A Slippery Slope Straight ‘To Hell’

Assuming US stocks “wanted” to go quietly into the weekend, the final US presidential debate offered nothing in the way of impediments.

Fireworks were sparse during Thursday evening’s proceedings in Nashville. Donald Trump’s brief lapses into conspiracies about alleged graft fell flat, juxtaposed as they were with the elderly gentleman across the stage who came across as anything but the devious, scheming leader of a “criminal enterprise” (as the president called the Biden family at a recent rally).

Trump managed to score what felt like a few points in the final round by extrapolating in real-time on Biden’s comments about transitioning away from fossil fuels, but other than that, the president was on the defensive, which is what happens when you spend more than three years deliberately stoking controversy at every possible turn.

Alternating claims from Trump that Biden is controlled by Xi Jinping, Kamala Harris, and “AOC plus 3,” sounded even more contrived than usual thanks to the formalized, starchy debate format, which forced Trump to drop the theatrics and speak frankly to the public.

Biden somehow managed to stay largely coherent and free of gaffes throughout, although invariably, the Twittersphere (in its infinite wisdom) and likely some pollsters, will pretend as though his comments on oil are somehow “new.” (They’re not.)

Unfortunately, even ostensibly intelligent people are vulnerable to Trump’s act. “That’s a big statement,” Trump said, of Biden’s meandering answer about phasing out fossil fuels. “Are you listening?,” the president wondered, aloud, speaking to the US oil patch.

Even liberal commentators both on network television and social media took the bait. Again, it’s unfortunate that those who spend their every waking hour deriding the administration so readily fall for the simplest of rhetorical ruses.

Biden wants to transition to clean energy. That’s not new. And it’s hardly a groundbreaking observation. To pretend as though “transition to clean energy” somehow doesn’t entail gradually phasing out dirty energy is akin to acting surprised when water feels wet. Everyone — including some energy companies, by the way — knows this transition is coming.

“The demand for liquid fuels never fully recovers from the fall caused by ‎COVID-19, implying that oil demand peaked in 2019 in both scenarios”, BP said last month, describing two of three possible outcomes set forth in the latest edition of the company’s energy outlook.

This just “is what it is,” (to quote Trump). It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.”

In any case, Biden had the usual “excuse me” moments, many of which are attributable to his childhood stutter, but no readily apparent missteps. He even managed an accidental punchline when Trump persisted in asking why the previous administration was unable to institute a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system. After an incessant round of badgering from the president, the question was put directly to Biden, who looked into the camera and said: “We had a Republican Congress.”

Trump also claimed Republicans are going to retake the House, a cringeworthy shoot-from-the-hip assertion. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The president can always just say he was trying to be optimistic — you know, like he was when he played down COVID-19, telling the public it would disappear earlier this year, even as he regaled Bob Woodward with horror stories about dangerous sneezes in the Oval Office.

From the perspective of viewers who don’t enjoy having their sanity tested or their intelligence insulted, the final debate was a welcome reprieve. It seems unlikely to change any minds among the electorate, but it might instill some hope that the country’s politics hasn’t descended into total farce. Or, if it has, that it’s perhaps salvageable.

Risk sentiment was generally positive headed into the cash session on Wall Street, with European equities lifted by earnings from Barclays and automakers.

Gilead was poised for a pop after the FDA approved remdesivir for COVID-19. That was expected, but as Piper’s Tyler Van Buren wrote, it “certainly signals the agency’s confidence in US-based ACTT-1 study results.” The safety portion of the label “has no surprises,” Van Buren remarked.

Obviously, US COVID cases are on the rise (figure above), and Trump persisted in the notion that the country is “rounding the turn” during the debate. It’s not. Or at least not on aggregate infection totals.

In the end, I suppose the most maddening part of US politics at the current juncture is that so many people — from average voters to pundits to foreign observers who are compelled to weigh in by virtue of their occupation — don’t seem willing to engage with reality. There is no sense in which the current situation is sustainable, nor is there any rational argument for suggesting that the current occupant of the Oval Office is anything other than he is (there’s a long list of adjectives, and none of them carry a positive connotation).

One almost gets the impression that many global citizens (both in the US and abroad) have a kind of a perverse fascination with America’s would-be strongman and the kind of soft-authoritarian rule he’s angling to cement. That’s a slippery slope straight “to hell” and “it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country,” as the president put it in his closing remarks to the public on Thursday evening.

Or maybe it’s that (forgive me for stating the obvious) white men are concerned that liberal policies will further erode privileges they believe are somehow part of their “rights” as Americans.

Of course, not every Trump supporter will admit to harboring those kinds of objectively abhorrent notions of racial and gender superiority, but my guess is that even if they only exist subconsciously, they show up in the voting booth, if not in the pre-election polls and betting odds.


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17 thoughts on “A Slippery Slope Straight ‘To Hell’

  1. Every Trumper should google “Harvard implicit bias test”, take the tests and stop lying to themselves.

    As Avenue Q the musical opines, “Everyone’s a little bit racist!”

    1. yeah, I mean it’s not so much the bias I have an issue with. I mean, I do. Because racial and gender biases are pernicious in the extreme. But leaving that aside for the sake of argument, what’s increasingly hard to stomach is this refusal on the part of many of the president’s supporters to admit the obvious about the man they support, and also why they support him. If you can’t come to grips with that or are otherwise reluctant to say it out loud, then I would suggest it’s a position that needs to be reevaluated. Same goes for the fossil fuels argument. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m no green crusader, and I don’t even consider emissions when buying a car — not even for a second. But at the same time, I acknowledge reality which is just that if by some miracle, I’m still alive and able to drive in 50 years, my vehicle will probably not run on gasoline.

      Conservatives have always had a difficult time grappling with reality in its various inconvenient manifestations, but this last three years where facts aren’t facts anymore, and implicit racism become explicit, and readily provable lies about even petty things become a kind of political currency, is just totally out of bounds. I wish more voters would admit this. There will be another chance to vote against a liberal agenda. But now isn’t the time. Now is the time to get stuff back on track and reconnect with reality. After that, we can get back to partisanship, etc. But America needs to stop this rolling crisis first. And that means ousting the source of the problem. This seems obvious to me and it should be obvious to everyone. Let Trump go back to being a billionaire. Give him his own TV channel or whatever. I don’t care. And neither will anybody else. But he can’t be allowed to just keep ramming the Titanic into the iceberg over and over and over again. He’s had four years to show he’s capable of acting like a rational person. And he just can’t do it. Which is actually fine. Just not in the Oval Office. In essence, that’s all I’ve ever really said about the man. And honestly, I don’t see why it’s a controversial position. It’s just a realistic assessment of our predicament.

      (by “you” above I obviously mean voters in general, not “you” the commenter)

      1. You will be driving something other than fossil fuels for a simple basic economic fact. Energy costs via solar power are now lower in nominal terms than ever by any resource. Costs are trending lower still. While there is now a looming gap between energy and power we are at the cusp of a transition in energy/power that is driven by lower costs and less pollution. The upshot is: Even if you love breathing coal smoke you will not be able to afford it.

        By you I mean all readers.

        1. While I agree about fossil fuels in the long run, there are currently 1.3 bil legacy ICE vehicles in use around the globe all of which will require fuel for decades to come. Believe it or not, most of the owners of these vehicles are poorer than those of us who tend to read these pages. They are unlikely to discard their vehicles because a few of us want them to. in the last five years 500 mil new vehicles have been added to the pile and they won’t wear out very soon. Reality bites.

          1. I think what will wipeout the ICE vehicle globally is that once there is no more growth potential investment for fossil fuels will dry up and industrial feedstock demand will consume the available production with end users buying up the production wells. Supply will contract until maintaining those ICE vehicles especially in poorer countries is simply too economically disadvantageous. There are already countries in places like Africa where even if you can afford and ICE vehicle, fuel prices are insane. I also expect some enterprising company is more than likely going to start refitting ICE vehicles. Just pop an electric on the front wheels, drop the engine and plug in a controller and battery pack. Also I would argue much of the world uses ICE motorcycles far more than cars and replacing those with electric is even easier.

            In 50 years I suspect the ICE will be in luxury items and legacy industrial or military equipment and that’s about it. It just won’t be worth anyone’s time to pull it out of the ground to burn it.

          2. You are correct and why the global oil business is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. As the oil industry shrinks it will likely lose economies of scale, not not the larger plants but the myriad contractors/suppliers that the industry relies upon. As this happens refined products and even oil are likely to become more dear. However to counterbalance electric cars are likely to last much longer than ICE cars, therefore there will be more of them on the road versus the numbers sold. Some time for all this to develop but it will be an interesting story as the drama unfolds.

      2. Read up on cognitive dissonce to see why Trumpo still has so many supporters. They are similar to flat Earthers in the sense that they override the bit of their minds that says ‘hang on’ whenever it contradicts anything that they believe foundationally. I used to think it was an intelligence issue, or perhaps educational, but it’s become clear over the years that rather more people than you’d hope suffer from mental issues of varying significance…

  2. Thursday is golf day so I spent the day with” white men of privilege” who were comparing notes on the election. All agreed Trump was an idiot but they were voting for him for various reasons, none of which made any sense to me and were very obviously all about their present comfort levels. I didn’t contest any of their comments as I was commited to a day of relaxation, but in the back of my mind were the words “white privlage”.

    1. People can rationalize their opinions. Trump is the perfect example of how Germany got Adolf in the 30s. The industrialists and political elite thought they could rein him in. They did not- and Germany was destroyed. Fortunately it appears Trump is going to be soundly beaten and he will take some of his enablers with him. Our system had enough guardrails to survive 4 years of him without completely going to ruin. In the unlikely event he gets re-elected, there will not be enough guardrails to slow him down, and our system will be permanently damaged in about 2 years. Thankfully it looks like Trumpy won’t roll double 6s and he will be consigned to history. His followers will be trying to damage the country for about 10-20 more years.

    2. White and rich man’s privilege. Biden comes from a non-privileged background which is a turn off for inclusion into costume balls. Would rather socializes with the worst of their kind than the best of any other kind. However at this juncture if the Sith wins rich privilege may be hollowed out, but that does not stop the music at the ball while wearing the tattered tux …

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