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Category: Hillary Clinton Page 1 of 3

The Criteria for Forgiveness of Public Policy Mistakes

So, a while back, the noted NeoConservative, Max Boot (what a name), wrote the following:

What does it take to atone for a mistake in public policy?

Let me suggest the following:

  1. Admit the mistake?
  2. Reassess the reasoning and argument that led to your support, so that you won’t make the same mistake again?

There are major public intellectuals who are wrong about, well, everything. (Thomas Friedman, take a bow.)

One of the largest mistakes of the past twenty years was supporting the Iraq War. It accomplished none of what it was supposed to, killed a pile of people, and weakened the United States. (I’m OK with it weakening the US, but American pundits who believe in a strong US probably shouldn’t be.)

It was, also, yes, a massive war crime–exactly the same war crime for which most Nazis were hung at Nuremburg (no, they mostly weren’t hung for the Holocaust).

So if you were foolish enough, or evil enough, or stupid enough to advocate for the war, and you want to be taken seriously in the future, you need to show that you now know you were wrong AND that you wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

This, by the way, is why I was unwilling to endorse Hilary Clinton in 2016: Because Libya showed that, even though she said she knew the Iraq war was a mistake, she hadn’t actually learned. She went and did it again, though fortunately at a somewhat lesser scale (not that that’s any comfort to those Libyans whose lives were destroyed, or the people being sold in Libyan slave markets today).

But let’s leave aside Iraq, Clinton, and the wonderfully-named Mr. Max Boot.

This rule works for all mistakes. It isn’t enough to admit you made a mistake, you have to understand why you made the mistake and be determined not to make that same mistake.

Merely apologizing, or knowing you made a mistake is worthless if you would do the same thing again.

This is true in our small personal lives, as well as in the big, public mistakes important people make.

None of this should be controversial: This is kindergarten-level ethics. This is the sort of thing children are taught: To understand why they made a mistake and to change their thinking so they won’t make it again.

Iraq was more than a mistake, of course, and the best way to make sure it wouldn’t happen again would be to try the war criminals who made the decisions (including voting for it) and either putting them in prison or hanging them from the neck. Because I generally oppose the death penalty, I’ll settle for sending them to maximum-security prison to do hard time, as is appropriate for people as dangerous as mass murderers.

But because, instead, the people behind the Iraq War and other horrible decisions (like all the decisions leading up to catastrophic climate change) have been rewarded, they, of course, have kept committing crimes and “mistakes.”

Not sending everyone involved in Watergate to prison was a mistake, with the pardoning of Nixon being the original sin here. The same people involved in Watergate (minus Nixon, of course) were involved in Iran/Contra, and then they were the people involved in Iraq.

Hilary Clinton and George W. Bush (whom, I notice, Democrats have rehabilitated) are monstrous war criminals who should be in prison. Max Boot is an enabler of war crimes.

At the very least such people need to show that they understand what they did was wrong, and that they have changed and won’t do it again.

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Obama’s Responsibility for Clinton’s Purchase of the DNC

So, it is now beyond question that the DNC was quite literally working for Clinton during the primaries. The party was 24 million dollars in debt, thanks to Obama, and Clinton paid off those debts in exchange for control of the DNC.

Brazile discovered that an explicit written agreement had been made between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, which:

“…specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

But the part that many people aren’t highlighting is that Obama is responsible for this. He was a terrible party leader. He could easily have raised 24 million and chose not to do so. Under his watch the party lost 1,000 state level seats and is in danger of losing control of so many states that Republicans could pass constitutional amendments.

Obama just didn’t care. He wanted to be President and left a wasteland behind him.

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The Intelligence of Hillary Clinton

I cannot read the below…

… and think anything but that whatever Clinton’s IQ, she isn’t actually very smart.

It really takes an extraordinarily warped world-view to be able to believe the above. The simplest explanation is just that she really is unable to think clearly.

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On Stubborn Facts and Partisan Identification

There is vast confusion in the more active left about this, so let’s clear it up by way of Bernie Sanders.

Clinton was more popular with POC and women than Sanders was. She was also more popular with old people.

However, Sanders is well-liked by POC and women. Every survey I have seen shows him with approval ratings in the 60s to 70s from POC. His approval ratings from women are usually 50-something, and higher than with men, but within the margin of error.

Sander is not unpopular with women and people of color, and people of color, in fact, are much more likely to approve of him than whites.

Whites and males are the people most likely to NOT approve of Bernie Sanders.

In absolute terms Sanders is liked by POC and women. In relative terms, it depends on who you’re comparing him to.

None of this is in question, and people who run around pretending Sanders is hated by black people and women are either lying or ignorant. In group terms, he is not.

Next: Clinton did better with Democrats and Bernie did better with independents, BUT Sanders is well-liked by Democrats, this Hill poll had his approval rating by Democrats at 80 percent.

Again, relative vs. absolute.

Another fact, because we have the DNC emails, is that the DNC, run by a Clinton loyalist, put his thumb on the scales for Clinton. This is a fact.

I am not a partisan for Sanders in the same way I am for Corbyn. I strongly approve of Corbyn; I think Sanders was good enough to rate an endorsement, but his stands on, say, Israel, are awful. Corbyn has opposed Israeli apartheid right down the line, just as he did South African apartheid.

I think the best President in American history was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But I think that locking up Japanese Americans was abominable.

My judgments of fact, as much as I can manage it, are not determined by my partisanship. My ethical judgments are not determined by my partisanship.

Rather, as best I can, I seek to have my partisanship determined by the facts combined with my ethical judgment.

This should not be a problem. If you have good reasons for supporting Hillary Clinton, you should be able to acknowledge her actual record and actions and still have reasons for supporting her.

If you must lie about a politician’s record in order to support them, or if you must pretend that evil acts they have committed or endorsed were not evil (Sanders’ Israel Support, Clinton’s Libya adventure), then you have gone deeply wrong, and you are a part of what is wrong with your country and the world.

One can support the lesser evil, or the greater good, and admit that. One can support someone who is more good than bad and still acknowledge the bad.

If one cannot, one is making decisions based on delusional fantasy.

You should be able to do this even for people you love or hate. I hate Obama and Bush, Jr. and Reagan, but where they did something right, I acknowledge it. (Reagan’s work on nuclear disarmament falls into this category.)

If your tribal identification is running your determination of right or wrong, please check yourself out of politics until it isn’t.

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Syria and the Cult of the Tough Decision


The chances were always high that regardless of who was elected, Trump or Clinton, there would be some kind of American attack in Syria.  However, the chances were always higher with Trump than Clinton. Yes, you read that right: It was always a lot more likely that Trump would attack Syria than Clinton would. The reason for this is that Clinton took a more hawkish position on Syria before the election. Trump took a right-populist position of focusing on domestic politics and telegraphed a Russia-friendlier course. This more or less convinced me that he was going to attack Syria at some point. Likely, Clinton would have too — but with Trump it was basically inevitable.

Running a complex industrial and military power requires a highly technical bureaucracy. That bureaucracy therefore has an ultimate veto on what is possible to accomplish that is necessarily beyond democracy. That bureaucracy has made it clear that it won’t implement policies by people it doesn’t consider to be “serious.”  The hallmark of seriousness is the ability to make the Tough Decision.


The complaint by the technocratic class against what it denigrates as “populism” is — among other things — that populism is ultimately the rejection of the Tough Decision. Left-wing populism holds that there are a lot of win-win situations where the benefits to (most) stakeholders far outweigh the costs of participation. Right-wing populism does not believe in win-win propositions, but rather that in a win-lose situation it is effortless to identify who should be on the losing side of the equation and to practically shove the loss onto them. Either way, left- and right-wing populism deny the centrality of the Tough Decision in leadership.

Clinton ran as the anti-populist candidate, presenting herself as the one who would preserve an already-great America through her ability to make Tough Decisions that distributed costs in a way that her supporters wouldn’t always like. Trump ran as a right-wing populist, explicitly riding on the feeling that there were designated “winners” who weren’t winning and designated “losers” who weren’t losing, and proposing solutions whereby this state of affairs could be effortlessly corrected. Insofar as he has attempted to make good on this aspect of this program in a public way, the system has acted against him, because all of the other entities, and that includes the House “Freedom” Caucus, believes in the Tough Decision.

Foreign policy is always the domain in which the right-wing populist can most easily exercise the Tough Decision and win back some loyalty from the managerial class. That is because, in the short run, breaking a promise on a foreign policy or military point is often the one that is lowest-cost to his principal support base. By attacking Syria, Trump proves that he can make a Tough Decision and that he can be “brought to reason” by the policy elite. Clinton would not have had to do this so soon, at least, and would thus have had the confidence of the policy elite that she would “push the button” but would merely be holding off until a strategically more optimal moment. The policy elite seems to have been afraid that Trump would never push the button. That concern has been proven unjust.

The cult of the Tough Decision is killing the world. It is not merely a fetish of a generation of technocrats but deeply engrained into the psychological structure of our society. It stems from a couple of inoffensive common-sense pillars:

  1. There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
  2. You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Both of these are narrowly true. Every “free” lunch requires at least some effort to go and obtain it. (1) is merely a recognition that all things have an up-front energy cost. (2) is merely a recognition that once you’ve made a choice, the world changes such that the very same choice is not available a second time in its exact original form. In present-day psychology, we exaggerate these to mean that not merely is there an up-front cost to everything, but it is highly likely that most up-front costs outweigh the benefits — and that there are no win-win situations, because the up-front cost of most choices must result in a major stakeholder losing out.

This exaggeration of common-sense wisdom has come in its most exaggerated form of the fetishization of abstract intellectual exercises from economics and game theory. These exercises are concentrated in the political and managerial elite, but they are constantly reflected in popular discourse and media culture. It is propagated by often very well-intentioned people who would like to make the world better.

Its results are particularly damaging to left-wing populism, because left-wing populism is founded on the existence of low-cost, self-replenishing free lunches — repeated win-win situations. (As opposed to, as I said, right-wing populism, which rejects either the low-cost or the self-replenishing part.) The existence of these free lunches probably sounds like an absurdity even to readers here. Admittedly, they seem to be vanishing quickly, but they are not all gone. Single-payer universal health care in a developed country is one of these free lunches, where the principal payers of the monopsony cost (medical services providers of various sorts, including large organizations) can afford the cost without true suffering.

In a twist of fate, Trump was one of the popular purveyors of the Cult of the Tough Decision in his reality show career. Reality TV, of the “voting off the island” genre, is all about making someone cry in public as a designated loser, and then self-back-patting that it was a responsible or necessary or realistic choice. It is a genre that is emblematic of our era. So it should surprise no one that Trump returns to the ontology of public action that worked out so well for him.

Rule of Men, Not Law

Amidst all the screaming about Trump, there is a feeling that he is being unfair by singling out various companies for attack.

This is true.

It is also special pleading.

What Trump is doing, and what he will almost certainly do when he is in office, is pick out specific groups and individuals, and he will very likely use the weight of the state against them.

Oh dear. Oh dear.

This is rule by men, yes. It has also been going on for years. Anti-war protestors and environmentalists have been singled out for special attention on the positive side of the scale.

Meanwhile, on the negative end of the stick, let us compare two financial crises. In the eighties, there was a financial crisis too, filled with tons of fraud, called the Savings and Loan crisis. It happened under a Republican president.

Executives were charged, and they went to jail.

In 2007-2008, we had a financial crisis, and from 2009 on, Obama’s DOJ applied fines, not criminal charges. Those fines immunized the participants, and since they did not take money from those who had benefited (and were often less than the profits taken by the corporation, even) they did not dis-incentivize criminal acts. Instead, the DOJ said: “There is no real penalty, so make the money when you can, and we’ll immunize you for a token fee.”

There is no question in any reasonable person’s mind that many executives had engaged in fraud, negligence, and criminal conspiracy which could have been indicted under RICO.

But hey, they were let off. Meanwhile, people who applied for mortgage relief were deliberately given the run-around and fucked over, losing their houses (see David Dayen’s “Chain of Title” if you need the blow-by-blow.)  Robo-signing by financial institutions, post-financial crisis, was also mass fraud, attesting to facts the signers had no knowledge of.

America is already a nation of men, not laws. One can say, “It has always been thus,” and there is some truth to that, but it is more a lie than true: see the S&L crisis.

People have already been getting away with lawbreaking–depending on who they are–and not small numbers of people. And if you don’t think various firms haven’t been picked out for special, positive favors, you simply haven’t been paying attention.

2000’s Gore vs. Bush ruling was “men over laws.” It was such a bad ruling that the Supreme Court tried to say it couldn’t be used as a precedent. Meanwhile, the protections of law in general were gutted: the Patriot Act, the AUMF, the rise of the vast surveillance state with its clear industrial-scale violations of the Fourth Amendment. Most Americans live in a border zone, where they don’t have freedom from arbitrary search and seizure. As for the First Amendment, the existence of “First Amendment Zones” tells you all you need to know.

Trump’s behaviour is and will be the direct consequence of how many previous Presidents acted, including Obama (who notably killed an American citizen without any trial and claimed the right to do so).

To cry now, and especially to weep for large corporations who are bad actors, is hilariously hypocritical and intensely revealing. “Trump blackmailed them into keeping a few jobs in America, that tyrant!”

Oh, My, God, the funny. Now yes, Trump has also called out people for terrible reasons. Oh well. Yes, that’s a new bad thing (though not worse than killing a US citizen without trial, the right to face his accusers, or see the evidence presented against him), but I just find it hard to get very worked up over.

You already lost your rule of law. There are a few places one can date the loss to, but I put it in Obama’s mass-immunization of financial executives. You could argue for Bush vs. Gore or a number of other places.

But wherever you put it, it already happened.

You have the rule of men. For certain people, the law is interpreted and enforced differently.

This, folks, was at the heart of Trump’s attacks on Clinton for e-mail, which liberals laughed off.  But we all know that if some peon had done the exact same thing, they would have been ruined and probably gone to jail.

You already lost rule of laws, and had rule of men.

You have already paid a frightful price for this. The reason your economy is so bad is because bankers were immunized and bailed out, staying in charge of your economy when they are incompetent crooks and ordinary people were not bailed out.

Not coincidentally, minus not bailing out ordinary people, Trump does not win election in 2016.  (He also wouldn’t have won if Obamacare was not so flawed, but that’s another post.)

Trump is just the continued price for breaking your own laws and constitution, and your own unwritten norms.

As such he falls under “as you sow, so shall you reap”.

Until large numbers of Americans see it this way, including at least some faction of elites or would-be-elites, there can be no true fix for this situation, whatever happens with Trump.

Trump is the symptom, not the disease, and until you treat the disease, things like Trump (or the financial crisis and the lack of real recovery from that crisis) will continue to happen, and fools will continue to be bewildered by them, as if the very public actions of the people they elected had not led to them.

Machiavelli wrote, and America’s founders agreed, that good men could make bad laws work, and that good laws could not save bad men.

The founders’ equivalent was that eventually Americans would become so degraded that they could only be ruled by despots.

Americans have given many signs of being this degraded, and now it’s up to Americans to prove that they aren’t.

Don’t dare to say this is all on “deplorables” or Republicans, because Democrats have not just been complicit in all of this, they have spurred it on in deliberate ways–as with Obama on surveillance, drone murder, and whistleblowers.

It is on Americans.

Americans are reaping as they have sown. That all Americans are not bad or degraded is not the point. Enough of you are, and your elites are corrupt as a class, so much so that I would easily expect, in nine or ten years, to be fundamentally unethical and unsuited to public life. That includes, by the way, Bill Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Trump is what Americans have earned.

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The Person Most Responsible for Clinton's Loss

Everything Cost Clinton the Election

When the result (in popular vote margin in the key states) is as close as it was in the US election, every factor in play contributed to the result.

Did the Wikileaks release cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did Comey’s last minute letter to Congress about Clinton’s email cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton choosing not to campaign in Wisconsin cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton’s neglect of the Rust belt cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s refusal to listen to locals cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s flawed model cost them the election? Probably.

Did Trump’s superiority in earned media cost the election? Probably.

Did Jared Kushner’s innovative ad campaign cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did voter suppression cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did calling a quarter of the electorate “deplorables” cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Right. Hopefully you have understood the point.

What is happening right now is hysteria. An attempt is being made to overthrow the election by saying Russia influenced it, through Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0.

So far there is no hard evidence for this, and Wikileaks, at least denies it. That US intelligence believes it to be true is nice, but almost irrelevant to anyone with enough memory to remember what they believed in”high confidence” about Iraq.

I seriously suggest you READ the NIE on Iraq from 2002. It was essentially ALL WRONG.

So, if the intelligence community and Obama want to make this charge, they need to release the hard evidence. Their word is not good enough, especially that Putin was personally involved.

I point out, once more, that even if true, this amounts to “overturn the election because a foreign government helped release TRUE information about one of the candidates.”

If it actually occurred, I would regard it as a neoliberal coup, similar to the ones which occurred in Greece and Italy, meant to insure policy continuity in the face of someone who doesn’t agree with all the tenets of neoliberalism.

I don’t think faithless electors will throw the election (but who knows), however I note something else important: creating this as the primary storyline mitigates, hard, at looking at stuff which Democrats can actually control: like their own abysmal campaign, at virtually ever level from basics like canvassing (“we don’t need literature”, said the Clinton campaign), to their model, to their message “America is already great”, “deplorables”, to clearning the field so a candidate with huge negatives would be annointed the candidate.

If Democrats had gotten even one or two of the things listed above which were in their control right, and which did not depend on their opponents actions at all (and the list is incomplete) Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect today.

Running against Russia in the election was stupid; the act of a Goldwater girl who doesn’t understand that the USSR fell almost 30 years ago. Making them the primary actor in Clinton’s loss and Trump’s win pushes attention away from the things which can be fixed by Democrats unilaterally, and is dangerous to boot, both domestically, by degrading political norms even further, and internationally, by hyping a heavily nuclear armed state as an enemy when America has almost no actual interests in opposition to Russia’s. (Syria and the Ukraine are unimportant to the US’s interests. Period.)

Meanwhile, the Democrats have spent the last eight years being slaughtered at the State and local levels. In February of 2009, I wrote that Obama was planning to ditch the 50 state strategy, and received a torrent of abuse (mostly from Kossacks.) The Whitehouse said that was bullshit; their hero wouldn’t do that!

He did.

Self-goal. Something completely under the party’s control that they chose to do, which hurt them.

In the end, whether or not Russia released some derogatory–but true–information about Clinton and other Democratic candidates, that act was only one of many factors which cost Clinton the election.

Concentrating on it is stupid, demagogic, and dangerous and allows people whose fuck-ups were far more responsible for the loss to largely slide.

Democrats should concentrate on what they can control, and understand that, as the side with less guns, constitutional norms protect them more than they do the other side.

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The Votes by Income Graph Does Not Prove Working Class Whites Didn’t Break for Trump

So, this little graph is going around and causing people to say that it proves that working class whites did not break for Trump. It says no such thing.

The reasoning is simple. African Americans and Latinos broke hard for Clinton. Exit polls show Clinton got 88 percent of the African American vote, she received 65 percent of the Latino vote.

Poor Latinos and Blacks are a lot poorer than poor whites. That makes up the difference. Meanwhile, we know that the poorer the county, the more likely Trump was to win it, and we know he made his big break-through in the Rust Belt, where there are a lot of poor whites.

We also know Trump got approximately 72 percent vs. 23 percent of white males votes without a college degree, vs. 54 percent/39 percent for those with a college degree.

No, the white working class story, at least so far holds up and it holds up well.

The real story isn’t about working class white males, it is that Clinton lost white women, 43 percent to 53 percent. She lost who you’d expect her to lose, she didn’t win the people who were supposed to be “with her,” and won minorities by lower margins than Obama. She also lost white counties which were willing to go for Obama.

Update: This chart is particularly damning.

Shift In Voters by Income

Shift In Voters by Income


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