Friday, May 5, 2017

Short Takes

House passes healthcare bill; future uncertain in the Senate.

Civil rights groups vow to fight Trump’s “religious liberty” order.

Cop ordered into anger management after shooting teenager.

Iraqi troops open front in Mosul to squeeze ISIS.

Russia, Turkey and Iran agree to safe zone in Syria.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Nuclear Meltdown

Neil Gorsuch will be the next justice of the Supreme Court after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell breaks the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate and kills the filibuster.

Senate Democrats secured enough votes Monday to filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, making it all but certain that Republicans will change the rules of the chamber to ensure his confirmation later this week.

Democratic opposition to Gorsuch has been building for days, and five more senators announced Monday that they would vote against him. That gives Democrats more than the requisite 41 senators to block a procedural vote and compel President Trump and Republicans either to withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination or to change Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote requirement.

“This is a new low,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to Democratic opposition. But he also reiterated his vow that Gorsuch will be confirmed by Friday despite the likelihood of a filibuster. That’s because McConnell is prepared to invoke what is known as the “nuclear option” — a change in rules to allow ­Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority vote. With 52 seats, Republicans would then have enough votes to secure Trump’s first selection for the high court.

The procedural vote known as cloture has long set the Senate apart from the House of Representatives — and it has long been hailed by members of the upper chamber for requiring bipartisan cooperation, and forcing consensus, on major legislation or confirmation votes.

If that step is eliminated, the Senate is “headed to a world where you don’t need one person from the other side to pick a judge,” warned Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “And what does that mean? That means the ­judges are going to be more ideological, not less. It means that every Senate seat is going to be a referendum on the Supreme Court. . . . The damage done to the Senate is going to be real.”

And if we jump ahead in time to when President Cory Booker sends the nominations of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to replace Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court to the Democratic majority Senate, the Republicans will suddenly demand that they bring back the filibuster.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Party Of No

And about time, too.

Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the body’s top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch’s expected confirmation and ultimately upend the traditional approach to approving justices.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will vote no on President Trump’s nominee and asked other Democrats to join him in blocking an up-or-down vote on Gorsuch.


In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said: “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”

I think Merrick Garland is available.

Rest assured that the Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, will storm around and run to the microphones to call Mr. Schumer an “obstructionist” and we’ll hear the minions on Fox News carry on about how it’s the Democrats who want to keep anything from getting done in Washington which is why Trump won the election by an overwhelming majority.  And then they’ll smile and burst into flames from the irony overload accelerated by the gallons of rank hypocrisy doused on them by Karma.

It is way past the time for the Democrats to utilize the tactics that are available to every minority party on Capitol Hill that are either written or unwritten in order to put a check on the roughshod running by the majority.  When the Republicans were in the minority they did it very well, most recently when they declared even before the litter had been picked up from the first inauguration of Barack Obama that nothing he did would get past them without a fight because he was… well, there had to be something that was coloring their judgment.  Even if they agreed with the principle of the policy, they were not going to allow it to become law.

For the Democrats, the difference is that not only is it sauce for the gander time, they actually will look at what is being proposed by Trump and consider it on its merits, not just because he sent it up.  They will stop it because it is bad policy, harmful to a lot of people, benefits just a few, or poses a threat to what we commonly call “democracy.”

So go on, Democrats, and become the party of No, the obstructionists, and the naysayers.  And if the Republicans complain, tell them you had a good teacher.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Short Takes

F.B.I. confirms probe into Trump-Russia connection.

Neil Gorsuch goes before Senate committee.

U.S. to ban electronics on certain flights to and from the Middle East.

Stephen Hawking fears he may not be welcome in Trump’s America.

R.I.P David Rockefeller, 101, last grandchild of John D. Rockefeller.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

“Hey, We Tried”

The response to the GOP healthcare bill has been roughly the same as having a wet dog at a wedding, and yet the House and Senate leadership is bound and determined to rush it through both chambers by the end of the month without hearings or even conferences.  (Ironic since the Republicans in 2010 complained bitterly that President Obama “rammed ACA down our throats.”)

The short answer, according to Jonathan Chait, is that when the Republicans couldn’t get repeal-and-replace past President Obama, they had all the time in the world to carry on about how terrible it was and how it was destroying America and they could vote fifty-plus times to repeal it and not worry about actually doing anything.  But now that they have the White House and both the House and the Senate, they can do something… but what?  They’ve got various factions within their own party who have very different goals and they’re all attacking the piñata of a bill the House cobbled together that does everything and nothing.

Not only that, if they repeal and replace Obamacare with something that is truly worse — and this new bill seems to embody the worst of every GOP trick in the book, including tax credits and vouchers — it will be their albatross, and the mid-term campaign will be all about the Democrats running against the GOP House that killed — literally — healthcare.

So the solution seems to be to try and shove this terrible bill through and have it fail so they can go out to the voters in 2018 and say, “Hey, we tried, but there were too many special interests and Obamacare holdovers, so you’re just going to have to suffer through with it while we go on and give massive tax breaks to the rich, gut education spending, demonize immigrants, bully the transgender community, and play slap-and-tickle with the Russians.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

More Like A Gusher

From the New York Times:

As a candidate for president, Donald J. Trump embraced the hackers who had leaked Hillary Clinton’s emails to the press, declaring at a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love WikiLeaks!”

To the cheering throngs that night, Mr. Trump marveled that “nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet.” The leakers, he said, had performed a public service by revealing what he called a scandal with no rival in United States history.

Now, after less than four weeks in the Oval Office, President Trump has changed his mind.

At a news conference on Wednesday and in a series of Twitter postings earlier in the day, Mr. Trump angrily accused intelligence agencies of illegally leaking information about Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser, who resigned after reports that he had lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador.

“It’s a criminal action, criminal act,” Mr. Trump fumed at the White House. In a Twitter message, he asserted that “the real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”

Most of the time, leaks are about power and controlling it.  Either the leakers are trying to undermine those who have it, or they’re trying to alert the public to nefarious goings-on.  It would be naive to think that all leakers have the nation’s best interest at heart — a lot of them are about sabotage, intrigue, and revenge — but in the case of Trump, we’re getting leaks from everywhere because a lot of people, including career politicians and people who may have supported Trump in the first place are seeing what’s going on now and are truly concerned about the fate of the country.  This is their way of putting the brakes on this careening train wreck.

Of course Trump is upset with leaks now.  And of course he’s raising a stink about them.  It’s called deflection: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”  To top it all off, this weekend he’s holding a campaign-style rally in Florida because that’s a lot more fun that being president.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Going After Women

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a rule dating back to the time when discussing abolition was forbidden on the floor of the Senate to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a number of senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, got up and read the same letter that got Ms. Warren banished from speaking.  Why weren’t they silenced?  Because they are men.

Institutional misogyny is so ingrained in the fiber of American culture that people of every stripe often fail to see in such attacks on women leaders the particular markers of that disease. But in our hearts, women know. Elizabeth Warren was effectively told, in the words of Politico’s Seung Min Kim, to “sit down—and shut up.” Any domestic violence expert will tell you that those are the sort of words that often precede the connection of a male fist to a female face.

Never mind that Warren wasn’t reading the King letter to comment on Sessions’s motives or conduct in his role as U.S. senator; she was speaking against his nomination to one of the most important jobs in the executive branch—a job that is, among other things, charged with enforcement of the citizens’ franchise of the vote. Never mind that King’s letter spoke directly to that concern. Never mind that over the course of the last two years, as The New York Times reports, both Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas appear to have violated the rule according to its true intent, without having it invoked against them. Cruz’s 2015 impugning of a fellow senator’s conduct motives was a critique of McConnell himself, described by Cruz as a liar. They’re men, and white men at that (and Republican).

Senate Republicans may not all love Donald Trump, but a significant aspect of their agenda dovetails nicely with Trump’s base-stoking, and that is the revival of a white male patriarchy that sees itself as threatened by a multicultural population and the changing roles of women in society. Trump’s courtship of the religious right speaks to this, as does his chief strategist’s courtship of white nationalists and supremacists, whose ideological misogyny is often overlooked.

Make no mistake: McConnell’s bullying of Elizabeth Warren for reading the words of Coretta Scott King was intended to convey to women—white, black, and of every other color and identity—just who’s boss.

I am very glad that Senate Democrats rose to fill in for Ms. Warren, and perhaps if there wasn’t institutional misogyny in American politics no one would have noticed what she read on the floor of the Senate except for the watchers of C-SPAN.  But in doing so, one might hope that shining this glaring light on the He-Man Woman-Haters Club might actually do some good.

Awkward Moment

Via the Washington Post:

Trump’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary drew denunciation Wednesday from his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who told a senator that the criticism was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to independent federal courts.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Gorsuch made the comments during their private meeting Wednesday, and the account was confirmed by Ron Bonjean, a member of the group guiding the judge through his confirmation process.


Blumenthal said Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated to the Supreme Court just over a week ago, agreed with him that the president’s language was out of line.

“I told him how abhorrent Donald Trump’s invective and insults are towards the judiciary. And he said to me that he found them ‘disheartening’ and ‘demoralizing’ — his words,” Blumenthal said in an interview.

Gorsuch “stated very emotionally and strongly his belief in his fellow judges’ integrity and the principle of judicial independence,” he added. “And I made clear to him that that belief requires him to be stronger and more explicit, more public in his views.”

Yeah, but I still don’t want him on the Court.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Reading

Trump’s Anti-Americanism — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the couple who did so much to bear witness to the terrible truths of the Second World War, came to town last week to introduce their new memoir to an American audience. In it, there is a photograph that can only be called heartbreaking in its happiness, unbearable in its ordinariness. It shows an eight-year-old Serge with his sister and their Romanian-Jewish parents walking along a promenade in Nice, in 1943, still smiling, still feeling confident, even at that late date, that they are safe in their new French home. Within a few months, the children and their mother were hiding in a false closet, as Gestapo agents took their father to Auschwitz, and his death.

What the photograph teaches is not that every tear in the fabric of civility opens a path to Auschwitz but that civilization is immeasurably fragile, and is easily turned to brutality and barbarism. The human capacity for hatred is terrifying in its volatility. (The same promenade in Nice was the site of the terrorist truck attack last year.) Americans have a hard time internalizing that truth, but the first days of the Trump Administration have helped bring it home.

Within two weeks of the Inauguration, the hysterical hyperventilators have come to seem more prescient in their fear of incipient autocratic fanaticism than the reassuring pooh-poohers. There’s a simple reason for this: the hyperventilators often read history. Regimes with an authoritarian ideology and a boss man on top always bend toward the extreme edge, because their only organizational principle is loyalty to the capo. Since the capo can be placated only by uncritical praise, the most fanatic of his lieutenants end up calling the shots. Loyalty to the boss is demonstrated by hatred directed against his enemies.

Yet what perhaps no one could have entirely predicted was the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s Administration has brought. This combination has produced a new note in our public life: chaotic cruelty. The immigration crisis may abate, but it has already shown the power of government to act arbitrarily overnight—sundering families, upending long-set expectations, until all those born as outsiders must imagine themselves here only on sufferance of a senior White House counsellor.

Some choose to find comfort in the belief that the incompetence will undermine the anti-Americanism. Don’t bet on it. Autocratic regimes with a demagogic bent are nearly always inefficient, because they cannot create and extend the network of delegated trust that is essential to making any organization work smoothly. The chaos is characteristic. Whether by instinct or by intention, it benefits the regime, whose goal is to create an overwhelming feeling of shared helplessness in the population at large: we will detain you and take away your green card—or, no, now we won’t take away your green card, but we will hold you here, and we may let you go, or we may not.

This is radical anti-Americanism—not simply illiberalism or anti-cosmopolitanism—because America is not only a nation but also an idea, cleanly if not tightly defined. Pluralism is not a secondary or a decorative aspect of that idea. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, the guarantee of religious liberty lies in having many kinds of faiths, and the guarantee of civil liberty lies in having many kinds of people—in establishing a “multiplicity of interests” to go along with a “multiplicity of sects.” The idea doesn’t reflect a “weak” desire for niceness. It is, instead, intended to counter the brutal logic of the playground. When there are many kinds of bullied kids, they can unite against the bully: “Even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves.”

There is an alternative view, one long available and articulated, that America is not an idea but an ethnicity, that of the white Christian men who have dominated it, granting a grudging or probationary acceptance to women, or blacks, or immigrants. This was the view of Huck Finn’s pap, as he drank himself to death; of General Custer, as he approached Little Big Horn; of Major General Pickett, as he led the charge at Gettysburg. Until now, it has been the vision of those whom Trump would call the losers.

As the official ideology of the most powerful people in the White House, can that vision of America win? With the near-complete abdication of even minimal moral courage in the Republican Party, and the strategic confusion of the Democrats, all that Americans can turn to is the instinct for shared defiance, and a coalition of conscience, the broader the better, to counter the chaotic cruelty. (If the Koch brothers have some residual libertarianism left in them, let them help pay for it.) Few events in recent years have been more inspiring than the vast women’s marches that followed the Inauguration, few events more cheering than the spontaneous reactions to the executive order on immigration, such as the cabbies’ strike staged after Kennedy Airport seemed to have been turned into a trap for refugees.

Such actions are called, a little too romantically, “resistance,” but there is no need, yet, for so militant a term. Resistance rises from the street, but also from within the system, as it should, with judicial stays and State Department dissenters. Opposing bad governments with loud speech, unashamed argument, and public demonstration is not the part that’s off the normal grid: it’s the pro-American part, exactly what the Constitution foresees and protects. Dissent is not courageous or exceptional. It is normal—it’s Madisonian, it’s Hamiltonian. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

Democratic civilization has turned out to be even more fragile than we imagined; the resources of civil society have turned out to be even deeper than we knew. The battle between these two shaping forces—between the axman assaulting the old growth and the still firm soil and deep roots that support the tree of liberty—will now shape the future of us all.

Where’s The Opposition? — Charles P. Pierce on two weeks in.

Most of it happened before dawn. The getaway cars were idling in the plaza in front of the Capitol, a chain of red taillights in the darkness before the dawn. The United States Senate was at work before daybreak, and United States senators wanted to get out of town. Their essential workday was over before eight. They took two votes. One was to kill the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule. The other was to invoke cloture on Betsy DeVos, the ridiculous nominee for Secretary of Education. The rule went down and DeVos went through and the sun had just begun to rise over the capital city and the weekend already had begun.

It has not been a very encouraging week for democracy here, but there are a couple of lessons to be drawn from all the activity, and all the non-activity, that’s taken place. First, and this has been obvious for a while, but it became vivid and clear over the past five days, there is absolutely no legitimate political opposition within the Republican party to anything the president* says or does.

His Cabinet selection is a ludicrous collection of the unqualified, the incompetent, and the destructive. Yet only DeVos, who is all three of these things, seemed to be in any danger of not being confirmed, and that danger likely passed on Thursday when Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who was said to be one of the last fence-sitters, said she had his vote. The situation is so preposterous that the Senate has had to delay the confirmation vote of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be Attorney General, which is another kettle of botulism entirely, so that Sessions can stay a senator long enough to vote for DeVos. And still they might need Vice President Mike Pence to come down and break a tie.

#NeverTrump has been a joke for several months now, but now that the administration is up and bungling, we see its real purpose. The Republican congressional majorities will put up with any excess and eccentricity down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue as long as they are allowed to put in place their plans to shove even more of the country’s wealth upwards.

(If you get a chance, and you have no life, go to CSPAN and watch the press conference given on Thursday by Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin. He barely remembers the president*’s name. He has his own fish to fry.)

Remember Ben Sasse, the young senator from Nebraska who went to Iowa a year ago to campaign for any candidate who wasn’t Donald Trump? I do, and so does Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

“We have a President who does not believe in executive restraint; we do not need another,” Sasse continued in his statement on Tuesday. “I am not endorsing any candidate—I am urging conservatives to hold every candidate accountable to keeping their word so that we uphold the Constitution’s system of checks and balances. I’m pro-Constitution and if that makes me anti-Trump, that’s Mr. Trump’s problem.”

There has been no more reliable vote for everything this administration wants to do than Ben Sasse’s, and he has been central to a strategy by which the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has been used to camouflage the gross deficiencies of most of the remaining Cabinet nominees. But Gorsuch’s resume doesn’t make Sessions any less of a bigot, DeVos any less of an incompetent, or prospective Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder any less of a fast-food sweatshop proprietor.

But all of them are going to go through, and Ben Sasse is going to vote for every damn one of them just the way he voted in the dark on Friday to advance DeVos’ nomination and for passage of what Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, rightly called the Kleptocrat Protection Act of 2017.

Second, it really is time to let up on the Democrats a little. I know it’s frustrating, and it was generally awful to listen to Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp take the floor on Thursday to vote to kill the Stream Protection regulation of the EPA, especially when the two of them decided to take the salt-of-the-earth rhetorical dodge to defend the coal industry. Small towns, you know. Real Americans.

(In fact, that whole debate was surreal when you consider that it concerned an industry that likely will die before the planet it’s helping to kill, but one that, somehow, has become the avatar for straight-shootin’ smalltown Americans of all professions, obsolete or not. I think there’s more concern for coal in Washington these days than there has been since 1902.)

But, in general, even these two did all they could to throw sand in the gears of what the majority party was trying to get done. (Manchin and Heitkamp both voted with the party on the two pre-dawn votes Friday.) The Democrats fought as hard as they could in committee against these nominees, and with every tool available to them. (Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, emerged as a ferocious opponent of the Sessions nomination, and Oregon’s Jeff Merkley may end up being the last man standing against Gorsuch.) They even forced the Republicans twice to change committee rules in order to approve nominees with Republican votes only.

There simply is only so much they can do, given their status in both houses of Congress, and the remarkable ability of the Republican majority to hold its votes together. They have pulled every delaying tactic available to a minority in the Senate and they’ve done so full in the knowledge that Mitch McConnell is perfectly willing to blow up whatever political norms—Hi there, Merrick Garland!—and change whatever political norms are in the way of getting what he and his president want. Right now, the administration has fewer Cabinet officers confirmed than any other administration at this point in the calendar. That’s something, anyway.

The wires and pulleys by which Trumpism is hijacking democracy have been exposed. The rest is up to the country.

“Look, I’m headed home to Oregon,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “I’ve had five town meetings when there was more snow in Oregon than any day since 1937. We had very big crowds with people really speaking out. Political change doesn’t start in Washington, D.C. and trickle down. It starts from the bottom up, as people become aware of the facts.

“What’s understood now, and it will increase, is they were told certain things in the campaign. Like with Obamacare. They were told there was going to be a repeal of Obamacare and a replacement. What we’ve really seen is repeal-and-run. They just wanted to repeal this program, get an ideological trophy, but they knew that just doing that would cause an enormous number of problems going forward. Looking for ideological trophies was not what the public was told during the campaign.”

Wyden is correct on the facts, of course, but he may be minimizing the primary “ideological trophy” that people wanted in the campaign and that the election of Donald Trump gave them—a defeat of That Woman, who was standing in for all of The Others who have made the world an insecure place for people who believed that their world should never be insecure at all. (That’s for The Others.) That was all ideological trophy enough for them, and they got it in November. Now, we’re all living with the consequences.

Both of the pre-dawn votes were bad ones. The DeVos nomination is ghastly on its face, but the vote on the Resource Extraction regulation is a vote for serious national security problems down the road. I know I’m harping on this a little but, if you allow American corporations to get back in the business of subletting despots all over the world, you’re buying an awful lot of trouble down the line. You’re going to have corruption and instability in the places under which resources we need are buried. You’re lining up with people who loot their countries and then flee with their ill-gotten gains.

When this happens, you get more instability and more civil wars in which the only things on which both sides agree is that the Americans—or, more generally, the West—are to blame. Of course, this is also how you breed terrorists.

“There’s no question that people’s public health can suffer,” Wyden said. “There is no question that you can have economic dislocation, and real economic pain, for families in a number of parts of the world where every day is an economic struggle just to survive.”

They did all of this before the sun came up on Friday and then, for the most part, they were gone, off into a country that doesn’t know what’s happening to it, and seems to be happier that way, a land of constant surprises now, most of them bad ones.

This Ad’s For You — Brian Alberts in The Atlantic on how Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad brings the immigration issue to the masses.

On Sunday, Budweiser will air its highly anticipated Super Bowl ad, “Born the Hard Way.” The short film depicts a young Adolphus Busch emigrating from Germany to St. Louis in 1857. Faced with a difficult Atlantic voyage and hostile American attitudes toward immigrants, Busch relies on his dream of brewing beer to propel himself forward, and ultimately finds a kindred spirit in one Eberhard Anheuser.

This ad appears at a tenuous moment. President Trump’s recent executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries has brought immigration policy to the forefront of national politics. Though the Budweiser ad plays loose with a few historical facts, it captures how beer served as both a cultural handhold and form of economic engagement for German immigrants in the 19th century United States.

Beer also holds another legacy that the advertisement overlooks—how modern American beer, the kind that millions of Americans will consume on Sunday, is a product of immigrant activism and entrepreneurship. In the 1850s, beer became a cultural battleground for German immigrants to defend not only their right to participate in American political and economic life, but also their very presence in the U.S.

Budweiser, in dramatizing the humble start and entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, took a few liberties. Adolphus Busch did not brew beer professionally, with Anheuser or otherwise, until years after arriving in the United States. And Budweiser was not invented until 1876 after Busch, in cooperation with St. Louis liquor dealer Carl Conrad, drew inspiration from the Czech pilsner style for which it is named.

Busch was one of 950,000 German immigrants who came to the U.S. during the 1850s, many of whom became brewers. Though others stayed in eastern brewing powerhouses like New York and Philadelphia, many continued their journey to Midwestern cities like Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, at times accounting for 25-40% of the local population.

Busch’s muddy, unceremonious arrival in St. Louis, as portrayed in the Budweiser ad, speaks to the rugged frontier lifestyle of these cities’ early years. Chicago’s downtown streets, for example, bore no semblance of pavement before 1855, and were impassible following any measurable rain.

Nor were the locals always welcoming. In the ad, a native-born American channels Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York by shoving Busch and yelling “You’re not wanted here!” and “Go back home!” This hostility overwhelmingly came from the large and politically successful anti-immigrant factions of the 1850s.

Organized into the American Party, also known as Know-Nothings, some Americans objected to the rising tide of immigrants, German and otherwise, as lower class undesirables, competition for labor, and undeserving recipients of American citizenship. German beer did not escape their ire. Know-Nothings often joined temperance reformers in decrying beer-swilling Germans, like the whiskey-tippling Irish, as a source of degeneration in American society.

But, for German-American brewers and imbibers alike, beer made up a significant part of their dual cultural identity—one they were determined to defend in Germany and in their new American homes. Lager beer was not only a German style of beer, it was at times a centerpiece of ethnic expression. Back in Munich or Frankfurt, modest increases in the price of beer led to riots, and in America the freedom to consume fizzy lager in family-friendly outdoor beer gardens (especially on Sundays after church services) served as both a demonstration of economic freedom and a cultural anchor in a new home.

German immigrants also adapted their beer for American lifestyles, serving lager in traditional saloons defined by brass rails and overwhelmingly male clienteles. The brewers themselves were likewise viewed by fellow Germans as hardworking entrepreneurs, using an albeit controversial product to forge a livelihood on American terms and navigating an increasingly capitalist and economically liberal nation.

When nativist and temperance activists sought to suppress German beer and, by extension, their rights, immigrants fought back. In 1855, a Know-Nothing city government in Chicago targeted immigrants with anti-alcohol liquor license regulations and a selectively enforced ban on Sunday alcohol sales. In response, the German population rioted. Police and immigrants clashed, shots were fired, and cannons were eventually deployed by what is now Chicago’s Daley Plaza, where a German-style Christmas market is hosted annually (without any need for artillery).

Germans continued to defend lager beer as a desirable alternative to hard liquors, persisted in their Sunday revelries, organized to promote their industry, and of course brewed more beer than the U.S. had ever seen before.

Though Prohibition and significant anti-immigrant sentiment lay ahead, Germans carried the day. Know-Nothing candidates lost political power and temperance efforts to enact prohibition at the state level failed. Lager beer spread like wildfire, replacing the English-style ales and porters that preceded it and multiplying the number of American breweries tenfold between 1850 and 1873. It was lighter in alcohol, easier to drink, tastier, less prone to spoilage and infection than previous American beers, and came to be preferred by native-born Americans as well as German immigrants. Adolphus Busch participated in a wave of immigrant activism that negotiated American economic and cultural life and in turn transformed both German-American citizenship and the brewing industry.

Contemporary questions about the rights and status of immigrants are no more foreign today than 160 years ago, and the unforeseeable social and moral implications of an increasingly globalized world carry significant weight. Immigrants in the 1850s, German and otherwise, forced Americans to reflect on the practical definitions of notions like rights and citizenship. These notions revealed themselves to be multifaceted negotiations rather than static monoliths.

Budweiser, if anything, now represents the old guard, analogous to the English-style ales that Busch and other German brewers once challenged. By reconciling American beer’s present with its contentious immigrant past, the largest brewer in America has shown once again how beer is culture brewed.

Doonesbury — Licensed establishment.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Short Takes

Trump picks Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court.

Senate Democrats boycott two cabinet hearings, delaying vote.

California legislature considers statewide “sanctuary” law.

Homeland Security chief says he knew Trump immigrant ban was coming.

Trump state visit to Britain “difficult” for the Queen.

Israel not happy over Iran missile test.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Giving A Bath To A Bobcat

According to this piece in the New York Times, it is dawning on the GOP leadership that they have the unenviable political problem of trying to control Trump.

The first several days of the Trump presidency have reinforced several core truths: He will continue to give voice to conspiracy theories and peddle misinformation. He will not stop obsessing over cosmetic displays of popularity, like crowd size and television ratings.

And if Republican lawmakers harbored any expectation that this ritual of the campaign cycle would end — the grimacing through questions about Mr. Trump, the hedging when asked if their party’s leader had overstepped — these early days have supplied a decisive verdict: not so much.


So far, dissent has been limited, and almost always cautious. Congressional leaders know, better than most, the president’s power to sink fortunes with a single Twitter message.

Still, there have been early signals of where fault lines might emerge between the White House and some congressional Republicans.

I understand party loyalty and all that goes with it, and the Republicans have had their share of grin-and-bear-it moments throughout recent history, but at some point they’re going to look around and see that not only have they tied their fortunes to someone who has the attention span of a sugared-up six-year-old and the power to use weapons of mass destruction, their own political future is at stake, and they’ll have to do something about it.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the Republicans will eventually come around to defying Trump and possibly even come up with ways to either control him or ease him out of office for the good of the country.  They want to save their own asses; all too often have they seen the backlash in mid-term elections when the president is unpopular and they know the shit runs downhill. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 not because the House had voted out articles of impeachment but because he no longer had the support of his own party. They weren’t appalled at his lawlessness. They were staring down the barrel of mid-term elections and knew that if Nixon stayed they’d get wiped out.

The problem today is that it will be hard to convince the core Trump voter to change their opinions. Right now Trump could stand on the Truman balcony in nothing but a Speedo holding an orb and sceptre and declare himself to be the King of Cats and they’d applaud… until their health insurance is gone and their kid in the service comes home from Syria in pieces.

It’s only been a week.  How long do you think they can keep this up?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Insider Trading

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services; the cabinet department that oversees healthcare.  He’s an orthopedic surgeon and a from-the-git-go opponent of Obamacare.  He’s also invested heavily in the medical devices businesses and he’s also introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect those companies from government interference.

He faced tough grilling in his Senate confirmation hearing from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on his stock purchases and possible insider trading.

Were this any average citizen, the Securities and Exchange Commission would want to have a word with him and his attorney, and were these normal times, he would be either rejected by the Senate or he would have the decency to withdraw his nomination.

But these are not normal times, and I fully expect him to be confirmed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ethics? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Ethics

Welcome to the new era of accountability.

Defying the wishes of their top leaders, House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein in the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals.

The 119-to-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesperson, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe.

The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.

The move to place the OCE under the Ethics Committee’s aegis stands to please many lawmakers who have been wary of having their dirty laundry aired by the independent entity, but some Republicans feared that rolling back a high-profile ethical reform would send a negative message as the GOP assumes unified control in Washington. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and has proposed a series of his own ethics reforms.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the amendment to the House rules package, speaking out against it in the Monday evening conference meeting, according to two people in the room.

But the measure’s sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said in a statement that it “builds upon and strengthens” the current arrangement and that it improves the due process rights for the House members under investigation and witnesses interviewed in the course of OCE probes.

This will really make America great again.

Update: Well, that didn’t last long.

After a fierce public backlash, the House GOP reversed course and withdrew the rules change that would have gutted the Office of Congressional Ethics, according to members who were present at the emergency GOP meeting mid-day Tuesday.

We just have to be on their ass all the time or else they’re going to get away with more of this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

We’re Not Getting That $8 Million Back

With little notice the House Committee investigating Benghazi! has filed its final report and slunk away.

When it publicized its findings in June, the House Select Committee on Benghazi didn’t specifically blame Clinton for what it described as bureaucratic miscues and interagency blunders events that led to the Americans’ deaths.

But coming as Clinton was wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination, the findings remained a hot-button issue through Election Day.

The committee remained in place, and it didn’t submit its official final report to the House record until last week, with Democratic members refusing to endorse it.

And another Clinton scandal goes the way of all the other ones: [poot]

What Do They Know?

It’s a pretty sure thing that if the CIA is going to conclude that they have evidence that Russia interfered with the election, there’s plenty more where that came from and they are holding back much more than they’re saying now.

Which means that they are very sure they have the goods on the whole story: who, what, where, and when.  And it could also mean they’re sending a not-so-subtle message to the incoming Trump administration not to mess with them: a leak here, a leak there, and the whole House of Cards comes tumbling down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Not Qualified

Via The Hill:

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has told President-elect Donald Trump that he isn’t interested in serving as secretary of Health and Human Services, a Carson ally confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.

Business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams said Carson won’t join the incoming Trump administration and would only serve as an unofficial adviser.

Oh, really?  Why is that?

“Dr. Carson was never offered a specific position, but everything was open to him,” Williams told The Hill in a phone call.

“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

The dude ran for president and at one point was at the top of the polls and now he says he has no business working in government?

Well, at least he’s honest about it and admits it, unlike the folks who actually won the election.