Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What does the President Know, and When Will Putin Know It?

Just thought I'd check in with the Trump voters out there as the new administration lurches toward the end of its first month.

Still feel good about your choice? Yeah, I suspect you do, for the variety of reasons you pulled the lever for a profoundly unqualified and documentedly crooked candidate in the first place.

Well, at least Congress will keep the best interests of the country at heart. Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha.

As always, the pertinent question is: What if it were Democrats pulling one-tenth of this? Lying about Russian contacts? Dealing with an international crisis in the middle of a tastelessly-decorated, and more to the point unsecured, dining room? Addressing conflicts of interest by forthrightly and transparently multiplying them?

But yeah, definitely keep the heat on Hillary. Sue to get those emails, that's where the real threat to the Republic lies. It's all worth it to get your agenda enacted and as long as there's someone lower on the ladder. That's the American Way.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Setting Sons and Daughters

In the early days of the blog, when the world was young and the GW Bush Administration was stumbling in the aftermath of the Katrina/Schiavo Two-Step, JJV would find obituaries of (usually) British soldiers, diplomats, soldier-diplomats etc and either post them or (before I gave him the keys) send them to me. I am pleased to report a revival of the tradition although these are a bit late out of the gate.

First, the female journalist who broke the news of the German invasion of Poland via a British diplomatic car, and went on to further adventures from there.

Next, the Irish bureaucrat who seems to have created modern Ireland, however anonymously. I'd love to meet him in the afterlife although I suspect I'd get an earful for including him amongst the oppressor.

Requiescat in pace.


I started this earlier in the week and if I kept modifying it as events unfold it would never make it to the half-light of day. So here goes.

It appears that, based on the actions/inactions of Congress and the Republican leadership in general, the following are all OK:

  • Interference in a presidential election by a hostile foreign power, in its previous incarnation an existential foe of this country and retaining the means, however mutually self-destructive, of wiping out the United States as we know it
  • The evident possession, by the same hostile foreign power, of dirt on (and more likely, of financial advantage over) the Constitutional President
  • The consistently pro-same-hostile-foreign-power stance taken by a presidential candidate, now the Constitutional President, increasingly at variance, to put it mildly, with the US intelligence community
  • The nomination for Secretary of State of a man awarded a decoration by, yes, the same hostile foreign power
  • The appointment as National Security Advisor of a conspiracy theorist who contacted the SHFP (got tired of typing) the same day the outgoing administration imposed sanctions for interfering in the presidential election
  • The nomination to other Cabinet posts of men and women clearly unqualified for the position and, in some cases, hostile to the basic mission of the Departments they have been nominated to lead. (I'll spot him Mattis, although in that case they broke a rule regarding public service within a specified retirement period.)
  • The apparent inability of the Constitutional President to absorb even the slightest amount of criticism that comes with the job, manifesting itself in tweets threatening martial law and minions spouting "alternative facts" from the White House and TV studios
  • The retention by the Constitutional President of business connections with direct implications for foreign policy, not to mention a DC property lease that is in violation of regulations as of 12 PM on January 20

Any one of these would have stopped a Democrat in his or her tracks before the end of the primaries, and rightly so.

This is all OK, it turns out. Perhaps I should take the advice offered to me, to stop whining, to be calm and accept that this too shall pass. Remember, you can get away with all of the above as long as you keep in mind:

It's OK If You're a Republican.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Shocked, in the Capt. Renault Sense

So here we are a few days into the administration of Constitutional President Trump, and whoever is surprised by anything that has happened should be heartily ashamed, or should get out more often, or both.

I really don't have much more to say than other, better writers out there, several of which grace the blog roll: Josh Marshall at TPM, the crew at Lawyers, Guns and Money, John Scalzi, and Charles Pierce, to name but a few. Read them, they're great, plus they get paid (more or less) to do that, which means they write more frequently than your humble host.

No wait, I do.

I am beyond proud of everyone who turned out for the Women's March, including Laura and Fiona and half a million of their closest friends in DC, and literally millions more around the country and across the globe. Metro ridership that Saturday took all-time second highest place, between Obama's two inaugurations. Meanwhile, Metro rides on this most recent Inauguration Day fell short of an average weekday. In the immortal words of Nelson Muntz, "HAAAA haaa!"

People voted for Trump for a variety of reasons: belief in his promises (granted, there was a lot to choose from), belief that a Republican Congress would restrain him while enacting their agenda, economic anxiety, ignorance, fear, bigotry, etc. (I will be generous and leave out the FBI's thumb on the scale.) All of these reasons took precedence in these voters' minds over Trump's manifest lack of qualifications, character and temperament to assume such high office, let alone any position of public responsibility. No campaign speech or incident, pitched almost unceasingly to the lowest, basest instincts of the GOP base and the electorate at large, from the primaries through the general election, gave these voters pause. Everything this administration does and says is all yours.

The joke's on you. Unfortunately, it's on the rest of us as well.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year in Music

2016 was not the best year for a lot of people, but it did stand out in one good way for Laura and me, in that we saw more concerts than we ever have in a single calendar year. So let's take a break from Trump and review.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Verizon Center, 1/29. This was near the start of the "River" Tour, in which the band performed the complete double album, which would have been enough to rank this as the greatest show I have ever seen. That was just the first half; at the conclusion of "Wreck on the Highway" Bruce said "Let's go for a ride" and off we went through the forty-year songbook to finish out a three-and-a-half-hour show. Did 67-year-old Springsteen body-surf? Of course he did. Did he take any break longer than thirty seconds? No, he did not.

Dolly Parton at Wolf Trap, 6/1. Described by Bryan as "the funnest show I have ever seen!" despite the fact that he fell asleep during "9 to 5". She just turned 70 but you wouldn't know it. More corn than an ethanol plant but a great show from an immensely talented artist and her longtime band.

Amusing side story: Bryan and I arrived late to the show after a baseball game, and we had an extra ticket that I planned to sell outside the gate for face value. So I approach the first guy near the gate who is obviously looking for a ticket and initiate the deal. He says he doesn't have any cash but can pay me after hitting the ATM on the grounds. Shortly thereafter we learn that there are no ATMs at Wolf Trap. He gets flustered and I express some exasperation, so he offers to buy the ticket's price in merchandise. "OK, let's see the merch," say I, and off we go. I pick out a couple of T-shirts, he buys them, then, with a quizzical expression, says "Wait, this isn't the Dylan show?" 

Howard Jones/Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark/Bare Naked Ladies at Wolf Trap, 6/15. Earlier I referred to this show as the "One of These Things is Not Like the Others" Tour, with BNL being the odd men out on an otherwise solid '80s bill. Nevertheless it was a fun show, with OMD being the standout set.

The Cure at Madison Square Garden, 6/19. This was my first time at MSG for any event and it was a great show. Robert Smith brought the angst in quantity.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Nationals Park, 9/1. Earlier in the summer I was in the car with Fiona and we heard a commercial for this show. When it finished Fiona said, "Nationals Park would be a good place to see Bruce Springsteen" (she saw Taylor Swift there). I paused a moment then asked "You want to go?" and she said "Sure." Tickets went on sale the next day so we picked up some upper-level seats.

This was still advertised as the "River Tour" so I put the album on her phone and advised her to listen to it in preparation. However, the band not surprisingly had since tired of starting every show the same so they were no longer playing the album straight through. This was apparent immediately but the "downside" of not seeing "The River" performed again was a three-plus-hour tour de force of all sorts of his work.

"Weird Al" Yankovic at Wolf Trap, 9/11. I've been a fan of Weird Al since Dr. Demento played his solo-accordion "My Bologna", recorded in the acoustic triumph of a university men's room. His stage show was a great combination of old and new material, with frequent costume changes and foolishness. The kids enjoyed it too but perhaps not as much as the guy behind us who was alternately guffawing and belting out the lyrics.

The Proclaimers at the Birchmere, 9/15. I have been fans of the Scottish identical twin duo since their first album in 1987, and they frequently appear at one of our favorite area music venues. They usually bring a variety of accompanying musicians but the real performance is in the incredible vocal harmonies they produce. Definitely see them if they are touring anywhere near you.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, Shine a Light Tour, at the Birchmere, 9/27. I've loved Billy Bragg since the early '80s although I lost track of him until about ten years ago, and when I learned he had done a collection of railroad songs and was touring it was definitely a TAKE MY MONEY ALL OF IT YES situation. Laura is not such a big fan so I went with a friend who got there early to ensure a good (first come first served) table. The show, the first of the tour, lived up to expectations, although BB seemed to take (nonverbal) issue with the way JH tuned his guitar at one point.

Bonus Train Nerd Fact: All but one of the songs were recorded either on a train, in a station or on the station platform itself.

This concludes our musical interlude. We now return to weeping for our country.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fulfilling Its Purpose

So, with the certification of the Electoral College's votes, short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump moves one step closer to the office to which a majority of us did not vote for him (actual voters, not the population at large; back off, sophists). There is one more step, the approval of the results by Congress; that may produce some political theater but little else.

This is, in a strict constitutional sense, as it should be. It was really no more than wishful thinking to imagine the Electoral College reversing its clear majority, regardless of its disparity with the popular  vote.

Much was made, including by yours truly, of the purported role of the Electoral College in preventing an incompetent demagogue under the influence of a foreign power (to take a random example) from ascending to the Presidency. We took as our text Federalist 68, in which Hamilton touted the possibility of the Electoral College taking such action.

The only problem with this is kind of a big one: it's not really laid out in the Constitution like that. We have to remember that the Federalist Papers, as brilliant a set of political treatises as they are, were published primarily as sales brochures for the attention of the New York constitutional convention, and are not an "official" interpretation of the Constitution's intent.

Even Hamilton hedged on this. After describing the possibility of the Electoral College taking such action, he more or less said "Sure, but that won't happen because AMERICA, amirite?" I am paraphrasing.

Bottom line: the system worked as intended; it's just that the system's foundation is flawed. Three-fifths of a cheer for the Electoral College.

Clear the Bridge

An emergency situation has arisen. As of now, December 19, 2016, 2100 hours, I am assuming sole command of this blog.

Those who have contributed to this blog in the past know that I am a tolerant proprietor. I have spiked exactly one post and deleted exactly one comment. Don't advocate torture and don't make fun of my kids, respectively, and we'll have no trouble. The time has come, however, for me to take sole responsibility for the voice and outlook of this little corner of the Internet, and so I am taking this step.

I want to thank the members of the masthead for their contributions over the past eleven years. I am pleased (more or less) to report that no posts have been harmed in the elimination of this blog's collective nature. Further, should any of you wish to contribute pieces in future, email them to me and I will post them if I consider them appropriate. As has always been the case, those who wish their voices heard without prior approval are free to do so.

There will be no change in commenting policy. All are welcome to contribute their voices to the discussion. Frankly, some of them have been better than my own writing (looking at you, JCC).

Concluding paragraphs have never been my strong suit, so in conclusion, America is a land of contrasts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Superficiality: Irrefutability Test

As the normalization of the abnormal continues, it occurs to me to ask this:

If barely half of the things reported about Trump and the election - the conflicts of interest, the Russian angle, the cabinet nominations that would make Jay Gould say "Whoa, that's a bit much" - were to be reported about President-elect Clinton  (assuming a rational alternate universe), how would Republicans respond? I am thinking in particular of those principled statesmen Paul Ryan and especially Mitch McConnell, as well as their legislative colleagues with investigative authority.

Can anyone help me out with this?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

This Glass is 230 Years Old. Should We Break It?

My latest post, as predicted, drew forth a defense of the Electoral College fresh off the VRWC teletype, although again I must remind JJV to unscramble the transmission before submitting.

There has been some noise made about the possibility of the Electoral College ignoring the will of the states in particular in favor of the will of the people in general. Like most Americans, I have not read the Constitution closely but I did take the time just now to peruse Article II, which outlines, among other things, the selection of the President.

I think the EC will avoid attracting attention to itself - institutionally and individually - and vote according to its selection, with a few statistically insignificant exceptions. This happened in 2000. On the other hand, with the popular vote disparity passing 2.5 million, much wider than in 2000 and with no judicial branch involvement, is it time to consider whether the Electoral College should exercise a theoretical prerogative and vote "faithlessly"? One could argue that in fact the College, were it to do so, would be faithful to its intended purpose.

I will admit I am not thinking too much about the possibility. Too much tradition and complacency has accreted around these institutions to allow a departure from quadrennial practice even under the present circumstances, in which the President-elect has hit the Federalist trifecta of incompetence, demagoguery and foreign influence.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In Which I Connect the Election with the Works of Patrick O'Brian

I just came up with this while watching Fiona's fencing lesson and contemplating the state of things.

There has been a lot of use of the word "rigged" and variants thereof. Before the election Trump said the process was rigged; after the election clarified that it was just the popular vote that was rigged thanks to "illegals" voting.

Presidential elections are in fact rigged, and here is where the O'Brian reference enters. Sailing ships have two kinds of rigging, expressed very roughly thus: standing rigging holds up the masts, while running rigging allows the crew to raise and lower the sails and maneuver the ship according to wind speed and direction.

The standing rigging of presidential elections is the Electoral College, founded concurrent with the infamous three-fifths compromise by which slaveholding states increased their power as a condition of ratifying the new constitution. Those whose policy preferences are reinforced by the proportionally greater power of rural over urban constituencies can spin up pious defenses of the EC at the drop of a hat. "But Dave," I will also hear, "what about the times the EC has gone against the popular vote to the disadvantage of YOUR policy preferences? What happened then?" Couldn't tell you because that hasn't happened.

Ok, back to O'Brian as it's vastly more interesting than the conversations in my head. The running rigging of national elections has been the variety of voter suppression laws on the books of various states throughout this already great nation's history. By some strange circumstance the worst of these took hold in the post-rebellion South, in the states of the so-called Confederacy. Go figure. At any rate, the ship of state was shorn of much of its running rigging via the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s (and re-upped since), which the Supreme Court recently determined was no longer necessary since the voter suppression laws it actively prevented no longer existed. By another strange circumstance a raft of voter suppression laws was promptly introduced, and by "promptly" I mean "as soon as the day after the SCOTUS ruling came down." Go. Figure. These laws, coupled with the targeted reduction of voting infrastructure in traditionally Democratic areas, probably contributed to the GOP victory. But I guess it's OK to suppress the vote as long as it reinforces your policy preferences.

There's a theory going around that Trump's spouting off about "illegals" is the stage-setting for the introduction of federal-level voter suppression, ratified by an unconstrained Congress and upheld by a Supreme Court that will get at least two Trump picks installed following the death of the filibuster. But at least all that voter fraud will finally be taken care of.

What a lovely ship we have launched.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Castro is Dead, now to end Castroism

Fidel Castro died at 90.  Perhaps its true that only the good die young.  The Left cannot give a full throated attack on him.  Obama's statement would never let anyone know he denuded his country of 20% of its most productive citizens, ran a Gulag larger per capita than Stalins and engaged in foreign military adventures to keep brutal dictators in power from Africa to South and Central America.

The celebrations in Miami only make me wish I was there and that Obama had not let the tyrant see the capitulation of El Norte to his gulag island.  The Washington Post editorial page summed him up well today to its everlasting credit.  It's news section, not so much.

We are only a Kim or a Mugabe away from a decent end to 2016.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2017 Live Rutablogging!

The pumpkin pies are cooling after an unusually calm crust preparation, so you know what that means. Yes, it's time to make the rutabagas!

I may have gotten a bit enthusiastic in purchasing the largest rutabagas I could find, as Laura reports she is getting quite the arm workout merely by holding one in one hand while peeling it with the other. Here is what we are dealing with, although perhaps I should have parked our car next to them for size comparison. Seriously, these suckers are big.

Back soon with updates!

Update! Peeling and cubing complete. This was indeed a workout; I peeled the last one, by no means the largest one, and it was quite the effort.

Up next, after dinner: Boiling and mashing and stuff!

Update! As promised, it's on to boiling. Exciting before and during, featuring me stirring the pot:

Update! Laura reports that the rutabagas are not giving up without a fight:

Our industrial food processor is laboring mightily to transform rutabagas, butter, salt and butter into a side dish for the ages. Fight fiercely, food processor!

Update! ET VOILA:

Here they are in their serving dish, after a couple of minor seasoning tweaks in which I was happy to participate.

This concludes our 2017 live coverage of rutabaga preparation. Please go back to watching cat videos.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

OK, Here's the Deal

The holidays are upon us, that joyfully-anticipated time of the year when friends and family gather to stare at each other stonily and exchange fire (verbal mostly but watch for reports of Cousin Dan getting the drop on Uncle Bill) over the election results (Constitutional Version). As I am spending Thanksgiving with my most (only?) prolific co-blogger, whose views, upon close scrutiny, differ somewhat from mine, this applies to me as well. (EMM and CRH will be there as well, which is a Good Thing.)

So let me get this out of the way. If you are neutral-to-pleased by the election (Constitutional Version) of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, I cannot and will not talk politics with you. Please do not even try; I will walk away, most likely in the direction of the bar. If we are at the bar, holiday gatherings tend to feature a proliferation of refreshment areas so I will go find a different one.

That being said, if we find ourselves at the same holiday gathering there is a valid reason for that: we're related, we're friends, co-workers, etc. WE CAN TALK ABOUT OTHER THINGS, by which I mean literally anything else. Your kids, my kids, kids these days, even kids with chicken pox.

The worst that could happen is that I get lots of exercise. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

We Have Gone to Eleven

Today is the blog's eleventh birthday. Happy birthday to us!

The last ten days have been pretty wearing and I figured JJV would be first out of the blocks. I will have some more organized thoughts later beyond the general statement that the nomination and election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America is a disaster of the greatest magnitude, to his supporters, detractors and bystanders across the whole spectrum of innocence.

In the meantime, John Scalzi writes with greater frequency, volume and especially quality than I could ever hope to muster, so please direct your attention to this, with which I agree. Hell, maybe I'll just replace the blog with a redirect to his site and be done with it. There is a link over there in the blogroll in the meantime.

Change is coming. I've already made one - see if you can spot it - and there will be more to come.

We have work to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


I watched, stunned as Donald J. Trump (DJT) won the election from Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.  It is now Saturday and Trump has not done anything bad.  I'm pretty stunned still.  I still believe Trump will destroy the Conservative movement and does not have the character to be President, nor did I vote for him.  But the inability of the Left to see that is also true of Hillary amazes me.  The meltdown of the Left in the face of all this is, however, a tonic.  I am a fusionist.  I believe that forward defense (NATO), free trade agreements (TPP)(NAFTA) and being a hegemon to prevent wars at sea are all useful to prosperity and freedom.  But DJT destroyed two American dynasties, Bush and Clinton.  The fall of the House of Clinton causes me a kind of joy it is almost impossible to express.  As someone focussed on the Supreme Court the prospect of 20 years of "making it up" to please Progressives being transformed back to an originalist Court fills me with wonder, and a belief in Divine Providence over this nation.  We have unified Republican governance and the Democratic party is a regional, rump organization.  I never believed Obama's mantra that the "arc of History bends towards Justice" but the events of this week seem to prove him right.  In point of fact the Twitter feeds and op-eds claiming that the culture wars were decisively won and no attention need be paid to people like me, seem now as Hubris calling to Nemesis, and damn if Nemesis did not come when called.

My sons ran around the house on Wed morning saying two things "Daddy was wrong!" and "We are doomed."  I wrote them a letter much like John Podhoretz's to his daughter.

Dear T and J:

Trump won.

You will live.

Get over it.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Superficiality: Guilty as Charged, I Suppose

JJV's latest contribution concludes with the accusation that I "cheer on" left wing "attacks on constitutional norms", specifically (insofar as I can comprehend) threats to dissenting conservatives, gun owners and religious believers. Pretty weighty stuff. Let's take a look!

Dissenting Conservatives. Sure, I'd love for them to shut up until they come up with something indicating an effort at critical reasoning. Should that involve government expenditure for room and board in a tropical setting? I think not. Millions for defense, but not one cent for blowhard camps!

Gun Owners. Civilians should not be able to possess military-grade assault-type weapons or any ordnance not required for basic hunting or home defense. Firearms should be registered in a manner analogous to our regulation of motor vehicles. (Hillary's coming for your pickup trucks!) Firearm insurance should be required, again using car insurance as a model.

I recently met a man who has amassed a striking number of shotguns and rifles (plus a few pistols), each with their own history. He also prepares his own cartridges as needed. I have no problem with this, outside of a reflexive multi-cause nervousness around guns, because this guy knew what he was doing and was psychologically level. I kind of forget why I brought this up except as an illustration of my tolerance of law-abiding citizens with whom I might not necessarily agree. On the other hand, whenever I pass NRA headquarters on I-66 I make sure to flip those bastards off.

At the same time, the militarization of the police over the last twenty years has been a disaster and must be undone to the extent possible.

Religious Believers. No one is being persecuted for their religious beliefs in this country in the way I suspect JJV is thinking. Now, are citizens being protected from the imposition of religious beliefs in violation of civil liberties? Yes, and I suppose if you squinted real hard from a position of former cultural dominance, that could look like persecution, were one to define "persecution" as "being prevented from imposing your will on everyone constantly." At the risk of blasphemy, I suspect that's not what Jesus had in mind in the Eighth Beatitude.

Ok, Fiona's fencing now, I have better things to do.