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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 71

[ 54 ] February 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Edward Everett.

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Born in 1794 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Everett quickly rose into the ranks of the Boston elite. He was admitted to Harvard at the age of 13 and graduated as valedictorian at 17. He became a Unitarian minister and had his own church by 1813. He became known for his florid speeches, which some loved and some hated. He only lasted a year though before taking a job as a professor Greek literature at Harvard, a job which included a 2-year stint traveling around Europe. Unfortunately, professor jobs don’t come with such perks today. He spent a lot of that time in Germany, becoming one of the first Americans to want to transform American education on German lines, a trend that would continue until World War I made Germans the greatest enemies to civilization in known human history about three seconds after they were the heroes of men like Theodore Roosevelt. Anyway, Everett returned to the U.S. in 1819 and taught at Harvard. He also went on a lot of public speaking tours. He became close friends with Daniel Webster and they shared similar class and political interests.

In 1824, Everett moved into politics. He was elected to Congress as a National Republican associated with John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. Harvard fired him when they found out he was elected to Congress. He served in Congress until 1835, where he was involved in the formation of the Whig Party and worked on foreign affairs. He had the typical political beliefs of a man like this–supportive of the national bank and high tariffs, opposed to Indian removal. However, in 1826, he gave a three-hour speech that digressed into justifying slavery. Many would never forgive him.

Still, in 1835, he was elected to be governor of Massachusetts. There he founded the state board of education, worked on expanding railroads and other industry, and played an active role in settling the boundary dispute between Maine and New Brunswick. However, he lost reelection in 1838 due to a combination of the Liberty Party drawing third party votes away from the Whigs and throwing the election to the Democrats (gee, I wonder if third party advocates learned from this?) and new temperance bill angering the public. Everett was named Ambassador to Britain after William Henry Harrison won the presidency in 1840. He stayed in the job until Polk took the Oval Office in 1845.

Everett then briefly became president of Harvard, hated it, and jumped at the chance to take over as Secretary of State after Daniel Webster’s death in 1852. It was only the last months of the Fillmore administration, but it was still a feather in his cap. He then was elected to the Senate in 1853. When he missed a critical vote on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, antislavery forces in Massachusetts were disgusted and Everett resigned in 1854.

Everett spent the rest of his life traveling around the country, giving his long-winded speeches. He was named the vice-presidential candidate of Constitutional Union candidate John Bell in 1860, but he basically didn’t care and didn’t do anything to campaign. Remaining a conservative Whig, he was deeply involved in the attempt to create the Crittenden Compromise, which Lincoln completely rejected.

Of course, what Everett is really known for his going on like Texas in the ceremony to commemorate the Gettysburg battlefield. In a 2-hour speech, he made all sorts of comparisons to ancient history and called for reconciliation. Then Abraham Lincoln walked up and blew him off the stage in 2 minutes. Everett himself was not bitter about this, knowing the greatness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and he served as an elector for Lincoln in 1864. Everett died in 1865 after catching a cold giving yet another speech, not resting, and then testifying for 3 hours in a lawsuit about his property.

Everett has been portrayed in movies and TV more than you would think. He was played by Gordon Hart in a 1939 short called Lincoln in the White House. José Ferrer portrayed him in the 1991 TV movie about the Gettysburg Address titled The Perfect Tribute. David Francis played him in a 1999 TV movie about P.T. Barnum. In Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a 2012 work of transcendent art, he was played by David Alexander. And Ed Asner was the voice of Everett in a new documentary on the Gettysburg Address that appeared last year.

Edward Everett is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Music Notes

[ 39 ] February 18, 2017 |

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We need to talk about the amazing awesomeness of Drive-By Truckers live shows. I saw my 11th show in New York last weekend. It was supposed to be my 12th, but the Boston show the previous Thursday had to be rescheduled because of snow. For all their great albums (and some more just OK, but mostly they are great), the live show is really where to see them. They bring the Rock. Especially early in their career, they created signature guitar riffs for the best songs that are just awesome live. For a bunch of middle-aged guys, they bring tremendous energy. I’ve seen amazing shows and I’ve seen less amazing shows, but not only have I never seen a bad show, usually the less successful shows are for an external reason, either a bad venue (it’s remarkable how much this matters) or, in the case of the show I saw last spring in Providence, Patterson Hood’s voice was totally shot. And with Hood and Cooley switching songs the whole show, nothing ever becomes repetitive.

There two sorts of a shows for a constantly touring band like this. There are the shows where they are supporting a new album and shows a year after the last album when they are playing whatever they want. I prefer the latter because by then they’ve figured out what songs are better live and which can be dropped. But this was the former, supporting the excellent American Band album. One of the many great things about DBT is that you can follow them for a whole tour and still get at least 1 song they hadn’t performed before on the given tour by the end. They played 8 of the 10 new songs, leaving out “Baggage” and “Sun Don’t Shine,” which are my two least favorite songs on it. You know you are going to always get “Sink Hole,” “Zip City,” and “Hell No I Ain’t Happy.” You will probably get “Women Without Whiskey” and “Let There Be Rock.” And then there’s probably 50 back catalog songs they choose from in a given set. In this show, they were focused on the older albums. In fact, outside of the new album, they played no songs less than 10 years old. I was a bit concerned about this, but then looked at the set the night before, where they had played 6 or 7 songs from those albums. In this show, we got the first three great songs the band wrote: “Uncle Frank,” “The Company I Keep,” and “The Living Bubba,” about a musician Hood knew who was dying of AIDS but played until the end. All of these are treats. Also got “Gravity’s Gone,” “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” and “Where The Devil Don’t Stay,” all Cooley classics. And speaking of great riffs, Hood played the always awesome “Lookout Mountain.” So that’s always fun, not knowing what you are going to hear.

And of course the songs off the new album were great. “Ever South” is epic, “What It Means” sadly gets more timely every day. I imagine that “Ramon Casiano” and “Surrender Under Protest” are going to be long-term staples of Cooley. And then they closed, as they have on most shows of the tour, with a medley of “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” with “Sign O’ The Times.” And then “Rockin’ in the Free World.” I saw them do that in a show in Dallas in I think 2008. Then, it was a cool old song that rocks pretty hard. Today, it was tremendously insistent, a necessary message. That’s a horrible thing. But it’s a great performance. Then Hood started leading the crowd in a chant of “R-E-S-I-S-T” and that was it. Just a great show from an amazing band. Really, you should take the time to go see them next time they are around. After all, the Big Rock Show can’t go on forever.

Here’s a whole show you can watch with pretty good sound.

In other news:

The great jazz pianist Matthew Shipp claims he is not going to record any more albums. I do not approve. I very strongly recommend any of the albums he has recorded for Thirsty Ear, especially Equilibrium and Pastoral Composure.

Aretha Franklin says she is retiring. I kind of thought she mostly was already. But anyway, she deserves it.

Al Jarreau died. It’s funny; after listening to music constantly for the last 20 years how there can be major musicians about whom I basically know nothing.

Some album reviews:

Rachid Taha, Zoom

This French-Algerian singer has made a career of making connetions with western rock and rollers, most famously covering The Clash in Arabic. This 2013 album builds on those connections, with Mick Jones and Brian Eno both appearing. Personally, I could not care less about famous collaborators, especially on albums of non-westerners, except to the extent that they get people more listeners. Singing both in French, Arabic, and English, Taha deserves your ears, even as this did not move me to purchasing it. He’s not a great singer, but the music is pretty excellent and the songs politically solid. There is a certain cliche here of “musician from the developing world who can sing in western languages fusing world music broadly defined and liberal lyrics together to make white people feel cosmopolitan” thing going on here that gives me some hesitation, a la Manu Chao. If it wasn’t so blatant, I wouldn’t mention it, but there is a genre of sorts here that I inherently distrust.

B

William Tyler, Modern Country

William Tyler’s album of instrumental guitar rock made me very skeptical, despite the good reviews. So often I find rock instrumentals utterly pointless; often less skilled or instrumentally creative than jazz musicians, they can end up being snoozefests or exercises in bloated pompacity. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is Tyler a fine guitarist, but these are excellent and evocative compositions that bare some resemblance to the work of Bill Frisell. This is atmospheric music that avoids boredom. Tyler is a huge Grateful Dead fan and it shows in both the experimentation and Americana touches. The latter is intentional as Tyler attempts to place his work within the geographical landscape of the United States. This means a very particular type of sound, another similarity to Frisell, with a mix of blues, jazz, rock, and folk, often played at a medium but propelling tempo. As per normal, Americana is never in the cities but rather part of a long drive on two-lane roads across rural America. So at some level, Tyler doesn’t escape the cliches that do limit self-conscious Americana, but this is a really successful and interesting album.

A-

Glitterbust, Glitterbust

People forget that before Kim Gordon because arguably the greatest New Yorker of the late 20th century, she was a stoner Deadhead kid from California. Of course she’s always loved her noise music. So now that Sonic Youth is no more, she is fully engaging in whatever projects she wants. That includes creating an album with another stoner kid from California, Alex Knost, a pro surfer and guitarist. This 2016 album is a kind of surfer noise album with just occasional vocals from Gordon. Mostly it works pretty well. I like the compositions and love the guitar work. The only thing this really could use is more vocals. Gordon just kind of makes vocal noises from time to time. I like her voice enough that I really wanted more of it. Plus, the 5 songs are pretty long and more vocals would add to them. But if you wanted to take surfing and place it in guitar noise in ways that are not surf music, this would be a good way to do it. Interesting stuff.

B

Tacocat, Lost Time

This is a good feminist band out of Seattle. This 2016 release, their third, continues their heavily political themes, including songs about how techdudes have ruined Seattle, a topic always close to my heart, as well as mansplaining and internet trolls. The music is sort of pop-punk. The attitude is both funny and irritated. I don’t know that this is a great album or anything. Reviewers seem to like their first two albums a little better, fwiw. But it’s a solid album and worth your time. I think I am seeing this band on Monday, so I will have more.

B

While not musically related, this is also a good time to note my deep gratitude for readers who occasionally buy me things off my Amazon wishlist. A reader recently purchased for me some nice tea accessories and the collected stories of the mid-century writer John O’Hara, which are really blowing me away. So I do appreciate it.

As always, this is an open thread on music or anything else unrelated to politics.

The Pence Gambit

[ 93 ] February 18, 2017 |

By Henry Fuseli – The Yorck Project.

Some thoughts on Mike Pence; note from the start that this is far from a “Mike Pence and the GOP must save us from Donald Trump” kind of post…

There are currently 290 serving Republicans in the US Congress, and probably 270 would prefer President Pence to President Trump. This is not to overstate GOP opposition to Trump, or to suggest that Republican legislators will serve as a meaningful impediment to his agenda, or to imply that they won’t be happy to use the Trump presidency to accomplish their policy ends. It simply means that we are in the genuinely unusual position of having a majority Congress in which the strong majority of members would prefer the Vice President over the President.

Obviously, this makes impeachment more likely, which is different than saying it makes impeachment likely.

Of all the avenues by which we can imagine Trump getting impeached, I think that the Russia investigations hold the greatest danger. There may yet be some very interesting stuff; notwithstanding the new admiration for Putin in the rank and file, Russian electoral interference remains generally unpopular; Trump’s position on Russia is not widely held within the GOP legislative cohort.

Depending on your perspective, Mike Pence either took one for the team when he agreed to serve as Trump’s running mate, or made a high-odds gamble on success of the campaign. Thus, he’s essentially playing with house money. In the first weeks of the administration, Mike Pence has taken strong, visible steps to distance himself from the Russia Problem. He has repeatedly made speeches about Russia that hew much closer to the traditional GOP line on Moscow than to Trump’s accommodationist approach. He was apparently critical to the execution of Mike Flynn, and in the best possible way; he demonstrated that he had been cut out of the distribution circle and decision-making process regarding Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador.

Right now, Pence is a hefty insurance policy on a mobbed-up, fire-prone restaurant. The GOP appreciates the dangers associated with burning the restaurant down, and will avoid doing so unless pressed. But the insurance policy is very nice indeed, and if push comes to shove, nobody will have to shove all that hard to get a sufficient number of GOP legislators to think about impeachment. The content of the shove would involve collapsing Presidential approval ratings, poor performance in special elections, and anything particular explosive coming out of the various Russia investigations. Because of the role that Congress plays in the investigative process, the former two make the latter more likely.

Impeaching Trump is only possible if the GOP is in trouble, and by itself will not save the Republicans, although it may help. Presidential approval ratings went from 24 to 71 in a day when Gerald Ford replaced Richard Nixon.  Polarization, and the fact that Pence is more identified with Trump than Ford was with Nixon, will make such improvement impossible, but there would still likely be some increase. Such a move might do significant damage to the party, in so far as it would alienate Trump’s hardcore supporters (and unless he goes to prison*, Trump will presumably be vocal and angry about his dismissal).

The incentives for Pence at this point are clear.  He needs to stay as far away as he can from Trump on Russia.  This means continuing to hold to the traditional GOP line, but also making sure that the flow of information is under strict control.  I do not doubt that Pence’s staffers have already been instructed to be extremely careful about the kind of information on Russia that crosses the VP’s desk. If Pence can plausibly depict himself as out of the loop, it makes it very hard to implicate him in the scandal (see also George H.W. Bush and Iran-Contra).  Note that this also means that anyone in the administration fighting against the Trump-Bannon line on Russia will not be able to count on Pence as a reliable ally, as it’s likely that Pence will simply distance himself, rather than engage.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it’s good or bad if the GOP decides to impeach Trump in favor of Pence. At this point, I’m genuinely more frightened of the damage that Trump could cause than the damage I’m sure Pence would cause, and so I’d “welcome” the ascension of the latter. But a Pence administration is likely to restore a degree of popularity to the GOP (at least in the short term), and it’s almost certain that Pence will be more effective in formulating an agenda and in working with Congress than Trump.  Rock and a hard place, hell or high water, Trump or Pence…

*Do not ever take seriously a story that uses, as its main source, the tweets of John Schindler.

 

Revenge-Shopping with Trumpkins

[ 46 ] February 18, 2017 |

Your daily reminder that Trump supporters are the weirdest people on the planet.

Saturday Links

[ 20 ] February 18, 2017 |

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RN Roma


Some links for your Saturday afternoon…

In other news, the National Interest is publishing some updated and revised versions of entries from The Battleship Book.  Thus far…

Trump’s Appeal to the Working Class

[ 417 ] February 18, 2017 |

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I would hope that the horrors of Trump would have moved workers against this anti-worker fascist president who attempts to name utterly horrible humans as Secretary of Labor. But with the Democratic Party having no answer on industrial jobs, if anything, even more union members are finding him appealing.

Mr. Trump summoned the heads of the building and construction trade unions, most of which supported Mrs. Clinton, to discuss infrastructure spending three days after his inauguration. “It was a substantial meeting about good middle-class jobs,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, adding that Mr. Trump was the first president to invite him to the Oval Office.

Some of Mr. Trump’s other early moves, like his presidential memorandums giving the go-ahead to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and his announcement that he would quickly seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, were clearly conceived with a similar objective.

They appear to have had the desired effect. Dennis Williams, head of the United Auto Workers union, which endorsed Mrs. Clinton, has professed eagerness to meet with Mr. Trump to discuss how they might undo Nafta and protect American jobs.

“He’s the first president that has addressed this issue, and I’m going to give him kudos for that,” Mr. Williams said at a round-table discussion with reporters in Detroit on Thursday.

Other unions may also have reason to do business with the White House. Consider the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which also endorsed Mrs. Clinton. Some portion of the union, namely its freight railroad workers, is heavily dependent on coal, and union officials say members in that sector voted heavily for Mr. Trump because he refused to foreclose on its role in the national economy.

If you need work or you see a recent past where you had more economic security than you have now (which is probably not a myth), it’s pretty easy to see why you might not pay attention to any of the facts that Trump is your enemy and embrace the idea of building a border wall, of building infrastructure in projects corrupt and ineffectual, of wanting to see pipelines built.

There’s no way around it–this is a response to the utter failure of Democrats to have a real jobs program for working people. As I have said for a very long time, people want WORK. They want jobs. Americans wrap dignity up in work. The lack of work is embarrassing. This isn’t new. The Great Depression and 25 percent unemployment didn’t lead the U.S. working class toward revolutionary ideology. It led them to leave their families and live in shame. Democrats became the party of the working class because they promised and delivered on jobs and then on working class security through the FHA, the GI Bill, and other core legislation of the postwar period that turned the white working class into the middle class, while offering the black working class at least more than the Republicans did.

The Democrats however embraced capital mobility and the growth of financial capitalism with a gusto nearly that of Republicans. Beginning under Carter and then Clinton and Obama, they never had a good answer for the working class. Job retraining for lower-paying jobs, reeducation assistance, and telling people to move to Texas are not answers. Economic destabilization makes both racialized nationalism and lies about job creation increasingly appealing to the white working class. Until we have answers about how there are going to be good jobs for people in the places where they live, we are really going to struggle holding on to the union members still voting for Democrats, especially the white ones, many of whom live in states that Democrats narrowly lost in 2016.

Maher & Yiannopoulos – two garbage scows passing in the night

[ 113 ] February 18, 2017 |
Here comes the garbage barge, by Jonah Winter

Here comes the garbage barge, by Jonah Winter

Milo Yiannopoulos’ appearance on Real Time went the way one would expect.

Despite a brief flare-up of controversy that preceded it, a conversation between Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary right-wing author and lecturer, and Bill Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time,” on that program Friday night was a largely docile, chummy affair. There was little conflict or cross-examination, as both men chided the political left for avoiding or drowning out Mr. Yiannopoulos’s views rather than engaging with them.

People do engage Yiannopoulos. It’s just that being told to shut the fuck up and hop on the 9:15 shuttle to hell isn’t what he wants to hear. Neo-cons want to live in the world where The Enemy are pre-demonized people of color in exotic places like Baltimore, who can be described as rioters whenever they protest in groups larger than one, and cry-baby liberals who whine a bit but don’t really do anything. Thanks in large part to tRump’s win, neo-cons and their fellow travelers being ushered into a world where people are so pissed and frightened they’re kind of scary. Unfair! as their new leader would Tweet.

Bill Maher, hyper-privileged prick that he is, sees this as a moment to yawn Ycantcha take a joke, libs? for probably the 253 zillionth time in his over-long career.

Describing himself as “a virtuous troll,” Mr. Yiannopolous said, “I hurt people for a reason.”

And that reason is he’s a mendacious piece of shit. Maher, who various people keep insisting is a wit who Challenges the B.S. of Bothsides, can’t bestir himself to ask his guest to elaborate on his reasons for hurting people.

He said people “want to police humor” because “they can’t control it.”

“Because the one thing that authoritarians hate is the sound of laughter,” Mr. Yiannopolous said.

Mr. Maher added, “And also, because when people laugh, they know it’s true.”

Which would mean that when people don’t laugh, they know it’s not true. But perhaps I’m overthinking the unoriginal noises coming the Maher2000 ClicheBot.

Speaking to his audience, Mr. Maher said, “Stop taking the bait, liberals,” and asked how they could be afraid of someone he described as “little, British, impish” and a slur for gay people. The two men shook hands, and Mr. Maher moved on to his panel discussion.

I wonder how much HBO pays for Maher to wrestle with poorly constructed straw men?

But in an online-only segment that ran after the HBO broadcast, Mr. Yiannopoulos said that transgender people were “vastly disproportionately involved in sex crime,” drawing jeers, boos and a shout of “liar” from Mr. Maher’s audience.

I wouldn’t be surprised if transgender people are vastly disproportionately the victims of all sorts of violent crimes. But that’s due in part to scamps and imps and whippersnappers like Yiannopolous who spew transphobic sewage all over the place. And of course, because cruds who have been dismissive of transgender rights in the past are happy to give him a platform to do so.

Can the Freedom [sic] Caucus Save the Affordable Care Act?

[ 25 ] February 18, 2017 |

housespeakercrisis

I applaud their efforts to make the extremely bad the enemy of the utterly unspeakable:

Some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan.

The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP.

Some conservatives say they oppose the idea because it could amount to a new government subsidy by allowing people to receive a larger credit than they pay in taxes. They prefer a mechanism that would preclude people from getting any more money than they paid in taxes.

“I don’t like the refundable tax credit,” says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. “I don’t want people getting money back.”

“This is Obamacare light,” Yoho said, adding that he told Brady about his views.

Hopefully this resistance to Paul Ryan’s socialist tendencies will prevent the House from passing anything.  Extremism in defense of the liberty to die if you aren’t affluent enough to cover your medical expenses with what you pay in federal taxes is no vice!

 

Another Union Loss in the South

[ 58 ] February 18, 2017 |

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The International Association of Machinists had hopes to organize Boeing’s plant in South Carolina, which exists precisely because Boeing executives wanted to bust the unions in their Seattle plants. It did not end well.

Organizers with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers failed to persuade a majority of about 3,000 union-eligible Boeing workers in the state to vote for the union amid enormous pressure from management.

Boeing said 74 percent of the more than 2,800 workers voting rejected the union.

Many analysts say that Boeing decided to put its second Dreamliner aircraft assembly line in the state to reduce the leverage of the machinists’ union, which represents Boeing’s work force in the Puget Sound region of Washington State and has used work stoppages to exact concessions from the company in the past. South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country.

Hoyt N. Wheeler, an emeritus professor of business at the University of South Carolina who taught labor relations and employment law, said in an interview before the vote that a victory would be “highly significant” because “one of Boeing’s motivations for coming to South Carolina was to escape the union.”

The election took on added significance because of the emphasis President Trump has placed on domestic manufacturing, and on Boeing in particular. The president has called out the company over the cost of the new Air Force One program it is developing, and he recently sought to pit Boeing against Lockheed Martin to hold down the cost of the F-35 fighter jet.

74 percent. Holy moly. That’s not even close. I’m surprised the IAM even went to a vote with that low level of support. There is some speculation that it’s because they fear Trump NLRB appointees. And they had already canceled one vote. So I guess they had to go through with it.

Organizers who work in the South hate to hear this, but the reality is that the South is basically impossible to organize on a large scale. It has always been thus. The failures of the textile strike of 1934, Operation Dixie in 1946, the UAW campaigns of the 1990s, the Volkswagen vote in 2014. Again and again, large-scale organizing has failed in the South. This has been one of the core defining issues of the American labor movement. Southern white workers resist unions. Employers started moving down there quite explicitly because of not only the lack of a union tradition, but traditions of white solidarity that would divide workforces and long traditions of paternalism. From the moment unions started to organize in the South, they were portrayed as scary outsiders, first often as Jews and communists, then as black institutions that would destroy the South.

There simply is no good answer for this. Until the American labor movement can organize the South, it can’t become a force again. But given that it has never been able to organize the South, there’s not any real hope that they will succeed. It’s a heck of a problem. And the problem is most accurately portrayed, as it has always been, that the white working class chooses racial solidarity over class solidarity over and over again.

12) Obama

[ 233 ] February 18, 2017 |

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CSPAN’s latest survey of presidential rankings is out. Obama comes in at #12, one spot above James Monroe. Given that I can’t think of anything particularly notable Monroe did except the Monroe Doctrine which was really all John Quincy Adams, I find this slightly confusing. The top of the list:

1) Lincoln
2) Washington
3) FDR
4) TR
5) Eisenhower (really?)
6) Truman
7) Jefferson (talk about the rest of one’s career being used as the criteria instead of his actual presidency. The Embargo alone should drop him 15 places)
8) Kennedy
9) Reagan (kill me)
10) LBJ
11) Wilson
12) Obama

Bottom 5 from worst to least worst are Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Pierce, Harding, and Tyler. I think it’s safe to say that future rankings will have a new name in this bottom 5.

And Grant at 22 is just about right. It’s amazing how much the left overcorrected from the ridiculous Dunningite “Grant is a horrible tyrant” to “Grant is one of our greatest presidents based upon my selection of facts that ignore all the other facts.” 22 is perfect for a deeply flawed man and weak president who actually did something about southern destruction of black rights during his first term, although far, far, far less in the second after he basically allowed white terrorists to kill dozens of African-Americans and offered an extremely tepid response.

Anyway, this should keep you arguing for the day.

The RNC’s Mean-to-me Media Accountability $urvey

[ 25 ] February 18, 2017 |

The RNC/tRump Mainstream Media Accountability Survey is a fine example of pollpaganda: A survey full of propaganda, the results of which can then be used to reinforce the party line.

Here is a sample of the 25 questions. A few read like someone’s best attempt to interpret the noises falling out of Herr Trumpengruber’s face.

Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?

Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on President Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?

Do you believe that if Republicans were obstructing Obama like Democrats are doing to President Trump, the mainstream media would attack Republicans?

Do you believe that contrary to what the media says, raising taxes does not create jobs?

Do you believe that the media purposely tries to divide Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats?

Do you agree with President Trump’s media strategy to cut through the media’s noise and deliver our message straight to the people?

Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?

The Washington Post ran a piece with suggested answers, but it’s suitable for children.

Spoiler alert I: Holding the mainstream media accountable will involve eliminating Obamacare, Medicare and Social Security and leaving Paul Ryan alone with the corpses of the victims of his policies Because Reasons.

Not a spoiler alert because this is the RNC: People who complete the survey (or just fill in their name, email address and ZIP code) are then asked to GIVE.

Not a spoiler alert II: Mean liberals ruining things will require more donations.

I hope Republican voters wanted four years of an impatient little hand thrust under their noses because that’s what they’re going to get. If Twitler views campaign donations as his money – and I can think of no reason to assume he does not – I expect some amusing tantrums when he feels the suckers are holding out on him.

The National Security Council as Canary in the White House

[ 56 ] February 18, 2017 |

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If you’re on Twitter, you should be following Colin Kahl’s feed. Not only was Colin the Deputy National Security Advisor under Obama—and therefore knows stuff—but he was also involved in the transition process, which gives him insights into the workings of this rather opaque and unusual White House.

This morning—as I learned from Cheryl Rofer— he tweeted about Russia, the National Security Council (NSC), and Bannon’s “Strategic Initiatives Group.

As Colin points out, none of this is likely. None of it makes much sense. Russia can’t do much to help counterbalance China. Putin’s unlikely to make concessions of the kind that would make any of this remotely worthwhile. What he doesn’t mention is that it is far from obvious whether Moscow can credibly commit to uphold any grand bargain. It would take enormous skill and planning to proceed in a way that doesn’t set the United States up for massive failure.

Yet here we are, with Trump defaulting back to his campaign rhetoric on Russia and standing by while Putin probes American resolve by buzzing our naval vessels and making a push in Ukraine. .

Colin goes on to lay out two possible reasons for the Trump Administration’s continued folly.

On the one hand, the preferences of the American ethno-nationalist right—particularly its opposition to the European Union and liberal order—align with Russia’s. We might call this the “elective affinity” story. It’s been my default understanding of why elements within the Trump Administration seem determined to undermine US power and influence.

On the other hand, this all amounts to  a “quid pro quo” for Russian assistance in the election. Such a scenario also raises questions of kompromat and other, more complicated, explanations. Regardless of how far down the rabbit hole one prefers to go, it seems increasingly likely that we’re looking at, if nothing else, tacit collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

Of course, neither is exclusive. Some kind of elective affinity—or, at least, shared interests—helps makes sense of why Moscow sought to influence the election in the first place.

Setting aside the “why” for a moment, the possibility of a parallel decision-making structure—let alone one headed by Bannon—making policy should worry everyone. It creates serious concerns about accountability. And it suggests that other national-security principals on the NSC—such as Secretary of Defense Mattis—may prove unable to counterbalance Bannon, Miller, and other ideologues.

Indeed, the evidence suggests that—at least for now—there’s little hope that any “adults” are going to come in and really limit the damage. I still have difficult wrapping my head around the extent of the calamity we now face. The last time someone used American foreign policy as a demonstration of dubious ideological beliefs, the United States invaded Iraq. Hundreds of thousands died. The fallout continues to rock the Middle East. Yet, somehow, the infrastructure of American security survived. Now we have a cabal of white nationalist bloggers intent on correcting that state of affairs.

There is, of course, another possible outcome. Faced with mounting political pressure at home, the Trump Administration swings to a hardline stance on Moscow. Even if it doesn’t overcompensate in dangerous ways—which I think not unlikely—I can imagine of all kinds of reasons why such radically inconsistent signals would prove destabilizing.

McCain can give all the speeches he wants to. The President enjoys enormous discretion on foreign policy and national security, and it requires a very committed legislative branch to put a dent in that discretion. So here we are.

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