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Archive for May, 2016

06_john_quincy_adams

This yere is John Quincy Adams, teacher of rhetoric, author of a rhetoric textbook, and oh yeah, President of the United States.

John Q. almost didn’t make it into the presidency. The popular vote of 1807 was actually won by Andrew Jackson. But there were two other candidates as well, so nobody ended up with a plurality. Hence the choice fell to the House of Representatives, which, thank the goddess, chose Adams over Jackson.

Congress tinkered with the Electoral College rules for a long time, but they finally got it right, because the election was thrown into the House only one other time in our history, in 1824.

These historical facts are important today because the Rethugs (or rather, BIll Kristol) is saying now that a third candidate is about to announce. When I heard this I said to myself “What the F?” But when I thought about it, I realized what they are up to. At the moment  polls show that Hillary and Trump are each claiming about forty percent of the vote. However, both have low favorable ratings.

The Libertarians have put together a popular ticket which might realize around ten percent of the popular vote. A fourth candidate, depending on who it is, could gum up the works. Bernie, for example, would split the Dem vote.

Bernie is too smart (I hope) to run as an independent because that would ensure Trump’s election. And the Rethugs will not run Bernie anyhow. So what are they up to? They are trying to find someone who will garner a sufficient percentage of the vote (20 percent?  25?) to throw the election into the House. And we all know what would happen in that den of dinosaurs.

 

 

 

 

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Yara Greyjoy as Hillary?

Clever fans of Game of Thrones are contending that the kingsmoot on the Iron Islands, depicted in last week’s episode, is an analogue of the current American presidential election.

Yara, a member of the Greyjoy royal family, competes for the kingship. She is loyal, a skilled sailor/fighter, and learned in the history of the Iron Islands. Just when she seems to be winning the kingsmoot, though, a loudmouth upstart (her uncle Euron) strides into the discussion, loudly declaring that he is the best ever at everything under the sun.

Chillingly, Euron wins and is acclaimed by the assembled warriors. But while Euron is still bloviating, Yara smartly gathers her followers and makes off with the best ships.

Can’t blame unsullied fans of the show (including a writer for the New Republic) for seeing parallels to current events. And maybe the showrunners intended same, although this seems belied by the fact that GOT has an international audience, cast, and crew.

Also, too: GRRM created this plot some ten years ago. Martin’s description of this scene is far more complex with more contenders and lots of interesting showboating. In fact, in the books the kingsmoot is won by yet another uncle, Victarion, whose smooth presentation to the warriors depends on his deployment of some slick magic.

Perhaps if Bernie could lay his hands on a gigantic magic horn . . .

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Horse Apples

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One of my riding neighbors did me the unfavor of leaving a pile of horseshit in the street just in front of my mailbox. Which means I cannot drive my car in front of the mailbox because to do so would beshit the tires which would, in turn, beshit my garage.

I know, I know:  I can walk out to the mailbox. Or, I could get  shovel and scoop up the mess. Which I will do momentarily.

In the meantime, I’ve written an entire post about horseshit. Take that, Trump!

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Never Forget

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At the Hiroshima memorial:  “The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace,” Mr. Obama said. “What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.” (Quoted from the WaPo).

Meanwhile, the media are trying hard to make something out of the nothing burger that is Hillary’s e-mails.

Obama is leagues ahead of most of us when he expresses hope for a “moral awakening.”  Moral awakening sure ain’t happening in the national press. Like all corporate entities, they are willing to take moral risks in order to strengthen their bottom line. In this case, though, they risk destroying the country–and maybe the world–by helping to replace a great president with a con artist.

 

 

 

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I turn on the teevee early this morning to discover a young reporter (from my aged perspective they all look to be about twelve years old) virtually crowing over the state department report on Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server. The smugness written on her face gave away the real point of today’s media, whose denizens want to feel superior to those on whom they report.

Leeches have a far more substantial motive.

The report itself appears to be a nothing burger, no matter how hard the media picks at it–and they will. Colin Powell also used a private server but he declined to run for further public office, thus rescuing from a vindictive media whatever reputation remained to him after working for W.

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Rep. John Lewis Cosplays Himself

The civil rights hero wrote a comic about Freedom Summer in order to interest young people in that important history. His publishers asked him to attend a comics convention.  Apparently he quickly got into the spirit of such events.

Last summer at one such gathering he dressed as he appeared in the famous photos of the Edmund Pettus bridge, complete with military backpack. Children in attendance got into the spirit and they marched through the hall in an impromptu re-enactment. (There is video at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/13/john-lewis-comic-con_n_7786532.html).

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You can buy “March” at your local bookstore if you still have one.  Otherwise you’ll have to go online to get it.

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Conservative thinkers (if that’s not an oxymoron) are turning to an ancient aristocrat to legitimize their fear that the rise of Trump betokens the end of democracy. Andrew Sullivan dredged up graduate school memories of Plato’s Republic for New York Magazine, and a few days later, Robert Kagan joined in with an editorial for the Washington Post that echoed Platonic themes (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/;  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-is-how-fascism-comes-to-america/2016/05/17).

If you haven’t read The Republic in awhile (but really, who doesn’t keep a copy in their bathroom?) Plato’s argument, essentially, is that democracy eventually creates a state wherein everyone does exactly as they please; this in turn leads to the demise of authority (this discussion appears in Book VIII, 562-63). Without standards (and uniformed guys with knives and spears?), men are free to pursue their lusts, women lose all sense of their proper boundaries, and the spirit of freedom infects even the animals (horses bump “into everyone who meets them”). (Did Plato step in something on his way to school?). The ensuing chaos in turn invites the rise of a tyrant.

This passage has inspired autocrats ever since. Sullivan and Kagan openly acknowledge that they are made edgy by the award of too much freedom to the unwashed masses.  Unsurprisingly, then, they think that Trump is the tyrant-to-come, the tyrant who arises when authoritative standards have been allowed to lapse. For conservatives like them, signs of this lapse are all around us–women no longer take the requisite shit without complaining, there’s a black family in the White House, and who knows who is using your nearby public bathroom.

Here’s Kagan’s portrait of Trump: “But what Trump offers his followers . . . is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.”

In other words, while Trump is authoritative he also represents the implicit chaos that Kagan attributes to democracy. And herein lies a key to this conservative argument: Kagan and Sullivan (and Plato) don’t oppose authoritarianism as long as it is the right hands–theirs.

 

 

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