Happy Friday! Where to start, where to start? How about a Political Parrots teaser?
While there are questions about what President Trump’s transition team knew and when – now we know what Vice President Pence is busy working on. By the way “transition team” is code for Vice President Mike Pence. Bloomberg
Speaking of Pence…Did Sixpence None the Richer write the most 90’s song ever?
Breaking News: Baby Booms are more entitled than…well…everybody. Here’s the proof.Marketwatch
The first of what hopefully are many weekly (bi-monthly) updates promoting the latest episode of the excellent podcast The Margin of Error co-hosted by Allan Branstiter and Carson Starkey. In the future this website will be shamelessly, unapologetically, and proudly posting and promoting each episode, along with Bruce Springsteen music, and Jimmy Buffett retirement communities.
Hey, Carson — don’t ya think it’s time we have another installment of Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past? Trump-era edition?
New York, NY — (the capital of national Democratic Party incompetence, cluelessness, and cultural excess).
The beating heart of America and the state of New York (like every state) is the people. And the people have been betrayed. While the GOP celebrates, and all Americans should be protective of those most vulnerable and commit themselves to being the best person they can be, it is time for the Democratic Party to take these next six weeks and actually do some introspection. I have no doubt that introspection is going on in the hearts and minds of voters and supporters. However, it is rarely going on in the minds of boomer-heavy Democratic Party leaders. And that will not change until we demand that it changes.
Permanent Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is not going to suddenly discover his populist voice at the age of 65. Permanent Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not going to suddenly discover her populist voice at the age of 76. I do not bring up their ages to be an agist. Far from it. Because the war on the young and the war on the middle and working class has been going on ever since their generation came to power via Watergate in the mid-70s. I bring up, what in the end are mere numbers to highlight the concept of subsidiarity: let those that are closest to the problem, and are more likely to know the problem — solve the problem.
The problem with the party is neoliberalism and corporatism. The problem is empty and soulless “high society” and “status” liberalism. The problem is an irrational appeal to moderation, compromise, incrementalism, and the idea that leaders (and especially the President) can just solve anything. They can’t and they won’t. We must do it. We the people. Welcome to the third and final part of the story of the future Greater Recession: Party’s End and a New Beginning.
In 18 to 36 months, because it is a fact of the business cycle, and for reasons cited in Parts One and Two, this country will be in another “bubble” recession. The recession is inevitable. The pain caused to human beings because of short-sightenedness, corporate greed and grift, and government sponsorship of it, is completely avoidable. Were it not for the fact that elections, a lack of vision for the future and a good message, and voter apathy having consequences.
It would have happened if Hillary Clinton had won too. Don’t forget that formerincoming Majority Leader Schumer had a stated top legislative goal of corporate tax cuts to get after overseas tax shelter-corporate profit dollars in the coming session. Now that Donald Trump has won, it will still happen. In some ways it’ll be the same, in others worse. The difference now is how the powers that be will react to it, and how we the people will react to it. Life is ten percent what happens to you, ninety percent how you react to what happens to you.
The big financial institutions and investment banks are already lining up and betting for the market to fail. Hiring freezes have commenced. All the indicators are there.
Despite all of his populist rhetoric, and many commentators citing that it was a farce and fraudulent in advance, the incoming Trump administration has already tapped a Goldman Sachs banker as the next Treasury Secretary. It might as well be enshrined into the Constitution at this point. Doesn’t matter who wins–there’s going to be a GS Treasury Secretary.
Bizarrely, this Greater Recession will not feel greater than the great one. Why? Because working families and working people have not made up what was lost economically for them in 2007-09. My ancestors barely felt the Great Depression in the 1930s–why? Because they were already poor to begin with. If/when the market fails and there are more bail outs of banks, but not people–get ready for the student loan “bubble” to burst too. Mr. Pres.-elect, it’s up to you what you want to do–I recommend doing the right thing.
For anyone who thinks the intra-party civil war within the Democratic Party can save us all from this fate, or if you think there will be an inevitable electoral backlash, think again. And then read Thomas Frank. Then get back to me. Then go read Thomas Frank again. Then listen to the “Margin of Error”, then branch out from there.
After the 2016 Election — the two party power structure in this country looks like this:
Presidency: GOP (the first elected President in American history without any political or military experience prior to the Presidency)
US Senate: 52 GOP, 48 DEM (+2 DEM)
US House: 238 GOP, 194 DEM (+6 DEM)
US State Governors: 34 GOP, 15 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) (+3 GOP)
US State Legislatures: 36 GOP/GOP-caucusing, 14 DEM/DEM caucusing in State Senates | 32 GOP/GOP-leaning, 17 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) in State Houses.
After 2018 Midterm Elections — this is a realistic possibility:
The GOP faces a very favorable Senate map in 2018. 2016 was actually the last time in a long time the Democrats had a realistic chance to pick up the Senate absent a wave and a complete re-organization of the Democratic Party. Now we have the following seats that will still likely fall, or very well could.
GOP gains: IN, MO, MT, ND, (Joe Manchin holds on, but switches parties), 59 seats.
The situation will not improve much in the US House in an era of gerrymandering, voter ID, and key provisions of the Voting Rights Act gone.
Therefore, the next two years should be a legal battle in key states and 2017 should be about actually voting in progressive major US city Mayors so we can stop looking so hypocritical when corporate Democratic Mayors engage in tax giveaways to subsidize sports stadiums, and real estate projects, etc. We can stop looking so hypocritical when it comes to education achievement gaps, etc.
Lessons have not been learned and the liberal boomer establishment is mostly not getting it.
The Democratic Party will still have a DCCC that dictates to local units their “expert” opinions and sophisticated numbers over the local knowledge of people who have lived most, if not all, of their lives in their communities.
Most of the chairs and public elected officials of the Democratic Party remain unchanged. And already the Keith Ellison for DNC Chair (which I support, with some small reservations) momentum is slowing down because the “donor class” doesn’t want him and mostly, doesn’t like him.
We have no evidence since the year 2006 that Dems will magically turn out in a midterm when they do not hold the White House. 2006 was certainly a wave, but it was a wave that was created by the Iraq War and the Bush Administration being historically unpopular. It is likely that Trump will be unpopular, but when you have Democratic leaders like (permanent) Minority Leader Schumer in the Senate, and (permanent) Minority Leader Pelosi in the House vowing to make Donald Trump more popular, and vowing to work with him on some things, in stark contrast to how the GOP leadership behaved after an *actual* landslide in 2008, the jury is very much still out on the so-called coming 2018 Democratic wave.
2018 should be focused on the states and localities. Gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns. Party-building begins locally and it begins personally. Think local.
If the GOP maintains most of what they hold or even slightly improve (via winning the MN and PA gubernatorial races, a distinct possibility if nothing changes), not only are they knocking on the door of a filibuster-proof Senate, but they are also knocking on the door of a Constitutional amendment proof majority in the states (3/4ths, 37 states needed to pass and ratify proposed Constitutional amendments).
Not only will there be no wave if things do not change in a hurry for the party, but there are many areas past the above mentioned Senate map looking brutal, where we could lose ground further.
New York Democrats are currently prepping Chelsea Clinton to run for Congress in a long-held but only slight Democratic district in the New York-17th. I predict the GOP goes out and gets an Iraq Veteran who delivers lines like this across the district:
“While Chelsea Clinton was getting groomed to run for Congress and join the family business someday, I was dodging bullets in the Middle East.” – the Eric Greitens of the New York 17th.
I’m sure Chelsea is nice, this is not personal. But I ask our readership to please get an early start in starting the human rights watch campaign to free Chelsea Clinton from what Democratic Party insiders and the Clinton cabal of advisors keep asking her to do. Go into careers that she does not want to do and is not a natural at doing. It’s insulting to her humanity, it’s insulting to the electorate, and I can only hope that she does not run. Enough with the Dukes and Earls, whether political or economic.
The 2020 Presidential Election — here are the early, talked about candidates:
One of the Reagan-baby Gen-X heavy GOP deep benchers (Rubio, Sasse, Cotton, Haley, although probably not Speaker Ryan as he’ll be too politicized) wins the Presidency, replacing Trump, who limits himself to one term citing political success and victories, or because he is impeached by a GOP congress, bringing us briefly, a President Glen Allen Walken…I mean Mike Pence.
Meanwhile, here is what the Democratic Party is countering with as of now, or at least this is what the early chatter is in the Beltway.
Sen. Cory Booker (NJ).
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).
Sen-elect Kamala Harris (CA).
Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO).
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN).
First Lady Michelle Obama (Will reside in Washington D.C.).
I wanted to give everyone the proper amount of time away but now it is time to be honest.
Michelle, I have no doubt would be great. But she has stated many times that she has no interest in electoral politics. The Obama family has served their country enough. Leave them alone.
Sen-elect Harris will not run, and while she has a bright future, she is also from California, which has never produced a Democratic President and looks unlikely to do so in this current climate. Lets see what kind of Senator she is going to be first. I have high hopes that at the very least she’d make an excellent AG or VP candidate, then perhaps President after that.
Furthermore, every- single-talked-about candidate was only analyzed in terms of fundraising abilities, not potential message or vision for the future. The amount of people who do not get it in the political, media, and intellectual elite is alarming. For the most part, only the folks and their supporters are getting it. A quick note on the rest: Booker and Gillibrand (as well as Cuomo) may very well run, but they won’t win. If Sen. Klobuchar or Gov. Hickenlooper run, see Tim Pawlenty.
Thanks for sticking with us. Let’s get organized team future, we’re the last, best hope and it’s time to accept that.
Months ago during the Presidential primary election, during the peak of this nascent website’s readership (so far, perhaps forever), I wrote about what could be appropriately called the “Greater Recession.” It’s detailed focus was on the millennial generation (those born between circa 1980/81 and 1998 or so) and housing and the role that will play in contributing to the next recession. At the end I teased that housing will not be the chief driving force however behind the next recession, rather it will be the fact that baby boomers, retiring en-masse starting a few years ago, will be cashing in their 401K’s and this outflow will outpace the money that is going into retirement markets. What sounds alarmist now and overly complicated will sound stupidly simple when history is written: retirement accounts need money in them. Duh.
In the wake of the silliest U.S. Presidential Election and national conversation on record and for a country whose youngest working generation and middle class is still reeling from the previous Great Recession, it’s completely understandable why no one wants to hear or read about the next one (don’t worry, they won’t). But demographics are still destiny.
As of mid-2015 withdrawals from 401K plans exceed new contributions, a shift that could shake up the U.S. retirement industry and a trend that will continue well into the next decade and perhaps beyond. Three to four million baby boomers will be retiring every year between now and 2020, and it is expected to accelerate beyond that. The direct result will be on asset management firms and the retirement portion of investment banks being squeezed of large amounts of money because they rely on fees charged to employers and investors as their chief profit engine. Before I move on, let’s go through a quick primer on the history of 401Ks.
401K retirement plans came into wide usage in the 1980s as more companies embraced them as a replacement to their more costly pension fund counterpart. In other words, 401Ks are the privatization of pension plans. Along with the general erosion of big labor and private (as well as some public) sector unions in the U.S., this trend has contributed to declining and stagnant middle and working class incomes. The financial capitalism model that rose in the United States in this decade coincides with globalization ascendent generally, with the post-War political and economic consensus fading into history. Pensions were out. Privatization was in. The prevalence of 401K plans coincide with the major working years of the baby boomer generation, the largest cohort in American history until millennials.
A 401K bubble, unlike the housing bubble, will be far more fundamental than Senator McCain could ever conceive of because it will be demographically and systemically driven. We have seen so many cracks in globalization’s inevitability this past year, whether it is Brexit, the rise of nationalism generally, or the entire 2016 Presidential Election cycle. The final nail in the coffin to its inevitability may very well be another recession, which will no doubt have global implications as well because nearly everything does now. If we’ve learned anything since 2007-09 it’s that globalization and interdependence is failing, and will likely keep failing, rightly or wrongly. We have also learned that nation-states still matter and they matter the most. Rising nationalism that borders on jingoism and xenophobia in some quarters is frightening to anyone who has read history, but at the most basic level–the primacy and importance of national leadership and its ability to control and secure national interests is still incredibly relevant. Much of this development is political and populist in nature, and often very much to the chagrin of the global system, especially those in the financial community.
It has been said, and I think this is still the best case for globalization (although slipping a bit each year), that countries that trade together and are dependent on one another will not fight each other. A free trade and globalized world order is a peaceful world. With each passing year though, this gets harder and harder to believe. When Iraqi civilian casualties are 1/4th the total of the holocaust, you know instinctively that you are not living in a more peaceful world. Rather, you are merely avoiding the most dangerous parts of the world.
In fairness to those who would call this alarmist thinking, there are three economic developments and one political, that could at the very least, stem the tide. Starting with the most unlikely to succeed.
1. Millennials putting enough money into their own retirements (very unlikely).
Despite the demographic ability to do it, millennials are squeezed out of good paying jobs still and even if they obtain those jobs (a big “if”), significant student loan debt and other costs will limit our ability to save for retirement in the years to come.
2. Asset management firms reinvesting a good potion of boomer-held wealth back into the market (more likely).
This may not be enough either though. Aging costs money and boomers are not nearly as wealthy as we all think they are. After all, their entire working lives coincide with America going from an FDR / New Deal / “We take care of our own” – model to a Reagan / “trickle-down economics” / financial capitalism – model.
3. Wall Street downsizing (most likely, already happening).
An interesting facet of the Greater Recession could very well be the great irony: just as the Great Recession could be characterized as Wall Street driving an economic recession that left millennials with few paying jobs, the Greater Recession could be characterized by millennials lacking the assets, paying jobs, and income to prevent an economic recession that will in turn, leave many on Wall Street without their high-paying jobs.
And then there is the political solution.
We all saw how swiftly both parties acted in the wake of the global financial meltdown in 2008. But even in success, we also saw how readily evident it was that the United States has a public policy that is so incredibly friendly to wealthy elites and corporations that more and more publications are taking to calling the United States an oligarchy. Furthermore, political gridlock in the Obama years has made another swift action in response to an economic crisis harder to imagine. It’s far more likely any political response is an incredibly partisan one, carried out by a Republican Party in complete control of the United States government after 2020.
Therefore it’s far more likely that social insurance programs get privatized due to the political winds of the time, bad luck, and poor party-building and planning by the Democratic Party, which will be the chief purpose of the third and final part of the Greater Recession article series.
Morgantown, WV — Jacki and I began the last leg of our journey driving over the Appalachians on what was turning out to be a longer drive than we had planned. We thought we could get to New York City with all of our possessions in three days. However, since we had the Penske truck for five and a very angry cat, we took the more scenic route. We took our time. No regrets at all. Because traveling further south than we needed to allowed us to see family the night before officially arriving.
D.C. Suburbs — I got see my East Coast relatives on the night of August 1st, which was badly needed. Outside of coming back to Minnesota for funerals, seeing the Jones family of Maryland has been the only time this past year I’ve seen family. While I had experienced this lack of familiar connection before during my year long deployment earlier this decade, this time it affected me more because it was self-imposed and I was always just a plane ride away from the Midwest. As Jacki and I get more and more established out here, this is definitely something we will rectify.
The next day was going to be a long one, and Harrison Potter needed some exercise. He met his nearly identical tuxedo twin in McNugget. Several mosquito bites, even more kitty hair loss, and a night spent breaking things and we were ready to get to our new home.
East Coast and Our New Home — New York City, Borough of Manhattan, Harlem.
By midday on August 2nd of last year, nearly a year to the date where Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop (oops…wrong story), we arrived at our new home in the Heart of Harlem and began the arduous process of unloading the Penske truck. I saw the road ahead and it was not pretty. I immediately called the only human being I knew at the time in New York City, my lifelong friend and co-writer of various screenplays, famous pre-mudgeon and Brooklyn film industry alum Zach Kangas. One year later, I’m happy to report I know hundreds of fellow New Yorkers now, to varying degrees. However, only Zach would help me unload a Penske truck.
Jacki and I arrived in New York last year without guaranteed jobs, very little to our names, too many books to count (let alone, fit in our apartment), and about seven craft beers. Objectively speaking, moving here was insane. One year later though, I know now more than ever that it was the right move.
What We’ve Learned So Far… Jacki and I are now employed and more or less have been since the start. In fact, we work every single day in some capacity. Her in finance, and me in real estate. We could not have got here without the love and support of our extended families.
It is not lost on me that many would correctly point out, that we are gentrifiers in our new neighborhood. We are. It is a fact I’m very aware of each and every day. In a city as diverse and concentrated as New York, you end up seeing just about everything you can imagine. It’s easy to disappear into it. Looking back on a journey that took my wife and I from growing up in towns of under 10,000 to the second largest city on Earth (Tokyo, Japan is the largest), I cannot help but feel more connected to our common humanity than I’ve ever felt. Whether it is thinking back to then or looking at now and where we want to go.
Jacki and I have experienced nothing but a very welcoming and positive attitude. The old adage that New Yorkers are aggressive and mean is not necessarily true. I would argue New Yorkers are direct and to the point. While I always retain a good amount of my midwestern passive aggressive, in fact, a good amount of my satirical nature depends on it, the direct and “I’m outta time” nature of this city suits me at this stage in my life.
The one time either of us (Jacki) did face something unpleasant, it led to my favorite sentiment of all this past winter. Jacki was riding the subway when an older (white) woman yelled at her for being new to the neighborhood, for being a gentrifier. Irony being completely lost on this woman, she continued to single out Jacki until eventually, a black man stood up and said: “Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood.” This sentiment is undeniably America on its best days. It should be true for all communities and neighborhoods. Yes communities and neighborhoods. Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers. Every American city is a series of communities where people find belonging and commonality each and every day, a series of neighborhoods both famous and unknown, new and old, and a series of streets named after Presidents, civil rights leaders, or just made up to be a numbered grid so tourists can’t get lost.
“Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood” is the country that I believe in. I hope it’s the one that you believe in too.
Eagleview Heights, MN — A local DFL Senate District unit was blown away when an under-35 year old showed up to their monthly scheduled central committee meeting, which are at the Park Grove Library on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. Micah Johnson, an under-35 year old who has been looking to get more involved walked into room 110 of the library and blew Senate District Chair Jim Salverson, and treasurer Vicki Janz, out of the water with his knowledge of how to navigate the vote building mystery of a machine known as the VAN, in political circles. For each cycle since modern campaigns began, how to operate and work the VAN has vexed perennial candidate Salverson, whose candidacy this year against Republican incumbent Rich Vandemeir, has seen a boost.
“In past years we were on all-paper, we have kept a very diligent file, but we could never figure out how to get it into the VAN, that thing is so confusing. It makes you change your password every time you log in it seems”, explained Salverson, who after the meeting gave Micah four campaign cycles worth of direct voter contact data with an embarrassed look on his face. “It should take me about 2 hours this weekend”, explained Micah, “they really haven’t door-knocked that much and the election results being in line with the PPI (Partisan Performance Index) make sense.”
“We’re hoping that Micah’s involvement will bring more young people into being involved”, expounded Janz, who overseas a Senate District account of $6,319.17. “I mean when you think about it, they really are the future.”
Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast is down one Bill this week. Fortunately, Agreeingloudly.com contributor and returning guest, Carson Starkey joins Pat and Jered to brings his particular brand of pedantic satire to this week’s episode. They discuss whether millennials are to blame for the rise of Donald Trump, embrace the utter dominance of Game of Thrones in popular culture, discuss some important news from the sports world, and share their picks for 2016 third party presidential candidates.
Will Millennials deem this podcast too offensive? Can Dorne be saved? Does anyone care what professional athletes have to say about politics? Tune in to this week’s episode to find out!
You can also Direct Download the episode or find us on your preferred podcasting method:
On this week’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast your favorite podcasting trio answers today’s most pressing questions: Do millennials still like those Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits?
Also this week, Jered attempts to discuss virtual reality before realizing he’s plugged into the Matrix and the only way to escape is to hop aboard the Hype Train with his pals Sandor and Gregor. Pat attempts to restore order with some sports-related morality lessons on the dangers of performance enhancing drugs, before falling victim to Jered’s terrible prognostication. Fortunately, with a little help from Bill “Trump Tower” Nentl, political knowledge descends from the heavens to Make Agreeing Loudly Great Again.
Does anyone care about virtual reality? Will the new Wild Coach make Minnesota sports fans quack? Can a local man win an election on a pro nursing home fraud platform? Listen to this week’s episode to find out!
You can also Direct Download the episode or find us on your preferred podcasting method:
On a quiet park bench on Central Park West, merely hours after a 2018 GOP strategy conference on how to win back the White House got over, which Carson Starkey and Troy Olson, had just got done attending under the guise of being correspondents. The mood is somber. Not unlike this scene:
That was profoundly awkward, watching the Republican Party elites trying to win back white working class conservative and populist voters, after thoroughly sabotaging and trashing them during the 2016 “respectable conservative” plot to cheat.
We really missed the boat when we failed to cash-in on that verbiage via a book deal. “Exposed! The Respectable Conservative Plot to Cheat” by Carson Starkey, J.D.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Cotton (Gin) is going to relish his future role as Vice Presidential candidate. Julian Castro and Cory Booker are going to have tough sells on the Atlantic coast. Virginia and North Carolina might not remember that they voted for an unlikely candidate only a decade ago. Different times…
You speak of course of the upcoming ’24 and ’28 elections, they will not be pretty. It’s of course a foregone conclusion that 2020 will be both a blood path that was avoidable and a missed opportunity during a redistricting election. As the person who penned the “Case for Losing” back in early 2016, to the incredible enragement of many on the left, I take no pleasure in having been right. This was avoidable. It always has been. Nice things could be possible and would create nicer people.
I’ll be sad to see Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SNPA, and the EPA disappear. But such are the misfortunate that follow a $12 trillion tax cut. Sure, the Iran War will be awful, but privatizing the VA will only add insults to actual injuries. I hope that Treasury Secretary Willard Romney has a plan to deal with the resulting 15 percent unemployment. The human misery will be severe.
Right. This would all be easier to swallow on our end if so-called “enlightened establishment” did not consistently tell Millennials we are all still too young to be Congressional candidates.
Now, now…the leadership will pick the right people. They know how to build majorities that last two to four years. So we’ll just accomplish everything that we want during any window where we have the majority.
Then blame losses on the only relatively popular member of the party (former President Obama).
Because pragmatism…or something. I’m not really sure about the specific strategy, you’ll have to ask Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.
A strategy of protecting economic gains made fifty to sixty years ago is not exactly inspiring.
That’s just your unrealistic opinion in their eyes, they won’t return your phone calls because they’re fundraising with Jamie Dimon. So I suppose we can talk about what…. a minimum wage hike? Or is that already on the agenda? At the very least… let’s talk privatizing public schools. That has to be a popular idea with our voting base, at least that’s what they will presume.
This is too depressing. Let’s end by talking C-PAC and how profoundly awkward the atmosphere was in there. Did every working class Joe and Jane just conveniently forget about the fact that the GOP establishment called them a bunch of “slack jawed yokels” two years ago during the Trump fiasco?
Now to be fair… Jane and Joe have bigger problems than crushing poverty, stagnant wages, and drug (presumably meth) addiction. You’re not giving fair consideration to gay people getting married or the existence of the “hippity hop” music. Ask Ben Carson, he’ll tell you why both are causes for concern.
Sigh… By the way, we switched the metaphor to Joe because John died working the job because social security retirement is now 68 years old.
Well obviously. And thank God that his company replaced him with a teenager from Vietnam who’s working for 70 cents a day. The power of the free market.
But pay day loan company executives who enthusiastically supported Hillary in ’16 said people are living longer now… or something. Yeah, tell that to John’s kids.
At least you can get a slice of pizza for a dollar.
***Carson and Troy walk in to one of New York City’s fine pizza establishments***
God bless New York City.
What you just read may scare you, I know it scares me.
However, there is still something we can collectively do about it.
But how did all these national security black-belts and counterterrorism maestro’s with super-secret clearances get it so wrong? Let’s ignore the fact that these confidence men have managed to find a way to turn the art of being consistently wrong about every single international policy since the fall of the Soviet Union into lucrative careers as “serious” subject matter experts. Actually, let’s not.
What these “the world is a Tom Clancy novel” fail to understand is that the Kremlin approaches foreign policy from a self-aware position of weakness. As audacious and ambitious as Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria appear, they’ve been relatively measured. Russia isn’t trying to engage in nation-building, nor are they looking to engage in a five-trillion dollar war nor are they looking for new Nazis and the outbreak of World War III. What defines their effectiveness (so far) is not Bush/Reagan cowboy bellicosity, but a self-awareness masked by bombastic rhetoric.