Sunday, January 29, 2017


The basic presumption of all of us is that the government should at least be competent. This is actually one of the fundamental criticisms from the far right, at least when it suits them: the government should be reduced in size and power because it mostly can't do the jobs it tries to do. This is the argument for, among other things, "privatization." Coming to a post office near you.

In this regard, consider the following analysis from an historian and legal scholar of foreign policy:

There is an additional very troubling feature of Trump’s action [the Muslim Ban] that should not get lost in what I assume will be an enormous reaction to its discriminatory character. The action is also wholly arbitrary. There is no rational basis for this policy. This is like policy as fantasy football, policy as vanity plate. There is no evidence of an increased danger to the US from Syrian refugees or any other refugees. If terrorism is the problem, I suppose we might be more concerned by people traveling from France and Belgium than Yemen and Somalia. But however we analyze the policy, the underlying reality is that it is not the result of any rational policy process. There was no process. This is pure prejudice. For the whole post, see

But it must be kept in mind that these edicts from Mr. Trump are being generated in their details by Bannon and Miller.
They do have a goal: it seems apparent that Bannon/Miller/Trump hope to create enough public unrest to justify a forceful police and military response. They hope if this response is orchestrated in just the right way to achieve at least significant public support, at least among the factions of the voting public that already voted for him in November.

This is, in effect, the Tiananmen Square incident.

Captured in a famous photograph:

The tanks did not run over the brave protester. But they did run over quite a number of other protesters in the square, and the whole protest was cast as a conflict between urban elites and rural working people who were convinced that these elites were endangering their country.

Bannon and Trump are hoping, I think, to escalate this same rural/urban tension in the United States. They believe--hopefully mistakenly--that they have "the people" on their side. And it might be noted that another Republican President, the much more liked Ronald Reagan, found the air travel nexus to be amenable politically to what at the time seemed a shocking affront to the status quo. Mr. Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers. That order stood.

We'll see. Obviously the Trump Administration has made the tactical mistake of including in their Muslim ban people who almost anyone, of any political persuasion short of confirmed racist and white supremacist, will find to be sympathetic. An Iraqi citizen who worked for twelve years as a credentialed interpreter to US Army troops in the field but who is none the less threatened with being sent back to a country that might well imprison him--this is as tone deaf as the proverbial want of a nail.
Let's hope. There is going to be a long roiling battle, and a totally unnecessary one from the point of view of anyone who doesn't want to blow up the country. This administration is aiming at something very radical. These are the indicators, and more will follow, and many. Sometimes tactical incompetence is all that saves humanity, and sometimes it's even just pure-T luck. Hitler got distracted by Yugoslavia and wasted some 15 divisions there, en route to Moscow. In the process, he never got to Moscow, and winter arrived. Meanwhile, some guys in outmoded old torpedo bombers happened to spot the whole Japanese aircraft carrier fleet near Midway island, and Japan lost air superiority for the rest of the war.

I found this nice poster on line at Lawyers, Guns and Money blog today: Pass it around if you like.

We would all do well to not merely wish for luck in the coming days. Incompetence is a break that may not continue.


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