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I’m currently reading Broken Vows: Tony Blair, The Tragedy Of Power by Tom Bower. Verdict so far: there’s definitely a slant to it that gets annoying at times, but it compellingly argues that New Labour and Tony Blair himself were fatally compromised on a conceptual level, sales pitches in search of a product. The book links many of Blair’s failings to his lack of knowledge of history and governance, as well as to his disinterest in many areas of policy and in the details of policy implementation. He wasn’t a forceful leader in many respects and wasn’t much of a judge of ability. To my mind, he comes across as not particularly smart or sophisticated, bleating ever on about “modernizing” every aspect of Britain without realizing that the term has no inherent meaning and was merely an indirect way of calling the Tories old, and blaming civil servants for the conceptual muddle of his own thinking. It’s a highly readable book, though one that relies upon a fairly high level of knowledge of British governmental structures that goes over my head on occasion. It’s particularly good on getting into all that war business, though. I liked this part about Admiral Mike Boyce, the UK equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time of Iraq, with whom Blair had a very strained relationship. The level of insight here is astonishing:

IMG_0330

Love the punchline. Fourteen years later, it’s still good advice that nobody seems inclined to take. There’s also a great section in which Boyce yells at Blair for wanting to fight in Iraq after deploying the army to slaughter cows with “mad cow” disease and to deal with flooding. Blair liked using the army for domestic chores because they wouldn’t ask any questions, you see. Surely nobody could have predicted he’d become a lackey to autocrats around the world…

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

  1. Is Sausage Party anything other than VeggieTales for adult atheists? That potato eye visual gag really makes a person wonder.
  2. Why in the world did CNN spend multiple days counting down to a Green Party town hall? I don’t think even Jill Stein herself was that enthused.
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Don’t worry, they tell me, the GOP’s House majority will be saved by split ticket voters. Republicans who vote for someone else at the top of the ballot but come home for everything below it.

Oh:

pollster-2016-national-house-race

Admittedly, the House remains a very big hill to climb thanks to gerrymandering and the like. But being up by seven–a roughly equivalent margin to the presidential race overall– with two and a half months to go certainly makes it look possible. And now that Trump looks ready to start doubling down on all of his least endearing habits by having his campaign run by a Breitbart goon, it looks even more possible. As has been discussed before, passing the Sanders agenda with a bare majority of red-district Democrats is not incredibly likely to happen, though certainly major reforms of voting rights, campaign finance, and others would be possible, and would make a huge medium-term difference that could make passing that agenda possible sooner than later. At any rate, Clinton’s approvals are still quite low, thus making the “checks and balances” argument on the part of Republicans at least a plausible success. Though it’s not working so much at this point, perhaps because the Republican Party is significantly less favorable than she is. This is why the 1996 analogies don’t wash for me: I don’t see offhand how a scenario in which a popular president wins re-election against a qualified, reasonably popular, sorta-moderate veteran senator running as the nominee of a well-regarded party has much to do with our present situation. Does anyone really think that the outcome would have been no different had Pat Buchanan won the Republican nomination in 1996? And even that scenario is not quite an appropriate analogy, as Buchanan was vastly more politically experienced and disciplined than Trump is.

Question: is there any future in politics for Paul Ryan if Trump loses him his House majority?

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Something that always seems to get lost in the nonstop panicking over all the terrorism going on right now:  There was a lot more terrorism happening back in the day.

Terrorism in the West

I’m sure CNN bears a lot of the blame.  But also social media and the ability of people to watch horrific videos online.  Terrorism was viewed as a serious law and order issue before 9/11 but it wasn’t an “existential threat” to western civilization.

This always reminds me of one of bin Laden’s key goals:

“We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah,” bin Laden said in the transcript.

He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, “using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers.”

It’s not really that hard to understand that 9/11 wasn’t about killing people in buildings.  It was designed to evoke a wildly inappropriate overreaction – and we were very willing to oblige.

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I tend to doubt that the Trumpian energy will simply “go away” after he (most likely) loses. Perhaps elite Republicans would like to tamp it down for a bit and retool, but that simply isn’t in the cards. One of the first things President Clinton would do would be to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice. My guess is that that person won’t be Merrick Garland, who will likely go down as President Obama’s final, futile olive branch of bipartisanship. Regardless of who it is, immigration politics will be at the heart of that confirmation process as well as the politics immediately afterward. A Dem SCOTUS will almost certainly reverse the Fifth Circuit’s finding against Obama’s unilateral immigration reform, or if that case has already been heard, then Clinton can (and will) simply issue a similar order in the sure knowledge that it would be upheld by the Court. Regardless, this fight will ensure that the Trumpian energy is given no time to dissipate within the Republican Party. It’s easy to imagine Trump himself rebounding from a big defeat by getting on FOX and screaming about immigration a lot. Maybe setting himself up for another run in 2020. Crazy to imagine, but does anyone really think Paul Ryan can stop him?

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Atrios delivers a fantastic piece about the “both sides” tendencies in the media. I think the point really needs to be made that the MSM and the GOP–the two institutions who created Trump–paved the way by essentially abandoning empiricism in their own ways. The Republican Party rejected empiricism in large part because it conflicted with deeply emotionally-held beliefs (e.g. guns) or because it conflicted with the financial interests of the people who own the party (e.g. climate change). (Though there’s a pretty porous membrane separating these categories, sure.) And the media rejected empiricism because they panicked when they lost so many customers to FOX and Rush, and have not stopped trying to get them back. Of course, they’ll never come back, and Bill Kristol will laugh all the way to the bank whenever some MSM outlet pays him to spout nonsense b/c “balance.” But ultimately that’s that “both sides” is about.

The thing is, of course, that when you refuse to run criticism of one particular party unless you can find something similar the other side has done (or unless a notable member of that party publicly opposes something they did), you tend to miss big stories. Like, oh, I don’t know, the rise of Trump. There are certainly ways in which Trump is unusual for a presidential nominee, but as an enemy of empiricism he fits squarely into current Republican trends. Bob Dole, at one point an avowed enemy of supply-side economics, actually picked nonsense budget pioneer Jack Kemp as his running mate. Dubya rejected environmental science, budget math, and any semblance of a realistic view of what could be done in Iraq. McCain ran almost entirely on his (media-recited) biography as a national hero and selfless servant, even though he divorced his first wife for getting fat and only became a naval aviator because his dad pulled some strings, enabling him to be an incompetent Maverick wannabe who crashed multiple planes (oh, and he picked a Victoria Jackson SNL character as his veep choice, despite running a campaign with the motto “country first”). Long story short, notwithstanding a truly harrowing spell in the Hanoi Hilton, McCain is a hypocritical, selfish asshole and always has been, but the media recreated him as this glittering Cincinnatus. Then there was Mitt Romney, whose aggressive assault on any notion of objective truth was truly breathtaking and paved the way for Trump in ways that doth make him protest too much. Sure, Trump is a little worse than Romney, but ultimately not all that much, and the progression is clear enough. The media, however, spent the last twenty years pretending that nothing had changed. Wages of suppressing any trace of a point of view, I guess.

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It should surprise nobody that Carly Fiorina has bounced/is bouncing back:

“Carly Fiorina’s quiet outreach to state party chairs in recent days has top Republicans speculating that she’s laying the groundwork for a Republican National Committee chairmanship bid,” Politico reports.

“Fiorina’s advisers have reached out to more than a dozen state parties telling them that the former GOP presidential hopeful is prepared to help in “any way,” offering up her personal phone number, and informing them that she would like to connect with their respective state party chairperson.”

I predict great success!

It’s worth noting that Fiorina is the political equivalent of a trust fund kid deciding to try an acting or music career without having the slightest talent or the drive to make a success of it. The major difference is that great wealth in politics (and particularly in Republican politics) is a credential all its own. So the owner of the New York Knicks or Macaulay Calkin can have shitty novelty bands that nobody really cares about, and exist mainly to be snarked at by pop culture publications. (Seriously, someone thought putting pizza puns in Lou Reed songs was a good idea for some reason.) Just being a rich person alone is not enough to push you to success in that field. But in Republican politics, being rich is enough to forgive a whole multitude of deficiencies: a terrible business record, a short and mostly disastrous political record, and a personality so charmless, nasty and unappealing that even Republican primary voters couldn’t be persuaded to go for it. It apparently qualified her to be next-in-line for the presidency as well.

And not for nothing, while he is undoubtedly a full-on misogynist, Trump’s criticism of Fiorina’s business record was pretty much spot on. I’m not sure which is more surreal about that: a) that Trump actually has a legitimately better record in business than her, or b) that he was actually moved to tell the truth about it, which is rare indeed. But a bona fide bullshitter like Trump knows that there are times where the truth is the most situationally useful thing. In any event, the thought of her running the apparatus of a just-defeated political party is very exciting!

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