Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, August 31, 2015

You Say McKinley, I Say Denali

William McKinley was an affable man.  Portly in the way of most late 19th century men-of-substance, genial with children, considerate of people in general.

He was also, in many ways, the first modern Republican president.

Having served credibly in the Civil War and hailing from Ohio, he was the last of the 19th century Republicans (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison) who hailed from that conflict and that state.  But he was also the first creature of Big Business put into office against a populist uprising - led by the Populists and eventually the Democrats under Bryan - that threatened their wealth by advocating for a managed, inflationary money supply.  "If Bryan wins on Tuesday, don't come to work on Wednesday." was a refrain heard from bosses to their workers in the election of '96.

He was also the first imperialist President, annexing huge swaths of land from the Philippines to Hawaii to Puerto Rico.

He was a "consequential" president.

He was also a pretty mediocre one.  While he was president, the bloody Philippine War was fought, complete with waterboarding.  He ushered in a half century of enmity between the US and Latin America.  His monetary policy was garbage.

So, enjoy the teeth gnashing from the usual suspects in the Ohio GOP, as their progenitor has his name stripped from the continent's tallest mountain.  For today, it really is the Party of McKinley, not the Party of Lincoln.

But don't worry.  If a Republican wins the White House, the mountain will be changed to Mount Reagan.  The way the baby Jesus intended.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Crazy Month

So, the Donald continues to ride high in the polls, defying gravity.  I personally thought he would come crashing down in October, so I'm temporarily not wrong.  My reasoning is that August has proved to be the month of crazy.  The month of anger.  It was the month the Tea Party swarmed town halls over the audacity of that Kenyan in the White House daring to help people buy health insurance.  It was the month of Ferguson, too.  And Katrina.

August is the month reason goes on holiday.

Still, there is certainly enough evidence that Trump is here to stay.  It remains to be seen how he will fare once the third tier candidates start to drop out.  Jeb! is looking like Rudy! before him, so the presumptive favorite looks very weak, with staff resignations and lackluster polling. Walker is a freaking imbecile and Ben Carson is simply a more reasonable Trump.  Both Carson and Trump represent the way the GOP electorate feels about their "political class."  Not surprisingly, a party who is ideologically committed to hating government turns out to hate politicians.

Trump feels almost like a sociology experiment.  The moneyed interests who run the GOP have been stoking the base for 30 years with talk of abortion and "special rights" for minorities and the dangers of having a government do anything.  This has gotten their voters to the polls, so that they can do what they really want to do: cut taxes on the wealthy.

But now, the great mass of GOP voters seems to have clued in to the fact that abortion is still legal and Obamacare isn't going away and the gays are still getting married and Mitch McConnell really isn't interested in shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt in order to shut down Planned Parenthood.

The result is that the two frontrunners are a real estate developer and a neurosurgeon.  Two men so temperamentally unsuited to be president it would be funny if it weren't frightening.  I don't know if there is a White Knight who can swoop in and save the GOP from its own voting base.

And I really don't care.

This is their monster.  They made it.  Let them dance with it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Eulogies

I remember driving back to Connecticut when Gerald Ford died and a stream of pundits lauding his decision to pardon Nixon, despite the cost.  I remember distinctly thinking: WTF?  I suppose all manner of sins are erased in death.

Jimmy Carter displayed incomprehensible grace when discussing his cancer diagnosis last week.  I suppose it helps that he's 90, but it was still a remarkable display of poise and dignity.  Soon, sadly, we will likely be eulogizing Carter.

Rick Pearlstein - the preeminent historian of modern conservatism and thus modern politics - has jumped the gun a little here.  You should read it.  And weep.

Carter was right about so much, he was so much ahead of his time in his thinking - about energy, about democracy as Pearlstein writes, about poverty.  Being ahead of his time mattered little when he came up against the looming tidal wave of movement conservatism that systematically destroyed perhaps Carter's best ideas. As William F. Buckley himself said, "A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so..."

And so conservatives from Carter's time until today have stood athwart the progress of humanity, yelling stop.

Carter's electoral sand energy reforms?  Stop!

Reagan's arm control agreements? Stop!

Bush's fiscal reforms?  Stop!

Clinton's health care reform?  Stop!

Dubya's immigration reform?  Stop!

Obama's health care and immigration reforms?  Stop!

In this context, how can Donald Trump - an id-fueled and ego-driven articulation of "STOP!" - be defeated?  Some have noted that he tops out at 30-35% of the GOP electorate.  But as he gains more and more steam, won't he draw more and more of those who just want things to stop?

Isn't he the perfect GOP candidate for 2016?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Annnnnd, I'm Back

Well, that was a whirlwind...  Seventeen days, four countries, eleven hotels, two transatlantic flights, five train trips and hopefully a life altering experience for the Things.

I have to say that the socialist hellscape of Europe was a lot less hellscape-y than it was alleged to be by the National Review.  What I saw in France and the Netherlands in particular was a much stronger sense of social contract and reciprocal obligations.  Tourists jumped the lines, but not the French.  Roadways were orderly - buses and trucks stayed to the far right, the middle lane was for travel and the left lane was exclusively for passing - and well maintained.

Public transportation was clean, on-time and efficient.  It functioned at least in part on an honor system (especially the Dutch tram system).  The populace was multi-lingual.

The one exception was Belgium.  The roads were worse, and the train system was not nearly as well run as the Dutch/Germany system.

It wouldn't surprise me if this was a function of Belgium's divided internal politics.  The Flemish and Walloons just don't get along.  That can lead to a less functional government.

Speaking of which, how is Donald Trump doing?

UPDATE:  And here's the chronicle of what we did:
http://bandofsquabblingbrothers.blogspot.com/

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Radio Silence

Heading away from the internet for a few weeks.

I've left Donald Trump in charge of my blog.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Frankenstein vs His Monster

So, no, I didn't watch the GOP debate last night, for the same reason I don't watch anything Honey Boo-Boo related: I am not the target demographic.

I've read the post-game write-ups and sifted through the sound bites, which is kind of the same as me watching the debates, because most of the people covering and commenting on the spectacle aren't the target audience either.

Carly Fiorina had a good night at the kid's table.  Bully for her.  Maybe she vaults into the top-10.  A female Mitt Romney with less natural political chops and charisma seems like a winning hand.

John Kasich impressed the sane people, which will benefit him as much as it benefited John Huntsman four years ago.  Kasich is a plausible nominee of the Republican Party.  Twenty years ago.  I mean, he defended Medicaid for helping mentally ill prisoners.

But the night was all about the Donald.  Fox, who had more or less created this monster, took it upon themselves to destroy him.  Megyn Kelly had one of her moments when she briefly wakes up from her Ailes-induced hypnosis and says heretical things, like "Maybe you shouldn't be such an asshole to women."

The question is, of course, whether this has any effect on actual Trump supporters.  Conservative pundits are trying to run the same game on Trump that they ran on Gore 15 years ago.  In Gore's debates with Bush, all the immediate post-debate commentary was that Gore had trounced Bush.  Then the post-post-debate commentary focused on Gore's eye-rolling and sighing and suddenly Bush had won.  And three years later we invaded Iraq.  Where was I going with this?

Oh, yes, most people immediately after the debate said that Trump had held his own pretty well under the onslaught.  He's a natural on TV and turning his accusers into agents of political correctness is pretty slick and has a natural appeal to his constituencies. But my guess is that the Powers That Be will start talking about how Trump lost, without really addressing the reasons why he was in first to begin with.  They will harp on substance or his past dalliances with Democratic politicians - despite the fact that his finest debate moment was when he revealed the incredible corruption at the heart of our politics.

The interesting question is whether Fox and Friends can kill their own monster.  Trump's essential appeal is to the Angry White Male of Foxworld.  He spouts racism, sexism and belligerence at every turn and when he's called on it, he gets more belligerent with a touch of butt-hurt.  His nonsensical answers, his lack of ANY policy chops and his reliance on "tough talk" over actual plans is a precise distillation of everything that Fox has been spilling into America's TV sets these last 20 years.  In Frankenstein, the Monster can't be controlled by his creator.  Will that be true for Trump?

As far as the rest of the field, Bush continues to show rust and a lack of charisma or charm.  The idea that he's the "Smart One" seems to be dying every day.  He probably thought he could lay back and let Fox destroy Trump, but Trump's supporters simply aren't going to go to Bush unless they have zero other options.  Walker was a complete non-entity and did something creepy with his tongue.  He's a dead-eyed moron with the charisma of uncooked macaroni.

Those were your establishment frontrunners.

The gathering consensus was the Rubio won the night.  He's a strong second choice for a lot of Republicans, and he likely vaulted into a number of people's number one slot.  Of course, he wasnt't challenged, his questions were softballs and before last night he was the presumed Veep pick of everyone who wasn't Jeb! Bush.  (You can't have a President and Vice President from the same state.)  Rubio has to show he can take a body-blow, and we can presume they are coming.  Certainly, if I were in the Hillary camp, I'd be digging into his many financial shenanigans.

So, if the GOP electorate acts the way pundits in DC expect it to act, we should see Trump fade and Rubio rise.

But if there's anything we've learned from the last few years it's that the GOP electorate is mad as hell and not exactly willing to take marching orders from the mandarins in DC.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Perpetual Outrage Culture

Vox has a piece that notices that Jon Stewart's most frequent guests were overwhelmingly white men.

In an even-handed analysis, they wonder if this is a reflection of racism and sexism on the Daily Show or America in general.  It seems pretty clear that it's a reflection of America in general.  Of the 20 most frequent guests, only two were female: Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sarah Vowell.  I'm not sure why Gyllenhaal was a frequent guest, but Vowell is a political humorist. Most of the frequent guests were politicians (Bob Dole, John McCain, Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee) or political commentators and journalists (Fareed Zakaria, Tom Browkaw, Bill O'Reilly, Reza Aslan, and Brian Williams).  And of course, you had actors doing pre-film publicity (Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Paul Rudd and Ben Affleck).

So, yeah, there are a lot of white guys doing politics and film and that shows up in TDS' guest list.

But the outrage culture we live in will no doubt see this as somehow Stewart's fault.  Even though Stewart was probably most responsible for making Malala Youseff a household name and Samantha Bee was - along with Stephen Colbert - the best TDS correspondent in its history.

One of the hallmarks of Outrage Culture - on the Left and the Right - is that it tends towards cannibalism.  Activists with an ax to grind tend to grind it on those nearest them.  And that makes a certain amount of sense.  #blacklivesmatter are going to get a more sympathetic hearing from Bernie Sanders and Marty O'Malley even if those two guys pooched their response at Netroots Nation.  Anti-immigration Tea Partiers know that Hillary Clinton isn't going to listen to them.

But it's still frustrating to see the sort of Circular Firing Squads that Outrage Culture creates.

And Donald Trump is the logical endpoint.  Right wing outrage culture really blossomed 6 years ago during Obamacare Summer in 2009.  The left wing equivalent is a few years behind, but catching up rapidly.  And Trump is the candidate of the Right Wing Spleen.  He is its inarticulate articulation.

I worry about the Balkinization of the Left because that is what led to the rise of Reagan.  When working class whites turned on poor blacks in the '70s, that was the end of the New Deal Coalition.  The collapse of the Reagan Coalition - theocratic conservatives, Wall Street and Southerners - is an ongoing phenomenon and Obama realizes that he has an opportunity to reframe the terms of America's political debate.

But not if his coalition begins to tear each other apart.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Countdown To Armageddon

Will Trump bite the head off a live chicken at the debate tomorrow night or will Ted Cruz beat him to it?

I will not be watching to find out.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hillary Vs. Biden

A lot is being whispered about Joe Biden jumping into the race.  While it's kind of late, it's not TOO late for a sitting Vice President.  He could probably get some machers in his corner quickly.  And he can legitimately say that his mind and heart were elsewhere recently.

What's interesting about the Biden groundswell is that - as Josh Marshall notes - it seems confined to the NYTimes.  And an objective look at the Times has to lead to a strong conclusion that they REALLY don't like Hillary.

The thing is, both Hillary and Biden would make fine presidents.  I love Bernie Sanders, but I don't think he'd be a very good president.  He's an excellent gadfly, but it requires a different temperament to be president.

But both Biden and Hillary are weaker candidates than they are potential presidents, and for polar opposite reasons.

Biden is a loose cannon, who will say or do something that has you shaking your head.  That actually works fine as Vice President, but would it work on the campaign trail?  Hillary is just the opposite.  She's too scripted, too self-controlled.

I just don't know if Biden has it in him to put himself through this.  Why would you?  The only plausible "Anti-Hillary" has to be younger and more charismatic than she is.  And neither Biden nor Sanders really rises to that test.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Israeli and American Right

When I saw that an orthodox (I'm assuming) Jew attacked a gay pride parade in Israel with a knife, wounding several, it occurred to me that the American and Israeli Right really are in synch with one another.

They rely on religious fundamentalists for their political support.  They embrace the idea that their country is only for certain kinds of people.  They are bellicose in their foreign policy and are basically distrustful of the rest of the world.

When I read someone comparing the Iranian regime to Hitler - which is done in both US and Israeli right wing circles - I realized they also share an historical illiteracy.

Iran today has about 30,000 Jewish citizens.  Their synagogues are protected by law and they are guaranteed a single seat in the Majles.  But, yeah, that's the same as the Final Solution.

So, it's no surprise that Netanyahu gets a warm reception from the GOP on the Hill.  He's basically an accident of birth away from being the 2016 GOP frontrunner.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2016: The Story

Jimmy Carter says we are no longer a democracy but an oligarchy.

Vox notes that this true.

Rick Perlstein says that the media won't cover it.  Probably because it's mostly a GOP phenomenon, because you have a handful of Sugar Daddies bankrolling these candidates beyond their ability to sustain electoral numbers.  Bernie Sanders can pack an auditorium and get small donors.  Rick Santorum just needs Foster Friess.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Sirius XM Channel 147

Road Trip Radio.

I highly recommend it. I just went to the store and heard Young MC "Bust a Move", Earth, Wind and Fire "September" and Cars "Candio."

Quality.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The New APUSH Same As The Old APUSH

So, the College Board made some tweaks in their framework.  They bowed a little before the Cult of Reagan, but most of the changes are minor.

The real issue with the new exam was the rubrics used to assess student work.  The previous rubrics were holistic and forced the reader to consider the entirety of the essay.  The new rubrics are checklists.  The new rubrics suck.

I've read the AP US exam for about 8 years now.

I'm done.  Not worth it.