March 5, 2016

Caucus results trickling in... and Cruz seems to be exceeding expectations.

Follow the results here.

I'm seeing 5% results coming in from Maine and Kansas, with Cruz around 50% in both places and Trump lagging back.

Nothing yet from Kentucky, another caucus state.

Louisiana is the big state today, and it's a primary.

All 4 of these states have a closed procedure. No cross-over funny business, so it's a very important test of where GOP voters really are. It's maybe Ted's big day.

(Correction made: I thought Nebraska was also a GOP state today, but it's only for Democrats.)

ADDED: A big night for Bernie, winning Kansas and Nebraska. Trump got Kentucky, and Cruz didn't hit 50% in Maine, which would have given him all the delegates. Below 50%, the delegates were distributed proportionall.

AND: Trump seems to be winning big in Louisiana — the closed primary. It hasn't been called yet. I'm seeing 46.4% for Trump with 4% of the vote in. The polls had shown Trump at 43%, so he's overperforming.

MORE: With 80% in, Trump is now slightly underperforming in Louisiana.

Do I have to read about Bo Ryan's 6-year adulterous affair that didn't involve the misuse of state funds?

I'd rather not see this in the light of day.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and unfortunately I believed the things he said to me. However, I do feel and I believe most in the community would agree with me that a man who is manipulative, a liar, cheater and deceptive, should not be coaching and mentoring or be a role model to the young men on the basketball team. He lied and deceived me, his family and the University of Wisconsin..... We all know how charming and charismatic he is, and I fear he will do this again and next time lives may be ended because of his recklessness.... I believe [his family has] a right to know the caliber of the man they call 'husband,' 'father' and 'grandfather.'"

This is why we order shoes on line.

"Madison Police were called to West Towne Mall... as a crowd of 60 or more customers gathered outside of Finish Line, a mall footwear store, waiting for the release of [the new 'Air Jordan' sneakers]."
[C]ustomers were pushing and shoving one another... Security... reported that Finish Line only had ten pairs of the sneakers available for sale which "did not sit well with the crowd."

"Psychologists and massage therapists are reporting ‘Trump anxiety’ among clients."

Writes Paul Schwartzman (who "specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between" in The Washington Post).
“[My middle-aged businesswoman patient] was so upset and worried that she could have a sister — someone so close to her — who would have zero problem with Trump,” [said Judith Schweiger Levy, a psychologist on New York’s Upper West Side]. “Another patient — also a woman — all she could talk about was Trump and how he’s crazy and frightening.” Ruminating on Trump’s effect, Levy said, “Part of the reason he makes people so anxious is that he has no anxiety himself. It’s frightening. I’m starting to feel anxious just talking about him.”

Another psychologist, Paul Saks, who practices in Greenwich Village, said Trump’s recent refusal to immediately disavow David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan’s former Grand Wizard, has riled one of his patients who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. “This is really resonating with him, and troubling him,” Saks said. “Just that Trump has survived and that there’s such a cataclysmic shift in the Republican Party — an institution that’s part of our way of life even if you’re not a Republican — is going to disturb a lot of people.”
And it's making me anxious that psychologists are telling us what their patients say. Is that appropriate?

Also quoted in the article is some L.A. businessman, a Democrat named Ken Goldstein, who heard somebody express support for Trump: "You just realize you have nothing more to say to that person... Who are these people? Are they at the grocery store, are they sitting next to me at Dodger Stadium? That makes me nervous."

It makes me anxious that so many Americans are anxious about their fellow Americans. I'm looking around and seeing lots of people looking around and asking "Who are these people?" And they don't know how many of "these people" there are because these people can see that there are so many other people who ask "Who are these people?" and they're anxious about being seen as one of the people those other people don't want to sit next to at Dodger Stadium.  

The problem of relabeling Trump as "Drumpf."

Many of those who seek to diminish Donald Trump have jumped at the idea of tagging him with the name Drumpf, which was the surname of his ancestors if you go way back. You have to go back before his father immigrated to America, which was 1885, but it is there in the records. TV comedy man John Oliver seemed to think it was a very funny idea to rename Trump "Drumpf," because it sounds dumber, as many non-English names do to the ears of English-speakers.

But is that the kind of prejudice Trump-haters should want to stir up?
Immigrants in modern America, however, do not often change their names anymore..... Name changes do remain popular among entertainers. For example, Jon Stewart, whose “Daily Show” is in some ways the parent of Mr. Oliver’s HBO program, was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz. As Mr. Oliver noted, Mr. Trump once criticized Mr. Stewart for changing his name, tweeting that “he should cherish his past — not run from it.”

And many politicians have also undergone name changes, notably two presidents, Bill Clinton, who changed his name from William Jefferson Blythe III, and Gerald Ford, who was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. Mr. Trump’s potential opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, long held to her maiden name of Rodham, but she now campaigns without it.
Maybe Oliver should have checked to see which side would be helped more before he went with the idea of laughing at other people's funny names. But quite aside from that, this business of laughing at foreign names is — to use an epithet often thrown at Trump — xenophobic.

By the way, I have a last name that got anglicized in its spelling, in the Drumpf/Trump fashion. Althaus became Althouse. My family name, like Trump's got respelled in the 17th century. I've always understood a name change like that as a kindness to the ordinary people who were going to be trying to spell it. You've anticipated the difficulty, accommodated them, and, graciously, made them correct.

"I'm telling you. He's a stupid person!... Stupid Mitt. He is a dumb guy."

"The reason he doesn't like me is that I said 'You shouldn't run because you're a choke artist. You ran against Obama four years ago. It was a race that should have been an easy win.'... He made a fool of himself in the second and third debates. I don't know what happened to him.... What the hell did happen? Does anyone know?.... You know the sad part is I really helped the guy.... I mean, I gave him a lot of money. I raised a lot of money. I had two fundraisers in my apartment. In fact one of them was such a rainy day that it ruined the carpets in my apartment. Everyone's coming in. I had hundreds of people. My carpets were ruined. I think I'm going to send him a bill for new carpet... I hate people that think they're hot stuff and they're nothing... Romney's a bitter man.... Once a choker, always a choker."

Said Donald Trump, who's not a choker and who hasn't forgotten the hundreds of rain-wet feet that he allowed to muck up his carpets for Mitt. He subordinated himself like that in 2012. He was a Mitt mat. And now Mitt is trying to jerk the rug out from underneath Trump in 2016? Oh, the disloyalty! Trump hates disloyalty.

"Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me..."

"... my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes," writes geobiology prof A. Hope Jahren in the NYT.
Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well.
That's strangely miswritten. It's not possible to believe that the exact phrase “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” appears and reappears with frequency. I'm going to assume what's meant is that the subject lines refer not specifically to 3 cognacs but generally to drinking. Let's continue:
The author goes on to tell her that she is special in some way, that his passion is an unfamiliar feeling that she has awakened in him, the important suggestion being that she has brought this upon herself. He will speak of her as an object with “shiny hair” or “sparkling eyes” — testing the waters before commenting upon the more private parts of her body. Surprisingly, he often acknowledges that he is doing something inappropriate. I’ve seen “Of course you know I could get fired for this” in the closing paragraph; the subject line of the email sent to my former student was “NSFW read at your own risk!”...

Perhaps she decides to ignore this first email... Once satisfied with her tendency toward secrecy, the sender then finds a way to get her alone: invites her to coffee, into his office, out for some ostensibly group event. At said meeting he will become tentatively physical, insisting that if people knew, they just wouldn’t understand. At this point, any objection on her part wouldn’t just be professionally dangerous, it would seem heartless....
Oh, I don't know. Why isn't it also "heartless" to deprive this man of the basic information that he is not experiencing a successful response to his attempt to go on a date?
Then there are conferences, field trips, cocktail hours and retreats, whispering co-workers, rolling eyes and sadly shaking heads. On and on it goes, and slowly she realizes that he’s not going to stop because he doesn’t have to....
Why is this smart woman so absurdly slow?

If you read on, you'll see that this shockingly uncommunicative woman finally deals with her problem by leaving the field of science.

"The kids and our 2-year-old King Charles, Iggy Pup, who’s named after Iggy Pop, wake us between 7:30 and 8."

"Everyone piles into bed and we make a game plan. The kids write out a list of what they want to do, which is exactly what I did with my father growing up.... By 8:30 or 9 we kick the kids and the dog out, and then we meditate together for 20 minutes...."

If you say so. That's life in the NYT "Sunday Routine" feature. I'm not buying it for 1 minute, the kids-n-dog jumping on the bed for half an hour to an hour, followed by just the parents meditating on the bed, but I did laugh a lot at the photograph the NYT got of the lovely couple meditating on the bed, with the kids-n-dog magically dispersed to other regions of their Upper East Side apartment which looks out onto Central Park.

Yes, I still read the NYT. Get over it, people. I read the NYT. I also read another thing a lot of you don't want me reading: The New Yorker. The New Yorker just had a spoof of the NYT's "Sunday Routine." Even though it came out before this week's NYT item that I'm quoting, it had kids-n-dogs jumping on the bed and meditation:
UP AND AT ’EM: My day starts at seven, when our dog, Percival, and our kids, Madisonaddison and Andersoncooper, jump into bed with us. Percival is a Pigapoo, which is a very rare breed. It’s a cross between a Shih Tzu and a pig. Percival has breathing problems, because he’s an affront to God’s plan and isn’t supposed to exist, so we have to be very careful when we’re roughhousing with him, or he’ll suffocate and we’ll have to introduce our kids to the concept of death....

BEDTIME: After a glass of liquid melatonin, a few minutes of meditation, some gentle stretching, and a Motrin 800, I’m out like a light.

That terrible Harvard Law School crest.

See the problem? Last November, I blogged about the controversy in a post titled "Looking for something to be offended by? Check out Harvard Law School's logo."

And now the law school's dean, Martha Minow, is writing to alumni to tell them about the committee she formed and the recommendation it reached — to drop the crest (she calls it a "shield") — and about her support of that recommendation and her forwarding of the recommendation to the Harvard Corporation. Alumni see her letter to the corporation, which is printed out over at Above the Law, where Elie Mystal strongly supports the crushing of the old crest. He says:

"Trump's speaking in ways that men today still speak, when they're not hounded by the modern eclipse of feminism and its supporters."

"Men speak this way to each other. They crack jokes this way to each other. It does not make them bad people. And I think there's a yearning for it among a whole segment of the population, women, men, they want this kind of gruff, fearless, tell-it-like-it-is persona. They don't think it's destructive. They don't think it says anything bad about the country. They don't think it says anything bad about the people who speak it. And it may be over the top, but the reason it's happening is because there have been so many invisible shackles put on people who are walking around on eggshells in this country for the last 30 years, afraid to be themselves, afraid to say what they really think, be who they really are, for fear they're gonna get fired, for fear that somebody's gonna lodge a complaint against 'em and be called before some tribunal to explain themselves, when there's nothing wrong with them. So here comes Trump...."

Said Rush Limbaugh on his show yesterday.

"Dear Professor Althouse - I view you as a national treasure, but your self-interest ('social issues' aka the mainstreaming of homosexuality)..."

"... is well evident on this blog too. Do you think that a person can possibly achieve the nomination of a major party for President without acting in their self-interest? You have been dogging Cruz since the beginning - the "I don't think he can be the President of all Americans" continues to echo in your writing on this campaign. Why don't you just come out and plainly state your case against Ted Cruz, who as far as I can tell, holds no social positions that would have been considered 'extreme' in the past century?"

Asks Oso Negro in the comments to last night's post about Cruz's rejection of Mitt Romney's plan to produce a brokered convention.

I responded:
1. I have been a social liberal all my life. I have never had a conservative position of any sort on these questions. My support of gay rights goes all the way back to my early 20s, to when I first heard of the subject. Social issues are not just gay rights, however, they include many things that have to do with the liberty of the individual, especially things that relate to women's bodies. I have been on the liberal side of these questions all my life. I don't want legislation that impinges on the freedom of individuals. This is the libertarian position.

2. "I don't think he can be the President of all Americans" is a quote you must have made up to represent what you think I am saying. I'm sure I didn't write that. I don't write like that and I don't talk like that.

3. I don't write that much about Ted Cruz. I respect him for the legal work that he did. I respect the conservative side of these arguments and teach them with respect to my students. This is something I've done for more than 30 years. But politically, it's just not where I stand. You should imagine Ted Cruz with his positions flipped on the issues you care about, so that he's the opposite of pro-life and traditional marriage and all those things you hold dear. Really get inside that visualization. Picture him arguing those positions in his inimitable style, with utter conviction and inflexibility. If you can do that, let me know how much you like that version of Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz 2.0.

March 4, 2016

"In a technical move that could be viewed as a prerequisite to announcing an independent bid for the presidency..."

"... former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s personal website was recently transferred to an independent web server — away from servers run by his company."

"Any time you hear someone talking about a brokered convention it is the Washington establishment in a fevered frenzy."

"They're really frustrated because all of their chosen candidates, all of their golden children, the voters keep rejecting. And so they seized on this master plan. We go to a brokered convention and the DC power brokers will drop someone in who is exactly to the liking of the Washington establishment. If that happens we will have a manifest revolt on our hands.... If you want to beat Donald Trump here's how you do it: You beat Donald Trump with the voters."

Said Ted Cruz, in a massive affront to Mitt Romney.

Extremely well stated, I think.... but, Cruz's self-interest is obvious. Cruz was called upon to work like mad to produce the brokered convention, but he can't think he'd be the man the DC power brokers would drop in. He's certainly not "exactly to the liking of the Washington establishment."

"There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me."

Ben Carson's exit line.

"I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities."

Said Donald Trump today, in a striking turnaround from last night's debate.

I'm glad to see that quick response to what I'd called "the most alarming thing in last night's GOP debate," in a post this morning. I said:
I have been seeing [these opinions from Trump before] all along, but the effect was heightened by the way Bret Baier framed it — in terms of the point of view of military personnel who are trained to resist illegal orders — and Trump's very severe tone when he said "They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me." That is, there may be law and there may be extensive training about law, but there's something special about Trump, or so he thinks. They’re not going to refuse me. In his mind, Trump trumps law.
I was disturbed by how many commenters on that post blithely embraced the notion that President Trump should boldly operate outside of the law in the war on terror. I guess there are quite a few people who are ready to jump to support Trump whatever he says, but now that Trump has backed off — and so quickly — what will you say? He left you hung out to dry. But if he was your man before, I'm going to bet he still is. One of Trump's many extraordinary powers is the power to change his positions without looking (to his admirers) weak or flipfloppy.

"I'd rather have someone who's a phony in his public presentation than someone who's a phony all the way down."

I said, just now, in a discussion with Meade about the 4 GOP candidates. We'd been talking about the way Kasich stoops over and affects a cute expression, which I guessed was put on to compensate for what he is concerned might come off as a blustering, bullying style, the very style that Trump affects, in what is, in Trump, compensating for a fear of seeming too weak or small.

"Those two are compensating in different directions," I said.

That caused Meade to say that unlike Trump and Kasich, Rubio and Cruz really are the men they appear to be. There's not a different man inside, putting up a phony surface.

Wow. Rubio and Cruz? They really are like that, outside and inside, phony from surface to core? That's much more disturbing than the two who are — if they are — really something more recognizably human on the inside and who have created a public persona that hides but also suggests the feelings that skewed the direction of the compensation.

Trump "reached his nadir under interrogation from Megyn Kelly, his nemesis from that first debate."

"The subject was fraud charges against Trump University, and every time he tried to portray them as baseless and the school and its students as the happiest place this side of Disneyland, Kelly pushed back. Confronted him with contrary evidence. Corrected his selective, self-serving version. Her victory was clear when Trump pivoted from defending himself to pummeling Rubio, saying that if fraud was the topic, Rubio’s poor record of attendance in the Senate should be examined. 'He scammed the people of Florida,' Trump said. 'He defrauded the people of Florida.'"

Writes Frank Bruni, aptly, in the NYT in "Five Big Questions After a Vulgar Republican Debate."

I say aptly, because a poor attendance record may be bad but it's not fraud (unless you have a fussy depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-fraud-is workaround), and so it was the kind of desperate argument you'd expect to hear from a child. Little Marco's bad too!

Caitlyn Jenner endorses Ted Cruz and wants to serve as an adviser to Ted on trans issues.

“Wouldn’t it be great? Let’s say he goes on to be president. And I have all my girls on a trans issues board to advise him on making decisions when it comes to trans issues. Isn’t that a good idea? Trans ambassador to the president of the United States, so we can say, ‘Ted, love what you’re doing but here’s what’s going on.'"

I've got blisters on my short fingers!

"Blistering attacks upend Trump’s pivot to statesman mode."

"I will be Helen Mirren when I am 70, goddammit. #lifegoals."

"THIS WOMAN IS 70 YEARS OLD AND ROCKING LEATHER PANTS!!! This is proof that she is a goddess and we mere mortals. If she adopted this as her permanent everyday street style I would be okay. Love all of it!"/"I want to be this woman with every molecule of my being. Except with my husband. (I'm sure her husband is lovely, but I'm rather fond of mine.) I'm not sure she's ever looked better than this. Everything about this is perfect. I am printing this out (old-school!) and hanging it up everywhere for inspiration. I'm 60 and on a diet. This is EXACTLY what I want to look like in a few months. I have a goal now!"


Orange you glad Whole Foods is peeling oranges for people?

Some are glad but many are very angry:

I love the debate in the comments at the tweet. It goes from utter anger, using my personal go-to swear phrase...
Fucking hell. That makes me unbelievably angry actually. Talk about necessarily contributing to plastic taking over the planet.
... to the empathetic vibrations of the Betsys of this world:
Just FYI, not everybody is physically able to peel an orange.

This was, for me — by far — the most alarming thing in last night's GOP debate.

From the transcript:
BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders. So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

"Asked who they thought won the debate, the voters overwhelmingly agreed on John Kasich. "

"He was praised as the 'only adult in the room' and appearing to be more 'mature' than the others.The low point of the night, according to the voters, was a moment when Rubio slammed Trump University, prompting Trump to argue that the senator 'couldn't get elected dog catcher' in Florida. 'We've never tested something so low,' said Luntz, adding that Kasich also scored very high during remarks on foreign policy."

I agree. Kasich came across as clearly the best. For me, the low point — or, I should say, my high alarm point — was something I'm going to put in a separate post.

March 3, 2016

At the Late Night Café...


... you can talk about everything you want... except presidential politics, which I think was the subject of every other post today. I wish I'd run across something else during the day, but let this post stand as my apology for not ranging beyond the campaign.

The photograph was taken with my iPhone from the passenger seat of a moving car, driving into a nice sunset after class today.

At the Last 4 Men Debate...

... let's talk about it! What are you looking for? I had the idea that "perhaps all 4 men will go for an elevated presidential demeanor," but I also thought there's a good chance "there will be blood."

Predict the tone of tonight's debate. free polls

UPDATE 1: My son John is live-blogging (as usual). He'll have a lot of updates, and I may have some here too.

UPDATE 2: Trump guarantees us that he doesn't have a small penis.

UPDATE 3: Trump has fixed the "reverse racoon."

UPDATE 4: Poor Cruz suffered the worst physical disaster I've ever seen on TV! What was that thing that came out of his mouth and rode along on his lip?! We were screaming in horror!

UPDATE 5: Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich all say they will support Trump if he's the nominee. And Trump says he'll support whoever is the party's nominee.

Who won the debate? free polls

"It was classy of Trump..."

"If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished."

Mitt Romney doles out his fatherly warnings.
“Isn’t he a huge business success and doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?” Romney asked mockingly. “No, he isn’t, and no he doesn’t.”...

Romney also slammed Trump as “a phony” and “a fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers."
ADDED: I used the verb "dole," so I feel I should add "Bob Dole Warns of ‘Cataclysmic’ Losses With Ted Cruz, and Says Donald Trump Would Do Better."

AND: "He is basically arguing for gridlock, deadlock and I know from my own reporting that Mitt Romney is putting himself out there. He will never say this, but he's putting himself out there as the party's alternative to Donald Trump." Said Andrea Mitchell.

"I wonder if Trump can act like an adult?"

Said AprilApple in the comments to the previous post, which sets the scene for tonight's debate. 

I answered:
He can. The question is whether he decides that tonight is the night for him to play Adult in the Room (a role John Kasich chose for himself in the last debate). Trump still must squelch Rubio and Cruz and he hasn't yet seen whether either of them or both will decide on the Adult in the Room gambit. I think perhaps all 4 men will go for an elevated presidential demeanor. If so, it will be funny to see how it looks on each of them.

About tonight's debate, Chris Wallace likens his moderator role to that of a referee at a boxing match.

"I’m a fight fan, and when you watch a referee in a match, even if the fighters are tangled up, if they’ve each got a free arm and are still punching, the ref will let them keep fighting. It’s only when they get completely tangled up that he makes them break the clinch and start again. That’s my feeling about it."

And, referring to the last debate: "I thought that if you could see someone acting like a president on the stage, you have better eyesight than I do. Having said that, in the end, if the candidates want to act like damn fools, I’m not going to stop them."

That's quoted in the NYT article "Fox Moderators to Face Donald Trump in Thursday’s Debate." (Ha! Funny headline. The vector of who's facing whom is reversed. It's the moderators who have to face Trump, not Trump facing them.)

It should be noted that Megyn Kelly is back, and Trump seems ready to take questions from the woman he may have accused of menstruating.

I wanted to link to my old post discussing Trump's enigmatic old wisecrack "blood coming out of her wherever" — at the time, I just said "He went menstrual on her" — and my search of the archive, using the terms "megyn" and "blood," caused me to discover something that perhaps no one has yet noticed. Trump's mind went to "blood" the day after the debate, but during the debate itself, the word "blood" appeared in a very vivid context.

Megyn Kelly said she wanted to know if any of the candidates had "received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first." She asked Ted Cruz and then Kasich and finally turned to Scott Walker, who said:
I'm certainly an imperfect man. And it's only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I've been redeemed from my sins. So I know that God doesn't call me to do a specific thing, God hasn't given me a list, a Ten Commandments, if you will, of things to act on the first day. What God calls us to do is follow his will. And ultimately that's what I'm going to try to do.
At the time, I said:
Nicely done, I think. Sincerely religious, complete with "the blood of Jesus Christ," but manifested in public life in ways that are not noticeably different from being a kind, decent person in a way that works for people of any religion or no religion.
Words stick in your mind and recirculate into new contexts. It occurs to me now that Trump's striking use of "blood" the next day came not from thoughts of women on their period but the dramatic image of blood that was Scott Walker's go-to reaction when asked about religion. I wonder what Trump thought about the man who stood right next to him that night last August and spoke so directly and openly in the kind of stark religious words that Trump — for all his blunt speech — decorously eschews.

But Scott Walker is long gone and we're many debates down the road from that night last August...

... and there will be far fewer men on the stage tonight. We're not down to 2, so it's not quite the boxing match that the metaphorical mind of Chris Wallace envisioned, but there will be blood.

And by the way, what is the origin of the phrase "there will be blood"? Who said it first? Was it Daniel Day-Lewis?

Oh, no! It was GOD:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'"

"[T]here are more than a few closet Trump supporters out here in Tinseltown. Some of them may even surface soon."

Says Roger L. Simon in "The #NeverTrump Crowd Should Get a Life," adverting to the Bret Easton Ellis I was talking about — here — the other day.

Simon calls attention to Trump's ability as "a performer... with a wide range" and his stylistic flexibility, which we saw a glimpse of on Tuesday night, as he appeared "against a backdrop that resembled the White House, replete with a proscenium of flags."

I know... a "proscenium" is the arch in front of the stage, the frame.

The flags were — as he said — a backdrop.

But when Trump is President, the common people will have moved to the foreground, and elitists like me who correct your language usage will be the ludicrous fools the people never listened to anyway.

March 2, 2016

"It was a turnabout tailor-made to delight conservative media outlets and to ignite social-media recriminations."

A scurrilous sentence in the NYT article "Racism Charges in Bus Incident, and Their Unraveling, Upset University at Albany."

There should be recriminations all around. Why invent delight in the minds of conservatives? That's really a repackaging of what seems to be your own disappointment that a terrible racist attack didn't happen! Shameful.

Is Obama about to pick an Iowan for the Supreme Court to please the Iowa Senator chairing the Judiciary Committee?

The NYT reports: "The White House is vetting Jane L. Kelly...."
Her nomination could intensify pressure on Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to break with his party and hold hearings on Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court candidate. In a Senate floor speech in 2013, Mr. Grassley effusively praised Judge Kelly, who has spent her career in Iowa and is well regarded in legal circles there. He quoted from a letter from retired Judge David R. Hansen, a Republican appointee, who called her a “forthright woman of high integrity and honest character” and a person of “exceptionally keen intellect” before voting to confirm her for the appeals court post.
And this is striking:
Five years into her tenure [in the federal public defender’s office for the Northern District of Iowa], she was nearly killed in a brutal attack while jogging on a popular trail in a Cedar Rapids park. Discovered by passers-by lying facedown in a pool of blood, she spent several months recovering and endured multiple surgeries. The crime was never solved, although there was speculation it might have been connected to her work. Still, Judge Kelly later told The Des Moines Register that she had no doubt about returning to her job as a criminal defense lawyer, which she did immediately after recovering from the assault.

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared sharply and perhaps evenly divided in its first major abortion case in almost a decade..."

Writes Adam Liptak at the NYT (in an article illustrated with a really excellent photograph by Gabriella Demczuk).
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who almost certainly holds the crucial vote, mused that it might be useful to return the case to the lower courts to develop more evidence. He said it would help to know how many abortions could be performed in the clinics that would remain open if a restrictive Texas law was allowed to become fully effective....

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month may have muted the prospect of truly bold action, but even a 4-to-4 tie would have enormous consequences because it would leave in place an appeals court decision that could drive down the number of abortion clinics in Texas to about 10, from roughly 40.
Here's the analysis of the argument at SCOTUSblog:
The four more liberal members of the Court — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor — energetically challenged the lawyer for Texas, and often did so in words that denounced what the Texas legislature could have been thinking in passing the restrictions.  Justice Sotomayor was so diligent that she even went on with questions after Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., signaled that the lawyer then at the lectern was finished.
And here's the whole transcript of the argument.

Tavis Smiley: "Something tells me that if Donald Trump is indeed the Republican nominee..."

"... it might be a miscalculation for Democrats to assume that black voters are a lock for their nominee...."
[T]he number of everyday black voters who we assume will dismiss Trump because of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks might well be inflated. While I certainly have had my say about Trump being a “religious and racial arsonist” (and he responded quickly on Twitter), not everyone in black America agrees with me. I have been taken by myriad conversations I’ve had with black folk who don’t find those comments by Trump necessarily or automatically disqualifying.... [T[here have been plenty of... occasions where the interests of black and brown voters didn’t exactly align...

[And] it’s telling how quiet the black elite have been, those who travel in social circles with Trump.... [T]he relative silence of the black establishment class has been chilling. Recently, I read a national newspaper feature about Trump and his relationships with notable high-profile black Americans. Interestingly, nobody really wanted to go on record criticizing The Donald.

"It’s time to stop pointing and laughing at the Republican primary. For all the GOP front-runner’s flaws, many veteran Democrats are beginning to conclude..."

"... Donald Trump is a canny operator who just might end up in the White House if they’re not careful. He appears to be cracking the code with white working-class voters who could help him put blue Rust Belt states in play against Hillary Clinton. He’s helping to fuel record turnout in GOP primaries and he’s mastered the media like no candidate in recent memory, with his constant feeding of catnip to cable TV and his 140-character missiles on Twitter....."

From "Democrats to Clinton: Don't laugh off Trump threat/The populist billionaire could be a potent general election candidate, Democratic strategists warn," by Daniel Lippman.

It's time to stop laughing? No, it's laughably long past time. Republicans laughed too long, and it got late early, and Democrats seem to think their window of time for laughing is still open. It's fun to laugh, isn't it? Your laughing is the result of his technique, disarming you with laughter. He enjoys you enjoying yourself.

I saw this going around on Facebook:

Oh? Did that make you laugh?

Why did Chris Christie have to stand behind Donald Trump like that?

I'm seeing items like "The many pained expressions of Chris Christie standing behind Donald Trump."

Lots of commentary, including lots of mockery. Of course, there's always mockery whenever anything Donald-Trump-related happens, so there's no way to avoid mockery. But, still, why stand there like that?

To me, Christie looked like some sort of body-guard or enforcer, so I'm going to suggest that was the intended message. That is Christie's role in the Trump campaign. Look for more of it. Haters may react: But Christie looked ridiculous! And my response to that would be: Trump has kept you off guard all this time by provoking your ridicule. It's how you are disarmed.

Lawprof scholarship examining whether lawprof scholarship is politically biased indicates that lawprof scholarship by liberals slants leftward...

... but lawprof scholarship by conservatives does not slant rightward.
Professors who are Democrats... have an average article ideology of -2.67 with a 90% confidence interval of -3.13 to -2.21. Using a t-test, we can say that this is statistically different from zero (p-value < 0.00). Professors who are Republicans... have an average article ideology of 0.17 with a 90% confidence interval of -0.72 to 1.10. For these professors, we cannot reject the possibility that the true net ideology of their articles is zero (p-value = 0.72). In other words, our data suggest that Democrats in our sample do not write articles that are on balance neutral, but that Republicans in our sample may write articles that are on balance neutral. ...
Now, one might wonder whether the study itself is biased, and somehow sees what is conservative as neutral, but let's assume something real has been observed and ask why:
The most plausible explanation is that if the dominant ethos in the top law schools is liberal or left-wing, then Republicans are likely to conceal their ideological views in their writings. Republican professors might fear that scholarship that appears conservative may be rejected by leftleaning law review editors, and disparaged or ignored by their colleagues, which will damage their chances for promotions, research money, and lateral appointments. This would explain why even [those who have not made contributions to either political party] tilt left. Republicans could suppress their ideological views by avoiding controversial topics, taking refuge in fields that have little ideological valence, focusing on empirical or analytical work, or simply writing things that they don’t believe.
That sounds likely, except to the extent that it assumes that political beliefs are deep and fundamental to a person's being. I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success, in which case, you'd take on the politics prevalent within your environment. It's like religion, isn't it? How many of the exemplars of the faith really believe it? Most are responding, emotionally, to what they need — acceptance, love, money — and fending off what they fear — rejection, contempt, poverty. 

"America never stopped being great. We need to make America whole. We have to fill in what’s been hollowed out."

"We have to make strong the broken places, re-stitch the bonds of trust and respect across our country.... [W]hat we need in America today is more love and kindness.... Instead of building walls we’re going to break down barriers and build … build ladders of opportunity and empowerment so every American can live up to his or her potential, because then and only then can America live up to its full potential too."

Said Hillary Clinton, in her Super Tuesday victory speech, clearly aimed at Donald Trump, answering his "Make America great again." America is always already great. Nothing to do there. The problem is that everyone isn't equally included in the greatness. We need to stitch us all together and fill in the hollowed-out gaps. It's a concise summary of the difference between the progressive enterprise and capitalism.

Trump has pushed back:
Hillary cannot make America great. She was talking about something yesterday, making America whole, whole. No, no, I don’t want whole. I want great again. I think I’ll use that as a commercial. We’ll make a split screen. She’ll be saying "we’re going to make America whole," whatever that means — I don’t think she knows what it means. We’re going to make America whole, and I’ll be saying, "we’re going to make America great again."
What does "whole" even mean? He just says he doesn't know, perhaps nudging us to think it's jibberish, flim-flam, con artistry, but perhaps nudging lewd/sexist minds to hear "hole." But "whole" — I think, to be accurate — envisions the people as a single body, an ailing body, needing healing and restoration to full health, wholeness.

The idea that the people form a single body has phenomenal historic resonance. I'm picturing "Leviathan":

Think of the "body politic" — all the people in a particular country considered as a single group."
The analogy is typically continued by reference to the top of government as the head of state, but may be extended to other anatomical parts, as in political readings of the Aesop's fable, "The Belly and the Members."... The metaphor developed in Renaissance times, as the medical knowledge based upon the classical work of Galen was being challenged by new thinkers such as William Harvey. Analogies were made between the supposed causes of disease and disorder and their equivalents in the political field which were considered to be plagues or infections which might be remedied by purges and nostrums....
And Jean Jacques-Rousseau wrote of "General Will":
As long as several men assembled together consider themselves as a single body, they have only one will which is directed towards their common preservation and general well-being. Then, all the animating forces of the state are vigorous and simple, and its principles are clear and luminous; it has no incompatible or conflicting interests; the common good makes itself so manifestly evident that only common sense is needed to discern it. Peace, unity and equality are the enemies of political sophistication. Upright and simple men are difficult to deceive precisely because of their simplicity; stratagems and clever arguments do not prevail upon them, they are not indeed subtle enough to be dupes....

March 1, 2016

Super Tuesday... let's talk about it.

1. Polls about to close in 3 states.

2. "Projection: Sanders wins home state of Vt.; Clinton, Ga. and Va." CNN. GOP: Trump ahead (in the exit poll) with 40% in Georgia, and a small margin in Virginia.

3. They've called Oklahoma for Cruz now, in addition to Texas. This is terrible news for Rubio, who has won nothing. Terrible news for the Establishment.

4. Impressive that Trump is doing a press conference, accepting challenging questions and engaging intensely. The norm is to come out, bask in the victory, and give a stump speech. This is nervy and it makes him look presidential.

5. Written the next morning: I see Marco Rubio finally won one. Minnesota. Isn't that the last (or second-to-last) state a Republican would pick up in a 50-state landslide?

"The odds of Michael Bloomberg running for president are 'very, very low -- almost zero,' a source close to Bloomberg told ABC News."

"His decision, the source said, will likely come this week or next."
Another Bloomberg confidant would not confirm nor deny that characterization but told ABC News, "We are at crunch time."...

As ABC News reported in January, the former mayor of New York City has been exploring the possibility of running as an independent. His political team has done research on his viability and the requirements to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states.
Does that suggest that they found it was too hard to get on all the ballots? Back in January, he said the odds were 50-50 that he'd run if Trump got the GOP nomination. Maybe he was just trying to push opinion back then, and now that Trump's nomination is at hand, Bloomberg's bluff is called. 

Maybe what explains Trump is sleep deprivation.

NYT columnist Timothy Egan talks about it. I found that column because Meade and I had, independently, been toying with that theory.

Trump has informed us that he gets very little sleep — claims not to need more. But look at his puffy eyes. Sometimes you can't even see his eyes. And often, when asked a question, he lurches as if hit with a soft, invisible punch, causing me to wonder if he's actually somehow sleeping in these intervals. That might explain the oddness of his response in that Jake Tapper interview on Sunday, when he didn't immediately respond and disown David Duke (as he had done, easily, just 2 days before). Is he able to check out while appearing awake? He's an unusual man, with special powers, and I'm theorizing that one thing he can do is weave tiny intervals of sleep into his seemingly waking hours.

Egan relies on the symptoms of sleep deprivation listed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and his subjective opinion that Trump has them all:
His judgment is off, and almost always ill informed. He has trouble processing basic information. He imagines things. He shows a lack of concentration. He’s easily distracted.....
Egan adds:
In addition, Trump is given to sudden, inchoate bursts of anger and profanity. He creates feuds. In his speeches, he picks up on the angry voice in the mob and then amplifies it.

When I see his puffy eyes and face, I don’t see a man who will carefully weigh all the facts and consequences of an action that could affect everyone on the planet. I see an impulsive, vainly insecure person who cannot shut his mind down for a night.

"Gynecologists Kavita Shah Arora and Allan Jacobs said procedures that slightly changed the look of a girl's genitalia without damaging them..."

"... were comparable to male circumcision or cosmetic procedures in Western countries like labiaplasty. Laws against mild modifications were 'culturally insensitive and supremacist and discriminatory towards women,' they wrote in the specialist journal, which is published by the British Medical Journal."

"Many readers would probably be stunned by some of the people who are secretly supporting Trump and don’t want to admit it on the record."

Says James Hohmann in WaPo:
His coalition includes not just rock-ribbed conservatives and God-fearing evangelicals but Ivy-League-educated professionals. Some realize he’s not actually that authentically conservative and look the other way. Some, who fancy themselves moderates, admire the businessman’s malleability....

The more that Republican elites express alarm, the more a swath of these folks think that Trump might be just the change agent that’s needed to nuke Washington.... From Massachusetts, for instance, The Post’s Ben Terris argues that Trump is the favorite because he’s perfectly channeled the voice and spirit of a loudmouthed sports fan from the state....

To be sure, many who harbor pro-Trump sentiments have not fully thought through the implications of making him the Republican standard bearer or, more significantly, the president of these United States.... It’s also undeniable that Trump terrifies up to half of self-identified Republicans. They worry that he’s making a mockery of conservatism....
Isn't the strongest antagonism to Trump coming from conservatives? That's how it looks to me. But maybe that's because he's fighting other Republicans now and taking what they see as their party away. Democrats can still inhabit the place called denial, where reality is almost half a year away. It's a calmer, less frenetic place and the words of the day are not "panic" and "freakout."

ADDED:  When I wrote "Isn't the strongest antagonism to Trump coming from conservatives?," I was thinking of Establishment Republicans as well as the more ideological conservatives who don't think the Establishment is conservative at all. That shows where I am. I'm a moderate!

And as long as I'm here, let me link to this Elizabeth Price Foley post at Instapundit, linking to Laura Ingraham on “The Suicide of the GOP Establishment.”

"While Mrs. Clinton radiates positive energy on the trail, Democratic groups are beginning to coalesce around a strategy to deliver sustained and brutal attacks on Mr. Trump."

Write Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy in a NYT piece, "Inside the Clinton Team’s Plan to Defeat Donald Trump."

"Strategic Ambiguity" — a Trump technique...

... explained by Scott Adams, with lots of examples, such as:
If you’re a racist, you have a reason to like Trump because of CNN’s intentional misreporting and the fact that Trump didn’t do enough disavowing that one time. If you’re not a racist, you can like Trump because he disavowed racists several times, in writing and on video....

If you hate illegal immigrants, you might like Trump because he says he will deport every one of them. But if you feel compassion for illegal immigrants who are otherwise good residents of the country, you know Trump always makes a big first offer and will later negotiate to something humane and reasonable....
Adams also credits himself with using strategic ambiguity, in that he disavowed Trump for using strategic ambiguity on racism but also praises him for his genius at using strategic ambiguity. And that lets you love Adams whether you hate or love Trump.

"The end of the world is coming in a second… I’m your death. I hate democracy. I’m a terrorist."

Shouted by a woman rambling through the streets of Moscow and holding up the severed head of a young girl.

"Who wants to be Obama’s judicial kamikaze pilot?"

Nice column title — for Marc A. Thiessen in The Washington Post. Of course, it assumes Obama's nominee will not make it, and I'm not convinced of that. Nevertheless, it's a risk to be the person who gets thrown out there to the beasts in the political arena. But you may get through it, and if you do, you're there for life, just like Clarence Thomas, who survived a more vicious thrashing than anything that could plausibly happen to this new character. 

The reason I think the nominee might make it is that Donald Trump is the likely GOP candidate for President, and he can't be trusted to nominate a truly conservative person. Efforts at getting a reliably conservative Justice often fail anyway, and I don't expect Trump even to want a hard-core Thomas/Scalia-type conservative. Trump isn't opposed to abortion rights and gay rights and the rest of the things that torment social conservatives. That's my reading. I could be wrong. But my point is: The Senators, thinking about how they want to play out their roles in the Theater of Confirmation, should be able to predict — if and when Trump becomes the Republican nominee — that the next President isn't going to give them an old-time conservative. It doesn't matter who wins the election — Hillary or Trump — there's no one to hold out for.

The GOP Senators should be looking at: 1. The political benefit to be squeezed out of the drama of wielding the confirmation power, and 2. Who Obama actually nominates. Obama may pick someone moderate, because he predicts the GOP Senators will figure out that it's in their interest to take that person and to look good exercising their role in a dignified, elevated fashion. But Obama might predict that behavior and go for someone liberal enough to trigger a bad-looking response from the GOP Senators. What does Obama want more — another person of his choosing on the Court or to muck up the GOP in the fall elections?

That's how I'm thinking. Thiessan, by contrast, thinks that anyone who accepts the nomination is committing career suicide by serving as "Obama’s pawn in an unwinnable fight." Thiessan is obviously in the game himself. I think I'm looking at the chessboard from a more distanced position and seeing quite a few moves and many different outcomes — including the one where a failed nominee gains stature and goes on to write and comment on the legal/political scene in a vigorous, rewarding post-nomination career.

What is a "con man"?

I'm asking this question as a follow-on to the previous post, which deals in part with calling Donald Trump a "con man" and has me saying all politics is a con. So I wanted to get a little closer to the origin of the term. "Con" is short for "confidence":

"The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump..."

"... who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views," says Ben Smith at BuzzFeed.
On Saturday, columnist Gail Collins, one of the attendees at the meeting (which also included editor-in-chief Dean Baquet), floated a bit of speculation in her column:
The most optimistic analysis of Trump as a presidential candidate is that he just doesn’t believe in positions, except the ones you adopt for strategic purposes when you’re making a deal. So you obviously can’t explain how you’re going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, because it’s going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session.
Sources familiar with the recording and transcript — which have reached near-mythical status at the Times — tell me that the second sentence is a bit more than speculation. It reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hardline anti-immigration stance.
There's a lot of off-the-record stuff out there. It informs the material that is written and released. We get processed news, and it's very frustrating, because we don't trust those who are filtering the raw material. Now, we shouldn't trust those who are giving the off-the-record interviews either. Trump speaks to us and Trump speaks to the NYT. I presume he's sort of lying all the time. I presume that about all politicians.

The NYT got what it got out of him, under the conditions of off-the-recordness. We get what we get out of the NYT, under the conditions of its interest in maintaining the capacity to assure sources that it will keep its promises. And we presume the NYT is biased in various ways and that it's selecting and skewing what it's giving us. Right now, it's under pressure to release more than it normally would, and the argument is that the impending nomination of Donald Trump presents a special case and the usual rules do not apply.

As for that "second sentence" — "So you obviously can’t explain how you’re going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, because it’s going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session" — it reinforces what intelligent observers already assume and feel we've more or less heard in Trump's public statements.

Yes, Trump opponents would love to have the behind-the-scenes quote. We'd love to hear the way Trump would phrase it in secrecy as he tries to con NYT editors into seeing him as a reasonable, trustworthy candidate.

And yeah, I wrote "con" in that last sentence. It sprang to mind as the right word. I was not — not consciously — thinking of Rubio's new stock insult for Trump: "con man."

For the record, I assume politics involves conning. There must be conning. And we must be cunning about conning. He who says the other guy is a con man is also a con man. It's all a con. Now, everybody grow up. Quick, please. Because it is Super Tuesday.

Justice Alito dissents from the Supreme Court's declining to take a case in which it seems that North Carolina, in violation of the Free Exercise Clause, discriminated against a Jewish prisoner.

Eugene Volokh has some details:
Ben-Levi is serving a life sentence for a 1980 rape; at some point, he changed his name to Israel Ben-Levi, and either converted to Judaism or rediscovered Judaism; he now wants to engage in group Torah study with two other inmates. North Carolina prisons generally allow group religious study; but for Jews they require either the presence of a rabbi or a minyan — 10 adult Jews. The minyan requirement stems from the prison system’s understanding of Jewish law.
Alito writes; 
In essence, [the warden]’s argument — which was accepted by the courts below — is that Ben-Levi’s religious exercise was not burdened because he misunderstands his own religion....

The argument that a plaintiff’s own interpretation of his or her religion must yield to the government’s interpretation is foreclosed by our precedents....
The Court's refusal to take the case doesn't mean the court below got it right. And, in fact, it looks obviously wrong — wrong on an exceedingly important proposition of freedom of religion. A person may be shamming about what he really believes, but whatever he sincerely believes, that's his religion. It doesn't matter that it may fail to align with what authorities operating under the same religion name happen to say or what the government, consulting those authorities, think they've got figured out. It's what's in that one person's head, here in the United States of America.

"A third-grader from St. Louis was told he couldn’t return to his elementary school next year — because he’s black."

How is this possible?, you may wonder. I know I did when I read the first reports of this boy's predicament. The explanation is that the child's family is moving out of the city school district and into a suburban school district. His city school is Gateway Science Academy, which was created as part of a desegregation effort, and he could continue to attend if he stayed in the area. But only white kids from the suburbs can cross into the city district, because the idea was to increase the proportion of white students in city schools. So when his family asked if he could still attend, they received a letter telling them that he can't because he's black.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a statement clarifying that the “unfortunate situation” is because “of the student’s change in residency.”
“Even if the family's new St. Louis County school district participated in the transfer program, the student would still not be able to transfer. This situation stems from the 1980 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the St. Louis City and County schools were maintaining segregated systems. In 1983, the schools reached a Desegregation Settlement Agreement allowing African-American students to transfer into primarily white suburban school districts and for non-African American students to attend St. Louis schools. The goal was to try to balance the racial makeup of the city and county schools,” the statement read.
The mother says: “The only thing I would really like out of this whole outcome are that the guidelines be revised for all children. I don’t think a factor of race should determine if a kid should be able to go to school or not, or the guidelines should have some leeway for how to deal with situations like this.... I don’t want any other families to go through what we’re going through.”

Legally, the question is whether the St. Louis City and County schools has eliminated the vestiges of de jure segregation. That's the compelling government interest that is seen as justifying the ongoing discrimination. After that, continued race discrimination, just for race balancing, violates the Equal Protection Clause, according to the 2006 Supreme Court case Parents Involved v. Seattle School District. That was a 5-4 case, and I think a new liberal majority would be eager to overrule or limit it.

As the mother says, a fix involving "some leeway" for "situations like this" could preserve the overall integration plan. The "situation like this" is a child who is already attending the school, who wants to continue, even as his family moves out of the district.

ADDED: Here's a NYT article by Emily Bazelon suggesting the perspective a new liberal majority would be likely to take on the school desegregation problem. Excerpt:
Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent [in Parents Involved]. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.

Breyer’s warning, along with even more dire predictions from civil rights groups, helped place the court’s ruling at the center of the liberal indictment of the Roberts court. In Louisville, too, the court’s verdict met with resentment. Last fall, I asked Pat Todd, the assignment director for the school district of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and its suburbs, whether any good could come of the ruling. She shook her head so hard that strands of blond hair loosened from her bun. “No,” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation, “we’re already doing what we should be.”

February 29, 2016

"The Oscars red carpet has never been exactly at the vanguard of feminism. Unless the five-hours-in-make-up, half-starved-to-death thing..."

"... is an ongoing subversive agitprop immersive theatre piece orchestrated by Reese Witherspoon to make a point about the gender pay gap in Hollywood by illustrating how much harder the women of Hollywood have to work than the men to pass muster on the red carpet.... This year’s red carpet feels like a retrograde move for the women of Hollywood, even by Oscar standards.... The backwardness of the red carpet aesthetic was thrown into stark relief by the fact that, in the build up to and during the event, the Academy Awards’ regressive attitude toward race was very much on the agenda. By contrast, there seems to be an ongoing conspiracy of silence around infantile red-carpet fashion choices...."

Writes Jess Cartner-Morley in The Guardian.

I don't know if "infantile" is the right word. I could just as well see "matronly" or even "elderly." I mean, why are women infatuated with lace these days? Something weird happening in the feminine mind, some resistance to modernity, a nostalgia for a time before their own time. Maybe that is infantile — dressing up in mommy's grandma's clothes.

"For first time in 10 years, Justice Clarence Thomas asks questions during an argument."

"The content of the Thomas inquiry was of less interest than it having happened at all," writes Robert Barnes in WaPo. The question was just:
“Can you give me — this is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?” He then went on to ask a number of follow-up questions....
The constitutional right in question is the right to bear arms.

ADDED: In the NYT, Adam Liptak connects the new vocalization of Justice Thomas to the loss of Justice Scalia (who talked a lot and whose black-draped chair is right next to Thomas's):
It was hard to escape the conclusion that the absence of the voluble Justice Scalia, who had dominated Supreme Court arguments, somehow liberated Justice Thomas and allowed him to resume participating in the court’s most public activity.
Somehow liberated? As if Scalia's excessive talking blotted out Thomas. If we're speculating, we should also speculate that Thomas feels infused with the spirit of his departed colleague. A less mystical version of that is that Scalia's absence at oral argument leaves a big, obvious gap and Thomas is expressing great respect by stepping in to fill the vacated niche.

"Major partisan realignments do happen in America — on average about once every 40 years.... If a realignment is underway..."

"... then it poses a big empirical challenge... [T]he assumption that the parties will rally behind their respective nominees may or may not be reliable.... But we may be entering a new era, and through the broader sweep of American history, there’s sometimes been quite a bit of voting across party lines.... It doesn’t necessarily mean that Republicans are bound to lose.... But if I wouldn’t bet on an anti-Trump landslide, I’m also not sure I’d bet against one.... It’s reasonably safe to say that some of the people in the #NeverTrump movement will, in fact, wind up supporting Trump.... But I’d be equally surprised if there were total capitulation to Trump.... If you’re one of these ideological conservatives, it may even be in your best interest for Trump to lose in November. If Trump loses, especially by a wide margin, his brand of politics will probably be discredited.... You’ll have an opportunity to get your party back in 2020.... But if Trump wins in November, you might as well relocate the Republican National Committee’s headquarters to Trump Tower. The realignment of the Republican Party will be underway, and you’ll have been left out of it."

Writes Nate Silver in "Don’t Assume Conservatives Will Rally Behind Trump."

What are you going to do about it?

It's leap day.

"Airbnb guests shocked by decomposing corpse in garden."

"The group had hoped to host a party at the house south of Paris but their plans were derailed by the macabre discovery."

IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy says: "Stick to Best Western. They clean up between guests." But remember that old story about hotel guests that noticed a bad smell and picked up the mattress and discovered a decomposing body set down inside the box spring? Snopes marks it "true" — and it's not just something that happened once:
Dead bodies get stashed in the box spring or the bed's pedestal more often than you'd want to believe. What's more, a fair number of them are only discovered days later ... after the new tenant complains about a persistent and disagreeable odor.
Lots of details at the link. Plus this cartoon:

Marco Rubio suggests that Donald Trump has a small penis.

"Another thing he says is he's always calling me little Marco. And I'll admit, he's taller than me. He's like 6'2", which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's 5'2". Have you seen his hands? They're like this. And you know what they say about men with small hands?" Pause. "You can't trust them!"

Terrible, low comedy. I know Rubio's people must think he's giving back what he's received from Trump. And Trump is constantly calling him "little Marco" these days. But it's not an established, natural instinct for Rubio. It feels phony, and it seems desperate. And his delivery is poor. He's so pleased with himself for seemingly getting off a joke. He beams, boyishly... which, ironically, underscores the characterization "little Marco."

By the way, why do you want to antagonize small-penised men? They vote too.

Why wouldn't Donald Trump "unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that [he doesn't] want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election"?

I'm seeing the news stories about Donald Trump's inability/unwillingness to distance himself from white supremacist groups. Let's take a closer look at the key dialogue, which took place on "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage. Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election? 
That's some strong language. Trump might want to distance himself from these people, but Tapper is asking him to condemn an individual and to reject the votes of a vague set of persons. That's hard to do, but a politician is normally expected to step right up and do it, lest he give his antagonists any raw material to use to depict him as a racist. Of course, Trump is already used to people depicting him as a racist, and he already knows he can withstand their attack and even get benefit from it. And here's Super Tuesday coming up, with all those southern states. Who knows how many voters he's being asked to tell not to vote for him? Maybe Trump actively wants to signal to these people that he's their guy, and maybe he wants to signal to a much broader group that some slick media character isn't going to lure him back toward that place known as political correctness.

Trump responds:
TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know. I don't know, did he endorse me or what's going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about. 
That's 7 times he said I don't know. There's something weird about that. Why not say it once, twice, or even 3 times and then stop? He could have said: You're asking me to condemn a particular individual and I don't know him. I don't know what he said. I don't condemn people without knowing the details. That's not fair. I'm a very fair guy. Something more like that. Saying I don't know 7 times is going to make us start thinking — maybe around the 5th or 6th time — that you do know, you're denying, and you even want us to know that you know.

Tapper continues:
TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support? 
Tapper sticks to his question form. He wants Trump to condemn people (not just distance himself from them) and to say he doesn't want votes from a whole, large, undefined group. That makes it hard to say "yes" to Tapper's question, but a good communicator knows how to ignore the verbatim question and frame an answer to say exactly what he wants. That's what Trump does:
TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. 
Tapper is hot for the kill:
TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?
Suddenly, for the first time, he's naming a group that you can't say you don't know. Only an ignoramus doesn't know the Ku Klux Klan, and it seems obvious that anyone with any pretense to the American mainstream would want to make sure the KKK name doesn't get stuck on him. Does Trump spring into self-protection mode? He keeps calm:
TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.
He's steadfast in his position that fairness demands more detail, and — to be more cynical — gives the subject a push to float it past Super Tuesday — after all the Southern voters — who knows their precise affiliations? — have cast their votes.
TAPPER: OK. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but...
Tapper strives for the sound bite... or maybe he's genuinely perplexed that Trump won't react in the self-protective mode that normally works in interviews like this. Trump has one more line before Tapper gives up and goes on to the cooler topic of who'd be Trump's veep.
TRUMP: I don't know any -- honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I have ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him. 
And that's how it peters out on camera. But the media have picked it up and are playing it for what it's worth today, the day before the big primaries. And for all I know, that's what Trump wants, the media virally spreading his message to disaffected white people: Unlike everyone else, Trump won't shun you.

ADDED: Scott Adams — who's devoted months to explaining Trump's genius — reacted very strongly to this interview and posted yesterday to say "I disavow Trump." Disavow, eh? Or does he condemn?

Later — I don't know quite when — he added 2 updates.

First, he said what he was doing was "getting out of the splatter zone." What's splattering is racism, and Adams wants Trump to deal with it on his own, not with the help of any more of Adams's explanations of how it's all genius.

Second, he kind of needed to disavow the disavowing:
In the 2D world of reason it makes no sense to disavow someone I never avowed in the first place for not disavowing someone else when in fact the person I disavowed did disavow that other person. 
Ha ha. But, see, Adams is beyond that, beyond the 2D world where it doesn't make sense. That's why there's something to disavow. Unsaid things are very real in his dimension — the dimension where Trump's speech operates and that Adams has seen and explained — and therefore must be unsaid. His explanations have created the feeling of an endorsement and he needs to break you of that feeling.

AND: Trump is blaming the "lousy earpiece." That may sound feeble, but let me tell you. When I was watching the show on my own yesterday, before any of this story went big, I was saying to Meade,  "I think there's something wrong with the earpiece," and: "You know they could really screw with him by messing up the sound." Here's what Trump is saying today:
"I'm sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was various groups, and I don't mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke and I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference, which is surprising because he was at the major news conference, CNN was at the major news conference, and they heard me very easily disavow David Duke.... Now, I go, and I sit down again, I have a lousy earpiece that is provided by them, and frankly, he talked about groups.... He also talked about groups. And I have no problem with disavowing groups, but I'd at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group, Matt, if the group shouldn't be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke.... Now, if you look on Facebook, right after that, I also disavowed David Duke. When we looked at it, and looked at the question, I disavowed David Duke. So I disavowed David Duke all weekend long, on Facebook, on Twitter and obviously, it’s never enough. Ridiculous."

The creepy spectacle of Hollywood actors laughing in their laughing-because-a-comedian-is-telling-jokes style while Chris Rock tells his you're-all-racists jokes.

Oh, they are actors! They're always acting, so sitting there in the fanciest costumes, playing stars at a gala event elevating and celebrating what their character believes is a very grand enterprise, they laughed on cue, presenting faces that seemed to understand what the joke was, but not to the point where they realize that the man on the stage — he's an actor too — is accusing them of participation in evil. Their character is a bit dumb and obtuse, or so earnest about making this gala night beautiful that she pretends not to know that this man is telling them all — in the nicest possible way, under the circumstances — that this enterprise of theirs is thoroughly infected with racism — not lynch-you-from-a-tree racism, not cross-burning-racism, but we'll-always-hold-you-at-arm's-length racism, "sorority" racism, we-like-you-but-you’re-not-a-Kappa racism.

They had to sit there. They'd gotten the role and they were lucky to have it. The evening was, perhaps, a success. Was it? The spectacle felt so awful to me, especially the faces of the actors laughing. What else could they do? Me, I was sitting at home, so I could just turn it off, which I did, after I found myself, one too many times, talking to the TV, saying things like "Look at them laughing as if these are just the usual jokes and the jokes aren't about them and telling them that they are disgusting" and "They're supposed to be demonstrating to us how wonderful they are, and Chris Rock is appropriating the event for something I don't need to watch. But what choice did he have?" and "If they're disgusting, they're disgusting, and why am I watching disgusting people chuckling inanely? This isn't the gala event it's supposed to be."

And now here's Rock saying "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited." He's calling out Hollywood for racism. How can that work if he doesn't take the higher ground? Here he is gratuitously bringing in the name of a woman, referring not to her as a person, but to her undergarments, for a laugh not about racism, but all of a sudden about sexual intercourse, as if tonight's not the night to concern ourselves with sexism. Rihanna is the human being who's name was chosen to fit that analogy. Why? The joke is written so we'll get it. Rihanna was chosen because we're expected to recognize her as the person Chris Rock would want to have sex with. It's as clear an example of making a woman a sex object as you're going to find. Not only do we get it — because we understand the woman to be sex — but she's not even a woman, she's her panties.

And this is a role given to Rihanna because she was black. As with so many other parts in Hollywood, the role goes to the black person because it's a role that's written for a black person. Rock chose not to complicate the joke with a racial crosscurrent a black man wanting sex with a white woman. A black woman was needed for this cameo appearance — used to insult another black woman (Jada Pinkett) — and that was it for her. 

February 28, 2016

"Jeff Sessions endorses Donald Trump in major blow to Ted Cruz."

The Washington Times gets the right headline for the Sessions endorsement story, in my view.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, who led the fight against the 2013 Senate immigration bill.... The endorsement is a major blow to Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been arguing on the campaign trail that he stood with Mr. Sessions in fighting the 2013 bill. But on Sunday, Mr. Sessions said he’s putting his faith in Mr. Trump to be the candidate to finally get the immigration system fixed and to nix bad trade agreements.
 ADDED: The Washington Post has a similar headline: "In major blow to Ted Cruz, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama endorses Donald Trump for GOP nomination."
The endorsement represents a major blow to Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), one of Trump's two chief rivals for the Republican nomination. Cruz has touted his strict positions on border security and deportation, leaning on his strident commitment to conservative ideology as a key rationale for his candidacy. In the run-up to the March 1 Super Tuesday primary elections, Cruz has tried to undermine Trump's conservative bona fides on immigration reform, characterizing his plan as “amnesty.”

A graphic depiction of the problem John Kasich has right now.

I'm watching the Sunday morning shows, and I thought John Kasich gave a great interview on "State of the Union with Jake Tapper." I jumped out of my comfy chair to come over here to the internet and get the video to post for you, got to the "State of the Union" page, and here's what I see:

(Click image to enlarge.) I scroll down a full screen, and it looks like this:

Oh, there. See? Down at the bottom? "Kasich: Trump 'probably going to win' all Super Tuesday states." Sigh. I'll just say, he made a good impression on me. And I thought it was interesting that he was rejecting the #NeverTrump hashtag — which Marco Rubio is using. The GOP candidates made a pledge to support whoever wins the nomination, and Kasich, directly asked, said he would keep the pledge, because he respects "the arena." In politics, the winner wins, and he means to win. But Rubio is getting pretty close to saying he will not keep his pledge. And I note that none of those clips up there refers to all the discussion of the pledge that I heard on the show, including some strong statements from Trump, hammering Rubio for threatening to break the pledge.

"Thanks to this provision there will be no more openings of establishments that sell food prepared in a way that could impact the decorum of our city."

"This protects not only our historic and architectural patrimony of the city centre, but also the tradition of typical culture of the Verona territory," said the mayor of Verona (the city in Italy), where — in the historic center — you're no longer permitted to open a restaurant that serves ethnic or deep-fried food.
Despite apparent growing demand for late-night kebabs, the city has been coordinating with the local diocese for years on a strict management plan to safeguard its Italian cultural values and traditions.

It is not alone. So-called “Unesco laws” are under consideration in a number of Italy’s top tourist destinations as local residents have become increasingly flustered by immigrant-run take-out eateries, service points and trinket shoppes they complain degrade their neighbourhoods.
Unesco? Verona is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

There's a debate about whether this should be thought of as historic preservation (and support of the tourist industry) or anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. Both templates fit.

"The president was wary. The secretary of state was persuasive. But the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi left Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven."

"This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Middle Eastern country. As she once again seeks the White House, campaigning in part on her experience as the nation’s chief diplomat, an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state. It is a working portrait rich with evidence of what kind of president she might be, and especially of her expansive approach to the signal foreign-policy conundrum of today: whether, when and how the United States should wield its military power in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.... The New York Times’s examination of the intervention offers a detailed accounting of how Mrs. Clinton’s deep belief in America’s power to do good in the world ran aground in a tribal country with no functioning government, rival factions and a staggering quantity of arms. The Times interviewed more than 50 American, Libyan and European officials, including many of the principal actors. Virtually all agreed to comment on the record. They expressed regret, frustration and in some cases bewilderment about what went wrong and what might have been done differently..."