Author: Steve Prestegard

Presty the DJ for Sept. 23

The number one song today in 1957:

The number one song today in 1967:

Today in 1969, the Northern Star, the Northern Illinois University student newspaper, passed on the rumor that Paul McCartney had died in a car crash in 1966 and been impersonated in public ever since then.  A Detroit radio station picked up the rumor, and then McCartney himself had to appear in public to report that, to quote Mark Twain, rumors of his death had been exaggerated.

(Thirty-five years to the day later, in 2004, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor issued a statement denying his death after a Des Moines radio station announced he had died from a drug overdose, then correcting to say Taylor had died in a car crash.)

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 23”

A tax cut Democrats support and you should not

Steven Hayward:

As we never tire of saying, if liberals didn’t have double standards, they wouldn’t have any standards at all. And the best exhibit of this right now is that if Biden and the Democrats sweep the election, one of the first things they will do is . . . deliver a big tax cut to the rich.

Don’t believe me? Then perhaps you’ll believe the . . . (checks notes) . . . New York Times:

The Tax Cut for the Rich That Democrats Love

Why are party leaders fighting to get rid of one surprisingly progressive element of the 2017 tax bill?

Democrats fighting — and fighting hard — for a $137 billion tax cut for the richest Americans? Mr. Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer don’t agree on everything, but on this specific issue they speak with one voice: the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local tax (better known as the SALT deduction) must go.

The House of Representatives has already passed legislation removing the cap, allowing the amount of the deduction to rise. If the Senate turns blue in November, Democrats have promised to return to the issue. “I want to tell you this,” Senator Schumer said in July, “If I become majority leader, one of the first things I will do is we will eliminate” the SALT cap “forever.” It “will be dead, gone and buried.” . . .

By pushing for repeal of the cap, Democrats are leaving themselves wide open to criticisms of hypocrisy and opportunism. As Senator Michael Bennet, one of the few Democrats opposed to removing the SALT cap, pointed out to his Senate colleagues in October 2019: “We can say we are for a progressive tax code and for fighting inequality, or we can support the SALT deduction. But it is really hard to do both.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also voted against repeal.

Here is the Brookings Institution’s calculation of the distributional effects of restoring the SALT deduction, which is a subsidy for liberal high tax blue states:

 

Presty the DJ for Sept. 22

Britain’s number one song today in 1964:

Today in 1967, a few days after their first and last appearance on CBS-TV’s “Ed Sullivan Show,” the Doors appeared on the Murray the K show on WPIX-TV in New York:

Today in 1969, ABC-TV premiered “Music Scene” against CBS-TV’s “Gunsmoke” and NBC-TV’s “Laugh-In”:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 22”

Donald Trump and the Supremes

Because the U.S. hasn’t had enough chaos so far in 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday.

That set off a wave of ignorance about the Supreme Court and its nominating process specifically and about how the federal government works generally.

Ilya Shapiro starts with some history:

The big question looming over Mitch McConnell’s promise to hold a vote on Donald Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is whether the Democrats, should they win both the White House and Senate, will then add (and fill) more seats to the Supreme Court.

Although Joe Biden declined to join most of his fellow candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in endorsing court-packing, the political pressure to do so may be too much to resist come January.

“I think the Kavanaugh nomination has put a fire under progressives,” said Caroline Fredrickson, then-president of the American Constitution Society (lefty counterpart to the Federalist Society) at the beginning of the primaries, noting that it’s “not written in stone that the court has nine seats.”

Indeed, the Constitution doesn’t specify the number of justices, but each expansion was historically accompanied by political mischief.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 set out six, but then the 1801 Midnight Judges Act would’ve reduced the Court to five at its next vacancy, to thwart the incoming president, Thomas Jefferson. In 1802, Congress restored the Court to six, a move Justice Samuel Chase opposed, which led to his impeachment (but not removal).

As the country grew, Congress created new circuits, with new justices appointed to each one. That all seems innocuous, but there were also political reasons for adding them, ones that didn’t always inure to the nation’s benefit.

A seventh seat was added in 1807, in part because Jefferson wanted to temper Chief Justice John Marshall’s Federalist proclivities, an unsuccessful maneuver given Marshall’s skill at swaying new colleagues. The eighth and ninth seats added in 1837 allowed a Jacksonian reshaping with the new justices supporting Chief Justice Roger Taney’s authorship of Dred Scott. Then a 10th seat was added in 1863, in part to allow Abraham Lincoln more leeway.

That tenth seat was never filled and, to prevent Andrew Johnson from naming anyone — and at the request of Chief Justice Salmon Chase, who presided over Johnson’s impeachment trial — Congress in 1866 cut the Court to seven, such that the next three departing justices wouldn’t be replaced.

In 1869, however, after two seats had been lost to that attrition, the Circuit Judges Act fixed the bench at nine, a number that has survived 150 years, allowing the Court to get the stability and prestige it never had previously.

The most famous example of attempted court-packing is, of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937. The president was fresh off a massive reelection—he won 523-8 in the Electoral College—and unhappy about a series of rulings against his New Deal programs. He proposed adding a new justice for every sitting justice older than 70½, up to a maximum bench of 15.

The plan met bipartisan resistance in Congress and faced public opposition by the justices — including progressive icon Louis Brandeis — and FDR’s own vice president. It led to huge Democratic losses in the 1938 election, with Republicans gaining 81 seats in the House and eight in the Senate.

Still, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said over the weekend that “nothing is off the table” if Republicans fill the Supreme Court vacancy before Inauguration Day. But if Democrats think they’d be reuniting the country by compensating for Republican-appointed justices they consider to be illegitimate, then they deserve the political losses that such ends-justify-the-means radicalism has historically caused.

And if they think that packing the Court would restore “norms,” then they really don’t understand the nature of governance. Just as two wrongs don’t make a right, you don’t restore norms by transforming institutions, particularly when doing so would mean eliminating the legislative filibuster, which would open an even bigger can of worms.

Maybe some deal could be worked out whereby, if the nominee isn’t confirmed before the election and Democrats win big, Republicans would promise not to confirm if Democrats promised not to add justices. Otherwise, to quote Bernie Sanders of all people, “My worry is that the next time the Republicans are in power they will do the same thing.”

In the end, the Democrats ought to draw a different lesson from FDR. By mid-1941, just four years after court-packing failed, only two justices remained whom Roosevelt hadn’t appointed—and one of those, Harlan Stone, he had elevated to chief justice.

In a very real sense, then, FDR packed the Court the old-fashioned way, by maintaining control of the White House and Senate and waiting for natural attrition. Joe Biden, take note.

Daniel McCarthy provides more history:

There are in fact plenty of examples of Supreme Court justices being nominated and confirmed with an election on the horizon. And there is even precedent for a president who has been defeated to make Supreme Court appointments just after an election, too, in the lame-duck period before the new president and Congress take office. After John Adams lost the election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson, he pushed through as many judicial appointments as he could, and that included making John Marshall the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall is all but universally revered today — not least because his decisions established the very principle of judicial review. The court matters today in large part because of the appointment of Marshall in circumstances not altogether unlike those that might emerge after November 3, if present polling that shows Trump losing proves correct.

The country was even more divided in 1800 than it is now, though the form that partisan animosities took were quite familiar. Just as Democrats have spent three years insisting that Donald Trump is a dangerous sympathizer, if not an actual puppet, of Vladimir Putin’s wicked Russian regime, the Federalist party poured its energy into depicting Thomas Jefferson as a lunatic left-wing ideologue madly in love with the French Revolution, longing to unleash anti-clerical bloodshed in this country. Jefferson and his coterie, for their part, were just as emphatic in warning that Adams and other Federalists were royalists plotting to undo the American Revolution and possibly reunite the country with the British Empire, in cahoots with the British.

Jefferson won and the country was not plunged into Gallic revolutionary terror — nor would it have become a British colony again if Adams had prevailed. Adams’s son loyally served Jefferson’s successor’s successor, President James Monroe, and by the end of their lives Adams and Jefferson were of one mind, more or less, in deploring the real enemy of the American way of life and the rule of law itself — that demagogic, wannabe dictator Andrew Jackson!

Jefferson, in remarks he supposedly made to Daniel Webster, sounds almost verbatim like some Atlantic writer fretting about Trump: ‘I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President. He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place. He has very little respect for laws and constitutions… His passions are terrible…he is a dangerous man.’ Election after election, America has always been on the hysterical brink of ‘fascism.’

Yet elections and the Supreme Court do matter, and if one of the persistent myths of American politics expects the arrival of the Antichrist in the Oval Office any day now, another persistent myth is that of a non-political Supreme Court.

Roe v. Wade, the refrain goes, sparked these desperate battles over SCOTUS. When pressed, those who say this — often they’re centrists of a somewhat leftward tilt, but I’ve heard it from certain conservatives, too — will reluctantly admit that, yes, other decisions had this effect, not just recent decisions on ‘social issues,’ but Brown v. Board of Education too. And before that there was Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Depoliticizing the Court and sending contentious questions back to states, where they vanish in a puff of benign localist consensus, is simply not possible. It hasn’t been since the Civil War, whose outcome required the passage of constitutional amendments to guarantee that states couldn’t continue to deny black people their rights as Americans. The amendments, however, turned the Bill of Rights upside down. What had started out as restrictions on the federal government — hence ‘Congress shall make no law…’ — became, thanks to the interpretations of the 16th and 17th Amendments, restraints on every level of government, with the federal judiciary deciding what those restraints would mean in legal reality.

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and rights of contract at every level of American society are tied into the Supreme Court through the incorporation doctrine. Roe or no RoeBrown or no Brown, this always had political implications and was sooner or later bound to lead to increasing politicization of the confirmation process.

This is not something that is going to go away if Donald Trump gets to appoint a sixth Republican justice to the Court (or a seventh if he’s reelected and Justice Breyer bows out), and it will not go away if Joe Biden wins in November, either. Nor will Democratic dreams of packing the Court solve the problem, though doing so would shift the conflict to a new and likely even nastier phase. What Democrats pack, Republicans can pack or un-pack, too.

What voters should heed carefully are the increasingly openly stated plans that progressives have to turn America into a one-party state, through a combination of mass immigration, identity-group exploitation, ranked-choice voting, abolition of the Electoral College, attempting to do away with equal representation in the Senate, and packing the Supreme Court. These are not the tactics of a Democratic party that thinks it can win by playing by the rules, though, at the same time, Democrats seem unable to accept the fact that in competitive elections they will sometimes lose.

Instead of making a stronger pitch to Americans that they have written off as ‘deplorables,’ the Democrats want to snuff out competition by changing the game. That’s not a formula for ‘fascism,’ but it’s a good way to hasten a legitimacy crisis.

The genius of the federal system is that even when the national head-count minority wins — thanks to the Electoral College or equal representation in the Senate — the head-count majority doesn’t lose everything: it still has plenty of power in places like California and New York. But change the system so that plebiscitary majorities always prevail nationally, and it becomes easier to bully the losers.

The cult around ‘Notorious RBG’ has displayed the emotional fragility of white liberals as well: upon news of the justice’s death, Twitter and Facebook were flooded with emotional confessions from liberals who were ‘literally shaking’ or crying over the 87-year-old’s death. I don’t remember Justice Scalia’s death being met with strangers bursting into tears.

For those lacking in reading comprehension, Jim Geraghty reads the U.S. Constitution:

Here is the entirety of what the U.S. Constitution says about the president’s power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

It doesn’t say anything about how close the vacancy is to Election Day. It doesn’t say anything about whether the Senate has to hold hearings about the nominee. It doesn’t say anything about whether the Senate has to vote on that nominee; a refusal to vote on the nomination, as occurred with Merrick Garland, is a de facto rejection. It doesn’t say anything about whether the Senate can vote in a lame duck session.

This means President Trump can nominate anyone he likes up until noon on January 20, 2021, if he isn’t reelected. The Senate can choose to hold a vote on that nominee anytime it likes. Or it can choose not to hold a vote on that nominee. If the Democrats win a majority of the seats in the Senate, they take over on January 3, 2021. If the Senate is a 50-50 split and Joe Biden wins the presidency, then Mike Pence breaks ties up until January 20, and then Kamala Harris breaks ties in the afternoon.

In case you’re thinking about the old “leave town and refuse to come back to deny the opposition a quorum” trick, the Constitution requires the U.S. Senate to have 51 senators present to hold a vote. If all 47 Democrats and Democrat-aligned independents leave town, the 53 Republicans present can vote to confirm anyone they like — as well as pass any legislation they like. The filibuster is no longer in effect in these circumstances. In 2013, Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid nuked the filibuster for judicial nominees except the Supreme Court; in 2017, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell followed suit and nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

In short, if the president’s party has 50 votes in support of a nominee, the nominee will be confirmed.

Politically, it may be worthwhile for President Trump to take his time. Fate has just given him a huge and consequential decision. Until the president announces his nominee, the question “who will Trump nominate?” will be the biggest story in the country — bigger than Bob Woodward’s book, bigger than the wildfires in the West, even bigger than the ongoing pandemic — barring some new spike in cases.

There are 46 names on the lists of potential nominees released by Trump in 2016, 2017, and 2018. All of them are the kind of potential justices that conservatives will cheer — although there are some philosophical differences here and there. The Democratic effort to paint the early frontrunners, Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, as extremists is already underway. But Trump could pick anyone on his list; the Democrats could spend weeks demonizing Barrett and Lagoa and then Trump could pick Allison Eid or Amul Thapar or any one of the other names that have received less attention.

You no doubt have heard about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s statement, “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” The dying wishes of justices do not outrank the U.S. Constitution. No president is obligated to sacrifice some constitutionally authorized power because a justice wishes she had retired four years earlier. …

You’re going to hear a lot of shouting about Republicans “stealing” this seat . . . by following the Constitution.

It didn’t have to be this way; not every Supreme Court fight was destined to turn into Ragnarok. We had a long era of bipartisan support for any Supreme Court nominee deemed sufficiently qualified, regardless of that judge’s philosophy or past decisions. The Senate confirmed Antonin Scalia 98–0, Anthony Kennedy by a vote of 97–0, Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself was confirmed by a vote of 96–3, and Stephen Breyer by 87–9. The pattern of bipartisan support ended in the George W. Bush years, with John Roberts confirmed 78–22, and Samuel Alito was confirmed 58–42.

In January 2006, then-senator Barack Obama declared: “I will be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values.” “When you look at his decisions — in particular, during times of war — we need a court that is independent and is going to provide some check on the executive branch.”

By 2016, then-president Obama, now in the position of nominating Supreme Court justices instead of voting on them, said that filibustering Supreme Court justices was “just throw[ing] sand in the gears of the process.” Earlier this year, Obama denounced the filibuster as “another Jim Crow relic” in his eulogy of John Lewis.

The overwhelming majority of officeholders in Washington operate on the high-minded principle that “I should get what I want, and the only ‘fair’ outcome is that I get what I want.” Once a plurality of Democratic senators rejected the notion that they should evaluate potential justices merely on qualifications, it was inevitable that Republican senators would adopt the same approach.

You can argue that the Republican-controlled Senate of 2016 should have at least held hearings on Merrick Garland. But that Senate had a 54-seat GOP majority, and it was extremely unlikely that four Republicans would have flipped to replace Scalia with Garland or any other Obama nominee. You simply were not going to get 50 votes to replace the conservative judicial icon with any Obama selection. If a president wants to replace a Supreme Court justice, he needs at least 50 senators who approve of his nominee, period.

In 2016, during the Merrick Garland fight, Joe Biden said, “I would go forward with the confirmation process. Even a few months before a presidential election… just as the Constitution requires.”

Joe Biden in 2020 rejects Joe Biden from 2016.

The Democrats reject their 2016 positions.

You Democrats may not like it, but McConnell in 2016 was very consistent that a party controlling the Senate different from the President has no reason to consider a pick. In fact, contrary to the bellyaching of the media and Democrats, the Senate is never under any obligation to act on a presidential nomination. It is a separate branch of government.

But that did not stop Democrats, including Joe Biden and Barack Obama, from insisting as much in 2016.

Maybe if the Democrats didn’t want Donald Trump to advance a nominee, they should not have tried to do so after Antonin Scalia’s death. President Trump now is just following Barack Obama’s precedent.

Likewise, Democrat threats to pack the Supreme Court and end the filibuster if someone is confirmed to replace Ginsburg ring hollow. They were already threatening both before a vacancy opened. It’s like Colin Kaepernick redefining why he took a knee. At first, it was in protest against the country. Only after outrage did it become about police brutality. The media helpfully ignored the original excuse-making just as the media is doing now with the Democrats.

Nonetheless, the GOP might as well advance a nomination and vote on it.

No honest person can deny if the Democrats controlled the Senate and White House that they’d decline. In fact, they absolutely would try to fill the seat and there is no reason for the GOP to abstain.

One can credibly make the argument that if the GOP does do it that it will escalate tensions in the United States and lead to more violence. I actually believe that is true. But I also believe to sit it out because of that is to give a win to terrorists.

Ronald Reagan said we should never negotiate with terrorists. We should not sit by for fear of the left burning down the country. They already are. The behavior needs to be repudiated.

I would recommend the President find a Hispanic nominee so the country can see the Democrats racistly savage and assassinate the character of a someone of Hispanic ethnicity. They won’t be able to help themselves and Hispanic voters can see why they might want to vote for Donald Trump.

The GOP holds the White House and the Senate. If they are not going to act, their base is going to wonder what the point is. They really have no choice and Democrat insistence on a nominations process in 2016 gives them wiggle room.

Use the Obama precedent and proceed. The media is never going to treat the matter fairly so damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. All the threats by Democrats are threats they were making while Ginsburg was still alive. There’s no reason for restraint when the Democrats were already calling for unrestraint in their own governance.

Submit a nominee and confirm that person. If the Democrats pack the Court, add more seats with a Republican majority. If they scrap the filibuster, the GOP will have no reason to be restrained in scuttling Democrat pet projects in the future. The repeal of Lilly Ledbetter, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, etc. becomes more likely in the next decade and that’s not a bad thing.

It’s a little amazing how few conservatives have pointed out the obvious about Garland — he was a horrible choice.

I myself would like to see U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Sykes, if for no other reason (other than that she is eminently qualified) than the identity of her ex-husband — Charlie Sykes, vehement critic of the president who would appoint her.

Schooling yourself about Biden

Alex Swoyer:

President Trump is pushing schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying parents want it, the children can handle it and the economy needs it.

Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden says the teachers don’t want it, the children can spread the coronavirus and the country can’t stomach another surge of COVID-19 cases he fears would result.

That gulf between the two men carries through to the rest of their education plans.

Education is usually on the list when voters are asked about issues most important to them, but it ranks low when voters say what drives them to the polls on Election Day.

Rarely, though, has the dividing line been so stark as it is this year. Mr. Trump is calling for major strides in school choice, and Democrats are intent on blocking him.
“The Trump campaign is hoping that an emphasis on school choice will appeal not only to private and charter school families but also to parents in traditional public districts who may be frustrated with how their schools are responding to the COVID threat,” said Jeffrey Henig, an education professor at Teachers College and professor of political science at Columbia University.

For Mr. Trump, school choice is symbolic as well as substantive and puts parents as the priority in education. His campaign also figures it can help make headway with Black voters, who largely support the concept.

Mr. Trump highlighted the issue during his State of the Union address this year and announced he was awarding a scholarship to a Black fourth-grader from Philadelphia.

“In the most important election of our lifetime, President Trump is the only candidate who will work for America’s students over special interests,” said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the president’s reelection campaign.

Beyond school choice, Mr. Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have rescinded Obama administration rules on school discipline, racial disparities and gender identity, and have given states more flexibility in meeting federal mandates.

They also have submitted budgets that would trim the Education Department, though Congress has rejected the cuts and Mr. Trump has ended up signing budget increases instead.

Mr. Biden counters Mr. Trump’s parent-centered approach to education with a teacher-centered platform, promising the money will flow to public education instead.

He wants to triple federal spending on schools with significant low-income populations and require that much of that cover higher salaries for teachers. He also would increase the availability of student loan forgiveness for graduates who go on to work in education.

Mr. Biden’s campaign says he will hire up to 60,000 more psychologists for schools to help with what he warned is a mental health crisis.

His unity platform, reached with former opponent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, opposes vouchers that support private schools and takes a dim view of public charter schools.

 

The media vs. objectivity

Victor Davis Hanson:

In 2017, the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University found that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative. The center found similarly negative Trump coverage at other major news outlets.

The election year 2020 has only accelerated that asymmetrical bias — to the point that major newspapers and network and cable-news organizations are now fused with the Joe Biden campaign.

Sometimes stories are covered only in terms of political agendas. Take COVID-19.

The media assure us that the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic has been a disaster. But their conclusions are not supported by any evidence.

In the United States, the coronavirus death rate per million people is similar to, or lower than, most major European countries except Germany.

When the virus was at its worst, before the partisan campaign of this election year heated up, the governors in our four largest states had only compliments for the Trump administration.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

However, the real warping of the news is not just a matter of slanting coverage, but deliberately not covering the news at all.

In the last two weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has achieved the most stunning breakthroughs in Middle Eastern diplomacy in over half a century.

Countries once hostile to Israel, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, now formally recognize it. Other Arab nations may follow. Ancient existential enemies Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to normalize their relationship with Israel by signing economic agreements.

Yet none of these historic events have drawn much media attention. All of them would have been canonized were they achievements of the Obama administration.

In 2017, the media suggested that Trump’s plans to get out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, to confront Chinese mercantilism, to forge new alliances between Israel and moderate Arab regimes, to isolate an ascendant Iran, to close the southern border to illegal immigration, to jawbone NATO alliance members into honoring their defense-expenditure commitments, and to destroy ISIS and weaken Hezbollah were all impossible, counterproductive or sheer madness.

And now?

An embargoed and bankrupt Iran is teetering on the brink. Its international terrorist appendages, including Hezbollah, are broke.

China is increasingly being ostracized by much of the world.

The U.S. has cut its carbon emissions, often at a rate superior to those nations still adhering to the Paris climate accord targets.

Cross-border illegal immigration has been reduced, according to many metrics.

ISIS was bombed into near dissolution. Moderate regimes in the Middle East are ascendant; radical cliques like Hamas and al-Qaeda are not.

More NATO members are meeting their commitments. The alliance’s aggregate defense investments are way up.

Is any of that considered news? Not really.

Instead, every three or four days the public is fed a series of fantasy “bombshells” much like the daily hysterias of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russia — a two-year, media-hyped dud.

In recent weeks the media warned us that Trump was dismantling the Post Office to disrupt mail-in balloting.

Trump, we are told, has decided never to concede his sure loss in November and might have to be forcibly removed, perhaps by the military.

We read that Trump defiled the memory of fallen American soldiers in cemeteries abroad. We are lectured that Trump supposedly never took COVID-19 seriously.

All of these stories were either demonstrably untrue, were supported only by anonymous sources, or were the sensationalism of authors hawking books.

Yet such concocted melodramas will continue each week up to Election Day, while fundamental geostrategic shifts abroad brought about by American diplomacy will by intent go unnoticed.

The news as we once understood it is dead.

It has been replaced by the un-news: a political narrative created by partisans who believe the noble ends of destroying Trump justify any biased means necessary — including destroying their own reputation and craft.

Presty the DJ for Sept. 21

First, the song of the day:

The number one song today in 1959 was a one-hit wonder …

… as was the number one song today in 1968 …

… as was the number one British song today in 1974 …

… but not over here:

The number one song today in 1985:

Today in 2001, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and 31 cable channels all carried “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” a 9/11 tribute and telethon:

The first of the three birthdays today is not from rock and roll, but it is familiar to high school bands across the U.S. and beyond:

Don Felder of the Eagles:

Tyler Stewart, drummer of the Barenaked Ladies:

Presty the DJ for Sept. 20

The number one British single today in 1969 wasn’t from Britain:

The number one U.S. single today in 1969 came from a cartoon:

The number one British album today in 1969 was from the supergroup Blind Faith, which, given its membership (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker of Cream and Steve Winwood), was less than the sum of its parts:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 20”

Democrats vs. men

Readers might remember that in the wake of 9/11, there was a school of thought that the Republican Party was the “daddy party” and the Democratic Party was the “mommy party.”

Alex Perez might have something like that in mind:

A year after the 2016 election, I overheard my first conversation in which two young men of color discussed the political issues of the day. I don’t remember what they were going on about, but the fact that they were going on about politics—and with such fervor! — was what struck immediately, as young men discussing politics was a rarity in my working-class Miami neighborhood, where typically it was older men who engaged in these sometimes heated discussions.

Sitting across from them at Starbucks, I noted their interaction as an entertaining anomaly and chalked it up to the current hyper-politicized cultural moment in which anyone, at any time, might surprise you with their clearly newfound interest in politics. Which is to say that I expected to encounter no more than a handful of these political squabbles between young men of color in the ensuing years of the Trump era, as the possibility of a broad political realignment driven by this traditionally disinterested demographic went against all conventional wisdom and seemed far-fetched, even to someone on the ground witnessing its inception — boy, was I wrong.

In the months and years to follow, all over Miami, in bars, coffee shops, and at the gym, I would overhear–and was sometimes pulled into — these rudimentary political conversations between young men of color. What was immediately obvious was that a majority, if not all, of these young men were brought into their nascent political awareness by issues relating to their masculinity and manhood. An archetype emerged: these were young men who never thought about politics until politics knocked on their door and made them aware of its existence. Like so many, personal grievance is what drove them into the political arena and what was driving their politics. The gist of their beef: When the hell did it stop being okay to be a regular dude?

My initial impulse was to think that these encounters were statistical outliers, the product of living in a community that sometimes suffers from overly chauvinist tendencies, but as their frequency increased, I realized that if you come up against enough anecdotal evidence, at a certain point it stops being anecdotal. There was clearly a trend, and my amateur hypothesis at the time was that this phenomenon wasn’t localized to Miami, but that young Hispanic and African-American men all over the country were politicizing, and whether they knew it yet or not, would play an important role in the next presidential election. I suspect that this trend has been obvious for some time now to anyone who lives in an urban center, but recently, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was recently caught off guard by the new reality and tweeted:

“Today my friends in Atlanta (black) saw a Facebook message from their old barber (black) imploring them all to vote for [President Donald] Trump. Don’t think that Trump’s message doesn’t resonate with a certain sector of black men. Also, barbers have a lot of sway in the black community.”

Blow’s alarm comes from the realization that this new voting bloc — a young, multicultural male coalition — might not be traditionally conservative, but on account of the progressive left’s post-2016 stance on masculinity, definitely won’t be voting democratic if they vote at all. The size of this coalition is not yet known, but if the polls showing Trump drawing support with Hispanics and slightly increasing approval among African-Americans are accurate, we might already have the answer — large enough to play a significant role in the election. The upcoming election will be won on the margins, and if this multicultural male coalition shows up and votes, there’s no doubt who they’ll be pulling the lever for—Trump.

The responses to Blow’s Twitter warning range from disbelief to outright rage, but what these hardcore progressives are really saying is, “Why? How can this be? Aren’t all minorities and people of color on our side?”

The race-essentialist line of thinking that has taken over the Democratic Party in which race determines worldview and political affiliation — and everything else for that matter — leaves one blind to other traits and beliefs that play a significant role in constituting a person’s identity. In this case, they missed what is painfully obvious to anyone who isn’t blinded by race obsession: most men, irrespective of color or creed, think of themselves as traditionally masculine. The political awakening of young men of color, then, can be traced to the media’s treatment of white Americans, and more specifically, white men, after Trump’s victory in 2016. Unable to look inward and reassess as to why they’d completely misread what was going on in the country, the media and its acolytes in the Democratic establishment needed a villainous scapegoat in order to explain the catastrophic failure of understanding that had delivered the final blow of obsolescence to the expert class. The new narrative was as quickly constructed as it was lacking in nuance: white Americans, seeped and soaked in white rage and white privilege, wanted to take the country back to its racist past.

“Toxic masculinity,” a new catchphrase that had escaped academia and taken root in the demented Internet hive-mind, was added to the mix, and the post-2016 explanation was set in stone: white men, who suffer from toxic masculinity more than other men — due to the weakness of their whiteness, of course — were specifically to blame for Trump and the rest of the country’s ills. If you were online during this time, I don’t have to remind you that for months on end, a steady stream of articles and essays and tedious explainers were published on a near-daily basis by mainstream outlets.

In short, the idea behind toxic masculinity is simple: traditional conception of masculinity, even in its most benign facets, is at the root of all civilizational rot — men must be rehabilitated, lest they continue ruining the country and the planet. The mainstreaming of this narrative cleared the way for what would become a full-on assault on masculinity and the cultural uprisings that followed. There was the rise of the well-intentioned Me Too movement and the overreach of said movement; the derangement of the Kavanaugh hearings, in which anything said by a woman, no matter how unbelievable it may sound, was to be believed.

And on top of all of this, the media landscape, academia, the corporate world, and other institutions which had been feminizing and increasingly catering to an effete woke mindset, accelerated their efforts in creating spaces devoid of men and masculinity. All of this cultural engineering was framed as a way to remove toxically masculine white men from positions of cultural and political power, but once again, the expert class was blind to a major unintended consequence of all their maneuvering: young men of color started to catch wind that this anti-white male hate would soon come for them. What had started as a project to get rid of those evil white men had transformed into a war against masculinity itself.

The Aziz Ansari case, in which the comedian/actor was pilloried and Me-Too’d for what was essentially a bad date, signaled to men of color that they weren’t going to be exempt from the anti-masculinity crusade on account of their POC status. This was a huge problem for men of color — specifically African-American men — as they’ve historically been the greatest victims of false rape accusations.

Much ink was spilled during this time by cultural critics and blue-check experts on the masculinity scourge that must be eliminated, but the “toxic masculinity” narrative was codified when, in early 2019, the American Psychological Association released a document stating that “traditional masculinity ideology” often negatively affected the mental and physical well-being of young men — the APA, shockingly, had said the quiet part out loud.

The cultural engineers declared victory, completely unaware that a multicultural male coalition had been watching and coalescing. These young men who grew up online and attended the institutions that first cultivated and disseminated this anti-masculinity ideology were the same young men I was encountering on my rambles around Miami—the very same men Blow fears might now vote for Trump.

Is this demographic of young multicultural men the new “hidden Trump voter” that might deliver him a victory? Blow, and others in his cohort, seem to think it a distinct possibility.

Even if the Me Too movement hadn’t gone off the rails and if the APA hadn’t pathologized traditional masculinity, young men of color were already drifting toward the right anyway, if at a less accelerated rate. For years now, the Democratic Party has rejected any masculine sensibility in favor of a gung-ho girl power aesthetic that caters strictly to the highly feminized, whether male or female. The Democratic National Convention was the apotheosis of this progressive feminization, a four-day event that resembled a weepy all-girl sleepover more than a political function. I was half-expecting Joe Biden to give his convention speech wearing a dress, but mercifully the old coot was allowed to wear a traditionally masculine and toxic suit.

All this to say that the Democratic Party is now the party of women and those who identify with the overly feminine sensibility. There’s nothing wrong with this being your cup of tea, of course, but Democrats shouldn’t be surprised when young men of all stripes are turned off by a party that is completely devoid of any masculine energy.

This is obvious to anyone who has ever associated with young Hispanic and African-American men, but as the Democratic Party is run by ultra-white and woke coastal elites who only ever pander to, but never actually associate with people of color—especially men—let me spell it out for them: Black and Hispanic young men, most of whom don’t reside in progressive coastal cities, are traditionally masculine and do not respond to the overly feminine posturing found in progressive circles. To most men of color, traditional masculinity isn’t a toxic ideology, or, for that matter, an ideology at all, but simply the natural order of things. They think and behave like men because it is what’s demanded of them and what it is necessary for survival in the real world. To tell a young man of color living in the inner city that his way of thinking is toxic is to place him in peril, as his survival depends not on buzzwords or the tampering down of his masculinity, but on signaling masculine strength when confronted by a world that is not beholden to the passive-aggressive femininity of elite cultural spaces.

It’s an open question as to whether young men of color will turn out for Trump, but if the Republican National Convention was any indication, the Republican Party is making a play for their vote. Much has been said of the convention’s America-is-great message, but what was played up almost as much, whether intentionally or not, was the power and virtue of traditional masculinity.

There was Sen. Tim Scott’s speech, in which he traced his family’s rise from slavery to the highest reaches of American power, delivered in the oratory style of a man who had never given up, whose familial legacy of overcoming nearly insurmountable odds would make the thought of accepting his plight inconceivable. The speech spoke to all Americans, of course, but it can’t go unnoticed that it was delivered by a man of color who had risen to the top, in large part, due to classic masculine virtues — stoicism and stick-to-itiveness.

Then there was Cuban-American old-timer Maximo Alvarez, a self-made businessman, and like Scott, the epitome of the American Dream, who spoke with the masculine ferocity and power of Vince Lombardi. Here was a man who other men would listen to, unlike Billy Porter, the actor who sang at the Democratic Convention and is best known for parading up and down red carpets in dresses, who is seemingly only famous among the brunch-attending career gals who make up the Democratic Party.

The greatest example of masculine strength at the Republican Convention occurred when Madison Cawthorn, the disabled young man running for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, stood up from his wheelchair after delivering a barnburner of a speech. It was an incredibly moving moment, made all the more so by the fact that he was flanked by two friends who assisted him as he stood. Here was a prime example of masculine strength, as well as brotherly kinship, being displayed for all the young men of America to see. It was not toxic or problematic, but simply good and true, and it hearkened back to times when such virtues were considered indispensable and undoubtedly American.

These three speeches — two delivered by men of color — made a case for the nobility of traditional masculinity, and I have no doubt, spoke to young men of color in a way they can understand: You are an American man. Stand up. Do what needs to be done.

I can’t imagine a better message, not only for men of color, but all men—a message that might drive them to vote in record numbers in November.

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