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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How the Whigs self-destructed and what lesson the GOP should draw from their demise...

is the subject of Gil Troy's fascinating and insightful POLITICO piece from June 2016, How an Outsider President Killed a Party. 

An excerpt:

Many have called Donald Trump’s unexpected takeover of a major political party unprecedented; but it’s not. A similar scenario unfolded in 1848, when General Zachary Taylor, a roughhewn career soldier who had never even voted in a presidential election, conquered the Whig Party.
A look back at what happened that year is eye-opening—and offers warnings for those on both sides of the aisle. Democrats quick to dismiss Trump should beware: Taylor parlayed his outsider appeal to defeat Lewis Cass, an experienced former Cabinet secretary and senator. But Republicans should beware, too: Taylor is often ranked as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history—and, more seriously, the Whig Party never recovered from his victory. In fact, just a few years after Taylor was elected under the Whig banner, the party dissolved—undermined by the divisions that caused Taylor’s nomination in the first place, and also by the loss of faith that followed it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Two Interesting Reads : (1) The Refugee Crisis (2) Charter Schools at 25


An excerpt from DER SPIEGEL, EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Dying in the Greek Islands:


The hunt for supporters of the coup has partly paralyzed Turkey's state apparatus. Erdogan has suspended several thousand police and military officials. At the same time, the war against the PKK, the Kurdish terror group, and the military operation in Syria are tying up troops. "At the moment we have more pressing concerns than policing our borders," an official says.

And so a storm is brewing. The neglected inspections, the economic pressure on the refugees in Turkey, the powerlessness of the Greek authorities and the overfilled refugee camps -- this all together is increasing the pressure on the refugee deal. President Erdogan is also threatening to scuttle the deal over the issue of visa-requirements for Turks.

Political advisor Knaus, whom many people describe as the creator of the refugee deal, warns that if the deal fails, chaos could result. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, he says, would arrive in Greece and try to break through the fences to the north. The Balkans would turn into a battleground for migrants, smugglers, border guards and soldiers, Knaus says. "That would be the end of European asylum policy."

***

An excerpt from THE WEEKLY STANDARD, A Quiet Revolution:

Behind this incremental revolution—the charter school movement, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall—was a collection of principles that will be familiar to conservatives especially. Charter schools explicitly shifted power from the government to individuals and neighborhood organizations. They prioritized local needs and local decision-making. They trusted families and practitioners to have better information and more wisdom than technocrats. They made room for entrepreneurialism and innovation. They cultivated a diversity of school options to suit a pluralistic society. They focused governments on outcomes instead of inputs. They emerged from piecemeal reform of a longstanding institution, which proceeded slowly from modest community initiatives, not all at once in accord­ance with grand plans devised by experts."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Life goes on...


THE TELEGRAPH provides a respite from the horrors of current events with this article by the Royal Horticultural Society, THE BEST TREES FOR SMALL GARDENS.

DER SPIEGEL on Syria : A Developing World War ?


Excerpts from the DER SPIEGEL staff article,  HOW SYRIA BECAME A GLOBAL WAR.

 
"Since the collapse of the cease-fire, the regime once again seems to believe that it can emerge as the winner of this war. Russian jets and Syrian helicopters have pounded besieged eastern Aleppo, transforming it into an apocalyptic wasteland. According to the United Nations, more than 300 civilians have been killed in the city in the last two weeks and five hospitals have been either partially or completely destroyed. Some 250,000 people are thought to be still living in eastern Aleppo, which is completely surrounded by forces loyal to the Assad regime.

Russian bunker busters and incendiary bombs are being dropped on eastern Aleppo without any consideration for the civilians living there. That, says UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, constitutes a war crime. Complete annihilation is a strategy that Russia has successfully pursued before -- in the 1990s assault on the Chechen capital of Grozny. But even as the West accuses Syria and Russia of committing war crimes, Moscow and Damascus have issued blanket denials.

Even if the Syrians are the ones being forced to suffer, for many of those involved, the conflict is no longer about Aleppo or even Syria. Of this, the Babylonian mixture of languages spoken on the frontlines and in the air above is just one of many indications. "I have the feeling that we have become laboratory rats for Russian, Iranian and Syrian weapons -- and for the West's political experiments," says Sharif Mohammed, a civilian who is holding out in eastern Aleppo.

In its sixth year, the conflagration has become a kind of world war in three respects. Firstly, for the last four years, large numbers of foreigners have been flowing into the country to join the fight. More than 20,000 radical Sunnis have joined Islamic State (IS) and about three times that many Shiites from a half-dozen countries are thought to be fighting on behalf of the Assad regime."

 ***

"It has been a year since Putin began his intervention in Syria -- on the pretext that he intended to fight Islamic State. For a year, the Americans and Russians tried to convince themselves that they shared common interests in Syria and could agree to fight terrorism together. But in reality, Russia is playing a role similar to the one it adopted in Ukraine: It is providing massive amounts of military support to one side, thus becoming a de facto party to the war, while posing on the international stage as a mediator and part of a possible diplomatic solution.

Many Western politicians had hoped that Russia would play a more constructive role this time around. That, though, has proven to be an illusion. And that helps explain why the diplomacy that many Western politicians had hoped would bring about a solution has repeatedly failed. Because Russia is taking part in Assad's air strikes on civilians, the US last week withdrew from all peace talks. In response, Russia pulled out of a deal for the disposal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium -- which can be seen as an indirect threat to use atomic weapons.

For the first time in a long time, officials in the US government are once again considering military intervention in Syria and bombing Assad's military. Former General David Petraeus said last Wednesday that it would be "very, very straightforward" to destroy Assad's air force using cruise missiles and other weapons launched from a distance.

Is it time for the US to finally take action? How dangerous would an American intervention be in Russia's backyard? Could Syria trigger a global conflagration?

Presumably to underline the plausibility of such fears, Russia is now sending two additional warships and a missile corvette with anti-aircraft capabilities to the Mediterranean. The Russian Defense Ministry has openly threatened to shoot down US warplanes over Syria and said that the Syrian military is in possession of Buk surface-to-air missile systems. That is the same weapons system used to shoot down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Putin is hoping that Barack Obama will not want to launch a military engagement in the final months of his presidential tenure.

And what are the Europeans doing? Not much. German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't believe sufficient support can be found for new sanctions against Russia, particularly since the Social Democrats, her center-left junior coalition partner, are pursuing reconciliation with Moscow."


Brain Explosion Time for BoSox Fans

Click to hear new Dead Sox anthem

...when Sox GM Dombrowski announced he will bring back John Farrell and his entire staff for next season.

To what purpose, other than to torture New England's lifelong Sox fans, one might sensibly ask ? 



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wait Until Next Year ?

Former Bosox Lou Merloni went ape, if not thermonuclear, on Manager John Farrell--and the Red Sox in general--this morning on WEEI.

The COMCAST radio crew was as critical, though not quite as caustic or entertaining, as Lou.

Fortunately I watched exactly five innings of Sox-Indians series, on the assumption that Boston's lackluster play the last two weeks of the regular season would carry over into the playoffs.

If John Farrell survives this debacle, I expect hordes of disgusted fans to descend on Yawkey Way with the traditional pitchforks and torches. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A good belated read

Cannery Row, Monterey, in the '30's.

Every now and then one needs a respite, or escape, from whatever current man-made maelstroms or natural catastrophes fill up the newspapers and TV and Web.  That respite is now afforded me by John Steinbeck's post-war novel Cannery Row. Apparently, literary critics could not pardon the author for writing anything less than Grapes of Wrath. But there is humble yet moving truth, and humor and warmth in CR's characters and episodes. Sad to say, today's Cannery Row is essentially a theme park.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Maurice White, R.I.P.

Click here to hear EVIL.


I remember when I first heard Earth Wind and Fire on the bitty TV in my Graduate School dorm room. They performed 'Evil', from the HEAD TO THE SKY album. I was blown away, and instantly became a fan. That was back in the 70's.

Click here to hear STAND BY ME.
Of course, White's musical career was not limited to this group either before or after.

In 1985 he released a solo album notable for a rendition of Ben E. King's hit, 'Stand by Me' which, unlike many other covers of its day, manages to be both thoroughly-80's yet ever-fresh : a perennial, like Earth Wind and Fire's 'September', a happy choice by the couple whose wedding reception I recently attended last fall.

For me, White's music was meaningful yet seldom dull, fun yet serious and uplifting.