war crimes. They are more constrained, precisely because people are free to say things like “ Don’t appoint people who are either apologists for torture or who covered up for torturers”.

Donald: He killed thousands of civilians ( possibly in the low tens of thousands) with his bombing in Iraq and Syria, according to the Airwars site.

Yes, thanks. Not to mention his response to Covid.

I also agree with your 4:44.

Could you offer up a quote?

No. I’m expressing what seems to be the obvious subtext of some responses to Donald’s comments, and then of mine. Feel free to clarify!

We don't have to, but maybe we can? Or not - according to you - good to know your rules!

I don’t get to make rules any more than you do, so rather than complaining about my (non) rule-making in response to anyone else’s (non) rule-making, make a better argument than “nothing matters.” (Maybe you have a quote for that one, eh?)

Also, too, this post is asking for predictions, but Donald makes predictions people don’t like because he has the nerve to make them after being asked.

Don't think Carter started any wars, not that everything was perfect.

Really, there's been very, very, few Presidents that haven't had any wars during their term.

Don't think Carter started any wars, not that everything was perfect.

IMO, Carter is much underrated. He got the Camp David Accords signed, and also appointed Volcker to chair the Fed, knowing that would likely lead to his defeat in 1980.

Well, the post was asking for predictions, but I was also curious how people proposed that Biden was going to deal with the problem which nous helpfully laid out which I repost here

the hard part about fixing the State Department is that too many foreign office managers have left and the junior managers left behind have no one qualified and experienced enough who can evaluate their performance in order to promote them. That's not something that can be easily fixed unless an appeal to loyalty and duty brings some of the old hands back just to make the transition to new leadership possible.

And bringing back the old managers to do that will bring back a lot of the old views and policies with them, which will shape who gets promoted and left in charge for the next generation.

So whether we try to restore (which is what I expect from Biden) or we try to renovate, I think we are looking at a decade or two of far reduced capabilities.

I was kind of hoping for links to what might be happening now rather than being reminded of Biden's Iraq vote, but if the prediction is "nothing is going to change, the system is hopelessly corrupt", I guess that is a prediction of sorts.

What's interesting to me is that imho despite DaiperDon trying to put his fingers into everything, he's created a situation where the State Department is in a lot worse shape than Defense. If the military side just decides to hunker down, they will come out of this with their notions relatively unchallenged.

Apologies for yet another LGM cite, though it avoids the WP paywall but it is clear that Biden is going to have his hands full just staffing, so actual change might be tough.

Really, there's been very, very, few Presidents that haven't had any wars during their term.

William Henry Harrison and Jerry Ford come to mind.

The knock on Carter on the left has been his dealing with Indonesia, though this article goes thru all of the problems, as the url might suggest.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/18/jimmy-carters-blood-drenched-legacy/

In a sense, Carter was dealing with a similar situation as Biden, elected in the aftermath of a corrupt Republican president, faced with a left that had lots of opposing ideas about what was needed which culminated in John Anderson running. So one of my crystal balls says that the left will be unable to unite and a candidate from the center right who mouths platitudes will get elected in 2024. Hey, you want pessismism, I have it by the truckload!

It occurs to me that concentrating on voting, which would include dealing with disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, electoral college might be the thing to do. It is something that (one would hope) everyone who supported Biden could agree on and it would provide a lever for changing those other problems.

one of my crystal balls says that the left will be unable to unite and a candidate from the center right who mouths platitudes will get elected in 2024.

I'm a wild optimist in such matters. But I just really don't see the GOP nominating a center-right candidate in 2024. (And who would that possibly be???) Certainly not one who mouths platitudes.

I think it's going to take a couple more big losses for them to figure out that they need to take a different direction. And the left deciding to run an anti-Biden (or, at it may be, and anti-Harris) candidate will pretty much guarantee (again) that they win without reforming.

lj,

predicting that the left will be unable to unite is like predicting the sun will rise in the morning.

true dat. it's just that the consequences of that seem much more fraught at present.

I think it's going to take a couple more big losses for them to figure out that they need to take a different direction. And the left deciding to run an anti-Biden (or, at it may be, and anti-Harris) candidate will pretty much guarantee (again) that they win without reforming.

Given what we have seen of the GOP (leadership and base) and their [take your pick] embrace of or inability to stand up to Tyrannosaurus Rump, I'd say that they have all dug in and are now just waiting faithfully for whatever apocalyptic eventuality they believe in to arrive and vindicate them.

Adaptation is for the faithless.

It occurs to me that concentrating on voting, which would include dealing with disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, electoral college might be the thing to do. It is something that (one would hope) everyone who supported Biden could agree on and it would provide a lever for changing those other problems.

Absolutely right.

So one of my crystal balls says that the left will be unable to unite

Unable or unwilling?

It occurs to me that concentrating on voting, which would include dealing with disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, electoral college might be the thing to do.

Sure. But then they have to inspire people to vote for somebody. I'll vote for any D over R (unless there is some weird happening like a Trump D). Eventually, Donald's war criminal suspects will all be dead, so maybe that issue will go away, but there will always be purity tests of one kind or another.

Anyway, I'll stick with being a Dem hack. It's the safest way to not get a Republican.

It occurs to me that concentrating on voting, which would include dealing with disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, electoral college might be the thing to do. It is something that (one would hope) everyone who supported Biden could agree on and it would provide a lever for changing those other problems.

I think voting should be the absolute priority issue for Democrats.

I think voting should be the absolute priority issue for Democrats.

All Dems are on board with this, but should it be the absolute priority issue? I do not believe that to be the case.

People want stuff...stand up and bellow that we shall will bend every effort to make it so.

Or as the Dem hack stated above, "Sure. But then they have to inspire people to vote for somebody."

This is true.

War crimes shouldn’t actually be a purity test. The idea is funny, if viewed from a distance— say, somewhere in Andromeda. It’s like saying that screening for racism is a purity test. Well, yeah. We might forgive someone who used to be one if they show growth. It actually is the same issue. Foreign lives don’t matter.

Westerners are really strange. It’s probably just people who are strange.

And btw, all of us are wild eyed irresponsible insane crackpots or worse from other points of view. At some sites I would be the privileged sellout who voted for Biden. That “ privilege” accusation can be used by lots of people. It is useful to step far outside one’s own viewpoint in various directions and think about how they would view you. I used to get into way too many arguments online before realizing it accomplished nothing except raising my blood pressure. Mostly now I am just an observer.

But imagine yourself going to some website where there are people directly involved vis family in some of our conflicts and talking about purity issues. For that matter, I wouldn’t go to some site that was active in protesting police brutality and tell them that I think “ defund the police” was not a useful slogan. I agree with LJ on that much. That criticism should come from someone else.

My wife, whose interest in politics is minimal, sends me this:

Jan. 21st, 2021 - An old man is sitting on a bench in Lafayette Park, across from the Marine guard in his kiosk at the front White House entrance. Finally, he walks up to the Marine guard's kiosk and says, "I would like to speak with President Trump, please." The Marine replies, "Sir, Donald Trump is no longer the president and he no longer resides at this address." "I see. Well, thank you sir", the old man says and walks off.

The next day the old man sits at the same park bench, then walks up again to the guard and says, "I would like to speak with President Trump, please." Again the Marine replies, "Sir, Donald Trump is no longer the president and he no longer resides at this address." "I see. Well, thank you sir", the old man says and once more walks off.

The day after that the old man once again walks up to the Marine and say, "I would like to speak with President Trump, please." Losing a bit of his patience, the guard says, "Sir, this is the third time you've asked me, and for the third time, Donald Trump is no longer the president and he no longer resides at this address! I've been very clear about that."

"I know", the old man replies. "It just feels so good to hear it." The Marine snaps to attention and says, "See you tomorrow, sir."

God speed the day.

For our Donald:

https://www.laurielipton.com/machine-punk/7-3/

https://www.laurielipton.com/weapons-of-mass-delusions/12-2/

should it be the absolute priority issue? I do not believe that to be the case.

I think it should be at the top of the list. Had the polls been accurate, and Democrats won a majority in the Senate, I believe a new Voting Rights Act should have been the first piece of legislation to be be introduced.

Without it, any gains will be short-lived, subject to being lost as soon as the EC installs another Republican, or the gerrymandered House produces a Republican majority.

Yes. I'm saying that I think a truly democratic voting system will lead to Democratic gains, and will also moderate the right.

It occurs to me that concentrating on voting, which would include dealing with disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, electoral college might be the thing to do. It is something that (one would hope) everyone who supported Biden could agree on and it would provide a lever for changing those other problems..

A new voting rights act is going to have a very hard time getting through the Senate, particularly if is addresses gerrymandering.
It should certainly be attempted, though.

I'm saying that I think a truly democratic voting system will lead to Democratic gains, and will also moderate the right.

I think there's no real doubt about either of those. Clearly the Republicans in Congress, and holding offices at the state level, believe it with every fiber of their being. That's why they're so hysterical at the mere thought of anything which would increase the number of voters.

Seconded. Anything which seeks to make voting more difficult, or to disenfranchise selected groups, or render the votes of certain groups meaningless (as in gerrymandering) should be made legally impossible. Regarding the EC, while its effect is clearly increasingly unfair and not what was originally intended, I leave it to wiser ObWi heads to puzzle out how this could be done, and shown not to be a purely partisan move (we already know from McKinney and Marty, but not I think wj, that it would be perceived to be so).

Seconded referred to byomtov

Seconded

And thirded

It should certainly be attempted, though.

It has. I'm fairly certain it shall be re-introduced in the next Congress.

The EC needs to be abolished, but that would take a Constitutional Amendment.

I'm saying that I think a truly democratic voting system will lead to Democratic gains, and will also moderate the right.

1. Dem gains would be very likely; 2. An ethno-nationalist block that perceives its status to be ebbing is most likely not going to be "moderated" by election reforms...but I guess time shall tell.

Democrats did not realize sweeping gains in the election of 2018 by shouting "election reform!, election reform!" Said reforms are important, but the most important? I don't think so.

The EC needs to be abolished, but that would take a Constitutional Amendment.

And that is the real sticking point. Not only do you have to get 2/3 of the Senate (and 2/3 of the House) to agree. You then have to get 3/4 of the states to agree as well. To an amendment which will reduce the electoral clout of over half of them. No way that happens.

Of course there is the alternative of a new Constitutional Convention. You only need 2/3 of the states to ask for one of those. You'd still need 3/4 of the states to ratify whatever amendments it came up with. But at least you'd have the possibility of horse trading to get a package deal done. Still wildly unlikely. Not to mention the risks for what might come out of it on subjects besides the Electoral College.

It doesn't fix the Senate problem, but the Electoral College is *mostly* fixable without a Constitutional Amendment. The number of Electors is determined by the number of representatives, so we should probably double the size of the House of Representatives, or maybe triple it. This would also have the effect of making it more difficult to hyper-gerrymander states so it sounds win-win to me.

Here's one try at coming up with a way to increase the number of House members to about 900. This would be good for democracy.

Getting there is not easy (passed by both House and Senate, signed by Prez.), but easier than the Amendment route.

The effect on Presidential election outcomes is less clear....due to FPTP elections (2016 outcome, for example, unchanged in the author's calculations). That seems to be the heart of the problem with the Electoral College.

The interstate compact seems to be another interesting approach.

A new voting rights act is going to have a very hard time getting through the Senate, particularly if is addresses gerrymandering.
It should certainly be attempted, though.

Even if the Dems win both Senate seats in Georgia, a comprehensive new VRA will take some time to get through the Senate. 17 of the 50 Dems will be from western states, most with a heavily used vote by mail system, or a redistricting commission, or both. At least to my reading, the House bills passed in the last couple of years got far enough down into details that it was not clear those western systems would have conformed. I can imagine the Dem Senators from HI and NV saying, "My state just spent a ton of money and effort to build a contemporary vote by mail system. What do you mean it's not acceptable?"

Interesting stuff. In regards to dealing with finding inspiring candidates, I have to think that the disenfranchisement, etc etc has got to have an effect on the type of people who are willing to step up. More willing candidates might step forward if they didn't have to brave the gauntlet of bullshit measures put in place to suppress the vote. Level the playing field, you might find all sorts of people who could play the game.

I think getting things right on the local level is a lot more important than any Electoral College fixes. Not that I think that the EC is fine, but it betrays that thinking that there is one magical fix to our problems.

About getting out of our bubble, I wholeheartedly agree. Since George Floyd was killed, I've spent a lot more time reading sites about Black America and Americans. They include
https://thegrio.com/
https://www.theroot.com/
https://theminorityeye.com/
https://theundefeated.com/

Unfortunately, some (maybe all) of them are attempts by white owned media companies to create something for the market. But if I wait around for something and sniff at authenticity, I'll be waiting forever. Also, there is "black twitter", and I'm still trying to figure out twitter and use it for Japanese.

I also try and read some foreign news sources, but I'm limited to English (I read Japanese news, but it is hampered by kisha clubs as this article talks about
http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp18.html
which may account for some, but not all, of my tendencies here) and so not being able to read the vernacular from other countries (or even knowing what and where one reads this stuff) I tend to stick to what I can find.

Certainly one of the constants here has been the question of how to bring in more conservatives, but similar efforts to diversify here in terms of age, gender and ethnicity haven't really been done because 1)this is an operation that has only gotten more laissez-faire as time has gone on and 2)we also don't ask/demand/require self-identification, which would be pretty fraught. We are fortunate to have a few women's voices who generally try and provide some guardrails for the Y chromosones here (and I'm profoundly grateful to them). But for the most part, I get the impression that this is pretty much a 40+ group of folks in definite need of sunscreen with a smattering of young-uns who hangout with us geezers for god knows what reason.

Which has me wonder, if it's problematic to talk about privilege here, how are folks supposed to deal with it when outside this space? I can see how talk about privilege can be a rhetorical move rather than an actual observation, but I'd have to judge it on the context it appears in rather than making a blanket judgement. If there have been specific instances where privilege has been deployed in such a manner, I'd be interested to see it identified and talked about. But if we can't dissect it here, I don't think that we can wander into other spaces and expect it to go very well.

17 of the 50 Dems will be from western states, most with a heavily used vote by mail system, or a redistricting commission, or both. At least to my reading, the House bills passed in the last couple of years got far enough down into details that it was not clear those western systems would have conformed.

Hopefully, the folks in the House (which, after all, includes Representatives from those states) will also be aware of the issue. And spend some effort to make sure that the bill they eventually pass is written so that those systems do conform. Or at least can do so with minimal tweaks.

we should probably double the size of the House of Representatives, or maybe triple it.

That helps a little. I was going to suggest that getting every state to assign EV's in proportion to the vote would get it done, but the peril is that third party candidates would pick off enough ones and twos to deny either major candidate a majority and throw the thing into the House. This would have happened in 2016, for example.

Barr: No evidence of fraud that’d change election outcome

https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-elections-william-barr-b1f1488796c9a98c4b1a9061a6c7f49d

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

I can't wait for tRump's reaction. Actually, I can. I'd prefer never to see him react to anything again.

Barr's comment simply proves that the conspiracy at the FBI to cheat Trump of his victory goes all the way to the top of the Justice Department. It's MAGA Reality.

Would it be possible for the Democratic Party to urge the state parties to use ranked choice voting in their primaries? There would still be the caucus states doing their own thing, but ranked choice might give a better picture of what Democratic voters actually support.

I mean, the GOP needs it worse, but from what I've seen of state level GOP leadership, I think that the state leadership really does not want to be held to what the average GOP voter wants.

I think that the state leadership really does not want to be held to what the average GOP voter wants.

Since the average Republican voter seems to be a conspriacy theory loving Trump fan, who can blame them?

Since the average Republican voter seems to be a conspriacy theory loving Trump fan, who can blame them?

I was actually thinking it was the other way, that the people active in the GOP on the state level were mostly farther right and more driven by ideology than the average GOP voter. That seems to be the case in the states I've looked at when digging into their state conventions and the infighting.

I think that, had the GOP used ranked choice in 2016, they would have coughed up a Cruz or Rubio shaped hairball rather than ending up with Trump. Not sure how the 2020 Democrats would have come out, but we would certainly have a better picture of how deep Sanders' support actually ran outside of his core, and we might have seen a bit more of a through line for Warren or Harris or Buttigieg.

To your point, wj, I think there is a hard split on the right between the donor base and the party activist base. The money wants less volatility, the boots on the ground are wanting an even more pointed and unapologetic platform.

I think that, had the GOP used ranked choice in 2016, they would have coughed up a Cruz or Rubio shaped hairball rather than ending up with Trump

Possibly. I'd like to think so, anyway.

Not that I have all that much use for either of them. But "not as bad as Trump" is a damn low bar to clear. Whether one is talking about "not as bad for the nation" or just "not as bad for the GOP, in the medium to long term."

I think there is a hard split on the right between the donor base and the party activist base

Has been for some time. What has changed, I think, is that the party activist (fanatic) base has started to figure out that they can insist on what they have been promised, policy-wise. Rather than settling for politicians who give them plenty of rhetoric, but give the donors policies.

Not that Trump wasn't doing exactly the same thing in a lot of cases. See tax cuts for the rich. But he gave them a few visible (albeit totally ineffectual, not to mention massively ineptly done) gestures like the border wall. And now they think they can actually get the things they have been promised for so long.

I can see why the party leaders are scared. They may have to do things that they know the donors won't like. But if I was the donors, I'd be more scared. Because what the base thinks it wants involves, in many cases, exactly the kind of attacks on the elites that the left has been championing for so long. Leaving them nowhere to hide.

Trump gave them what they wanted, which were all of those activist judges to hamstring women's health and gay rights arguments and cripple any efforts at federal regulation of public health or environmental issues. Now they can be bold in their opposition, believing that the courts will have their backs.

And we will have to see if the courts do.

With local law enforcement often on their side and federal courts likely refusing to step in, they will push their weird mix of libertarianism and christian-nationalism as far as they can.

With local law enforcement often on their side and federal courts likely refusing to step in, they will push their weird mix of libertarianism and christian-nationalism as far as they can.

Libertarians can little in the way of libertarianism in the GOP. And little to like in either party.

""Today, many leaders of the Republican Party have coalesced around a desire to purge libertarians, with our pesky commitments to economic liberty and international trade, from their midst," Reason's Stephanie Slade pointed out in an August The New York Times column. She cited party figures rejecting not just figures like Amash and Massie, but libertarian ideas about free markets and limited government.

With the Democrats victorious in the presidential contest, while Republicans (probably) retain the Senate, gain seats in the House, and thrive at the state level, there's little sign that the big political parties will feel a need to appeal to a libertarian faction that drives them to distraction but is entirely incompatible with their competing brands of authoritarianism.

More than ever, that leaves libertarians without a home in either of the major political parties. It also, incidentally, leaves the United States without a major political party even slightly inclined to leave people alone to manage their own affairs. Those of us who value liberty, then, are left in permanent opposition to the meddlesome major political parties, and to the government they dominate."
Libertarians Have No Home in Either Dominant Political Party: Which leaves the U.S. without a major party even slightly inclined to leave people alone to manage their own affairs.

Libertarians can find little...

And yet the cultists continue to believe themselves thoroughly libertarian as they fight against mask mandates, vaccine requirements for public schools, and any civil rights legislation that requires them to treat the iniquitous as human beings.

"Libertarian" when it comes to resisting requirements that they dislike. But authoritarian when it comes to forcing others to behave as they wish.

They are inherently incompatible approaches. But they've managed to yoke them together for quite a while, based on a shared dislike of what liberals want to see done. Bit of a question how long pure "against" will work as a sole organizing principle. So far, longer than I would have predicted.

Libertarians can find little... in the way of a coherent intellectual argument on just about anything. They mouth an intellectually bankrupt ideology that persists only because it dovetails with those who already have power and wealth and can wield it to effect by providing financial assistance to these ideologues in order they may reap the benefits of lower taxes and the comfort of relief from sensible regulatory policy.

I'm all for Libertarians creating their own colonies, where they can enter but not exit. Before they enter, they have to be sterilized (because we're not going to allow them to abuse kids). They are not allowed to create offensive military weapons. I suggest they all go to Idaho, which I've heard is really pretty.

Deal?

What's the Libertarian(TM) position on a "public option" in health insurance?

I imagine most True Libertarians are sane enough to want health insurance for themselves. With a public option they would have one more choice of insurer than they would otherwise, just like normal people. I should think more choice increases Personal Liberty(TM), but I've been known to misunderstand Libertarian(TM) definitions of Liberty(TM) before this.

--TP

For a Real Libertarian(TM), if government is involved it is, from first principle, bad. Even if it merely provides an additional option.

While the true believers doubtless can list numerous differences, from the outside the difference between true-believer libertarianism and anarchism is not real visible.

I think we are a (little) unfair to Charles. It doesn’t help that the self professed libertarian politicians in the US appear to be completely nuts, but there is a strong strain of positive libertarianism in American culture.
After all, what is the First Amendment, if not libertarian ?

A really good article by a rural Democrat on why the party is failing in rural areas:
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/01/democrats-rural-vote-wisconsin-441458

Libertarians can find little...

At first, I thought it was ‘can do little’. But then I realized that libertarians don’t do, they just find situations to insert themselves into...

The reason why rural areas voted for Trump is quite simple: massive increases in agricultural subsidies in the last two years, in direct contradiction to Trump's announced intentions earlier in his presidency.

These increases started as generous compensation for the effects of his stupid trade wars, then were ramped up this year because Covid.

Quite simply, the Rs have used federal money to buy rural votes. There's nothing the Ds can do about this unless they're willing to pursue the same damaging policies.

The truth is that overall, farm subsidies are harmful to small farmers (and to the USA generally). Farm-gate prices get forced down to the lowest level that keeps sufficient farms in business, so the incidence of the subsidies is on consumers not producers. What subsidies do is help large farmers, who are better at farming subsidies, relative to small ones. That is, not only do the Rs get to buy votes with someone else's money, they get to give the money to their rich friends too.

Sometimes libertarians have got a point.

A really good article by a rural Democrat on why the party is failing in rural areas

Thanks for this, Nigel.

Sometimes libertarians have got a point.

Libertarians always have a point. What they don’t have are ideas that scale.

It doesn’t help that the self professed libertarian politicians in the US appear to be completely nuts, but there is a strong strain of positive libertarianism in American culture.

If libertarianism actually meant that people are free to do what they want to the point that their actions harm others, I would be much more supportive of it. It would eliminate the opposition to, for example, environmental regulations.

We would still have to figure out how to take care of the needs of the community, which in many cases can be best addressed by public services. Despite the alleged wisdom of the invisible hand, the economy doesn't reward people equally for the work that they do. Even much-needed work is often low-wage.

As for farm subsidies as they currently exist, Pro Bono's description is accurate. But farming is an iffy business, and subsidies are probably necessary to ensure our abundant food supply. I'm sure the formulas used to provide them, and the selection of farmers they're provided to need to be reformed in a big way.

Look, folks. You got your supply curve and you got your demand curve. Those curves intersect at the right price for whatever it is you're talking about. That's all you really need to know, okay?

Nigel,

Read the article. Interesting point of view from a rural Democrat. But is it not the case that the whole point of the Industrial Revolution was, and remains, to move people off the land?

The vision proffered by the author, small farms, vibrant small towns, etc., stand in direct contradiction to the market outcomes of increasing productivity, corporatization, and oligarchic competition.

So vote for Republicans?

Really?

Sometimes I feel Thomas Frank really has the correct take on this issue.

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