Playing the Indian Card

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Bear in a China Shop?

A bit of sobering analysis regarding China: This piece claims that China's current level of debt has always, historically, led to an economic slowdown, and 50% of the time to an economic collapse.

Underlying this is China's demographic time bomb. China was inevitably going to reach the limit of what it can do on the basis of cheap and plentiful labour. Labour has grown less cheap, and the supply has now been just about fully exploited. The one-child policy has guaranteed population decline. A smooth transition to some other model for prosperity is no simple thing. Japan started to stagnate when they hit the point of demographic decline.

And at the very same moment, I see news from a pair of popular YouTubers based in China that they are moving their main base of operations to Southern California. They say things have just become too difficult and dangerous for them as foreigners in China. There are sudden clampdowns on everything. This must be equally true for the Chinese. 

Putting two and two together, it looks to me as though the Chinese government itself expects public unrest. They are trying to put the lid firmly back on before the boiling point is reached. They are especially trying to restrict the internet and the media—the channels through which any opposition might organize.

This also explains China's recent sabre rattling, in the South China Sea, in trade with Trump, over disuted islands with Japan. Making these sort of waves is not in China's interests. If they can look peaceful and friendly, they keep getting stronger, until they become invincible. If they get hackles up, others may unite against them before they reach this point, while they are still vulnerable. The only reason they would be doing this, therefore, is for internal politics: trying to rally the people around the government by evoking an external enemy.

I suspect China's Communist Pary is haunted by the example of the Soviet Union's collapse. Facing a financial crunch, Gorbachev loosened things up in hopes of maintainin popular support. That didn't work; it did not keep the Communist regime in power. So, logically, the Chinese government is trying the opposite approach.

I suspect that Gorbachev was right, and this will only result in a worse explosion. Gorbachev was able to manage a peaceful transition. That was his triumph. The alternative would have been far worse for everyone. And civil rebellions in China have been known to cost lives in the tens of millions.

I am personally amazed that the Communist regime in China has lasted this long. When I was first in China, in 1992, it already looked to me as though it were on its last legs. That is, nobody took the underlying ideology seriously; everyone was cynical about it, and practicing a kind of passive civil disobedience, ignoring the laws when they could. A system nobody believes in is running on fumes.

My Chinese students a decade later on agreed with my suggestion that the Chinese people would continue to accept the Communist government for as long as the economy kept doing well—as long as everyone is prospering, why rock the boat? But the moment that stopped, the regime had no further legitimacy.

Just about everywhere else, once a certain level of material prosperity has been reached, once there is a strong and independent middle class, totalitarian governments either fall, or transition into democracies. The Chinese government has been doing what it can to prevent this by trying to prevent the development of any independent organizations which might form the basis for a political opposition. This is why they have been eager to crush Falun Gong, and recently the Christian churches, But this may be futile. Large successful businesses also become independent power centres. Wealthy Chinese with homes abroad, of the sort who have been buying up Vancouver, become an independent power centre. This kitten is not going back in the bag.

Tiananmen in its time was already a close run thing. The umbrella rebellion in Hong Kong a little while ago looked as though it might spread. When the Middle East rose in the “Arab Spring,” China saw a concurrent “Jasmine Rebellion.” There is a lot of dry cordwood lying around.

I see a sea of chaos coming.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Corporate Welfare Bums

David Lewis in much younger days. 

The first time I was eligible to vote in a Canadian election was back in 1972. I voted for the NDP, well to the left. That might sound odd; nowadays I find myself apparently on the right. But given the same issues, I would vote the same way today. My politics have not changed. The position of the goalposts has. Or rather, the position of centre field. Or rather, the teams have changed ends.

The Liberals, in government, had imposed martial law two years earlier, during the “October Crisis” (non-Canadians may need to Google this). This may or may not have been justified, but it was an extreme step, and should not have been done without paying some price at the polls. Such a thing must not be allowed to become politically easy. As a liberal, I could not vote Liberal.

The PCs, unfortunately, the main opposition, on the right, had supported the move. So I could not vote for them as an alternative. Worse, the main plank of their platform was to impose wage and price controls, extreme government interference in the economy. Big government to the max, almost to the level of, yes, Fascism.

Leaving the NDP, the one party to have opposed the imposition of the War Measures Act in peacetime. But that's not all. They campaigned on lowering taxes. But even that was not all: the central plank in their platform was to end “corporate welfare”--handouts and breaks to big corporations.

They were then the small government, civil libertarian party. This shows how much things have changed. In those days, the left was not the party of big government, and the right was not the party of small government. “Conservative” used to mean big government, elitism, and nanny-stateism. “Liberal” used to actually mean liberal.

This reverie is brought on by the recent announcement by Amazon that it is building a second headquarters in Washington and NYC. And they are being given huge tax incentives to do it. Corporate welfare.

This is as noxious now as it was in 1972. Governments should never be in the business of favouring one business over another. This is an obvious violation of human equality, as well as lousy economics and a waste of money. It is obvious, too, that it is graft—the politicians give money to already rich corporations, and the corporations can be expected to remit back to their re-election campaigns. The elite help one another out, perpetuating themselves, with the money of the poor.

Does the payout mean more jobs for Washington or New York? I doubt it. The money paid to Amazon is necessarily taken from higher taxes on all other local businesses, money they then cannot use to hire more workers. Paul grows flush as Peter grows poor.

And it distorts natural market forces, reducing overall profitability or raising consumer costs for everyone. Is it a good thing if it really does attract Amazon to locate in a place where their infrastructure or labour is going to cost them more? With the difference paid for by the general public?

Of course, a smart businessman is unlikely to be so influenced. Trusting in future government policies is a shaky proposition. Without the tax break, one may in the near future suddenly be unprofitable.

Which means, then, that the tax break does nothing but hand over money for no public benefit.

The ideal solution would be a law at the federal level, in either the US or Canada, that prohibited such tax breaks and corporate welfare. This would be of benefit to everyone; so long as there is no such law, it is politically difficult for New York politicians, for example, not to offer tax breaks, knowing that Texas or Michigan will. And then, if Amazon locates in Detroit or Houston, they will be blamed. A similar rider could be written in to all free trade agreements, to prevent it from being done at the national level.

Amazon is pretty profitable. It does not need a taxpayer subsidy.

How about it, Jagmeet Singh? The pundits say you Dippers are struggling because you cannot find an issue to distinguish yourself from the Liberals. Corporate welfare in Canada is extreme and shameless. The Liberals won't touch it, because they are deep in that trough. They all retire from politics to jobs with Bombardier or Power Corp or Canada Steamship Lines. This issue could appeal to a wide base. Rediscover the heritage of David Lewis!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee the Narcississt

Stan Lee

Showing the new incivility that has swallowed our public discourse, I see that hatchets are suddenly out for Stan Lee, the moment he can no longer defend himself. He is charged with
  1. being a sexual predator 
  2. being racist and anti-gay 
  3. not being the real creator of the Marvel universe 
  4. being a narcissist who hogged undeserved credit. 
As to the first charge, this is apparently based on a complaint by a home nursing company he employed recently.

That means the charges are that a 94 or 95 year old man was a sexual predator.

This sounds inherently unlikely, simply in terms of physical ability. Also unlikely for someone to become so only in his final years, if there had previously been no such record. If he really was, it was probably a symptom of senility, which can make people randy, and something that ought to have been easily managed by a physically healthy young woman without involving anyone else. What's the point of being a nurse for the aged if you cannot manage the symptoms of senility?

It sounds, more plausibly, like an attempt at extortion. Anyone rich and famous is going to be a target: make an accusation, and they may pay you off just to silence you. And the insane doctrine of “believe all women” makes it more attractive.

As to the second charge, this is based on a clause in a contract with Sony specifying that they must, among other similar conditions, portray Spiderman as Caucasian and heterosexual. These days, such a concern apparently makes you racist.

But surely we can all agree that it would be an act of vandalism to paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Why? Is that being sexist and anti-male? Same principle here.

Any work of art, for its effect, depends on what Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” We have to look at that canvas, in the case of Da Vinci's painting, and see in our minds not globs of paint, but the illusion of a human person. An imaginary character is a work of art, like any other. Altering it in a way that would be improbable for a real person destroys the illusion that gives it life, or at least severely damages it; damages the art. Changing skin colour is an obvious example, like having a woman grow a moustache. Making a heterosexual character with a prominent history of relationships with women suddenly turn gay is not much better.

Stan Lee is not being racist or anti-gay; he is only giving a damn about his business and his work as an artist.

As to the third charge, the claim is that Jack Kirby had at least as much to do with the “silver age” of Marvel as Lee. This is true, and not denied, certainly not by Stan Lee. Kirby's artwork was a big part of the appeal for me personally. He is, as Lee named him, “The King.” But the claim here is, specifically, that it was really Kirby who created the characters and the plot lines, and Lee just took credit. 

There is a simple way to test this hypothesis. How did Lee make out when working with collaborators other than Kirby? How did Kirby make out when working with collaborators other than Lee?

When Kirby left Marvel for DC, to work on his own, his projects for them, although they have their audience, broadly failed, lost money, and were a general disappointment. Lee, for comparison, did Spiderman entirely without Kirby, and it is probably his single most successful creation. Kirby was a great artist, perhaps a good plotter, but the spark that made the Marvel tales marellous must have come from Lee.

As to Lee hogging the credit, this is literally false: he invented the tradition of conspicuously crediting the artist on the first page of the comic book. He even credited the inkers and letterers; creating a fandom for previously anonymous comic book artists. He gave regular reports to readers about who was in “the bullpen.” He is as responsible for Kirby's fame as his own. Lee was not about self-promotion; he was about promotion. He was a brilliant marketer and salesman.

And so the charge of narcissism is also false. As is the far more common claim that Donald Trump is a narcissist. It seems to be a common misunderstanding of what narcissism is. It is urgent that we begin to understand what narcissism is better than this indicates. It is not simply a matter of saying “look at me”; otherwise anyone who makes their living as an entertainer or performer of any kind, or in sales, would be by definition a narcissist. And it would equally mean that any actor playing a character is that character. Both Lee and Trump are showmen; it is a performance art. Dave Nichols or P.T. Barnum or Walt Disney were similar showmen.

Real narcissists are by nature not creative; they fear the sort of introspection necessary to come up with new perspectives or new ideas. It can mess up their delusions. Accordingly, anyone who, like Lee, is conspicuously creative simply cannot be a narcissist.

Real narcissists are easily wounded by criticism; they crave constant adulation. They fear abandonment. As a result, they are people-pleasers, full of charm. They will say whetever they think those listening want to hear. This is the very reverse of Trump, who seems to enjoy scrapping with the media or political opponents; who seems fearless in the face of criticism; who will say anything. He cannot, on this basis, be a narcissist.

Real narcissists do not honour their promises; they say whatever they think the listener wants to hear, and then will do whatever they want. It follows from being self-centred. As president, Trump has not been like that at all; he seems to have done a better job than the average pol at trying to keep the promises on which he was elected. There have been no surprise changes of direction—as we have seen, for example, with Justin Trudeau in Canada, dropping his promise of electoral reform. If Trump has not kept all his promises, he seems to have tried to keep all his promises.

It is worrying that the popular imagination so often seems to get things exactly backwards. This is not a symptom of a healthy society.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee Has Left the Baxter Building

Illustration by Lee's longtime collaborator, Jack Kirby.

A salute in passing to the great Stan Lee.

One should not lament. He died age 95. He got his innings in. Time to try something new.

But he was a major presence in my childhood, and probably is still a major influence on me.

He was, of course, the editor and writer behind Marvel Comics, back when it was becoming Marvel comics, the “silver age,” the creator or co-creator of the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, Hulk, and the rest. Back when Lee was in command, I used to buy every title of Marvel comics every month, as soon as they came out: all the superhero comics, plus Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos, plus their three Western comics.

Before Lee, comic book superheroes were cut from cardboard, with no distinguishing features, it seemed, other than their specific powers. Otherwise, Aquaman was interchangeable with Superman, Flash, or Green Lantern. Lee gave them personalities, issues, struggles, and had them bicker with one another. Often they found themselves rejected by the public, or wanting to quit being a superhero.

While this was revolutionary in comicry—so much so that Lee thought it might get him fired, and only did it once he figured he was fed up with the job anyway—it was not really the innovation it seemed. What Lee was really doing was telling hero legends properly at last. He was returning to their origins.

For that is just what “super heroes” are or were: heroes. If you care to look, all classical or Medieval heroes had super powers. It is not some recent innovation. Perseus had winged sandals, and Medusa's deadly head. Herakles had a lion skin that made him invulnerable, and arrows of hydra poison. Bellerophon had a flying horse, Pegasus, which kept him out of harm's way, beyond the reach of Chimera paws. Achilles was invulnerable except at the heel. Arthur had his magical sword Excaliber. Solomon had a flying carpet, the mysterious shamir that could cut through anything, and could command demons. Generally, in the old stories, these were gifts from the classical gods or God, rather than the result of radiation or mutation—gifts from the great god Science.

And, unlike the DC superheroes of the Fifties, traditional heroes always had serious real-life problems. Herakles, for example, like Peter Parker, could never get a date. Worse, he now and then went mad, like Hulk. In one such fit, he killed his wife and children, thinking they were attacking aliens. Remorse over this drove him to become a hero, just as remorse over the death of his parents drove Peter Parker to become Spiderman.

Jason's wife was a witch, who killed their children. His king was out to have him killed. Perseus was betrayed by his grandfather, his stepfather, and his father-in-law. Samson also had significant women problems, as you might recall. And so did King Arthur. Moses was an outlaw, then rejected by his public.

Lee just reinserted this essential element to the mix, retoring to the stories their mythic power. Daredevil was blind, Thor in civilian life walked with a cane. The Hulk could not control his transformations. The government was out to get him. The Thing was repulsive to women, and taunted on the street. Iron Man's super suit was needed to keep his heart going.

Lee's advantage was probably that, being Jewish, he had been schooled in Torah. It includes all the classic stories. Other kids no longer learn the stories; they were all new to them. Lee simply mined them. The Fantastic Four, his first and to my mind greatest creation, seems based on Jewish demonology. Each of the members has one of the powers traditionally attributed in Jewish legend to demons: the ability to stretch at will, the ability to become invisible, being able, like the Muslim jinn, to burst into fire; and the Thing visually resembles the golem. This dark subtext gave great imaginative power.

Sub-Mariner, aka Prince Namur, appears in one of the earlier FF stories. Although he is the rightful ruler of an undersea kingdom, he is suffering amnesia, has forgotten who he is, and is living on the street as an alcoholic. Great story. It is one of the stories of King Solomon in the Talmud. There is also an echo of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel.

Daredevil's blindness echoes Samson's. Ant-man extended the parable of David and Goliath; his ability to control the ants is shared with Solomon.

Lee's famous burst of creativity in the Sixties was probably based on this mining of the Talmud. This is why it did not last into the Seventies; at a certain point, all the good stories have been told. I suspect Lee himself felt this coming, and this is why he turned to Norse mythology as well, with Thor: in search of new material. But here Lee himself had not yet digested the stories. He mostly told them verbatim as a second feature in the Thor comics. He was learning on the fly, and so the stories were not integral to his new character. Thor, as a result, comes across as wooden in a way his other heroes do not.

Since then, since Lee left, the comics have been wandering aimlessly, with no idea what the formula is. They learned nothing from Lee. They have gone for gimmicks: hey, let's make Captain America African American! Let's make Hulk female! Let's get political, and justify ourselves by taking all the “right” positions! Let's try celebrity tie-ins! Or worse, they make a phony splash by supposedly killing off a character, and then reviving him or her. These are all just so many sharks lined up in a row and jumped.

And one shark in the line generally gets a free lunch.


Forwarded out of the ether from friend Eugene Campbell, who says it brought tears to his eyes and he just had to share it.

Gospel music is the heart and soul of America. It is that African spontaneity that makes US culture different from European culture.

Not incidentally, this is where rock and roll comes from. At base, rock and roll is secularized gospel music. If you don't believe me, look up a video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Actuslly, never mind. Let me do it for you.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Remembrance Day Gallery

Hell and Damnation

A further thought on how many go to Hell; mentioned here some time back as a current controversry between Church Militant and Bishop Barron.

The meaning and purpose of life is not obscure. It is to seek the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. This comes in the West from Plato; but it also seems to correspond to the Hindu trinity of sat, sit, ananda, usually translated, inaccurately, as “being, consciousness, bliss.” Sat is the Good, honesty; sit is Truth (true knowledge); ananda is aesthetic appreciation. These three things, at minimum, are of intrinsic value, and their presence gives value to all else.

Although this seems self-evident once pointed out—the real or true is of more value than the false, and the good is of more value than the bad—it is also true that some people—many people—do not seek the True, the Beautiful, or the Good. Some will insist the Truth is socially determined, or the Good is up for grabs, or our idea of Beauty is purely a matter of taste. The whole Postmodernist thing is to deny the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. And a huge proportion of people are assertively postmodern in this way.

This is ultimately cynical. The advantage of rejecting Truth and the Good, even if self-evident, is that it leaves you free to do or believe whatever you want.

Heaven is Good, True, and Beautiful to a maximum degree. To seek these transcendent values is to seek Heaven; and to seek God, who is a perfect being, so perfect Goodness, perfect Being, perfect Beauty. The immediate presence of God is definitive of Heaven. Those who are not seeking them are, therefore, rejecting God, and choosing to turn from the path to Heaven. They are declaring in favour of Hell, and against Heaven, as their intended destination.

And this makes sense in Catholic doctrine: God, being all-merciful, wants no one to end up in Hell, but some of us choose Hell for ourselves. Anyone who is not seeking the Good, the True, and the Beautiful has quite expressly chosen not to go to Heaven.

Sin, in turn, is when we choose anything else before the Good, the True, or the Beautiful. For example, immediate physical pleasure, or social status, or self-regard. These are the three great temptations: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

Any of us can slip up in this way at any time. The difference between the saved and the damned, however, is that the saved will understand this as sin, feel regret, and eventually repent. The damned will refuse to accept this, and deny they have done anything wrong.

They may instead protest, like Pontius Pilate, “What is Truth?”

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day/ Armistice Day has always been special for me. One of my favourite reads growing up was Knights of the Air, about Canadian aces in the First World War. “In Flanders Fields” was the first poem I memorized.

Here are a couple of my war poems, in honour of the day:

Armistice Day

"We are the dead"

It's a hell of a way from yesterday,
And all behind is burning;
We frog-march on to invisible dawn
From whence there is no turning.

There was a war, there is a war, there ever a war will be;
Who was that raving charlatan we hanged on Calvary?

Each human heart is blown apart
Six ways before September;
The whores of chance damn backward glance
And delicate lads dismember.

There was a war, there is a war, there ever a war will be;
The carrion chorus sounds above Megiddo's bloody sea.

Love a thing, and watch it die
And only death's forever;
In wave-swept graves in parts we lie
-- And yet, each year, remember.

There was a war, there is a war, there ever a war will be;
The bloody track leads back from where we nailed Him to a tree.

There's no escape from sorrow, boys,
Between here and high heaven;
Only pray the guns may pause
In the eleventh month, on the eleventh day,
As bells toll eleven.

Korea, Summer, 1951: A Canadian Who Did Not Survive Remembers

August in Asia is hotter than death;
Christ, that a cold rain could fall!
Like the rains that I knew where the jackpines grew
In Canada, when I was small.

Every rock, every brick, is as hot as a wick,
And wickedly ripples the air;
If I could I would go where the sweet Chinooks blow,
For I know of no night fevers there.

I don't that much mind that I die here or there;
When you're dead, you're just dead, as a rule.
But please don't cremate me, deep-freeze me in state--
Damn Sam McGee, let me die cool.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Acosta vs. Trump

The latest fireworks in Washington are over the Trump White House suspending CNN's Jim Acosta's press pass. Never a dull moment with Trump in the White House—and I'm sure this is a big part of his appeal. The importance of the entertainment value of politics is vastly underrated, Trump understands this; Rob Ford understood it.

The stated reason for pulling Acosta's press pass is that he manhandled a young intern. I'm dubious about that; the contact looked trivial and unintentional. But he should have been suspended in any case for refusing to yield the microphone after his question.

And he should have been suspended for the original question. Here's an attempted transcript:

Acosta: “I challenge you on one of your statements. … That this caravan was an invasion. As you know, Mr. President, the caravan was not an invasion.... Why did you characterize it as such?”

This is not a question. It is, as stated, a challenge. What possible information can it elicit? He then interrupted Trump during his answer, and argued back. Hardly a journalist seeking the news.

And it is not even honest as a debating point. It is along the lines of “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Invasion; Oxford English Dictionary: “An incursion by a large number of people or things into a place or sphere of activity.” “An unwelcome intrusion into another's domain.” Acosta is either dishonest or illiterate.

Rather, he is obviously dishonest, and perhaps also illiterate. And he is doing an incompetent job as a journalist: not asking useful questions, and making himself the story instead of getting a story. Something any idiot can do.

The mystery is not that his press pass was lifted; the mystery is that he has a job.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Addiction and Vice

Sex junkie?

I don't really get this Tony Clement scandal in the Canadian federal Conservative caucus. All we know at this point is that he sent lewd photos and a video to someone he believed was a consenting adult. Since he is married, this implies, but does not amount to, adultery. But we have chosen not to make adultery illegal. Clement, so far as I can tell, has broken no laws; his personal sexual morality ought to be no one's business. Perhaps, of course, there is more involved than we yet know.

Of more interest is Clement's public pledge to “get help” over his supposed personal problems, and Andrew Scheer's approving note that Clement was “seeking help.”

What sort of help?

If it were going to his minister or his priest for confession, I'd see the point. But it sounds like another example of our medicalization of moral issues. Which goes nowhere. Sin is not illness; medicalizing it is a way to avoid taking responsibility for one's acts, and the only way to avoid sin is to take responsibility for one's acts.

I expect good old AA is largely to blame on this. For all the good they have done, they may have started the bandwagon rolling with their insistence on alcoholism being a disease. A popular idea, no doubt, with alcoholics; but never true. Alcoholism is a vice. A vice is superficially similar to an addiction: it corrodes free will. But addiction is physical; vice is spiritual. Addiction may be treated with pills. Vice can only be treated with personal resolve, and no one else—no white-smocked professional—can do personal resolve for you. He or she can only help you in your avoidance a little longer.

As it happens, one's body can also become physically addicted to alcohol—hence the DTs. This was unfortunately helpful in creating the delusion that the two, the vice and the addiction, were the same thing.

It then became easy to extend the delusion to any other sort of vice, so that since Bill Clinton we speak of “sex addiction”; now there are officially “behavioural addictions.” And, presumably, no more sin in the world. By this fuzzy logic, anything can be an addiction, it is impossible to determine that any one thing is more addictive than another, and moral responsibility is altogether gone. Making all these addictions incurable, at least by known, conventional methods. And then we wonder why there is a sudden explosion in “addictions.” “It's not my fault. Nothing I can do. I'm addicted.”

This is especially troubling in our political leaders: to see that they themselves do not believe in, and do not accept, any moral responsibility. One is left to wonder: if Andrew Scheer or Tony Clement believe they are not in principle responsible for their own decisions and actions, why on earth would we put them in any position of responsibility?

US Midterm Results

Flipping around Facebook for US midterm election coverage. CNN is ridiculous; it has become blatantly partisan, with no attempt at hiding it. They were loudly and early declaring it a historic sweep for the Democrats; even though the results were underwhelming in historical terms, for the opposition party in the first election after a new president is elected. The Democrats took the House handily, but the Republicans look as though they will expand their hold on the Senate.

This is pretty much the American system as it is supposed to be: power divided, so that no one gets to do much. The system is built for stalemate, keeping government from being activist. That's what “checks and balances” are about.

I am glad to see the moderate Democratic Senators whose votes on Kavanaugh were thought to be available, but who decided to vote on partisan lines, all losing their seats: Donnelly, Heitkamp, McCaskill. While Manchin, the lone Democrat who voted to confirm, won handily. That's justice, and makes such a nasty confirmation lynching less likely again.

Folks are talking about the Democratic House issuing subpoenas and starting impeachment proceedings. If they are stupid, they will, and will guarantee Trump a second term. And there is every indication that they are that stupid. This is more of their Kavanaugh approach, using any means available, fair or foul, regardless of the cost to the country, for partisan purposes. It underlines the idea of the Dems as angry mob.

At the same time, the election is unlucky for the Democrats in another way: they won almost no new marquee statewide races. Which means no new potential presidential candidates to compete with Trump next cycle. Their bench was already looking old and weak. Ghosts were coming out of the wainscotting. Kerry versus Hillary Clinton versus Biden versus Sanders? Sounds like a 20-year reunion party at an old folks' home.

No doubt they will come up with someone: who was Bernie Sanders before he was Bernie Sanders? Who was Bill Clinton before he was Bill Clinton? He was known in his first run only as one of the “seven dwarfs.” The Dems like dark horses. But now there will be fewer possible dark horses. And, as the Conservatives in Canada have often demonstrated in taking out new Liberal leaders, nominating a horse of highly saturated hue is dangerous. Not clearly defined in the public mind, they can be defined by the opposition. Not thoroughly vetted by public scrutiny, new dirt may appear sometime in October.

Jeff Flake apparently as much as announced on air he was going to run against Trump on the Republican side. I doubt he has a meaningful constituency in the party; that'll only help Trump by getting the Republican primaries some coverage. People will at least pay attention long enough to see Flake crushed in Iowa and New Hampshire.