16 October 2017

Stephen Bannon Declares War Against Republican Establishment

Ex Trump White House Advisor Stephen Bannon Declares War on Republican Establishment

Although he opened his 2017 Value Voters Summit speech by echoing Ecclesiastes about the time of the season, former Trump Senior Adviser Stephen K. Bannon kept true to his street fighting instincts by declaring political war in a bombastic address to Evangelical voters in Washington DC.

Bannon voiced frustration that many Republicans in the Senate were either Janus faced or openly hostile to their President Donald Trump.  Bannon particularly took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Foreign Policy Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN).

To wit, Bannon declared war on the GOP Establishment.  As Bannon is no longer shackled as a White House West Wing advisor, Bannon is free to support the Trump nationalist populist agenda from the outside.  Bannon intimated that he is working hard to primary many RINOs who do not support the Trump agenda.

Bannon claimed that there is time for Establishment sinners to repent, but otherwise he insisted that Deplorables will come after those not supporting Trump during the 2018 primaries.  

FRC President Tony Perkins at VVS17
This message was well received by the Values Voters Summit crowd.  A constant theme during the three day conference of politically active Evangelicals was "Drain to Swamp."  To underline that sentiment, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins honored his Louisiana roots and jocularly dressed in muck wear to open the Value Voters Summit. 

05 October 2017

Appraising the Impact of Tillerson at Foggy Bottom

Rex Tillerson on Being Trump's Secretary of State
Over the weekend, Trump Administration Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was accused of saying that the President, his boss, was a "f***ing moron". This exasperated expletive was alleged uttered after President Trump's rousing remarks before the 2017 Boy Scouts Jamboree. When these comments came to public light, Tillerson held a news conference which denied that Vice President Pence needed to convince him to stay at Foggy Bottom because he never considered resigning.  It is notable, however, that Tillerson did not back away from the original insulting allegation. This has led pundits to ponder how long Tillerson will remain as Secretary of State.

In the Politico Magazine, Rich Lowry wondered if anyone would notice whether anyone would notice if Tillerson left his position at Foggy Bottom.  In the Trump Administration, foreign policy leads seem more driven from the Oval Office (or perhaps Twitter postings) than from Cabinet officials. Secretary of State Tillerson has voiced policy positions, particularly on Climate Change and Qatar, which seem at odds with President Trump.  Moreover, @POTUS Trump has posted Twitter thoughts which undermine Tillerson attempts to achieve diplomatic solutions with North Korea.

During his nomination hearings, Tillerson was vilified for his role at Exxon and connections to Big Oil. But through these petrochemical connections, Tillerson was said to have cultivated good relations with the Russian Federation.  It does not seem that Tillerson has neither been effective in lessening tensions with Moscow nor distancing the Trump Administration from accusations of Russian collusion.

One of Tillerson's virtues was that he had more of a business background than a political resume, thus his organizational skills might be different at Foggy Bottom.  Perhaps this may be true on paper, but Secretary of State Tillerson seemed reluctant to clean house at the State Department. In April 2017, well after his confirmation, Tillerson indicated that he was in no rush to fill nearly 200 State Department posts.  In August 2017, Tillerson announced that there would be fewer promotions at State. These may have been an attempt at pruning an overstaffed State Department, but it also gave the opportunity for Obama Administration holdovers to exert undue influence in Foggy Bottom.

One of the major motivations for many loyal Trump voters is to "Clean the Swamp". In other words, to divest power from progressive elites who have burrowed their way into the bureaucracy.  This is especially true in the State Department. But this is impossible to achieve if the chief acts like a short termer.  In late July 2017, Tillerson confided with friends that he did not expect to last a year on the job.  Notwithstanding his recent denial of resigning over the moron kerfuffle, Tillerson is not taking the broad measures to clean house. The Iran Deal is an example in which the State Department has been enthusiastic in promoting and preserving, yet it is in conflict with Mr. Trump's campaign promises as well as inklings from the West Wing.  A cabinet official who is deemed a short termer will have little sway with the bureaucracy in aligning with the President's foreign policy predilections.

Secretaries of State can take different tacks to their job.  Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, took a leading role in formulating the realpolitik and detente foreign policies.  George Schultz, President Reagan's long serving Secretary of State, did not seek the limelight and was able to earn the loyalty of State Department officers by staffing for professionalism rather than political concerns.  Hillary Clinton, President Obama's First Secretary of State, did her bosses bidding by racking up frequent flier miles in visiting diplomatic outposts rather than take the lead on foreign policy.

Aside from trying to shrink the size of the State Department by attrition and to stop relying on special envoys, it is unclear how Secretary of State Tillerson is making a difference at his job.  Moreover, the friction between Tillerson and Trump on personal and policy fronts, makes his position tenuous.

At a time in which Americans have been distracted by ephemeral issues like the NFL Taking the Knee during the National Anthem and dealing with disasters, such as hurricanes and the Las Vegas shooting, there are serious foreign policy concerns brewing.  North Korea continues to be belligerent.  The world will no longer buy the peace through bribes for worthless promises of non-aggression or denuclearization.  While the United Nations has applied additional sanctions, this does not seem to be achieving the objective of de-escalation of tension or DPRK regime change.

Rich Lowry on Trump Secretary of State Charles Sprugeon

Considering a prospective conflict with North Korea, it would be unwise to have Secretary Tillerson leave his Secretary of State post at this time.  However, presuming this situation with the Kim Jung Un regime comes to a head in the near future, it would be prudent to have a Secretary of State who is more in tune with the Commander-in-Chief's expectations for Foggy Bottom and who more accurately reflects (at least in public) the President's foreign policy positions. 

11 September 2017

Never Forgetting 9/11 Video

06 September 2017

A Fire Line for The Blaze?

Glenn Beck and a Fire Line for The Blaze TV?
Last week, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and Mercury Radio Arts announced a 20% cut in staff. Many critics take schadenfreude at this cost cutting moving for the six year old trans-media company.  Beck felt compelled to can his longtime friend Mike Opelka (a.k.a. “Stuntbrain”) who had been hosting during the weekday 12pm-3PM and Saturday morning slot.  Despite the venom spewing from MAGA critics and liberal cynics, this does not spell the end of Beck’s alterative media venture, but is certainly a setback.  As Beck’s platforms undergo an agonizing reappraisal, it is worthwhile to make a Blaze-ing (sic) retrospective of the ventures.

For full discloser, this writer has been a subscriber to GBTV/The Blaze since its inception. While one ought to respect the integrity of Glenn Beck and appreciate his contributions to the media and political landscape, it does not preclude taking a critical eye or thinking for onself on issues.

Glenn Beck started a syndicated national radio program for Premiere Networks (the same group which syndicates Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity).  Beck started with a rodeo clown shock jock reputation. But after the terror attacks on 9/11, he took an increasingly serious interest in current events, albeit with a wry and emotional sensibility.

Beck got into television via a show on Headline News Network (a CNN channel) from January, 2006 to October, 2008.  As President Obama was being inaugurated in 2009, Glenn Beck Program premiered at 5 pm on Fox News.  It was there Beck achieved phenomenal ratings for his non-prime time slot as well as considerable controversy. Beck left Fox News in July, 2009 to start up his streaming television venture GBTV through Mercury Radio Arts which later morphed into “The Blaze TV”.

"Waffle Face" John Kerry
Glenn Beck has not shied away from taking political stands which ruffle feathers and are not in lock step with his supposed side.  Despite prominently promoting “W”’s re-election in 2004 (the John Kerry Waffle Head bit was memorable), Beck seemed to become dissuaded with President Bush after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the confirmation of Beck’s libertarian sensibilities. After President Obama assumed office in 2009, Beck posited that Obama had racist tendencies as displayed by his reactions Henry Louis Gates arrest. During the run up to the wide open Republican Presidential Primaries in the 2016 election, Beck was charry about candidate Donald Trump and the articulation of nationalist politics. This evolved into becoming an anti/never-Trumper which persisted through the General Election. Of course, the stunt in which  Beck and his posse doing Cheetos facials further stoked the ire of many MAGA loyalists.

 One of the major motivation of establishing alternative media platforms was to ensure that an unadulterated message could reach an audience.  While Beck maintains that he left Fox News on good terms (and continued to appear for years on The O’Reilly Factor, Megyn Kelly and Tucker Carlson Tonight), Beck was steered away from focusing on some subjects and encouraged to tone things down on his own show.  Beck worries about the potential of government censorship (e.g. a re-application of “The Fairness Doctrine”) as well as corporate steering of topics.

Orson Welles’ meteoric multi-media career in the 1930s served as an inspiration for Glenn Beck’s multi-valiant media ventures through Mercury Radio Arts, including “GBTV/The Blaze”, “Blaze Radio”, “The Blaze” website, Mercury publishing, stage appearances, films, music and charity.  The streaming television part of the media empire started in 2011 with an eponymous name and anchored by a simulcast of the three hour radio program along with an extended Glenn Beck TV program.  Beck sought to de-emphasize his imprint by assuming the moniker “The Blaze” (a reference to how fire burns to the truth).  A year later, The Blaze Radio began, which featured different radio hosts (beginning with Doc Thompson and Jay Severin, later Buck Sexton, Mike Opelka and Chris Salcedo).  There are also several regular radio shows which are available for podcast.

The Blaze TV was one of the first successful paid streaming television ventures, using MLB Advanced Media technology for a great picture, whether on a mobile device or a large screen HDTV. While NewsMax and One America Network have made strides in cable carriage, arguably neither have made a major media impact.  Ventures like PJTV and SarahPalinChannel have withered and died, failing to monetize ideological video on the web.  But CRTV venture seems much stronger than PJTV, including the originator Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin and Stephen Crowder.

Glenn Beck has proven to have a good eye in spotting and developing media talent. The Blaze TV’s first hire was Amy Holmes. Beck developed Buck Sexton into an accomplished radio host and television commentator (though Sexton’s TV simulcast was short lived).  A Dana Loesch producer Lawrence Jones was lifted to the media spotlight and given his own radio show, along with commentator appearances on other networks. And The Blaze TV gave then 23 year old Tomi Lerhen her own show, in which she catapulted into the conservative commentator stratosphere, until she was terminated for being inconsistent about her so called conservative views favoring abortion.

The Blaze TV has mainly relied upon a subscription internet model, although it is also available as a premium channel on Dish TV satellite and Verizon’s FIOS cable.  Mercury Radio Arts made serious enquiries about buying Current TV (Al Gore’s channel)  in 2013 and was rumored to buy its successor Al Jazeera America, the latter which Glenn Beck vehemently denied.

The Blaze TV was based in Dallas, Texas but the Real News roundtable and later Buck Sexton’s radio/TV show was produced in Manhattan. The Blaze also had an office in Washington, DC.

As a media venture The Blaze TV is challenged by limited conventional carriage issues. During the kerfluffle on fairness in presenting the 2016 Republican debates, The Blaze TV made a strong pitch to host a GOP debate . Obviously, the move was intended to attract attention and prospectively earn wider cable carriage. But this did not happen, which may have in part been due to the never-Trump reputation of Glenn Beck and the networks.

As for “The Blaze Radio”, the programming mainly has been distributed as live streaming as well as via podcasts (e.g. I-Tunes, Stitcher et ali) and I-Heart Radio (Clear Channel). There was a still born endeavor, which The Blaze Radio would have channels with regional news/traffic focus (e.g. Philadelphia), but that was a short term one off. As Buck Sexton went off to his own syndicated show, The Blaze Radio adapted and started to carry his early evening show live.

 For four years, The Blaze Radio had its own channel on Sirius/XM, which was eventually demoted to a streaming sub channel before it was terminated in 2017).  For several years, The Blaze Radio provided top of the hour news updates for a couple of Sirius/XM talk channels.  The Blaze website was intended to be a center for up to date news, which would feature positive takes on faith and some feel good stories. The website has not been as successful as Breitbart and developed a poor reputation of appearing cluttered and simply “click bait”.

Although Beck has strived not to make his media ventures, his shadow looms large on the various ventures.  The original concept for his TV show was to eventually involve viewer interactivity, in which a viewer could pause a program to search prior shows about unfamiliar concepts before returning.  Alas that is an idea which Beck is again slightly ahead of the curve. Starting out, GBTV/The Blaze was intended to be a streaming TV netlet with a strong news emphasis (such as the nightly one hour Real News), investigative journalism (For the Record), wholesome afternoon kids show (Liberty Treehouse), simulcast of Beck’s radio program and his extended TV program along with original entertainment shows (Independence USA).

Obviously, some media concepts fall flat, such as a survivalist reality TV show.  Other programs like afternoon educational kids programming reveal there is a small market.  And then there’s the gorilla in the room, the costly nature of producing quality news programs.  That being said, a fair portion of upheaval in programming comes from shifts in The Blaze driving force’s priorities.

Beck knew that it was costly to produce quality news, but wanted to be recognized as a legitimate news network. When the nightly news round table folded, The Blaze TV went to great lengths to produce investigative journalism.  But those shows seemed to have abruptly ended.

Another impetus of The Blaze has been to educate the audience.  While on Fox News, Founder’s Friday proved to be wildly popular.  Beck sought to replicate that last season with a twice weekly “The Vault” (showing history artifacts while telling the story) and “HIStory” (an extended historical bio show). In addition, Beck produced cross platform serial segments on history. But that programming seemed abandoned mid season.

Beck has shilly shallied from being a conservative political activist to a libertarian contrarian and now seems despondent at the course of current events. In the 2016 election cycle, The Blaze Radio hosted commentary shows after many of the Presidential debates. As mentioned, Mercury Radio Arts wanted to fairly host a GOP debate in Dallas.  Judging from Beck’s current commentary, he seems to want to guide the network away from partisan bickering where you can find everywhere else in the media. That is wise, but apparently educational news that you can use or extended format history segments are not profitable for The Blaze.

The current layoffs were not the first significant downsizing with The Blaze ventures. In 2016, Mercury Radio Arts laid off 40 people and shuttered their New York City and DC offices. Beck rued the bloat in which he felt was becoming a money pit that was out of control. Beck also wanted to revamp The Blaze website, that he regrets had just become “click-bait”

Glenn Beck's Man on the Moon (2013)
While it is foolish to believe that everyone employed at The Blaze are Beck’s automatons, Beck does exert an extraordinary influence the direction of the venture. The Blaze seems to have backed off on small enterprise live spot advertising (aside from the self owned realty group). . Moreover, there has been a de-emphasis on 1791 clothing, music, publishing. And there has been a lack of live shows, whether they are comedy tours, artistic events (like Man on the Moon in 2013) and public affairs gatherings (e.g. Restoring Honor, Restoring Love). Perhaps these ventures took away from Mercury Radio Arts core competencies or were too difficult to do well, but these changes reflect Beck’s constantly shifting priorities.

The Blaze TV’s programming has seen several shifts: 1) full service streaming netlet 2) educational news you can use 3) supplementing personal conservatarian activism 4) current events source 5) less partisan programming featuring radio simulcasts. These constant shifts hurt network branding and positioning.

Some of the programming choices seem like friendly personal predilections, such as “The Wonderful World of Stu” and "Pat and Stu".  It will be interesting to see if Pat Gray can live up to his billing of being a crack radio host on his own during mid-day radio prime time.  In mid-September, Mercury Radio Arts is conducting an all-hands-on-deck meeting which, in the interests of opacity, will be released in a podcast, to flesh out the direction of the networks.

Glenn Beck is convinced that media is at a pivot point and that traditional networks are a dying breed of media dinosaurs. As predicted in 2011, The Blaze has been ahead of the media curve and was wise to employ a multi-media and trans media approach to find out what works. Despite alienating some Trump-eteers and mockery from the mainstream media, Beck has developed a loyal audience for his streaming network. The Blaze's mission statement is to "change the world for the better". But increasing those eyeballs requires integrity and a sustained vision. The latter quality may mark a fire line for The Blaze in setting the world on fire with truth in order to make the world better.

05 September 2017

Concept Video: Federation Law and Klingon Justice

One of highlights of the Museum of Science Fiction's Escape Velocity 2017 Convention was the symposia on the Law and Star Trek. A panel of distinguished lawyers, including a law professor, a partner in a private practice along with a couple of attorneys working in the court system lent their collective wisdom on how legal concepts were applied on The Original Series (1966-1969), The Next Generation (1987-1991), Voyager (1995-2001) as well as several major motion pictures. The discussion consciously avoided the many violations of Star Fleet's Prime Directive, which sought to prevent the imposition of values and technologies by superior space races (i.e. civilization which had achieved warp speed).

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry originally envisioned Star Fleet justice to be meted out as would an  18th Century colonial captain. Under Admiralty Law, the highest in command in an area was the person who wheeled great discretion because of scant communications with Star Fleet Command.  But as Star Trek progressed, it seemed to favor Common Law tendencies to individual rights, guarding due process and being conscientious about justice rather than the blind application of law.

As the session was ending, these words were tested by Klingon Justice. 

03 May 2017

Reflecting Upon Jim De Mint's Confusing Heritage Departure

It should be noted the  Heritage President Ex Senator Jim De Mint (R-SC was ousted by the Heritage Foundation's 22 member Board of Trustees after leading the conservative think tank for nearly four and a half years. 

De Mint was skeptical about Heritage Action, a 501(c)(4) influencing branch of Heritage run by Mike Needham. It was said that De Mint did not want to throw control of the think tank. to 30 something political operatives with no policy experience.  Ironically, the official spin from Heritage on parting ways with De Mint is that he was making the think tank too political.

"The public statement released earlier is puzzling given that the Board of Trustees have praised our work for four years and approved performance bonuses for our entire management team each year for a job well done." 

 Some have speculated that De Mint had been too outspoken in favor of Donald Trump, which alienated GOP Establishment elements in the organization.  Heritage Foundation Board member  Mickey Edwards (and former Congressman from R-OK 5th) noted

“When DeMint went in, Heritage became very political. It changed from a highly respected think tank to just a partisan tool and more ideological — more of a tea party organization than a think tank.”

Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner has agreed to again take the reins of the think tank as interim President while a leadership search is conducted.

Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner 

There is talk that De Mint may soon find a spot within the Trump Administration. That seems much more credible than the rumor (or joke from Fox New's Chris Wallace) that Steve Bannon will become Heritage Foundation President. 

Ex House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX 26)
This series of backroom recriminations seems reminiscent of the attempted coup of the Freedom Caucus by ex GOP House Majority Leader Dick Army (R-TX 26th) in late 2012. At least no one felt the need to pack heat at Heritage.

Nevertheless, Capitol Hill conservatives need not be afraid of adversity in the District of Calamity, but they must find ways to solve problems lest a short stint at being the majority be their real Heritage. 

Paying Tribute to Quality-- RIP Robert M. Pirsig

Author Robert M. Pirsig died at the age of 88 in South Berwick, Maine after a period of failing health.  Pirsig was renowned for writing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-- An Inquiry Into Values (1974), a loosely autobiographical travelogue of a 17 day cross country road trip in 1968 with his 11 year old son and two friends during which he pondered weighty philosophical problems to discern the metaphysics of quality,  

Pirsig had served in the Army in the Far East before the Korean War.  During a trip on leave to Japan, Pirsig became fascinated by Zen Buddhism. After his military service, Pirsig received graduate degrees in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and Banaras Hindu University.

Like the unnamed protagonist in the novel, who sometimes referred to himself as Phaedrus (a name inspired by Plato's Dialogues),  Pirsig was a brilliant thinker with a high IQ who eventually suffered a mental breakdown which was treated by electro-shock therapy that altered his personality. By delving deeply into undercurrents of thought, the novel can be seen as a detective story of a man in search of himself.

Robert M. Pirsig, 1975
The title of the book was a play on another popular tome Zen and the Art of Archery (1971). Pirsig's playfulness was also evident in the forward in which the author wrote:

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”
But the book contemplated how man relates to machines, the roots of our culture and what inspires madness.

Plato & Aristotle "The School of Athens" Raphael (1510)
Phaedrus ordered existence between "classic" values (like rational problem solving in fixing motorcycles) and "romantic values" (like beauty and the arts). This philosophical chautauqua ("circus of ideas) which Phaedrus grappled with in his deep thoughts was how the Western mind had separated ordinary experiences from transcendent experiences because Plato and Aristotle had done so. Moreover, the mind-body dualism championed by the Greeks stoked a mental civil war which stripped rationality from its spiritual underpinnings and spirituality of its reason.

What man really ought to strive for is quality.  As Pirsig contemplated:

"Quality . . . you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is. But that's self-contradictory. But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality. But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist."

The book became a phenomenon which the author later described as a “kulturbarer" (Swedish for culture bearer), which developed a near cult popularity amongst hippies.  Pirsig mused: “I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else." Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance truly appealed to Baby Boomers. When the novel was first published, New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: 

"[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip... when [Pirsig] comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying." 
 When reflecting on the impact of ZAMM, Todd Gitlin, a counter cultural sociologist speculated that by blending the deep thoughts with the drudgery of daily life, such as motorcycle maintenance:  "Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”

The counter cultural novel sold over one million books in the first year of its publication and sold several million more since then.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became  the biggest selling philosophy book of all times and remained on the best sellers list for over a decade. This is remarkable for a manuscript which was rejected by 121 different publishers before William Morrow signed hi for a small $3,000 advance.

After the unexpected success of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig won a Guggenheim fellowship, some fortune and unwanted fame. Pirsig got so freaked out by what his neighbors called "Pirsig Pilgrims" to his Minneapolis home that he eventually packed his bags and would live in a camper or a sailboat for months.  Pirsig spent the last 30 years of his life in a small town in Southern Maine

Pirsig wrote one other book, Lila- An Inquiry into Morals (1991), which achieved neither the same success nor cultural impact.  But sometimes one oeuvre is enough to make one's mark on the world. 

Personally, I found Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to be a highly influential book. Believe it or not, it served as a textbook for an Advanced Placement American History course in high school. Despite the unorthodox textbook, I achieved highest marks on the exam as it honed in me an incredible analytical inclination which remains with me to this day (sometimes to the consternation of those close to me).  

While I may not be an adherent to Zen Buddhism, nor will anyone catch me fixing motor scooters or the ilk, I am graced by the idea that there is a nexus between the simply joys and drudgery of daily life and the transcendent. More than a quarter century later, I am still inspired by a quest for quality. To be so deeply impacted by a book demonstrates its importance. 

Robert M. Pirsig on Life

H/T: New York Times

19 April 2017

Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raids

Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle on War and Air Power

Just a little over five months after the devastating Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States  made a daring raid on the Imperial Homeland.  The responsibility to conduct the raid fell upon then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, a revered test pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps.   

Sixteen specially modified B-25B bombers carrying 80 men took off at night from the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, which was positioned 500 nautical miles off the Japanese mainland.  The plan had to be rushed as the Hornet was sighted further out than expected.

The Army Airmen participating in Doolittle's raid understood that they were most likely on a suicide mission. Their intended targets were military and industrial targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokosuka. One of the sixteen planes had to bail before it reached its target.  

Remarkably despite losing 15 aircraft, only four of eighty men were killed  in the Doolittle Raid, eight became POWS (but three were executed), and one crew was interned after landing in Vladavostok, Soviet Russia.  They were held in the USSR for a year and were "smuggled out" (probably arranged by the Russian Secret Police NKVD because the USSR could not release the prisoners because of the neutrality pact with Japan).

Doolittle expected to be court marshaled as his raid lost 15 of 16 aircraft in pin prick air strikes.  But back in the United States, the daring Doolittle Raids was celebrated as a morale building first strike against Imperial Japan.  The Japanese were caught off guard by the Tokyo Raid and the Imperial Military rearranged forces, which might have turned the tide in the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Doolittle received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt, with the citation:

"For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."

Doolittle was eventually promoted as a Lt. General and became the highest ranking active reserve officer in modern times. 

Sometimes the bigger battle is won through morale boosting and reminding America of its mission.

30 January 2017

On Blue Dogs and Beltway Democrats Being on the Endangered Species List

Progressive Purity Tests May Keep Democrats in the Political Wilderness by Banning Blue Dogs

The Blue Dog Coalition was formed in 1995 in reaction to devastating losses in President Clinton's first mid-term election.  The moniker played off of the expression "Yellow Dog Democrats" of the South who were so loyal to the party after the Civil War.   Blue Dogs could also refer to the idea that when dogs are not let in the house, they stay outside in the cold and turn blue.   

The Blue Dogs sought to find a compromise between conservative and liberal positions.  They tended to be Democrats who were from rural districts who were pro-guns, pro-life and fiscal hawks. Blue Dogs were successful in 1996 and then Democrat National Committee Chairman Rahm Emmanuel used Blue Dogs to retake the House in 2006. 

However, in the same 2006 election cycle, progressive began to retake the Democrat Party.  A Progressive candidate beat Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN) in the Democrat primary, forcing the veteran lawmaker (who was quite an orthodox liberal except on staunch support for Israel and being a war hawk) to successfully run as an "Independent Democrat" in the general election. But this bode as a bad omen for Blue Dog Democrats.

At their  high water mark, Blue Dog Democrats had 44 members, which was roughly 20% of the Democrat Caucus.  But progressive tides and internecine battles have lowered Blue Dogs ranks to 17 members which again puts them out in the cold. 

At the beginning of the 115th Congress, Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH 13th formerly 17th) sought to run for House Minority Leader against the incumbent Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-12th formerly 5th & 8th).  The final vote was for unseating Pelosi  not even close 134-63.  

Considering the way that close to 70 Democrats (all from safe Democrat districts) boycotted President Trump's inaugural festivities shows that Congressional Democrats seem dedicated to the progressive cause, under the delusion that they will retake the House in the 2018 elections.  

The Democrats continue to be obsessed with gun control, abortion rights, liberal immigration and an ever expanding government.Thus it seems that Democrats continue to count on winning urban voters along with educated white collar suburban voters in their path to victory.  This sort strategy leaves Blue Dog in the cold, forcing them to accept  irrelevance amongst the DC Democrat party or to go against their tradition and aversions to vote GOP to remain relevant.

It was fascinating to see how 2016 Democrat Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (D-NY) ran against coal country in her futile bid for the White House.  Hillary lost the Keystone State by about 46,000 votes.  That slim margin of victory may have been taken from President Trump's increased support in Central Pennsylvania, which epitomized Blue Dog Coalition voters.

In  Washington Examiner, Salina Zito noted how Cambria County, Pennsylvania, which contains the old industrial city of Johnstown, has shifted from being a 70 reliably Democrat area in 2006 to today being a 70% Republican area. It is these working class white voters that Democrat strategist Dane Strother worries that imposing a progressive purity test will drive Democrats into the political wilderness for forty years.  

President Trump may have sensed the alienation that Blue Dogs (who also comprised "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s) felt, and now seeks to cement the relationship with them.  Thus the overtures to labor leaders and winning back manufacturing jobs as well as fulfilling campaign promises which validate voters who then candidate  Barack Obama derided as those who were "Bitter Clingers" to their bibles and their guns.

26 January 2017

The Skeptical Environmentalist Takes the Temperature of the Paris Climate Change Accord

Bjorn Lomborg on the Paris Climate Change Accord

In the past few years, left leaning leaders from around the globe have been keen to tackle climate change.  Pope Francis wrote a bull Laudato Si urging world leaders to come to terms together in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.    They sought to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement with great fanfare, but on the eve of the Summit, the multiple Paris attacks occurred drawing attention away from the achievement. 

Now that it has come time to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, skeptical environmentalists question the efficaciousness of the accord.  But dissent is not something that progressive politicans or the press can fathom.Senator Ted Cruz stumped Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in testimony to account for Climate Change considering the 17 year lull in warming. 

Science is supposed to be about facts and informed inquiry.  But that is not how Climate Change advocates evangelize as they attack apostates who question if it is settled science.   Sean Penn has suggested shaming Climate Change deniers .  A French weatherman was pulled off the air for not spouting the liberal party line about climate change.

In a quixotic attempt to engage progressives who profess the secular religion of Climate Change, Bjorn Lomborg made a video in conjunction with Prager University to illustrate the absurdity of COP 21 promises and solving the anthropogenic climate change problem

Sadly, those steeped in Climate Change politics are reluctant to engage in cost benefit analysis much less critical appraisals of the proposals, as they implore that "something must be done" and will hear nothing else.

08 January 2017

Imbroglio Over Anti-Cop Agiprop Art Exhibited on Capitol Hill

Rep. Lacy Clay on Anti-Cop Artwork Exhibited on Capitol Hill

[L] Artist David Pulphus [R] Rep Lacy Clay
Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO 1st) held a contest to display artwork on Capitol Hill.  The winner was 18 year old Cardinal Ritter Prep High School Senior David Pulphus with "Unnamed #1".  

This piece has stirred controversy as the adolescent's artwork depicts cops as pigs brutalizing blacks. It should be noted that a prominently depicted agitator is also depicted with lupine features giving the "Black Power" salute. Pulphus's piece also inserts a black man in graduation garb being crucified by the scales of justice. 

Charitably this can be considered an allegory to the unrest unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri, the birth place of Black Lives Matter.  But it seems more like an ├ępater les bourgeois to defame cops as animals.  It is ironic that the one business featured in the painting is a beauty shop, which was one of the businesses that black owned businesses in Ferguson that BLM rioters burned. 

But Joe Patterson with spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Association noted: "[W]e are not about censorship, but good art and good taste are sometimes not the same thing.” Patterson characterized Pulphus's Untitled #1 as a "punch in the face" to law enforcement and commented: “This is an extraordinarily disrespectful piece at a minimum."  There have been calls from Police Associations around the nation to take down the pig headed anti-cop artwork.

Representative Clay  refused to take Pulphus' piece down since it won the contest and that he was not attempt to approve or disapprove of artistic expression, yet the Congressman also called the piece "the most creative work that he has seen in 16 years." Moreover, Rep. Clay claimed that he could not find anything offensive in the painting as:  "I find it to be an expression of what one of my constituents is feeling about what he has experienced.”

The work had been exhibited since June 2016 in the tunnel that leads to the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill for several months before the controversy.

Post Scriptus 01/06/2017 15:00 EST:  Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA 50th) took down "Untitled #1" on his own accord.  Hunter invited his House colleague Clay to put it back up if he wanted. 

Update 01/09/2016 19:00  On National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) announced their intention to rehang Pulphus' Anti-Cop acrylic artwork. The CBC stated:

“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American."

Update 01/17/2017  The Architect for the Capitol has determined that Pulphus' anti-cop art violates contest rules about depicting controversial political subjects and will be taken down for good by January 18, 2017.

UPDATE 04/18/2017  DC Federal Court Judge John Bates denied issuing a preliminary injunction to restore display of the painting while the litigation continues. Rep. Rep. Clay and artist Pulphus plan on appealing the ruling.

Should Anti-Cop agiprop artwork be exhibited on Capitol Hill?