Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Understanding the 7 Distinct “Nations” of Appalachia - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

appalachianmagazine.com; via GG on Facebook

Understanding the 7 Distinct “Nations” of Appalachia

By AppalachianMagazine -

Like the American nation itself, the United States of Appalachia is a broad and diverse collection of thousands of communities scattered across the map — often the residents of its small towns and hollers have very little in common with folks in the neighboring county, whereas at other times the cultural similarities span over 500 miles.
Nevertheless, the term “Appalachian”, which is the third oldest geographic place name in North America, has become a catchphrase to describe a particular region of the country with little thought given as to how broad of a place term such a term incorporates.
To help our friends in the media, who may be unaware of this reality, we have assembled a helpful guide that details “The Seven Distinct ‘Nations’ of Appalachia”, showcasing what makes each one of these places so incredible and different.

As you will see, the borders of these “nations” often have very little in common with state boundaries and were formulated using election data, shared histories, socio-economic identities and natural geography in order to provide the reader with a more accurate guide to understanding the folks in “them thur hills”: 
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Photo courtesy: Brett VA

Stretching from northeastern Alabama to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the landscape of Agrilachia is unchanged for over 600 miles: cow pastures, cornfields, silos, red barns, cow pastures, cornfields, silos, red barns… All the while, breathtakingly gorgeous blue-walled mountains line either side of this massive valley.

These curious formations are known as ridge and valleys and represent some of the most ancient land formations in the entire country."

You won’t find much Appalachian coal in this region, but it is this portion of the Appalachian nation that keeps milk in the refrigerator and steak on your grill… Not to mention the fact that it makes Interstate-81 the hands down most scenic highway in the eastern United States.

Appalachian Coalfields

GREATER APPALACHIA Devil Anse Hatfield Family
Devil Anse Hatfield Family
Home to the likes of Devil Anse Hatfield, Loretta Lynn and a countless number of 20th-century labor uprisings, the Appalachian coalfields have served as the poster child for the entire United States of Appalachia for over a century and a half.

Often mischaracterized by outside media as being “hillbillies”, the fine folks of this region have been victims of a countless number of misfortunes over the years, including the basic takeover of their land by wealthy timber and coal barons in the late-1800s.

Though guided by an unshakeable faith in God and a neighborly compassion that is seldom seen these days, the people of the coalfields have on more than one occasion been forced to lay down their shovels and pick up their shotguns and rifles in order to demand their basic human rights… and they did so without batting an eye.

In recent years, this region has been plagued by an economic downturn that in some areas rival statistics from the Great Depression.  This has helped fuel a drug pandemic that has reached crisis levels in many communities.

Still, the people of what once were the Appalachian coalfields are undeterred.  With an unmatched skillset and a grittiness that can’t be found elsewhere, look for this region to come roaring back in the days ahead.


Downtown Roanoke from atop Mill Mountain, photo courtesy: Joe Ravi
Downtown Roanoke from atop Mill Mountain, photo courtesy: Joe Ravi
Islands of liberalism dotting a staunchly Evangelical map, Metrolachia are localities that generally serve as the primary city for the surrounding communities.  This is not to say that they are the only localities where liberal ideas may be found, however, they are typically the only places where such ideas are the dominant political voice.

More often than not, these communities are home to a major university and serve as the primary media market for their region.
In many cases, Metrolachia’s residents are newcomers to the area and often these cities are one of the few places in their region that have not lost population over the past decade.
If money is your goal in life, you probably want to move to one of these places, as wages in these blue map dots are often higher than the neighboring counties; however, like all cities, each of these economic hubs have been forced to deal with a number of problems, including downtown decline and inner city poverty — some have dealt with these problems better than others.


The view along Cecil Ashburn Drive in South Huntsville, Alabama Photo courtesy: NhlarryThe view along Cecil Ashburn Drive in South Huntsville, Alabama
Photo courtesy: Nhlarry
This is the term used to describe the Appalachian region of the South where you’re not quite in the cotton fields, but you sure ain’t in the coalfields either.  Call it an identity crisis, call it Dixielachia, call it what you will, but we’ll just call it beautiful!
With a diverse economy that is not nearly as reliant upon a single industry as many other regions of the United States of Appalachia, many portions of Dixielachia have seen population growth in the face of a mass exodus from several other regions of Appalachia.
Here you’ll find a region that is forward thinking, but at the same time has a healthy respect for tradition and all that is sacred.  The bottom line: SEC-Appalachia country is not a bad place to live!


Vermont State House Photo courtesy: GearedBull
Vermont State House
Photo courtesy: GearedBull
Shhhh… Don’t tell anybody, but practically all of the Northeast is technically in the Appalachian region!  In fact, the Appalachian Mountains even run through France… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story.

Though many of our northern counterparts may describe their homeland as being “App-ah-lay-sha”, we know the truth and that’s all that matters!
Admittedly, Yankelachia is a very broad region we have presented, but for the sake of this article, it serves its point.
Politically speaking, like most of the northeast, the region leans to the left, with the exceptions being southwestern New York State and regions of Maine which have gone for the Republican Presidential candidate in all of the past three elections.
Meanwhile, approximately 20,000 libertarians have signed a pledge to move to the State of New Hampshire, in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas in what is being called the Free State Project.  Signers of the agreement have within five years of February 2016 to move to the state, so we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes.
With a growing Federal government, Yankeelachia has in recent years extended its borders, invading many of Virginia’s Agrilachia communities.


Photo courtesy: Alf van Beem
Photo courtesy: Alf van Beem

Geographically serving as one of the smallest Appalachian regions, the area known locally as “Pennsylvania Wilds” is distinct and proud part of the Keystone State whose history, heritage and daily activities are unique from other localities in Pennsylvania and the nation.
Unlike the rest of the primarily agrarian Commonwealth, the region we call “Pennsylachia” has served as an energy producer for over a century.
It was here that oil was first discovered in the United States and with maps names that include places such as Oil City and Oil Creek, it’s no wonder that the region once served as America’s primary source of petroleum.
Pennzoil and Quaker State have both relocated their headquarters elsewhere, but the region’s influence can be spotted in the names of these products.
In recent years, the energy industry in this part of Appalachia has been on the comeback – a trip down the curvy roads of “Pennsylachia” will reveal this in the number of work trucks visible.
With 513,175 acres of national forest lands, deer hunting, hiking, and outdoor recreation are huge in this beautiful mountain wonderland.

Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Photo courtesy: Blinutne
Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 
The crown gem of the Appalachian nation, the Great Smoky Mountains have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the mountains of this region suffered from massive deforestation, leading the United States Congress to charter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934.  Today, the park serves as the most visited national park in the world and is dissected by the Maine to Georgia Appalachian Trail.
Getting its name, “Smoky” from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance.
Tourism is the name of the game in a number of these localities, with Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg serving as the capital cities of this All-Appalachian distFrict.
The region also boasts of the highest point east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, as well as a mountain shadow that appears in the form of a black bear two times a year.

Russian joke on Trump's America (via Facebook)

JB comment :) 

image (not from Facebook entry) from
Впереди шествуют три русские старушки, обсуждая текущую геополитическую обстановку в Америке:
- Вот увидите, следующим указом он депортирует всех негров.
- Давно пора! Весь спид от них!
- Нет, ну уж всех-то он не депортирует, - возражает с сомнением третья из них, самая либеральная.
- Всех! Они сюда нелегально рабами въехали! 
Либералка умолкает, не зная, что возразить на такой веский довод. Вечернее солнце садится в океан, освещая купола русской церкви в Сан-Франциско.

[Bad computer translation] Him ahead of three Russian old ladies discussing the current geopolitical situation in America:
- you see, the following decree, he deports all blacks.
- it's about time! All aids from them!
- no, well, all that he did not deport - mind with doubt a third of them, the most liberal.
- all! They're here illegally entered the slaves!
You're a liberal shuts up, not knowing what to say against such a compelling argument. Evening Sun setting into the ocean, shining in the dome of the Russian church in San Francisco.
Rate this translation

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dissent at the State Department: A book review

The Dissent Papers (May 2012)
Review by John H. Brown, PhD.

The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond. By Hannah Gurman, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-231-15872-5, Cloth, 280 pp., $30.00
“I am as insignificant here as you can imagine.”
--John Adams, who served as Minister to England for three years; cited in the above volume, p. 4
On November 29, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, commenting on “alleged to be stolen State Department cables” via Wikileaks, stated that “I want to make clear that our official foreign policy is not set through these messages, but here in Washington. Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world.”1

The first line of this statement, referred to, three times, in the book under review (the second line, however, is not cited) is used by its author, Hannah Gurman, a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, to set the stage for her volume devoted to “the place and evolution of diplomatic dissent writing in the larger of the ‘American Century.’”

The key point of this scholar’s monograph, well-researched and spared of academic jargon, is that the “voices” of dissenting U.S. diplomats, expressed by the written word, have been all too often ignored or dismissed by formulators of foreign policy in the nation’s capital, to the detriment of America’s national interests. This thesis is not particularly original, but it does warrant repeating, for the sake of our country and the world, especially by persons with the intelligence and sensitivity of Professor Gurman.

The title of Gurman’s volume is based in part on the study by Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (1970), which, she explains, “used the term ‘voice’ to describe the actions of the few bureaucrats who decide to express their opinions rather than resign or resign themselves to the status quo.” The Pentagon Papers also provided Gurman with inspiration; but, unlike these voluminous, top-secret reports leaked to The New York Times in 1971, her book is based on “papers,” not currently classified, written by “in-house authors of dissent” who “critiqued the reigning logic” of U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II.

Gurman tells the story of these in-house dissenting diplomats in four well-organized chapters: “George Kennan and the Politics of Authorship”; “The China Hands and the Communist-ification of Diplomatic Reporting”; “The Rhetorical Logic of Escalation [in Vietnam] Versus George Ball’s Writerly Logic of Diplomacy”; “The Dissent Channel of the U.S. State Department.” Her conclusion is titled “The Life After: From Internal Dissenter to Public Prophet.”

Gurman’s Foggy Bottom naysayers have several characteristics in common. First, in an often isolationist country marked by a “long history of antipathy toward traditional diplomacy,” these dissenting diplomats, as State Department employees, often were (like their more conforming colleagues) the object of hostility from the White House (and Congress as well). Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gurman reminds us, referred to the Foreign Service as “striped-pants boys.” Truman dreamed, in his words, of “firing the whole bunch.” In the McCarthy era, when the Senator from Wisconsin went hunting for Communists at Foggy Bottom, Eisenhower ditched a large number of FSOs, although not enthusiastically. For Kennedy, the Department was “a bowl of jello.” And Richard Milhous Nixon had the following to say:
We always promote sons of bitches that kick us in the ass ... When a bureaucrat deliberately thumbs his nose; we’re going to get him.... The little boys over in state particularly, that are against us, we will do it.
No wonder that the dissenters, often sidelined by those more powerful (less naïve?) than themselves, felt like voices crying in the wilderness. Expressing self-pity that many would not sympathize with, Kennan, enjoying quite briefly his moment of glory via his telegram on the Soviet Union, lamented that, under Dean Acheson, Secretary of State during the Truman administration, he had become a “court jester expected to enliven discussion, privileged to say the shocking things, valued as an intellectual gadfly on hides of slower colleagues, but not to be taken seriously when it came to the final, responsible decisions of policy.” Acheson, who noted in his memoirs “Papers so often divert readers to trivia,” had this to say to Kennan:
The task of a public service officer seeking to explain and gain support for a major policy is not that of a writer of a doctoral thesis. Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home a point.
Second, the dissidents were paid by an organization that did not, as a rule, encourage dissent or independent thinking. “As the State Department grew and bureaucratized” after WWII, Gurman notes, “it increasingly policed itself through a culture of restraint and passivity, which was reinforced by new bureaucratic layers and checkpoints.” To get promoted, what counted most was following -- and thinking by -- the rules. To her credit, Gurman does not fail to point out, in considerable detail, that dissenting diplomats did play a “key role” in “several of the most pivotal policies of the period” (as amply illustrated by the influence achieved by George Kennan and George Ball, respectively in the early Cold War and during the Vietnam War). But she emphasizes that “[d]issent posed a social risk, and dissenters were less likely to be welcomed by the ‘in’ crowd.”

As for the so-called “Dissent Channel” created during the Nixon administration, it was (and remains) more a way of controlling and isolating contrarian thinking than encouraging it, Gurman contends. Not surprisingly, the best option for some in-house dissenters, since the Nixon presidency, has been to resign, as illustrated by the case of John Brady Kiesling, an FSO contributor to the Dissent Channel, who left the Department of State in opposition to the planned war in Iraq. His book, Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Power, was “a hit with the public” to which Gurman devotes a number of pages.

Third, the dissenters were, above all, diplomats who put their voices in writing. Indeed, Gurman underscores that her book is “as much an account of the tradition of diplomatic writing as it is one of dissenting diplomats.” By their emphasis on “writing well” (a skill highlighted by François de Callières in 1716, in his how-to book on diplomacy), the dissenters reflected the long-standing tradition praised by the British diplomat Harold Nicolson: “Diplomacy is a written rather than a verbal art.”

During the Cold War, however, the discipline of diplomatic writing (not always observed in preceding eras) lost its cachet. “Instead of amplifying and enriching the policy debate with new information and innovative analysis,” Gurman notes, “most diplomats wrote routine and innocuous reports, memos, and letters designed to deflect rather than gain attention.” Contrary to this tendency, the Cold-War in-house dissenters composed the written word carefully and thoughtfully (to be sure, sometimes writing, and changing their drafts, to win over higher-ranking officials, thereby on occasion becoming, as was the case with Kennan and Ball, “courtesan” writers).

Still, the Foggy Bottom dissidents, no matter how imaginatively they used their pens to advance their careers, “shared a commitment to the promise that their writing could help change policy.” Also, they wanted to create documents that, by their respect for language, reflected an appreciation and understanding of the literary art. George Kennan, who, perhaps pretentiously, considered himself F. Scott Fitzgerald’s soulmate (they both went to Princeton), wrote in 1934 that “[i]f Chekhov could describe Russian small town folk with an appeal so universal that even American reader gasps and says: ‘How perfectly true’ why cannot the Moscow diplomatic folk be written up the same way?”

(As I read Kennan’s words, I wondered how he would have judged twittering and facebooking -- new means of communications, now hyped by the State Department, regrettably not covered in Gurman’s study -- which, conceivably, reduce the craft of diplomatic writing to the “ash heap of history,” to steal a phrase from Ronald Reagan about communism).

It is said in Russia that the country’s dissident poets, so often persecuted by the authorities when they are alive, are most venerated upon their death, including by the officials who wished them far, far, gone from this world. This leads us to the fourth point of Gurman’s book: In the United States, dissenting diplomats -- when no longer numbered among those in seats of power -- are, according to Gurman, “transformed from false prophets of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to true prophets of the nation’s foreign policy.”

But the subjects of her study, Gurman notes, were “not necessarily and absolutely wise.” More important, from her perspective, the dissenters can’t be reduced to modern-day Johns the Baptist. Rather, they were thinkers skeptical about “the predictability of foreign affairs and about the possibility of knowledge more generally.”

The dissenting diplomats’ lasting contribution, Gurman suggests in her impressive study, was not providing definitive answers, but thinking about important current issues and speculating about their implications for U.S. national interests. In other words, these non-conformist in-house outsiders, in their own imperfect intellectual ways, were trying to link the best of diplomatic writing (“thinking”) to policy, a challenging task if there ever was one.bluestar

(1) http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/11/152078.htm. Full disclosure: I was one of three Foreign Service officers who left the State Department to express opposition to the US intervention in Iraq.
See http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0312-11.htm.
My name is mentioned in Gurman’s book.
(2) John Service and John Davies, who lost their State Department jobs in the McCarthy era because of their criticisms of U.S. China policy, “Between 1950 and 1953,” Gurman notes, “twenty of the twenty-two Foreign Service officers who specialized in China were either marginalized or dismissed.”
[Book Editor’s Note: See also Ms. Gurman’s 2010 book review in American Diplomacy:

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy

AuthorDr. John H. Brown, a Foreign Service officer for more than 20 years, currently is Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University, where he teaches about public diplomacy.

State Department Senior Staffing

From, citing as source

The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics: Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

From xenophobia to conspiracy theories, the Know Nothing party launched a nativist movement whose effects are still felt today

image from article

By Lorraine Boissoneault, smithsonian.com, January 26, 2017; via NIM on Facebook

Like Fight Club, there were rules about joining the secret society known as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner (OSSB). An initiation rite called “Seeing Sam.” The memorization of passwords and hand signs. A solemn pledge never to betray the order. A pure-blooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock and the rejection of all Catholics. And above all, members of the secret society weren’t allowed to talk about the secret society. If asked anything by outsiders, they would respond with, “I know nothing.”
So went the rules of this secret fraternity that rose to prominence in 1853 and transformed into the powerful political party known as the Know Nothings. At its height in the 1850s, the Know Nothing party, originally called the American Party, included more than 100 elected congressmen, eight governors, a controlling share of half-a-dozen state legislatures from Massachusetts to California, and thousands of local politicians. Party members supported deportation of foreign beggars and criminals; a 21-year naturalization period for immigrants; mandatory Bible reading in schools; and the elimination of all Catholics from public office. They wanted to restore their vision of what America should look like with temperance, Protestantism, self-reliance, with American nationality and work ethic enshrined as the nation's highest values. 
Know Nothings were the American political system’s first major third party. Early in the 19th century, two parties leftover from the birth of the United States were the Federalists (who advocated for a strong central government) and the Democratic-Republicans (formed by Thomas Jefferson). Following the earliest parties came the National Republicans, created to oppose Andrew Jackson. That group eventually transformed into the Whigs as Jackson’s party became known as the Democrats. The Whig party sent presidents William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor and others to the White House during its brief existence. But the party splintered and then disintegrated over the politics of slavery. The Know Nothings filled the power void before the Whigs had even ceased to exist, choosing to ignore slavery and focus all their energy on the immigrant question. They were the first party to leverage economic concerns over immigration as a major part of their platform. Though short-lived, the values and positions of the Know Nothings ultimately contributed to the two-party system we have today.
Paving the way for the Know Nothing movement were two men from New York City. Thomas R. Whitney, the son of a silversmith who opened his own shop, wrote the magnum opus of the Know Nothings, A Defense of the American Policy. William “Bill the Butcher” Poole was a gang leader, prizefighter and butcher in the Bowery (and would later be used as inspiration for the main character in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York). Whitney and Poole were from different social classes, but both had an enormous impact on their chosen party—and their paths crossed at a pivotal moment in the rise of nativism.
In addition to being a successful engraver, Whitney was an avid reader of philosophy, history and classics. He moved from reading to writing poetry and, eventually, political tracts. “What is equality but stagnation?” Whitney wrote in one of them. Preceded in nativist circles by such elites as author James Fenimore Cooper, Alexander Hamilton, Jr. and James Monroe (nephew of the former president), Whitney had a knack for rising quickly to the top of whichever group he belonged to. He became a charter member of the Order of United Americans (the precursor to the OSSB) and used his own printing press to publish many of the group’s pamphlets.
Whitney believed in government action, but not in service of reducing social inequality. Rather, he believed, all people “are entitled to such privileges, social and political, as they are capable of employing and enjoying rationally.” In other words, only those with the proper qualifications deserved full rights. Women’s suffrage was abhorrent and unnatural, Catholics were a threat to the stability of the nation, and German and Irish immigrants undermined the old order established by the Founding Fathers.
From 1820 to 1845, anywhere from 10,000 to 1000,000 immigrants entered the U.S. each year. Then, as a consequence of economic instability in Germany and a potato famine in Ireland, those figures turned from a trickle into a tsunami. Between 1845 and 1854, 2.9 million immigrants poured into the country, and many of them were of Catholic faith. Suddenly, more than half the residents of New York City were born abroad, and Irish immigrants comprised 70 percent of charity recipients.

Phillips says the Know Nothings displayed three patterns common to all other nativist movements. First is the embrace of nationalism—as seen in the writings of the OSSB. Second is religious discrimination: in this case, Protestants against Catholics rather than the more modern day squaring-off of Judeo-Christians against Muslims. Lastly, a working-class identity exerts itself in conjunction with the rhetoric of upper-class political leaders. As historian Elliott J. Gorn writes, “Appeals to ethnic hatreds allowed men whose livelihoods depended on winning elections to sidestep the more complex and politically dangerous divisions of class.”
No person exemplified this veneration of the working class more than Poole. Despite gambling extravagantly and regularly brawling in bars, Poole was a revered party insider, leading a gang that terrorized voters at polling places in such a violent fashion that one victim was later reported to have a bite on his arm and a severe eye injury. Poole was also the Know Nothings’ first martyr.
On February 24, 1855, Poole was drinking at a New York City saloon when he came face to face with John Morrissey, an Irish boxer. The two exchanged insults and both pulled out guns. But before the fight could turn violent, police arrived to break it up. Later that night, though, Poole returned to the hall and grappled with Morrissey's men, including Lewis Baker, a Welsh-born immigrant, who shot Poole in the chest at close range. Although Poole survived for nearly two weeks, he died on March 8. The last words he uttered pierced the hearts of the country’s Know Nothings: “Goodbye boys, I die a true American.”
Approximately 250,000 people flooded lower Manhattan to pay their respects to the great American. Dramas performed across the country changed their narratives to end with actors wrapping themselves in an American flag and quoting Poole’s last words. An anonymous pamphlet titled The Life of William Poole claimed that the shooting wasn’t a simple barroom scuffle, but an assassination organized by the Irish. The facts didn’t matter; that Poole had been carrying a gun the night of the shooting, or that his assailant took shots to the head and abdomen, was irrelevant. Nor did admirers care that Poole had a prior case against him for assault with intent to kill. He was an American hero, “battling for freedom’s cause,” who sacrificed his life to protect people from dangerous Catholic immigrants.
On the day of Poole’s funeral, a procession of 6,000 mourners trailed through the streets of New York. Included in their number were local politicians, volunteer firemen, a 52-piece band, members of the OSSB—and Thomas R. Whitney, about to take his place in the House of Representatives as a member of the Know Nothing Caucus.
Judging by the size of Poole’s funeral and the Know Nothing party’s ability to penetrate all levels of government, it seemed the third party was poised to topple the Whigs and take its place in the two-party system. But instead of continuing to grow, the Know Nothings collapsed under the pressure of having to take a firm position on the issue the slavery. By the late 1850s, the case of Dred Scott (who sued for his freedom and was denied it) and the raids led by abolitionist John Brown proved that slavery was a more explosive and urgent issue than immigration.
America fought the Civil War over slavery, and the devastation of that conflict pushed nativist concerns to the back of the American psyche. But nativism never left, and the legacy of the Know Nothings has been apparent in policies aimed at each new wave of immigrants. In 1912, the House Committee on Immigration debated over whether Italians could be considered “full-blooded Caucasians” and immigrants coming from southern and eastern Europe were considered "biologically and culturally less intelligent."
From the end of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th, Asian immigrants were excluded from naturalization based on their non-white status. “People from a variety of groups and affiliations, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the Progressive movement, old-line New England aristocrats and the eugenics movement, were among the strange bedfellows in the campaign to stop immigration that was deemed undesirable by old-stock white Americans,” writes sociologist Charles Hirschman of the early 20th century. “The passage of immigration restrictions in the early 1920s ended virtually all immigration except from northwestern Europe.”
Those debates and regulations continue today, over refugees from the Middle East and immigrants from Latin America.
Phillips’s conclusion is that those bewildered by current political affairs simply haven’t looked far enough back into history. “One can’t possibly make sense of [current events] unless you know something about nativism,” he says. “That requires you to go back in time to the Know Nothings. You have to realize the context is different, but the themes are consistent. The actors are still the same, but with different names.”  
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/immigrants-conspiracies-and-secret-society-launched-american-nativism-180961915/#DYq0tqxy7LlHvodR.99

A Dangerously Isolated President

By Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker [original article contains links]; via AGG on Facebook

In the first week of the Trump Presidency, influence has run through a very select group of advisers—maybe as many as half a dozen, maybe as few as two.

The Presidential order that Donald Trump signed on Friday barring all refugees and citizens from seven Muslim countries from travel to the United States was reviewed by virtually no one. The State Department did not help craft it, nor the Defense Department, nor Justice. Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, “saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized,” CNN reported. Early Saturday morning, there were reports that two Iraqi refugees had been detained upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport. When a lawyer for the men asked an official to whom he needed to speak to fix the situation, the official said, “Ask Mr. Trump.” This sounded like a sign of straight goonery and incipient authoritarianism; maybe it was. But it also may have been the only reasonable answer. Few people understood what was going on.

The order claims to protect Americans from “foreign terrorist entry,” but that was no reason for it. A wealth of data shows that immigrants from those countries have not been responsible for fatal terrorist attacks in the United States. At first, the acting spokesperson of the Department of Homeland Security said that the order would not apply to permanent residents of the United States. This seemed to be a sensible assumption; as fevered as the talk over immigration has been on the right, few have threatened a mass revocation of the rights of green-card holders. But a senior White House official later said that green-card holders would have to undergo screenings. Morally outrageous scenes followed. Homeland Security officials said that at least a hundred people had been prevented from entering the country, and many more had been stopped from boarding planes to the U.S. Those detained at Dulles International Airport, before federal judges issued stays of the order, included an Iranian couple in their eighties, both with green cards. One was legally blind, and the other had recently had a stroke; their granddaughter said that officials at the airport “weren’t treating them very well.” At O’Hare, a couple with an eighteen-month-old was reportedly detained, after a trip abroad to introduce the baby to relatives.

On Saturday, the President announced three more executive actions, one of which changed the composition of his National Security Council. Trump reserved one seat on the Council for his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, who has no experience in foreign relations. Trump also limited the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence, with a memo that said they will only attend meetings when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” The erasure of the line between national security and Bannon’s politics, which have included an embrace of white nationalism, was deeply troubling. But the exclusion of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence was more surprising. The President can pick anyone he wants for those positions. Trump has nominated the former Indiana senator Dan Coats to be the director of National Intelligence; the term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will expire this year. The President seems to be deliberately tightening the circle around him.

In the first week of the Trump Presidency, influence has run through a very select group of advisers—maybe as many as half a dozen, maybe as few as two. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Bannon have consolidated their influence. Kushner, who has spent his brief career running his father’s real-estate empire, reportedly has been told to lead negotiations with Mexico. Kushner was also involved in a discussion with British officials, and denounced the United Kingdom’s support of a United Nations resolution opposing Israeli settlements. According to the Washington Post, some former campaign aides “have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.” But Bannon’s portfolio may be even broader. His hand was apparent in the President’s dark Inauguration speech, in his economic nationalism, and in his early, aggressive stances against Mexico and refugees.

The President’s isolation runs deeper than that. As the confusion around the immigration ban made clear, the vast government he oversees has little input on his actions. In an interview this week, Trump said that he reads the Times, the New York Post, and the Washington Post each day, but he seems to scan them as an actor does, for reviews of his own performance. His campaign made clear that he was not interested in the findings of scientists, social scientists, or the American government. Trump’s transition has alienated him from the American public. Gallup found on Friday that fifty per cent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance, the highest disapproval rating on record for any American President this early in his term.

In normal times, an Administration this isolated and divorced from public opinion would seem to be fatally weak. The argument made by the President’s first week is that these conditions, combined with the general assent of a Republican-controlled Congress, might in fact create the opposite situation, freeing him to do whatever he wants.

At times this past week, the theatre of the Administration has seemed to be as large as the Oval Office; at others, it has seemed smaller still, about the size of the President’s own head. “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on . . . I will send in the Feds!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening. In fact, a large team from the Department of Justice had recently been in Chicago, where it delivered an indictment of the excesses of the Chicago Police Department, connecting them to the collapse of trust between residents and officers, which in turn enabled a rise in crime.

But that report hadn’t prompted the President’s tweet. What had? It turned out that Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show had just aired a segment on crime in Chicago. The President had seen something that moved him on a news program, and then he had reacted. The tweet was one of the least significant Presidential gestures of the past week. But it served as prelude for some of the darker ones. At times, the only figure in the room may be Trump himself and the blue glow of his television screen.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007, and joined the magazine as a staff writer in 2015. He writes mainly about American politics and society. 

Chukchi Autonomous District -- What Alaska Might Be if Russia Hadn’t Sold It to US - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

            Staunton, January 29 – The disastrous situation with regard to roads, the economy and human existence in the Chukchi Autonomous District, located just opposite the Bering Straits for Alaska, is a reminder of what that US state might have become had it remained the property of the Russian Empire rather than being sold in 1867.

            This week, officials in the autonomy announced the opening of winter automobile roads in several places, the only way many people there have of reaching the outside world by ground, and roads that are anything but reliable in a place where winter lasts nine months of the year, just as it does in much of Alaska (afterempire.info/2017/01/28/chukotka-roads/).

            Chukotka, with an area of 737,700 square kilometers and just over 50,000 residents, has a much lower population and road density than does neighboring Alaska where there are 663,000 people and almost 2,000 kilometers of interstate highways alone, a difference reflecting the very different policies of Moscow and Washington and affecting the two populations very differently. 

            There are only 2,938 kilometers of roadways in Chukotka, most unpaved and nearly 80 percent needing repairs.  There are in addition, 1320 km of winter roads that in fact are used all year long and 1135 that are used only in winter.  Many don’t go very far: There are 82 bridges for them, but almost half – 42 – are collapsing or too dangerous for use.

            Worse, and again in contrast to Alaska, Chukotka doesn’t have land connections to its neighboring regions, even though Moscow officials have been talking about building one for decades.  And also in contrast to the US state, 29 of the 37 population points in Chukotka don’t have any paved roads in them at all.

             Aviation links have largely collapsed as well, making it extremely difficult for residents to get medical help especially given “the optimization” – a euphemism for closure – of many medical points during Putin’s time.  And so even with its enormous reserves of natural resources, Chukchi land remains cut off and poor.

            That is what those who can see Russia from Alaska in fact see, and the After Empire portal concludes that “if the Russian Empire had not sold Alaska in a timely fashion to the United States, that neighboring territory might have had the same fate.”


Letters to the Editor, The Times Literary Supplement (TLS, January 20, 2017), p. 6

image from

Sir, -- According to qi.com, Sir Henry Head was the head of the journal Brain from 1905 to 1923. He was succeeded in 1923 by Russell Brain. I applaud the TSL for its efforts to continue this cranial serendipity by assigning a review of a book about the cruelty of the lobotomy procedure to Andrew Scull.

Seth Gold,
Northbrook, Illinois

One Country, Two Tribes - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

By SABRINA TAVERNISE JAN. 28, 2017, New York Times

Image from article, with caption: At the Woman's March on Washington

It was a spring afternoon in Istanbul, and I was talking with a woman in beige
pumps and pearls who was angry about her government. It was taking the country in
the wrong direction, she said, and she had come out with thousands of other people
to protest. People from poor areas who supported the government were going
against their self-­interest. “They’re only being manipulated,” she said.

Fast-­forward 10 years to 2017. I am standing in a crowd of women wearing
fleeces and sensible shoes in Washington, D.C. Everything feels oddly familiar. They
were angry about the election and worried that it would take the country in the
wrong direction. Many people who supported the new president had voted against
their interests, they said.

I have covered political divides in Turkey, Russia, Pakistan and Iraq. The
pattern often goes like this: one country. Two tribes. Conflicting visions for how
government should be run. There is lots of shouting. Sometimes there is shooting.
Now those same forces are tearing at my own country.

Increasingly, Americans live in alternate worlds, with different laws of gravity,
languages and truths. Politics is raw, more about who you are than what you believe.
The ground is shifting in unsettling ways. Even democracy feels fragile.
President Trump has brought out these contrasts, like colors in a photograph
developing in a darkroom.

“I’m excited about change,” said Helene Lauzier, 37, who had driven to
Washington from Fall River, Mass., and was standing with her mother, Helen
Lauzier, 70, along the parade route on Inauguration Day. Both wore American flag
scarves and hats. She wanted Fall River to get some of its old industry back — fabric
and upholstery. The new industry is “medical, medical, medical,” she said. “But
people who might not be qualified to work in medical, what can we do?”

If that Friday felt like a wedding, that Saturday, the day of the women’s march,
was a feisty funeral.

Nan Nelson, 59, a retired geologist from Syracuse, was holding a sign that read
“Women Geologists Rock.”

“How can people be sucked in by this charlatan?” she said of Mr. Trump. “I have
talked to people who are struggling to keep their homes. But I just don’t understand
what they are expecting.”

She added: “He doesn’t face reality. He just makes things up and thinks it’s true.
That’s not my world.”

I first moved abroad in 1995. I was 24, and like the country I came from, I was
cocky. I visited ghostly Russian factory towns, where drunk and lonely people would
lament the loss of their jobs, their identities and their place in the world. I would
think: “Forget about the factory. Invent something. Get over it.”

Fifteen years later, when I moved back to America, swaths of my own country
were soaking in the same bitter mix. I became obsessed with these places. But their
stories were hard to sell to editors. The grievances were not new, the result of years
of economic decline and unmet expectations that left powerful resentment.

In Russia and the United States, those forces eventually punched their way into
politics and were harnessed by two skilled populists — Mr. Trump and Vladimir V.
Putin. It was a revolt against elites, who were seen as having driven the country into
the 2008 financial crisis without paying a price. Elites, who lived in isolated islands
of economic opportunity and sneered at people who didn’t — for not having a
passport, for liking Donald Trump.

“The vibe I get when they talk to me is they know the world is round and the
earth orbits the sun — they understand that — but they think that I think the earth is
flat,” Larry Laughlin, a retiree from Ham Lake, Minn., who voted for Mr. Trump,
said of liberals.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, calls it the clash
between globalists and nationalists. The globalists, who tend to be urban and college
educated, want a world like the one described in John Lennon’s song “Imagine” —
no religion, walls or borders dividing people. The nationalists see that as a vision of
hell. They want to defend their culture and emphasize the bonds of nationhood —
flag, Constitution, patriotism. They also want to limit immigration, an instinct that
globalists are often quick to condemn as racist.

It is one of the most profound fissures of the modern political era and has
upended politics in Europe, too.

“Global elites feel they have more in common with their friends in Paris or New
York than with their own countrymen,” said Lars Tragardh, a historian at Ersta
Skondal University College in Stockholm. “In their view of the world, the centrality
of citizenship gets lost, and that is very threatening to the nationalists.”

Mr. Trump’s slogan, America First, he said, “is not just about xenophobia, it’s
about taking citizenship seriously.”

That slogan repels people like Monica Martinez, a 44­-year-­old from Bethesda,
Md., who works for a nonprofit that helps people with autism and was marching that
Saturday. “He’s basically saying the lives of Americans are more important than the
lives of people in other places — than lives of people in Cambodia,” she said, giving
an example. She said she could not understand people who held that belief. “What
do I say to my kids about that? What do I say if they ask me, ‘Hey, Mom, what’s
wrong with putting America first?’ ”

Nationalists love it.

“He stood there and said, this is for you, this is your country, this is your
government,” Dianna Ploss, a Trump voter from Massachusetts, said of Mr. Trump’s
Inaugural Address. “That’s just amazing.”

Divides change. They can eventually cause social upheaval, political turmoil and
even violence. In Turkey, the protesting crowds turned out to be right. The
government did take their country in the wrong direction.

What will happen here? Social psychologists like Mr. Haidt say the best way to
ease polarization and reduce anxiety among the nationalists is to emphasize our
sameness. But in the crowds a week ago, no one seemed to be in the mood.

“It’s just so hard to understand them,” Maureen Sauer, 55, an account manager
in an insurance company from O’Fallon, Ill., said. “I guess they just wanted change?
I don’t get it.”

Ms. Ploss said that she was just as confused about the march. “I just don’t feel
like my rights are going to be violated,” she said. “Yet all these women don’t feel
safe? If I had had time, I would have asked them, ‘What are you fighting for?’ ”

“Here I am walking down the street with my red dress and my flag shawl and
people don’t even want to say hi,” she added. “What are we doing? What is
happening? Are we going to take up arms against each other?”

Sabrina Tavernise is a national correspondent for The New York Times

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump’s foreign policy revolution

image from

 Opinion writer 

The flurry of bold executive orders and of highly provocative Cabinet nominations (such as a secretary of education who actually believes in school choice) has been encouraging to conservative skeptics of Donald Trump. But it shouldn’t erase the troubling memory of one major element of Trump’s inaugural address.
The foreign policy section has received far less attention than so revolutionary a declaration deserved. It radically redefined the American national interest as understood since World War II.
Trump outlined a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. As in: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. 
And most provocatively this: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.” Bernie Sanders believes that a corrupt establishment has ripped off the middle class to give to the rich. Trump believes those miscreants have given away our patrimony to undeserving, ungrateful foreigners as well.
JFK’s inaugural pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty. Note that Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe (and no reference to liberty). They’re all out to use, exploit and surpass us.
No more, declared Trump: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”
Imagine how this resonates abroad. “America First” was the name of the organization led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II — right through the Battle of Britain — to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich. (Then came Pearl Harbor. Within a week, America First dissolved itself in shame.)
Not that Trump was consciously imitating Lindbergh. I doubt he was even aware of the reference. He just liked the phrase. But I can assure you that in London and in every world capital they are aware of the antecedent and the intimations of a new American isolationism. Trump gave them good reason to think so, going on to note “the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” America included. 
Some claim that putting America first is a reassertion of American exceptionalism. On the contrary, it is the antithesis. It makes America no different from all the other countries that define themselves by a particularist blood-and-soil nationalism. What made America exceptional, unique in the world, was defining its own national interest beyond its narrow economic and security needs to encompass the safety and prosperity of a vast array of allies. A free world marked by open trade and mutual defense was President Truman’s vision, shared by every president since.
Until now.
Some have argued that Trump is just dangling a bargaining chip to negotiate better terms of trade or alliance. Or that Trump’s views are so changeable and unstable — telling European newspapers two weeks ago that NATO is obsolete and then saying “NATO is very important to me” — that this is just another unmoored entry on a ledger of confusion.
But both claims are demonstrably wrong. An inaugural address is no off-the-cuff riff. These words are the product of at least three weeks of deliberate crafting for an address that Trump’s spokesman said was intended to express his philosophy. Moreover, to remove any ambiguity, Trump prefaced his “America First” proclamation with: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.”
Trump’s vision misunderstands the logic underlying the far larger, far-reaching view of Truman. The Marshall Plan surely took wealth away from the American middle class and distributed it abroad. But for a reason. Altruism, in part. But mostly to stabilize Western Europe as a bulwark against an existential global enemy.
We carried many free riders throughout the Cold War. The burden was heavy. But this was not a mindless act of charity; it was an exercise in enlightened self-interest. After all, it was indeed better to subsidize foreign armies— German, South Korean, Turkish and dozens of others — and have them stand with us, rather than stationing even more American troops everywhere around the world at greater risk of both blood and treasure. 
We are embarking upon insularity and smallness. Nor is this just theory. Trump’s long-promised but nonetheless abrupt withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the momentous first fruit of his foreign policy doctrine. Last year the prime minister of Singapore told John McCain that if we pulled out of the TPP “you’ll be finished in Asia.” He knows the region.
For 70 years, we sustained an international system of open commerce and democratic alliances that has enabled America and the West to grow and thrive. Global leadership is what made America great. We abandon it at our peril.