Monday, February 29, 2016

Modern "Conservatism" at its Core: the Blinkered Punditry of Brooks and Douthat

New York Times columnists David Brooks and Ross Douthat are in a deep funk over the decline and fall of the Republican Party. They are finding novel ways of blaming liberals for the decline.

David Brooks
I'd feel sorry for David Brooks if he hadn't been a facile, limp rhetorician who relied on the cheapest tricks of sophistry to pound home his retrograde ideas for an ideology that has been leaking oil for the past couple of decades. What was fun and easy to portray during the age of Reagan has grown harder and harder to promote since the age of Bush the younger. No longer can Brooks say the name Edmund Burke and expect anyone to roll over and say, "Er, you've got a point. Who's Edmund Burke, by the way?"

If any of you have read David Brooks lately, you'd have already discovered he wishes he could get his Club for Gross member card back without losing his comfy post at the Times. Yet he soldiers on, working on the brink of lunacy, while, as usual, appearing above the fray, an observer not a decider. He laments, he pines, yet accomplishes nothing.

In his latest piece, he decries the state of politics:
Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.
Sorry, David, another bit of both-sides-do-it stretchology won't cut it. As Sean Illing puts it so well at Salon:
In this case, his entire column is about the Republican Party, and yet, thanks to a near-heroic effort, the word “Republican” never appears. He makes the rather obvious point that our politics is broken, and he describes in great detail why that is, but he can’t say what every reader is thinking: It’s the Republican Party!
I'd pity Brooks' tough spot if he'd just craft a let's-face-it confessional like Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann did back in 2012 with their WaPo piece entitled "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem." But Brooks can't manage it. Oh well.

Ross Douthat
But neither can his conservative colleague at the Times, Ross Douthat, who must have picked Brooks' crib notes out of the trash before he wrote his own responsibility dodge. Ever since he mercifully took over William Kristol's office at the NYTimes, we've been watching the young Catholic intellectual diligently pouring out mild bromides meant as much to elicit pity as clucks and tut-tuts.

Like Brooks, unfortunately, he's been dismayed at the lack of support from conservatives and Republicans. At least his team could make his life slightly easier to live by not going further and further into the Fun House at Six Flags Batshit Crazy Kingdom. What's a overly fatigued pundit to do?

In Ross's case, we knew. He builds a column denouncing the utter moral bankruptcy of his team, then blames it on Barack Obama:
What it hasn’t inspired is much in the way of self-examination, or a recognition of the way that Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon.
Such a recognition wouldn’t require letting the Republican Party off the hook. The Trump uprising is first and foremost a Republican and conservative problem: There would be no Trumpism if George W. Bush’s presidency hadn’t cratered, no Trumpism if the party hadn’t alternated between stoking and ignoring working-class grievances, no Trump as front-runner if the party leadership and his rivals had committed fully to stopping him before now.
But Trumpism is also a creature of the late Obama era, irrupting after eight years when a charismatic liberal president has dominated the cultural landscape and set the agenda for national debates. President Obama didn’t give us Trump in any kind of Machiavellian or deliberate fashion. But it isn’t an accident that this is the way the Obama era ends — with a reality TV demagogue leading a populist, nationalist revolt.
Two peas in pod. My sense of the whole thing is their rhetorical cowardice mirrors, however sickly, the bankruptcy of movement conservatism. When the answer to the question, "Whaddya got?" is, increasingly, "Nuttin'!" you know some serious shift in ideology ain't far behind. In this case, far-right demagoguery has risen to fill the empty space.

Standing in the wings uttering evasions gives us the Donald Trumps, the Ted Cruzes, and yes, the Marco Rubios, even the Mitch McConnells, and blaming it on liberalism is pretty piss-poor rhetoric. Look over there, Ma, a pony!

Sorry, I don't see a pony. I see a disaster named Donald Trump. And it's on you, guys, at least a thousand percent more than anything you imagine Barack Obama to have done.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Modern "Conservatism" at its Core: the Sociopathology of Antonin Scalia

Scalia's passing has inspired praise and condemnation, almost in equal measure. But let's not forget that his intellectuality was practiced well removed from the people whose lives he affected.

Justice Antonin Scalia hated science, which precluded his religious
fundamentalism, but loved history, which was easier to manipulate.

Full disclosure: I never liked one thing about Antonin Scalia, from the moment he was nominated to the day he died. I found him a nasty, uncaring, vicious bully, whose decisions painted a picture of a man who supported privilege and the power privilege affords. Everything else was meaningless to him, in spite of his ability to denigrate it with a razor-sharp wit. That wit was often a real dagger that damaged real lives. And frankly, he could give a shit. But he could give a shit with style!

I am, of course, not alone in this opinion. Most progressives see in Scalia their own version of the anti-Christ. Ironically, his fervent Catholicism gave him cover for his endless stream of misogyny, cruelty, and contempt for the underdog or the abandoned. Let them die on the ice floes of life was his unwavering position.

It's helpful to remember that he famously said that there was nothing unconstitutional about executing an innocent man. I get what you mean, Nino, you are absolutely correct in your reasoning even as it paints you as a horrid human being. Judges like you shouldn't be allowed near a bench.

OK. I'm not alone in these feelings. Bruce Hay, who once clerked for Scalia, has this to say in Salon:
His own weapon was the poison-barbed word, and the battleground was what he once labeled the Kulturkampf, the culture war. The enemy took many forms. Women’s rights. Racial justice. Economic equality. Environmental protection. The “homosexual agenda,” as he called it. Intellectuals and universities. The questioning of authority and privilege. Ambiguity. Foreignness. Social change. Climate research. The modern world, in all its beauty and complexity and fragility.
Most of all, the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs, not weaknesses to be extinguished. Who refuse to dehumanize people and treat them as pawns in some Manichean struggle of good versus evil, us versus them. Who decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn.
David Dayen in The Intercept shows another side of the man:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was worth billions of dollars to corporate America, if a Dow Chemical settlement made public Friday is any indication.
Dow was in the midst of appealing a $1.06 billion class-action antitrust ruling, after a jury found that it had conspired with other chemical companies to fix prices for urethane, a material used in furniture and appliances.
But because of Scalia’s death and the sudden unlikelihood of finding five votes on the Supreme Court to overturn the case, Dow decided to settle for $835 million, the bulk of the original award.
“Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation,” the company told Bloomberg News.
Imagine that. The Dow news release to Bloomberg essentially said, "Scalia died, so now we're fucked. Might as well settle." That's some pretty rare candor.

This article in the Wall St. Journal backs up Dayen's view in some detail:
The Supreme Court is considering several appeals on the scope of class-action litigation in its current 2015-16 term. The court docket otherwise isn’t particularly business-heavy.
Deepak Gupta, a plaintiffs’ attorney who specializes in Supreme Court and appellate litigation, said he didn’t expect Dow to be the only company with pending class-action litigation to reverse course, predicting a ripple effect on cases that span consumer complaints to securities lawsuits.
“You can think of this as the canary in the coal mine,” Mr. Gupta, said, “the first casualty on the business side.”
Justice Scalia was a crucial fifth vote on the court, and he wrote the controlling opinions in previous cases that tightened the standards for certifying a class, allowing such cases to proceed.
There it is, spelled out in the paper of record for Wall St. Without Scalia, class action suits won't be curtailed. Class action suits were a major way to get a case with enough heft to achieve some extent of justice for victims of corporate abuse. I can't go up against VW, for example, but 320,000 mes can. (I'm actually one of the victims of VW's pollution scandal, one of 450,000 in the U.S., 320,000 of which share my model type.)

The Business Court of John Roberts is fraying around the edges. No one should applaud another's death. After all, Anotonin Scalia was no Pol Pot. Nonetheless, for many, Scalia's uncompromisingly brutal jurisprudence will not be missed.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Yes, Mr. President, Nominate Elizabeth Warren for SCOTUS!

Someone was going to come up with this, it might as well be Dahlia Lithwick.

Eminently qualified, exceptionally well-suited, therefore, no chance whatsoever.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate nails it:
There are a few lessons to be drawn from the Sandoval trial balloon: First, there is no point in Obama picking a conservative or even a so-called “consensus” candidate. Obama pretty clearly couldn’t get a vote if he nominated Eugene Scalia, the former justice’s son—this is the hill Mitch McConnell has chosen to die on. This issue will either remain in the forefront of the national conversation about the 2016 elections, or it will fade away. It’s in Obama’s and the Democrats’ interest to ensure that this unprecedented and wholly unprincipled obstruction remain an election issue every single day.
So right, Dahlia, so let's stir up the ultimate hornet's nest. And as you pointed out, the White House completely trolled the GOP with Sandoval. Please, please, Mr. President, nominate Elizabeth Warren. Go out in style! (and help your party, too.)

"Help Us, Obi-Wan Rubio, You're Our Only Hope."

The establishment GOP is in panic mode, finally, to take down Donald Trump. So much for the establishment.

Rubio's not much of a Jedi master, if you ask me. Trump, however,
does make a pretty good Darth Vader.

About the only good news for the Republican establishment this week is the demise of Ted Cruz's presidential hopes. He may twitch for a few more votes, but stick a fork in him. All that remains for Cruz is to spoil Rubio's chances.

Which leaves only the intrepid Marco Rubio to fight Donald Trump to the last ditch, a job -- however insufficient he is for it -- that the GOP elites have drafted him for. It remains to be seen what shape this final desperate assault will take.

Howard Fineman points out that there's poison in Trump's business life, and the GOP, as well as the heretofore enabling media, may finally pour him a cupful. Too late?

Jeff Greenfield writes in Politico the elites are readying a nuclear option to blunt Trump. (Spoiler: Everybody gang up and say how bad Trump would be. Not necessarily nuclear, but maybe it's all they have.)

Another Political article points out that money is flowing, mostly to Rubio, for a last-ditch establishment effort to derail Trump.

At the Washington Post, its heavyweight political writers pen a war report about the future of the GOP. Again, Rubio's the last non-Trump man standing. Some future yer party's got there, pardner.

Not to be outdone, the NYTimes draws a portrait of early opportunities to take on Trump that are now morphing into the desperation that nearly all of the party establishment are succumbing to.

Late last fall, the strategists Alex Castellanos and Gail Gitcho, both presidential campaign veterans, reached out to dozens of the party’s leading donors, including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, with a plan to create a “super PAC” that would take down Mr. Trump. In a confidential memo, the strategists laid out the mission of a group they called “ProtectUS.”
“We want voters to imagine Donald Trump in the Big Chair in the Oval Office, with responsibilities for worldwide confrontation at his fingertips,” they wrote in the previously unreported memo. Mr. Castellanos even produced ads portraying Mr. Trump as unfit for the presidency, according to people who saw them and who, along with many of those interviewed, insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The two strategists, who declined to comment, proposed to attack Mr. Trump in New Hampshire over his business failures and past liberal positions, and emphasized the extreme urgency of their project. A Trump nomination would not only cause Republicans to lose the presidency, they wrote, “but we also lose the Senate, competitive gubernatorial elections and moderate House Republicans.
No major donors committed to the project, and it was abandoned. No other sustained Stop Trump effort sprang up in its place.
What a woeful tale. As someone who thought George W. Bush couldn't win the presidency -- he didn't -- it's hard for me to look at Donald Trump, given all the new-voter support he may be attracting, and say he's destroying the Republican Party and never could win in the general election, regardless of what the ineffectual party elites seem to believe.

For the umpteenth time, holy shit.

The Republican Party: Bullies R Us?

"Best frenemies" Donald Trump and Chris Christie tag-teamed Marco Rubio yesterday, and, yes, it was as fake-brutal, ugly, and silly as a WWE wrestling match. Not a good look for American leadership.

Hey, Donald, I'll kick Marco's ass for the attorney generalship. Whaddya say?

The Republican presidential-nomination farce has turned from awful to hideous, a transmogrification no one could have predicted, that is if no one had been paying attention to how bizarre the primary season has been so far. Then again, who could have predicted that the Republican core voters would transform themselves into -- guess what? -- the angry, white, xenophobic, racist, poorly-educated, good old boys they've always been, at least since the Dixiecrats released the former Confederacy from its contract.

Funny thing is, that previous sentence is not hyperbole. Oh, and did I mention they're really, really religious?

On stage at the CNN GOP debate last Thursday, the three leading candidates put on a show that was half World Wrestling and half Monster Truck show, with a good amount of Three Stooges added to the mix.

Gone is serious policy discussion, and in its place the front-runners have scripted their own Mean Girls sequel. The weird deal here is that, in a 24-hour period -- also known as a "news cycle" -- the mean girls ("Rubio puts his makeup on weird." "No, Trump puts his makeup on weird!") went from slapping each other upside the head to ganging up on Marco. I'm left questioning if Rubio will have a career after this middle-school mud-fest, but that's another story.

This one, the bromance that Jersey built, was strung up and flayed by the NYTimes' editorial board, but good:
The bombastic governor may not fully realize that while he damaged Mr. Rubio in New Hampshire with his attack, it also showed voters who Mr. Christie really is. He may help his new best frenemy forever take Mr. Rubio down, but it’s near certain that Mr. Christie will further cement his national reputation as a venal, vindictive political bully in the process. His endorsement has already demonstrated that Mr. Christie will say anything in service of his ambition. Asked what he hopes to get in return, Mr. Christie played coy, saying that after his term ends in 2018, he wants to “go into private life and make money like Trump.”
After his performance on Friday, Mr. Christie had better hope that Mr. Trump, wherever he winds up, can find a little something for his new apprentice to do. If Mr. Trump should win the presidency, he might want to consider Mr. Christie for transportation secretary, since he already knows so much about traffic patterns on commuter bridges.
Here the Times was actually being kind to these jokers, which leaves us to ask: Who are the voters these assholes think they're courting? Oh, I get it.

The party of Lincoln? Holy shit.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fear Is the Republican Watch Word, and It's Making Them Do Wacky Things. Here's Why.

One wacky thing is backing Donald Trump. Another is violating the Constitution by denying Obama his right to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Republicans do this at their peril.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is classic Obama: one for the Latinos
and one for women. White men are not amused.

The presence of Sonia Sotomayor on the highest court in the land is but one example of changes wrought by having a minority-centric president. Yes, he's black, but Barack Obama found distinct avenues to chip away at white-man privilege. Republicans (read white men) have gone into spasms of many sorts ever since.

Mitch McConnell's M.O. has been one long spasm, which he's plainly publicized all along the way, and that's to deny, deny, deny, a strategy he appears to be all in with regarding the Supreme Court. Republicans cheer his refusal to do his constitutional duty while ignoring the possible costs:
As I said, partisans on both sides are immovable on this. And loosely affiliated or swing voters, by definition, aren't terribly knowledgeable or concerned about the differences over judicial philosophy which undergird this fight. But these voters are extremely focused on gridlock, doing your job or not doing your job, people who refuse to do their job or just do what makes sense for seemingly arbitrary reasons. What is more, there's no ideological commitment required in this case. The issue is readily understandable. This is your job. Do your job. Especially if you're asking to be hired again!
It comes down to simple math: Republicans are defending 23 senators this cycle, many in blue or purple states; Democrats are defending 10. The last time this happened to the Dems, they lost the Senate (actually it took two unfavorable cycles, but the cause and effect are the same.) This is why some Republican senatorial candidates may peel off and agree to meet with potential Supreme Court nominees. They'll do it to keep their jobs.

Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal has much more:
As Josh Marshall says about the latest example of refusing to hold hearings on the President’s Supreme Court nominee, it is “a culmination of Republican efforts not simply to block Obama’s policies but to delegitimize, degrade and denigrate his presidency and the man himself.” That was essentially my reaction when I first heard of their plans. The evidence flies in the face of Republicans and pundits who attempt to turn this whole approach on its head and claim that it is the President who is being divisive.
Even for those who deny the inherent racism involved in attempting to delegitimize this country’s first African American president, it is obvious that - while there is nothing illegal in what Republicans are doing - it is dangerous to the very underpinnings of our democracy. When the people have spoken and elected someone to lead this country - but they are thwarted in carrying out their Constitutional duties to do so by attempts from the opposing Party to undermine them - it is not merely an affront to that leader. It is a challenge to all of us who participated in that electoral process. And it eats away at our confidence is doing so going forward. It is also a recipe for chaos.
To fully understand what's at stake here and why the Republicans would depart so completely from both civility and protocol -- other than the simple fact that a black man in the White House has racist white America literally up in arms -- read this Mark Joseph Stern piece in Slate about post-Scalia oral arguments involving a Supreme Court case that could determine the fate of the exclusionary rule, at which conservative justices have been chipping away for years. Their success at further chipping may have stopped with Scalia's death. 

The math of this case is white privilege minus Scalia on the bench divided by Ferguson times thousands of towns across the county like Feguson times Sotomayor and Kagan equals black live matter, and it appears there's nothing Alito and Roberts can do about it this time.

So the beat goes on in this silly season. And I didn't even get to Donald Trump. Next time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: Trump Isn't a Republican.

Face it, who the hell knows what Trump is. Trump is Trump. He'll run like a conservative, but if elected he'd govern like, uh, who knows?

Not a good look, but, face it, who cares?

I have no great insight to add here, other than, holy shit, we might have to get used to this dude. I could call him a joke, a bombast, a screwball, a narcissist, a clown, and so on, but he's still The Donald and is currently the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination. Yikes! Here's hoping a Democrat can tame him in the general.

But here's something that doesn't seem to worry the Republican base: There's no evidence that Trump is or ever has been a Republican. In the past, he's come off as pragmatist, get it done, make a deal, sweeten the pot, take your slice, and move on sort of human being, narcissism aside.

Abortion? I dunno, some people need abortion, okay? Contraception? For sure. Death penalty? Guy had it comin'. Religion? Yeah, I go to church sometimes and get my little wafer. Taxes? Someone's got to pay, I mean, we need government, services, cops, whatever. Yeah, and defense. Medicare? It's good, right? Social Security? I won't need it, but, hell, poor people do, so, what the hell? Iraq? Maybe, but, boy, did Bush screw that up. And I'm pretty sure he lied, I mean everybody thought so, right? Gays? I'm not gay, so whatever. People are people. Get over it. I liked Truman Capote, what a nut, and he was gay, so...

This is where he was coming from, flying around in his jets, and buying and selling and going corporate-bankrupt from time to time. And he was dealing, whether or not he was actually good at it.

I'm pretty sure he means it about Mexicans and Muslims, though.

Still, he just isn't a Republican. You got a problem with that? I don't, but I'm a little surprised that Republicans apparently don't.

Nothing more to add except to point to Digby's astute Salon piece:
Over and over again, when asked to explain what they like about him, Trump supporters exclaim, “He knows what I’m thinking!” And what these people are thinking is that he’s making it safe for them to be “politically incorrect” again, giving sanction to publicly express their resentment toward people who don’t look and act like them. There are certainly reasons why these voters feel that way, but they are not due to populist anger toward the 1 percent. After all, the man they are cheering on with such enthusiasm is a man who spends half his time on the stump bragging about his vast wealth and explaining that it’s perfectly normal for businessmen like himself to bribe and cajole politicians to do his bidding. He’s never promised to change that system, not once. And his fans have never once asked him to.
 Repeat after me: President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bernie Supporters Go Off on Paul Krugman the Messenger

Over the last few weeks, Paul Krugman has questioned Sanders' fuzzy math. How dare he? Why, he's just an economist!

While worrying about truthiness, Krugman didn't see the wild,
unabating anger coming from the left. He does now.

I'm both a follower and a fan of Paul Krugman, having read him from his Slate days in the late 90s right up to every blog post on his "Conscience of a Liberal" blog at the New York Times. I check his writings daily because they amount to a running critique of modern macroeconomics put through the grinder of modern political life. Man, can politics take economics and make some pretty nasty sausage.

His readers should by now be painfully aware that he decided to take on the numbers in Bernie Sanders' policy positions and found some pretty suspect figures. Just talking about these discrepancies has unleashed the hounds of those who feel the Bern on poor Krugman.

The fact that it appears he's right about this -- I don't see any holes in his observations, and I favor Sanders' policies over Clinton's -- has little or no effect on Sanders' hordes (and they have been so vitriolic in the comment threads that they indeed deserve to be called "hordes"). "Hillary Shill" is not the worst accusation they toss as him, though, in their eyes, that term is intended to bite.

Here's Krugman's view in a nutshell: Bernie Sanders is not quite open enough about how his numbers don't add up -- his Medicare for all is more costly and harmful to a segment of the middle class than Sanders cares to admit -- and an economist the Sanders campaign relies on, Gerald Feldstein, has tossed out some pretty crazy numbers (average 5.3% GDP growth over a decade) that neither the candidate nor his campaign has disavowed.

For Krugman, that's tantamount to "progressive voodoo," something Krugman has been routinely lauded for by his followers over the years when he hangs that term on conservatives. "Reality has a distinct liberal bias" has been a rallying cause. The left simply is stronger because they don't have the record of voodoo economics, zombie lies, and absurd claims that litter the trail conservatives have traveled. It's the left's superpower, so to speak. It's called The Truth, full stop.
Paul Krugman is now accusing Bernie Sanders of “deep voodoo” economics.That’s a particularly damning insult among liberals, who pride themselves on being on the side of reason, evidence, and general wonkishness. Krugman’s dis came on the heels of an open letter released today by four big-wig liberal economists—all of whom either served in the Obama or Clinton administrations—claiming that “no credible economic research” shows that Sanders’s spending-heavy economic plan will result in the huge gains outlined in a paper endorsed by his policy director.
The paper, conducted by economist Gerald Friedman, predicts GDP growth of over 5 percent and an unemployment rate of under 4 percent in a Sanders administration. As Krugman notes, liberals have laughed at Jeb Bush for claiming he could produce 4 percent growth.
One of the signatories of the letter, Austan Goolsbee, has also taken Sanders to task for claiming that revenue under his single-payer health plan would match the projected addition, by critics’ estimates, of some $2 trillion to $3 trillion to the deficit every year. He told the Times that Sanders’s “puppies and rainbows” agenda had “evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.” Other doubters include the respected economist (and blogger) Jared Bernstein, who said Friedman’s paper contains a lot of “wishful thinking.”
Stephen Colbert, I believe, was not just tossing out a funny-bone line when he coined the term "truthiness" a decade ago. He looked at the theory of confirmation bias and conservative practices of message framing and came up with a witty, hilarious term of art that is a deadly sharp stiletto into the heart of the conservative penchant for putting lipstick on horseshit decade after decade.

So I stand with Paul Krugman on this, not as a critique of Sanders the candidate but as a demand that all on the left have a responsibility to avoid progressive voodoo precisely because we lose one of our most valuable tools in the progressive toolbox by giving conservatives a place to hide.

The landscape favors progressives when they're consistently -- and measurably -- more honest than those on the center-right, right, and far-right. Krugman wants to retain that advantage.

The Bernie Hordes only hear the critique of their messiah, their leader of the political revolution that, yes, America needs but for heaven's sake cannot possibly pull off in 2016. Berkeley econ professor and Krugman bro Brad DeLong seems to agree with his notion of pragmatism over ideology, though them's fightin' words to those who back Sanders' call for revolution now.

Sanders' followers counter that "you refuse to recognize that we, too, are mad as hell and ready for a revolution that Hillary will never deliver to us, so you're a Hillary shill and, worse, you've become one of the VSP's that you've been scoffing at for years. Paul, you poopin' poophead!"

All Krugman asks is that Bernie and his followers live up to the simple creed that our power is in the very persuasiveness that truth provides us. Truthiness is for the Limbaughs, Kasichs, O'Reillys, Ludlows, Cavutos, Rubios, Cruz's, and the Trumps. We're better than that. All Krugman wants if for the numbers to add up, and right now they don't. When they do, Paul Krugman will say, "There. That's better. That's all I wanted. Good for you."

He still doesn't think Sanders can pull off the revolution this particular year or anytime soon, and, yes, Krugman is, then, more of an incrementalist like Clinton, but that's for another day.

Oh, and please don't yell at me.

Update. Clinton is coasting to a four-point victory in Nevada. Not huge, but a small rebuke to Bernie-mentum.

Will Apostate Donald Trump Capture the "Mad as Hell" Vote?

Donald Trump called out Republicans -- mostly George W. Bush -- for political crimes that have hurt Republicans. Will the truth set him free or wreck his chances?

Trump "went there" on the Iraq War. Game changer or big mistake?

Donald Trump has so far profited by the sustained rage of his supporters. Trump, then, needs to help sustain that rage, which is why he has a propensity for the outlandish claim. The Donald can "go there" precisely because much of the GOP base is angry at the GOP itself, for letting them down repeatedly. So, properly harnessed rage at George W. Bush's failures lets the genie out of the bottle: "I voted for George W. Bush twice and all I got was this $9.50 an hour job at a Walmart distribution center!" End of abortion? No. Traditional marriage? Nah. A single victory in our wars? Not so much.

We'll know whether Trump has successfully continued to channel his followers' anger and resentment when the polls close in South Carolina tonight. The Week's Damon Linker believes a Trump victory has a good chance of blowing the Republican Party apart:
Within the party's establishment, the unwillingness ever to concede an error, rethink a policy commitment, or adjust an item on the agenda feels like a show of strength, tenacity, and resolution that will always be rewarded by voters who supposedly crave flamboyant displays of toughness. But from the outside, it can look like blind obstinance, rank stupidity, a cowardly denial of reality, and an unwillingness to shoulder a rightful share of the blame.
Which brings us back to Trump.
What voters hear when he rails against the stupidity of the country's political leadership, the incompetence of George W. Bush, and what he likes to call the complete disaster of American policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East is a man willing both to face the ugly truth that they themselves perceive and to call out those who refuse to acknowledge it. If he gets a little carried away in countenancing some unsavory conspiracy theories, that's a forgivable offense. Certainly more forgivable than Republicans failing to take even the least bit of responsibility for what they've done, and failed to do, while holding positions of power.
Linker's hypothesis is that if Trump wins it signals the GOP elite that the game's up, so they join the game or hunker down behind Bush or Kasich -- or worse, keep pretending that Rubio is mainstream -- while hoping its own base will realize that, with Trump or Cruz, this way goes madness.

But the "mad as hell" base listens to the madness droning in their heads and hears the Pied Piper of their dreams, someone willing to stand up and say enough is enough.

"Wow, just wow," says the establishment, just before saying, "Trump's not so bad." Yikes.

We're still standing around saying, "How is this guy even in it?" Thank Trump.

Friday, February 19, 2016

GOP Senator's Profile in Courage with Scalia Replacement

As GOPers started to stray on SCOTUS, pressure groups took over. Now they're walking back like sheep.

Lisa Murkowski is walking back, running scared, spouting nonsense.

This is embarrassing, one would think, for the senator, who first said a SCOTUS nominee should get a hearing:

We're not in the middle of an election, there is no tradition and therefore no precedent. In fact, the opposite is true.

(h/t Daily Kos)

Feds to Apple: Give Us a Key That You Don't Have to a Box That May Be Empty.

Also, while you're at it, break your own best product. Oh, and the whole world is watching.

Apple's Tim Cook: Never cared for him or his products,
but the feds may turn him into a hero.

Of course this is not about me, but mentioning my distaste for Apple -- which runs back so far that I almost forget why I don't like Apple, oh yeah, it's the elitism -- is necessary only to show I don't have a dog in this fight, a pony in this race, or a unicorn in this fantasy. I don't care what happens to Apple. They're a tech company, not a religious movement. Well, maybe they are, but...

And yet, I'm forced to side with Apple in this case. The feds want Apple to break into one of their phones that they made impossible to break into. (Of course it isn't impossible and they know how to do it, but that's oddly beside the point.) And as I said, it's akin to asking Apple to give the FBI a key they don't have to a box that may be empty.

It's my feeling that Apple won't do it unless, of course, Congress passes a law that says do it or go to jail. A judge could also send Tim Cook to jail for contempt of court, but I suspect we're pretty far away from that, though I imagine Cook would take a stand and go to jail.

Why? It's because what the feds are really doing, specific to Apple, is saying break your product, just break it. While you're at it, make your customers worldwide no longer trust your product, or even worse, make a whole host of countries realize that they can break iPhones by ordering Cook to do it or no selly-selly your products.

Meanwhile, the terrorists have not only won but most likely will have moved on.

Many tech companies are lining up behind Apple, as they should. This is a genie that should not be allowed out of the bottle. Governments can't order companies to design products so that user privacy can be violated, not to mention to allow them to be surveiled. Governments can order such things, but is that a world Americans want to live in? Also, could this "break" the Internet, a place where we want to be safe and secure as we do our business? Don't we want more encryption, not less?

An irony that shouldn't be ignored is that conservatives, who should be against regulations that impose anti-constitutional loss of freedoms, will most likely be shouting the loudest for new laws that allow this kind of violation of personal security for the sake of national security. Weird, huh?

Here's a good look by Fortune into the issue. Here's a link to good blog post on the issue, contained in the Fortune article.

Repubican SCOTUS Obstructionism, Take Two: Who Says They'll Lose?

No way acting like a bunch of middle-schoolers will impress Americans. Er, who says?

Antonin Scalia: still making trouble.'s Andrew O'Hehir isn't sure GOP stonewalling will cost them:
It’s no secret that the current Republican leadership in Congress is essentially held hostage by the most extreme elements of its base. We have all forgotten about John Boehner, for understandable reasons, but please remember that the duly elected speaker of the House was forced to quit for being not enough of a do-nothing obstructionist. For any elected Republican to offer a fair hearing to any Obama nominee at any level of government is tantamount to treason; half the Republican electorate apparently believes that Obama is not a United States citizen and not the lawful president in the first place. What proportion of them believes that Obama had Scalia murdered in order to ban all guns, open the borders and institute Sharia law remains unclear. (“I’m hearing it’s a big topic,” says Donald Trump, fueling a new bump in the polls.) And here we are, facing a Supreme Court vacancy after the death of the most conservative justice in recent history — or ever, quite likely — under the aforementioned lame-duck Islamo-Democratic so-called president.
Whether the Republicans can successfully run out the clock on the Obama administration without paying a devastating political price remains to be seen. It’s a massive gamble, a game of Russian roulette played with four or five bullets in a six-shooter. But their vow to do so is the logical fulfillment of their party’s long-term commitment to paralysis as politics, and it comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody in Washington. If that tactic poses unknowable hazards for the GOP in general and its presidential nominee in particular, that’s not because it is qualitatively different from what they’ve been doing for years. It’s only because it thrusts the nihilistic strategy of the right-wing conserva-trolls who have eaten the Republican Party’s soul into the public’s face in blatant and unavoidable fashion.
A long-term commitment to paralysis as politics. What a concept.

Republicans Will Never Allow a Vote on an Obama SCOTUS Nomination

Greg Sargent nails it: An Obama nominee can never introduce themselves. People might like them.

Mitch McConnell is at least consistent: nothing for you, Obama.

Greg Sargent of WaPo's Plum Line sees it correctly:
Perfect: If the American people get real exposure to Obama’s nominee, it might make it harder for us to vote No, so better not to allow any exposure at all! Now, as I noted yesterday, Republicans are under no obligation to consider and vote on Obama’s nominee. This is a political fight that will turn on perceived norms. The only way Democrats can force Republicans to cave here is by successfully portraying the GOP refusal to consider any nominee as so deeply unreasonable and dysfunctional that Republicans decide they’re sustaining too much damage among swing voters to continue holding out.
Sargent then points out that Americans are evenly split on this, so it's hard to imagine Republicans -- who've been warned they face outside groups who will go so far as to primary them if they waver -- will give in, even as support collapses around them.

Republicans have no choice but to gamble that they can gut it out. Obama will have to create his own SCOTUS dog-and-pony show. Stay tuned.

Final thought: The Republicans have done something like this before. Newt Gingrich shut down the government in a cage fight with Bill Clinton, not once but twice. Newt ended up with more than egg on his face. Similar things have happened during Obama's tenure. Again, those didn't work out, unless raising Ted Cruz's profile enough to convince him to run for president works for you. Anyway, Republicans are fully capable of misjudging the body politic, and they may be doing it again this time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Fox News Effect: Wagging the Dog or the Other Way Around?

It's been part of my creed that Fox News is having a deleterious effect on our national conversations. But is it, instead, a depository of broken dreams?

This guy opens his yap, and bullshit comes out. But should we care?

I just may be wrong about this. My assumption has always been that Rush Limbaugh and the rest of conservative talk radio, along with Fox News and Fox Business News, have poisoned the minds of our body politic, damaging what used to be a reasonably civil dialogue and turning our political life into an endless fetid swamp.

I have no research or links to send you to, but at least I want to draw a line here against my own possibly false assumptions. What's brought this on has been my growing realization that what was "wrong" with our country has been wrong for a long, long time. It's only coming out from the shadows into the light of national exposure.

Here's a picture, gruesome as it is, that gets to the heart of what I mean:

This was once considered a great Friday night. What's changed?

Obviously Fox News didn't have an effect on lynching. It wasn't around then. But the sensibilities that led to lynching back in the day -- not that long ago -- are alive and well in much of the country today.

Realizing that has spun my head around. Rush Limbaugh didn't invent hate, he's merely channeling it, as is Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity. I'm beginning to think that Fox and conservative radio draw viewers and listeners into their sphere not by creating new right-wing reactionaries but by giving the same old bastards a new place to hang.

As shocking as it seems that there are so many reactionaries that Fox News is easily the highest rated cable news outfit on the air, the reason for this is that once they had a place to call home, they flocked there. Yes, there were always this many white people who resented "the other," whether black, Latino, or poor, white trash. Now they just have a cozy place to flop.

We spotted this crowd at the end of George W. Bush's presidency: They were the 28% that still had a favorable view of him.

There are a number of systemic reasons that today's brand of Republicanism appears, especially during midterm elections, to be on the ascendancy, but it doesn't mean they're on the rise. They're just standing around and shouting at the same place and time.

They used to be called lynchings. Now we call them Trump rallies. And if you think I'm being unfair to Donald Trump, you haven't looked at his audiences.

Just about says it all.

Not a nice thing to say, but where am I wrong?

A final point: I'm not sure that this is a forever thing. I don't believe that a "Whites Only, No Colored" party can keep its grip on power, especially because its message to minorities is pretty much fuck you. And it's message to women is we control your bodies, you don't. Not a forever winning hand. At some point shit stops working. I can't wait.

Pope Says Trump "Not Christian." Which GOP Candidate Is?!?

Pope Francis looks at Trump's immigration ideas and spots someone who never asked "What would Jesus do?" All the GOP candidates stand for things Jesus would have a hard time with.

Francis is right about Trump. But he doesn't ask himself "Who would Jesus molest?"

Yes, I have issues with the pope because -- among other things -- he's faking it on church concerns about pedophilia. So I call him the world's nicest asshole. He deserves it.

But on the Trump issue, he's right. But I'd go further (or wish that he would). Which GOP candidate qualifies as a true Christian despite all their declarations? Not a one of them stands up against the use of torture, and all of them either call for its outright use or refuse to rule it out.

Bush is better on the immigration thing, and Kasich hems and haws and hopes people take from that that he's not a fully committed asshole.

OK. Kasich is in favor of torture. You're in or you're out. No "sorta torture just in case."

Jeb Bush?

Now, the media, ever ready to not take a stand, would say both Kasich's and Bush's views on torture are "nuanced." They're not nuanced. They'd torture. Fuckers.

So, fine about the pope. None of them are Christians. Who would Jesus torture? Who would Jesus deport? Who would Jesus execute? Who would Jesus haul his AR-15 out and blow away? Who would Jesus deny healthcare to? Whose food stamps would Jesus cut?

The list is endless. Regardless of the pope, I ask,"What kind of country would you want to live in?" Go see Michael Moore's new flick. Afterwards, one thing you should have noticed: It's not a political film. If you think it is, you're, er, not Christian, that's for sure, though you don't have to be a Christian to want what Moore wants for us. I don't mind saying it's what I want for us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Antonin Scalia Was the Opposite of Empathy

Justice Scalia once said that there was nothing unconstitutional about an innocent man being executed. I get what he means, but I also get that he didn't have an empathetic bone in his body. RIP.

So you're innocent. Big whoop.

Yes, Barack Obama uttered the E-word -- empathy -- to much derision as he nominated Elena Kagan, so much so that Ms. Kagan disavowed it. Fine, but according to Dahlia Lithwick of Slate -- my favorite judicial commentator -- empathy remains one of three traits that shape Barack Obama's notion of what a good judge needs.
Filter each of these three qualities through your Build an Obama Jurist Machine, and it seems to me that the end product is quite easily identifiable: Each of these impulses argues for a nominee who looks and sounds a lot like, well, Obama. In other words, I suspect if Obama were to construct his platonic Scalia replacement it would be a Justice Obama—an idea floated just last month by Hillary Clinton. Obama has now proven twice with his Supreme Court picks—and many times with his lower court nominations—that empathy, restraint, and the ability to reach across the ideological aisle matter a lot to him. I would hazard that he’d pick someone temperate and restrained; and, this time around, utterly unconfirmable nevertheless.
Yes, Obama would nominate himself if he could or if he actually wanted the job. What comes out of Lithwick's analysis is that giving a shit about the underdog is a distant notion, quite different from establishing who, in a plutocrat's eyes, should really be in charge of this country, or this country's citizens. For, beyond empathy, restraint, and the ability to reach across the aisle is a very simple idea: To protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we need someone other than a bully. We need someone who cares, automatically.

That doesn't mean handing a gun to a person who wants to commit suicide or offering heroin to a junkie, but it doesn't mean handing an empty bowl to a starving man, either.

SCOTUS Battle a Boon to Hillary?

Anything the Republicans do to remind the public that getting work done is not in their wheelhouse is bad for them, but to flaunt the Constitution -- their supposed political Bible -- could be disastrous.

Put Hillary in charge. She'll stand up to the GOP bad boys.

It's quickly becoming apparent that early Republican bluster about shutting out Barack Obama from his duty to replace Antonin Scalia on the bench might have been both premature and costly. Now Amanda Marcotte -- and others -- are positing that this whole mess accrues to the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
The fact that Sanders is promising a bunch of stuff he probably could never deliver hasn’t hurt him too much, because presidential campaigns are often unmoored from the nitty-gritty concerns of everyday governance and conducted largely in the realm of the symbolic and aspirational. But with headlines about the campaign competing with headlines about the congressional fight over this nomination, it will become impossible to keep discussion about how you get things done in D.C. at bay. Clinton will be able to use this as a way to illustrate that getting things done really is a lot harder than simply wanting it badly enough.
The Republicans have been caught up in a death spiral for a long time, where appeasing the base is unavoidable but makes them even more unpopular with the general public. This is just more of the same. The smart political move would be to let Obama have his judge and live to fight another day. But since that will be framed as capitulation by the conservative press, the Republicans will have to take this on, dismantling what is left of their reputation in the eyes of the general public. If you’re working for the DNC right now, I’d make sure the fridge is well-stocked with champagne.
It's hard to argue with that. There's a long way to go and plenty of gamesmanship and brinkmanship to go around before November. But as with any abuse -- or disuse -- of power, there are consequences. And, for now, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats look to be in the catbird seat.

History -- and the Constitution -- Says the Senate Should Confirm an Obama Court Nominee

History holds many clues to which way the Senate should move. Good luck expecting dignified and constitutional behavior from our current crop of Republican leaders.

Mitch McConnell: Republican deer in the constitutional headlights?

Most observers say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his yap a bit too fast last Saturday when he made it clear he would not cooperate -- as is his constitutional duty -- with President Obama and his own duty to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died overnight. Within minutes, practically, a whole host of Republican leaders and all GOP candidates for the presidency chimed in: no Supreme Court appointment this year.

Republicans reached for historical precedent and botched the facts. It turns out that there is ample precedent for appointing and confirming court justices in a presidential election year.

It's not surprising that the GOP would mishandle the optics. What drives this is not reason but an unhealthy fear of the reactionary GOP base. Then reality set in, offering little hope that there was a way to finesse this unexpected election-year challenge. It seems clear, however, that the wiser move would have been to breathe, think, then open mouth.

A conciliatory approach toward Obama would have been smart: Offer to work with him to choose a moderate acceptable to both sides. An earlier Obama would have jumped at this, but even today's Obama remains disposed to compromise. But to begin the process with fighting words such as "no way, no how" leaves the Democrats in the driver's seat. Oops.

Now strategists on both sides are wracking their brains for the next best chess move. Opinion leaders on both sides are coming up with scenarios. Barack Obama has some pretty interesting choices he could make. Should he offer up that moderate that would be hard for the Republicans to justify outright rejection? Or should he go for the jugular with a clearly liberal pick whose rejection would fire up the largest multitude of the Democratic base?

If Republicans wise up, walk back their original enthusiasm for obstruction, there's a chance Obama will meet them half-way. After all, he's predisposed to such a "bargain." But if Republicans -- perhaps driven by the rabid-dog candidates currently on the stump -- fail to give way, or at least appear to, then don't be surprised when the president goes hardball. He's a nice guy, but no chump.

This could get interesting.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Krugman Weighs in on Black Holes

Paul Krugman is out of his depth commenting on physics because as an economist he's not a scientist (just joking, that's a lame criticism). I think he weighs this just right.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Republicans Angry? Uh, Yeah, at Themselves.

Republicans believe in their hearts that the U.S. is going to Hell. Yeah, and it's the Republican Party that is taking us there.

Headed to work: Dude, if you're making less, uh, blame the GOP.

 It's one of the great ironies that I took quite a number of roads-not-taken and ended up with a decent retirement and, fortunately so far, good health in which to enjoy it. Yeah, and thanks to a good union with good retirement benefits, solid health insurance to help maintain it.

I believe that I eked by. Being a relatively early Baby Boomer, I reached the end of my career before my ability to make a living began to bottom out. I see so many in the ranks of Gen X, Gen Y, and the Millennials that are up against it, with little chance it will get better anytime soon.

And, folks, you've got the GOP to blame for it. Surprisingly, quite a few of you don't get that.
As polling has shown consistently, Donald Trump tends to do better among voters with lower incomes than he does among those with higher incomes. This is true of education as well: In the New Hampshire primary, Trump won 23 percent of the votes of those with a post-graduate degree, but 46 percent of those with only a high school degree or less. He's the closest thing the GOP has found to a candidate of the common man in a long time. But that's not necessarily a good thing for the Republican Party.
GOP candidates have long had trouble with the perception that they represent "the rich man's party." It's easy to make a case that a corporate raider with a car elevator like Mitt Romney will represent the interests of the wealthy and powerful. The attack has its greatest sting when opponents can mesh the personal (this guy's a plutocrat) with the political (this guy will represent the plutocrats). Even Republicans who aren't personally wealthy are vulnerable to that attack, since the Republican economic agenda — cutting taxes, particularly on those at the top, and cutting regulations for corporations — remains so firmly wedded to the interests of the rich.
There's no question that Republicans believe deeply that those policies are righteous and true. But it's never been easy to convince ordinary people that what will really improve their lives is a cut in the capital gains tax. Republicans have usually solved this problem during the campaign by focusing on other issues, whether it's terrorism or crime or abortion. They've been particularly adept at finding ways to talk about class that push economics out of the picture, painting Democrats as "elitists" who look down on ordinary people who don't have fancy educations or drink fancy wine. But while the party may campaign on any number of issues, when a Republican takes office, tax cuts will top the agenda for action.
Get that, working class? The Republicans don't care about you and those among you with lower incomes and less education fall for the GOP hook, line, and sinker. So, go ahead, run with the Donald. At least there's a chance he's not a real Republican, so if he accidentally gets elected -- with your votes -- he might turn out to be a center-left Democrat like he used to be. And that's what's freaking out the Republican establishment.
That's what has establishment Republicans so freaked out about Trump: He shows no commitment to core conservative policy dogma, on economics or anything else. Democrats can attack him for being very, very rich, but if he won there's no guarantee he would actually represent rich people's interests. Sure, he'll put out a perfunctory tax plan saying he'll cut rates, but he'll also promise trade wars and pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare. His outbursts of economic populism are essentially random. They aren't guided by any firm ideological foundation, but by whatever sounds good at the moment. And in a general election, they'd likely become even more frequent. Conservatives who believe that "Thou shalt cut taxes on the wealthy" is one of the Ten Commandments have plenty of reason to doubt Trump's sincerity when he says he's with them.
But don't count on it. Because think of all the Republicans you voted for, and then think of all of them that got elected, and then think of how if you just elect one more Republican, they're going to fix everything!

Factoids: There are 31 Republican governors and 30 Republican-controlled state legislatures. Republicans control the House and the Senate, and, admit it, the Supreme Court. How's that working out?

hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. (That's quiet snickering, because I'm freaked out, too.)

Malheur "Protesters'" Big Mistake: Brandishing Guns

The ranchers' revolt featured weapons and the threat of deadly force to secure their "liberty" to protest and make demands. Real smart.

Confounding father: Was the 2nd Amendment your ticket to jail?

Yeah, I know the "protesters" at Malheur were cowboys and ranchers and all and as such had a God-given right to act like they were in a Larry McMurtry novel. So they did.

And ended up in jail. Without waving the firearms around in a threatening manner, their almost certain jail time could have been avoided. Now it's time to measure their cells and learn that their cellmates are named Deonte, Malcolm, Alberto, and so forth.

Oh, and final irony: As convicted felons, they can kiss their firesticks goodbye. Forever.

Praise the Lord and pass the 2nd Amendment.

The Catholic Church Goes All In For Pedophilia

You'd think the Catholic Church would be smart enough to root out pedophilia among its priests, but whaddya know? Quite the opposite.

Why is the Cardinal of New York smiling? Because he's still getting away with it.

The Catholic Church has just been caught advising its new bishops that they're not required to turn in pedophile priests.
The Catholic Church is allegedly telling newly ordained bishops that they have no obligation to report child-sexual-abuse allegations to law-enforcement officials, saying instead that the decision to take such claims to the authorities should be left to victims and their families.
We now know the origin of the term holy shit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nobody Likes Hillary Clinton Except Everybody

Fine, I exaggerate, but the reasons for disliking Hillary Clinton often don't stand up.

Okay, she doesn't look authentic, but she is. She's just not a natural phony, like W.

An article by Michelle Goldberg in Slate supporting Hillary Clinton makes, by itself, a good case. Also, there was a link to the Gallup Poll, which has shown Hillary to be the most admired woman in the world for a record twenty straight years. Somebody likes her.

I feel the Bern most of the time. But Hillary is a person of substance and trashing her is as mean-spirited as it is corrupt. She's a real deal if not the real deal. Don't count her out.

Hard to tell what Bill Clinton saw in her.

For some perspective, Hillary Clinton, from her commencement address at Wellesley College, 1969, some 47 years (!) ago:
Part of the problem with empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn't do us anything. We've had lots of empathy; we've had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible. What does it mean to hear that 13.3 percent of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That's a percentage. We're not interested in social reconstruction; it's human reconstruction. How can we talk about percentages and trends? The complexities are not lost in our analyses, but perhaps they're just put into what we consider a more human and eventually a more progressive perspective.
The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago. We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot. Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness in the first five years of this decade—years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the space program—so we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn't a discouraging gap and it didn't turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. What we did is often difficult for some people to understand. They ask us quite often: "Why, if you're dissatisfied, do you stay in a place?" Well, if you didn't care a lot about it you wouldn't stay. It's almost as though my mother used to say, "I'll always love you but there are times when I certainly won't like you." Our love for this place, this particular place, Wellesley College, coupled with our freedom from the burden of an inauthentic reality allowed us to question basic assumptions underlying our education.
 Then Hillary ends by quoting a poem written by a classmate:
My entrance into the world of so-called "social problems"
Must be with quiet laughter, or not at all.
The hollow men of anger and bitterness
The bountiful ladies of righteous degradation
All must be left to a bygone age.
And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle
For all those myths and oddments
Which oddly we have acquired
And from which we would become unburdened
To create a newer world
To transform the future into the present.
We have no need of false revolutions
In a world where categories tend to tyrannize our minds
And hang our wills up on narrow pegs.
It is well at every given moment to seek the limits in our lives.
And once those limits are understood
To understand that limitations no longer exist.
Earth could be fair. And you and I must be free
Not to save the world in a glorious crusade
Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain
But to practice with all the skill of our being
The art of making possible.
Here's hoping that if and when Hillary Clinton wins a nomination or a presidency, she'll learn to speak in a voice that was not foreign back then and shouldn't be foreign now.

Carly Fiorina Drops Out (Assuming She's Not Lying About It!)

Joy to the World!

Carly, Carly, why did you have to run in the first place?

Reports abound that she's out. But oh, the memories!

Donald Trump (Quoting a Fan's Outburst) Called Ted Cruz a P***y for Being Against Torture

There's a really good reason why Donald is wrong about torture and Ted Cruz: Cruz doesn't think waterboarding is torture.

Ted Cruz eyeing the Donald: He's setting the bar too low for the GOP. At least I'm in!

They're all in for torture, the GOP candidates. Hard to believe, but it's true. Just as Trump trumped the immigration debate, so did he with his "I'd waterboard the shit out of them" comment. Where do you go from there?

To be clear, Rand Paul did not support torture and did not use a "waterboarding is not torture" escape clause. Just no torture. But the rest have acquiesced to some kind of torture of terrorists. This is very disturbing to John McCain, whose days in a Vietnamese prison made him a fierce opponent of the practice.

This is where the Republicans have ended up on torture. The Dems are completely opposed. Here's a stark line drawn. Again, Heaven help us if the Republicans take full control next year.

GOP State of Play: Whaa? Oooohh...

The Republican Party has spent the last eight or so months pretending what was happening wasn't happening. Now it has happened.

Nobody knows what this guy actually believes. Weird, huh?

(updated below)

My friends have spent the last few months playing the "Trump can't be the GOP candidate, it's gonna be Marco Rubio." For myself, I've said, "No, it could be Trump or not, but it's not going to be Rubio." Recent events have proven me likely right. That raises the question, "Can it be Cruz?", to which most people say some equivalent of, "Heaven forbid!"

Since anyone with money and a big mouth can be elected president, it's not prudent to say -- as many people have been saying -- that the Republicans are descending into chaos and irrelevance, and that's okay. Sorry, it's not okay, mostly because any current candidate can be elected in any number of situations. A good example in my lifetime was 1968. That year started out with dreams of ending the Vietnam War and of a continuing expansion of civil rights. It ended with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and some pretty nasty and destructive riots. Democrats flirted briefly with anti-war proponent Eugene McCarthy before settling on Hubert Humphrey, whom most of us in the anti-war movement had never really heard of. America ended up electing Richard Nixon, a political has-been of epic proportions, who drove the Vietnam War to unimaginable heights of destruction and death. Never say never.

Thus I really don't know what to say about where the 2016 election is or is going. This Media Matters compendium of opinions on the current mess is a good primer. Quoting Vox's Ezra Klein:
Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.
Trump is in serious contention to win the Republican presidential nomination. His triumph in a general election is unlikely but it is far from impossible. He's not a joke and he's not a clown. He's a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment. This is politics.
Yep, you got it, Ezra. Meanwhile, I'm checking home prices in the Netherlands.

Update. Chris Cillizza offers the "establishment" view of the GOP state of play, and it rhymes with "crude."