Right on schedule, Trump actually went.  I’m at least a little surprised.  So now that it’s actually over, let’s look back a bit at the Trump regime, and then take a look at what’s to come.

I will give credit where credit is due. Much as Obama had 3 1/2 good things in his 8 years (rapprochement with Iran and Cuba, having the DOJ prosecute corrupt cops, and being around when the Supreme Court handed down Obergfell), Trump had, by my reckoning, 1 and 2 small fractions good things. The tax code is slightly simpler for a lot of people. There was a bit of rapprochement with North Korea. And, though it probably pained him to tell the truth about something as much as it pains me to admit it, Trump was more or less right when he said he started no new wars. This makes him the first US president since Warren G. Harding not to do so-and before that it was Grover Cleveland.

And the fact that this is actually a major, not-in-a-century accomplishment says a lot about just how far we’ve fallen.

Now let’s look at the awful. While not a completely comprehensive list, some of the especially egregious lowlights include, in no particular order…

Worst president ever? Eh. As I’ve said before, we still have Wilson and Jackson in our history, so maybe not. But Donald J. Trump, you were still complete shit who did a lot of things that ranged from awful to outright evil. You will not be missed, please let the door hit you upside the head on your way out, and I hope against hope that you were the one that was finally egregious enough to convince a Senate or a jury to convict your sorry ass and set a precedent of accountability for all of your successors.
@#^! you, and good @#6!ing riddance.

So with Trump actually out of the way, how about the new boss?  I hope I’m wrong about Biden. I hope he decides not to be a warmongering jackass with a cop sidekick. I hope his immigration proposal goes through. I hope he backs off/forgets about/gives it up in exchange for money to prosecute corrupt cops/is defeated in court his gun control plan. I hope he ends the trade war. I hope he ends the drug war. I hope having a president that only votes for racist legislation and says racist things on occasion improves things over someone who signs racist legislation and says racist things every day. I hope he magically decides to tear down the insane system of subsidies, bailouts, and other corporate welfare that strangles our populace. I hope that talking to other countries in complete sentences again might increase the chance of peace in the world and reduce the US’s elected class’ appetite for war. I hope that maybe someone will be able to sneak pardons for the most important whistleblowers of our age past him. I hope that someone around him will say something to the effect of “Hey! 27 trillion in debt is kind of a bad idea!”.

I had similar hopes for Obama too. But much like Obama’s record made me very skeptical about the reality to come (and I was essentially 100% right), Biden’s record does not inspire.

Sure, @#^! Trump, I’m glad he’s gone, and I’m glad peaceful transfer of power is still a thing around here. But expecting much different from Biden where it counts? I’m not holding my breath.

Trump just signed a massive, damn near 5600 page bil, which among MANY, MANY other things includes a $600 second covid relief check.

While normally I would be automatically opposed to any cash handout from the government to anyone, my feelings are more complicated here.  Anti-lockdown folks would say that given that the government ordered shutdowns that wrecked small businesses and decimated entire sectors of the economy, this is a glaring example of the government breaking your legs and then selling you crutches, all while telling you to be grateful for the beneficence…and they would be right.  And yes, some kind of UBI nonsense or stay at home payments is just more bad government on top of more bad government.  Some libertarians would point out that that stimulus is a refund of money that was stolen from you…which is also correct.  Yet others might counter that given the insane amount of money printing that that $600 will cost a fortune in interest, and therefore in future taxes…which is yet again correct.  People on many chunks of the Nolan chart would tell you that $600 is a bullshit amount…and they would also be right.  I would say that while the virus is natural, the whole covid mess was caused by an absolute crisis of leadership at the beginning…and I’d like to think I’m right.  But…we are here, and while I think the ship could be righted by doing what we should have done in the first place, ie have the government acknowledge the reality of the disease, set a good example, stay out of creating yet another liability cap, and otherwise let people live their bleeping lives, in the meantime we are still in a government mandated lockdown.  There’s no good answer here.  I think it’s like marriage licenses-the government should have nothing to do with them in the first place, but as long as they do they need to treat everyone equally before the law.  Here?  Ideally the government would get the hell out of everyone’s way, but as long as as they’re making a mess they should do something to make the people they’re screwing over whole, right?  If someone’s got a better way to cut this particular Gordian knot I’m all ears (or eyeballs, as it were).

What I can tell you though is that bundling this issue inside of an insanely large omnibus bill that includes billions in foreign aid, corporate welfare, military spending, and making streaming copyrighted content a felony is COMPLETE bullshit.

My twitter feed (which you should follow) is still abuzz with angry words about Kyle Rittenhouse and the Covid crisis, especially where lockdowns are concerned.  I’ve already touched on both of them here, here, and here in long form.  In all of them I’ve made rare calls for nuance, and yet for some reason my blog with readership measured in the 10s of people on a good day hasn’t resulted in making the screaming stop.

I think I know why people are still so intense about it on both sides:  the legality and the morality of both situations don’t line up neatly with each other.  In the case of Rittenhouse he may well be legally innocent, he may well have acted in self defense, and he may go free.  Given that two people are dead and another is seriously wounded behind it, it’s an ambiguous situation and exactly why we have courts.  Even in ancapistan there would nigh certainly be a referral to one, if not several private arbitration services about this, and they might not all come back with the same ruling.  BUT…why people on the other side are so pissed is that he was on the wrong moral side of the issue.  In a year where anger over the state murdering people boiled over in many public ways, Rittenhouse was on the side of…the state.  He brought a gun to the wrong side of a protest and wound up shooting protestors.  Even if he was legally in the right in the moment, he was morally wrong and put himself in an incendiary situation. 

In the case of Covid, libertarians, including a lot of people I have great respect for, and Trumpers are screaming about lockdowns, business shutdowns, school closures, and curfews like it’s the greatest abuse of power since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and a permanent mental crippling of our youth.  On the other hand, just about everyone who’s had the virus, along with the bulk of the center and left is flat out saying @#^! you to anyone who won’t wear a mask, or who protests, or who threatens to have Thanksgiving with their family.  And the thing is…both sides actually have a point.  Yes, government mandated lockdowns and curfews (although not, I’d say, shutdowns of government specific services, such as schools) are unconstitutional and awful, and they set a terrible precedent.  Yes, entire sectors of the economy have been tanked by this intervention, and way too much corporate welfare has been given to large businesses at the expense of small.  Yes, school closures are absolutely taking a real toll on our students, depriving them of experiences they will never get back.  But the flip side is that the virus is real, and the low risk is still a lot higher than other diseases (such as the normal flu), along with much longer lasting after effects and a much higher death rate.  The appropriate legal thing to do is to not come with 100 miles of government with a mandate, but the right moral thing to do is chill out for a minute, stay home at least through regular flu season, and let’s get through this.

Herein lies the problem.  For libertarians especially, most things are pretty cut and dried, and most things are so long overdue and so wrong that quick, decisive, drastic action is called for.  Ending the wars, ending the drug war and pardoning/exonerating people.  Declassifying files on US war crimes.  Ending corporate welfare.  Ending the war on guns.  Ending the war on immigrants.  And we love to be contradictory almost for its own sake, which most of the time makes sense because the status quo answer sucks.  But some things actually are complicated, and need to be treated as such.  Yes, Rittenhouse may have been acting in self defense, and no, you don’t always get to pick the people that you should defend (Clive Bundy, anyone?), but that doesn’t mean we should hold him up as a hero, or that we should hold him blameless, or that we should blindly stick up for him without acknowledging context.  And we should especially recognize that in a summer of very visible public murders by police, which, yes, fits inside a longer history of police abuse and racism in the United States, people are going to take the shooting of protestors as more evidence of the racism of our society, no matter how legally justified he might have been in the moment.  For the lockdown yes, kids can’t recover from mental health issues if they’re dead, but the toll that months of isolation and missing important events and rites of passage is still a very real toll.  No, governors shouldn’t be trying to lock people down, but it would be really nice if we the citizenry would actually chill out for a minute on our own. 

Or in other words, most of the time we should fight hard and take no prisoners.  But sometimes?  We need to calm the @#^! down and acknowledge the other side has a point.

Because people on both sides can both have good points, and/or be complete assholes to each other, let’s try to keep some things in mind.

Libertarians and other anti-shutdown folks, how about we recognize that even though yes, mandates are shitty and unconstitutional, Covid is a real disease that has killed a lot of people (somewhere between 2 to 7 or 8 times what the flu kills in in a season) and has left a lot more with very serious after effects.  And let’s recognize that there’s a difference between mandating closing private businesses and keeping government stuff like schools closed.  Finally, something that libertarians can and often do forget in a heartbeat:  just because something shouldn’t be a law doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea-crack should be legal, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to put it in your lungs.

Llikewise, keep it all closed folks, recognize that the mental health consequences of isolation, especially for kids, are real and awful.  And after 8 months of it a lot of people are more than a little fried.  Yes, it would be worse if they were dead.  But that doesn’t make the reality of what we’re living with any more fun.

Or in other words, a little @#^!ing nuance and civility in this whole thing would be nice.

Big take here, followup as part of this



As you might imagine, Covid-19, both the virus and the associated lockdowns, have weighed heavily in the news for a long time.   Unfortunately the US has botched its handling of the whole thing, and it’s become a political football for everyone-libertarians included.  For me personally I’ve been lucky.  I’ve been able to work from home through the whole thing, I still have a job (internet screaming doesn’t pay the bills yet, believe it or not), and I haven’t lost anyone to the virus.  But it’s kept me away from a job I love for far too long, it’s kept me away from family, friends, and life, and the virus had made several friends very sick with serious residual effects.  The lockdown, meanwhile, has decimated entire sectors of the economy and cancelled literally years worth of plans for people.

Right now libertarians and a lot of Republicans are screaming about the lockdowns, harassing retail employees with mask protests, and trying to dunk on everyone who takes the virus seriously.  Too many libertarians have made claims that are dumb in their incompleteness.  They’ve said that the death rate is low, or it’s all about the underlying conditions, but newsflash for you folks:  if you don’t die, but you’re messed up for months or years after, it’s still a pretty serious illness. And if you have AIDS you’ll probably die of some weird untreated adrenal cancer or rare pneumonia, but guess what?  It was the AIDS that killed you.  I’ve also seen libertarians claim that because masks were ineffective against the recent fires they’re ineffective against the virus.  Yes, virus particles are smaller than ash-but they’re usually transmitted in spit and mucus, which are more than big enough to be caught by a decent mask!  See, for example, this.  Meanwhile most of the mainstream left is still either calling everyone else idiots and assholes or using it as an excuse to push a complete government takeover of healthcare, or both. 

So what is the appropriate libertarian response to Covid-19 and all the havoc it’s created?  Thankfully the discussions of Covid as a government conspiracy, bioweapon, hoax, or cover to shut down the world to make pedophilia arrests has mostly faded, so I don’t need to address that, however it’s very useful to go back to before the beginning.  Going into this the United States has done so many things to artificially constrain the supply of healthcare.  Certificate of need laws are probably the most egregious, but there’s the whole mess of regulations and bureaucratic interference that stops doctors from caring for their patients-the laws that prohibit insurance sales across state laws, lack of license reciprocity for health care professionals across state lines, the patent protections, and a host of other things.  This did not leave us in a great spot to weather a pandemic of this scale.

Then there’s how the US botched the initial response.  For the first six weeks that Covid-19 was in the US doctors were prohibited from testing for the virus, and then the FDA delayed development of tests and approval of tests already in use in Europe.  So in so many ways our country started well behind the 8 ball.

Then we had a complete failure of leadership.  Assuming minarchy for a moment and leaving out how ancapistan would have responded, what real leadership would have looked like is the president and every governor saying very clearly:  “This virus is real, and is a real threat.  Because of the first amendment we cannot order any shutdown of private businesses or the movement of private individuals.  However, this is what the best science we have at the moment says.  And, by way of protecting our employees and setting a good example I’m ordering all government departments that can work remotely to do so, and requiring masks and social distancing at all government facilities.  In addition, the government will offer no liability protection from Covid-19 related claims” (credit to Spike Cohen for the last part).  This would have struck a proper balance between liberty and science, set a positive example for the broader society, and allowed individuals and communities to determine their own acceptable levels of risk.  Instead Trump basically pretended the virus didn’t exist for months unless it was useful to bash China, and his cult followed suit, leading to some truly stupid statements, truly douchey behavior, putting US troops in harm’s way, and ultimately the infection of the president and many top aides, along with 210,000 and counting dead Americans.  The backlash from the left, on the other hand, was lockdowns and complete shutdowns of EVERYTHING, along with insisting on massive government welfare.  The result of their actions was the decimation of entire sectors of the economy, most notably entertainment and restaurants, the death of many local businesses, the serious disruption of the lives of most of America’s schoolchildren, and a nationwide increase in mental health problems due to the isolation and uncertainty.  And as the two strains of thought have interacted, the result has been a complete mess and a long series of counter-accusations and name calling.  Oh, and a massive increase in profits for places like amazon that were allowed to stay open.  And the vast majority of the Covid relief money went to corporate welfare

And that’s before we talk about the awful precedents this whole thing could conceivably set for the next crisis.

So…we all screwed up at the beginning, and now we’re here.  What’s the way out of this mess?  It’s not too late to go back and do what we should have done in the first place.  Political leaders, keep government facilities, including schools, closed or otherwise socially distanced unless your facilities and your community can truly reopen properly.  Stop giving handouts to the rich and powerful.    Libertarians, put your contrarian tendencies aside for 5 minutes and wear your damn mask, ESPECIALLY in a private business that requires you to do so.  And while you should have the right to do so, maybe let’s not really reopen completely until we get through flu season.

In the end, trust the science, have some caution, respect peoples’ private property rights, racism is complete bullshit, government artificially constrains the productive economy and the supply of healthcare, and let people decide their own levels of acceptable risk, subject to respecting the private property rights of others.