Category Archives: Politics

Trump vs China

Is Trump the “Asia pivot” candidate?

Looking at the difference between Trump’s and Hillary’s attitudes towards Russia, one can’t help but feel that there’s something deeper going on.  Hillary’s hostility to Russia, contrasted with Trump’s amiable gestures, raises the question of what Trump’s objectives are.  Or more accurately, those of the team of national security insiders he has assembled, including former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is not non-interventionism, no matter what some libertarians may wish to believe about Trump.  These are serious military-industrial complex heavy-hitters in his inner circle.  He is not against using American power, he is simply pushing a different agenda from the neocons formerly in power.  His well-known antipathy to China may provide a clue.  Here’s Trump’s plan to “get tough” on China (there is no “get tough” on Russia plan):

Declare China A Currency Manipulator
End China’s Intellectual Property Violations
Eliminate China’s Illegal Export Subsidies And Other Unfair Advantages
Strengthen the U.S. military and deploying it appropriately in the East and South China Seas

Donald Trump campaign website, July 30, 2016

Increased trade barriers, sparking a possible trade war, combined with amped up military presence in China’s backyard sends a pretty clear signal of Trump’s intentions.  This falls in line with the elite foreign policy consensus of an “Asia pivot” in the past few years – away from the Middle East and towards containing a rising China.  Let Russia help us mop up ISIS and “radical Islam”, Trump seems to argue, which leaves us free to confront China.

At a press conference a few days ago, Trump said he doesn’t want to see Russia and China “teaming up”.  He seems to understand, or has been made to understand, the fears underlying thia Asia pivot.  Closer military and economic cooperation between Russia and China presents a major stumbling block to Western globalist hegemony.  The election contest between Trump and Hillary can be seen as a contest between the foreign policy realist “pivot” faction and the anti-Russia neocons.  Far from ushering in an era of non-interventionism, Trump would merely shift the target of American power.

Donald Trump and Edward Snowden

Will President Trump get Edward Snowden?

Since Trump and Putin seem to like each other, is it likely that a President Trump’s newly-befriended Russia would throw Edward Snowden under the extradition bus?

Let’s see what Trump has said about Snowden.

I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?
The Washington Times, July 2, 2013

When you just asked the question about Snowden, I will tell you right from the beginning, I said he was a spy and we should get him back.  And if Russia respected our country, they would have sent him back immediately, but he was a spy. It didn’t take me a long time to figure that one out.
Newsweek, March 4, 2016

Here’s what Putin has said about Trump.

[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.  It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race. … He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that?  Of course we welcome that.
The Political Insider, December 17, 2015

And what Trump said of Putin.

It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.  I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.
CNN, December 17, 2015

With warmed relations, Snowden may quickly lose his value as a geopolitical “trump” card and find himself on a one-way flight to Guantanamo.  Maybe he should start country shopping?

Lucy and Charlie Brown play football

The practical failure of libertarians (and what to do about it)

I was floored by the sheer inanity of Walter Block going back on his word to disband “Libertarians for Trump” after the convention.  This nonsensical shilling for a would-be tyrant by a smart, prominent libertarian, based on nothing more than a willful naivete around a politician’s lies, is very discouraging.

Remember candidate George W. Bush’s claim to be against nation-building?  Boy, did that work out well.  Now we are supposed to believe Trump is a non-interventionist, even though his psychology and history clearly do not point to that conclusion.  It’s like the last 16 years never happened and no lessons were learned about believing presidential candidates’ words.

Walter Block isn’t the only libertarian with googly-eyes for Trump;  Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, and others as well.   Maybe they are more paleocons than libertarians after all?  Who can tell.  But if these libertarian leaders can be so taken in by the emotional con game, what hope is there for the masses?  Can education and spreading ideas really result in a voluntary society?  Do we not have the right ideas yet and that’s why we’re falling into error?  What are we missing?

Here are a few suggestions of what I think we need, that we’re missing.

#1, devise ways to measure how much progress we’re making toward the goal of a voluntary society.  We need to be able to tell which tactics work and which don’t, which are more effective and less effective.  We clearly don’t have a good handle on this, judging by the constant debates on the merits of voting.

#2, create an institutional alternative to the Libertarian Party, focused on non-political means of achieving a voluntary society.  There are plenty of options already on the table; they should be catalogued, nurtured, promoted, and funded at an institutional level.  Right now, most people assume that electoral politics is the only way to effect change.  A non-political action organization would help break this paradigm.

#3, develop self-reinforcing systems of advancing liberty.  The problem with relying on education to advance liberty is that it’s a constant struggle, and only a few will have the motivation, time, patience, curiosity, resources, etc. to understand the issues and go against their emotional instincts.  Even with this education, as we’ve seen with “Libertarians for Trump”, it’s easy to go off the rails.

Just as the market functions regardless of the personal opinions of its participants, we need to devise systems that inherently advance liberty by their very nature.  Ideally, such systems would align people’s financial interests with advancing liberty.  It’s hard to stay in the fight if you have to scrape by to survive.  A focus on systems of coordination, not just the ideas of liberty per se, is needed to make the liberty movement an effective social force.

Hillary Clinton Crazy Eyes

Hillary Clinton: dangerous overachiever

As with my previous comments on Donald Trump, I think it’s more useful to look at these candidates’ psychological states in order to predict their behavior, rather than evaluate their policy positions, which are a mess of contradictions, change constantly, and are mostly lies.

Although he has no clear agenda, Trump could be goaded into certain actions, due to the nature of his personality.  On the other hand, Hillary does have an agenda.  She is a driving force who does not need to be goaded into anything.  It’s hard to know which personality is more dangerous.

Think about all the pent-up frustration Hillary must feel, having waited decades for her turn.  It’s a cliche at this point.  She must have reams of ideas, notebooks and binders full of ideas for growing government and running our lives.  She absolutely knows what she wants to do and is chomping at the bit to impose her plans on the country.  She will no longer be in the back seat, looking on while a man does the job she was destined to do.  This alone suggests an activist president.

Speaking of these men, Hillary can’t just be yet another president.  She will naturally be viewed as merely a shadow of her husband, a pale imitation of his glory days, and a limp-wristed followup to the Obama reign.  She will definitely feel the need to differentiate herself, to surpass these two men and show what she can really do.  Remember, she’s a woman in a historic role — and you can bet she will act accordingly.

The woman issue is a big one.  In order to live up to the hype, she has to get the job done.  Remember when they let that first woman into the Marines and she flunked out?  That’s not an option for Hillary.  She will be facing what she believes to be sexism and will try to overcompensate for her sex accordingly.  That screams activism, especially in a foreign policy setting, where masculine strength and gravitas are traditionally valued.  Look for more wars and adventurism, which she has proven she is very much able and willing to execute.

Although Trump is explicitly activist in his policy proposals for infrastructure and spending, it’s clear that Hillary has the psychological constitution for equal or more activism.  And in the foreign policy realm, where Trump has expressed some skepticism of adventurism, Hillary may be downright catastrophic.

Facebook groups by political group

Is Facebook censoring right-wing groups?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Facebook and Twitter censoring conservative and libertarian groups and personalities, such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Lauren Southern.  While this is undoubtedly true in many specific instances, how big of an issue is this overall?

One thing we can look at is the number of left- or right-leaning groups.  I did a quick search for Facebook groups containing popular political keywords.  It seems that the right-wing is much more active, at least measured by number of groups:

Republican 141 Democrat 108
Conservative 178 Progressive 112
Libertarian 103 Socialist 93

Caveats:

  • I used Facebook’s Graph API to conduct searches. You may get different results using the browser or app search.
  • These are only the most popular keywords, but there are many more specific keywords, with more groups.
  • These numbers do not reflect group membership counts or engagement levels. Perhaps that’s a future post!
Trump getting angry

Trigger-happy Trump

I mentioned before my theory that Trump, far from being rock-solid and independent, is very susceptible to manipulation.  His political persona requires projecting “strength”, “winning”, “decisiveness”, regardless of private hesitation or reality itself.   Anything else risks collapsing the house of cards underlying his populist mandate.

Now we have the first inkling of this phenomenon at work.  In response to the Orlando shooting, Trump advocates … airstrikes against ISIS!  “We have to really increase the bombings.”  Because the shooter apparently  “pledged allegiance” to ISIS in a 911 call shortly before his shooting.  The reality is there was no operational link between the shooter and ISIS, or any other organized group.  He was simply a mentally unstable person who used Islam as rhetorical cover for his actions.

The political consensus seems to be on the right-wing this time – this was Islam vs. innocent gays and therefore we need to hate Muslims.  Trump fell right into this narrative trap and took it to its most absurd, yet internally logical, conclusion.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how he could be easily goaded into a brand new war.

trump-puppet

Trump, the perfect puppet

The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump is his own man, says what he means, means what he says, and is fiercely independent.  He’s funding his own campaign, unlike the other candidates, so he’s not beholden to lobbyists and special interests.  And yet, he’s the perfect puppet.

His distinct lack of ideology certainly makes him malleable, but that’s just the start.  Even worse, his strongman personality, whether affected or real, boxes him into acting a certain way.  His popular mandate is wrapped up in his ego, of knowing just what the right answer is, and taking decisive action, full speed ahead.

Imagine another 9/11 or similar crisis and it’s easy to see how circumstances, shaped by a controlled media narrative, could jolt Trump into acting, even if he is personally hesitant.  Refraining from acting would jarringly contrast his can-do persona.  It would make him look weak and impotent, which is the danger of such a large personality that depends on winning grandly all the time.  Even the slightest hesitation is perceived as a vulnerability.

The other candidates are not better, but the unique danger of Trump is that he may be induced to act brashly at a critical moment.  The powerful factions with agendas on a timetable would not hesitate to create just the right circumstances to provoke such a reaction.