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Elite Failure and Populist Trump It

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

GOP Front Runner, Donald J. Trump

A friend sent an essay by the prolific IR scholar, Professor Angelo Codevilla that had been posted at Powerline Blog.  It was good.

For the unfamiliar, Codevilla often writes on national security and intelligence matters and some readers may be familiar with his (with Paul Seabury) book,  War: Ends and Means ; but in recent years Codevilla has, like Walter Russell Mead and a number of other intellectuals, turned his attention to the shoddy performance, ethical deficiencies and arrogant demands of the new American “ruling class”, writing a biting critique of their “meritocratic regime”.

In his essay for Powerline, Codevilla turns his attention to the political phenomenon of the improbable GOP presidential front runner, billionaire and reality TV star, Donald Trump.  Unsurprisingly, Dr. Codevilla is not a huge fan of the bombastic Mr. Trump, but his analysis of why Trump has captured the moment so easily has some astute insights about the decaying state of our political system and the seething anger of the electorate:

Does Trump trump?

“In the land of the blind,” so goes the saying, “the one-eyed man is king.” Donald Trump leapt atop other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination when he acted on the primordial fact in American public life today, from which most of the others hide their eyes, namely: most Americans distrust, fear, are sick and tired of, the elected, appointed, and bureaucratic officials who rule over us, as well as their cronies in the corporate, media, and academic world. Trump’s attraction lies less in his words’ grace or even precision than in the extent to which Americans are searching for someone, anyone, to lead against this ruling class, that is making America less prosperous, less free, and more dangerous.

Trump’s rise reminds this class’s members that they sit atop a rumbling volcano of rejection. Republicans and Democrats hope to exorcise its explosion by telling the public that Trump’s remarks on immigration and on the character of fellow member John McCain (without bothering to try showing that he errs on substance), place him outside the boundaries of their polite society. Thus do they throw Br’er Rabbit into the proverbial briar patch. Now what? The continued rise in Trump’s poll numbers reminds all that Ross Perot – in an era that was far more tolerant of the Establishment than is ours – outdistanced both Bush 41 and Bill Clinton before self-destructing, just by speaking ill of both parties before he self destructed

Trump’s barest hints about what he opposes (never mind proposes) regarding just a few items on the public agenda have had such effect because they accord with what the public has already concluded about them. For example,Trump remarked, off the cuff, that “Mexico does not send us its best.” The public had long since decided that our ruling class’s handling of immigration (not just from Mexico) has done us harm. The ruling class – officials, corporations, etc.- booed with generalities but did not try to argue that they had improved America by their handling of immigration. The more they would argue that, the more they would lose. At least if someone more able than Trump were leading against them.

….The point here is simple: our ruling class has succeeded in ruling not by reason or persuasion, never mind integrity, but by occupying society’s commanding heights, by imposing itself and its ever-changing appetites on the rest of us. It has coopted or intimidated potential opponents by denying the legitimacy of opposition. Donald Trump, haplessness and clownishness notwithstanding, has shown how easily this regime may be threatened just by refusing to be intimidated

[Emphasis mine]

Read the rest here.

Codevilla is right. He may even be understating the nature of the problem, as remarkable as that may seem.

Our bipartisan ruling elite have, in the short space of fifteen years, managed to: lose two wars; collapse at least three states into permanent anarchy; turn Russia into an enemy again; suffer the greatest counterintelligence failures in history;  nearly melt down the entire global economy and vastly enrich themselves while presiding over the greatest loss of household wealth for ordinary Americans in history, save for the Great Depression. If that is not a level of incompetence that should disqualify them from public office forever, I’m not sure what would.

Despite this track record of utter failure and brazen venality, our elite have managed to remain firmly in the saddle. Why is this ? In a normal countries they typically have revolutions and coups over far less, but our leaders of both parties managed to cruise from disasters to debacles to win re-election, often by substantial margins.

One reason may be is that the elite, broadly speaking, have managed to restore a substantial degree of control over the information the general public consumes that they had briefly lost  in the early 2000’s and subsequently narrowed and shape the terms of “acceptable” political debate in American society more than ever before.

Once upon a time, the mass media ecology was relatively simple and politically reflected what historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. termed “the vital center” of Cold War liberalism.  The New York Times editorial page set the general line for informed opinion and most regional and local papers dutifully fell in line, with the Washington Post, TIME, Newsweek, LIFE and US News & World Report generally critiquing whatever debate the Times had begun in greater depth. The three networks ABC, NBC and CBS by contrast simplified and reinforced these narratives with the immediacy and power of television. The “Fairness Doctrine” effectively made the system an elite monopoly by freezing out dissenting opinions from the Left or Right from radio or television broadcast. Cold War liberalism was de facto defined as a politically neutral position not requiring “equal time”. It also represented shared values between most journalists and editors and the American leaders upon whom they reported.

This center began to lose its vitality when liberalism itself became divided over the Vietnam War between hawks and doves and support for various counterculture and cultural liberation movements; the media landscape began to shift and diversify after the Reagan administration terminated the fairness doctrine and the rise of cable news and talk radio. The era of wailing by the gatekeepers really commenced though with the rise of the blogosphere and the early days of social media which contributed to and coincided with the implosion of the newspaper publishing industry as ad revenue tanked. For a while, the internet meant that the elite lost control of the conversation, carefully constructed media scams were outed, scandals were discovered and online tsunamis of anger came down on the once high and mighty.

Elite control over discourse has been reestablished to a degree, not as a monopoly but as a loose hegemony based on the principles of Co-option, Coordination and Coercion.

The media elite are now fully integrated into the political and economic elite, intermarrying with them, sending their kids to the same prep schools, Presidents hiring spouses and siblings of network executives and political aides becoming faux journalists. Its as if James Reston’s brother or Walter Cronkite’s wife had gone to work for Richard Nixon and their kids to school with John F. Kennedy, Jr.  The journalists and editors covertly coordinate news campaigns with each other, politicians, the White House, parties and advocates of causes that they support and when this fails to persuade, the elite like to intimidate.  From abusing the powers of government to harass political opponents to whipping up tribal partisan mobs on social media to furiously abuse or dox some hapless private citizen, perhaps trying to ruin their livelihood for daring to express unwelcome of opinions on subjects the elite find distasteful.

And the list of proscribed beliefs and topics grows increasingly long. The following is a partial list of topics or views generally not supposed to be mentioned by candidates, much less debated by the national standards of American politics and mainstream media:

Seeking victory vs. intentionally losing wars
 .
Big donors and corporations which benefit financially from our foreign policy decisions
 .
Criticizing crony capitalism not as vague generalities but as systemic corruption and identifying criminal behavior
 .
 .
Muslim immigrant radicalization and participation in terrorism here and in Europe
 .
 .
Abuse of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion by government officials
 .
 .
Mass surveillance/”creepy-statesecurity theater abuses of the rights of American citizens
 .
Violent crime statistics broken down by race, especially rates of violent crime committed by young Black males
 .
Disparities in sentencing broken down by race, especially  harsh sentences for young Black males convicted of non-violent or minor offenses
 .
Successful self-defense with a gun (if criminals/terrorists die – so will the story in short order)
 .
 .
 .
Raising living standards for ordinary Americans as proper intent of government policy
 .
 .
 .
Immigration, esp. illegal immigration or that the  Immigration Act of 1965 was intended to change national demographics and drive down wages of skilled professionals and unskilled workers.
 .
Systematically tilting the scales against admitting the children of middle class and working class white and Asian-Americans to elite, “gateway” universities
 .
Erosion of Rule of Law  (including the following)
.

And this is only a partial list.

To do well in the first Republican debate, Donald Trump need only show up and select a few of the more emotionally charged themes and throw them like bombs at the other GOP hopefuls on live television who will scatter but be unable to escape the collateral damage. Trump won’t need a plan or a policy or even a reasoned argument because his opponents have no way to talk sensibly about touchy subjects on the minds of millions of voters that their financial backers and the media don’t want them to even acknowledge. Harder still if Trump is getting laugh lines in at their expense. All of Trump’s vainglorious posturing like a professional wrestling heel aside, the man is absolutely at home in the television medium and comfortable in his own skin (to say nothing of his hair).

A real quandary. Attacking Trump personally, calling him names, ganging up on him or echoing liberal media criticisms will only boost his poll numbers with the GOP base and energize his clown car crash of a presidential campaign to new heights. Having nothing to lose himself with his self-parodying run, no need of campaign donors, Trump cannot be controlled and in a live format could drag down any other candidate with him. Or the Republican Party.

Trump would be an absolutely terrible president – its not even clear that he is serious about wanting the job – but as a candidate he is a walking, talking, club for Joe Sixpack to bludgeon an overweening, corrupt and increasingly authoritarian bipartisan elite.

The beating though is richly deserved and long overdue.

On sneers, smears, and mutual sniping

Friday, July 31st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — not exactly an enthusiast of negative campaigning ]
.

I’ve been having a series of conversations with my friend Tom Merino recently, and a couple of days ago he suggested two quotes to me for comparison:

SPEC DQ Tom's DoubleSpeak

I’ve formatted them in my usual DoubleQuotes style, but my friend calls the pairing DoubleSpeak and sees them as the starting point for an investigation of the vexed question — who uses the most frequent and vicious slurs against “the other side” — liberals or conservatives?

**

How would we even begin to measure that? Who would decide whether, for instance, smearing a Republican presidential candidate with a remark that clearly evokes slavery is a lesser or greater lapse than smirching a Democratic president with a remark that clearly evokes the Holocaust?

And who would host a venue where both liberals and conservatives could and would report abuses and insults of this sort, so that some measures of frequency, severity and authority could be employed in something resembling a fair ranking?

Note: on the difficulties of such ranking, see Malcolm Gladwell‘s The Order of Things.

**

And then there’s Sarah Palin, who used the phrase “blood libel” to describe attacks on her the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords — because she, Palin, had used a map with crosshairs on Democrats she hoped would be defeated.. Giffords included.

SPEC DQ Palin map blood libel

— the problem here being that “blood libel” refers pretty specifically to the accusation against the Jews that they bake matzoh for Passover using the blood of young Christian children they have slaughtered.

Again, the rhetoric she used trivialized the blood libel, just as Biden trivialized slavery and Huckabee trivializes the Shoah.

**

But then, hey — if putting cross-hairs on Democrats you’d like to see removed from office is itself an example of heated and dangerous rhetoric, wouldn’t the same be true of putting targets on Republicans you’d like to see removed?

Here’s a helpful DoubleQuote in the Wild:

acceptable or not

Neither “targetting” political adversaries nor “having them in your crosshairs” equates to killing or there would have been a whole lot more attempted assassinations — just the one was bad enough.

Have some proportion, people.

**

How about that claim that Ahmadinejad said he wanted to “wipe Israel off the face of the map”?

Over the top rhetoric can be rabble rousing, it can also be a warning or a threat, and threats on occasion get carried into practice. So, serious as divisive language and a divided nation is (Luke 11.17), some rhetoric is charged with meaning that transcends mere words and implies — or impels or incites to — action.

Some details. Ahmadinejad didn’t say anything about “wiping Israel off the face of the map” — specifically, he didn’t use the word “map”, and he was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in any case. What he said is better translated “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” That’s Juan Cole’s translation, admittedly — but Dan Meridor, Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, told an Al Jazeera interviewer “They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right, but, ‘It will not survive.’”

Is that the end of it? Ahmadinejad didn’t say “wipe off the face of the map” but “vanish from the page of time”?

By no meanms. The faulty English translation was picked up by the Iranians and used, in English, on billboards:

wiped banner from teitelbaum

That banner was on the outside of a Basij HQ.

There’s room enough for some nuance here, but also plenty of room for concern. I’ll include a selection of readings under “Sources & Readings” below..

**

Oh. Getting back to simple slurs..

Now I learn there’s a new word of scorn, applied by “alt.conservatives” to “conservatives.” Frankly, I find it a distasteful reminder of how low our public speech has fallen — but then I’m a Brit, and rank politeness pretty high — we’re more prone to understatement than plain speaking.

The Washington Post calls it “the the conservative insult of the month” and I won’t go there.

**

Sources & Readings:

  • Deena Zaru, Anti-Defamation League: Huckabee ‘completely out of line’
  • Mackenzie Weinger, GOP slams Joe Biden ‘chains’ remark
  • SarahPAC, Palin target map
  • Michael Shear, Palin Calls Criticism ‘Blood Libel’
  • RedState, Missouri GOP Senate Candidate Brunner Slams Sarah Palin For Rhetoric And “Cross-hairs” Map
  • Jonathan Steele, Lost in translation
  • Glenn Kessler, Did Ahmadinejad really say Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’?
  • Robert Mackey, Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’
  • Joshua Teitelbaunm, What Iranian Leaders Really Say about Doing Away with Israel: A Refutation of the Campaign to Excuse Ahmadinejad’s Incitement to Genocide
  • Preview declaration

    Sunday, July 5th, 2015

    [marked up by Lynn C. Rees]

    The States General of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, to all whom it may concern, do by these Presents send greeting:

    As it is apparent to all that a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view. And particularly when this is done deliberately, unauthorized by the states, they may not only disallow his authority, but legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense. This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. And this we have seen done frequently in several countries upon the like occasion, whereof there are notorious instances, and more justifiable in our land, which has been always governed according to their ancient privileges, which are expressed in the oath taken by the prince at his admission to the government; for most of the Provinces receive their prince upon certain conditions, which he swears to maintain, which, if the prince violates, he is no longer sovereign.

    Now thus it was that the king of Spain after the demise of the emperor, his father, Charles the Fifth, of the glorious memory (of whom he received all these provinces), forgetting the services done by the subjects of these countries, both to his father and himself, by whose valor he got so glorious and memorable victories over his enemies that his name and power became famous and dreaded over all the world, forgetting also the advice of his said imperial majesty, made to him before to the contrary, did rather hearken to the counsel of those Spaniards about him, who had conceived a secret hatred to this land and to its liberty, because they could not enjoy posts of honor and high employments here under the states as in Naples, Sicily, Milan and the Indies, and other countries under the king’s dominion. Thus allured by the riches of the said provinces, wherewith many of them were well acquainted, the said counselors, we say, or the principal of them, frequently remonstrated to the king that it was more for his Majesty’s reputation and grandeur to subdue the Low Countries a second time, and to make himself absolute (by which they mean to tyrannize at pleasure), than to govern according to the restrictions he had accepted, and at his admission sworn to observe. From that time forward the king of Spain, following these evil counselors, sought by all means possible to reduce this country (stripping them of their ancient privileges) to slavery, under the government of Spaniards having first, under the mask of religion, endeavored to settle new bishops in the largest and principal cities, endowing and incorporating them with the richest abbeys, assigning to each bishop nine canons to assist him as counselors, three whereof should superintend the inquisition.

    By this incorporation the said bishops (who might be strangers as well as natives) would have had the first place and vote in the assembly of the states, and always the prince’s creatures at devotion; and by the addition of the said canons he would have introduced the Spanish inquisition, which has been always as dreadful and detested in these provinces as the worst of slavery, as is well known, in so much that his imperial majesty, having once before proposed it to these states, and upon whose remonstrances did desist, and entirely gave it up, hereby giving proof of the great affection he had for his subjects. But, notwithstanding the many remonstrances made to the king both by the provinces and particular towns, in writing as well as by some principal lords by word of mouth; and, namely, by the Baron of Montigny and Earl of Egmont, who with the approbation of the Duchess of Parma, then governess of the Low Countries, by the advice of the council of state were sent several times to Spain upon this affair. And, although the king had by fair words given them grounds to hope that their request should be complied with, yet by his letters he ordered the contrary, soon after expressly commanding, upon pain of his displeasure, to admit the new bishops immediately, and put them in possession of their bishoprics and incorporated abbeys, to hold the court of the inquisition in the places where it had been before, to obey and follow the decrees and ordinances of the Council of Trent, which in many articles are destructive of the privileges of the country.

    This being come to the knowledge of the people gave just occasion to great uneasiness and clamor among them, and lessened that good affection they had always borne toward the king and his predecessors. And, especially, seeing that he did not only seek to tyrannize over their persons and estates, but also over their consciences, for which they believed themselves accountable to God only. Upon this occasion the chief of the nobility in compassion to the poor people, in the year 1566, exhibited a certain remonstrance in form of a petition, humbly praying, in order to appease them and prevent public disturbances, that it would please his majesty (by showing that clemency due from a good prince to his people) to soften the said points, and especially with regard to the rigorous inquisition, and capital punishments for matters of religion. And to inform the king of this affair in a more solemn manner, and to represent to him how necessary it was for the peace and prosperity of the public to remove the aforesaid innovations, and moderate the severity of his declarations published concerning divine worship, the Marquis de Berghen, and the aforesaid Baron of Montigny had been sent, at the request of the said lady regent, council of state, and of the states-general as ambassadors to Spain, where the king, instead of giving them audience, and redress the grievances they had complained of (which for want of a timely remedy did always appear in their evil consequences among the common people), did, by the advice of Spanish council, declare all those who were concerned in preparing the said remonstrance to be rebels, and guilty of high treason, and to be punished with death, and confiscation of their estates; and, what is more (thinking himself well assured of reducing these countries under absolute tyranny by the army of the Duke of Alva), did soon after imprison and put to death the said lords the ambassadors, and confiscated their estates, contrary to the law of nations, which has been always religiously observed even among the most tyrannic and barbarous princes.

    And, although the said disturbances, which in the year 1566 happened on the aforementioned occasion, were now appeased by the governess and her ministers, and many friends to liberty were either banished or subdued, in so much that the king had not any show of reason to use arms and violence, and further oppress this country, yet for these causes and reasons, long time before sought by the council of Spain (as appears by intercepted letters from the Spanish ambassador, Alana, then in France, writ to the Duchess of Parma), to annul all the privileges of this country, and govern it tyrannically at pleasure as in the Indies; and in their new conquests he has, at the instigation of the council of Spain, showing the little regard he had for his people, so contrary to the duty which a good prince owes to his subjects), sent the Duke of Alva with a powerful army to oppress this land, who for his inhuman cruelties is looked upon as one of its greatest enemies, accompanied with counselors too like himself. And, although he came in without the least opposition, and was received by the poor subjects with all marks of honor and clemency, which the king had often hypocritically promised in his letters, and that himself intended to come in person to give orders to their general satisfaction, having since the departure of the Duke of Alva equipped a fleet to carry him from Spain, and another in Zealand to come to meet him at the great expense of the country, the better to deceive his subjects, and allure them into the toils, nevertheless the said duke, immediately after his arrival (though a stranger, and no way related to the royal family), declared that he had a captain-general’s commission, and soon after that of governor of these provinces, contrary to all its ancient customs and privileges; and, the more to manifest his designs, he immediately garrisoned the principal towns and castles, and caused fortresses and citadels to be built in the great cities to awe them into subjection, and very courteously sent for the chief nobility in the king’s name, under pretense of taking their advice, and to employ them in the service of their country. And those who believed his letters were seized and carried out of Brabant, contrary to law, where they were imprisoned and prosecuted as criminals before him who had no right, nor could be a competent judge; and at last he, without hearing their defense at large, sentenced them to death, which was publicly and ignominiously executed.

    The others, better acquainted with Spanish hypocrisy, residing in foreign countries, were declared outlawed, and had their estates confiscated, so that the poor subjects could make no use of their fortresses nor be assisted by their princes in defense of their liberty against the violence of the pope; besides a great number of other gentlemen and substantial citizens, some of whom were executed, and others banished that their estates might be confiscated, plaguing the other honest inhabitants, not only by the injuries done to their wives, children and estates by the Spanish soldiers lodged in their houses, as likewise by diverse contributions, which they were forced to pay toward building citadels and new fortifications of towns even to their own ruin, besides the taxes of the hundredth, twentieth, and tenth penny, to pay both the foreign and those raised in the country, to be employed against their fellow-citizens and against those who at the hazard of their lives defended their liberties. In order to impoverish the subjects, and to incapacitate them to hinder his design, and that he might with more ease execute the instructions received in Spain, to treat these countries as new conquests, he began to alter the course of justice after the Spanish mode, directly contrary to our privileges; and, imagining at last he had nothing more to fear, he endeavored by main force to settle a tax called the tenth penny on merchandise and manufacture, to the total ruin of these countries, the prosperity of which depends upon a flourishing trade, notwithstanding frequent remonstrances, not by a single province only, but by all of them united, which he had effected, had it not been for the Prince of Orange with diverse gentlemen and other inhabitants, who had followed this prince in his exile, most of whom were in his pay, and banished by the Duke of Alva with others who between him and the states of all the provinces, on the contrary sought, by all possible promises made to the colonels already at his devotion, to gain the German troops, who were then garrisoned in the principal fortresses and the cities, that by their assistance he might master them, as he had gained many of them already, and held them attached to his interest in order, by their assistance, to force those who would not join with him in making war against the Prince of Orange, and the provinces of Holland and Zealand, more cruel and bloody than any war before. But, as no disguises can long conceal our intentions, this project was discovered before it could be executed; and he, unable to perform his promises, and instead of that peace so much boasted of at his arrival a new war kindled, not yet extinguished.

    All these considerations give us more than sufficient reason to renounce the King of Spain, and seek some other powerful and more gracious prince to take us under his protection; and, more especially, as these countries have been for these twenty years abandoned to disturbance and oppression by their king, during which time the inhabitants were not treated as subjects, but enemies, enslaved forcibly by their own governors.

    Having also, after the decease of Don Juan, sufficiently declared by the Baron de Selles that he would not allow the pacification of Ghent , the which Don Juan had in his majesty’s name sworn to maintain, but daily proposing new terms of agreement less advantageous. Notwithstanding these discouragements we used all possible means, by petitions in writing, and the good offices of the greatest princes in Christendom, to be reconciled to our king, having lastly maintained for a long time our deputies at the Congress of Cologne, hoping that the intercession of his imperial majesty and of the electors would procure an honorable and lasting peace, and some degree of liberty, particularly relating to religion (which chiefly concerns God and our own consciences), at last we found by experience that nothing would be obtained of the king by prayers and treaties, which latter he made use of to divide and weaken the provinces, that he might the easier execute his plan rigorously, by subduing them one by one, which afterwards plainly appeared by certain proclamations and proscriptions published by the king’s orders, by virtue of which we and all officers of the United Provinces with all our friends are declared rebels and as such to have forfeited our lives and estates. Thus, by rendering us odious to all, he might interrupt our commerce, likewise reducing us to despair, offering a great sum to any that would assassinate the Prince of Orange.

    So, having no hope of reconciliation, and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defense, and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Spaniards, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the King of Spain, and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges. Know all men by these presents that being reduced to the last extremity, as above mentioned, we have unanimously and deliberately declared, and do by these presents declare, that the King of Spain has forfeited, ipso jure, all hereditary right to the sovereignty of those countries, and are determined from henceforward not to acknowledge his sovereignty or jurisdiction, nor any act of his relating to the domains of the Low Countries, nor make use of his name as prince, nor suffer others to do it. In consequence whereof we also declare all officers, judges, lords, gentlemen, vassals, and all other the inhabitants of this country of what condition or quality soever, to be henceforth discharged from all oaths and obligations whatsoever made to the King of Spain as sovereign of those countries. And whereas, upon the motives already mentioned, the greater part of the United Provinces have, by common consent of their members, submitted to the government and sovereignty of the illustrious Prince and Duke of Anjou, upon certain conditions stipulated with his highness, and whereas the most serene Archduke Matthias has resigned the government of these countries with our approbation, we command and order all justiciaries, officers, and all whom it may concern, not to make use of the name, titles, great or privy seal of the King of Spain from henceforward; but in lieu of them, as long as his highness the Duke of Anjou is absent upon urgent affairs relating to the welfare of these countries, having so agreed with his highness or otherwise, they shall provisionally use the name and title of the President and Council of the Province.

    And, until such a president and counselors shall be nominated, assembled, and act in that capacity, they shall act in our name, except that in Holland and Zealand where they shall use the name of the Prince of Orange, and of the states of the said provinces until the aforesaid council shall legally sit, and then shall conform to the directions of that council agreeable to the contract made with his highness. And, instead of the king’s seal aforesaid, they shall make use of our great seal, center-seal, and signet, in affairs relating to the public, according as the said council shall from time to time be authorized. And in affairs concerning the administration of justice, and transactions peculiar to each province, the provincial council and other councils of that country shall use respectively the name, title, and seal of the said province, where the case is to be tried, and no other, on pain of having all letters, documents, and dispatches annulled. And, for the better and effectual performance hereof, we have ordered and commanded, and do hereby order and command, that all the seals of the King of Spain which are in these United Provinces shall immediately, upon the publication of these presents, be delivered to the estate of each province respectively, or to such persons as by the said estates shall be authorized and appointed, upon peril of discretionary punishment.

    Moreover, we order and command that from henceforth no money coined shall be stamped with the name, title, or arms of the King of Spain in any of these United Provinces, but that all new gold and silver pieces, with their halfs and quarters, shall only bear such impressions as the states shall direct. We order likewise and command the president and other lords of the privy council, and all other chancellors, presidents, accountants-general, and to others in all the chambers of accounts respectively in these said countries, and likewise to all other judges and officers, as we hold them discharged from henceforth of their oath made to the King of Spain, pursuant to the tenor of their commission, that they shall take a new oath to the states of that country on whose jurisdiction they depend, or to commissaries appointed by them, to be true to us against the King of Spain and all his adherents, according to the formula of words prepared by the states-general for that purpose. And we shall give to the said counselors, justiciaries, and officers employed in these provinces, who have contracted in our name with his highness the Duke of Anjou, an act to continue them in their respective offices, instead of new commissions, a clause annulling the former provisionally until the arrival of his highness. Moreover, to all such counselors, accomptants, justiciaries, and officers in these Provinces, who have not contracted with his highness, aforesaid, we shall grant new commissions under our hands and seals, unless any of the said officers are accused and convicted of having acted under their former commissions against the liberties and privileges of this country or of other the like maladministration.

    We farther command of the president and members of the privy council, chancellor of the Duchy of Brabant, also the chancellor of the Duchy of Guelders, and county of Zutphen, to the president and members of the council of Holland, to the receivers of great officers of Beoostersheldt and Bewestersheldt in Zealand, to the president and council of Friese, and to the Escoulet of Mechelen, to the president and members of the council of Utrecht, and to all other justiciaries and officers whom it may concern, to the lieutenants all and every of them, to cause this our ordinance to be published and proclaimed throughout their respective jurisdictions, in the usual places appointed for that purpose, that none may plead ignorance. And to cause our said ordinance to be observed inviolably, punishing the offenders impartially and without delay; for so it is found expedient for the public good. And, for better maintaining all and every article hereof, we give to all and every one of you, by express command, full power and authority.

    In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals, dated in our assembly at the Hague, the six and twentieth day of July, 1581, endorsed by the orders of the states-general, and signed J. De Asseliers.

    [source]

    And now, the “Most Dangerous” finalists

    Monday, March 30th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a man vs machine contest, with the betting shops favoring.. ]
    .

    The semi-finals have been conducted, contested and concluded, with judges Elon Musk:

    and The Republicans:

    **

    The final round is upon us.

    In a definitive Man vs Machine match to be adjudicated by The Turn of Events, we shall see whether artifical intelligence, slouching towards Bethlehem, is more dangerous than the sitting President, suffering under — or perhaps liberated by — the two-term limit on his office..

    Who or what will win the Most Dangerous of All belt, and end-of-the world cash prize that goes with it?

    According to noted statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight..

    It sure Ain’t: Elkus on Why Congress Isn’t Good at Foreign Policy

    Sunday, March 15th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    Adam Elkus had a nice post on the sound and fury over the open letter by 47 Republican senators to the government of Iran, asserting Congressional prerogatives regarding contractual relations with in foreign powers:

    “Congress Isn’t Good At Foreign Policy.”

    In the midst of the ongoing fracas over GOP congressional officials’ attempt to undermine Obama’s Iran policy initiatives, Max Fisher made the observation that maybe Congress just isn’t that good at foreign policy after all. Other analysts warned that legislators were “bullying” the US back into another Iraq war,  and others hyperbolically denounce the insistence of GOP hawks that they sign off on the war against the Islamic State. In particular, Foreign Policy‘s Micah Zenko, however, was far more puzzledthan upset about Congress’s apparent desire for an open-ended war in Iraq juxtaposed with its fury over Obama’s initiative to make peace with Tehran: 

    Funny when Congress weighs-in on FP:  Start open-ended airwar, no problem. Broker non-binding nonpro agreement, outrage.Zenko, however, is by no means alone. Other critics have similarly slammed Congress, arguing that it acts as if Obama is no longer the president, and ridiculing GOP insistences that Obama must include a ground war plan in his strategy to defeat the Islamic State. To hear some critics, the opposition-dominated legislature is reckless, irresponsible, even potentially traitors against the state. There was, however, something quite fishy about this. Hadn’t the roles reversed, as we had seen this kind of fight before but in the opposite direction

    The biggest problem with many of these criticisms, however, was their denigration of the legislature. The way it sounded, a disinterested observer might be forgiven for wondering if someone should be exercising, ahem, some oversight over that silly Congress before it really makes a mess of things! But it was not so long ago, however, that Zenko and many othershad a different opinion about the executive branch and its use of power vs. the legislative branch. That, namely, the latter needed to reign in the former. Oversight was the name of the game, and Congress and the Senate apparently really needed to exercise sorely lacking control, opposition, and critical questioning when it came to an President that was about to drone, Navy SEAL, and air-war America into “endless war.” [….]

    Read the rest here.

    My thoughts, in brief….

    The clerical-security regime in Tehran was probably a distant third as a messaging target for Republicans, coming behind activist conservative primary voters and the Obama administration itself. The letter is, in other words, a stupid, meaningless, P.R. stunt to play to domestic politics and indicates Republicans are not serious about stopping or improving any potential Iran deal or forcing the administration to submit any agreement to the Senate.

    Furthermore, the truth is that many Democrats in Congress are uneasy about Secretary Kerry giving away the store to Iran to secure anything he could call “a deal”, are smarting from six years of habitually high-handed treatment from the inept White House staff and the conveniently timed  indictment of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is critical of Obama policies toward Iran and Cuba. If Senate Republicans were intent on peeling away unhappy Democrats into a veto-proof majority for an Iran related bill, the letter was an unneeded jab in the eye to their Democratic Senate colleagues who might otherwise be persuaded to register their discontent.

    That said, the ape-shit reaction of the Obamabot faction of the Left (which is neither the whole Left nor the entire Democratic Party) to the Republican Open Letter is illustrative of the creeping authoritarianism and increasingly illiberal nature of American politics. These people really think down deep that their guy is a kind of King and that Americans can be guilty of Lèsemajesté and that Lèse-majesté is “treason” and the politically treasonous or “mutinousshould be jailed. Essentially, a plurality of one of the major political parties really likes the idea of the US government behaving like a Hugo Chavez-style dictatorship. Really.

    Lastly, my confidence in the Obama administration to negotiate responsibly with Iran is effectively zero. How can an insular group that takes little outside advice and won’t negotiate (or even talk) with their own supporters in Congress (!), much less the majority Republican opposition, get the better of foreigners that they understand even less well?

    Immaturity vs. authoritarianism in service to incompetence. We are headed down a bad road.


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