Balloon Juice Shout-Out on Prairie Home Companion (Open Thread)

Your favorite blog got a shout-out in the “Guy Noir” segment of this week’s “Prairie Home Companion,” which is broadcast on NPR local public radio stations nationwide. (But you knew that, you damned totebagger!)

The reference comes at around the 7:20-ish mark and is made by Brad Paisley, a country music star. The context is a country songwriter complaining about the internet distractions that impede his productivity and reciting a list of apps, sites, etc., with vacuous-sounding names, including your own Balloon Juice. So we’ve got that going for us. Woohoo!

Open thread!

Breaking News: Alabama Chief Justice Moore Suspended (Again…)

Once again the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (h/t: RawStory) has brought charges against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Chief Justice Moore is being charged with violating judicial ethics in regards to same sex marriage by instructing Alabama probate judges to ignore both a Federal Court ruling and the Supreme Court rulings legalizing same sex marriages. He will be suspended with pay until his case is resolved before the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. Here’s a link to the complaint. Consider this a late night/early morning open thread.

Bets and the Beanstalk (Open Thread)

One feature of living in the sun-blasted hellscape of Florida, in addition to the giant, flying, indestructible cockroaches and invasive alien reptiles — one of whom has purchased the governorship — is the option to start spring gardening in February.

Our beanstalks are already 11 feet tall! Here’s today’s haul:

The best way to cook these beauties is to sauté them gently in olive oil, add a split garlic clove, then finish them with some lemon zest and pecorino cheese. Unbelievably good.

But tonight, we’re gonna fry some up in beer batter and dip them in homemade boom-boom sauce. What are you having for dinner?

Anyway, open thread!

Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech Part the Second: The Trump Doctrine

I’ve had a chance to read and reread the transcript of Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech, as well as reflect on both what was written and what was delivered. I will leave the fiskings and point by point takedowns of the contradictions, flaws in logic, petty vindictiveness, and inconsistencies to others. I want, instead, to focus in on the core of the address, which could, perhaps, be referred to the Trump Doctrine. The Trump Doctrine, at its core, can be boiled down to America (we) will be treated fairly. As I wrote yesterday in my initial impressions, this is essentially National Security Narcissism. The Trump Doctrine of America being treated fairly runs through all of the five weaknesses he identified in his remarks. Even when those weaknesses don’t bear a lot of close scrutiny or resemble reality or contradict each other. More than that, however, is that the Trump Doctrine is really the animating force or theme of the entire Trump campaign. The other candidates had better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican National Committee better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican establishment better treat Donald Trump fairly, the media better treat Donald Trump fairly, the state level parties that handle the primaries and all the delegates chosen better treat Donald Trump fairly. And Donald Trump will make them treat him fairly! And the only candidate, nay the only person in America who can ensure that you are treated fairly is Donald Trump. And if he isn’t treated fairly or the US isn’t treated fairly, then he will get even!

In one way this is pure genius. It seamlessly connects the domestic and foreign policy, for lack of a better term because there really has been no discussion of policies (or even the shorthand of ends and objectives by Mr. Trump or his campaign surrogates), within the campaign’s messaging. And by doing so it reaches right out to and connects with those supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and ambitions. The average American, in some cases even the above average American, really does not know how policy is formulated or strategy is developed for domestic issues, let alone for foreign or defense issues. Donald Trump’s speech yesterday cut through all of that reality – that how the official business of America at the Federal, state, and municipal levels is done is often arcane and messy – and reached right for his supporter’s guts. Donald Trump has consistently been telling Americans – in his Washington Post interview, as well as the one in the New York Times,  in his media appearances, at debates and town halls, and at his rallies – that they are being taken advantage of and that only Donald Trump can stop this. All he’s now done is formally extend it into the realm of foreign and defense policy and connect the pieces together.

So what does the Trump Doctrine, America will be treated fairly, really mean? Donald Trump has provided some explanation. NATO members must start paying their minimums and the alliance’s focus must be adjusted for a post Cold War world. Never mind that the Obama Administration was already engaging on the European defense spending issue and that NATO has already adjusted their mission set for the post Cold War world. Our other allies and partners must actually pay us for the privilege of our partnerships.  The reality is that South Korea and Japan, who were both explicitly mentioned in this regard, already do so. And while there was a small amount of aid given to Saudi Arabia for military training, $10,000, that is not even a rounding error in the foreign military sales budget. It also means that if trade deals don’t actually work out to the US’s advantage, that the US will simply walk away from them. While this may work in private business deals in the US, it is not that simple when dealing with multilateral agreements negotiated through diplomatic channels. Of course it may also not mean any of these things as it is not at all clear that beyond the concept of fair treatment, Mr. Trump has actually thought through most of what would happen should he, as President, try to respond when he feels that the US has not been treated fairly.

The only people that should be happy with Mr. Trump’s foreign policy remarks are Vladimir Putin, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic extremists running the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Mr. Trump’s doctrine of America will be treated fairly screams a revanchist approach to foreign and defense policy. Should the US not be treated fairly, the US will then retaliate. Maybe that’s taking our things and going home. Maybe that’s getting even. Maybe its something else, but because Donald Trump’s emphasis is on unpredictability there is no way to really know.

Vladimir Putin must be thrilled. Especially over the tough talk directed towards NATO and the EU, China and the Middle East. One of the cores of Putinism is to roll back NATO’s post Cold War expansion and weaken, if not outright dissolve, the EU. Both because he feels they are interfering in his near abroad and because part of Putinism is also revanchist; seeking retribution (h/t for both to: Stiftungleostrauss) for American and European predation on a weak post Soviet Russia. Putin also would love to have the US pull back from the Middle East and Asia so he could extend his influence there, as well as open up new opportunities and markets.

Similarly, the Chinese leadership would love for the US, in a snit, to take its expeditionary military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and go home. It seems to have escaped Mr. Trump’s notice that the only thing keeping China from not just fully capturing the Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands, but from China’s actions in regard to them from turning into a full out Asian-Pacific war is that the US’s military presence keeps the sea and ground lines of commerce and communication open in the region. The People’s Republic would be thrilled if the US pulled its personnel out of Japan and South Korea and ended regional exercises in a snit of alleged unfair treatment. They would also, just like Vladimir Putin, like to be able to seek new opportunities in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Arab North Africa. They are already pursuing their own interests in all of these places, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, so having the US pull out because its new President’s feeling were hurt would be a dream come true.

Finally, the Islamic extremists that run the Islamic State and al Qaeda are most likely giving prayers of thanks every time Mr. Trump talks about excluding Muslims from the US, going after not just suspected and identified terrorists, but members of their families as well, and bringing back water boarding and then adding worse – whatever worse is. Aside from alienating the leadership of the Muslim majority countries that we need to be partnered with to contain and ultimately attrit the Islamic State and al Qaeda until they are incapable of causing the harm, destruction, and chaos they currently do, Mr. Trump’s remarks are the best recruiting material an Islamic extremist could ask for. Rather than having to destroy the gray zone themselves in order to force Muslims to chose a side, the Islamic State and al Qaeda can sit back and watch Mr. Trump’s rhetoric do it for them. And then leverage it in recruiting materials.

While Donald Trump’s doctrine of America will be treated fairly may not make a lot of specific policy sense in regard to the global system that the US exists within, it makes perfect sense as a campaign theme to further connect Trump with his supporters. The real genius behind the Trump Doctrine is that it is Donald Trump’s promise to his supporters and anyone amenable to his message that: Donald Trump will be treated fairly, only Donald Trump can ensure Americans will be treated fairly, and only Donald Trump can ensure that America will be treated fairly. National Security Narcissism indeed.

Donald Trump Foreign Policy Speech: Part 1.5 – Initial Impressions

Once I can get my hands on a transcript I’ll do a longer and fuller treatment. My initial impression and key take away from Mr. Trump’s foreign policy remarks is that the Trump Doctrine is: America will be treated fairly. Essentially National Security and Foreign Policy Narcissism. It is all about us and being treated well, properly, fairly however Mr. Trump defines those things. More to follow later on.

Donald Trump Foreign Policy Speech: Part the First

At noon today Donald Trump is going to give a foreign policy speech. The reporting indicates that these are prepared remarks that he will present with the assistance of a teleprompter. It will be interesting to see how much nuance and polish his aides, and specifically whoever was tasked to assist him with preparing this speech, will have been able to apply to the off the cuff remarks he has been hammering in regards to foreign policy. The key items to look for, and to compare and contrast today’s remarks with how he usually presents them, are:

  • The economic impacts of our foreign policy, specifically the defense components of maintaining an expeditionary force posture with significant overseas basing, exercise, and operational commitments. Mr. Trump has repeatedly asserted that our allies, partners, and clients have been taking advantage of us, they are costing us tremendous amounts of money, and that they will have to start paying up and beefing up their own defenses or they could find themselves without American military support.
  • NATO. Mr. Trump has repeatedly asserted that NATO is obsolete, too expensive, and not doing much for the US but getting it into trouble. Interestingly enough this is very close to the position held by Vladimir Putin. It should be interesting to see how Mr. Trump presents this portion of his speech since hiring Mr. Manafort as his senior advisor. Mr. Manafort’s has ties to Vladimir Putin, originally via Victor Yanukovych, for the purposes of shaping opinion in regards to Russia’s actions in Crimea and the Donbass.
  • Nuclear Weapons. Mr. Trump has repeatedly argued that nuclear weapons are a terrible threat and at the same time argued that if Japan and South Korea don’t open their wallets and start paying the US to secure them, then it would make sense for them to develop their own nuclear deterrent for dealing with North Korea.
  • China. Mr. Trump has relentlessly and repeatedly hammered that China is killing us economically while saying he alone could do proper and profitable, Nation to Nation, business with China. It will be interesting to see and hear what, if any, actual strategy Mr. Trump has to accomplish this.
  • Terrorism. Mr. Trump has repeatedly argued he is the only one who will get properly tough with terrorists, especially the Islamic State and its supporters. He has asserted that he would bring back water boarding and then transition to worse, would target the families of terrorists, and would knock the Islamic State out so fast. Here too it will be interesting to see what, if any, specifics are brought forward and how coherent they are or are not.

Here’s a link to the live feed, which I’m going to try to embed below. I’ll be back later tonight with an policy and strategy analysis of his remarks (and hopefully a link to the full transcript provided a transcript is released).


Sunday Night Open Thread

Well, I was going to share a photo of and recipe for a fabulous berry tart I made this evening, but I can’t get the damned photo to upload. So here’s something silly instead:


We have visitors who watch the PBS Sunday night line-up, so we watched that even though we’re unfamiliar with the shows. Now we’re catching the end of the Easter Rising documentary discussed in Adam’s thread below. You?