Open Thread for Thursday, April 6, 2017


Here’s what we’ve got going:

  1. Trump weighing military options following chemical weapons attack in Syria (WashPost) — Here we go, y’all. Hang onto your seats.
  2. Senate Republicans use ‘nuclear option’ to break filibuster on Gorsuch (WashPost) — Yeah… You know what? In light of Syria and the pictures of children killed by WMD, maybe we’d better dial back the hyperbolic language used to describe bloodless parliamentary maneuvers, OK? Here’s my question: Since they knew this would happen, what do Democrats think they achieved by voting as a bloc against a qualified nominee?
  3. Nunes to Step Aside From House Russia Investigation (NYT) — With this coming on the heels of Gen. McMaster getting Steve Bannon off the National Security Council, it seems we’ve got a tiny streak of good news going on the national security front — except, of course, for that going-to-war-in-Syria thing.
  4. S.C. House backs plan for carrying firearms without permits  (The State) — I know; this is old. But we didn’t deal with it yesterday when it happened. In any case, the need for this measure continues to elude me.
  5. Should America Have Entered World War I? (NYT) — Most provocative assertion in this piece: If we hadn’t, there might not have been a Hitler. To which I say, woulda, shoulda, coulda…
  6. Comedian Don Rickles, Merciless ‘Merchant Of Venom,’ Dies At 90 (NPR) — I hate to say it at this particular moment, but I never liked this guy. Yeah, I know — he was supposed to be a sweetie in real life, kind to friends and dogs, but I just never enjoyed his brand of humor. He was like a pre-internet troll. I found it grating. You?
Rickles in "Kelly's Heroes."

Rickles in “Kelly’s Heroes.”

37 thoughts on “Open Thread for Thursday, April 6, 2017

  1. Bryan Caskey

    On Syria, I’m mostly in the “stay of out it” camp. What national security interest, rather than pure humanitarian interest, is served by the use of American military power to strike at (and possibly depose) Assad’s regime? I’d also like to see POTUS put it to Congress for either a declaration of war or some sort of authorization to use force. I’n any event, I’m not totally convinced Trump is going to do anything….yet.

    Glad to see the Senate will confirm Gorsuch. Maybe the Senate can get busy filling the rest of the vacancies on the federal bench besides SCOTUS. (There’s quite a few)

    Not sure where the push for the Constitutional Carry is coming from, but it’s a “meh”. Other states have it. I’m not sure what the objection to the current permitting system is. It’s a “must issue” system if you meet the requirements. All this does is essentially eliminate a training/knowledge requirement. I’m a crazy gun guy, but I’m also in favor of training and knowledge.

    Heck, training is fun. Training = going to the range and shooting. If you want to carry a gun and object to training, I’m not sure I want you carrying a gun.

    Should we have entered WWI? Well, with the Huns sinking all our shipping in the North Atlantic and conspiring with Mexico….yeah, we didn’t really have a choice.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Maybe the Senate can get busy filling the rest of the vacancies on the federal bench besides SCOTUS.”

      I wonder if we’re going to have a pointless partisan battle like this over every one of them.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        To follow up on that…

        I’m just not seeing the Democrats’ position on this. Maybe one of y’all can explain it so I get it.

        E.J. Dionne took a stab at it this morning, but I was unconvinced. Which is a shame because I like and respect E.J. a lot and would like to agree with him more often. (And when, I don’t agree, it’s usually when he’s trying to justify the actions of the Democratic Party.)

        But he couched it this way:

        This is thus about far more than retaliation, however understandable, for the Senate Republicans’ refusal to give even a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat Gorsuch would fill. Behind the current judicial struggle lies a series of highly politicized Supreme Court rulings….

        First, let me say that what the GOP did on Garland was absolutely inexcusable. But, if you’ll forgive the oversimplification, two wrongs don’t make a right. You want to show you’re better than the Republicans? Be better than the Republicans.

        But E.J.’s point was what what he called “a series of highly politicized Supreme Court rulings.” What might those be? Unfortunately, he started off with Bush v. Gore:

        It started with Bush v. Gore, when five conservative justices abruptly halted the recount of Florida’s ballots in the 2000 election and made George W. Bush president.

        The unsigned majority opinion unmasked (to use the word of the moment) the unprincipled and unmistakably results-oriented nature of the decision with this lovely little sentence: “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.”

        Translation: Don’t you dare use this case as precedent in any future decisions. We’re just doing this to achieve the outcome we want in this election….

        I can only agree with that “translation” if “the outcome we want” refers to the outcome that I, and plenty of other people who don’t drink the partisan Kool-Aid, wanted: An end to the excruciating spectacle of the Long Count, which was tearing the country apart and held more potential for undermining faith in our electoral system than anything that happened in my life before the election of Donald J. Trump.

        As I watched that, I didn’t much care which ended up winning. (As I had watched the lead see-saw on Election Night, I had trouble deciding which outcome I truly preferred. We had endorsed Bush at the paper, but I had a so-so attitude toward both candidates.) I just wanted a winner declared.

        Oh, and by the way: Bush won Florida. Had the counting and recounting continued, the end result would have been the same, as a months-long process conducted by multiple news organizations demonstrated. So no, the Court didn’t steal the election and give it to Bush.

        Then, E.J. wrote,

        Then, in 2013, they were integral to another 5-to-4 decision, Shelby County, that gutted the Voting Rights Act….

        OK, I’m sure he’s studied it carefully, and maybe it DID “gut” the Act. But my memory is different. What it “gutted” was a protocol in which certain parts of the country — particularly the South — were forced to get pre-clearance from the feds on voting law changes, a process that other parts of the country did not have to undergo. Even though in the present day, those jurisdictions did not display the same injustices they had 50 years earlier, and by many objective measures were being fairer than the other parts of the country that were allowed to run their own elections.

        But this was several years ago, and my memory may be rusty.

        Anyway, here’s the thing — if not even E.J. Dionne can offer a convincing justification for Democratic actions on Gorsuch, I find myself wondering whether anyone can…

        1. Harry Harris

          “particularly the South — were forced to get pre-clearance from the feds on voting law changes, a process that other parts of the country did not have to undergo. Even though in the present day, those jurisdictions did not display the same injustices they had 50 years earlier…”
          Not the same injustices, but disguised versions. Restrictions such as fewer poling places, ID requirements designed to cut down voting among targeted groups, diminished voting days and hours, gerrymandering that courts are hammering – after the desired effects are in place.

          1. Doug Ross

            ” ID requirements designed to cut down voting among targeted groups,”

            The same idea that allows access to a wide variety of government entitlements?

  2. Doug Ross

    Apparently a poll of Republican congressmen shows 46% are in favor of a Medicare for all option to replace Obamacare. Imagine Brad’s conflict if Trump becomes the single payer President?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I will applaud.

      And then I will say, “Now let’s get him out of office, immediately.”

      I’ve used the “stopped clock” analogy several times already with regard to this guy being president. Everyone is right some of the time. Being right on healthcare — an issue on which, as with so many others, I don’t think Trump has any core values — wouldn’t make having him as president less atrocious.

      By the way, Charles Krauthammer had a column last week in which he explained how the current situation could lead to single payer. It made sense, and that’s certainly what should happen, and I’ll cheer if it does.

      But I engage in extreme understatement when I say that it remains to be seen…

  3. Karen Pearson

    I wish the Dems had stopped to think. We are going to have a very conservative white house for the next 4 years (I know that Trump is not a true conservative; he’s worse). At least one more supreme court vacancy will occur during this time. Do you think that the Republicans are going to even try to choose someone who might be accepted by both parties, or do you think they are going to choose someone who leans to the far right? And how do you think the Democrats are going to respond when they are in the majority? This is not good for the country at all.

  4. bud

    Here’s why the filibuster was important. Those who continue to live in the fantasy world that the GOP is somehow not the party of Trump will just never get this but it’s important to make the obvious point- the GOP is doing great harm to the country and Democrats must be elected. No one wants to vote for a squish. This gives the Dem brand a little bit of cred.

    Second, Gorsuch is to the right of Scalia. Why would a Democrat vote for more corporate power, more Bush v Gore, more Citizens United. Not to vote against him makes zero sense to me. (No matter what anyone says the reason to choose a SCOTUS justice is mostly about how they vote. The qualification argument is nonsense as Mitch McConnell has already established)

    Finally, it’s just time to get rid of the filibuster. Voting against a defender of the ever growing plutocracy is a good place to make a statement.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Exactly, Don. Or should I say… Dick Whitman?!?!

          You know what, Bud? Your telling me that is the very first I heard of it. You know why? Because it happened overnight, and had zero effect on anything. So coverage of the stunt was, quite rightly, light.

          As The New York Times reported in a piece headlined “Senator Jeff Merkley Spoke All NightAgainst Gorsuch Nomination (but It Wasn’t a Filibuster)“:

          Though this feat of congressional masochism and C-­Span content enhancement resembled a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-­style filibuster for the digital age — rousing flourishes, meandering detours, encouragement from his Democratic peers on social media — Mr. Merkley’s effort was not technically a filibuster, as the senator was not actually delaying anything.

          So, I’m still waiting to see a filibuster…

  5. Lynn Teague

    On the so-called constitutional carry (I don’t believe the founding fathers put that well regulated militia stuff in for fun) – I have begun to suspect that the point is quite simply to annoy people who want controls on guns, a salvo in the culture wars for no rational reason.

  6. Phillip

    Just as the proposal to eliminate funding for NEH, NEA, and CPB is a salvo in the culture wars for no rational reason, a sop to the culture “base.” To put it in perspective, National Endowment for the Humanities’ budget request for 2017 was about $150 million for the year…for everything they do. We just spent about 40% of that last night—-in ONE night—on Tomahawk missiles to take out ONE airfield. Without commenting about the rightness or not of that airstrike, it does put things in perspective when the rationale for entirely eliminating the NEH or NEA is budgetary considerations. The American military machine clears its throat once and that’s an entire year for our national arts/cultural agencies.

    1. Doug Ross

      Just because it’s “only” 150 million dollars doesn’t mean the government should spend the money determining what is art. Art should be the ultimate free market endeavor. If it’s good, it will exist at the level it deserves.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah… I go back and forth on this.

        On the one hand, I agree with you that the market should determine the value of art. If it’s good, someone will buy it. Maybe.

        Then I reflect that I live in a world in which “reality” TV is enormously popular, to the point of electing someone from that world president. And increasingly THAT is what the marketplace gives us. And then I think, maybe we should provide a modicum of support for real art, just so it can exist out there next to Naked Bug-eating Survivor or whatever.

        Finally, I tend to end up with a compromise, which will probably make no one happy, but which seems reasonable to me: Public funding for CONSERVING art, and making it widely available to the public. We preserve and propagate Shakespeare, Rubens, Michelangelo, Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Degas, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. If the artist is dead and appears in textbooks for freshman arts appreciation courses, we preserve and pass on his or her works. We might even include Silas Marner, if someone twists my arm.

        Living, currently producing artists would depend on the marketplace — which includes grants from private foundations — to support their work.

        But where would future artists come from? Well, I do think we should generously fund arts education in the public schools, from kindergarten finger-painting all the way through the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville.

        Does this make sense to anyone?

      2. JesseS

        As a person who has spent plenty of time around artists who either asked me if they could buy me a bourbon or asked me if I could buy them a beer, I can tell you that doesn’t work for 99% of artists who aren’t teaching or doing 9-5 work in commercial art and even those artists wouldn’t mind a 9-5 gig in commercial art making logos for life insurance companies or whatever.

        We are over 300 years removed from the Renaissance and most “high art” is still a patronage thing (at least for non-performance work). Only in the modern world patrons aren’t buying because they like your work; they probably hate your work. They are buying it because they plan on flipping it for a mint when you die and your future output goes to 0. Supply and demand.

        It’s the cynical reasons you see so much art from marginalized people. Oh, the work might be powerful, but it also looks good in an investment portfolio. I’ve known artists who faked being gay and greatly exaggerated their drinking and drug habits for this very reason. Gotta look just bad enough for the actuary.

        So honestly, I don’t mind spending on the NEH, NEA, and CPB any more than I mind buying an artist a beer. Honestly, it’s a lot cheaper with the former –a night of craft beer costs a lot, lot more. Not to mention it is nice that we someone or something not explicitly better against them.

        Come to think of it, you could easily double arts funding with a craft beer tax.

        1. Bob Amundson

          Or a ZAP tax. Salt Lake City, instead of a hospitality tax, has a ZAP (Zoo, ARTS, Parks) Tax. In Utah, a very red state …

      3. Phillip

        And Doug, that’s where you and I completely disagree. Art as fundamental human individual expression has nothing to do with markets, or commercial value. That’s commerce, commodities—something else entirely. Art that is created to please the market is not really art, it’s a commodity. Art on the other hand exists to challenge each one of us to question every assumption we’ve ever held. It’s not necessarily directly oppositional—but ideally it offers every human the chance to go somewhere he or she never would, were he/she to only follow the trends of the majority or the market, or the “popular.” Popular culture points you down the big hallway, and there’s comfort and even exaltation in being surrounded by everybody going the same way. Art is that odd little doorway off to the side that makes you ask, “gee, I wonder where that goes to?” It’s the thing that makes you realize that 2+2 doesn’t equal 4 every single time. And it’s the thing that makes you realize that for all the ways in which humans are the same, somebody always has a story or a way of manipulating objects in space (sculpture or painting) or sounds on the canvas of time (music) that never would have occurred to you in a million years and maybe, just maybe connects you in spirit to that composer, that painter, that novelist from who knows where whose life is so different from yours but whose voice made you sit up and take notice. And it doesn’t always happen, maybe most of the time not, but one experience like that even in a blue moon is a big part of what makes one realize how great it is to be alive, and to be human.

        There are many points of rebuttal to the Claus type arguments—for one, the government doesn’t really define art—most individual grants are gone now, mostly regranting to state arts agencies and other programs that either foster arts education or bringing arts access to underserved communities around the nation. To the extent projects or organizations are still “chosen” for funding, that’s always done by peer panels that represent cross-sections of those who have established careers in the arts—I’ve served on such panels myself. Not a perfect system, but not exactly the government defining art, either.

        Also, visual art is its own unique eco-system, and certainly there are definitely market forces involved there…e.g., the ways in which certain artists (and their art) become hyper-valued commodities, while others languish at the fringes. That of course has to do with a piece of art being a physical commodity, a collectible. I don’t claim to understand that side of things well.

        But already the US spends such a TINY amount as a government on arts funding compared to other western liberal democracies, that we can say that by and large, the arts are primarily dependent on private funding as well as some of the market forces to which you allude. Where the NEA (or the NEH in other realms having to do with education and support for the humanities) steps in is precisely in those targeted areas of bringing arts to underserved communities as well as helping in the creation of new work from artists (in music, art, drama, other fields) of promise—-merely curating the old, as Brad suggests, is a recipe for gradual artistic withering. You have to plant the seeds of the new as well as giving people a place to experience the established masters (the museum, the classical concert hall playing older repertoire). If you think about the staggering amount that the NEA or NEH accomplish with their extremely modest budgets, well, that just tells me that Trump suggesting we do away with a government entity that gets a better bang for its buck than any other means that Trump is maybe not as smart a businessman as he would have us believe. It’s just plain dumb business sense to even think about getting rid of these entities.

        Moreover, the extent to which America communicates culturally across the world, not just in the mega-marketing-Coca-Cola-Lady-Gaga-level, but at the grassroots and less commercial level, generates new understanding of America and Americans in ways that benefit our country tremendously. In a nation so completely dominated by commerce where the value of everything (including human lives) is measured by wealth or economic impact, a small national investment to give some attention and some breathing room to new and potentially challenging work is a minimal necessity, I think.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          But if the money is limited, I’m for curating the old and great first.

          We tend to assume that, via the Web, everything is available to us today.

          But my experience working on my family tree (there he goes talking about THAT again!) has made me even more aware of how easily the past can melt away.

          Yes, I’ve managed to take very, very few strands back 1,000 years and more, but most lines run out of information before I can get my ancestors back to Europe. For instance, I continue to be greatly frustrated by my great-great grandfather Henry Waller of Marion County, who went off to fight at Petersburg and didn’t return. I don’t have even the slightest hint about who his parents were. It’s maddening.

          Anyway, this makes me even more of a preservationist than I would have been otherwise…

          1. Bob Amundson

            Old and great was at one time new with the potential to be great. “The times, they are a changin”- now considered a classic, but not at first.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Exactly. Which is why we don’t declare anything new a classic, or one of the greats.

              Check back in 50, or better yet 100 or 200 years, and then see how good it looks…

    2. Claus2

      No tears here. The “arts” should be self funding. I don’t think my tax dollars to pay someone to create Piss Christ ( is tax money well spent nor for someone to paint a solid color canvas with a single white dot and call it “Solitude” . If I go to a museum and say “what the hell is that supposed to be” without getting some emo looking guy to explain it to me it’s not “art”.

      But what do I know about arty-fartsy stuff. To me a fighter jet is a thing of beauty that makes beautiful music from start up to shut down while dancing in the sky. Give me an military air show over a ballet any day.


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