American Daily: May 27, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

27 May 2015


In dealing with the Middle East, few if any modern US presidents have been able to find a balance between upholding US ideals and meeting America's practical foreign policy goals. Obama has been dealt a poor hand in the Middle East but has tried harder than most to narrow the gap between ideals and practicalities. He is trying to introduce the concept of government legitimacy as a greater determinant in US relations with regional governments.
If Jeb Bush accepts anthropogenic climate change, he'll have to offer a policy to address it. And the fact is, carbon tax dreaming aside, there is simply no policy acceptable to today's Republican Party that would substantially reduce US carbon emissions. There is no way to thread that needle.
  • Is the Supreme Court on the cusp of redefining "one-person-one-vote"?

But the court in Sims did not specify a precise definition of the word population. In the half-century that has passed, the court has also passed on several other opportunities to do so. The prevailing interpretation has been that the population meant all the people. But critics have long maintained that the court might as well have meant eligible voters, as the power to vote and be equally represented was what was at stake. Conservative jurists have raised the question, at least for the sake of argument, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas did so in an opinion as far back as 2001.

These two conflicts, long segregated in history and memory, were in fact intertwined. They both grew out of the process of establishing an American empire in the West. In 1860, competing visions of expansion transformed the presidential election into a referendum. Members of the Republican Party hearkened back to Jefferson’s dream of an “empire for liberty.” The United States, they said, should move west, leaving slavery behind. This free soil platform stood opposite the splintered Democrats’ insistence that slavery, unfettered by federal regulations, should be allowed to root itself in new soil. After Abraham Lincoln’s narrow victory, Southern states seceded, taking their congressional delegations with them.

The petting party fad seemed to wane as the 1920s rolled to an end. "I am pretty sure they lasted beyond the 1920s, into the 1930s, but not much beyond," Fass says. "The 1920s was a self-consciously naughty decade where young people tried to overturn earlier Victorian strictures that inhibited sexual expression. The petting party was a perfect vehicle for that. Once the new mores regarding sexual experimentation became common and normal — though still peer enforced and regulated — this kind of public display was no longer necessary."


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American Daily: May 26, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

26 May 2015


My favorite piece of found poetry, published in The Washington Post last year, is a collection of things drone operators say before they crash an aircraft costing some $13 million dollars. Beautiful things like: “Okay, interesting. We are falling out of the sky.” I like that — like an indifferent parachutist. What seems to be everyone’s favorite contemporary poem centers on the machines too: Michael Robbins’s “To the Drone Vaguely Realizing Eastward.” Famously, it ends: “The bomb bay opens with a queef.”

  • A black Republican's dilemma: fixing police without big government.

I believe Scott is making an honest attempt to help solve an important problem in the black community and is moving in the right direction. But his political views have left him with a muddled policy proposal, at least so far. He met with reporters in his Capitol Hill office recently to talk about his push for body cameras, but reporters left with several big questions unanswered. Here are three he’ll need to figure out if he truly wants to help solve this problem from his perch in the Senate.

The Walt Disney Company sought to cash in on this obsession in the early 1990s with a theme park dedicated to American history. Disney’s America was to have been part heritage, part amusement, a mix of “serious” and “fun.” Similar to other living history museums such as Colonial Williamsburg, Disney’s America was to simulate momentous events in American history. But in contrast, Disney’s America patrons would get a taste of authentic history from the vantage point of amusement park rides. Disney CEO Michael Eisner highlighted the serious side of the park by proclaiming that it would reject a “Pollyanna view” of American history. He promised to “show the Civil War with all its racial conflict” and even discussed tackling the Vietnam War. Such an approach attracted criticism from all over the political map. Liberal political cartoonist Tom Toles ridiculed the idea by superimposing Goofy on a mock-up of the iconic image of a naked girl, badly burned by napalm, fleeing US-sponsored South Vietnamese soldiers. Conservative William Kristol argued that if Disney was “going to have a schlocky version of American history, it should at least be a schlocky, patriotic, and heroic version.” Alas, Disney scrapped its plans for a history theme park due in part to such widespread skepticism.
But Fox in its current incarnation is neither a help nor a hindrance. Fox News—and its Svengali Roger Ailes—aren’t the Republican kingmakers they’re made out to be. I explored this point last month, noting that the network is better at employing presidential candidates than electing them. Whatever ambitions Ailes and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch may have to elect a president—in 2012, Ailes had his heart broken by Chris Christie and David Petraeus, both of whom declined his invitation to run—their first priority has always been to make money, which Fox News does, clearing a reported $1.2 billion a year. If you think of Fox News as a news-entertainment hybrid designed to make money, its combative programming style begins to make more sense.
  • Manhattan, as seen from the International Space Station.

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Knowing what we knew then, the Iraq War was a bad idea

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

25 May 2015


In certain circles in Washington, the polite story to tell about the Bush administration invasion of Iraq in 2003 was that of course it's obvious now that the war was a bad idea, but it was simply impossible in the lead-up to the war to realise that Americans wouldn't be greeted as liberators/there were no weapons of mass destruction/the mission wouldn't be cheap or easy/[insert your preferred catastrophe here]. This is a popular version of history because it's an exculpatory one, and a lot of people in Washington have good cause to want such a thing.

Republicans either still endorse the neo-conservative framework that inspired the excursion and want to maintain its power as a rhetorical tool or want to avoid the ignominy of a foreign policy disaster being affixed to their party. Democrats either are embarrassed that they endorsed the war at the time or are still cowed by accusations that post-Vietnam, the party isn't tough enough to be trusted on foreign policy. Journalists and analysts are also likely to have not applied enough scrutiny to Bush administration claims about the war at the time, and find it much more comfortable to blame duplicitous or incompetent officials rather than admit to to an abrogation of duty. Far too many people have a vested interest in misremembering the lead-up to the Iraq War.

That's why it's worth reading Jim Fallows's forceful reiteration of the history of that period, highlighting the pointlessness of asking candidates like Jeb Bush, “Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?” Over to Jim:

Similarly: “Knowing what we know now, would you have bought a ticket on Malaysia Air flight 370?” The only people who might say Yes on the Iraq question would be those with family ties (poor Jeb Bush); those who are inept or out of practice in handling potentially tricky questions (surprisingly, again poor Bush); or those who are such Cheney–Bolton–Wolfowitz-style bitter-enders that they survey the landscape of “what we know now” — the cost and death and damage, the generation’s worth of chaos unleashed in the Middle East, and of course the absence of WMDs — and still say, Heck of a job. 

Anyone seriously looking to comment on — or, more seriously, conduct from government office — US foreign policy should either explain why he was taken in at the time or how he's adjusted his worldview since. Because, and back to Jim, this was the lay of the land in 2002 and 2003:

The “knowing what we know” question presumes that the Bush Administration and the US public were in the role of impartial jurors, or good-faith strategic decision-makers, who while carefully weighing the evidence were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat.

  • That view is entirely false.
  • The war was going to happen. The WMD claims were the result of the need to find a case for the war, rather than the other way around.

It's a point Greg Sargent makes too:

But this leaves out a big part of the story of the run-up to the war, which is that some people were arguing at the time against invading Iraq, on the grounds that the evidence was all right there in plain sight that Iraq did not pose a threat imminent enough to justify an invasion. Some people (I’m not claiming to be among them) were publicly shouting themselves hoarse, pointing out at the time that, at the very least, there were serious questions about whether Iraq really posed the threat the Bush administration claimed it did.

The question that is being posed to Jeb — would you have gone into Iraq, knowing what we know now? — is not really a hard one. As Brian Beutler notes: “the idea that the war was a mistake because of the intelligence failures — that it would’ve been the right call if the story the Bush administration told about the need to invade had held up — is quickly becoming the Republican Party consensus.” [...] Rather, the better question is: Are you willing to admit that we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq based on what was known at the time? Or at least that those making the case against the invasion at the time got it right, and that you got it wrong, even though you had access to the same evidence, in real time, that they did?

For good measure, I'll reiterate what I said on the ten-year anniversary of the war:

Take the United Nations' chief weapons inspector, United Nations' chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, who had been in charge of determining whether Iraq was complying with UN restrictions. On the day of the invasion, March 20, 2003, (it began March 19, US time), the Sydney Morning Herald reported comments Blix had made the previous day in New York:

Outside the meeting, Dr Blix said that it "was not reasonable" for the US to end UN inspections in Iraq when the regime was co-operating more than it had in more than a decade.

"I don't think it is reasonable to close the door on inspections after 3 months," he said.

[...]
Blix also said he doubts Iraq would use biological or chemical weapons against the US, even if it had them. Clearly, he did not know whether Saddam Hussein did have the weapons of mass destruction the US said he did, but he was the guy in charge of finding out, and he thought there was sufficient doubt of the question and enough progress being made on inspections that it was worth continuing them. But the Bush administration, in its arrogance and its contempt for international governance, did not credit his perspective. They preferred to talk of slam-dunks and mushroom clouds.

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American Daily: May 25, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

25 May 2015


  • How the politics surrounding the PATRIOT Act have shifted.
It's a tactic advocates of mass surveillance have used repeatedly in recent years:
  • They drag their feet on legislation to curtail NSA spying authority until the last possible minute.
  • They argue that it would be reckless to let old spying authority expire without an alternative to put in its place.
  • Terrified of appearing soft on terrorism, members of Congress have repeatedly extended current authority without changes.

But it didn't work this time, and for good reason.

  • A prosecutor looks at his role in disproportionately imprisoning African Americans.

Like many people in the criminal-justice system, John Chisholm, the District Attorney in Milwaukee County, has been concerned for a long time about the racial imbalance in American prisons. The issue is especially salient in Wisconsin, where African-Americans constitute only six per cent of the population but thirty-seven per cent of those in state prison. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as of 2010 thirteen per cent of the state’s African-American men of working age were behind bars—nearly double the national average, of 6.7 per cent. The figures were especially stark for Milwaukee County, where more than half of African-American men in their thirties had served time in state prison. How, Chisholm wondered, did the work of his own office contribute to these numbers? Could a D.A. do anything to change them?

The expected, almost ritualised South Korean and Chinese criticisms of Abe's policy pronouncements seem to have left the Obama Administration unmoved. Earlier in the year, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said publicly that Korea's fixation on historical issues was 'frustrating' and produced 'paralysis, not progress.' The Korean response was predictably sharp, but as Karl Friedhoff and Alastair Gale both recently argued, the Koreans are slowly losing this global perceptual struggle with Japan.

  • How the Duggar Family demonstrates the dangers of the conservative cult of purity.

But it’s more than that. When all sexuality is a sin, when even holding hands is off limits, there isn’t a clear line between permissible, healthy forms of exploration and acts that are impermissible to anyone, not just the particularly devout. This gospel of shame and purity has the potential to be incredibly harmful because it does away with important lines. (Studies not only suggest that abstinence-only approaches to sex education do nothing to decrease the incidence of sexual behaviors, but also that they can make them riskier and that they deprive kids of the vocabulary they need to discuss when bad things happen.)

For the purposes of this field guide, we have laid down parameters. A hamburger is a marvelous sandwich, but it is one deserving of its own guide. The same holds for hot dogs, and for tacos and burritos, which in 2006, in the case known as Panera v. Qdoba, a Massachusetts judge declared were not sandwiches at all. Open-faced sandwiches are not sandwiches. Gyros and shawarmas are not sandwiches. The bread that encases them is neither split nor hinged, but wrapped.


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American Daily: May 21, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

21 May 2015


Indeed, a closer look at de Blasio's progressive agenda further complicates the narrative that Clinton is out of step. HuffPost examined Clinton's position on each of the elements de Blasio's agenda, and found that she is philosophically supportive of all 13 of the principles. Where we couldn't find an answer, we noted it. When she comes up short, it's largely a matter of degree or because she hasn't made her current stance fully known (whether intentionally or not). There are places here where she may be vulnerable to attacks from her primary opponents, who have records with fewer blanks to fill in. But Clinton has her defenders when it comes to her progressivism, including at least one person who has signed onto de Blasio's platform.

  • Why haven't Republicans settled on a frontrunner yet?

Another reason not to actively narrow the field is because there are several good but inexperienced candidates in the mix. Walker and Rubio both show significant political strengths but were all but unheard of outside their states just five years ago. Jeb Bush has an impressive pedigree—Republicans usually win presidential races when they nominate Bushes and usually lose when they don't—but he's been out of the game for a while, and his recent fumbling over Iraq War questions suggest his political skills need some honing. By letting the race play out for a while, party elites get many chances to actually see how good such candidates are and who could get through a general election without committing massive errors.

If there was a single moment when the US became a global power, it was the war with Spain. The Spanish Empire had been crumbling for a century, and there was a ferocious debate within the US over whether America should become an imperial power to replace it. This centered on Cuba: pro-imperialists wanted to purchase or annex it from Spain (pre-1861, the plan was to turn it into a new slave state); anti-imperialists wanted to support Cuban independence.
  • The gay couple that married in Minnesota... in 1971.
With some sleight of hand involving a legal change to a gender-neutral name, they obtained a marriage license in another county, and in 1971, in white bell-bottom pantsuits and macramé headbands, they exchanged vows before a Methodist pastor and a dozen guests in a friend’s apartment. Their three-tiered wedding cake was topped by two plastic grooms, which a friend supplied by splitting two bride-and-groom figurines.

J.K. Rowling, best-selling British author, inadvertently entered the political fray Monday by revealing the full name of a beloved character in the Harry Potter series, Moaning Myrtle.

“Moaning Myrtle’s full name was Myrtle Elizabeth Warren,” Rowling tweeted.


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American Daily: May 20, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

20 May 2015


  • Barack Obama has finally joined Twitter.
The new @POTUS account, like @WhiteHouse, belongs to the government, not to Obama. The next president will take it over in 2017, according to Alex Wall, the White House Director of Online Engagement. In a White House blog post Monday, Wall announced the @POTUS account and explained that it “will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.”

In particular, Danois points to the songwriter, producer, and McCann Erickson executive Roquel “Billy” Davis, who conceived and co-wrote “I’d Like To Buy the World A Coke” for that 1971 campaign. Davis, an African-American, is perhaps the best example of the slowly integrating world of modern advertising that Weiner said couldn’t exist in Mad Men’s 1960s — only in our alternate, parallel, real universe.

  • What it's like to be a woman on Capitol Hill.
Sexism on Capitol Hill
  • Republicans go looking for red meat in South Carolina.
A dozen Republican presidential hopefuls showed up at the South Carolina Freedom Summit. They were there to court primary voters who will winnow the presidential field next February. Judging from the speeches, it’s going to be an ugly race. What the candidates are selling, and primary voters are buying, is vituperation against people who don’t look, talk, or pray like the Republican base.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?


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Shamir and loathing in Las Vegas

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 May 2015


Anwen Crawford, who some students of the Centre might have encountered teaching our undergrad Sex, Race & Rock in the USA course, profiles North Las Vegas singer Shamir in this week's New Yorker, locating the link between artist and hometown:

“There was no way to move any faster / Because we stay stuck in one place, with nothing to do,” Shamir sings, on “Sometimes a Man,” while a single chord repeats. The video for “Sometimes a Man” tracks Shamir through various Las Vegas landscapes: a casino, a suburban street, a highway leading out across the Mojave Desert. The pull between celebration and isolation in Shamir’s songs seems as much a result of his environment as of his voice: beyond the hectic revelry of the Las Vegas Strip lies the quietness of suburbia and, beyond that, the desert’s unnerving solitude.


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American Daily: May 11, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 May 2015


  • Jeb Bush: "Who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush."
Jeb Bush cited his brother, former President George W. Bush, as one of his main advisers on the Middle East in a private meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday, according to three people who attended the off-the-record event.
The comment came as a shock to some who were in the room because Jeb, a likely presidential contender, has taken pains to publicly distance himself from his brother and his controversial policies, particularly in that area of the world.

In the past few weeks, a certain map has been causing a lot of discussion online and, particularly, in Texas. It shows seven states in the Southwest color-coded as red and “hostile” (Texas, Utah), or blue and “permissive” (California, Colorado, Nevada), or designated “uncertain” but leaning toward hostile (New Mexico) or toward friendly (Arizona). The map also features a circle zeroing in on Texas and acronyms associated with the military. To numerous observers, its meaning is clear: it is a plan for a U.S. military takeover of Texas and beyond, or, perhaps, a rehearsal for civil war and the enforcement of martial law. Resistance is anticipated in some areas, such as the part of Southern California marked as an “insurgent pocket.”

“In an interview conducted at the CIA, then-CPT Golsteyn claimed to have captured and shot and buried a suspected IED bomb maker,” an Army memo dated September 29, 2014 reads. “He further went to comment that he went back out with two others to cremate the body and dispose of the remains. In the transcript, CPT Golsteyn stated that he knew it was illegal but was not remorseful as he had solid intelligence and his actions protected the safety of his fellow teammates.”

  • The song so dirty it was investigated by the FBI.

The legend of the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” has been told almost as many times as the song itself has been covered. (There’s no accurate count for either, but both must number in the thousands.) First released in May of 1963, and then re-released that October, the Kingsmen’s version climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart. The song’s popularity among a new generation of rock-and-roll teen-agers brought it to the attention of some concerned citizens. One of them, the father of a teen-age girl, wrote to Robert Kennedy, who was then the Attorney General, to complain about the song’s possible obscenity, prompting an F.B.I. investigation. “This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation,” the incensed parent wrote to Kennedy. (Remember this the next time someone tries reminiscing to you about the good old days before pop music was full of sex and vulgarities.)

Continuing to criticize Abe for his congressional speech is futile, even counterproductive. The United States and Japan completed a summit that was highly productive, and also made great progress in the alliance relationship. Brushing aside these outcomes and zeroing in on what Abe should have said in his congressional speech is simply unfair and unbalanced. Would the audience have rather heard Abe spend most of his speech apologizing for Japan’s past wrongdoings and offer very little on his vision for Japan’s future, and the future of U.S.-Japan alliance? I would think not.


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American Daily: May 7, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

7 May 2015


  • Police officer: please stop calling me when black people are doing innocuous things. 
Reddit post by police officer

The Wire very intentionally attempts to position itself outside of the American tradition of police dramas. Employing HBO’s free subscriber-based model (and the subsequent freedom from corporate sponsors), The Wire attempts to complicate, if not eschew, the notion of police as the unambiguous “good guys” taking down the forces of evil that continues to dominate network TV cop dramas. As such, the show attempts to mirror the real life multiplicity of cops; fictional depictions of police violence go beyond what viewers typically see on screen. While the show’s depictions of police violence are advanced, the liberal and Marxist foundations of The Wire too often prevent the racialized reality of police violence from becoming evident. The show seeks intellectual resolution for its educated, white audience over integrating power relations that locate the police force as an institution — good intentions of individual police aside — as a critical force for perpetuating structural racism and white supremacy.

  • The US and Cuba have agreed to permit ferries to travel between the two countries.
Passenger ferries could be set to run between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years after the US government approved new services.

Services between the two countries stopped when the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960.
One place Almost, Maine is particularly popular is in American high schools, where it was the No. 1 most-produced play from 2010 until 2013, according to statistics compiled by Dramatics magazine. During the 2013-2014 school year, it was No. 2, edged out by a little number called A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by a guy you may be familiar with (hint: William Shakespeare).


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American Daily: May 5, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

5 May 2015


They may have political talent. Republicans can like them, even a lot. But they’re either deluding themselves (and they wouldn't be the first politicians to be so afflicted) or their real plan is to use the attention to further some other goal. Neither of them, at least so far, offers anything new in the way of policy, so their candidacies aren't about changing the party in that way.

  • The difference in life-expectancy between Baltimore neighbourhoods is huge.
Baltimore life expectancy
"Last fall," the article begins, "Christina Turner, a fashion stylist in Brooklyn, was dreading another New York winter in her cramped, lightless Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment while gazing longingly at the succulent gardens and festive backyard dinner parties posted on social media by her friends in Los Angeles."
So she moved here. I only wish that I could've gotten word to her sooner. I've always known that New Yorkers are inwardly focused. When there's a municipal election there they don't even realize we're not all picking a mayor of America together. But I would've sworn that everyone already knew about our good weather.

Moreover — and here’s the really gobsmacking part — many of these programs do not figure into the government calculation of the poverty rate. In other words, Brooks is claiming that federal spending on anti-poverty programs is not lifting families out of poverty… when the government specifically does not include the value of those very programs in its poverty calculations.

  • What happens when you run for president without getting your internet affairs in order.

CarlyFiorina.org


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