Saturday, December 10, 2016

First they came for Boeing

In between choosing supervillain names for members of his cabinet, Trump sends out tweets. One of these read "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!"

All of the implicit claims in this tweet are pretty much true. Air Force One is more than one plane, and the project really is projected to cost something like $4 billion. It's also probably true that Trump tweeted this because the CEO of Boeing said something mean about him -- as far as I can tell, it was something in support of the TPP.

So cue all sorts of approach-of-fascism, this-is-the-end things from the center left. Trump was "tearing up a contract". (Well, actually, no. The President saying that a contract should be cancelled does not cancel the contract.) He tanked Boeing's stock and should be sued for that. (The stock was back to its previous value by the end of the day.) He was deluding his brainless followers, who wouldn't even check the blatant lies in his tweet. (Actually, of course, the people who were saying that the tweet was crazy hadn't checked for themselves at all.) He was calling the whole capitalist system into question by thuggishly pressuring a company using the leverage of government contracts.

Boeing is the second largest defense contractor in the world. It's the military-industrial complex. I was unaware that being on the left meant defending the sanctity of contract for big military business, or defending stock prices, or that we should leap to defend the TPP because Trump is against it. Pity poor Boeing's lobbyists who are being silenced as they try to speak truth to power! Of course Trump and Boeing patched this up in short order.

Trump's next target (there's probably going to be one every couple of days) was Chuck Jones, a Steelworkers union leader, and that was bad for Chuck Jones who got a lot of threatening phone calls from Trump supporters, but at least this Trump target was a) a person, not a giant corporation, b) telling the truth, not speaking out for the TPP, c) one of a group that is a traditional first target of the right and that people really should support.

That lasted a little while. Then Trump attacked the most important target ever, apparently: the CIA. And the reaction was "how dare he attack the CIA". Pity the poor deep state! They only want to speak the truth, which they have tortured out of a succession of innocent black site prisoners. They could not possibly be lying about nebulous evidence of Russian involvement in releasing DNC Emails. And how dare a foreign country interfere in some other country's election. The CIA's entire history shows that they are the guardians who stand strongly against that.

I know that I've written this a lot, but there is no anti-Trump alliance. The center left or whatever you want to call it does not share the left's values: they are motivated strictly by partisanship, and will instantly throw the left overboard as soon as they return to power or really whenever it's convenient, such as when they think they'll get a better deal out of Trump. They won't support us: they won't defend us: they don't even really want anything from us or have any use for us. They won't even defend their own voters or their own base. That's the first and most salient fact about the Trump era.


  1. Here's an example of how the Democratic Party will not even protect its base or itself. More than half of Detroit's precinct's could be recounted. The Democrats lost Michigan by 10,000 votes and there were 75,000 ballots in Michigan in which voters supposedly chose no one for President, twice as many as last time.

    Stein couldn't complete the recount because she was judged not to be "aggrieved", meaning that she had no chance to win. Hillary Clinton was "aggrieved" by this definition -- but she won't ask for the recount to be continued.

  2. Above should read "couldn't be recounted".

  3. The deep issue shadowing the most recent American electoral cycles has been the legitimacy and competence of political, economic and media elites. It seems to me that the Democrats are taking pains post-election to demonstrate that for all their efforts to project insanity and corruption onto Trump (not an entirely false slander to be sure), they really did embody their own peculiar brand and style of amoral incompetence immune to learning from consequences.
    We are at the tail end of a long political cycle that began with the advent of Reagan -- and in a longer view, with the end of the Second World War. The tools, expectations, frames and norms have long since degenerated into economic neoliberalism and foreign policy neoconservatism. There's something inherently pathological in these policy approaches, as there is in any parasitism or feeding on decay, but the gravest difficulty is the stupidity and denial they impose on their supporters and apparatchiks.
    There's no left, left and there certainly cannot be one anywhere near the agnotological ideologies that seek to preserve and extend our dysfunctional status quo.

  4. I think that my view is in some ways inverted form yours (although both come to very similar conclusions). You seem to think that first there is a pathological policy approach, and then that policy approach imposes stupidity and denial. I think that all late empire politics has collapsed into partisanship -- thus the stupidity and then denial -- and the policy approach is just a rationalization of what the partisanship is about.

    Perhaps partisanship is the wrong word, since it sounds so vacant and the current division has a strong class element. But what is clear is that the center-left / right division is not actually animated by anything resembling a left value. That's why people can respond to every Trump pronouncement by defending its opposite, so that we're treated to the spectacle of "Hands off Lockheed Martin!" and "Stop annoying the Chinese!" Not that I want to annoy the Chinese government, and I especially don't want armed conflict, but it's obvious that if Trump is actually going to pursue bringing jobs and factories back to the US, he needs to break the current agreement with China. People can have principled disagreements about this, but they aren't: it's all just "Trump is crazy!" which is stupid.

    The CIA thing is especially weird. There was that thousand tweet game theory guy who I refuse to remember the name of who said that the left distrusted the security services because of the Russians. Which is completely crazy and would only be believed as part of a partisan frame. It's as if COINTELPRO, Central America, various coups, and the Iraq War never happened, not to mention lesser but very recent things like the Occupy crackdown. No one can actually believe this.

    1. Yes, the CIA thing is very weird -- not just the defense of the CIA by Democrats but the willingness of the institution itself to weigh in at all -- and I do not feel any confidence I understand what is going on, on any of several levels. That I do not see, as you put it, how anyone can believe this chain of assertions, is setting off multiple alarm bells for me.

      In my previous comment, I was trying out a thesis premised on the long-term erosion of elite legitimacy. I suppose we could say elite authority always lies in every era and not be far off the mark, in part because so much of what political leaders say is b.s., but people trust in the integrity of the liar more in some periods than others and it matters to politics. And, the quality of checks on the liars are better in some places/ eras than others, so the liar may be more circumspect and even dutiful.

      Neoliberalism has presided over a huge transfer of wealth and power upward, while demolishing or undermining institutions, making the legitimacy issue particularly intense, as most political issues now turn on whether the bosses can be constrained or anyone else protected, but it is politic to pretend otherwise.

      The pretending puts serious strains on the country's capacity for public deliberation and this episode throws that into high relief. A lot of pundits and journalists and just ordinary folk drawn into partisan politics for its entertainment value became useful idiots, and idiocy does not wear off quickly.

      One aspect of the end of an era thing is that not only is the habitual policy framework less and less potent, but when people have been pretending long enough about the relationship of cause and effect in making policy, they lose track of what it means to think long-term, to account for recent history or precedent.

      I see Ian Welsh is venturing a variation on this theme.

      I do think the absence of a credible left critique or even a creditable conservative critique of our era is a problem, as we enter the crisis. When I think about the French Revolution or the American Civil War or the Great Depression as crises, one thing I could say is that there had been a big investment beforehand in criticizing what was wrong and spreading fairly sophisticated opinion to a wide audience. People were not agreed, but their minds were prepared to some extent.

      A lot of people have recently made a big investment in normalizing Hillary Clinton in a self-deceiving way as part of the campaign and some of the crazy outbursts against Trump are releasing these self deceptions as projections. "The government is being turned over to Goldman Sachs!!!" would be a symptom.

      And, if you do not want to process the Dems abandoned the working class theme, this is a distraction now that the racist fascist slanders are losing their edge.

      The people around Clinton and Clinton herself were very invested in a foreign policy that makes little sense, but was lucrative for those involved. They have been pretending for nearly 20 years that Saudi Arabia is not a mortal enemy of the U.S. Clinton's close associates had a big investment in hostility to Russia as well. And, cyber security is something no one understands but everyone experiences as mysterious and threatening. It is commonly in the news. I can sort of see how free association could result in an ill considered eruption from the Id. Almost like lightening flashing across the sky of a Freudian political collective consciousness. The Podestas say stupid things that resonate.