The American Century Ends After 72 Years

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom. It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.

Henry R. Luce

Back in January I wrote about how two events – Japan agreeing  to talks with China to proceed on a post Trans-Pacific Partnership Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority asking Putin to intercede with the US – showed a devolution of the US from superpower and hegemon to, potentially, client state. The events of the past week at the NATO and G-7 Summits clearly demonstrate this diminution of the US and its power. Today, speaking in a Bavarian beer hall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated:

The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days.

We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.

If this was part of a well thought through and developed strategy to shift some responsibilities to America’s allies and partners, to better distribute the work that needs to be done to maintain and improve the global system – including to defend it, then Merkel’s remarks would not be so alarming. However, it is pretty clear from the Administration’s own remarks about the trip that this is not the case. They think everything went swimmingly!

The President has had a long standing animosity towards America’s allies and partners, believing since 1987 they have been taking advantage of the US, we now know where some of his animosity towards the EU comes from. The length of time it takes to navigate EU rules and regulations to get approval to build a golf course. The fallout from last week’s NATO and G-7 summits are going to be with us for some time to come. While the President and his senior advisors, such as the neo-nationalist and nativist Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the latter of whom allegedly wrote the NATO speech, may have believed they could crack the EU apart and knuckle NATO, the failure of neo-nationalist candidates in Holland, France, and Austria have pretty much killed that plan. While Merkel still faces reelection later this year, the neo-nationalist, pro-Putin tide that they envisioned washing over Europe appears to have failed. And as a result the US cannot, no matter what the President and his nativist advisors may want, negotiate separate trade agreements with each EU member state and defense agreements with each NATO ally. Rather the US is stuck unless it decides to abrogate those agreements and become almost completely isolationist.

The reality that the NATO and EU member state leadership have now observed up close and personal has disabused them of the belief that the President was transactional. That if they gave him takeaways that he could claim as wins and stroked his ego then he would do what every US president since Truman has done: formally and publicly commit to Article 5 of the NATO charter. No amount of sweet talk or easy wins will move him off what appears to be one of his few well defined and long held core beliefs. That America’s allies and partners seek only to take advantage of the US. This will make whatever the US wants to do in the world going forward more expensive. We will begin to see less assistance from our NATO allies and partners. And we will have to pay more, as in purchase, for assistance from other allies and partners going forward. Trade, defense, and anything else the US will seek to do within the global system will now come with a premium surcharge attached. Just think of it as the price that must be paid to make America great again…



What Do We Know About Carter Page?

I’ve just published a long piece on Carter Page at Nuclear Diner. I think I won’t publish it here, because it’s mainly a resource piece. I know some Juicers are interested in this sort of thing, though. Here’s the intro:

The story of Donald Trump’s Russia connections has so many players and connections that it’s hard to to follow it in any cogent way, let alone connect all the dots. A great many dots still seem to be missing.

What I often find illuminating is to look carefully at details. In my scientific career, I found that the most enlightening path might start with a small piece of information seemingly out of place. I’ve been collecting information about the various players. Putting that information in chronological order seems most helpful to me.

In the service of telling a story, news reporters do not follow chronology. They jump back and forth in time to bring together details they believe help to make the story. I’ve had to spend a lot of time unraveling news articles. This post es a resource rather than conclusions.

Carter Page is one of those odd, out of place characters. Or so it seems to me. One can argue that with Trump’s connections to Breitbart and Infowars, an oddball like Page is fully expected. Page is typical of some of Trump’s predelictions: his connections with Russia are financial and ideological, he is outside the foreign-policy establishment, and he seems a little looney. The currents that brought him into Trump’s orbit may show something about how other people arrived there. And Page himself may have been a significant player.

I’ve distilled material down to a chronology, Page’s contacts, and interviews with him. Because I have been following news about him for a while, I’m including my posts. I also include questions that remain unanswered.



Open Thread and Writing Group Update

This little guy is stuck in a dark corner of my yard. I was going to let it go, because I inherited 12 or 13 peonies already, but then it bloomed and convinced me I should save it. I will find a sunnier spot for it.

Gardening is in full swing, which brings me to the writing group update. I think I’ll have to put a pin in the posts until late August, because my plan for the next couple of months is to be outdoors as much as possible. And I will also be traveling. I have several nice pieces saved from BJ writers that I will hold till then and Wiley Cash is scheduled for October as a guest when his third novel is published. I hope you all understand.

Here are some puppies to smooth things over.

Bixby does love his tall grass. Open thread.



We Must Take Strong Measures to Protect our Nation…

To slightly modify the President’s remarks at this year’s State of the Union address we must take strong measures to protect our Nation from radical Islamic white Christian terrorism!

To go further, and to once again slightly modify his remarks from the October 9th, 2016 presidential debate, the President’s wisdom and counsel are important in these dark times.

Whether we like it or not, and we can be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not there is a problem. And we have to be sure that when Muslims white Christians come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on they have to report it. But as an example in San Bernardino Portland many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many peoplethreats on social media and the multiple arrests and convictions for violent felonies of the one man who killed two and wounded a third, horribly wounded he’ll never be the same. Muslims White Christians have to report the problems when they see them. And, you know, there’s always a reason for everything. If they don’t do that it’s a very difficult situation for our country. Because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and you look at the World Trade Center the University of Maryland bus stop attack and you look at Mother Emmanuel Church and you look at the Murrah Federal Building and you go outside and look at Paris Quebec City look at that horrible, these are radical Islamic white Christian terrorists. And she I won’t even mention the word. Nor will President Obama Vice President Pence. He They won’t use the term radical Islamic white Christian terrorism. Now to solve a problem you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least state the name. She I won’t say the name. President Obama Vice President Pence won’t say the name, but the name is there. It’s radical Islamic white Christian terror. And before you solve it, you have to say the name.

An April 2017 Government Accountability Office report states:

of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far-rightwing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73%) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27%).

It is incumbent on our white Christian leaders, like Vice President Pence, Senator Cruz, Governor Huckabee, Reverend Jerry Fallwell, Jr,  Reverend Franklin Graham, Reverend Pat Robertson, and many, many others to speak out and condemn these horrific acts. And it is incumbent on our white Christian neighbors that if they see something, they must alert the government and say something!

Across the nation, we’re all part of communities. In cities, on farms, and in the suburbs, we share everyday moments with our neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends. It’s easy to take for granted the routine moments in our every day—going to work or school, the grocery store or the gas station. But your every day is different than your neighbor’s—filled with the moments that make it uniquely yours. So if you see something you know shouldn’t be there—or someone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right—say something. Because only you know what’s supposed to be in your everyday. Informed, alert communities play a critical role in keeping our nation safe. “If You See Something, Say Something™” engages the public in protecting our homeland through awareness–building, partnerships, and other outreach.



Why wingy can’t read

The last two Republican presidents, Trump and W, are among the worst in American history. I’d say that in terms of qualifications and intellect, they are probably the two worst candidates to be nominated by a major party since World War II. There’s no way a Democrat like Trump or W would ever be nominated, let alone elected.

The Republican health care bill is a joke, and it was designed by the man the media holds up as the leading intellectual light of the Republican party. If the Democrats put a bill that bad, they’d be crucified.

How much of what’s going on with the Republican party is the result of the low standards they’ve been held to for the last 25 years (or longer) by establishment media? I don’t have the most generous view of human nature, and I think that if people can skate by with bullshit and shoddy work, they usually will.

I realize the dynamic is somewhat complicated. Democrats became the party of reality-based policy making, so of course most journalists end up favoring Democratic policies. Then they bend over backwards to be nice to Republicans to prove they don’t have teh bias. And then on top of that you have a conservative media that is totally unhinged that Republicans can run to if they get asked tough questions by regular media, and that makes regular media double down on lowering its standards for Republicans.

Is there anyway this turns around anytime soon? I just don’t see it.








The Kids Are More Than Alright

Here’s a heartwarming tale to start your Sunday morning:

A group of middle school students from New Jersey caused quite a flap, after half of them refused to take a picture with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

It happened Thursday during a field trip to Washington.

Reaction from the students’ parents are as politically divided as the country.

“It’s not just a picture,” said Matthew Malespina, a student.

Matthew says he couldn’t go through with it.

It didn’t matter that Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, or that he is third in-line to the presidency.

When he and his classmates from South Orange Middle School had the chance to take a picture with the speaker. Matthew watched from the parking lot with 100 of his fellow students.

“It’s being associated with a person who puts his party before his country,” Matthew said.

Attn: Senate and House Republicans

Read what that kid said about party before country.

Think on it.








Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Blast Off!

From irreplaceable garden commentor Marvel:

The lupines are positively ROCKETING into bloom!

***********
Here north of Boston, we’re at peak rhododendron/azalea bloom — lots of fuchsia in people’s yards, because rhodies love our acid soil. The iris season seems to have been brief and abortive; guess they didn’t like going from 70F-degree days to frostbite to 90F-degree days to a month of cold rain. Even our unkillable purple species irises, which have been known to flower as early as mid-February, put on a short and scanty show this year…

The rest of my mail-order tomatoes arrived, so I’ll be spending today (and probably the rest of the week) transferring 32-gallon bags of fresh potting mix into 15gal rootpouches, mixing in fertilizer and SoilMoist, and planting out my ‘bounty’. Yes, it takes longer because I’m old and fat and have a bad back and a bum knee. Good news (I keep reminding myself) is that it’s easier than ever to be a gardener today, even with all my physical limitations.

I did finish cleaning out one flower bed, and transplanting annuals to edge it. But now I can’t put down new mulch until the rose bushes I want to bed out there (because hope springs eternal) show up from the Oregon grower. They were supposed to arrive no later than last Friday, but that’s when the big tomato order showed up, so I didn’t get around to complaining yet…

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?








Saturday Night Open Thread

I’m heading up to Connecticut for a few days with ABC, so I spent the day cleaning the house, getting ready, and making sure the piglets would be safe with their new dog sitter. My former dogsitter graduated (BOOO!) but I found a new college student who is only a sophomore at the local college, has two rescues of her own, and loves animals, so I am set for the next few years are far as dogsitting goes.

Got a solid coat of wax on the Honda for her maiden voyage, a full tank of gas, got my jumper cables and emergency equipment and road flares and battery charger and all the stuff I carry in my car at all times because I like to be prepared, just finalized the iphone playlist, and it looks like I am set.

Greg Allman died today, so I made sure I put a bunch of my favorites on the list. For my money, Live at Ludlow Garage is one of the best live albums ever, although the Fillmore and the Atlanta International Pop festival are amazing, too.

At any rate, I hope you all have a safe Memorial Day weekend, and I will post dispatches from the road when possible. Hopefully our god damned President will refrain from starting a war or committing treason this weekend, but I don’t have my hopes up.








Schadenfreude Open Thread: The Bucket Brigade Arrives!

… and to put out the fires, per the Washington Post — the other Trump kids!:

Amid mounting questions at the White House about Russia, three prominent members of President Trump’s family — his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Eric’s wife, Lara — have ramped up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation, having met privately with GOP leaders to share their concerns and outlook.

Their most recent effort came Thursday, when the president’s eldest sons and Lara Trump visited the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington. Those three family members, who were invited by the RNC, stayed for about two hours, according to four people who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Their appearance at the RNC irked at least two prominent Republicans who were briefed on the session, who wondered whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.

But two other people familiar with the meeting said it was appropriate for the president’s sons and daughter-in-law, who all volunteered for Trump’s campaign, to huddle with Republican leaders and offer their perspective on what would be most helpful to President Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race…

A number of RNC figures and Trump allies also attended the Thursday meeting: RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, RNC chief of staff Sara Armstrong, former Trump campaign digital strategist Brad Parscale, Trump campaign committee director Michael Glassner, and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, who now advises a pro-Trump nonprofit group…

White House officials declined on Saturday to comment on the meeting.

Be more useful if Eric wasn’t wearing the bucket over his head, and Donald Jr wasn’t standing in his.

Ya gotta wonder how irked Sarah Palin must be, given all the abuse her family took, when the Palin clan grifting didn’t amount to more than a few thousand dollars in free swag and fancy accommodations. Sure, they can see Russia from their compound, but they never tried to sell the whole country off to Putin in return for propping up a bunch of dirty real-estate deals.



Buddy Update: He’s Home!

BL emailed me and asked that I move her update via comment to the front page:

I just returned Buddy to his home. The owner had returned from his trip.They had to leave suddenly to attend a funeral in Detroit. He is elderly but clearly cares for Buddy, whose name is Buddy. They live on 4 acres and normally Buddy has the run of much of it, but there was some confusion when they had to leave suddenly.

Hopefully he does not leave Buddy in the care of the neighbor who lost track of Buddy.

I checked with YouCaring, but there is no method for refunding directly through YouCaring. However, YouCaring did provide me with a list of donors, amounts and email addresses. I will be sending an email to all who donated to Buddy asking your preference – I can make a donation to John’s animal charity or send you a check. Please check your emails for a gmail from b l a m b 1 0 1 0 and let me know your preference. If you want a refund, and I know there are those on BJ who are struggling, I am happy to send a check. If I havent heard from you within a week, then I will assume you are ok with donating your portion to John’s favorite animal rescue charity. Another alternative is forwarding the donation in honor of greennotGreen.

Also, I was in discussion with the Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland about taking Buddy when I heard from the neighbor. They had agreed to take Buddy in today, if I wasnt satisfied the person was Buddy’s owner. If you need a rescue for older dogs in the DC area, they are very nice and have a wonderful facility. They also were willing to mediate returning Buddy home if I wasnt comfortable doing it myself.

P.S. What is John’s favorite animal rescue charity?

So if you want a refund, you know what to do. And thanks again for everyone who helped out – from chipping in to offering to foster to offering to adopt.








Saturday Afternoon Open Thread

Ric wanted to be with the flowers I bought at the Farmers’ Market this morning. Got some potatoes, obviously among the last of last year’s, but new potatoes should be coming soon, and Napa cabbage. Had a bunch of other stuff, like green onions and beets, from last week.

There’s a Twitter account called @isacatinthesink that tweets “no” or “yes” and a photo, as appropriate to answering that question.

Is there a cat in your sink?

Update: Here is Echo, sent by Carol via Alain the Site Fixer, whose pc is down. (Wait, what?)








Call the Senate

Call the Senate. Tell them that the AHCA is horrendous policy that actively and aggressively harms people and that you expect them to vote No.

Be polite but be clear and firm as to what you want your Senator to do.

If you live in a state with two good votes on the AHCA, call them as well. They like to hear that they have support back home. It makes it easier.

The Senate was always going to be where the greatest chance of stopping a policy and moral disaster so let’s get to work.



Peak Dude Bro

As predicted yesterday, Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley commencement speech riled up the usual suspects because Hillary Clinton. But I found the reaction from unpaid New Republic intern (I hope) Graham Vyse particularly irritating.

Not because it was worse than the drivel poured forth at Fox News, etc., but because it exemplifies a particular strain of post-election posturing about Clinton that makes me want to gather the sisterhood and embark on a cross-country nut-punching spree. The first fucking line is infuriating:

Hillary Clinton is auditioning for a role in the Trump resistance.

Motherfucker, do you even know WHY there is a Trump resistance? Do you understand how it launched? It’s because on November 8, 2016, the retrograde racist, sexist, xenophobic, authoritarian element that has sandbagged this country from its founding banded together with Eurotrash white nationalists to push a highly qualified woman aside and deliver the presidency to an ambulatory genital wart.

This outrage was unprecedented in its scale. But it reflected literally hundreds of millions of incidents every competent woman in this country has experienced at multiple points in her life. It was the ultimate confirmation of what women have felt in their bones from toddlerhood: We’ll never be good enough. We are second-class citizens.

Vyse goes on, citing as evidence of Clinton’s overweening ambition tweets from fellow dudes:

Clinton is adopting the language of the Trump resistance, and indeed there are indications that she wants to be a key figure in that movement.

Motherfucker, Clinton IS a “key figure in that movement,” whether she wants to be or not. Trump’s elevation to the presidency was and is a tragedy for the entire planet. Everyone who comprehends that fact has a role to play in mitigating the damage, pointing out the corruption and attempting to roll back this grave injustice.

But you can’t erase the most high profile victim of this crime and delegate Michael Moore or Bernie Sanders to lead the movement that sprang up in response to that outrage. We won’t let you.

And by “we,” I mean the millions of women who knitted caps until there was no more pink yarn. The women who drove all night to descend on Washington DC on January 21 and dwarf Trump’s inaugural crowd. Those who turned up to march in cities all around the world to form the largest single-day protest in the history of the planet. And the millions of women who are still calling, faxing and emailing their elected representatives to this day.

No, it wasn’t all about Hillary Clinton. It never was! But when you try to sideline her, many of us perceive that as a dismissal akin to the one we heard loud and clear on November 8. That pisses us off. And you wouldn’t like us when we’re pissed off.

Vyse concludes:

Clinton shouldn’t be a central resistance figure. What losing presidential candidate, after all, has ever returned to lead the opposition? Not John Kerry, not Al Gore, not Michael Dukakis. The Democratic Party is right to be elevating its younger rising stars. But clearly she still feels the pull of politics, and who’s going to stop her from giving speeches and interviews whenever she pleases? The Bernie Sanders wing of the party might want to wish her away, but only she has the power to decide that.

Kerry, Gore and Dukakis? Just shut the fuck up right there, Mr. Vyse. Kerry, Gore and Dukakis weren’t trying to become the first woman to ascend to the presidency in the 241-year history of our republic. They didn’t win more popular votes than anyone besides Barack Obama only to be robbed by corrupt traitors colluding with a hostile foreign power to install an embarrassing and incompetent demagogue.

And in case you didn’t notice while cherry-picking Clinton’s speech to find triggering evidence of female ambition, the central theme of it was to motivate the enthusiastic young women graduating that day to take leadership and create change. Hell, she even said “run for office.” It’s right there in her speech. We heard her. Did you?

As for the “Bernie Sanders wing of the party,” I can only speak for myself when I say I stand with all Democrats who are united in resisting Trump and the Republicans’ disastrous agenda. I’m glad Clinton called it what it is — a con. I’m glad a $15 minimum wage is now official Democratic Party policy. But no faction within our party gets to tell the other to sit down and shut up. Not now. Not ever.

That said, I would like to offer a piping hot mug of shut the fuck up to Mr. Vyse and the countless other young white fellas in prominent perches throughout our liberal media. But after that, the fucking kitchen is closed. Make your own goddamned sammitch.



Saturday Morning #PopCulture Open Thread

(h/t Adam)

If you ever saw Gene Rodenberry speak, you probably heard him describe how the Paramount suits demanded, after watching the Star Trek pilot, that he drop either the female second-in-command or the alien science officer. “So I married the woman and kept Mr. Spock,” he would finish, gleefully, “… because in California, it was illegal to do it the other way around!”

Forty years later…

Also, the new Wonder Woman movie is already drawing raves, so one Texas-based movie chain had a brilliant marketing idea. As described by a (male!) critic at Film School Rejects:

A few days ago, the Alamo Drafthouse did what the Alamo Drafthouse does best: announce a special event themed to one of its upcoming releases. In celebration of Wonder Woman, the first female-driven superhero movie in the current wave of Marvel and DC productions, Alamo announced that they would be holding a special women-only screening on Tuesday, June 6 at their downtown location in Austin. If you identify as a woman, you could spend a night at Alamo’s very own Themyscira and enjoy the film with an all-female audience and staff.

Almost immediately, the company was inundated with both positive and negative responses. The Drafthouse’s initial Facebook post became ground zero for both the worst and best responses to the event; some fans celebrated the fact that Drafthouse was using Wonder Woman as an opportunity to celebrate intersectional feminism, while others decried the event as just another example of liberal snowflakes and their need for safe spaces…

On paper, it’s hard for anyone to defend why they’re upset with the two special screenings of Wonder Woman. There are an additional 31 screenings (three-one) of Wonder Woman in Austin that same Tuesday; that doesn’t even include non-Drafthouse locations, an extra level of math I have no interest in doing. Hell, there’s even one additional late screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz for those who really want to see the film in the heart of downtown Austin…

But I personally hope that those who click for the controversy will stay for the affirmation. For every person who has expressed outrage at the screenings, another has expressed excitement at the opportunity for a bunch of women to gather together and watch a kick-ass movie that celebrates women. I’ve seen people discussing sponsoring tickets for non-profit organizations focused on women and women’s health, making plans to drive down to Austin with a close sibling or parent, or simply cheering on those who will attend the screening even if it’s not targeted to them…

Alamo Drafthouse, of course, takes full advantage:

And, finally, happy news about a no-longer-nearly-as-popular “culture”:

What else is on the agenda as we start the holiday weekend?



Late Night Spy-vs-Spy Open Thread: How Badly Did Ivanka Want A Divorce?

She had a nice lifestyle, a profitable brand, the envy of all her Park Slope peers, until somebody talked Daddy into running for President…

Yes, “Melania’s pre-nup” would be the obvious joke, but who believes Melania was paying that much attention to what the old man’s cronies were up to?

(General speculation, if you click on the tweets and read the replies, seems to be that Trump should’ve had the smarts to be nicer to Christie.)

Apparently Fox News had a really frantic evening, looking for substitute target for the evening’s Ten Minute Hate…

(You probably don’t want to read the replies to that tweet… )