The death of Fidel Castro (and Ron Glass, too!)

fidel-castro-1959

By now, you’ve heard that Fidel Castro outlasted 10 U.S. presidents. I’ve read that several times. But I make it 11. Check my math:

  1. Eisenhower
  2. Kennedy
  3. Johnson
  4. Nixon
  5. Ford
  6. Carter
  7. Reagan
  8. Bush 41
  9. Clinton
  10. Bush 43
  11. Obama

Oh, I get it. They’re not counting Obama, since Fidel didn’t quite outlast him. Duh.

Whatever. Guy was in office a long time, longer than a lot of you have been alive.

And what’s he got to show for it? Almost six decades of oppression, and some beautifully preserved antique cars. I read over the weekend that since the thaw began, a huge part of the Cuban economy is American tourism and the officially tolerated sex trade, which takes us back to where he came in.

He’s been there so long, that it’s nice to do a recap to refresh your memory. Here’s one. Here’s another.

The big question now is, will things get better between the U.S. and Cuba now, or worse? I’m not overly optimistic, with you-know-who about to take over in Washington.

ron-glassAnd now, let’s pause a moment to remember Ron Glass, whom we all remember (if we’re old enough) from “Barney Miller,” but I recall more fondly as Shepherd Book from “Firefly.” As you may recall if you’re a Browncoat, one of the great unsolved mysteries from the short-lived series was just what sort of shady past the Shepherd had.

Now we’ll never know, even if there’s a revival of the series, which there should be.

Requiescat in pace, Ron… (Do they have Latin in the future ‘verse, or is it just English and Chinese?)

shepherd-book

Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations

haley-waving

Late on election night, the folks on PBS (Judy Woodruff, David Brooks, Mark Shields, and others), utterly flabbergasted and in desperate search for something to say, somehow got on the subject of “Whither the Republican Party?” Or something like that. I forget exactly how they got on the topic, but they got to talking about who might be waiting in the wings in the party — which is odd; it seems more like they’d have been asking that about the Democrats.

And maybe they did. My memory is cloudy because I was in shock, too. But here’s my point: Somehow the name that came up — and I think it was the first name, perhaps the only one — was that of Nikki Haley.

Which was… surprising. But national media have long thought a lot of her. As a young, presentable, female, nonwhite Republican, she plays well nationally, certainly in the Identity Politics sense. And she is very personable. She makes a great first, second and third impression. And her time in office has brought her greater poise, while she has moved somewhat away from the Tea Party fringe that elected her. And she truly became the leader of this state when she stepped out on the flag last year.

So now, after she had the good sense to distance herself from him during the primaries, she is Donald Trump’s choice to be U.N. ambassador. And it’s playing as a good decision in national coverage.

First let me say, I’m far happier with her as U.N. ambassador than I am with Donald Trump as president — no question. But let’s just say that’s not a high bar.

And… we can discuss this more later… I feel pretty good about Henry McMaster as governor. He was the best candidate for that office in the GOP primary in 2010, and the only thing I can think of to say against him is that he backed Trump in the primary.

But let’s discuss that later. Back to Nikki Haley…

I just have to say this, as a guy who cares deeply about this country’s dealings with the rest of the world: What qualifications does she have for the position? Aside from being as I said personable, which can be helpful in diplomacy, I cannot think of any at all.

Today, The Washington Post is saying:

Haley, a former Trump rival, is generally considered a mainstream Republican, with views on military and national security matters that fall within the GOP’s hawkish mainstream. She has little foreign policy experience.

First, let’s correct the second sentence — to my knowledge, she does not have ANY foreign policy experience. (And no, a few industrial recruitment trips selling South Carolina abroad do not count as foreign policy experience of the U.N. Security Council sort.)

As for the first experience — where are they getting that? Yeah, she has gravitated from a Tea Party candidate who couldn’t wait to make the Establishment miserable to a more neutral position (where I frankly think she is more comfortable). And bless her, she went with Rubio on the primary. But what “views on military and national security matters” are they referring to? Aside from being proud of her husband’s service in the National Guard, I cannot think of any that she has expressed. Not that she needed to; she’s never had a job that called upon her to do so.

(And is the GOP mainstream still hawkish? Are Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who well represent where the party has mostly been since 1945, still the gravitational center? We can discuss that another time, too.)

As U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley is a tabula rasa, as she was when she first ran for the House. The best thing that can be said is that she has no bad foreign policy habits to unlearn. If everyone in the GOP who knows anything about geopolitics had not run screaming from Donald Trump and all who sail in him, I suppose we could hope for her to be strenuously tutored — but who’s going to do it now? Trump?

And is U.N. ambassador actually the place where you go to get your feet wet in international relations? No. It does not come with training wheels, to the best of my knowledge. Of course, I’m a child of the Cold War, and grew up on such cultural references as “Failsafe” (and now, with Trump as president-elect, feel like I’m living in “Dr. Strangelove”). I see the U.N. Security Council as a deadly serious, high-stakes kind of thing, to say the least. Growing up with those references, I took what comfort I could from the notion that the people representing us around those conference tables in a crisis knew a lot more about this stuff than I did. And I wonder — back when Trump was asked about the nuclear triad and found wanting, how would our governor have answered the same question?

As y’all know, I’ve had frequent occasions to praise Gov. Haley in the last year or so; I’ve really felt that she was growing in the job, and I will always praise her to the skies for her leadership on getting the Confederate flag down. That was amazing, and wonderful, and stunning. It made her a heroine in my eyes.

But does any of that, or her calm, visible leadership during weather crises — for which I also honor her — qualify her for this?

Please tell me it does, and explain why, because I really want to feel better about this…

SC Democrats celebrate the thinnest of silver linings

This is one of those posts that makes Jaime Harrison think about taking me off his mailing list — and makes Matt Moore feel smug for having never put me on his (despite my request).

SC Democrats are doing their very best to put a brave face on the recent election. It took them a couple of weeks, but they’ve managed to come up with three whole victories in partisan races, statewide, to celebrate:

unnamed
My Fellow Democrats,
As we prepare for the Trump Administration, Democrats are fortunate to have a strong contingent of leaders to lead the fight, both here in South Carolina and throughout the country.  We are particularly excited for those who were elected to new positions in our state to take office and get to work for all South Carolinians.  From school board to SC Senate, there are newly elected Democrats across the state.  These Democrats will play important roles in the coming struggle.  Some of these Democrats with important new positions include:
– Mia McLeod won the SC Senate election in District 22, which includes parts of Richland and Kershaw Counties.  Her victory keeps the seat in Democratic hands following the distinguished tenure of retiring Senator Joel Lourie.  The passionate and effective advocacy Sen.-elect McLeod displayed in the SC House will be a great asset in the Senate.
– Mike Fanning was elected to the SC Senate from District 17, which includes all of Fairfield and Chester Counties and part of York County.  He is committed to shaking up status quo in Columbia so that our state government serves the people, not special interests.
– Mary Tinkler defeated a 20-year Republican incumbent to be Charleston County Treasurer.  She will continue the important work she has done in the SC House looking out for all taxpayers.
In addition to these impressive Democratic victories, we would also like to congratulate Alfred Mae Drakeford on her election as Mayor of Camden in a nonpartisan race.  She will be the first African American to serve in that position.
With great public servants like these taking office, we can be confident that our values and priorities will be defended in the halls of power.  And with sustained effort from all of us in support of them and their colleagues, our future will be bright.
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison

Yeah… that’s, you know, kinda sad, guys…

Not that I agree with that silly letter in The State today. I think Jaime does a fine job. He just doesn’t have a great situation to work with, to engage in British-class understatement…

Is Graham trying to out-Trump Trump on Clinton?

graham-clinton

I thought this was an odd response from Lindsey Graham to the news that Trump was dropping the idea of prosecuting Hillary Clinton:

On Reports President-elect Trump Will Not Pursue Clinton Investigation:

“Well so much for ‘Locking Her Up’ I guess. The bottom line is that I think the Clinton Foundation, the whole mess, should be looked at with an independent view, not a political agenda. I never believed Obama’s Justice Department would seriously look at what she may have done. I can understand wanting to put the election behind us and heal the nation, but I do hope all the things President-elect Trump said about how crooked she was – well, we just don’t let it go without some serious effort to see if the law was truly violated.  I think that would be a mistake.”

I find it odd for several reasons, including:

  • Graham is not a guy who has been shy about holding Trump accountable, as demonstrated anew with his comments after the president-elect chatted with his would-be buddy Putin.
  • Possibly the most egregious moment in the campaign was when Trump threatened — in a nationally televised, live debate — to turn the United States into a banana republic by locking up his political opposition.
  • Graham is a big advocate for the rule of law, and an intelligent politician, and I can’t believe that he doesn’t see it would be impossible for Trump to pursue a prosecution against Hillary Clinton after having said what he said and have that be seen as anything other than abuse of power.
  • He certainly understands that any prosecutorial moves on her would be a judgment call — it’s not like she clearly and with malice aforethought went out a committed a major crime, something that couldn’t be overlooked no matter the political and constitutional ramifications.
  • Graham isn’t one of these guys with a 20-plus-year record of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. He got along pretty well with her when she served in the Senate, so it’s out of character for him to express reluctance to let go of this bone.

All of that adds up to it being weird for him to go “Are you sure you want to do that?” when Trump, of all people, is willing to let it go — possibly at the price of loss of favor among a lot of the folks who voted for him.

Oh, and as long as I’ve got you, I should share the other topic he addressed — Jeff Sessions. Here’s a quote, and it’s all on the video below, two-and-a-half minutes in:

On the Nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General:

“I’ve known Jeff for twenty years. I think he’s a principled conservative. I’ll have some questions for him before the Judiciary Committee. These attacks on his personal character, about him being some kind of closet racist or what he may have said thirty or forty years ago is complete garbage. Jeff Sessions is one of the finest people I have ever known. I don’t think there is a hateful bone in his body. We have some policy differences so I’ll be glad to challenge Jeff where we disagree, but support him in terms of him being a good, decent man. And to my Democratic colleagues, you better watch what you do here.”

Did ‘Aaron Burr’ et al. play into Trump’s hands?

hamilton-public

I like putting “Aaron Burr” in headlines. It lets me pretend that I’m living in times in which “the damn’ fool that shot him” was alive and active in our politics. Not that I like Burr much. But it puts me in a time when our presidential choices were between people like Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison (and Burr, who nearly won over Jefferson, but let’s skim over that).

Sigh…

Anyway, to follow up on yesterday’s post about the “Hamilton” incident (again, something that sounds like the kind of incident I’d rather be writing about than “Trump” incidents), there’s a growing body of thought out there that the artsy liberal actors played right into the hands of the president-elect. Even that Pence’s presence there may have been a deliberate provocation.

And that this sort of thing is likely to happen again and again because, you know, those Eastern cultural elites are just so predictable, and can’t help themselves. Strike them on their emotional patellar tendons, and they jerk.

From Catherine Rampell:

Trump, and only Trump, won this round in the culture wars. And with many more rounds to come, liberals need to find some way not to take his bait.

Maybe Pence decided to see the hottest show on Broadway because it’s the hottest show on Broadway. Or because it’s a Pulitzer-Prize-winning work by a bona-fide genius. Or because, with its story of a destitute autodidact pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, it has had documented appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Pence attended Friday’s performance specifically hoping, or at least expecting, to stoke boos and a brouhaha that would ultimately rouse the Republican base — and distract from much more embarrassing Trump-related news.

Think about it. Trump could not have chosen a more perfect cultural foil than “Hamilton” if he’d designed the show himself. The show has — somewhat paradoxically — become an unwitting symbol of out-of-touch, cosmopolitan liberal elites.

Tickets to the smash hit can fetch thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to all but the reasonably wealthy. The show is fawned upon by effete elites such as myself….

Most important, at least to Trump’s base, “Hamilton” has Hispanics literally taking the jobs of old white men…

A digression: Actually, I think by casting “people of color” (one of the odder, most stilted, most retrograde-sounding phrases currently approved by those Trump is pleased to bait) in the roles of the Founders, Lin-Manuel Miranda has struck a blow against political correctness. By portraying the folks too many would dismiss as “old, dead white guys” as people of every race and color, he has rescued them from the scorn of the sillier Identity Politicians and shown the universality of their ideas and accomplishments. It sort of says, Shut up about their race and gender and read what they wrote!

But back to Ms. Rampell’s point, which has also been made by duty conservative Marc Thiessen:

Hey Democrats, want help to rally the country around Donald Trump? Here’s a great idea: Have a crowd of wealthy, out-of-touch Manhattan liberals (who can afford $849 tickets to “Hamilton”) boo Vice President-elect Mike Pence while the cast of the Broadway show lectures him on diversity.

The Democratic Party’s alienation from the rest of America was on full display at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night. And the left seems completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks to the rest of the United States. Professors at Yale and Columbia universities and other elite schools postpone exams and cancel classes for students who could not deal with the election results. Kids in Washington schools cut class with tacit approval from administrators to march in protest of the results of a free and fair election. School officials in Montgomery County offer grief counselors to “help students process any concerns or feelings they have about the election.” (Funny, I don’t recall anyone canceling exams or offering my kids grief counselors when Barack Obama was elected).

People in the American heartland see all this, and they shake their heads in disgust. Today’s Democrats have become a party of coastal elites completely disconnected from the rest of America. Doubt it? Take a look at a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential election. You can drive some 3,000 miles across the entire continental United States — from sea to shining sea — without driving through a single county that voted for Hillary Clinton….

They may be looking at it from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it’s interesting that they both reached similar conclusions…

‘Heil Victory,’ say some members of the alt-right at gathering

This is from a report in The New York Times today:

WASHINGTON — By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the altright movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an underground organization and more like the establishment.

But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President­elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room — it was not clear who — shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back…

I won’t comment except to remind you of my frequent previous mentions of fascism, which were not exaggerations. Note that this occurred in Washington, D.C., not Nuremberg.

Politico passed on this nugget from the same event:

The meeting attendees — an overwhelmingly white and male audience, with many sporting closely cropped faux hawk-like haircuts, though one was spotted wearing a yarmulke — gathered in the atrium were an engaged group, often booing journalists asking questions. Outside, the scene was more rambunctious: protests raged off of Pennsylvania Ave., and one man with a bloody face was seen seeking police assistance, though the circumstances of his injury were unclear. Tila Tequila, a reality TV personality who was listed by event organizers as a guest, posted a picture of herself on Twitter engaged in a Nazi-style salute.

“Seig [sic] heil!” the tweet read….

Yeah, it’s hilarious — Nazi wannabes who can’t spell “Sieg.” Well, there was a time when good Germans thought the Nazis were a joke, too.

‘Aaron Burr’ just couldn’t follow his own advice with Pence

“Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, did not take to heart the advice his character gives the young Hamilton:

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice:

Talk less…

Smile more…

Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for…

If he had been the real Burr, he would not have singled out his successor-elect, Mike Pence, for embarrassment after the show the other night.

A lot of people who are as distressed over the election results as I am think it was great for Dixon to deliver this message from the stage to Pence, who was in the audience:

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to audience hoots and laughter. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”

As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say, “because this message needs to be spread far and wide.” The cast, in their 18th-century costumes, and the crew, in jeans and T-shirts, linked arms and hands behind Dixon….

“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” Dixon said to further applause. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us . . .”

The audience erupted in cheers again. “Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

As I say, some thought it was great. I did not. It seemed tacky, gauche, not the proper place. The man in the audience was a guest, and did not come to harangue anyone — or to be harangued.

It’s not that the actor was hostile or cruel or anything like that. He wasn’t inciting anything; he was just saying, We’re all pretty upset your ticket got elected, so please reassure us by your actions. Which is the sort of thing I myself might say to Pence were I to run into him and be introduced. But of course, that’s a different dynamic from singling someone out of a crowd.

Nor did Pence mind, or so he says. (as to what Trump thought, which we learned all about when he launched him on another of his childish rants, I address that in a comment below.) And I get that the cast and crew didn’t want to throw away their shot. But it just didn’t seem the place. I’d have felt terribly awkward had I been there. I feel awkward just hearing about it, especially since, as I am so dismayed at the election result — because of Trump, remember, not Pence — this gaucherie was committed by someone who agrees with me on that point. That makes me feel responsible.

So I thought I’d say something…

One more thought: One would think that everything the cast and crew wanted to say — about “diversity,” about the value of immigrants, about fundamental rights — had already been said, beautifully and creatively, by the play they had just performed. And since Pence had come to hear it, it seems to me that the message had been delivered, by the masterpiece it took Lin-Manuel Miranda seven years to write, far better than a hastily-penned speech could do.

The only thing the little speech said that the play did not was, Yo, Mike Pence — we see you out there — yeah, you. And we’ve got a problem with you.

And that’s the bit that seemed to me unnecessary.

If they wanted to acknowledge Pence, the stage manager could have stepped onto the stage before the show to say, We have a special guest in the audience tonight, vice president-elect Mike Pence. Mr. Pence, we hope you enjoy the show, take it to heart, and go forth inspired. We hope you all do.

That would have been appropriate…

All the bad guys in the world are THRILLED at prospect of a diminished United States under Trump

On a previous post, our own Phillip Bush said he’s concerned about the Trump administration being “Bush/Cheney redux.”

We’re not going to be so lucky. There’s little chance of having an administration that is anything like Bush’s — or Obama’s, or Clinton’s, or Reagan’s, or Carter’s, or Nixon’s, or Johnson’s, or Kennedy’s, or Eisenhower’s, or Truman’s.

Yeah, I get why Phillip said that — John Bolton is a hard case, and some call him a “neocon,” although he really doesn’t fit the description. Neocons are liberals who deserted the left after Vietnam. Bolton has always been a conservative — he backed Goldwater in 1964.

But forget Bolton — in fact, I am little interested in who will hold this or that position. None of these appointments are as bad, or as consequential, as what has already happened — the election of Donald Trump, a man who just by being president will diminish the influence of the United States in the world.

You’ve probably read that most world leaders — particularly our friends — are deeply dismayed by what happened last week, and very worried about what happens next. They’re perhaps as upset as I am, and for some of the same reasons — my greatest worry about a Trump victory was its effect on international relations. You probably also know that this is exactly what Russia and China wanted — a clueless goofball at the helm of the United States, leaving the vacuum that they are eager to fill.

But others were cheering last week, too. And still are. The Guardian bothered to chronicle some of the reactions from a rogue’s gallery of extremists — mostly right-wing, populist nationalists: Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National in France; Viktor Orbán, the hardline nationalist leader of Hungary; Frauke Petry, the lead of Germany’s rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland; Greece’s Golden Dawn, the party seen as Europe’s most virulent far-right force; Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Austria’s rightwing populist Freedom party; the Dutch far-right leader and MP Geert Wilders; Beppe Grillo, the former comedian and the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in Italy; and of course Nigel Farage in Britain.

Fareed Zakaria looked beyond Europe, at some of the other bullies, tyrants and loonies who are happy that a man who neither understands or believes in America’s role in the postwar order will be in charge:

Duterte

Duterte

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad called Trump a “natural ally.” Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian leader of the Philippines, said of him, “We both like to swear . . . we’re the same.” Duterte has been hostile to the United States because Washington has criticized the extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses that have marked his tenure. Robert Mugabe, who has clung to power in Zimbabwe for 36 years while destroying that nation’s economy and liberties, has been similarly hopeful. A full-page editorial in a state-run paper there hailed the election of “the mighty Trump,” and the 92-year-old dictator has reportedly described Trump as a “friend.” No doubt Duterte and Mugabe hope that a Trump administration will go easy on them….

All over the world, separatists and nationalists, thugs and bullies of all stripes are ecstatic over Trump’s victory. Why? Because they see this as the end of the internationalist consensus that we’ve had since Truman, an unprecedented era of peace among major powers, largely led and guaranteed by an engaged United States.

Zakaria explains what’s at stake, in a simple, Geopolitics 101 manner:

But what is this globalism to which these people are so opposed? After 1945, after the Great Depression and two world wars, Western nations established an international system characterized by rules that honored national sovereignty, allowed for the flourishing of global commerce, and encouraged respect for human rights and liberties. This order resulted in the longest period of peace among the world’s major powers, marked by broad-based economic growth that created large middle classes in the West, the revival of Europe, growth in poor countries that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and the spread of freedom across the globe.

The U.S. role in all this was pivotal. It set the agenda and provided security, which was about more than just deterring the Soviet Union and other aggressive powers. Radek Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister, said, “America’s influence and its commitments have been our security blanket. They have allowed Europe’s national rivalries to stay dormant. If you take away those guarantees, Europe could get very unstable.” And remember, the European Union is the world’s biggest market and the United States’ largest trading partner.

For the United States, “globalism” has produced enormous advantages. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States dominates the global economy, in technology, education, finance and clean energy. One in five U.S. jobsis a result of trade, and that number is growing fast. The United States maintains the world’s reserve currency, giving it a huge economic advantage.

The benefits of growth and globalization have not been shared equally, and the pace of change causes anxiety everywhere. But these are reasons to invest in people, upgrade their skills and better integrate communities. They are not reasons to destroy the most peaceful and productive international system ever devised in human history….

Of course, some of my friends — Doug and others — would like to see the United States be a smaller, humbler country confined to its own borders. But my libertarian and my post-Vietnam liberal friends will find themselves in some ugly company in cheering a diminished United States.

This is a very bad moment for liberal democracy around the world.

Lindsey Graham on possible Trump nominations

Since I haven’t had time to write a real post today, I’ll share this from Lindsey Graham. It might prompt some discussion:

Graham Statements on Possible Trump Cabinet Appointments and Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made these statements today about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Ø  On Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton as Possible Nominees for Secretary of State:

“The overwhelming majority of Republican senators have the utmost respect for Rudy Giuliani.  He led the nation and New York through 9/11.  He’s a citizen of the world who is eminently qualified to serve as Secretary of State.

“As for John Bolton, he was United Nations Ambassador under President Bush.  He is a reformer who would turn the State Department upside down and make it work better.  He understands who our friends and enemies are.  We see the world in very similar ways.   

“I believe an overwhelming majority of Republican senators would support either candidate and some Democrats would too.  You will never convince me that Giuliani and Bolton are not qualified to serve at this level.”  

Ø  On Senator Rand Paul’s Threat to Filibuster Giuliani or Bolton:

“You could put the number of Republicans who will follow Rand Paul’s advice on national security in a very small car.  Rand is my friend but he’s a libertarian and an outlier in the party on these issues.  The fact that Senator Paul opposes Bolton and Giuliani will not keep them from serving.” 

Ø  On South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as Possible Secretary of State:

“She’s done a good job as Governor of South Carolina.  She’s talented, capable and would do a good job in any assignment given to her.  I think Nikki is a traditional Republican when it comes to foreign policy – more like Ronald Reagan than Rand Paul.  I like her a lot.  I would certainly support her.”   

Ø  On Ted Cruz for the Supreme Court:

“We are replacing Justice Scalia, who was probably the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.  Ted Cruz is a constitutional conservative in the mold of Justice Scalia.  If you are looking for a Scalia-type figure, Ted Cruz fits the bill.  We have had our differences, but even his worst critics cannot say Ted Cruz is not one of the smartest, most gifted lawyers in the country.  If you are looking for someone like Justice Scalia to serve on the Supreme Court, take a look at Ted Cruz.”

#####

TV had better do Stranger in a Strange Land RIGHT!

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Y’all may recall that several years back, this item topped my list of Top Five Books that Should Have Been Made Into Movies by Now:

  1. Stranger In A Strange Land — … Definitely number one. An entire generation would buy tickets to see this, if it were any good at all. The sex stuff toward the end might have been a barrier in the 60s, but not now. I remember once in the early 70s hearing that it was being made into a movie starring David Bowie, but that turned out to be something else. Since nobody else seems interested, I’ve thought about trying to write the screenplay myself, but only if Hollywood would let me be in it. I would have been a natural for Ben Caxton when I was younger, but now I’d probably have to audition to be Jubal Harshaw. Of course, the soundtrack would have to include the Leon Russell song of the same name.

And today, just days after the death of Leon, I get this news:

Robert Heinlein’s Scifi Classic Stranger in a Strange Land Is Coming to TV

True to its name, the Syfy channel has made a habit of adapting science fiction and fantasy literature both established (Childhood’s End, Hyperion) and contemporary (The Expanse, The Magicians). Now it seems there’s another much-beloved property on the network’s list: Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land.

According to a press release, this is the first TV adaptation of Stranger in a Strange Land—very broadly, the tale of a Mars-born man who travels to Earth and experiences human culture for the first time; it influenced the counterculture and won a Hugo en route to becoming a classic. No further details on the proposed TV series were announced, but we’ll be keeping an eye on this one….

OK, first, this had better be good. I’ve been waiting for it for 46 years. Not a long time at all from an Old One’s perspective (they’d be content to wait another century or two), but quite a stretch for those of us who have no immediate plans to discorporate.

And in that time — especially most recently — we have become accustomed to a level of quality in TV series that we couldn’t have dreamed of back when I first read the book.

So when I say this needs to be be good, I mean like “Sopranos” good, or “Band of Brothers” good. I want it to be better than “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.” Merely making it better than “Dune,” The Worst Movie Of All Time, won’t even get you into the right universe of how good this needs to be.

So yeah, we’re ALL gonna keep an eye on this one. If they don’t grok the fullness, if we sense a wrongness in the result, the Old Ones will know, because they’re monitoring.

You grok what we’re saying, TV people?

Oh, also, I’d still like a part in the series. Ben Caxton would be best, but as I say, I’m too old. And I’m much, MUCH too young to play Jubal — he’s supposed to be so old, people are amazed to find him still walking around, much less as spry as he is. He’s like at least in his 90s.

I’d settle for something minor. How about James Oliver Cavendish, the famous Fair Witness whose services Ben engages to go interview the fake Man from Mars? I think that’s in my range.

Now, let’s discuss who will play the other parts….

It better be THIS good. We'll be watching. Capisce?

It had better be THIS good. We’ll be watching. Capisce? (That’s Italian-American for “grok”…)

Graham and McCain won’t stand idly by while Trump cozies up to Putin

Who might step out of the crowd to stand up to Russia?

Who might step out of the crowd to stand up to Russia?

One of the seemingly less alarming headlines in the days right after the election was this one:

Trump, Putin agree in phone call to improve ‘unsatisfactory’ relations between their countries, Kremlin says

And what’s wrong with that? We might even applaud it, were Trump a normal POTUS-elect. Of course one chats with foreign leaders after winning the election, and of course one expresses hope for good international relations, even “resets.” Kumbaya, and all that.

But since we had ample evidence during the election that Trump is putty in Putin’s hands, and since Putin’s international goals include expanding his territory toward more Evil-Empirelike boundaries and propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it’s quite natural to be creeped out by such an otherwise vanilla headline, because it tells you that it’s already begun.

Fortunately, people who know better than Trump are serving notice they won’t stand idly by while this bromance develops.

First there was this:

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent his first shot across the bow of President-elect Donald Trump’s national security plans Tuesday, saying that any attempt to “reset” relations with Russia is unacceptable.

“With the U.S. presidential transition underway, Vladi­mir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement released by his office.

“We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections,” he said….

Then, McCain’s pal Lindsey Graham weighed in:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said he wants Senate hearings to investigate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. election, casting doubts on President-elect Donald Trump’s desire to improve relations with Russia.

“Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Putin should be punished.”…

They are hardly alone, as the House demonstrated yesterday:

On Tuesday, the House passed a bill imposing mandatory sanctions on anyone that financially, economically, or technologically supports Syria’s government in the civil war there – a category that chiefly includes Russia and Iran. Trump’s supporters didn’t stand in the way, and the measure was passed unanimously.

“Regardless of perspectives on Syria, there’s some unanimity of opinion in sending a message on this kind of conduct,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said prior to the vote….

Here’s the part where we find out whether we should have believed all those reassurances we heard from Republicans about how our checks and balances would rein in the inevitable foolishness of a Trump administration…

Refreshing my memory about the Electoral College

rs-243008-lin

Never mind all the paintings you’ve seen; most photographs of “Hamilton” found via Google look like this.

In a comment earlier today, I sought to excuse myself from any errors in memory by confessing that I hadn’t read all of the Federalist Papers in decades.

Realizing that was lame, I decided that I should at least go back and read the one that addressed the subject at hand, the Electoral College. That’s Federalist No. 68, probably by Hamilton.

I must say, there was little mentioned about the importance of having the president chosen by states rather than masses of people, beyond oblique references such as these:

And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place….

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States….

But such commentary is hardly necessary since the Constitution itself makes it perfectly clear that the president is to be chosen by electors who are themselves chosen by states:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

So there.

Of course, there is a good deal to suggest that Hamilton thought it proper that the method of selection defer to “the sense of the people,” not least the fact that the House would be the body to decide if a clear winner did not emerge from the electors’ deliberation.

Note that the idea that there should be deliberation, and not an up-or-down vote of the people, was crystal-clear:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations….

Also, remember yesterday when I suggested that “It would be nice for it to be an actual COLLEGE, in which people study year after year our nation’s history and political science, so that they are completely infused with the kind of knowledge that Donald Trump utterly lacks?”

Hamilton would have hated that idea, apparently. He thought the temporary nature of the college — assembled ad hoc, for the immediate task of electing a president once — was one of the system’s great virtues. Of the Framers, he wrote:

They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias. Their transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the conclusion of it….

The context of that, by the way, was in part to guard against this danger:

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention….

Vladimir Putin might get a good chuckle out of that. But on the other hand, every foreign government except those of Russia and China preferred Hillary Clinton. Still, can the mechanism be said to work when the desires of our allies are thwarted, and the preferences of our adversaries granted?

If you haven’t wept for your country yet after last week, consider this hope of Hamilton’s:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications…. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. … we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration….

Riiiight…

The final irony is that, while today the College is perhaps the most reviled part of the Constitution, at the time Hamilton saw it as hardly needing defending, since it was one of the few parts not being heavily criticized:

THE mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded. [1] I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for….

What a difference a couple of centuries make…

Let an expert ‘splain the Electoral College to ya

Some of my friends here see the late election as further proof that we need to reform, or do away entirely with, the Electoral College.

Well, they just haven’t had it explained to them right. Here, let me get an expert to tell you why you’re wrong:

Don’t think for a moment, though, that Mr. Trump needed the Electoral College to win! No, no, no. He’s a Karate Man, and he would just have changed his whole strategy around:

I share these with you because they are the only two Tweets today by the man who was just elected to head our nation.

I share them because… yeah… this is just the way we expect a president of the United States to spend his time and communicate with the world — like an insecure 10-year-old boy whose chief concern is that people don’t think he’s as awesome as he really is….

This is the right way to praise Trump, if one must

obama-on-trump

Bryan sent me an email headlined “Obama: Trump is ‘pragmatic’ – POLITICO,” followed in the body of the message by:

Don’t give me that look. I didn’t say it, Obama did.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/obama-praises-trump-pragmatic-231361

Hey, I wasn’t giving him any look.

What the president said was completely correct, both in the sense of being the proper tone for a president to strike in speaking of his successor, and in terms of accuracy.

Trump is not an ideologue, and is indeed “pragmatic in that way.”

If I were in Obama’s predicament, in a situation in which I felt constrained to say something positive (or at least nonjudgmental) about the president-elect — and he is in that situation — I would say that very thing.

And it would come out sounding nice, because everyone would know how I look down on ideologies. Of course, there’s something that is often worse than an ideologue, which is someone who doesn’t deal in ideas at all. But it would sound nice, and it would be accurate, as far as it went.

Trump believes not in ideas, but in the moods that strike him. That makes him extraordinarily dangerous, but it also means he’s not a rigid ideologue like Ted Cruz. So there’s that. And in doing his duty to say calming, diplomatic things, POTUS hit on just the right thing to say.

He’s good at that. I’m really gonna miss this guy. Watch the video and see how thoughtfully and maturely he addresses the question, and you will likely agree. The nation is really, really going to miss that quality…

Open Thread for Monday, November 14, 2016

"That's a fargin' trick question!"

“That’s a fargin’ trick question!”

OK, since y’all didn’t want to talk about cosmic coincidences, before I leave the office, here are some other possible topics:

  1. Trump, Putin agree on phone to improve relations, Kremlin says — Here we go with the bromance. Who do you think is going to get the upper hand in this negotiation — the ex-KGB man who’s been ruthless running the Once and Future Evil Empire, or the guy who was easily flattered when Putin gave him a backhanded compliment?
  2. Obama at press conference will not say if Trump is qualified to be president — “That’s a fargin’ trick question!” he cried.
  3. Pro-Trump rally planned for Saturday at SC State House — What? What do they need a rally for? They just won the election — something about which I wish people would stop reminding me, by the way…
  4. Schools chief should be a cabinet post, Haley urges lawmakers — Well, yeah… Something I’ve only been saying for what, 25 years now? Be nice if it actually happened. It’s ridiculous for the state’s largest executive function to be walled off from the state’s chief executive. Watch for Democrats to resist this, as always, since they continue to consider superintendent to be their best shot at a statewide position.
  5. SC Democratic leader Harrison considering a bid for party chair — That’s national party chair. Hey, who better for such a hopeless job than the guy who’s been doing it in South Carolina? Seriously, Jaime’s a good man. He should go for it.

Synchronicity — don’t tell ME it’s just a coincidence!

album

OK, this is just way, way too weird…

Let’s take it step by step…

I wrote about some of the planet’s coolest people dying off in the wake of the election.

Norm Ivey responded that “I know that the election and the deaths of these artists are just synchronicity, but dang!”

I thought, “Just” synchronicity? Wait — doesn’t “synchronicity” imply that there is some sort of meaningful relationship? I decided to look it up.

As I went to another tab in Chrome to look up the word, I thought about responding to Norm, “Don’t say ‘Synchronicity!’ That would mean that, according to the Rule of Three, Sting is next!”

Wikipedia told me that no, Norm had used the word just right, saying it was “a concept, first explained by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, which holds that events are ‘meaningful coincidences’ if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.” The key word being “seem.”

I scrolled down and read this wonderful example from Jung:

My example concerns a young woman patient who, in spite of efforts made on both sides, proved to be psychologically inaccessible. The difficulty lay in the fact that she always knew better about everything. Her excellent education had provided her with a weapon ideally suited to this purpose, namely a highly polished Cartesian rationalism with an impeccably “geometrical” idea of reality. After several fruitless attempts to sweeten her rationalism with a somewhat more human understanding, I had to confine myself to the hope that something unexpected and irrational would turn up, something that would burst the intellectual retort into which she had sealed herself. Well, I was sitting opposite her one day, with my back to the window, listening to her flow of rhetoric. She had an impressive dream the night before, in which someone had given her a golden scarab — a costly piece of jewellery. While she was still telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned round and saw that it was a fairly large flying insect that was knocking against the window-pane from outside in the obvious effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle, or common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, “Here is your scarab.” This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance. The treatment could now be continued with satisfactory results.

— Carl Jung

Since I was rewatching “Grosse Pointe Blank” on Netflix over the weekend, when I read that, I thought to myself, That’s like “shockabuku.”

So I decided to look up “shockabuku” to see if it was a thing or just made up for the movie, and whether anyone else had connected it to the Jungian concept. Initial results seemed inconclusive. Then I modified to search for “shockabuku synchronicity.”

The fourth result on the search page said, “Dyad – Enclosed – YouTube Gaming.” Whoa! I thought. It happens that I’m working on a newsletter item for an ADCO client about the client’s organization using the “Dyad” organizational model — something I had never heard of before working on this. That seemed, you know, meaningful

I clicked on “Dyad – Enclosed” and found it was a sort of techno music video. I was listening to Spotify at the time, so I ALT-TABbed over to pause that so I could hear the Dyad thing.

You know how it you leave Spotify running, when you go back to the app, the first thing you see is an ad? Yeah. Well, as I went to click on the “pause” button, I was looking at an ad for this new album by, well, guess who…

sting57th9th1472601281

I’ve been listening to Spotify for years, and I don’t think I had ever previously seen an ad for a Sting album. Nor had I typed anything into my computer about him, thereby causing some algorithm to show me this ad. All I had done was have that very fleeting thought, upon which I had not acted…

All of this, of course, took place in the space of about a minute, or two at the most, if you count the time spent reading that example from Jung.

I’m going to step off this merry-go-round now, very carefully… I need to get back to working on that Dyad thing…

Leon Russell!?! Why are all the coolest people dying off?

I’m not saying there’s a connection to Trump getting elected last week. I don’t think this is actually happening because the coolest people refuse to stay on such a planet. But it would be nice to have a little break from horrible news.

First, there was Leonard Cohen — whom I recognize as one of “the coolest people” even though I was never much of a fan. I loved “Hallelujah” (as practically everyone on the planet does), and I recognized one or two other songs, such as “Chelsea Hotel #2,” but that was about it. (I knew he was someone people who were way cooler than I listened to way back in the ’70s, but never got around to him until a few years back.)leon-top-hat

But yesterday the real blow came — the death of Leon Russell, The Master of Space and Time himself! The man who defined cool! The calm, imperturbable center of his very own “hippie commune, bonafide,” the Shelter People. The mysterious master who drew so many other famous musicians (George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge, Elton John) to him, but was always apart — presiding imperiously at the keyboard with his bone-straight graying hair (who that we knew had gray hair in 1971?) falling around his shoulders, the regal beard, the top hat, the mirror shades.

Even though he had been a fixture on “Shindig!” years before (a previous incarnation, with a dark Elvis pompadour, no facial hair — but still the same Tulsa voice, the same piano magic), I never knew who he was before the “Shelter People” album in the summer of 1971. But then it seemed he was everywhere — doing the rockingest set of all at the Concert for Bangladesh!… having his own very trippy TV special with the Shelter People just hanging out in a studio — and had always been everywhere, though I hadn’t known it. (Listen to Elton John reel off a litany of people Leon had played with over the years — Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra, before he even got to Delaney and Bonnie and all the others of my generation — on this clip.)

A year or two later, I saw him in what may be the best rock concert I ever saw in my life, or ever will see. I may have described it before, but let me just tell you how he made his entrance: It was in the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. The whole entourage was out there on the stage before him — maybe 20 people, from the usual long-haired guys with guitars to the women who sang backup standing on elevated platforms. At the center of the stage were two grand pianos, and sitting at one was this black dude (probably someone famous, but I don’t know who) banging away in this raucous gospel-rock style, and everybody else jamming along with him. But no Leon. They went on like this for maybe 10 minutes, and as it climbed toward a climactic crescendo, Leon made his appearance. He was in a snow-white suit with white top hat (or was it a cowboy hat? — either worked for him), and he was playing a matching white Stratocaster, and I’m like I didn’t even know he played guitar, but I realized that of course, Leon could play anything he wanted.leon-shades

He strolled out, so casually, so in command of the stage. Then he stepped up onto the second piano’s bench, still playing, then on up to the top of the piano, and stood there and kept playing for a moment, with everybody else rocking away like mad. Then he stepped down, ditched the guitar, sat at the piano, starting dueling with the other pianist, and that’s when the music really hit its peak.

I’ve never seen anyone else with that kind of presence on stage. I was as impressed as Huck Finn at the circus. Worth every penny of the probably $5 the ticket cost me, and then some. Later, I saw Elvis on the same stage, and I don’t think even The King topped Leon, although perhaps I should shy away from committing lèse-majesté — after all this was in E’s own hometown.

And now he’s gone…

I thought I’d share my very favorite Leon song, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” above. I chose that clip because it’s a live performance (a less polished one than I saw in Memphis, but you can feel the energy), so you can get a sense of his style, but I actually prefer the studio version, which you can hear here. I first heard this song when, at the suggestion of my uncle, I got the “Shelter People” album in mid-1971. It was within a year after I first read Heinlein’s novel — which has nothing to do with the lyrics of the song, but is all part of the sensibility of the time.

And to reinforce that Leon had always been with us, even when we didn’t realize it, I also include this clip from his “Shindig!” days…

Some of Pete Souza’s very best work

svcz4xt

In an attempt to cheer me up a bit at the end of a rough week, Bryan Caskey sent me this link. As the page explains,

The White House’s Pete Souza Has Shot Nearly 2M Photos of Obama, Here are 55 of His Favorites

I’ve long appreciated Souza’s work. You see it here on the blog from time to time, often illustrating my Open Threads — even when it has nothing to do the topics in the thread — partly because I like them, and partly because they’re in the public domain and I can use them without being sued.

Anyway, here are a few that particularly appealed to me out of the 55.

Thanks, Bryan…

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How does ‘One-Note Samba’ work?

OK, one more pop-music-oriented post. It’s obliquely related to the one on Leonard Cohen.

Remember long ago when I asked whether Phillip or other musical experts here could explain how “Hallelujah” worked, what it was about it that was so appealing? Phillip and many others rose to the occasion.getz-gilberto-from-tv-show

Well, I’ve got a tougher one today. This morning, I was listening to “One-Note Samba,” and wondered how in the world that could reach out and grab me or anyone else.

Maybe it doesn’t speak to you, but I’ve always had a thing for samba music ever since my Dad brought back some records from a trip to Rio when I was a kid (sort of the way Liverpool kids learned about rock ‘n’ roll from the discs brought into port by sailors). And obviously some people besides me like this one, since it’s been covered so often.

So tell me:

Why does it work? Why isn’t it too monotonous? Does it keep us listening purely because of the rhythm? Is that it? Or is it the fact that we know, as we endure the one-note parts, that it’s going to change, and that change is what rewards us? Or is it because of what the instruments are playing while the singer is stuck on the one note?

Just wondering. Because to me, music is just magic, and far beyond my ken…