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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 31

[ 43 ] May 15, 2016 |

This is the grave of Ambrose Burnside


Ambrose Burnside, Rhode Island’s gift to the Civil War and to the history of facial hair, was born in Indiana, the son of a South Carolina planter who freed his slaves and moved north. He went to West Point and graduated in 1847 and was sent to Mexico but arrived there after the cessation of hostilities in the American war of conquest of expand slavery. In 1852, he was assigned to Newport, Rhode Island. There he married and made the state his home for most of the rest of his life. He left the Army in 1853 and started his own firearm company. He became close friends with George McClellan in the 1850s when he briefly worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, where his future commander also worked. He ran for the House from Rhode Island as a Democrat in 1858 but was crushed.

When the Civil War began, Burnside raised the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry and was named a colonel. In August 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general. He had some success as a commander in eastern North Carolina. He was then moved to Virginia where he participated in the disastrous Peninsular Campaign. When George McClellan was canned after that disaster, Burnside was offered the command of the Army of the Potomac. Loyal to McClellan, he refused. After John Pope received command of the Army of Virginia and then failed miserably at the Second Battle of Manassas, Burnside once again received a command offer. Once again, he refused. At Antietam, Burnside moved so slowly, even McClellan lost patience with him. After that battle, McClellan was finally relieved for the last time and this time Burnside reluctantly accepted the offer of commander, only accepting it because he hated Joe Hooker and didn’t want to fight for him.

This was an unfortunate choice, although it’s not like Lincoln had good options in 1862. Lincoln ordered Burnside to be aggressive and move on Richmond. This led to the Battle of Fredericksburg. This was not a good day for the Union.

The Butcher of Fredericksburg offered to resign. That offer was refused. He was relieved of his command in January 1863 and replaced by Hooker. He was exiled to the Department of the Ohio, a backwater without any action. But Burnside took it upon himself to crack down on those he thought treasonous. He famously arrested the anti-war Ohio Democrat Clement Vallandigham for treason in 1863, forcing Lincoln to figure out what to do with war opponents the military arrested. Lincoln was not happy about Burnside creating a martyr for antiwar Democrats.

Burnside was brought back to Virginia under Grant’s command in 1864. There he had an idea. Let’s dig a trench under Cnfederate lines during the siege at Petersburg, blow the soldiers up, and then attack. The resultant disaster wasn’t entirely his fault because George Meade gave a last minute order not to use the black troops trained for this action (trained in fact because their lives were considered worth less than whites). Burnside then chose a regiment by chance to attack after the blast. Unfortunately, they marched straight into the crater. The Battle of the Crater was a massacre. At this point, Grant put Burnside on extended leave and his participation in the war ended.

Burnside became a very conservative Republican after the war, serving as a three-time governor of Rhode Island and then as senator until he died in 1881. Much to my amusement, during Occupy, which in Providence took place in Burnside Park, the activists draped the Burnside statue in an anarchist flag, but must have made him roll over in his grave.

Ambrose Burnside was a truly terrible general. But he is the only general to lend his name to a style of facial hair. Pretty much worth Fredericksburg and the Crater.

Ambrose Burnside is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.


Music Notes

[ 13 ] May 14, 2016 |



A very busy week so I didn’t read a lot of good music pieces. However, last Friday, I saw Waxahatchee at the Columbus Theater in Providence. It was just Katie Crutchfield and the bass player so it’s a bit less of a band effect as this video, but those are some great songs and I was very happy to be there.

Still managed to squeeze in some new albums this week. Reviews:

Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete

The way I feel about electronic music is I think something like a lot of people feel about jazz. I recognize the talent and the noise that moves in interesting ways but I just can’t really get into it. Probably the closest band to something I like that I know of is Oneohtrix Point Never, which is the performance name of Daniel Lopatin. He’s an interesting guy, even writing essays on Kenny G that are well worth reading. Lopatin’s compositions densely swirl around in some genuinely interesting ways. I’d almost listen to this a bunch of times. But I probably won’t. It’s my fault, I admit it.


Algiers, Algiers

Now this is interesting. Algiers is an indie rock/punk band with an African-American singer who has a powerful voice that channel slave chants and gospel into some pretty heavy music and heavy lyrics that force the listener to confront the racist past of America. It’s noisy and about slavery. What’s not to like? This is definitely deserving of additional listens.


Bill Fay, Who is the Sender?

Bill Fay had a couple of good albums in the 70s and then disappeared. I used to have one of those albums before it was lost in the Great House Robbery of 2014. He was one of those many weird folkies from the 60s and early 70s making some pretty decent music, in his case rather religiously oriented. In 2012, he put out an EP and in 2015, a full album, Who is the Sender? His voice isn’t what it was in the 70s but this is a very solid album of good quality folk music. He’s still singing religious songs, which might annoy if they weren’t really interesting. Bigger production than you’d expect, but it mostly works well.


Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Price is a Nashville lifer who finally got an album made after a decade trying. Interesting, it’s the first country album put out on Jack White’s label. She has an interesting back story, including a dead baby and the depression and self-medication that led to a DWI and a weekend in jail. She doesn’t shy away from any of this in her songs. The album itself has a great lead about herself and some other quite good songs about various parts of her life. It’s not a great album as a whole, as there are a few average tracks and she doesn’t really veer away from a pretty basic Nashville sound. But I’m glad she’s received a lot of buzz (even played Saturday Night Live!) and the financial success she deserves. A quality talent and I look forward to her next album.


Eszter Balint, Airless Midnight

Louis C.K. fans know Balint as his love interest in the last season of his show or they know her from her role in Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise. She’s worked a lot of television and film and made a few albums as well. This is her first in a decade. Working with Marc Ribot among others, Balint surrounds herself with interesting musicians that make a more compelling palette of sounds than the usual singer-songwriter material. As for the songs themselves, they are eminently listenable, but not something that changed my life.


As always, let this serve as your open thread about all things musical.

Curating Memes, With Mr. Curt Schilling

[ 52 ] May 14, 2016 |

This is the kind of multi-layered wit that your Facebook friends might be too POLITICALLY CORRECT to let you see:


You’re welcome, America! Unfortunately, the quislings at Fox don’t want America to be exposed to the truth either:

When he isn’t sharing shitty Facebook memes and complaining about people scolding him for sharing shitty Facebook memes, former ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling is looking for a job. Fox Sports, the most obvious destination, doesn’t want him.

Last Friday, I asked Fox Sports if they were talking to Schilling about joining in some capacity, since a company currently stocking its kennel of hot-takers with diseased, three-legged dogs like Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, and Skip Bayless seemed like a good fit. A spokesperson said that Schilling had reached out, but that the network declined:

Could Obama Unilaterally End the Interest Tax Loophole?

[ 27 ] May 14, 2016 |


This is certainly an interesting assertion:

In one deft move, Mr. Obama could instruct officials at his Treasury Department to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole that allows managers of private equity and hedge funds to pay a substantially lower federal tax rate on much of their income.

Forcing these managers to pay ordinary income taxes on the gains they reap in their funds would accomplish two things. It would take away an enormous benefit enjoyed almost exclusively by some of the country’s wealthiest people. And, tax experts say, it would generate billions in revenue to the government each year, though there are wide differences over exactly how much.

But doesn’t changing the carried interest loophole require an act of Congress? Not according to an array of tax experts. Just as Mr. Obama’s Treasury Department recently changed the rules to curb corporate inversions, in which companies shift their official headquarters to another country to lower their tax bills, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, and his colleagues could jettison the carried interest loophole.

Alan J. Wilensky is among those urging such a change. He was a deputy assistant Treasury secretary in charge of tax policy in the early 1990s when the carried interest loophole came about.

“This is something President Obama can do and should do,” Mr. Wilensky said in an interview. “This is not an impossible thing to get done.”

Now a lawyer in Minneapolis, Mr. Wilensky recently wrote an article on this topic for Tax Notes, the definitive publication on national and global tax issues.

Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego, is another who has recommended that the Treasury get rid of the unjust tax treatment on carried interest. Mr. Fleischer, a contributor to The New York Times, has also estimated how much money such a change would bring to the Treasury.

“It’s something that Obama could accomplish and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why the Treasury hasn’t taken an interest in it,” Mr. Fleischer said in an interview. “In fact, there is quite a bit of revenue at stake. And doing this on carried interest would cement Obama’s legacy in substance as well as symbolically.”

I wonder if Obama hasn’t done this because he so holds the idea of a Grand Bargain near and dear to his heart and this would be a chip he could use in that deal. That’s sheer speculation of course. In any case, eliminating this would be a major boost to Obama’s legacy and he should do it yesterday.

America’s Climate Refugees

[ 8 ] May 14, 2016 |


The United States now officially has climate change refugees that the government is paying to move.

One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.

“We’re going to lose all our heritage, all our culture,” lamented Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, the tribe to which most Isle de Jean Charles residents belong. “It’s all going to be history.”

Around the globe, governments are confronting the reality that as human-caused climate change warms the planet, rising sea levels, stronger storms, increased flooding, harsher droughts and dwindling freshwater supplies could drive the world’s most vulnerable people from their homes. Between 50 million and 200 million people — mainly subsistence farmers and fishermen — could be displaced by 2050 because of climate change, according to estimates by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security and the International Organization for Migration.

“The changes are underway and they are very rapid,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell warned last week in Ottawa. “We will have climate refugees.”

But the problem is complex, said Walter Kaelin, the head of the Nansen Initiative, a research organization working with the United Nations to address extreme-weather displacement.

“You don’t want to wait until people have lost their homes, until they flee and become refugees,” he said. “The idea is to plan ahead and provide people with some measure of choice.”

The Isle de Jean Charles resettlement plan is one of the first programs of its kind in the world, a test of how to respond to climate change in the most dramatic circumstances without tearing communities apart. Under the terms of the federal grant, the island’s residents are to be resettled to drier land and a community that as of now does not exist. All funds have to be spent by 2022.

The Louisiana story, which like most things climate change, is an example of how climate change combines with other factors to exacerbate contemporary problems. In this case, climate change combines with the channeling of the Mississippi River so that sediment flows into the Gulf and a century of petroleum companies running channels through the swamps that allow seawater to eat away at the low-lying land to finish off much of southern Louisiana. Given the unique history and culture of the area, not to mention it’s amazingly diverse wildlife, this is a real tragedy. That it is happening to Native Americans and Cajuns shows how climate change, like other natural disasters, will often disproportionately affect the poor. The next group of people likely to be directly affected to the point of relocation are also Native Americans, this time in Alaska. This is hardly a coincidence.

And When He Sees His Reflection, He’s Fulfilled

[ 63 ] May 14, 2016 |


St. Ralph offers some typically shrewd analysis of electoral politics:

“She’s going to win by dictatorship. Twenty-five percent of superdelegates are cronies, mostly. They weren’t elected. They were there in order to stop somebody like Bernie Sanders, who would win by the vote,” he says.

I see — Clinton is winning by “dictatorship” because the unelected superdelegates are going to support…the winner of the most votes and the most pledged delegates of Democratic primary voters.

To date, Clinton has captured 3 million more total votes than Sanders, but Nader argues the results would be different if independents were allowed to participate in each state.

Would more open primaries have helped Sanders? Sure. Would they have made up the difference between him and Clinton? Almost certainly not. Are open primaries self-evidently less democratic than closed ones (unlike New York’s) offer a reasonable deadline to switch primaries? No. Does Nader mention the much more obviously undemocratic method of choosing a candidate — caucuses that make it difficult or impossible for the disabled, workers with night shifts, single parents, etc. etc. to vote — that favored Sanders over Clinton? Nope. Is there any discernible principle here other than Nader’s belief that his preferred candidate should win? Of course not.

Needless to say, Nader is Trump-curious:

The liberal activist says Trump has brought some important issues to the fore.

“He’s questioned the trade agreements. He’s done some challenging of Wall Street – I don’t know how authentic that is. He said he’s against the carried interest racket, for hedge funds. He’s funded himself and therefore attacked special interest money, which is very important,” Nader says.

If you think that Trump wants to increase taxes or regulation on Wall Street, you’ve massively uninformed, a liar, or both. Ditto for anyone who thinks that wealthy funders won’t be supporting Trump. But then, we are dealing someone who combines a relentless, and generally unjustified, leftier-than-all-of-thou affect with a belief that wise billionaires must come to save us all.

And, finally, we get a classic expression of the voter-as-atomistic-consumer model:

A Connecticut resident, Nader would not budge on revealing his November ballot choice, but says Sanders and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein best represent the movement he’s trying to advance.

“Once you endorse somebody by saying you’re going to vote, you’re stuck with all the other things that that person may not be good at,” he says.

If you make the determination that Lyndon Johnson was a better choice to be president than Barry Goldwater, you’re personally responsible for the Vietnam War, so it totally would have been better for Johnson voters to cast write-in votes for themselves and throw the election to Goldwater. This is silly coming from anybody — coming from someone who denies any responsibility for the consequences for his active and successful attempts to throw a presidential election to George W. Bush…what can you even say.

Ralph Nader’s vote is too precious to give away to someone who doesn’t make him feel really special

[ 9 ] May 14, 2016 |


Also both sides do it and not a dime’s worth of difference.

Ralph Nader, the former Green Party presidential candidate and lifelong consumer activist, says Donald Trump’s dizzying presidential candidacy hasn’t been all bad, while Hillary Clinton is winning the Democratic nomination by “dictatorship.”

And though he has heaps of praise for Bernie Sanders, Nader still won’t say whom he voted for in the 2016 primary or which candidate he plans to cast a ballot for come November. He’d actually prefer there was an option for “none of the above.” . . .

[I]n an interview with U.S. News, Nader expressed more positive thoughts about Trump’s candidacy than Clinton’s.

The liberal activist says Trump has brought some important issues to the fore.

“He’s questioned the trade agreements. He’s done some challenging of Wall Street – I don’t know how authentic that is. He said he’s against the carried interest racket, for hedge funds. He’s funded himself and therefore attacked special interest money, which is very important,” Nader says. “But he’s lowered the level of political debate to unheard-of depths of salacious, slanderous and vacuousness, garnished with massive self-boosterism and repetition.”

“And that’s not good, because that brought a lot of money into the media and that’s the kind of debates they’re going to want to goad.”

When asked what positive contributions Clinton has made to the 2016 campaign, Nader called her a “corporatist, militarist Democrat” who would have been defeated by Sanders if every state held an open primary.

“She’s going to win by dictatorship. Twenty-five percent of superdelegates are cronies, mostly. They weren’t elected. They were there in order to stop somebody like Bernie Sanders, who would win by the vote,” he says.

To date, Clinton has captured 3 million more total votes than Sanders, but Nader argues the results would be different if independents were allowed to participate in each state.

. . . Scott does the light lifting of picking apart Nader’s nonsense.

How to Get Drafted as a Quarterback in the NFL

[ 19 ] May 14, 2016 |


Step 1: Be born wealthy:

• 13 of the 15 quarterbacks grew up in homes that were valued near or above the median home value in their respective state, according to public records and online real estate figures. Seven families lived in homes that were more than double the median values: Goff, Hackenberg, Carson Wentz, Connor Cook, Jeff Driskel, Kevin Hogan and Jake Rudock.

• 13 of the 15 quarterbacks in the 2016 draft spent their early childhoods in two-parent homes. (Of note, a majority of the 30 parents hold four-year college degrees.)

Many have debated the value of so-called quarterback gurus for more than two decades, ever since people such as Theder got involved and created a cottage industry. Many college and pro coaches privately lament that quarterbacks are showing up to preseason camps heaving learned bad habits. Other coaches sing the praises of private coaches who can work with athletes during periods when NCAA and NFL rules bar teams from having contact.

It’s become standard for draft eligible quarterbacks to sign with agents who will pay for the athlete to work out with a coach of his choosing before the draft. And the fee will typically range anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the prominence of the athlete. In some cases, the bigger the name, the less he pays. Often enough, though, the quarterback coach has had a relationship with the pupil long before the draft process.

One of the major benefits to youth quarterbacks is the progressive effect of empowerment, according to Dr. Elko, the sports psychologist. “All coaches are not created equal,” Dr. Elko says, “but the really good coach will show you how you’re better and convince you you’re better. That’s especially important for quarterbacks, because we know the best quarterbacks have a confidence that’s not really related to anything tangible. They just believe.”

The whole article profiling the current crop of NFL QB draftees is really interesting, but the strong correlation between wealthy parents, stable home lives, and being drafted as a QB compared to the rest of the NFL is really striking.

SEX! Now that I’ve gotten your attention, let’s talk about The Federalist. AND SEX!

[ 25 ] May 14, 2016 |


If this prospect terrifies you, this proves you are human. Congratulations. I won’t spoil the surprise for you by riffing too much, but I will say I cannot understand what the purpose this little plug for hawt marital sexting was. I mean, presumably if you’re in a hawt, sexy Christian marriage filled with loads of hot sexy Christian sex, the idea of sexting has probably occurred to you. So this column ends up sounding more like wish-fulfillment fiction than anything that might actually be useful. And while it is about sex, it also manages to be the about the most genital-shriveling bit of derprotica I’ve ever read. It must be seen to be believed.

The comments are gold. And I’m not just saying that because the two top-rated ones are mine, but I’m mostly saying it because of that. (No, seriously, the alicublog commentariat is delightful, as always.)


[ 8 ] May 14, 2016 |
Gavin Hamilton - Coriolanus Act V, Scene III edit2.jpg

 Coriolanus Act V, Scene III edit2″ by Gavin Hamilton – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Latest at the National Interest goes literary:

The past decade has witnessed an explosion of articles, panels and podcasts on the relationship between popular cultural artifacts and national security. FromBattlestar Galactica to Harry Potter, and from Star Wars to Game of Thrones, fiction has generated a vocabulary for teaching, engagement and even a form of strategic analysis.

Williams Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. As we pass the four hundredth anniversary of the passing of the Bard, it is perhaps worthy of our time to grant him the same courtesy that we give to George R. R. Martin.


American psycho

[ 40 ] May 14, 2016 |


The voice is instantly familiar; the tone, confident, even cocky; the cadence, distinctly Trumpian. The man on the phone vigorously defending Donald Trump says he’s a media spokesman named John Miller, but then he says, “I’m sort of new here,” and “I’m somebody that he knows and I think somebody that he trusts and likes” and even “I’m going to do this a little, part time, and then, yeah, go on with my life.”

A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with “John Miller” or “John Barron” — public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself — who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and several of Trump’s top aides.

In 1991, Sue Carswell, a reporter at People magazine, called Trump’s office seeking an interview with the developer. She had just been assigned to cover the soap opera surrounding the end of Trump’s 12-year marriage to Ivana, his budding relationship with the model Marla Maples and his rumored affairs with any number of celebrities who regularly appeared on the gossip pages of the New York newspapers.

Within five minutes, Carswell got a return call from Trump’s publicist, a man named John Miller, who immediately jumped into a startlingly frank and detailed explanation of why Trump dumped Maples for the Italian model Carla Bruni. “He really didn’t want to make a commitment,” Miller said. “He’s coming out of a marriage, and he’s starting to do tremendously well financially.”

Miller turned out to be a remarkably forthcoming source — a spokesman with rare insight into the private thoughts and feelings of his client. “Have you met him?” Miller asked the reporter. “He’s a good guy, and he’s not going to hurt anybody. . . . He treated his wife well and . . . he will treat Marla well.”

Some reporters found the calls from Miller or Barron disturbing or even creepy; others thought they were just examples of Trump being playful. Today, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president faces questions about his attitudes toward women, what stands out to some who received those calls is Trump’s characterization of women whom he portrayed as drawn to him sexually.

“Actresses,” Miller said in the call to Carswell, “just call to see if they can go out with him and things.” Madonna “wanted to go out with him.” And Trump’s alter ego boasted that in addition to living with Maples, Trump had “three other girlfriends.”

Miller was consistent about referring to Trump as “he,” but at one point, when asked how important Bruni was in Trump’s busy love life, the spokesman said, “I think it’s somebody that — you know, she’s beautiful. I saw her once, quickly, and beautiful . . . ” and then he quickly pivoted back into talking about Trump — then a 44-year-old father of three — in the third person.

Trump is a narcissistic weirdo, so there’s almost certainly a lot more stuff like this out there.

Is Donald Trump Running to the Left of Hillary Clinton?

[ 45 ] May 14, 2016 |


SPOILER: uh, no, and anybody who makes this claim is massively incompetent.

I mean, it’s one thing for the HA! Goodmans of the world to cherry-pick one or two issues (trade being the most obvious) where Trump’s incoherent rants have elements that are to the left of Clinton’s and use this to conclude that Clinton is no different or worse than Trump, but when this kind of abject nonsense appears in the Washington Post it’s another matter. It’s going to be remarkable how quickly the media tries to pretend that Trump is just a normal candidate and tries to aggressively blur the massive policy differences between them (to the extent to which Trump can be said to have policy positions at all.)

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