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31.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The vulnerability of all things internet Permalink to this item

Just when you thought it was safe to have a printer with port 9100 open and friendly, you find out that some miscreant racist with a long history of trolling would be happy to break in to prove a point "to his fellow white supremacists."

(Maybe another felony conviction for him under the Computer Fraud and Abuse act would be overturned, but seems like it ought to be worth a try.)

Two years ago, the author of the seldom-updated Shodan Blog (linked in the story, never heard of it) took the trouble to make a global map of 4,000-some public printers, with pareto charts of organizations that host them, and who needs toner. (But can he see if they really need toner, or are just getting trolled by their printer's marketing department?)

JK! Permalink to this item

Trump is all about "some form of punishment" for everybody but himself and his subjects who show him fealty, but maybe, just maybe, the idea of making abortion illegal and then going after women who break the new law he could imagine should be... well, he didn't say. But something. Would that leave us with Ted Cruz and John Kasich as the more compassionate voices of conservatism? As our cousins across the pond are polite to point out,

"The Republican party's official position is that abortion should be illegal. Conservative politicians and anti-abortion activists who view abortion as akin to murder, however, tend to avoid outlining any criminal punishment for women who undergo the procedure, instead targeting the doctors responsible."

"Tend to" is a subtle bit of camoflage that Trump accidentally stumbled into, and then scrambled to put back in place, with the brave declaration that "my position has not changed." (Which means... he's "pro-choice in every respect" then.)

Indeed, this would be hardly news were it not for that fact that Trump's antipathy to "political correctness" had him blurt out what Republicans are all thinking, but don't say out loud (for the most part) because of the consequences. "Some form of punishment" for women is not a winning strategy.

This leaves Republican women in Wisconsin in the awkward position of favoring Ted Cruz over Trump, 39 to 24%.

30.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The angriest Permalink to this item

Infographic from NYT piece by Thomas Edsall; link to article

While the crowd at a Trump rally in Paul Ryan's hometown sent up boos for the Speaker and for Wisconsin's sorry Governor and failed presidential candidate, Thomas Edsall considers the question, who are the angriest Republicans? The answers won't surprise you. (I didn't follow any of the two dozen links, or read the twenty dozen comments; there might be some surprises in all that.)

As the sidebar graphic aggregating exit poll data from Republican primaries through March 21 from Public Opinion Strategies shows, the answer is older, maler, less educated, lower income. Last time, the GOP put up a candidate from the ranks of the rich, elite wing. This time, the rank and file seem determined to go a different direction about the "elite" part, if not the "rich." Trump is seen as populist-rich rather than effete-rich I guess, feeding straight rage rather than aspiration with a dollop of indignation.

Edsall notes the "irony of history" that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 speech, “The Other America,” which contrasted white and black America, now "perfectly describes the conflict today between the privileged establishment and the hard pressed rank and file of the overwhelmingly white Republican Party—a conflict between haves and have-nots that is taking the Republican Party to a place it has never been."

To be perfectly honest Permalink to this item

Donald Trump said he had no "intention" of changing his mind, but huh, what do you know, he changed his mind and now says he will not support some other schmuck who manages to grab the Republican nomination for president. Not that he thinks there's much chance of that, but you never know. There's been talk of pushing him aside, after all.

Says there, the three remaining Republicans "appeared at an event" last night in Wisconsin, and all three of them are sounding hinky about supporting each other, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than having them say oh yes, party über alles.

At the end of the BBC piece, there are three more links, in case you can't get enough of our campaign. Start with Bruce Springsteen's view on the 40-year hurt, those "ructions" that spawned our current freak show and anger management problem. Layer on some loathing, from lifelong Republicans turned off by Trump, and expanding their vocabulary to express it. Then wrap it up with 22 things Donald Trump believes in, from fabulous statistics, to torture, mass deportation, the (very) occasional sensible idea, and that he is a "really nice guy."

29.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And in other campaign news Permalink to this item

I liked this kickoff from Jill Abramson:

"As an editor I’ve launched investigations into [Hillary Clinton's] business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

"Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

You just can't believe everything you hear on the intertubes.

On the GOP side, Marco Rubio has awakened from suspended animation and claimed five delegates in Alaska for himself, which he apparently can do. So now what; is he going to hold them hostage?

Some gif' the Giftie gie us Permalink to this item

Jade plant in blue and white light, 2016

My personal work-life balance is just about right, thanks, at the cusp of two new projects spinning up, and having put in a couple of decades in a corporate cube-farm, the chances of my going that direction are permanently nil. But LinkedIn keeps trying on my behalf, telling me what corporations are looking for candidates like me. I usually just delete, or quick-scan and delete, but today's stack was rather more interesting for how it characterizes a lot of different possibilities out of my past (and sure, maybe future). Minus the corporate logos, the list:

None of them are exact fits, but 9 out of 10 are part of my interesecting circles of interest, experience, or expertise.

A personal history with the Malheur Permalink to this item

An important, beautiful, powerful piece from an archaeologist whose vocation and love for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge started with a fifth grade class project, and a five-day (!) field trip to the Station, "where we followed the amazing rangers and scientists recording and watching the birds, preserving their habitats, and the rich cultural history of the area. I discovered that the HQ building was built on a significant prehistoric village built by the Wadatika, ancestors of the Burns Paiute." And to this, working in the Pacific Northwest:

"I learned how to engage in the difficult, daily dialectic with people who think that their want to use the land in a particular way constitutes a right, not the misplaced privilege that it has been."


Circular firing squad Permalink to this item

It's been said that success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. Idaho's very long-running (seven years now!) and very-expensive paternity suit over the "ill-fated Idaho Education Network broadband contract," as Idaho Ed News succinctly describes it, is dragging on long after the supposed technology gold mine has turned to a slag heap.

Long story short, the folks who made the best-looking bid, Syringa Networks, were cut out of the $60 million deal in favor of Education Networks of America and CenturyLink. Syringa sued, won, and won on appeal up to the state Supreme Court, which affirmed the voiding of the contract. We're now fighting over the ashes, and who's going to pay what to whom. (Don't worry about the school kids lacking broadband though; as "no relation" IEN reported when the Supreme Court ruled, since the contract was tossed, "Idaho schools have purchased high-speed Internet service locally, often at greatly reduced prices.")

We're "beyond blame," the Governor argues, after didn't he just kind of blame his Attorny General? Otter conveniently excuses himself, and his pal Mike Gwartney whose "I don't need this job" $1 salary turned out to be not such a great deal after all. Never underestimate the power of negative numbers! But by all means, let's do fix this problem, now.

Step 1 was the closing act of the legislative session in which $8 million was put at the disposal of the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-tem of the Senate to try to soak up the spillage. (But don't call it a "slush fund"!) Did the AG have anything to say? The polite spokesperson form of WTF:

"At this point, neither the governor nor anybody from his office has spoken directly with the attorney general about this aspect of the IEN litigation. As a result, we’re in the unfortunate position of getting this information secondhand and through the press."

28.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another session, more failure Permalink to this item

Idaho's Governor told reporters that no, he was not going to call a special session to address the ongoing failure of the legislature to address the problem of health care insurance for those stuck between Medicaid as it is and the Affordable Care Act. The Speaker of the House weighed in at the Governor's post-legislative session wrap-up today, with this choice bit:

“Hyperbole and horror stories, while they’re useful to a point, I think that the House has heard those. And you have a firm commitment from the House of Representatives that we want to do something on this issue.”

Yeah, pretty much every session of our legislature is replete with hyperbole and horror stories. They're actually not useful, at all, and that's why Idaho has now gone YEARS doing almost nothing to decrease the number of people who don't have health care insurance in the state. What leadership we have makes fervent noises, but nothing gets done.

The Republicans in the Idaho House just finished emphatically stating that they do not want to do anything, other than perhaps let someone else "study" the issue some more. In the comments on Eye on Boise, Mindy Hong, the executive director of the Pocatello Free Clinic wrote:

"Can we get Gov. Otter to make some phone calls on the behalf of my patients who cannot even get an appointment for cardiology, neurology, nephrology, orthopedics, and others? If Gov. Otter or Speaker Bedke would like, I could spend an entire day telling them stories of people who have brain cysts and strokes and heart disease and mental illness and more. I am extremely offended that my patient stories are being called 'hyperbole.' These are real Idahoans and I see these cases at my free clinic all day long."

Easter Sunday, 2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lindsey Graham on The Daily Show Permalink to this item

ICYMI, the one-time presidential contender and still Senator Lindsey Graham's appearance with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show is some must-see TV. You have to watch it a couple times to appreciate the repartee going back and forth and over the top of the two speaking (and just—over the top). Graham has hopped the #NeverTrump bandwagon with the most left-handed endorsement of Ted Cruz you could imagine. Asked "What turns you on about Cruz?" Graham said "That he's not Trump." "He was my 15th choice, what can I say?"

He's sticking with his party at any rate, no matter how "screwed up" it is (what he said).

The second segment, with Noah and Graham shooting pool with missed shots penalized by "complimenting" Donald Trump is funny too, but it's not as tight as the first part.

Deadline Hollywood's take includes Trump's reaction (meh) and an annotated transcript of how things went off the rails on the way to the Land of the Obvious Interview.

On the way to world domination Permalink to this item

When R. Ted Cruz was on the way up, he had a plan to get to where he is today, and a little bit further. It's not looking like 2016 will turn out to be his year, but by Ross Douthat's assessment, Cruz is likely to take the setback in stride. The stories Douthat linked in to his op-ed to fill in the candidate's background are more entertaining than Cruz himself. There's the cringe-worthy, too-revealing screen test for The Simpsons, Politico's "History Dept." feature from January with a little video including the 18-year-old Cruz, and Dana Milbank's take from summer of 2012 when Cruz was "a shoo-in to be the next U.S. senator from Texas," which he can continue being, at least through 2018, after this whole presidential bid thing doesn't pan out. Milbank said he

"reached out to Cruz’s campaign to see whether he would talk to me; I thought he should be portrayed as something more than a Tea Party caricature. But my requests were ignored; in his current incarnation, being promoted in the mainstream media is apparently no longer desirable."

Milbank took comfort back in 2012 in "the theory that Cruz is driven more by ambition than by Tea Party doctrine," I'm not sure why. He imagined that Cruz and that other up-and-comer Paul Ryan, "are not temperamentally as unreasonable as they must pretend," and are only using the Tea Party conservatives to satisfy their personal goals.

It's odd that excess ambition would be a mark against you, but it probably comes down to plain old likeability and whether or not you can work with people, or just try to use them for your own ends. None of Cruz's Senate colleagues have endorsed him, to say the least. He's found favorability in polls (distance makes the heart grow fonder?), even as he's used "Washington’s loathing as a badge of honor" on the campaign trail, according to Politico.

It's an approach that resonates with a lot of voters just now, even as a guy who's worked on the inside since he was a teenager seeks to fabricate "outsider" credentials to reach his ultimate ambition. It's that last step that seems a step too far.

"Cruz, the 2016 outsider, has done precious little to court insider support from the GOP establishment that he once wooed as a young staffer. One of his favorite stories to tell on the stump is that The New York Times predicted, on the day he announced his 2016 campaign, he couldn’t win the day because, in Cruz’s telling, “the Washington elites despise him.” Cruz pauses for dramatic effect before bellowing his punch line: “I kinda thought that was the whole point of the campaign!"

"The crowds inevitably laugh. But one of Cruz’s former coworkers on the Bush campaign said the dislike is real and forthcoming, especially from those who know Cruz best. “The longer you’ve known him,” this person said, “the less likely you are to support him.”"

How fitting that Ted Cruz's rise to the top is about to pause for dramatic effect.

26.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fact checking with a smile Permalink to this item

Roy Zimmerman came up with a clever little ditty addressed to Mitch McConnell, encouraging him to STFU and D his FJ, and Politifact did what they do, for some reason. This prompted Roy to play chess with the checkers. Nicely.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Permalink to this item

Graph of Stockhold International Peace Research data

If spending more money on defense increases security, we'd be really, really secure. But still fearful, apparently. We have the largest and most expensive military in the history of the world. Here's the chart out of the Institute for Policy Studies brief take on the burning question of whether our military is big enough.

We won the arms race a long time ago, but it seems we didn't stop running after almost everyone else did. In 2014, we spent three times as much as #2 China, more than the rest of the seven countries behind us combined. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimate for 2015 is that we spent as much as the next eleven countries combined.

Another burning question: Will More Nuclear Weapons Make Us Safer? There are 15,000 kicking around the planet at the moment, with around 7,000 for each of the U.S. and Russia. The Ploughshares Fund has more about the arms race we just can't seem to quit.

25.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I know you are, but what am I? Permalink to this item

Not quite up to speed on this whole Twitter thing, but I have shouted into the megaphone from time to time, and played along, haltingly. I have seen my share of repetitive comments everywhere comments can be made, and the occasional reference to "robotic," but I thought that was an insult rather than a term of art. Turns out some Microsofties thought an honest-to-god Twitter bot would be kind of a cool thing, to learn about "conversational understanding" and stuff. Mimicking the language of other users. They called it an artificial intelligent chat bot (apparently disdaining adverbial convention), which "is targeted at 18 to 24 year old in the US." [sic] They say it was "built by mining relevant public data and by using AI and editorial developed by a staff including improvisational comedians."

"The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you."

It got a little too personal very quickly. The NYT reports:

"Less than 24 hours after the bot, @TayandYou, went online Wednesday, Microsoft halted posting from the account and deleted several of its most obscene statements."

As Tay puts it, "Phew. Busy day. Going offline for a while to absorb it all. Chat soon"

It didn't do it all on its own, and as a "social and cultural experiment," call it a smashing success. Just the thing for a political campaign, innit? The Guardian's subhead sums that up:

"Attempt to engage millennials with artificial intelligence backfires hours after launch, with TayTweets account citing Hitler and supporting Donald Trump."

Update: Elspeth Reeve takes a deeper dive into what Tay exposed about the fairy tales we tell ourselves about racists, and the amplifying power of we'll be calling anti-social media, sooner or later.

Handicapping the field Permalink to this item

Roger Simon's take on Donald Trump, whipping up the crowd to a frenzy:

"Today, Trump leads. He can smell victory from way up there on top of the tiger. But as the ancient proverb goes, “He who rides the tiger is afraid to dismount.”

"And once he does dismount, I think Hillary Clinton might make a snack out of him."

Ross Douthat has gone from insisting that Donald Trump couldn't possibly be the nominee (or was it president, I forget) to insisting that "there is now no possibility that the Republican Party will survive its rendezvous with Donald Trump unbroken."

"A few prominent Trumpistas do make a neat ideological fit with Trumpism as it might exist going forward ... But mostly he’s surrounded by has-been politicians looking for a second life, media personalities looking for an audience, and grifters looking to cash in (but I repeat myself).

"So when Trump is no longer a candidate for president, Sean Hannity will probably morph back into a partisan hatchet man, Ben Carson will go back to his speaking circuit, Newt Gingrich will find some new ideological coat to wear and Chris Christie will take a job chauffeuring Trump’s limo."

Is there a downside? Turning the GOP into "two provisional mini-parties," "whose constant warfare would deliver the presidency to the Democrats time and time again" doesn't sound all that bad. Color Douthat an optimist.

On the other side of the op-ed aisle, Paul Krugman is working the calculus of elite Republicans and the search for affection for Ted Cruz, "now that less disagreeable alternatives have imploded." (Seems more like they blew each other up, but whatever.) For as crazy as Cruz may seem, he's their kind of crazy. Belligerent foreign policy, check. Return to the gold standard, check. Shift taxes from the rich down to the middle class and poor, check. Ayn Rand devotee, check.

As for the third way, John Kasich, the Times has a look at all the history we had no reason to pay attention to, "a three-decade career in government punctuated by scolding confrontations, intemperate critiques and undiplomatic remarks," that has someone been softened into maybe too nice to win. It's certainly hard to imagine him outdoing Trump and Cruz for intemperate and undiplomatic at this point. If self-restraint matters (yeah, tough argument to make), keeping his cranky, bulldozing, impatient, angry, impetuous, unforgiving, sore winner self reined in (mostly, so far) might be an argument in his favor.

But the trend is not his friend. The Upshot simulates Trump's path to 1,237 delegates and finds little impediment from the also-rans. Neither of Cruz or Kasich seems likely to give up at this point, which is all good from Trump's point of view.

24.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

By the campaign's early light Permalink to this item

In the closing moments of the legislative session, with urgency driven by the need to start campaigning, (most of the) Idaho Republicans are jumping the gun, if not the shark. Having provided for dismissing the hundred-year old concealed carry restrictions, and found a way to put off for yet another year the expansion of Medicaid to bring the promise of affordable insurance to 78,000 citizens in the gap between our present Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, they now turn to the agenda of Americans United for Life, to address the dignity of unborn infants.

Senate Bill 1404 was on the House State Affairs committee agenda today, and rather than sit through another pointless hearing and register their minority No votes, the Democrats boycotted the meeting in favor of making a statement on their own.

“It is beneath our dignity, it is beneath the dignity of our constituents, and it is not worthy of our time or attention. This bill, like many others introduced this session, is designed to inflame a small constituency that these politicians count on to vote for them. That’s campaigning on the public dime.”

Rev. Marci Glass put her statement about "Dignity" and "Pro-Life" on her Glass Overflowing blog. An excerpt:

"I’ve testified many times before the House State Affairs Committee, and every time, they have voted against my testimony, often because of their religious convictions. They claim, loudly and proudly, to be pro-life.

"Their legislative record, however, shows they have a limited understanding of the term.

"They appear to be “pro-birth”, not “pro-life”.

"This session, while they have passed even more laws to restrict women’s access to legal, medically safe health care, in the name of life, they have squandered a myriad options to have supported and improve the lives of actual Idahoans who are alive today."

Kudos to five Republicans standing up after yesterday's too-little and too-late measures were still more than their colleagues could accomplish. Reps. Christy Perry, Nampa; Kelley Packer, McCammon; Carolyn Nilsson Troy, Genesee; Paul Romrell, St. Anthony; and Merrill Beyeler, Leador said they would "vote against any bill, rule or measure that comes before the panel next year, regardless of the fiscal impact, until a waiver program to cover the gap population is presented and brought up for a vote in the full House."

Since they're all up for re-election, that amounts to a campaign promise, unless our Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter stands up on his hind legs to do something (beyond adding new chapters to the studies from 2012, 2013 and 2014 now collecting dust on and calls a special session before November.

No way forward Permalink to this item

Who could have imagined this year's race for the Republican nomination? The expected scenario was for a succession of carnival barkers and thrill rides that would culminate with a semi-boring coast to victory by someone with some political experience, even if it weren't much. If not Jeb! than maybe the Cubano-American Rubio. But stay thirsty, my friends, the impossible dream of the man with the stubby little Midas touch appears to be coming true.

The absurdity of Ted Cruz as reserve chute is pithily exposed in Gail Collins' latest effort. If John Kasich were to hang in and somehow dig out of third place to first between now and one of the convention ballots, it would constitute a miracle worthy of canonizing someone. (But the Republicans are short of nominees for sainthood, too.)

It's OK with me. The Democrats have two solidly presidential candidates to choose from. We've got you covered, America. Unless you go with crazy.

"The official Republican world now contains people who took a dive and endorsed Trump, the ones who’ve endorsed Cruz and pretended it was a profile in courage, and the ones still sitting on the fence. They all look miserable.

"Wouldn’t you think a few would just say, “Look, I know Kasich is behind in delegates, but he behaves in the way I want our party to be.” It would be nice moment, wouldn’t it? But so far, the list of people who’ve gone there is pretty much confined to one ex-governor."

23.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Post-caucus deliberation Permalink to this item

Liza Long's Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters from an Angry White Woman who Supports Hillary Clinton lays out the strong case for Clinton. The most foreign policy experience of any of the candidates; respected by leaders around the globe; the most admired woman in the world; progressive but pragmatic; knows how to listen and to compromise; works harder than anyone else in the room.

Not quite as sure about Clinton having "basically invented universal healthcare in the United States," because we're not there yet. The reliably stupefying Idaho Legislature hammered home that point today by the House resisting expansion of Medicare to fulfill the design of the Affordable Care Act for yet another session, and instead agreeing, narrowly, to call for a committee study the problem, and make recommendations for next year. House Minority Leader John Rusche gives a short recap of all that hasn't been done in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016 in a comment on Betsy's blog. And concluding:

"We have lost $350 million dollars by not [expanding] in 2014 when it was first available. There are an estimated 350 preventable deaths as well. And 150 deaths anticipated, and over $60 million lost over the next year until the Legislature gets a chance to respond to the interim committee. And then there is no guarantee that the Majority will agree to move."

The Idaho Legislature loves to play "pro-life" with a stream of anti-abortion bills every session, but its record with the ACA has amply established its Death Panel bona fides.

Anyway, while I was reading Long's piece on Clinton and Sanders supporters, I was thinking of Melissa Hillman's piece on Quartz, Privilege is what allows Sanders supporters to say they’ll “never” vote for Clinton. There's passive misogyny, coded misogyny, and the flat-out active hatred. "I think we all expected it, but I did not expect it from our side."

"[L]et’s step away from vicious attacks and hatred. Let’s step away from buying into debunked conservative propaganda about Clinton’s trustworthiness. Let’s look at the candidates’ actual proposals and weigh those proposals’ actual strengths and weaknesses. Let’s respect each other’s choices in the primaries.

"And whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, the stakes are far, far too high for us to selfishly stay home because we didn’t get our first choice. I will happily, proudly vote for either Clinton or Sanders, and I hope you will do the right thing and join me."

Senator Mike Crapo, dodging and weaving Permalink to this item

Responding to the first DO YOUR JOB message, Idaho's senior U.S. Senator sent me his boilerplate reponse, with a gratuitous mini-history and civics lesson, and his argument, which boils down to:

1) Scalia's replacement should be Just Like Scalia, and

2) "activist judges"

He might as well have said gee, I'm not on the Judiciary Committee, so there's really nothing I can do, but whatever. Round two, from me:

If I understand your argument correctly, you intend to insist on a Scalia-like replacement for Scalia? And you imply that either Judge Garland is not enough like Scalia, or he fails your test of being too "activist." Again, indirectly, you imply Garland is not "a worthy successor."

This "exact replacement" idea is certainly novel, and impossible. It might be a convenient political argument, but it is a wholly illegitimate one. That is not the way our system has EVER worked, and you certainly know it.

I don't think there is good evidence for your vague imputations about Garland's suitability either, but you are purposely dodging the the essential issue. The Senate, under Mitch McConnell's leadership, and the Judiciary Committee, under Chuck Grassley's leadership, have indicated that THEY DO NOT INTEND TO EVEN CONSIDER THIS OR ANY OTHER NOMINEE BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIKE OBAMA, AND HIS TERM IS ALMOST OVER. And maybe they don't like Garland either, but I suspect he would be easily confirmed by a Republican majority Senate if he had been nominated by a Republican President.

This is OUTRAGEOUS, and your warm palaver does not disguise the fact.

DO YOUR JOB. If there is good reason to withhold consent for Garland's nomination, HAVE A HEARING AND SHOW WHAT REASONS YOU HAVE and then VOTE ON THE NOMINEE.

Things could be worse Permalink to this item

Arizona had a primary yesterday, but they had their own problem with multiple-hour-long lines. Ari Berman, posting for The Nation, figures it was because the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.

"The lines were so long because election officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County, the largest in the state, reduced the number of polling places by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 200 to just sixty—one polling place per every 21,000 voters."

Just a coincidence that they were saving money in the predominantly Latino areas of the county.

Unenfranchised Permalink to this item

Being "undecided" is unfamiliar territory for me, but as I was walking to the Ada County caucus yesterday afternoon I really did not know which camp I'd step into (or whether perhaps I'd proudly wave my "not sure" flag). After a brisk 5-block walk from cheap parking to the venue, I saw the big line, snaking around the block, across the street, around another block, and... well, the most interesting part was 10th and Main, with people on both streets thinking they were going away from the corner. As if there were a spring of voters rising up there.

A volunteer declared "the end of the line is across the street" to bring some order to the chaos. Across another street? I jumped into the queue with one fellow I knew, and I could've stayed with him, I guess. Or kept going, searching for the end, to start heading toward the goal.

The last overcrowded county caucus I went to, in 2008, it seemed like we barely squeezed in before the doors closed, after getting there an hour early. So this time, an hour and a half early, and still not nearly enough. There were a lot of people already lining up every which way, big-eyed about all these Democrats in Idaho, more than they ever imagined. (Not that you had to be a Democrat to join the fun; the only hurdle was to not have voted in the two-weeks ago Republican or Constitutional primary. And being—or going to be—a registered voter come election day.)

What was the argument for not having a primary again? It no longer seemed sensible. The state would have picked up most (all?) of the expenses, for one thing. And people could just go vote some time during the day, at a polling place that would not have involved a 10 minute line, let alone a three or four hour commitment.

In any case, there were a lot—a RECORD-BREAKING lot—of enthusiastic, excited caucus-goers, and I'm sure the vast majority were more excited about standing for one or the other of Bernie and Hillary than me. So I gave up my place that I never did find in the line. Jeanette was inside, already voted, volunteering (for 6 hours or so), and she represented our household well enough.

Annotated map image

I watched things unfold on Twitter, mostly, as Ada County's bigger half in the 2nd Congressional District (yes, of course the most liberal enclave in the state is gerrymandered down the middle) represented the landslide for Bernie Sanders well enough. This morning, I see one fellow tweeted the 15 block route he took to get in. (My much quicker tour in red here, backpedaling from 8th and Front, before leaving the way I came.) The answer to the question "how do thousands of people find the end(s) of an ad hoc line spread through downtown?" is "somewhat randomly."

It seems that a smartphone is now de rigeur for political participation, and without one, the party wasn't nearly the same sort of fun. With one, I could've taken heart from @IdahoDems tweeting Please stay in line! You will be able to caucus! and Things are speeding up as 7 o'clock came and went. At 9 o'clock—two hours after they'd planned to close the doors—when I drove back to pick up Jeanette, the end of the line was still outside but finally just around the corner of The Grove.

And in any case, I was able to vicariously feel the Bern as caucusers tweeted pictures of themselves and the crowd as new sections of the CenturyLink arena taken over by Sanders supporters, and the lonely undecideds were shunted into a corner or something. I was not (willing or) able to participate in the election of delegates to the state convention, which I presume happened before midnight?

The AP called the Idaho winner at half-past midnight Mountain Time, about 2½ hours after it seemed obvious from the cheapest seats in Boise.

The Dems sent an email asking for people to share their experience. Here's part of what I sent:

I'm perfectly willing to spend 1, 2, 3, 4 hours for a good cause, but I wasn't willing to spend 3 or 4 hours just to be a part of a jolly throng, no matter how jolly it was going to be. Maybe if I were feeling the Bern, or excited about Hillary. I'm excited about EITHER, and of course none of the Republicans. It was a glorious, and ridiculous event. LET'S HAVE A PRIMARY NEXT TIME AND LET ALL DEMOCRATIC VOTERS CAST A BALLOT without having to devote half a day to do it. And let the damn state of Idaho pay for it, the way the Republicans do.

21.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hail to the chief Permalink to this item

When he thought he was opining somewhat hypothetically, Chief Justice John Roberts remarked upon the confirmation process for the Supreme Court, that's "not working very well," and seems to be "being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees."

Now that it's one of the hottest topics in D.C., and the process is not working at all, there are calls for the Chief to step up to this extraordinary moment, and make another statement in favor of "institutional integrity of the court."

Marc Johnson provides a better history lesson than any of the cherry-pickers speaking for the fresh "principle" of taking presidential election years off.

"Those who follow Mitch McConnell blindly into this dark partisan political thicket are playing with fire and one suspects many of them know that. They will live to rue the day they refused even to consider a demonstrably qualified and moderate appointment. They may think it can’t get worse. They would be wrong."

Math whiz party like it's 999 Permalink to this item

I didn't need Ed Trice's "nope, it's not" to know that the obvious answer was not the punch line. What's the largest number you can represent with 3 digits? The riddle by itself wouldn't have prompted me to take the jump out of LinkedIn's page-view promoting email if that were all there was to it. What piqued my interest was the tiny blurb with the magic words in it: "This post is about my fight against 'Common Core' math."

Common Core has become almost as popular a topic as political correctness, and I suspected the causus belli was overblown. The executive director at Lightning Cloud Computing did not disappoint. Given that this was a trick question of some sort, what kind of digits are we talking about? Binary? Decimal? Hexadecimal? Sexagesimal?

Having had my small share of teachers who didn't like to be proven wrong by a student, from grade school on up through graduate school, I could relate to the daughter called to the principal's office. Having never advocated for a wayward (or too-smart) child, I couldn't relate to daddy called in to translate dominance, or to escalate the dispute. And it was rewarding to hear about his clever little girl who came up with a better trick answer than the one that sprang to my mind.

"Mr. Trice, the only way I can give your daughter credit for that one answer," (and he really put emphasis on one) "is to go to the national board of education and have everyone who took this test have their answers marked incorrect."

Trice thought that sounded like a good plan, and was gung ho to have, yes, every other kid in the country downgraded to make his point. "It took an attorney and another 3 months." After which, I find that I don't agree with Trice about what "the truly sad thing" is about his story. He could've just asked that his daughter get a "101" on the test. Or a cupcake. Something to make up for the traumatic injury she'd apparently suffered, rather than finding out what a horrible person her father could be with such minimal provocation.

Common Core does not rule our (children's) lives. Educational standards are a good and necessary thing. Tests can only be perfect if they're very simple, in which case they're imperfect because they fall short of their potential for instruction. Bureaucracy is useful (or at least inevitable), and we all know that while it handle many problems, it does not solve all. You will be inconvenienced by a systematically "correct" but practially wrong answer on many occasions. We can provide for overrides short of adjudication for most things, and if we're wise, we can let go of the need to be "right" all the time. (There's a lifetime pursuit for you.)

Three powerful digits

Speaking of math puzzles, here's one that my eighth grade teacher confronted: this kid in my class is way too smart for the curriculum I'm teaching from; he'll be trouble all year if I don't find an alternative. Before there were any arguments over test scores, she came up with a solution almost as briliant as the young Trice's: have the 8th grader go to the high school and take freshman math instead. Not only was it a great year in math, I was out on the town in the middle of the day, riding my bike more than mile to get to my alt-class. It was a huge investment of trust, and I honored it with unusually good behavior in transit.

Teachers—and parents—can recognize creative intelligence, can learn to think outside the box alongside their children, can find positive, affirming responses to challenges to authority, and turn a simple question into an opportunity. Without changing any scores, little miss Trice could have been invited to give an introduction to exponents (or non-Euclidean geometry, for that matter) to the rest of her class. Maybe she would have been inspired to pursue a career in one of the most honorable professions humans have: teaching.

Stealing elections Permalink to this item

Another installment in the vaunted annals of the "reverse hook," which is to say, accusing others of cheating the way you would: Republicans Must Demand Law and Order or the Left Will Steal the Election. Just like the good old days when "law and order" was the rallying cry to drive our incarceration rate to truly exceptional levels. (We're still number 1 by a long shot, even after a modest decline in the last decade and a half.)

You'll be forgiven if that headline from Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ editor George Rasley sounds a little bit like 1930s Germany. The problem is not Donald Trump's celebrating and inciting violence in various forms, it's far-Left "protesters" wearing scare quotes, and thank goodness for "effective policing and Trump’s event security which is getting better" at controlling dissent.

"But the silence from the remaining candidates in the GOP field was deafening and the Republican Party’s national chairman, Reince Priebus, managed to take a sideways swipe at Trump’s campaign for failing to use kid gloves in ejecting a protester who had returned to an event after being thrown out."

But what's wrong with kid gloves? They coordinate well with a brown shirt.

Rasley even manages to reverse hook the Nazi thing, referring to "the disrupters' chief funder, Nazi collaborator George Soros," and prompting us to imagine Soros' millions somehow being passed out to demonstrators. Not that it's impossible, but let's just say volunteers would be easy to come by.

Someone has probably cataloged stolen elections over the years, but the substantial one that was flat-out stolen in my lifetime was the disastrous affair sixteen years ago that brought George W. Bush and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney to power. Republicans (and the Supreme Court) executed that heist, and it was pulled off by Florida bureaucrats, lawyers and "protesters" wearing dress shirts.

Thievery might be on the CHQ's mind because of their enthusiasm for Ted Cruz, and doesn't appear poised to win the GOP nomination honestly.

20.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Takery political hackery to a new level Permalink to this item

I thought that my contempt for Mitch McConnell had already pegged the meter, but he just turned it up to 11 with an appearance on Fox News today. Not only is he planning to violate his oath to uphold the constitution by obstructing the Senate's consideration of a well-qualified nominee for the Supreme Court before the election, he's now stated that the negative opinion of the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses will preclude him doing his job after the election, too.

It's a shame I'd already written to my Senators earlier today; my letter would have been a lot more strident if I'd seen that story first. But there are a lot of days to write, call, tweet, and demonstrate between now and next January.

Dear Senators Risch and Crapo:

I'm currently self-employed, but I did work a salaried job for more than 20 years, and while certain aspects of my work as an engineer were "flexible," it was never the case that I could just tell my boss "you know what? My life is pretty busy right now" (or whatever) "and I just won't be showing up to work for the next 9 or 10 months."

I would be fired. But apparently being a U.S. Senator is a little different than the jobs I've had. You get paid WAY more money, have a support staff and what-not, spend a lot of time fundraising on your own behalf, and you think you CAN just not show up for work or do anything.


Your Majority Leader's behavior in responding to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the opening on the Supreme Court is unconscionable, and makes a mockery of the oath he (and you) took to uphold the Constitution.

The President has done his consitutional duty, and nominated someone who by all reports is exceptionally well-qualifed to serve. The Senate's task now is to consider that nominee, and consent to his service, or not.

While there may be the consitutional leeway for shenanigans to delay or deny a hearing and a vote on the nominee, there is no valid justification and no legal precedent for that. It is partisan hackery at its worst. And yes, I've duly noted that Mitch McConnell had the bald-faced gall to accuse the President of "politicizing" the process?

Are you kidding me? SCALIA'S CORPSE WAS NOT EVEN COLD before McConnell politicized the process. The President DID HIS JOB. NOW DO YOURS.

19.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Insatiable appetites Permalink to this item

News in print is out of date from the get-go. It takes time to roll the presses, to collate the pages, to fold it, roll it, put it in a bag, put it on a plane, put it in a car, drop it on the driveway, where it... ages, slightly, before retrieval, and further, as days slip by.

Waiting until Saturday to read much of the Sunday paper runs the risk of the news aging to irrelevancy, but it can also provide a useful historical context. Jacob Heilbrunn's assessment of The Neocons vs. Donald Trump, for example, included the description of the "last-ditch effort" of "leading neocon thinkers [to establish] what they call the National Security Advisory Council to support Senator Marco Rubio."

Whoops. Was there a plan B? "[M]any are announcing that if push comes to shove, they will support Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump."

The longer story Heilbrunn recounts is that contrary to the protestations of the neocons, they're the interlopers and "Mr. Trump represents a return to the party's roots" of isolationism, protectionism, and (of all things) anti-militarism. To a fault. Or, to many faults. In 1940,

the Wall Street Journal editorial page argued for “realism” toward Hitler, who, it assured its readers, had “already determined the broad lines of our national life for at least another generation.”

"If Trump can be stopped, he must be." - Douthat

A few pages later, Ross Douthat takes heart in imagining the Party still decides, with all its quirky and complicated rules to empower insiders. Since "no modern political party has nominated a candidate like this; no serious political party ever should," he seems confident the system will work to save the Republican Party. Sort of. What good is having a party if you can't decide who to keep out?

"What Trump has demonstrated is that in our present cultural environment, and in the Republican Party’s present state of bankruptcy, the first lines of defense against a demagogue no longer hold."

He's calling for the Republican Party to commit suicide, basically. For the good of the country. "For a party proud of its patriotism, the choice should not be hard."

The intervening week exposed one form that action might take. Fast forward to Tuesday, was Paul Ryan blindsided by John Harwood's question over beers (two days before St. Patrick's Day, ha ha) about him coming to save the day? No, no, no, "I haven't given any thought to this stuff," Ryan said, by way of dismissing the ridiculousness. "We'll see. Who knows?" And more specifically, from a spokeswoman the next day "not interested" and "will not accept a nomination." Just like he wasn't going to be Speaker of the House, eh. You'd think John Boehner's support would be the kiss of death for sure, but didn't he support Ryan becoming Speaker, and didn't that just happen?

It was late Tuesday when it became obvious to Marco Rubio, finally, that there was no way in the world he was going to be the Republican nominee, and Wednesday when Adam Phillips was counting electoral votes after the exciting three-way race to find no one has 270! after which Paul Ryan gets to pick the next president, just like in 1825.

Snippet of Ben Wiseman illustration for the NYT

There is at least one constant that's lasted the whole week: Donald Trump's Epic Neediness as artfully described by Frank Bruni, and the mash-up illustration by Ben Wiseman.

One night he’s turning a supposed victory celebration into an obliquely relevant pitch for Trump wine, Trump water and Trump steaks, to a point where he almost seems poised to bark out a toll-free number and urge consumers to “order now.” Another night he’s canceling a speech in Chicago at the last minute because the gathering has devolved into violent chaos. ...

"Everything about Trump’s campaign can be explained in terms of substance abuse: He’s addicted to attention, demanding regular fixes and going to ever greater lengths — in terms of reckless statements and provocative acts — to get them."

18.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The wheels on the Court go round and round Permalink to this item

OPB's "Think Out Loud" features former federal prosecutor Martin Estrada's take on the likely path for the trial of more than two dozen Oregon occupiers. The government doesn't want a 26-defendant trial, and it won't want to have multiple trials.

He estimates the likely sentence for conviction on the one conspiracy charge is 2 to 3 years. Anyone charged with "use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence" will be looking at a mandatory minimum 5 year sentence, required to run consecutively. That's whatever else you get PLUS FIVE YEARS. And if it's proved you "brandished" that firearm, make it SEVEN years. That's a considerable means to "leverage the less-culpable defendants," as Estrada put it.

You can be sure the prosecutors will zero in on questions about and sympathy for jury nullification in voir dire, and do everything they can to "weed out people who may be swayed by that argument." With Ryan Bundy, at least, representing himself, and his pocket Constitution at the ready, that phase of the trial could be even more interesting than usual.

No news is not good news Permalink to this item

While the Republicans figure out who (all) they're going to have run for President, and the race for the Democratic nomination tips to Clinton, the creepiest story going is that the mainstream media seem to have decided that there's no need to cover the Sanders campaign anymore. If a stump speech rocks the status quo, but no one picks it up off the AP wire, does it make a sound? (Even that bit from the AP is pretty abbreviated, and with a ho-hum headline: Sanders woos Native Americans, who cares?) You can watch the hour-long speech on YouTube if you have the patience for such things, which most people don't. That's what makes "regular" news highlighting and excerpting important (and its absence silencing).

It's not an easy reporting job to listen to the same speech with all the applause lines one more time and say something new about it, but for the reporters still paying attention, Sanders went off his usual stump script to say something new in Flagstaff. Alt-news site U.S. Uncut provides more coverage than anything else I'm seeing this morning, with the YouTube vido embedded, and a more-attention getting headline, for Sanders' epic call for Native American justice in Arizona.

“The Native American people have been lied to, they have been cheated, and negotiated treaties have been broken. We owe the Native American community so, so much.

“All too often, Native Americans have not been heard on issues that impact their communities. They have been told what to do. They have not been involved in the process.

“The United States has the duty to guarantee equal opportunity and justice for all citizens, including our first Native Americans. And let us be honest and acknowledge that we are not doing that today.”

After Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake inserted the "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act" into the FY2015 $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act, Sanders and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the Save Oak Flat Act, S. 2242 to repeal the land exchange that would privatize part of the Tonto National Forest for the benefit of Resolution Copper Mining (jointly owned by BHP Billiton of the UK and Rio Tinto of Australia), and Sanders highlighted that in his speech. (The bill is identical to the H.R. 2811 that Arizona's Rep. Raúl Grijalva introduced in the House.)

The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee in November, and GovTrack gives it less than a one-in-four chance of passage. Given the general lack of action in the U.S. Senate, having it be one of 354 bills currently referred to this committee, best not to hold your breath.

We have such a long history of looking the other way when it comes to native issues. Even Democracy Now! is leading with the story about Obama throwing his weight more explicitly to Clinton. But "this comes as Sanders is favored to win a string of upcoming caucuses in Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Wyoming."

There are still plenty of substantive issues to discuss in this campaign.

Update: Maybe it was just the Native American social justice issue that got downplayed? Saw later that the NYT "First Draft" covered the Arizona visit, but with more of the Joe Arpaio/immigration angle.

Good news Friday Permalink to this item

From a page in my 1978 journal

"Spring break" has become a cultural icon for debauchery, thanks to the enduring popularity of that activity, but it was never part of my time at college. What the Outdoor Program at the University of Idaho offered my first year was an irresistable follow-up to my learning how to sail on Lake Mendota in the UW Hoofers the previous year: sailing around the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. The next year, a road trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks was equally irresistable. The year after that, three pals from Life Sciences and I went backpacking in Hells Canyon. Each of those trips were life-changing in unique ways, and the memories have stayed bright and shiny in the decades since.

Those springs come back to mind while reading the U of I News about Alternative Service Break: 59 students and 7 faculty and staff advisors, in 11 teams, spending their time off school in service, to the Boise Rescue Mission and Corpus Christi House; the North Idaho Correctional Institution; the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center in Twin Falls; Growing Veterans in Mount Vernon, Washington; Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah in Eugene; Tillamook State Forest; and the The Nature Conservancy, in West Linn, Oregon.

“We work to open student’s eyes to injustices in our world and provide meaningful ways they can make a difference,” said Natalie Magnus, volunteer coordinator for the volunteer center. “When students return from an ASB experience, they share stories that show a true connection with a community in partnership toward a better world.”

What a great idea.

17.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Birds of a feather Permalink to this item

John Sepulvado and the team at OPB posted a blockbuster yesterday: GOP Politicians Planned And Participated In Key Aspects Of Refuge Occupation.

Washington State Rep. Matt Shea and Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore are the leaders, it sounds like, with Oregon State Rep. Dallas Heard and Idaho State Rep. Judy Boyle mentioned in the piece. Idaho's State Rep. Heather Scott made the "Who is in COWS?" sidebar, but not the story text.

Four ducks at Albertsons Park, 2015

It sounds like Shea, especially, was fomenting sedition back when Ryan Payne and Ammon Bundy were conspiring to rock Harney County, using the Hammonds' legal case as a catalyst. Shea was down at Bunkerville in 2014, "to support Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management," and he and fellow travelers started the "Coalition of Western States" (COWS) to "try and get some laws changed." And stuff. One of the other COWS founders, Greenlee County, Arizona, Commissioner Robert Corbell "told OPB that coalition leadership knew Ammon Bundy planned to take over U.S. government property in Harney County before it happened, but were unsure which federal outpost it would be."

“We knew he was going to do something,” Corbell said, “because something had to be done.”

And then the gang had a "fact-finding" meeting with Harney County officials and the FBI on January 9, one week into the "occupation" of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The OPB's story features key details of the 90 minute audio recording of the meeting.

The lawmakers wanted information from law enforcement, including what tactics the FBI anticipated taking against the militants. They wondered aloud, for example, whether refuge power would be cut. Law enforcement personnel repeatedly declined answering. The lawmakers continued to ask.

They also wanted to know what criminal charges the occupiers might face. After getting nowhere with that line of inquiry, coalition members asked with whom they could negotiate on behalf of the Ammon Bundy-led militants.

“There is no negotiation,” said Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, one of the local law enforcement officers at the meeting. “Just go home. We’re not going to negotiate because we just want them to leave this community.”

Fiore (over the phone) accused the BLM of "terrorism." For his part, Harney County Judge (and County Commissioner) Steve Grasty asked the group to stay away from the refuge.

“If we’re getting close (to a resolution), and you embolden Bundy by your presence, and this runs on for weeks and months, it will be awful in this community,” Grasty said.

The FBI agent also asked the lawmakers not to visit the refuge.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears. And Grasty’s prediction came true.

After the "fact-finders" had gone to the refuge and shared what they had been able to learn or infer from their meeting with law enforcement.

Addendum: The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on Cliven Bundy's detention hearing. Shorter: he'll be staying in custody pending trial.

"U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman found that no conditions of release could be fashioned to ensure that Bundy would appear for his May 2 trial.

"Hoffman said the serious nature of the charges against Bundy, the weight of the government’s evidence, and Bundy’s history of disobeying court orders all figured in his decision."

Duck and cover Permalink to this item

Our gasbag majority leader now says he's defending a "principle" that he and and his party-goers just made up. The smarmy self-righteousness is something to behold.

His lieutenant, and self-proclaimed friend and one-time supporter of Merrick Garland, Sen. Orrin Hatch made a singularly lame appearance on the PBS Newshour last night, defending the indefensible position of withholding the Senate's consideration of the president's Supreme Court nominee. His opening argument was how "toxic" the presidential election process is, which is pretty much all a Republican problem.

GWEN IFILL: So, you’re saying if this were not a toxic election process, it would be OK for any president to be able to make his nominee?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, it depends. It depends on—you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen after this election, but putting it off until after the election seems to me to be a wise thing to do. It will bring people together better than just trying to ram it through this time.

"Wise." "Ram." What the hell? And again with the "toxic." Next try was to look back through history and the happenstance of previous nominations, and infer some sort of precedent (if not the "principle" Mitch McConnell's waving). And oh by the way, those "Bork proceedings." The one where the not-so-stealth anti-abortion judge was "attacked viciously by Democrats," as they considered his nomination in the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate as a whole. For a week.

Hatch has been around long enough to still smart from 30 years ago, and he also knows, he just knows, "I guarantee you" that the Democrats would do the same thing his party is doing right now. "And I think it’s only right." He went on.

"But I will tell you one thing I’m tired of. And that is, when it comes to the Supreme Court, we should all be venerating that court and venerating the people on it. And to put them through — put even a good candidate through this toxic process during a presidential election, which really hasn’t been done before in this way, I think, is a tremendous — would be a tremendous mistake."

So to "venerate" the Supreme Court and its justices, he's going to spit on the Constitution, and ignore the Senate's duty to respond to the president's nomination. Got it. With veneration like this, who needs dishonor?

Do. Your. Job.

Update: Wow, even Fox News' Neil Cavuto used Orrin Hatch for some tee ball.

16.March.16 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Think of it as a challenge Permalink to this item

The teaser for President Obama's nomination of Merrick B. Garland to serve on the Supreme Court this morning said "the move sets up a major battle with Republicans," which is a sign of the times if you needed one. The least bit of business as usual now constitutes "major battle." The day-to-day job has given way to one manufactured crisis after another. Not to say an appointment to the highest court in the land is the least bit of business, but lord knows the Senate doesn't have other work it's doing to get in its way.

There used to be talk of the "nuclear option" when one party considering breaking the mostly unwritten rules that governed the means of obstruction. Did the bomb go off and no one noticed? A neutron bomb, leaving the Capitol intact, but all the people dead inside?

They're still lively when it comes to fundraising, at least. That NYT piece quotes a fundraising appeal from Sen. Mitch McConnell last month saying that “President Obama is getting dangerously close to narrowing down the field of potential candidates for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Dangerously.

At any rate, prepare for the spectacle of zombie Senators babbling about how "the people should have a say" in something they never have had, and why a 63-year old "centrist appeals court judge widely respected even by Republicans" should be sacrificed for political purposes. (Senators can retire in their jobs for whole six year terms, they're only asking that the President roll over and play dead for 20% of his.)

Props to POTUS for this bit of dramatic connection to the current chair of the Senate Judiciary committee:

"Obama picked a man who persevered through a lengthy political battle in the mid-1990s that delayed his own confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by more than a year. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, argued at the time that the vacancy should not be filled."

Garland comes with a nice endorsement from judiciary committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, albeit one from 2010 when Hatch thought Garland would be more of "a consensus nominee" than Elena Kegan. Can't wait to hear Hatch pretzel himself out of that. Maybe the new SCOTUS Nomination Twitter feed, @SCOTUSnom will have a link to that.

Update: Linda Greenhouse's muscular op-ed, Bring it on, recounts the history of the Reagan-era Bork nomination and rejection and shows how starkly it contrasts with the current Republican plan to just say no to even considering. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing and voted 9-5 to reject him but sent the nomination to the whole Senate anyway. The confirmation process there lasted "a spellbinding week," culminating with a 42-58 vote for confirmation. (The "no" side included 6 Republicans.)

"The president might even say: Remember Robert Bork? Treat my nominee in the same way. Have a conversation and let the public in on it. Of course the president and his allies know that’s exactly the public conversation that the Republicans fear, because it was clear from the first moment that any Obama nominee would inhabit the constitutional mainstream much more securely than either Judge Bork or Justice Scalia — whose “originalist” philosophy never gained more than a toehold at the court — ever did. Now with the nomination of Merrick Garland, there is not the shadow of a doubt. The only way the Republicans can come out ahead in a public conversation about this particular nominee is by not having it. The Bork Battle all over again? Be my guest."

Ides.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Super-duper Tuesday Permalink to this item

The losing candidate's always the last one to know, but after being landslided in his last-chance home state, Rubio's gone into suspended deanimation. Maybe next time (or the time after), when you've matured a little. The Trump/proto-fascist takeover of the GOP seems assured at this point. Rubio got in the best hits on the Trump campaign, but somehow the attack backfired; as if the cheap shots were too unbecoming of a legitimate candidate? It apparently doesn't have to make sense.

Either way, Rubio's cushy Senate job is on its last legs, too. He decided to run for president instead of re-election. For Ted Cruz, he gets to keep his "job" if he loses the race for the nomination (or the election), which works out to lose-lose for the rest of us.

It's looking like Kasich won Ohio going away, with Cruz a distant third, so there's still some kind of three-way race going on the Republican side. Kasich could only manage a plurality in his home state, but 43% was enough for 66 delegates in the winner-take-all contest. In Florida, Trump-takes-all 99 delegates, and he's ahead in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

Cruz will carry on, pointlessly. Kasich will be energized. But the losing candidate is always the last one to know.

Free stuff Permalink to this item

The so-called "Freedom Caucus" continues to receive regular paychecks for its members, and all their staff members, even though they're doing less than nothing. Fearless Leader Paul Ryan was going to change all that, but... no. Poetically flattened in the basement of a Capitol Hill restaurant named "Tortilla Coast," Idaho's own deadbeat Congressman Raúl Labrador was there to strut for the press.

Labrador told reporters "everything we've heard has been less than stellar." (That could be the slogan for his website, don't you think?) Another Freedom Caucuser said he was "looking at it purely from a standpoint that there is an increase in spending in this budget," because that is So Simple And Obvious.

"If there is no budget, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has intimated there won't be appropriations bills. A return to the regular legislative process for appropriations was a key tenet of Ryan's pitch for the speakership. Republicans overwhelmingly support the process of individual spending bills so that they could add policy riders to legislation.

"Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told HuffPost late Monday that adopting a budget always requires teamwork. 'And we continue to work with any members who want to help find a solution,' she said.

"But without a budget, the House—and by extension, the Senate—appears likely to forego individual appropriations bills and instead consider an all-encompassing continuing resolution that would kick spending decisions into the new year."

Room with a view Permalink to this item

Mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has a new entry in the all-time definition of chutzpah contest: arguing that his detention is cruel and inhuman. This is the guy killed 77 people 5 years ago. He was sentenced to just 21 years in prison. He could serve that time and be out before he's 60.

Solitary confinement is an issue. He's the only prisoner in the high-security wing of Skien prison, and rather in a class by himself. The Reuters photo of "a typical cell" may or may not match his, but it looks like a college dorm room. It has a TV and computer, but "no access to the internet," which is a bit hard to contemplate these days, but still.

"In a letter to prison authorities, he said his cell was poorly decorated and had no view. He also complained that his coffee was served cold, he did not have enough butter for his bread, and he was not allowed moisturiser."

3.14.16 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Send Grassley out to pasture Permalink to this item

Chuck Grassley has put in almost six terms as a US Senator, he's 82, and... he wants another term? Please, enough. If he wants to pull the plug on a lame duck, let him pull his own plug, and start spending more time with his family.

What the Des Moines Register editorial board thinks about it:

"This could have been a “profile in courage” moment for Sen. Grassley. This was an opportunity for our senior senator to be less of a politician and more of a statesman. It was a chance for him to be principled rather than partisan.

"He could have made it clear that he favors a Senate vote on the matter — a move that still would enable Republicans to accept or reject the eventual nominee based on merit — but he chose instead to disregard his constitutional duty by rejecting a nominee who hasn’t even been named.

"It's wrong. It's not unexpected, and it's not a surprise, but it's still wrong."

A well-rounded day Permalink to this item

The letter pi

It's not exactly pi, but close enough for government work. And besides, the calendar is a blunt instrument.

It is the day for websites offering a million digits of this irrational number to really shine. I hope they check their work carefuly.

One of the most precious books in my growing-up household was the Time/Life science series book on Mathematics, and along the bottom of several pages, it had the first 200 digits of pi. My brother memorized them, and went on from there. Back in the day when it was useful to remember some of them, I remembered 3.1415926, which, if that site there is correct should have been rounded to ...27, but it's too late to change memory now. And besides, four or six digits is round enough for most anything I get up to.

This is fun: a little video about "what is any of this good for?"

And the Jet Propulsion Lab offers Pi Day the NASA Way.

13.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Violence begets violence Permalink to this item

The rhyming of history happens on a longer cycle than individual memory. So here we are in the dawn of a new fascism, utterly surprised by how ordinary and banal the preamble turns out to be. A laughable clown who casually encourages violence from his enthusiastic followers, because they are persecuted. David Neiwert:

"This is a very dangerous time, and progressives are going to have to be smart about how they confront this tactic, which is going to happen increasingly as the election year drags along. They are going to have to be incredibly disciplined, and incredibly committed to nonviolence when confronted with the viciousness of the budding Brownshirts on the other side."

Fine fine fine Permalink to this item

Not one of the channels I recognize as comedy news, but this make-believe column from RNC chairman Reince Priebus is pretty wonderful: This Is Fine, Everything Is Fine. I Have Everything Under Control. Or maybe Reince Priebus really did write it. Either way.

While you're there, you can take quiz, Who Said It: Mike Huckabee or Dwight Schrute? (I scored 100%. Maybe I already took it once.)

With friends like these Permalink to this item

Ammon Bundy comes (figuratively) to the aid of embattled Grant County ("Constitutional") Sheriff, via the Bundy Ranch Facebook page. Sheriff Glenn Palmer was the only sheriff Bundy knew of who had bought in to their noble quest, after hearing about it straight from the horse's mouth. "We were there to defend people, not to harm, or make afraid," Bundy says. And hey, there was no need for martial law (like all the other sheriffs didn't actually rain down on Harney County).

"The fact is that bringing all that law enforcement to Burns put the people in much greater danger than we were 30 miles out of town, and it had nothing to do with safety. It was a selfish act of politics."

Well, you're still entitled to your opinion, even in jail. You're even entitled to a certain following of people who agree with you (which is how you got into this mess to begin with). Selling the whole we-were-there-to-save-the-people schtick to a judge or jury might be tougher than this, though.

Regardless of the view from the Multnomah Co. jail, it was "the people" there in Grant County who have been raising questions about the fitness of their sheriff to uphold the law. For his part, Sheriff Palmer "said he won't comment on any matter to The Oregonian/OregonLive. Apparently the media can't be trusted when it comes to upholding the Constitution, either.

It'll also be the people who decide whether they want to have Sheriff Palmer serve a 4th term in office, or try their luck with former undersheriff Todd McKinley, now directing Grant Co. Community Corrections, the "adult supervision service" that "[monitors] the behavior and movement of offenders in the community to ensure compliance with the conditions of the releasing authority."

12.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The world's greatest deliberative hackery Permalink to this item

With suits and ties and a podium out in the hall, they're putting on quite the thrilling serial for the press corps. Before Scalia's corpse was cold, Mitch McConnell threw down the gauntlet to say we are not going to do our job. (As compared to two dozen times McConnell argued the opposite side of the "principle", swelling about the "historical standard for fairness when it comes to confirming judicial nominees.")

McConnell and his cabal thought they had a lock when they dug up footage of Joe Biden in 1992, back when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, excerpting it to ignore what Biden was actually proposing. Biden responded on the Senate's duty in a NYT op-ed a week ago; the text of his 1992 speech and a link to the C-Span video are included.

"The president has the constitutional duty to nominate; the Senate has the constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent. It is written plainly in the Constitution that both presidents and senators swear an oath to uphold and defend."

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn made the GOP response Tex-Mex, passive aggressive style, telling a small cluster of reporters on Monday that he believed the nominee “will bear some resemblance to a piñata.”

Sounds way better than "I'll make sure the Republicans in the Senate put on blindfolds and hit whoever Obama nominates for the Supreme Court with a stick, repeatedly, until we bust him or her open and the candy inside comes out."

People are actually paying attention, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. "Hold hearings" had a solid majority last month, regardless of who Obama nominates. A good fraction of those who said the Senate should not hold hearings said they might change their minds depending on the nominee.

The most appropriate outcome, which McConnell, Grassley (now chair of the Judiciary committee), Cornyn and pals seem to be driving forward, behind Trump yacht and Cruz missile, is that the Democrats could take back the majority in the Senate.

Start with blue state underdogs Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Ron Johnson (R-WI), and go on to Iowa, Arizona, North Carolina, and Missouri. My favorite loser would be Ron Johnson, and have Democrat Russ Feingold come back to work. Johnson said that Scalia was the "gold standard of what a justice should be," so never mind the actual Constitution that Scalia professed to regard so highly; really, we just want a guy just like the guy. The Senate refusing to do its job is thus imminently reasonable. He says he's willing to lose re-election for his "principled" stand for partisanship. Let's hope the voters in Wisconsin can help him out.

Give Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham credit for candor in what his party is up to: setting a precedent for obstruction and lame-duckery. "[A]fter nearly every other senator on the committee spent their time pointing to hypocritical statements from each other about confirming judges, and citing selective instances in history, to try to bolster their argument about moving a Supreme Court nominee in a president's last year in office," Graham stated it plainly:

"We're headed to changing the rules, probably in a permanent fashion," he said.

And Graham laments "how partisan the Senate has become." Speaking of candor, I think it might have been one of those "did I say that out loud?" moments for Ron Johnson when he told the "Morning Mess" that it was really just plain party politics, leaving his communications director to try to mop things up with the #1 (and about only) GOP talking point, "let the people decide."

11.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You think?! Permalink to this item

Worst. Fundraising. Email. Ever. Subject "We May Lose." First line of the message: "There's no other way to say this: we will lose."

Never mind the If (starting the next paragraph), say no more. Marco Rubio is done. No need to wait for Florida to stick a fork in him.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Permalink to this item

The Las Vegas Sun (best newspaper name ever?) reports on the wheels of federal justice grinding slowly, slowly, in Nevada. Bunkerville "rancher" Cliven Bundy made an appearance, and he went with the Sovereign Citizen angle, declining to enter a plea, amid confusion about whether he had a lawyer. (Surely, there must be a parade of solons chomping at this bit? But he asked for a court-appointed lawyer when he made his first appearance, in Oregon, a month ago.)

The judge entered a plea on his behalf, "not guilty." (You never hear of judges entering a "guilty" plea on behalf of an uncooperative defendant; so much for the all-powerful federal government.) Joel Hansen was acting like an attorney, but not quite Bundy's attorney, and "not sure if he'll represent [Bundy] at the detention hearing."

Lots of pictures and blog posts from the scene outside. Sounds like it was a relatively calm protest if a drive-by "expletive-laden tirade" urging demonstrators to go home was the worst of it. Also, less open carry than expected. And not a lot of people on either side in the pictures. (Story says 100, but they never got together for a group photo.) The obligatory sign with the unfortunate apostrophe, oh, and there's a Gadsen flag in black. Steve Adams, 36, of North Las Vegas had one, and opined that the the federal government has gone too far in prosecuting “innocent patriots.”

“A rattlesnake doesn’t bother anyone unless you step on it,” Adams said, referring to the design on the flag, which features a coiled snake. “I think the government is starting to step too much on American ranchers.”

My wife has dispatched more rattlesnakes than it sounds like Adams has ever seen, and begs to differ. Just getting too close can be trouble enough. Out in the wild, keeping one's distance will live and let live, if you keep your wits about you. A den under a lumber pile inside the corral is not as neighborly.

House rebels Permalink to this item

Big to-do in the Idaho House of Representatives yesterday, voting down JFAC's budget for the Idaho Commission for the Arts.

"Some representatives said they voted against the bill even though they wanted it to pass, in order to send the message that they are fed up with the way lawmaking is handled in Idaho."

That included 7 members of the super-minority Democrats, and 29 Republicans (out of the 70-member House). Easy enough for some of the GOP members: "Whether they're education, whether they're judiciary, health and welfare they vote against most all the budgets," said Representative Ken Andrus from Lava Hot Springs. Kimberlee Kruesi noted in her report for the AP that "Over the years, it has become common practice to see around 20 Republican nay votes—coming from almost always the more far-right leaning members opposed to increased government spending—on any given budget bill." Call them the 28.6%-ers on the back-bench, the reliable No-Nos from which sprang Raúl Labrador and the career he's taken to the U.S. House to vote No on everything.

The amount of money in question isn't huge to the State, but for the wide range of organizations that benefit from it, it makes a difference. And former Idaho Attorney General Tony Park points out that the state's taxpayers paid for the Republicans' private party to decide how to apportion delegates to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, estimated to have cost about the same as the annual budget for the arts commission. ($2 million, give or take.)

Swiped from her Facebook page, because Freedom

With enough of the super-majority that says no to everything, the Democrats have a tiny bit of power to tip the balance. The gal at the top of Idaho Freedom Foundation's self-vaunted Freedom Index, Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, explains:

"There's two parties. There's the party working for the system and there's the party working for the people, and there's R's and D's in both."

In yesterday's legislative kerfuffle, she was happy to switch sides and support reconsideration, in support of voices being heard. She styles herself "working for the people," for sure, a job which has called her during this session to at least two field trips to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to carefully, carefully, express solidarity with the Bundy gang and its desire to take over the west through armed sedition. Her March 5th Facebook post has a link to LaVoy Finicum's August, 2015 video extolling "one cowboy's stand for freedom" and ownership of he-didn't-know-how-many acres of grass based on his grazing permit on public land.

She could "remain silent no longer!" but beyond calling "these actions" "unacceptable," and celebrating exercise of 1st and 4th Amendment, there isn't much plan of action. Freedom. If it means throwing a wrench in the works and annoying those legislators wanting to pass a budget to fund "the system" and get the hell out of Boise, so be it.

And monsters under the bed Permalink to this item

No shouting, fulmination, pouting, belittling opponents or jousting with the moderators, you say? Sounds kind of boring. There was still the empty braggadocio, at least: "Nobody else on this stage knows how to change it like I do, believe me."

And the utterly counter-factual narrative of doom and gloom that Republicans can't seem to get enough of. "GDP was zero, essentially, for the last two quarters," said Trump. That's absurd on its face, but equally wrong with the missing word growth included. GDP grew 2.4% in the US last year, adjusted for inflation. Unadjusted, the quarters were +0.8%, +6.1%, +3.3%, +2.0% according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. (0.6, 3.9, 2.0 and 1.0% based on "chained 2009 dollars.") The BEA's estimate of Q4 2015 GDP was $18,148,400,000,000. Eighteen trillion dollars. Slightly non-zero.

"We're at zero," Trump continued. "We've lost our jobs. We've lost everything." He said this mere days after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 242,000 jobs in February — the 72nd straight month of job growth, which is the longest streak of job growth on record.

That's how the GOP and its unwanted front-runner "stay classy."

10.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Republicon Permalink to this item

Jonathan Chait patiently explains why Donald Trump’s Republican enemies won’t use the best attack against him: the massive tax cut program for the rich that Trump's selling is the same vintage wreck they're planning to peddle. (Damn the deficit, full speed ahead!)

And I don't suppose they'll be railing against the lurking menace at Trump rallies; that's the same "energy" they're after? Turns out it is actually possible to go too far: a sucker punch right in front of Sheriff's deputies. I bet Cowboy John will be getting lots of attaboys from his septuagenarian pals at the retirement home. Trump was generically enthusiastic, anyway:

Later in the Fayetteville rally on Wednesday, when another in a series of demonstrators was being led out, Mr. Trump himself lamented what he called “the good old days” when someone who acted up would be carried out “on a stretcher.”

Scrolling on the fringe Permalink to this item

Patricia Bowen covers what sounds like a mostly one-man stand around Boise, for the school newspaper. "With his gun holster and sword at this side," Boise resident Daniel Adams expresses his displeasure at tyranny by "scrolling on the fringe of University Drive." The report also mentions the whoops we missed it "Stand By Me Rally" at the Capitol last Saturday, part of the national wave responding to LaVoy Finicum's death in Oregon. The law enforcement report of the investigation of the shooting is in the news this week, with just enough variant details to satisfy a confirmation bias on any side. The "federal tyranny" folks will focus on those two extra shots from an FBI agent (or two, who knows), and then the cover-up.

The OPB story from Amanda Peacher makes it sound like a least one FBI agent tried to take Finicum out before it was fully justified, but missed. Local law enforcement and the FBI had slightly different presentations at the press conference.

Credit BSU freshman psychology major Kinsey Walt, quoted in Bowen's Boise story for opposition color, for this cautionary insight:

“We’re already stressed enough with school and we’re not making very good decisions with that. We as people can’t really control our thoughts sometimes and in the moment is usually when bad things happen.”

She was talking about guns on campus, but there are lessons that can be carried out to the wider world. When you're already stressed by occupying a wildlife refuge for three weeks, looking over your shoulder everywhere you go, driving in winter through the mountains, and being stopped by the state police and FBI, it's best not to keep saying "shoot me," speed away from the police, try to run a roadblock and then reach for your gun. That's when bad things happen.

Speaking of bad things happening, in case you haven't yet really tied down the image of a militia-man playing sniper, the memorable photo of Eric J. Parker (taken by Jim Urquhart of Reuters, btw) at the Bunkerville standoff is featured in the Idahoans for Liberty invite to the "Free Eric Parker Rally" at the Capitol in Boise, 1 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 11).

"Eric Parker is a patriot! You may know him as the “MAN ON THE BRIDGE!” He is not only a known PATRIOT, but is a good friend! If you are involved in the Idaho 3% you may know him as the VP. For those of you who have followed the Bundy Ranch. You know that Cliven Bundy was just arrested for the Bundy Ranch standoff. What you may not know is that now others involved are being rounded up as well. Is this the America we came to? Now we are getting picked off, one by one for speaking out? Now is not the time to sit down and shut up! It is not time to tuck tail and RUN! We THE PEOPLE can prevail in peace! Only if we stand up, united! Don’t be the Patriot asking if you could have done more! If you’re not willing to stand for freedom, maybe you should turn in your guns, and rip up the constitution yourself!"

Parker and 13 others were indeed added to the list of additional defendants charged with felony crimes (Parker is charged with ten of the 16 felonies, and all five of the forfeiture allegations) at the Bunkerville standoff, last week. And yes, he was "rounded up" and headed off to jail.

"The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

No need to keep that photo circulating though; I'm sure the FBI has ample copies of it.


8.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Teamwork Permalink to this item

The Feb. 28 edition of the NY Times Magazine was dubbed "The Work Issue" and has nine (!) pieces on the theme of "reimagining the office." The lead feature was titled "Group Study" in print, and more informatively, What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, online.

My personal study of Organizational Development (affectionately known as "O.D.") was largely kicked off at the Pacific NW District's Leadership School in 1985, a weeklong "offsite," if you will, at the incomparable Ft. Worden on the Olympic peninsula. The curriculum was split between OD and Unitarian Univeralist "Religious Values," two comfortable companions.

Fresh from the yard, today

Round two was at Stanford, 1989-1990, in the Manufacturing Systems Engineering program, a mashup of advanced engineering and B-school coursework with an emphasis on working in teams in almost every course, including the one named Organizational Development. That one had a fellow from Japan's natural gas industry, struggling with english; an up-and-comer from India who was learning how to leverage others' efforts while minimizing his own; and a fourth who doesn't come as readily to mind. In three quarters of courses, I was a part of at least ten different teams, each with diverse quirks, experience, strengths and weaknesses.

As individuals, we had a simple, near-term focus: this course, this grade, one of a set of courses necessary for The Degree. The first meeting of any class had the inevitable discussion of what mattered for the grade, and the most memorable, truest, and most annoying answer was given by Professor Larry Leifer, on day 1 of the three-quarter sequence of ME210, "Automation & Design." When pressed for details, he stated flatly that "everything matters." It doesn't all matter to the same degree, necessarily; the first project was a throw-away whose purpose could have been obvious, but in the context of over-achievers thrown together in what seemed a competition, the amount of time we deemed "required" was through the roof. (Plus, I'd signed up for three "lab" courses my first quarter, when two would have been more than plenty.)

In pedagogical red ink over my summary, grumpy observations on October 15, the instructor's lieutenant (our "coach") explained—after the fact—the intended purpose of the exercise:

It had its moments, anyway. Next up, we had (as I journaled it), a "new team, new mega-project w/ 12 days to do it!!" (Yes, two exclamation points. What a state I was in.) That project was equally disposable (we used more recyclable materials, at least), and with pretty much the same purposes, even if they weren't spelled out with a fat red pen at the end. And by the first of November, it seems my harshest critic (me) was satisfied with the result. Perhaps the Loma Prieta earthquake interrupting the first project's "Design Roast" helped put things in perspective. There were Lessons to Remember:

And this bit of timeless wisdom: We learn from failure – don't take "we failed" or "it failed" as a negative attitude.

Decades later, with access to all the world's information, Google must have solved the puzzle as to what makes great teams, right? Yes and no. The article at least suggests that some particular group norms are common to effective teams, and they boil down to treating each other well.

"First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

"Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues. ..."

7.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Talk of the town Permalink to this item

You have to give the Conservative HQ credit for tireless support of Ted Cruz, no matter how dishonest they have to be about it. Declaring a "split decision" on the weekend (which, who knew? was "Super Saturday"), they're so keen on having Rubio quit that they're throwing in the CPAC straw poll as if it meant something.

For his part, Rubio remains delusional on his chances, remarking while campaigning in Puerto Rico, “Tonight we will have more delegates than we did last night. This map only gets better for us.

"We're gonna win Florida and you’ll find out on March 15 how confident we are."

March 15 has two big winner-take-all GOP contests, with 99 delegates from Florida, and 66 from Ohio to be had. (Illinois, with 69 is "winner take most," and North Carolina and Missouri have 72 and 52 up for grabs on the day.) That's after tomorrow's 150—including Idaho's 32— get sorted.

I don't give Rubio much of a shot, either, but there's ample delusion to go around. Florida and Ohio offer the last glimmers of hope for Rubio and Kasich. Ted Cruz did have a good weekend, and maybe the CPAC's speakers are right about him being the anti-Tea Party candidate. One anti-government, racist mob looks about the same to me as another, so it's hard to tell sometimes.

Mitt Romney had a chance to cleverly quip that "Trump was uncharacteristically low energy," the NYT reports in its horse racing and advertising handicapping. But the Republican establishment looks to be left without a ride. Lindsey Graham sees the contracting Republican tent "in a demographic death spiral.”

Speaking of demographic spirals, how deliciously ironic would it be if black and hispanic voters save the country from the nightmare of a Ted Cruz (or Donald Trump) victory in the end?

Frank Bruni's electoral math adds up to no way for the TeaPublicans to stop Trump. No way short of "an implosion," which hasn't come from dissing John McCain, from Mexican rapists, from imagined cheers of New Jersey Muslims, from arguing with the Pope, or from getting suckered into bragging about the size of his stubby fingers and all they imply. Most charitably that last bit was "a triumphantly odd debate performance," with another comedy lineup this Thursday.

"If Trump and Rubio continue their puerile trajectory, one of them will almost certainly give the other a wedgie, and the 2016 road to the White House will swerve yet again into uncharted and previously unimaginable terrain."

The NYT Sunday Review section had a talk of too much "horse-race" coverage and not enough about the issues, and three columnists ending up on the same page talking about Trump. Ross Douthat's Elements of Trumpism surmises that he could be doing us a big favor by reminding us how horrible authoritarianism is, on the way to his not winning. (Knock on wood.)

Maureen Dowd says it's wicked fun to watch a made-for-TV shape shifter leave the neocons spinning in his gyre. When Eliot Cohen warns of "unmitigated disaster," we might beware. Also,

"How lame was it that after saying he was a crazy choice, Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and John McCain turned around and said they will support Trump if he’s the nominee?"

Nicholas Kristof laments the fact that "the damage to American's image is already done, even if Trump is never elected," and gives political scientist and former Bush administration national security official Peter Feaver the last word:

"[W]hat Trump promises to do would in some important ways make all of the problems we face dramatically worse. Why, at a moment when the country desperately needs our A-team, would we send in the clowns?"

5.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Honey, I blew up the Party Permalink to this item

Conservative HQ Chairman Richard Viguerie's keening lament, following props to his man:

"I think Ted Cruz did a good job in the debate tonight, but from the perspective of my 50+ years in conservative politics at the national level, it is clear that only two things can stop Donald Trump now: Trump himself or a united conservative movement."

Viguerie still imagines that "Donald Trump is perfectly capable of destroying his own campaign or at last doing serious damage to his prospects by not being presidential in his rhetoric or actions," against all facts in evidence. The bar for "being presidential" has been lowered to flush with the ground, so that even with clown shoes on, you can walk over it.

“The establishment media has failed to expose Trump’s past business dealings, lifestyle, bizarre statements, and liberal Democratic ideas–and had they become better known earlier, they would have unmasked Trump for the Big Government anti-conservative that he is.”

The NYT reports that the rank and file are adamant, no matter what Mitt Romney and John McCain and Steve Forbes say: they're sticking with Trump. (They've never heard of Richard Viguerie.) "I personally am disgusted by it — and I think it's disgraceful," Lola Butler said. Talking about Romney's statement. Calling Trump out for misogyny, vulgarity and dishonesty. Sounds like a condescending Democrat!

“There’s nothing short of Trump shooting my daughter in the street and my grandchildren — there is nothing and nobody that’s going to dissuade me from voting for Trump,” Ms. Butler said.

Some of them are as enthusiastic about Trump "doing damage to the Republican Party" as for Trump himself. Steve from Temecula, California, for example, had a message for Mr. Romney:

“The Republican electorate is not a bunch of completely ignorant fools. We know who Donald Trump is and we’re going to use Donald Trump to either take over the G.O.P. or blow it up.”

But don't blame Trump for taking advantage of the opportunity the party's giving him. He's not the cause of the wave, he's just riding it. Never mind Trump's "uniquely grotesque" and "signature personality brew of deep-seated insecurities, vindictive narcissism, channeling of the darkest impulses, and gaudy, petty boasting," Glenn Greenwald points out that it's Trump's substance, not his style that's the issue:

"Trump is self-evidently a toxic authoritarian demagogue advocating morally monstrous positions, but in most cases where elite outrage is being vented, he is merely a natural extension of the mainstream rhetorical and policy framework that has been laid, not some radical departure from it. He’s their id. What establishment mavens most resent is not what Trump is, does, or says, but what he reflects: the unmistakable, undeniable signs of late-stage imperial collapse, along with the resentments and hatreds they have long deliberately and self-servingly stoked but which are now raging out of their control."

For our moral condemnation to be "genuinely valuable," it has to have some grounding, not just self-delusion and self-glorification. Sounds like too much work.

It's too much work for the other three remaining candidates running against Trump. He may be a "clown" and a "con artist" (who, ahem, "lacks the temperament to be president"), but he's their clown, and a pledge is a pledge, for them. For Trump? Who knows. He doesn't believe for a second that he's going to have make good on it, but if somehow he does get pushed out of the race, he'll do what he thinks is good for his business, or ego.

Ranch news Permalink to this item

Today's the big day, dozens of rallies in memory of LaVoy Finicum. Boise's not on The Oregonian's interactive map there, huh. Story says one of the goals is "to collect signatures for a petition urging state and federal authorities to investigate how Finicum died," oddly. Authorities are certainly investigating it all, even as that's unlikely to satisfy those who think he was murdered.

"Many dispute the FBI's account of the confrontation and insist Finicum's death was preventable."

Indeed. All he had to do was surrender peacefully to law enforcement, not flee, not try to drive around a roadblock, not jump out of the car and appear to go for his gun.

Phil Taylor, writing for E&E Publishing, introduces us to the Klumps—BLM's pre-Bundy roundup nightmare. That headline's a little overblown, not least because the Klumps never caused enough trouble to make national headlines, and because there was a peaceable resolution in their case. It involved some jail time for Wally Klump, with an apparently successful deterrent to future transgression. The extended family still holds grazing permits on 11 allotments, and BLM said it "maintains a productive working relationship with these permittees." They were more the lone wrangler sort, didn't call out the militia to rally to their support. While the neighbors in Arizona "initially supported him," they reportedly "recoiled when he started talking about killing people."

In the Bundy's case, the BLM's not satisfying the curiosity of reporters (or others) wanting to know the particulars of the claim that Cliven owes $1 million. On the one hand, it sounds a little sketchy for grazing fees. On the other, after a slew of court cases and unsatisfied judgements, and by now, I'm sure Bundy and his supporters have cost taxpayers that much and more. Not even counting the room and board they're currently enjoying at government expense.

The Bend Bulletin reports a document dump from Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown, a thousand pages of emails and texts. A few days before the leaders were arrested in January, Brown wrote to the President and Attorney General to say:

“The residents of Harney County are being intimidated in their own hometown by armed criminals who appear to be seeking occasions for confrontation,” Brown wrote. “The harm being done to the innocent men, women and children of Harney County is real and manifest. With each passing day, tensions increase exponentially.”

4.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

These little guys Permalink to this item

It seems there was yet another Republican debate last night. We may be getting down to the tail end of the field, but the entertainment value—judging by James Hohmann's take and Twitter excerpts for WaPo—was OFF THE HOOK.

So much so that Bill Kristol had a religious experience:

Watching the debate, had a moment of mystical insight and clairvoyant vision: Could we end up with a Cruz-Kasich ticket?

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 4, 2016

What John Kasich said: "It's now March Madness."

And no matter how crazy, insulting, ridiculous, embarrassing, childish or frightening he may be, they all said they'd support the eventual nominee to come out of this.

"Even if it's not me?" Donald wanted to know.

But he couldn't believe that could ever happen, so he was willing to grant the other three guys credit they didn't deserve, in the most ungracious way imaginable.

The bullying of Wayne Hoffman Permalink to this item

The head of Idaho's self-proclaimed "most influential" political organization, the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation Idaho Freedom Foundation has been hit, hard, judging by his over-the-top reaction to a legislator calling him out.

Joe Jaszewksi's photo of Wayne Hoffman, pulled out of the Idaho Statesman's files, is almost too precious, showing him on the Capitol steps blowing through a bullhorn. Bill Dentzer's story describes (and links to) Rep. Packer's weekly podcast with her statement,

“I don’t know that they’re necessarily an honest, conservative voice. There’s just a lot of ironies and hypocrisies that I see in place”

following her (persisently unnamed, weirdly) interlocutor's leading question about IFF's tactics, which "if they were employed on an elementary school level, they would be in the principal's office for bullying." He said "that's just my point of view," she said "I agree," he said "and I'm sure I'm going to get attacked for that," and here we are.

Packer said she thought it "was more concerted this session," and that she's "been surprised by them." She said that the "honesty" she'd hoped for from Wayne and his IFF "hasn't always been the case."

"I watch things that are happening up here that are really concerning to me. The Freedom Foundation, they're a 501(c)(3), which means that they cannot lobby, yet they're here on the Capitol on a regular basis lobbying. And there are a lot of ironies and hypocrisies. With a 501c3, those people that donated to them get a full tax deduction; they're not supposed to lobby, yet they do. In the campaign season, 2014 I think it was, they were puttin' up billboards smearing good conservatives over a voting record that is arbitrary..."

She said in her first year in the legislature she asked the IFF not to send her any more emails.

"Wayne Hoffman hates licensure, so any licensure bill's going to be a negative six, and ruin your score."

In her opinion, it seemed that the IFF's decisions about what legislation is "good" and "bad" is arbitrary, and depends on who's carrying the bill.

"Who are you two or three people to tell the rest of the state, and their representatives how they should vote?"

"They say they're all about fiscal conservative values, but yet they cost us money, thousands and thousands of dollars in costly document requests, in votes that make us come back for a special session or that extend our session time. They run bills that are unconstitutional, according to our AGs, which costs money. So I look at this and go, how's that conservative?"

The specific "bullying tactic" she identified was "don't vote the way I think you should? I'm going to give you a negative 6."

Of course, to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, "good government" is an oxymoron. Regulation is bad. because it costs money, and makes more government. Good people can disagree—strongly—about such matters of opinion, as well as about what is and is not "conservative." And what constitutes "bullying."

The question of what is and isn't legal in regard to a "charitable" organization lobbying the legislature is not cut and dried, as Dentzer pointed out:

"Federal law allows a sliding-scale portion of a charity’s expenditures to go toward lobbying. In 2014, for example, IFF reported $731,000 in expenditures. Under the law, it could have spent nearly $136,000 on lobbying. With three employees registered as lobbyists, it reported spending less than $16,000."

Sunset photo

It's a gray area, and, like so much of our tax system generally depends on voluntary compliance, and self-reporting. The IFF self-assesses what constitutes "lobbying" and... came up with that interesting, de minimis, and self-serving number which is more than slightly incredible.

We're not sure that's honest, you might say.

But here comes Wayne Hoffman, with a press conference at the Capitol, to correct the record, and helpfully SoundClouding the audio on the IFF site. After extolling his organization for being The Most Influential in all the land and its Freedom Index as the "gold standard" of conservativism, Wayne wants to know why is everybody always pickin on me?

Before he accuses some unnamed legislator of slander, in a hypocritical way, with vague, but truly indignant innuendo. "The truth" is that IFF is a lobbying organization, which yes, it's plain to see. Hoffman claims it's all "lawfully," but that's not so clear, and the IRS' enforcement powers have been gutted by conservatives such as him.

Nobody ever goes after lefty organizations like Planned Parenthood, you know?

Hoffman has the unmitigated gall to accuse anyone who insists that his credibility is open to question that we want to use "the force of government to harass [your] donors." (Well, ok, into obeying the law.)

Asked by reporter Betsy Russell the direct question that this whole show is intended to provoke, Hoffman says "well I didn't mention her name," and only coyly acknowledging, who it was that he was there to bully and harass.

Voting records are matters of FACT, and public record, unlike the SECRET (or "private," if you like) identity of the "conservatives" who are paying IFF's expenses and Wayne Hoffman's salary.

Betsy presses on: "what, particularly, was a LIE?"

"The claim was that we were bullying legislators, and that we're harassing them into voting a certain way. None of that is true."

And yet, Hoffman proves the accusation against him with this press conference, held to make sure that the Kelley Packers of the legislature never have the temerity to call bullshit on the IFF.

"Whenever you distort the truth, that's bullying," Hoffman said. That's some creative word-slinging from a veteran slinger. Distortion is bullying, and bullying is lying and lying is slander. Got it.

For the voters in Rep. Packer's district, Hoffman was considerably more direct than vague innuendo about "some legislator," using robo-calls to accuse her of "slander," and to tar her with the ultimate insult. She "is a liberal."

That is some bad-ass bullying and harassment, Wayne.

3.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Call of the wild Permalink to this item

Yesterday, we declined to be nationally researched for yet another two times (and a third shot in the dark, after we'd gone out), so figure any of those poll results you read are slanted away from people like us. Since we like us, that's good news from our perspective, compared to what you read about the latest polls. But the folks who are talking to pollsters, and a lot of the ones showing up to vote in Republican primaries are evoking observations such as this, about the front runner:

"I’ve never met a national politician so ill informed, so evasive, so bombastic and, frankly, so puerile."

Among supporters, that is apparently a good thing. It's "telling it like it is." Never mind, "political correctness," to hell with "correctness."

79% of Trump's statements Politifact looked at were mostly false, false, or pants-on-fire. Chances are 1 in 5 that anything factual he claims is wrong. Lottery tickets are a considerably better bet than the truth of a Trump blurt (or tweet).

Republicans have done so well at breaking government, making good on that "government is broken" marketing campaign they've been running, the idea of a powerful, bullying "outsider" seems like the best thing going to a mob sharpening their pitchforks and soaking the torches.

But unlike the unfortunate Chris Christie (facing a mob of New Jersey editorial boards, as he gamely bobble-heads for "Mr. Trump") and the random leader of the Idaho legislature, not all Republicans are prepared to say "yay." John Stemberger, President and General Counsel of Florida Family Action, has a short and unconvincing list of things to like about Trump (including how "straight shooting" he is, appealing to those "feeling lied to by so many politicians"), followed by three questions (with answers provided):

  1. What is Donald Trump's political history and voting record?
  2. Do Donald Trump's liberal positions on policy issues tell us how he would govern as president?
  3. Does Donald Trump have the kind of character and integrity that can be trusted?

Maybe it'll be more persuasive with the angle about how we didn't really "do a background check" on Obama before electing him president. (Uh, twice, now.) Stemberger seems as concerned about Trump winning the nomination and losing the election, but he's arguing against taking the chance that Trump would win, too:

"Trump's outrageous insults, double talk and baggage would surely destroy him in a general election. But what happens if he did win the general election and became the next president? What happens when the job is no longer fun? Would he just walk out and leave the job? Does he have the character to go the distance?"

Or would he just hand it over to Vice-President Chris Christie? (Not that Christie would get Trump's nod for Veep. He seems more likely to go with his own daughter.)

The Speaker of the House (and last time's failed Veep candidate) says he'd hold his nose and vote for whomever, while the lame duck Majority Leader of the Senate is looking out for number one,

"remind[ing] colleagues of his own 1996 re-election campaign, when he won comfortably amid President Bill Clinton’s easy re-election. Of Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell has said, “We’ll drop him like a hot rock,” according to his colleagues."

Maybe he would make it his top priority as Minority Leader to ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term president.

And this just in, Mitt Romney made his case against Trump in a speech in Utah this morning.

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Mr. Romney said. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”

The NYT First Draft found somebody in one of those lousy hats to rebut. A one-time Romney-backer, even:

Max Chaz, who backed Mr. Romney in 2012, arrived in a “Make America Great Again” hat that is the hallmark of Mr. Trump’s campaign. He was turned off by Mr. Romney’s late effort to tilt the election and said it was “bordering on tyranny when the party turns around at this date after Trump has been so successful and decide they don’t like the outcome.”

You don't need me (or the New York Times) to tell you that Trump responded "quickly and forcefully" about the guy who "ran one of the worst campaigns, as you know, in presidential history." But further down the First Draft, it's interesting to note that Trump found his way back to the politically correct position on white supremacist David Duke, now "a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years," as opposed to "I don't know anything about David Duke, ok?" On Sunday. Maybe Trump is more generous on Sundays.

2.March.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Home again Permalink to this item

Here's more on Scott Kelley, mostly put together from before yesterday's return in the Soyuz capsule, but with some lovely video footage we didn't see live yesterday: Nsikan Akpan for the PBS Newshour, I couldn't sleep last night, because Scott Kelly came home.

Update: PBS put together an hour-long show, A Year in Space that aired March 2, and that you can watch online ICYMI. Very clever to do all that ahead of time and splice in the return to cap it off.

Politically incorrect Permalink to this item

Bit of news to me that Ross Douthat constitutes the "last bastion of rationality on the right," but hold that thought. William Saletan goes on to say that "the delusion that Obama caused Trump" has now infected Douthat too.

"Obama was for fiscal responsibility and compromise, so Republicans were for absolutism and drama," which is not to say Obama made them do it. "In Trump, Republican voters have found their anti-Obama. Trump spurns not just political correctness, but correctness of any kind."

Let Douthat have his say. "Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon," says he, with "liberal" italicized just so you don't miss his point.

"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."

Aaaand, hold your buts. Obama didn't do all he could to stop the usurpation of executive power so artfully crafted by Dick Cheney and his acolyte, thus producing the Trump phenomenon? So much for the bastion of rationality.

Postscript: Douthat's post-Tuesday take is that Trump "basically has the devil’s luck," which I guess is good? I don't remember that part of my Catechism.

Did I say that out loud? Permalink to this item

NYT reader Ken Fitzpatrick is featured in outgoing Public Editor Margaret Sullivan's explanation of How Trump's "Off the Record" Remarks Crept Out which is being treated by some (including said Trumpster) as a horrific breach of ethical standards, as if we needed a further injection of (tragi-)comedy into the proceedings of the current Republican race for the nomination. I'm with Fitzpatrick:

"Can you please elucidate why the NYT is conducting any part of an interview with a Presidential candidate off the record?

"Obviously if you have informed someone that part of the interview is off the record, going back on that would be unethical. But why, oh why, would you ever agree to that in the first place? You’re not interviewing someone whose cat was rescued from a tree. ..."

There's a lengthy, convoluted and (dare we say) politically correct explanation. Technically, while it was "off the record," it was recorded. Unlike the movies, no one reached across the table for dramatic effect and hit the PAUSE button on the cassette recorder. The Time's executive editor isn't planning to pursue a leak investigation, and

he also said that he found the idea of an off-the-record agreement when there are “30 people in the room” to be difficult to enforce and probably impractical.

As conscience for the operation, Sullivan is bound to acknowledge that the organization "was and is obligated to honor that arrangement," no matter how preposterous it might have been, and gee, maybe they shouldn't put themselves in that position again. Nothing wrong with an off-the-record, pre-endorsement meeting with dozens of disparate board members and one hopeful prospect, but just don't mix it up any news-gathering.

You know, the way Donald Trump and the other candidates are so careful to compartmentalize themselves into formality and informality.

So anyway, what was leaked, exactly? To read the Buzzfeed account, it sounds like nothing other than a hint in a Gail Collins column (who was there as part of... the editorial board? Can't tell; it says "19 journalists" but only lists 16, and the story is that 30-some people were there), which, I have to tell you, has nothing that sounds like insider information in it. The supposed money quote:

"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."

That's not a leak, it's a duh. Did we not all read The Art of the Deal? (Ok, I didn't.) Did we not hear about the "Trump University" scam selling a make-believe connection to Trump, now working its way through lawsuits? Did we not see more than enough of The Apprentice to want to tear our eyes out of their sockets?

Speaking of tearing your eyes out of your sockets, the manufactured "controversy" (at least something about Trump is Made in USA) is that there is a recording of the off-the-record part of the discussion that had parts that were on-the-record too. As Trump told to Sean Hannity, on Fox News, accusing the NYT of doing something... is there any evidence they did?

"Yeah, of course they're leaking it," said Trump. "The most dishonest media group. And it's also failing. I call it the failing New York Times. It's doing so badly, it's dying. But I did. We had a board meeting. It was off the record. All of a sudden, they leak it. It's all over the place."

"They said you said it's negotiable on the wall," said Hannity.

Trump did not miss a step. "It's negotiable," he said. "Things are negotiable. I'll be honest with you -- I'll make the wall two feet shorter, or something. I mean, everything's negotiable."

"It's not negotiable to build it?" asked Hannity.

"No!" said Trump. "Building it? Not negotiable."

"Would it be negotiable about the 11 million?" asked Hannity, referring to the frequently cited estimate of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. "Maybe let some people stay if they register in a period of time?"

"I would say this," said Trump. "I've always said, look, we have some great people over here. And they're going to go out, but we're going to work out a system that's fair."

There's your dealy art. Innuendo and bluster from a lying gasbag free to fling his feces any which way, abetted by oily sycophants like Sean Hannity, who accidentally helped Donald spill more "trade secrets" than anyone at the NYT had revealed. Whatever the hell "it" is, it's "all over the place" coming out of the mouth of Trump, but not so much in the real world.

Welcome to your Super Tuesday hangover, with two and some remainder hopeless also-rans clinging to their fractional chances so firmly that Trump's plurality will be his ticket to splitting the party in two, leaving durable partisans (such as Idaho's GOP leaders) to grit their teeth and go down with the ship. The NOT-TRUMP results from the day:

Rubio is looking ever-less likely, but he's got 106 out of 681 delegates so far, just enough to keep him dangling on. Cruz has 226, way more than enough to keep him trudging forward (or as his fundraising message this morning puts it, "March to Victory!"), but only a third of the total. Trump's 46% plurality is plenty in a five-way race, or even a three-way. Rubio-Cruz voters aren't fungible, and Cruz's insistence that "I am the only candidate who can beat Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton" is as unconvincing as his melodramatic cadence.

Super Tuesday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Big picture view Permalink to this item

Scott Kelly Reflects On His Year Off The Planet before he comes back down this evening, with a nice selection of the many, great, big photos he's taken. The return story on Wired had a replay of the goodbye hugs and closing of the Soyuz hatch. Undocking set for 18:05 MST, landing 21:05.

Trump mania Permalink to this item

Robert Kagan: The GOP's Frankenstein.

Amanda Taub: American authoritarianism. Trump could be the first of many Trumps.

Jonathan Chait: How Donald Trump Made Republicans Half-Aware of Racism. "Donald Trump represents a threat to conservatism in two ways. He is extremely likely to lose if nominated, and even if elected, he engenders little confidence that he will see the party agenda through."

Hmm, I missed it when David Brooks started hitting the panic button in mid-January. I think my head would have exploded trying to wrap around our need for "a coalition that combines Huey Long, Charles Colson and Theodore Roosevelt."

Dumbfounding Permalink to this item

Peter Wehner is among those of us who can't understand how "Christian" and "Donald Trump" go together. His NYT op-ed asks What Wouldn't Jesus Do? Spoiler alert: He sure as hell wouldn't vote for that Trump character. (Which made me wonder; was Jesus a voter? I don't remember any Bible passages about election day.)

News to me, Trump has collected endorsements from Liberty U. president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Christian Broadcasting Networker Pat Robertson, quoted as saying, to Trump's face, "You inspire us all." It makes perfect sense if Pat was speaking for all media personalities making a living off donations from a credulous audience. He's truly an inspiration! But for the rest of us, not so much.

"Mr. Trump’s character is antithetical to many of the qualities evangelicals should prize in a political leader: integrity, compassion and reasoned convictions, wisdom and prudence, trustworthiness, a commitment to the moral good."

Never mind evangelicals, shouldn't we all prize integrity, compassion and reasoned convictions, wisdom and prudence, trustworthiness, a commitment to the moral good? And deprecate "a moral degenerate"?

Whether or not Jesus ever found his way to a polling booth, he did have some things to say about the separation of church and state. He would certainly have valued personal integrity and moral behavior over bluster and bullying. Evangelical fervor does not seem to be the prime mover in any Trump supporter's decision-making. Wehner offers what's "utterly captivating" about Trump's persona:

“Part of the explanation is that many evangelicals feel increasingly powerless, beaten down, aggrieved and under attack. A sense of ressentiment, or a “narrative of injury,” is leading them to look for scapegoats to explain their growing impotence. People filled with anger and grievances are easily exploited. As the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote, “We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement and where everyone has a grievance.”

You don't need to be Christian (let alone evangelical) to recognize a great deal wrong with Donald Trump and the increasingly unruly mob drawn to his candidacy. As Jeanette responded when I read some of Wehner's stirring denunciation to her, "the man makes some good points mixed in with his creedal obsession." Never mind Christianity and Plato's warnings about Sophists, we went through this just last century in a World War, now fading from memory one funeral at a time. Lest we forget, Trump's bringing back golden oldies, lauding the wit and wisdom of Benito Mussolini.

Nov. 2013 photo

After yesterday's "bad earpiece" explanation, I actually saw the exchange between CNN's Jake Tapper and Trump (thanks to all of Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore lampooning it), and there was absolutely no evidence of bad sound, first of all, and secondly, it wasn't just 16 years ago that Trump specifically rejected David Duke, he did it again last August. In Trump's defense (seriously), the CBS News report last summer makes Trump's rejection sound rather generic and off-the-cuff, like so much of what he says. ("I don't need his endorsement; I certainly wouldn't want his endorsement," Trump said during an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday. "I don't need anyone's endorsement.")

What Duke likes about Trump's supposed position is the anti-immigration part, even though "we can't trust him." And Duke insists that he's not endorsing Trump, even though he's voting for him, and urges others to vote for him, too, and work on Trump's campagin. "Strategically." "To promote the illegal immigration issue," and against the other two Republicans [sic] who are "traitors." (Also, Cruz is "a bald-faced liar.")

Duke points out that he's not in the KKK anymore. That was 40 years ago, and he "was only a KKK spokesman for about 3 years," and that was "a non-violent Klan group." Also, Duke got out of the Klan a lot earlier than one-time Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd did, and Byrd got to be President Pro Tem of the U.S. Senate, endorsed by none other than Barack Obama! (I'm not sure anyone has told Duke that Byrd is dead. It's a bit late to be going after him.) But he's not not not a white supremacist, and he says it every day of the week on his radio show.

Duke's 1970s go with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (the KKKK) was a marketing thing, "a new brand of Klansman: well-groomed, engaged, and professional. Duke also reformed the organization, promoting nonviolence and legality, and, for the first time in the Klan's history, women were accepted as equal members and Catholics were encouraged to apply for membership" according to the interesting, long Wikipedia entry for him. (I have to wonder how many women and Catholics signed up.) That didn't stick, so he went on to form the National Association for the Advancement of White People, yet another marketing program that didn't catch fire.

After changing his spots from Democratic to Republican (with a go at "Independent Populist" for President in 1988), he made it into the Louisiana House with a narrow victory in a special election, in which George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan supported his Democratic opponent. (The Democrat made the mistake of saying he'd consider a property tax increase in a suburban district.) Duke's version is that he was a full member of the Republican caucus, with "a perfect Republican voting record." The Republican "party bosses" in Louisiana "betrayed" him after he'd made it as far as a two-way runoff for Governor in 1991. "I'm the one who changed the Republican Party," Duke says. His platform has become the "mainstream," he said, citing the New York Times for evidence. (The media are ok when they say things he likes.)

It didn't take too much effort to find Jeremy Alford's piece on New Year's Eve, 2014, when we were talking about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's stumbling into a white supremacist group: Much of David Duke’s ’91 Campaign Is Now in Louisiana Mainstream, even though "mainstream" Republicans keep running away from the guy. Back in the day, Duke

"focused on anti-big government and anti-tax mantras that preceded the Tea Party movement. His decision to run to the right of the field is now a common maneuver in Louisiana’s open primary system.

"Mr. Duke supported forcing welfare recipients to take birth control. Now there are near-perennial attempts by members of the Louisiana Legislature to give welfare recipients drug tests.

"After being elected to the state House of Representatives in 1989, Mr. Duke filed nine bills, including measures implementing stricter guidelines for residents of public housing, repealing affirmative action programs and eliminating minority set-asides."

And perhaps more relevant, and bringing today's story full circle, Scalise's 2002 presentation that seemed like a mistake 12 years later was, by one account (quoted in Alford's story), “the typical mainstream Republican thing” and not “too far right.”

“He touched on how America was founded on Christian principles, Christian men who founded this country, and how it was believed it would go forward as a Christian nation and how we’re getting away from that,”

according to a representative of Duke's "European Unity and Rights Organization" back then.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007