Ukraine, and the World Outside US Borders

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse and more simplistic ‘debate’ than the arguments taking place in the US over aid to Ukraine. There are big quality problems with the level of argumentation…on both sides.

On the anti-funding-Ukraine side: Many commentators say we shouldn’t be funding Ukraine’s efforts to protect their own border because we are failing in protecting our own border.

But can anyone really think that the problems with the US border are primarily a matter of resources?  It should be obvious that these problems are a matter of will: the border is largely open because the Biden administration has wanted it open.  If the Biden administration had been provided with $X billion more available for border enforcement, where X is any number, the situation would have been exactly what it has been.

On the pro-funding-Ukraine side: Many commentators seem unable to imaging why anyone would object to US participation in the war (even if only in the form of aid and weapons) other than being a Putin advocate and/or being paid off by Putin–there are a lot of ad hominem arguments accusing people of being in the pay of Putin, or simply of caring about Russia more than they care about their own country.  But there are wars and injustices all over the world, and the US must carefully choose which ones it gets involved in.  Resources are finite, and almost every military intervention carries at least some risk of undesired escalation. US experience with wars in recent decades has not been terribly encouraging.

On the anti-funding-Ukraine side: Sometimes, the argument goes beyond the US border and the assertion is made that the US should not be doing things like the Ukraine involvement until our own country is fixed.  But will there ever be, has there ever been, a time when everything about the US is ‘fixed’?  I note that the US maintained a higher level of military funding (as a % of GDP) during the Cold War than we do today, and yet public infrastructure–from roads to parks to subway systems to school–generally worked better than the corresponding entities do today.

Also on the anti side, it is observed that there is a lot of corruption in Ukraine, and that it is also far from a perfect democracy. These points seem to be true.  But sometimes one needs to support certain countries despite serious differences in values…as we did in supporting the Soviet Union in WWII and in supporting certain unpleasant regimes during the Cold War. The specific situation needs to be considered and analyzed. (And, Indeed, some of the things now going on in Canada and in Western Europe–not to mention in America itself–seem quite contrary to American ideals.)

Those opposed to funding Ukraine often assert that the aid is being provided in order to support American arms manufacturers–Raytheon, especially, tends to be mentioned for some reason–really, this is reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s denunciations of arms manufacturers as ‘merchants of death.’  But if the political goal was to keep arms manufacturers happy, there are plenty of other projects available, such as the badly-needed building of more ships for the Navy.  And when people denounce arms manufacturers, I always wonder: Are they absolute pacifists? Do they favor having all arms manufacturing done by government agencies?  What would be their plan for ensuring that our forces have what they need to win conflicts and minimize their own casualties?

On the pro-funding-Ukraine side:  It is argued that if Putin isn’t stopped in Ukraine, he will likely invade other European countries. I think this is a very legitimate fear. But it needs to be traded off against the threats from the larger and much more economically dynamic nation of China.  I note that many of the people who harp on the threat from Russia never (or very rarely) have anything to say about China. Does investing resources in Ukraine reduce the threat of, say, a Chinese invasion or blockade of Taiwan? If it points in the direction of reducing the threat for US credibility reasons, how does this trade off against the consumption of US munitions?

Someone said at Twitter that he doesn’t see how anyone who knows the history of the 1930s and 1940s can oppose supporting Ukraine.  But it’s not always 1939, sometimes it’s 1914.  Also, history didn’t stop at the end of the 1940s, and many people have observed the poor outcomes of US military interventions in our century, not to mention the Vietnam War.

The pro-Ukraine people, especially politicians, have been arguing that the money spent mostly goes to US arms manufacturers…this is kind of the flip side of the “it’s all to benefit Raytheon” argument.  If the only objective is to “create jobs” and “put money in circulation”, then that could be achieved equally well by paying people to dig ditches and then fill them up again. There has to be some other benefit.

On the anti-funding Ukraine side, there actually are some people who glorify Russia…not the majority of the anti-Ukraine people, certainly not enough to support a generalized ad hominem argument against the antis–but there are indeed some in that category. The argument that Russia under its current regime is the defender of civilization is not to my mind a very convincing one, unless one’s definition of ‘civilization’ is a pretty strange one. The main effect of these people has been to further poison the entire debate.

Above and beyond the particular issue of Ukraine: there is a world beyond US borders. We don’t get to call ‘time’ just because we have serious internal issues.  When France and Britain decided not to intervene at the time of the German Rhineland incursion in 1936, one of the arguments made by some French politicians was that it would be unwise to interfere with the economic recovery. How did that work out for them?

My own view: We do need to be supporting Ukraine, and we should be doing so a lot more effectively than the Biden administration has chosen to do.  Biden’s initial reaction to the invasion–suggesting that it might be OK if Putin didn’t take too big a bite, and then offering Zelinsky a ticket out–didn’t exactly sound a Churchillian note of defiance. Arms supply has been too little, too late, and not nearly enough has been done to increase US defense-industrial output potential, especially of consumables such as artillery shells and missiles, and to provide better supply-chain resilience against components and materials cutoffs by other countries.  My sense is that the Biden strategy is not to achieve a Ukraine victory, or to force a negotiated settlement on favorable terms, but to drag the war out with the goal of bleeding Russia while minimizing domestic political risk…a cynical and cruel strategy, in my opinion.

The main purpose of this post, though, is not to argue for or against any particular policy, but rather to express concern and disappointment…even dismay…over the extremely poor quality of the arguments being made on both sides of the issue and the generally toxic tone of the debate.

Trump is indicted.

In an obvious political move, Manhattan NY District Attorney, Alvin Bragg has succeeded in getting a grand jury to indict former president Trump on what are supposedly 34 counts of something. The indictment seems related to the Stormy Daniels case where a porn actress, represented by felon lawyer Avenatti, succeeded in extorting $130,000 from Trump during the election season. Her only evidence was a photo taken at a public golf tournament. Trump, of course, denied the accusation. He is a well known germaphobe who does not even shake hands with people. That he would have sex with such a likely STD source is ridiculous but in the midst of a campaign he paid her off with a Non-disclosure agreement which, she of course violated.

Great hilarity is, of course, widely seen in the leftist media, like the LA Times. At least they do admit the concerns of many.

The larger share — the “maybe Trumpers,” as Ayres calls them, make up 55%-60% of the party. “They’re exactly the kind of people who will want to know if this is a credible case or a trumped up vendetta by a liberal New York, Democratic prosecutor who is out to get Trump,” Ayres said.

No kidding. Nancy Pelosi has weighed in with what she thinks the law is. She thinks he has to “prove his innocence.”

Alan Dershowitz disagrees.

Dershowitz said on the Sean Hannity program on Fox News that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is playing with fire.

[W]hen you’re a democratic elected prosecutor who ran on the campaign pledge of getting Trump and you’re going to indict, forget about the former president, the man who may become the future president if he beats the incumbent who is the head of your political party. Prosecutor, you’d better have the strongest case imaginable, not a case that depends on stitching together two inapplicable statutes and using Michael Cohen.

Powerline blog also has a different opinion.

While politics has always been a scrappy arena, former President Donald Trump has radicalized Democrats and brought them to a level of derangement that few could have imagined. The full-court press to ruin Trump began the moment he descended the golden escalator to announce his candidacy in June 2015 and continues to this day.

It started with the Russiagate hoax, which was manufactured by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and carried out by the top ranks of the FBI and DOJ. The FBI falsified information on a FISA court warrant application in order to spy on Trump’s campaign, pushed the debunked Steele dossier as fact knowing full well that its sourcing was bogus, and openly boasted about trying to stop Trump from becoming president.

Now what ?

Read more

Behind the Banking Crisis.

I want to recommend a good piece at Conservative Tree House, which I read every day.

It is this post which connects a few dots.

This is where we need to keep the BRICS -vs- WEF dynamic in mind and consider that ideologically there is a conflict between the current agenda of the ‘western financial system’ (climate change) and the traditional energy developers. This conflict has been playing out not only in the energy sector, but also the dynamic of support for Russia (an OPEC+ member) against the western sanction regime. Ultimately supporting Russia’s battle against NATO encroachments.

The war in Ukraine, which probably would not have begun if Trump was president, led to a war of economic interests. The western democracies have invested their future in “climate change,” which used to be “global warming” before the failure to warm made that slogan obsolete. Climate change has evolved into a war on energy production. The Biden regime now has even gone after gas stoves. Since I just bought one, I have an interest. Now, they seem to be going after washing machines. Ours has failed recently so I had better be quick to replace it.

The recent Credit Suisse bank crisis is complicated by the refusal of its largest shareholder, the Saudis, to help with a bail out. Why would this be ? This brings up the topic of BRICS. This is a new financial combination made up of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Read more

What is the Purpose of Holding & Expressing Political Beliefs?

The late Clay Christensen, IMO one of the relatively few business academics whose books/articles contain ideas that are genuinely thought-provoking and useful, discussed the ‘job’ for which a product is ‘hired.’  An example: milkshakes, sold by a restaurant chain which wished to increase its sales of that product line.

The chain’s marketers segmented its customers along a variety of psychobehavioral dimensions in order to define a profile of the customer most likely to buy milkshakes. In other words, it first structured its market by product–milkshakes–and then segmented it by the characteristics of existing milkshake customers….both attribute-based categorization schemes. It then assembled panels of people with these attributes, and explored whether making the shakes thinker, chocolatier, cheaper, or chunkier would satisfy them better.

Marketing 101 stuff. But it didn’t yield much in the way of results.

A new set of researchers came in with a different approach–to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they “hired” a milkshake. They spent an 18-hour day in a restaurant and recorded when the shakes were bought, whether the customer was alone or with a group, whether he consumed it on the premises or drove off, etc. Surprisingly, most of the milkshakes were being bought in the early morning. After analyzing the data, the researchers returned and interviewed the customers. Evidently, these were people who faced a long, boring commute and wanted something to eat/drink on the way. Milkshakes were superior to alternatives because they didn’t get crumbs all over (like bagels) or get the steering wheel greasy (like a sausage & egg sandwich.)

The most important thing is that the same customers, at different times of the day, would buy milkshakes in other circumstances/contexts…and the desirable product attributes would be different. For example, they might come with their kids after school. And whereas the same person in his role as a commuter might want something that is relatively slow to drink (thick shake, large container), when he reappears in his role as a parent he might want something that goes down relatively fast (less viscous shake, smaller container, maybe even a larger straw.) What matters is not just who the customer is, but what he is trying to do.

OK, the idea of milkshakes for breakfast is not something I find appealing, but then I don’t need to combine breakfast with driving.  Some people do.  More importantly, Christensen’s insight generalizes beyond the milkshake field, and I’ve wondered what applicability it might have to politics.

So, why do people have political opinions?  What ‘job’ are they hiring the opinion to do?

Is the opinion based on their analysis of which policies/politicians will benefit them, and/or benefit people they care about?

Is it based on their impression of which opinions they had better express, if they want to keep their jobs–friends–boyfriends–girlfriends–spouses?

Is it the ‘job’ of the opinion to make them feel better about themselves?  Is it to get virtual revenge against people in their past–parents, employers, Mean Girls, school buillies?

Is it based on a desire to avoid cognitive dissonance by not contradicting views that they have held previously?

What other reasons do political opinions get ‘hired’ for?…bearing in mind that several factors may influence the hiring of a particular opinion…and what are the implications of this angle on things for practical political marketing?  (if any)

(Christensen story is from his book The Innovator’s Solution, co-authored with Michael Raynor)

The Raid on Mar-a-Lago.

The FBI raid on Trump’s residence is unprecedented in American history. The pretext for the raid and the refusal to allow Trump’s lawyers to witness what was done is also a gross deviation from normal behavior.

Conservative Treehouse a pretty good theory of the reasons.

The motives of the DOJ and FBI are clear when you have a full comprehension of the background. However, it’s the threats and betrayals against President Trump that most people have a hard time understanding. Why he was blocked is clear, but how Trump was blocked is where you realize the scale of the threat that exists within this corrupt system.

Trump has for years been promising to declassify documents showing how the “Russiagate” conspiracy developed, including the FBI role in it.

By the time we get to September of 2018 the basic outlines of the Trump-Russia targeting operation were clear. However, the Robert Mueller investigation was at its apex, and anyone in/around Donald Trump was under investigation for ancillary issues that had nothing to do with Russia.

It was into this fray of constant false narratives that President Trump first made statements that he would declassify documents related to his targeting. It was after Trump made those statements when the real motives of putting Robert Mueller as a special counsel became clear.

With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused from anything to do with the Trump-Russia investigation, it was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who delivered the message to President Trump in September of 2018, shortly before the midterm election, that any action by him to release documents, now under the purview of the Mueller special counsel, would be considered an act of “obstruction” by the DOJ/FBI people charged with investigating him.

What he might have done is to bring some of those documents with him when he left the White House. Of course, that is speculation since the warrant was never disclosed to the Trump lawyers.

In essence the DOJ and FBI, along with white house counsel and a collaborating senate and media, kept President Trump from declassifying and releasing documents by threatening him with impeachment and/or prosecution if he defied their authority. The threats created a useful Sword of Damocles, and blocked Trump from acting to make documents public.

In the months that followed President Trump frequently made public statements and tweets about the frustration of documents not being declassified and released despite his instructions to do so. Many Trump supporters also began expressing frustration.

The external debate and consternation surrounded how the Administrative State has seemingly boxed-in President Trump through the use of the Mueller/Weissman counterintelligence probe, authorized by Rod Rosenstein, where President Trump was the target of the investigation.

A widely held supporter perspective was that President Trump could expose the fraudulent origination of the counterintelligence investigation; of which he is now a target; if he were to declassify a series of documents as requested by congress and allies of his administration. This approach would hopefully remove the sword of Damocles.

I had a suspicion that Trump might have been in contact with the FBI whistleblowers mentioned by Senators Grassley and Johnson. That is also a reasonable theory.

Newsweek has a typical left wing excuse.

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

This is ludicrous as the FBI with full cooperation by Trump, searched these boxes of records in June. They even required their own padlock to seal the room.

Both senior government officials say the raid was scheduled with no political motive, the FBI solely intent on recovering highly classified documents that were illegally removed from the White House.

I doubt a 10 year old child would believe this rot.

A threshold has been crossed. Many on the left seem to cheer this on as their obsessive hatred of Trump and his voters is unending. I just hope Trump has good personal security. I don’t trust the Secret Service any more than I trust the FBI.