Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Mnuchin, Barr fall on the sword to save Trump

As I had indicated earlier, the only way Donald Trump could evade accountability for his actions was to shutdown Congress and its powers of oversight. As there was no constitutional framework to do this, he would have to do this in illegal ways - essentially conduct a coup.

I had sensed that Barr and Mnuchin would be first to defy Congress. Both men had given off really defiant vibes in their testimony before congressional committees, but there was still some doubt in many quarters whether they would relent and submit to the power Congress. That doubt stands resolved.

It is clear the Barr lied to Congress and does not want to be held accountable for it. He was hired with the sole aim of protecting Trump and he is doing the job he was paid to do. Barr is totally reliant on Trump to protect him and Trump is reliant on Barr.

Mnuchin for his part knows that Trump cannot protect him, he relies on Barr to keep the handcuffs at bay.

So one can think of this as a game of chess, where Mnuchin - a lower power is reliant on Barr - a higher power to protect him, but Barr and Trump are covering each other.

To get to Trump, one has to go through Mnuchin and Barr - but as seen in the above sequence - Barr is a critical piece. Without Barr to protect Mnuchin, the exposure at the Treasury end rises abruptly. Mnuchin like so many people in this government may have money to fight of minor legal challenges, but if Barr can't cover him, his legal expenses explode - and he is smart enough (like Gary Cohn) to know when to bail out.

I think Speaker Pelosi is correct that going after Trump will enable him to sell his "persecution card" to his followers and get them to turn out in record numbers to vote for him again in 2020. While this may not bring him back to power, the gerrymandering will allow the GOP to ride to power in 2020 in both the Senate and Congress. Quite naturally the objective of the Democratic party is to end the power that gerrymandering brings to the GOP's political causes. As legal challenges to the gerrymandering system are out of the question given Trump's adjustments to the Supreme Court and lower courts - the only way to prevent the GOP from coming back to power is to undermine their appeal to "the base".

While the numbers of "the base" may be small, but their sense of embarrassment (at having elected Trump in the first place) is quite great. As with most human beings, Trump supporters do not want to take responsibility for Trump, and are looking for ways of dumping this shit at someone else's door. Quite naturally they will buy into any narrative that spares them further humiliation and they will be more than happy to vote against a Democratic candidate.

So in sum - Democratic Party political priorities remain to contain Trump's "persecution card" while continually exposing his crimes and effectively holding him accountable. As every charge of incompetence injures his ego, he will continue to make more and more mistakes and eventually turn on his base. Right now - he is struggling to pull in enough revenue to keep his legal costs tended, this will rise as his exposure to own stupidity increases.

What can I say...

"The fear of impeachment is much more deadly than impeachment itself."

- Maverick's First Law of American Politics.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The real "Coup" that has just occurred this week.

Trump is banging on about a "coup" and an "illegal" investigation that took place into his campaign. That is obviously nonsense aimed at distracting from the very real coup that he is mounting as we speak.

At the big picture level, Trump wants to stay out of jail for all the illegal things he has done. He can't have the Mueller report be scrutinized by Congress and he must shut down Congressional oversight functions. As those oversight powers are welded into the Constitution, Trump would have to revise the US Constitution to stop Congressional oversight. However as only Congress can re-write the Constitution, Trump can't get his way. So the only alternative is to ignore the Constitution and attempt to bypass Congressional power. When a someone does things like that - it is called a  "Coup" and the form of government that emerges from that is called a "Dictatorship".

This week - Trump went "full Palpatine". As the Senate is in his pocket - thanks to Mitch McConnell's failure to defend the Constitution, Trump went ahead and dismissed the last remaining members of the Congresionally approved leadership of the armed services. He now has "Acting" leaders in these positions and these people are beholden to Trump for their continued service. This already fractures Congressional oversight and injures the constitution.

Congress still has the power to withhold budget allocations and order the DOJ to act against people that break the laws laid down by Congress - but as the testimony two days ago of Barr and Mnuchin indicates - neither is interested in what Congress asks them to do. Mnuchin is actively obstructing Congress attempts to get Trump's taxes and Barr has indicated he intends to give the President an exception from common sense notions of legal accountability.

So the the way the Trump coup works is like this -

1) Acting leaders in various armed services departments are asked to do illegal things and when those are exposed - Congress attempts to withhold funding until greater transparency of Trump's exposure is obtained.

2) Mnuchin offers the department under scrutiny emergency funding and stonewalls or ignores all Congressional demands for staying within its directives.

3) Seeing Mnuchin's illegal actions, Congress order Barr to go after Mnuchin and Barr ignores or stonewalls Congress.

In this way Trump gets his dictatorship and Congress is shut out completely from the process of governance. The Senate passes whatever resolutions Trump wants and along with Mnuchin rubber stamps all the money he wants funneled into his personal accounts. Any government department that attempts to obstruct this illegal activity is promptly punished by Mnuchin who shuts down its funding.

At this point - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is effectively suspended and whatever amendments that you like - they are suspended also.

Specifically - with the DHS in his thrall, Trump is able to restore the old system of voter fraud that dominated US elections for decades - i.e. back when the Sheriffs would just stuff the ballot boxes. Using the DHS' counter terrorism initiatives he is able to coerce Sheriffs departments across the US into doing his will. With GOP appointed Judges embedded in various parts of the Judiciary (thanks to Mitch's "fast track" for Judicial appointments) - there is no way to legally appeal this kind of action.

I am sure by now  - you have seen the fatal flaw in Trump's plan.

Trump's entire power structure relies on projecting his base as being a set of deathly loyal followers who are prepared to wage "Civil War" if he doesn't get his way.  Given how so many Trump supporters hoard guns and munitions and openly endorse violent behavior towards political enemies, it is unsurprising that Trump's claim of knowing some "hard people" is credible and serves as a deterrent to openly going after him.

But by cutting off access to peaceful means of enforcing the laws as they stand. Trump invites the same Civil War like conditions that he hopes to hold as a barrier against his arrest.

Most minorities are used to operating under the permanent threat of being killed by Trump supporters like Sayoc, Fields and Taggart. Such minorities are used to operating under the perpetual threat of having a pair of cross-hairs on their back.

Trump supporters like Sayoc etc... are unprepared to bear such risks.

Unfortunately for the United States - I have seen this in other lands.

For example in Punjab (Iraq)[Syria] the Sikh (Sunni) [Alawaite] male patriarchy felt threatened by the rising levels of empowerment among socially subaltern groups of people, and in the vain hope of retaining their power - they initiated what they thought would the Khalistan (Iraqi)[Syrian] Civil War they would easily win. Unfortunately died in the blaze they started.

We will witness a similar trajectory in the US.

Why would sensible people want to support this kind of madness. Here is a clue. [Hint ... it doesn't work like this].

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

GOP - JEB, is your Savior!

As you all may have noticed, Trump is increasingly isolated and angry. He can't seem to go very long without rage tweeting or golfing. Those are his principle stress management tools and the whole thing is falling apart under him. He is literally going to piece. Even he knows his "No Collusion, Exonerated" thing is bullshit - as do all his "base" - that's why they are latching on to the Smollet story like it means something.

The GOP is in a pickle. Rather than accept a moderate like JEB as its candidate, it chose to engage with extremist views and put Trump in the WH. I am sure it was lucrative for the GOPers as they all got paid in Russian money but fundamentally the bride was not worth the price. Doing all this carries huge legal penalties and there is no way to escape those costs. In the end the costs outweigh the benefits.

So unsurprisingly - as some of you may have noticed - Trump is increasingly surrounded by former Bush era officials who seem to be helping him stay afloat for now. While this is obviously strategic - given Trump's isolation - anyone who agrees to work with him risks immense censure and possible criminal exposure, the Bush era officials are effectively increasing the leverage and therefore restoring place of the family in national narrative.

It is difficult to keep track of narratives in this strange time.

So may I humbly suggest a simple narrative?

The Bush family served this nation with integrity and honesty. Even when facing its own immense struggles with substance abuse and health - it did whatever it could to meet the needs of the country.

And what did the entitled GOP OWM crowd do?

Spit in their face?

Humiliate them based on the words of people like Chip Tatum or Roseanne Barr?

Oh wait - I forgot - the Bush family were supposed to be reptilians from Zeta Reticuli - and they had signed the treaty with the Aliens in 1954... right?

And where has pandering to that led you - OWM of the GOP?

How does it feel to be used as an asswipe by Trump? Sen McConnell anything you want to share about that sensation?

The more you guys support this Trump madness - the more you will suffer.

Supporting Trump has already made you even more reviled and hated than any member of the Bush family ever was.

Keep supporting Trump and things will only get worse. He already fantasizes about jailing HRC, Mueller, Comey and Obama. Give him more support and he will act on those fantasies - and then the enraged Democrats will respond in kind.

To avoid this - the kind and benevolent ones have provided a fig leaf.

Take it.

Urge Trump to leave the White House in exchange for a effective end to the treason probes. This will allow him to save face and allow his kids to keep their allowances.

Once Pence has taken office, appoint JEB to the VP slot.

You problems will recede after. It would NOT be a permanent solution to your elect-ability issues (you have brought those on yourself and not even God can fix those problems) - but you will be able to retire in peace.


Collusion is not a crime - and it can't be proved

A lot is being projected on to the Barr summary. And quite rightly everyone still sane is skeptical of it.

But assume for a moment that what Barr is saying (i.e. "no collusion proved") - is true.

Then we must face the following facts.

1) Collusion can't really be proved - As it is usually just a tacit agreement. Most people who commit collusion are not dumb enough to leave a piece of paper lying around that says "Oh you scratch my back and I will scratch yours". 

2) Collusion is not really criminal - Saying "Ok President Putin, I will stand for election, and appoint your guys to my campaign staff" isn't really criminal. (Actually accepting the appointment and then doing things secretly to aid Putin's agenda - however - is actually criminal!)

3)  The elements of "Collusion" are criminal - You don't need to prove "Collusion" exists to identify criminal conduct. The elements of collusion in this matter involve treason. If the elements of treason (such as hidden financial transactions, coordination between public statements, private promises of valuable exchanges, etc...) are verified, then whether or not Trump or his guys knowingly colluded with Putin is irrelevant. Criminal charges can be framed around the elements of treason.

I guess what I am saying is that Trump trotted out the term "Collusion" as a deflection from the greater issue of *Treason*. The Democrats engaged the issue because the appearance of collusion was so obvious that it was impossible to look the other way. Trump was practically handing them a leg to kick his rear with. 

Why Trump did this is mysterious to me. Perhaps he thought he would be able to flip the narrative on the Democrats (as he did with the "Lock Her Up!" chants) - and in doing so - avoid directed scrutiny of the treason issue. 

Whatever his intention (and I don't think Trump thinks nearly as hard about these things as he should) - the Democratic Party successfully used Trump's own "No Collusion" canard against him. If you doubt their success - just ask all the GOPers who lost their seats in the House despite all the voter fraud and gerrymandering they did. 

Now we can expect that Democrats will pivot to the core issue of treason and the fig leaf offered to Trump by Barr's letter will be blown away. 

As this is blown away - one can expect Trump to be quite agitated, but the biggest losers here will be the GOP - as they will have to defend his desire to bury the Mueller report and suffer the electoral consequences. 

This lays ground for the next post. 

"GOP! JEB, Your Savior!"

Monday, February 25, 2019

Audience Costs in the Indo-Pak context

As both the BJP and the Pakistan Army are very keen to project an image of being super tough and hard line on security issues - we are now enmeshed in yet another high visibility drama where both these groups try to establish their dominance in their respective spaces.

For the Pakistan Army - the story is pretty clear. In the days of old when India only had fission weapons and rudimentary delivery systems, there was no cause for excessive fear. Pits were separate from packages and there was a two to three day lag before a sudden strike could materialize. As long as the Pakistan Army demonstrated a faster mating ritual (i.e pits to packages and packages to warheads) there was a meaningful sense of deterrence. But after 1998 it has changed. India's demonstration of FBF designs meant that if India decided to weaponize those designs, there could be no way to de-mate the pit from the package. The DAE was careful in 1998 to repeatedly signal that the Shakti-I device was simply a capability demonstration and not a fully weaponized configuration, but a lot of water has flown down the Indus since then. Today with Modiji announcing a "deterrent patrol" of the Arihant to the world, the Pakistan Army is left wondering what if any meaningful deterrence exists - for on a nuclear submarine where the entire platform is canisterized - there is no question of keeping the pit separate from the package even if it is a simple fission weapon. Then there is the deeper issue of India's growing capabilities in INS & Remote Sensing. That stuff has resulted in improvements in OAR for India's platforms. Can a small, technologically underdeveloped nation with serious problems of religious extremism be expected to lift such a heavy load? It stretches the imagination. So clearly the idea of a viable deterrence becomes shaky in its own right. (This is without getting into arrant nonsense about staged TN devices popular among India's Gigaboomer crowd). It will be hard to keep pretending that the Pakistan Army is still the big dog if they can't be seen to be holding back India.

For Modi again - it is clear - his whole rise to power was based on his Hindu Hitman image. He was the guy that everyone believed would kill all the Muslims and restore the purity of the Indian lands. Now granted that didn't quite turn out like that yet, but at least Hindu RW mobs can slaughter Muslims in the name of cow-protection and as long as the IT Cell keeps boosting violent behavior, it should all fly with "public" opinionv(i.e. upper caste) which is at best apathetic to the plight of the poor. But with all the money he took from his billionaire friends (and repaid thru demonetization and NPAs) - he was just barely able to win. Sure the numbers look big in the Lok Sabha but down at the constituency level, it tells a very different story and after the failed demonetization, a strong sense of anti-incumbency set in. Also Modi was never popular in Nagpur, they always like Gadkari more. Now if Modi cannot secure the same number of seats in 2019, he will have to step down and Nagpur will use Gadkari's strength to build a working alliance. This doesn't work for Modi - and even if he wants to resign and go to the Himalayas like he did when he was 10, Amit Shah and the "donors" don't want this. Not everyone wants the citizenship of Antigua. So without a major reinforcement of the Hindu Hitman image for Modi, it will be difficult to guarantee Prime Ministership.

So with this latest crisis over Lethpora, both groups - Pakistan Army and Modi face significant audience costs. Normally one could stage a little drama like Uri where Modi looks like he is a tough guy to his base and the Pakistan Army can act like it defended Pakistan from a big Indian threat. And then Doval's son and his Pakistani partner can keep doing business as usual. Even the ISI would play along with that.

But there is a problem, since the cost horizon is so close for Modi (he can't win elections without this), the ISI will be disinclined to be cooperative. And then there is that media situation where misinformation propagates very rapidly.

From an outsider perspective - one sees a runaway process where Modi keeps upping the ante hoping for electoral returns, and the ISI which can't tell the difference between a theatrical performance and the real thing reciprocates in hostile fashion.

The situation escalates and with each step the audience costs rise for both sides.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Lethpora 2019- It's like deja vu all over again.

Obvious quite a tragedy for India but before one does anything to Pakistan - one will need the some/all of the following

1) A DNA link establishing that the suicide bomber in actually Adil Ahmad Dar seen in the martyrdom video. (This may prove challenging given that very little of SBVIED was found -but thankfully with PCR today one can do a lot of a trace of DNA).

2) An actual physical communication device that can be placed in the hands of Adil Ahmad Dar.

3) Evidence of an actual communication between that device and a cross border "handler" - specifically if the rumors of Signal/Telegram/Discord based comms is true - then there will be an electronic trail leading to an actual "go" code for the mission. The code (or the related key-pair exchange) will have a time-stamp on it, if that time stamp or device geolocation matches the site and time of the event - that is a very big step forward.

4) A bombmaker or Agent ("Operation Commander") captured alive - to provide human corroboration of the electronic trail.

5) A link from the 'handler"/Agent to the JeM Military Shura or Financial Shura.

6) A link from the JeM Military Shura/Financial Shura to ISI-HQ.

If you don't have this information - you really are not in a position to speak about what GoI should do.

If you are in possession of this information, then you don't need to hear what anyone else has to say on the issue.

Government of India has to choose between a set of options but broadly speaking there are the following constrains

1) The ladder of escalation must not have more than a few rungs.
2) There has to be room to maneuver at the top rung. (ideally GoI would like to de-escalate on own time schedule and not on an externally imposed schedule).
3) CAPF are lower down on the totem pole than the Army, so one can't go balls out insane because when there is an attack on the Army - there will be no options left on the table.*
4) Whatever is done cannot derail the process of the CAPF relieving the Army from CI duties. (Essentially local response has to be decoupled from the higher levels so GoI has maximum freedom to choose).

Actually/likely useful suggestions

1) Review incident to see what can be changed about convoy CRPF SOP. (I think there is merit to using Casspirs as blast absorbers on both side of the convoy).
2) Review intelligence exchange mechanism between J&KP(SOG) and CRP (Intel) and see how to avoid gaps.
3) Until a state wide all clear has been sounded to signal that no new attacks are likely -  raise number of barriers outside CRP camps and increase checkpoints (if manpower is available).
4) It is reasonable to impose curfew and carry out regular CASO in all areas of suspected activity until the threat of more SBVIEDs is reduced.

* NO losing ones' head. Repeat - DO NOT attempt the usual "convoy challenge protocol" from the 90s. It is *NOT* productive in the present context.


Monday, January 14, 2019

My problem with the "Ancient India was Sooooo Advanced" bullshit

So some jackass decided to go up and present nonsense about ancient Indians knowing about "Stem Cells" because in the Mahabharat there is a description of what sounds similar to a modern cloning experiment.

I'll admit it - I think it is hugely entertaining to spout this kind of nonsense to set off idiots but there is a major problem with this narrative. This is why I don't go around using this line of discussion to troll the immensely stupid*.

Let's assume that that whole "ancient India was AWESOME" story is somehow real. That the Mahabharat and Ramayana were stories of a very real, very fratricidal and very genocidal war. Under that line of thought, there idea of a lost world of technology gains ground.

One might make the case in that limit - that India was once a technological superpower but then regressed (technologically and sociologically) due to a war that wiped out significant portions of socially forward and technologically innovative communities.

So far so good. In fact it all sounds highly believable (how many times have we seen this same tape played over and over in Modern Europe over the last 200 years?)

Then it all goes bad.

The immediate question that comes to mind is - so why is it that in the intervening thousands of years - has India not been able to claim it lost prowess back?

Yes Yes Yes - I know "EVILLL MOOSSLIMS" etc... you might say but that is bullshit. Clearly Chandragupta Maurya was a Hindu emperor who ruled all of India several hundred years before Islam came into being. So why is there no mention of cellphones in the Maurya empire? did Chanakya have email address that I don't know about? - Did Ashoka learn about Buddhism on the internet? .. No ... so clearly Muslim rule have nothing to do with India's continued state of technological regression.

And of course as with all things only Brahmins are the custodians of true knowledge of all matters (And being one myself - I should know a thing or two also) but then why did Brahmins emphasize rote memorization over the rediscovery and rejuvenation of Indian science and technology?

Why was there no Indian renaissance led by Brahmins who sought to rediscover "Ancient Indian" technological secrets?

Or did they rediscover them after the age of the epics and never thought it worth their while to share them outside a few guilds who served their interests?

What was done with the wealth earned from such rediscovery? - stashed away in "Gupt Dhan" under the myriad tunnels that run below major Indian temples?

Dear readers - do you get my drift?

Stating India was an "Ancient Technological Superpower" is path to extremely uncomfortable questions about why and how India remains so underdeveloped today and why there are so many temples with secret basements full of gold!

I get it - your friend feels depressed about his/her science experiments and you tell them a story about ancient India's glory so that they feel better - but this is best left a bedtime story.

Unless you want to answer the questions I have raised above - you might want to stop with this "Ancient India Technological" nonsense.

* the only exception to the above is making up this kind of rubbish to get the fanatically foolish to part with legitimate research funds. If that is what the unnamed jackass was doing, I withdraw my opposition completely - good work my friend!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Don't worry I am sure he will declare an Emergency next week or the week after or sometime soon.

Like so many people I was disappointed that Trump didn't declare an emergency and just go full Palpatine in his address to the nation yesterday.

This was a political failure on his part. Now people are saying he is just doing these press events to grift for his campaign. Yesterday his campaign sent out emails asking for contributions to help him build his wall but then in the actual address he totally chickened out of declaring an emergency to build the wall.

This is not good PR. This is bad PR - it will damage his support base badly. They will publicly look like major idiots if he can't get this going.  The whole point of the base continuing support to Trump in the face of major hardships like lost jobs, lost healthcare, and tariffs - is that the base is spared the humiliation of having to admit they were wrong about Trump (and everything else).

What he did yesterday basically rubbed their faces in his turds at a time when they already had their mouths open.

That is bad.

He can't keep doing that. I mean his approval rating will plummet even in the polls he routinely rigs.

So he is going to have to reschedule another TV address and then declare an actual emergency and use the emergency powers to kill the Mueller inquiry and pardon all his collaborators in the "collusion - which is not a crime".

And he will also have to anoint Don Jr as his successor as Emperor of the United States because that is what Don Jr expects and he is very close to flipping on Trump with Mueller. Not a day goes by when Don Jr doesn't go to town telling people he expects to be charged with some crime or the other any time soon.

And there is Ivanka and Jared. They will have to be given a kingdom of their own - otherwise they will not be happy with Don Jr's elevation. So maybe after Trump declares himself Emperor of the US, Don Jr. can be made Crown Prince of the United States and Jared and Ivanka can be given the Grand Duchy of New York City as a consolation.

Also we should all look forward to seeing the White House renamed as the Grand Trump Palace and Stephen Miller will be appointed as Grand Vazir of the Holy Trumpen Emperor.

The stars on our flag will be replaced by circles representing Trump's testicles. Each state will get one Trump testicle to incorporate on its flag.

The FBI, CIA and NSA will be renamed the TrumpBI, TrumpIA and the TrumpSA. That way they will be properly loyal to their political masters and of course the Supreme Court will be superseded by Trump Grand Council of Unique Justice.

There is so much to look forward to.

Surely he will declare an emergency soon.