Monthly Archives: February 2016

Is Trump Knowingly Lying About His Immigration Position?


There’s a rumor going around, encouraged in no small part by this article, to the effect that Trump was talking off-the-record with a New York Times reporter, and what he said called into question whether he would stand by his views on immigration:

Trump visited the paper’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 5, part of a round of editorial board meetings that — as is traditional — the Democratic candidates for president and some of the Republicans attended. The meetings, conducted partly on the record and partly off the record in a 13th floor conference room, give candidates a chance to make their pitch for the paper’s endorsement.

After a dispute over Trump’s suggestion of tariffs on Chinese goods, the Timesreleased a portion of the recording. But that was from the on-the-record part of the session.

The author of the article, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith goes on:

Sources familiar with the recording and transcript — which have reached near-mythical status at the Times — tell me that the second sentence is a bit more than speculation. It reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hard-line anti-immigration stance.

So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?

I wasn’t able to obtain the recording, or the transcript, and don’t know exactly what Trump said. Neither Baquet, Collins, nor various editorial board members I reached would comment on an off-the-record conversation, which the Times essentially said they cannot release without approval from Trump, given the nature of the off-the-record agreement.

Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told me he would not comment “on what was off the record at our meeting with him.”

The New York Times isn’t going to release the transcript unless Trump says it is okay.  Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have called on Trump to consent to its release:

“If Donald didn’t say that to the New York Times then he deserves to have that cleared up and releasing the tape can clear it up,” Cruz said.

“The alternative is that it is true.”

This put Trump in a bit of a bind, especially if it is true.

I suspect he might argle bargle a little bit, and threaten to sue Ben Smith and/or the New York Times, and surely that will satisfy his current supporters who (as Trump says) wouldn’t care if he killed an old lady.  But as for other potential supporters — which Trump still needs for the general election — this could be very bad for Trump.  It could show that he really is a politician after all — saying what he knows the GOP base wants to hear, but has no intention of doing that.

How does Trump get out of this?  I think the only way is to consent and hope for the best.  Stalling looks bad.

RELATED:  A secret service agent at a Trump rally took down a photographer rather hard.  No surprise — in fact, it was late in coming.  But watch for an increase in this kind of violence.

Trump’s Weekend Foray Into Fascism

“Fascism” is a word that rarely appears in modern political discourse, and when it does, it usually is in an Internet flame.  It’s intended to be incendiary — it is hyperbole.

But not this time.  When I say that Donald Trump — GOP presidential candidate and likely nominee for the Republicans — flirted with fascism this weekend, I mean it.

It started with re-tweeting Mussolini quote:

The @ilduce2016 feed is a parody account by Gawker, with a profile picture that is a composite of Trump’s hair and Mussolini’s face. “Il Duce” was how Mussolini was known by Italians.  The account was set up basically to troll Trump, and it worked.

Trump, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said he was unaware that it had been a quote from Mussolini. But he didn’t seem to care, saying “It’s a very good quote.  I didn’t know who said it, but what difference does it make if it was Mussolini or somebody else — it’s a very good quote.”  Asked whether he wanted to be associated with Mussolini, Trump replied, ‘No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes.” And he added, “Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

As if that wasn’t enough, Trump went on CNN and was interviewed by Jake Tapper.  He was asked if he would denounce David Duke and white supremacist groups — a softball question really — and Trump just wouldn’t denounce.

Here’s the relevant part:

And while it is true that Trump had denounced David Duke before (even as recently as last Friday), the fact that he claimed not to know who Duke was or to denounce him yet again (on CNN to a broader audience) is giving everyone pause.  It is not unusual for a candidate to get asked the same question many times, and they know to give the same answer (how many times has Trump himself been asked about how he will pay for the wall).  So one has to wonder why the refusal to denounce the Duke/white supremacist endorsement here.

But this morning, Trump offers a lame excuse:

Donald Trump blamed CNN for providing a “lousy earpiece” in explaining his non-answer to the network on Sunday when asked to disavow the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke.

“I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was various groups, and I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke and I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference, which is surprising because he was at the major news conference, CNN was at the major news conference, and they heard me very easily disavow David Duke,” the Republican presidential frontrunner explained on NBC’s “Today.”

“Now, I go, and I sit down again, I have a lousy earpiece that is provided by them, and frankly, he talked about groups,” Trump said, referring to the question from CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked him about a call from the Anti-Defamation League to denounce the groups endorsing his presidential run. “He also talked about groups. And I have no problem with disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group, Matt, if the group shouldn’t be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke.”

The problem with that is that Trump clearly understood the question:

TAPPER: “Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?”

TRUMP: “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.  So, I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.”

He repeated Duke’s name twice and mentioned white supremacists three times.  And he understood it was about endorsements.  So Trump is BSing.

Not that this is likely to hurt him.  Trump is doing better than ever — the latest poll (from CNN) shows him with a 33 point lead over the remaining four candidates — Trump is at 49%:


That’s an uptick in the poll averages since the last debate (where Trump supposedly got beat up):

RCP polls 2-29-16latest gop polls

On a state by state basis, Trump leads every poll except Texas, where he is tried with Cruz.  And if Cruz can’t win Texas (his home state) tomorrow, he’s done.

Trump’s unfavorables remain extremely high, which is good news for the general election.  And John Oliver did the ultimate Trump takedown this weekend:

If the Clinton people are smart, this will be the template to fight Trump in the general election.

Oscar Predictions 2016

I don’t care a lot this year, mostly because “The Revenent” will take many awards, and while I liked the movie, I wasn’t blown away and I didn’t care for DiCaprio.

“The Revenent” will win Best Movie, Best Actor (DiCaprio), and Best Director.

Best Actress will be Bree Larson for “Room” (a fantastic movie).

Best Supporting Actor will be Sylvester Stallone for “Creed” which will be a nice moment, although I really liked Mark Ruffolo in “Spotlight” (my favorite movie that I saw)’

Best Supporting Actress will be Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs”

Best Original Screenplay to “Spotlight” and Adapted Screenplay to “Room”.

And the rest I don’t know.

The Correctest Thing Rich Lowry has Ever Written

This bizarre campaign season has made for strange bedfellows, and I find myself reading the most repugnant conservative pundits, and saying, “Yes!  You’re right!”

Consider Rich Lowry for National Review, the man who was wrong about virtually everything last decade especially and including the Iraq War:

Republicans are outsourcing the vetting of their front-runner to the other party. At this rate, they will make Trump their de facto standard-bearer in a little less than three weeks, never having run him through the paces of the painful testing that is usually inherent to the process.,,,k If Trump romps to the nomination by mid-March, non-Trump Republicans will have lost to him in part through a lack of trying. That will never be true of the Democrats, who will gleefully and maliciously do the Trump vetting that the GOP race has, so far, been missing.



I really don’t know what to write.  I don’t know how to begin.

This blog has been in existence for over 12 years.  It was around before Facebook and Twitter and before most people even knew the word “blog”.  And at times, it has been a platform for personal things (shows I’m doing, etc.), but it has evolved more into a lengthy observation of the world I live in.  I guess that’s because as I get older, I’m more interested in that than I am in, well, me.  But I can’t not write about my brother Doug, who passed away on February 26, 2015.  I intended to do it on the one-month anniversary of his death.  But I didn’t; the thoughts hadn’t coalesced.

Almost six months on, and my thought still hadn’t coalesced.

And here it is.  One year.

Breaking: Chris Christie Endorses Trump

Guess this explains why Christie (the other bully) never attacked Trump.

This is a significant crack in the establishment vs Trump meme.  I can’t look into Christie’s heart and mind, but I can’t help but see this as simply an attempt to grab the vice presidency.  Or attorney-general.

Trump/Christie 2016?

Aaaaand once again, Trump does something to take the news cycle away from the others (in this case, Rubio).

UPDATE:  Great picture from the endorsement earlier today.  I think Christie is endorsing Trump as the main course.


Footnote on Scalia

Thanks New York Times for casual mention about something that — if Scalia hadn’t died — would go unreported:

WASHINGTON — Antonin Scalia was the longest-tenured justice on the current Supreme Court and the country’s most prominent constitutionalist. But another quality also set him apart: Among the court’s members, he was the most frequent traveler, to spots around the globe, on trips paid for by private sponsors.

When Justice Scalia died two weeks ago, he was staying, again for free, at a West Texas hunting lodge owned by a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.

Not Mentioned In The Debate — Another Mass Shooting

Guess it isn’t newsworthy to the right:

A gunman killed three people in shootings that ended at a lawn care company in Kansas on Thursday, authorities said.

An additional 14 people were injured — 10 of whom are in critical condition at local hospitals.

The shooter was also killed by police, bringing the total number of fatalities to four.

Authorities first got calls about a man shooting from a vehicle in Newton about 5 p.m., the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office said.

Minutes later, there were reports of a shooting at Excel Industries, which makes lawn care equipment in Hesston, Kansas.

“Everybody says it can’t happen here,” Walton said. “And here we are. It happened here.”

The shooter, Cedric Ford, was served with a protection order 90 minutes before his shooting spree, and we can presume that was the “trigger” (no pun intended).  He drove through two towns randomly shooting people before returning to his workplace.

David Brooks Still Wearing Blindfold

New York Times columnist David Brooks is stupid:

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

All true.  Learned that in sixth grade civics class, but okay…. he’s right so far.

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

Aaaaaaaaand fail.

Where is the left equivalent of the Tea Party?  Who is the “outsider” with no political experience that the left has ever put up for election — one who doesn’t recognize restraints and won’t compromise, etc.?

Seriously, who?

The bashing of government, and politics, is purely a right-wing phenomenon, shown by that fact that 2 of the five candidates on the debate stage last night had never run for political office before – one is a real estate tycoon, and the other (and I still can’t believe this) a doctor.

Brooks needs to open his eyes.

The Last GOP Debate Before Super Tuesday

That is the tweet a few minutes ago from Trump who apparently cannot spell “lightweight” or “choker”.  And that’s not a typo because earlier, he tweeted this:


UPDATE: It took a couple hours but Trump deleted the tweets and retweeted them with correct spellings.  Rubio had fun anyway this morning:

Rubio took out his cellphone and began to read Trump’s tweets from stage. Noting that some had misspellings, he cracked that the billionaire businessman “must have hired a foreign worker to do his own tweets.”

So did the dictionary people:


Spelling errors aside, it isn’t what one could call “presidential”, but with Trump fans, not being presidential is a feature, not a bug.

And no surprise, the entire debate was very fact-free.

Last night’s debate was clearly the most bizarre debate in presidential history.  The three ring circus of Rubio, Trump and Cruz lacked substance and dignity, and both Rubio and Cruz tried to take down Trump, who has been receiving a pass from the candidates and the media for most of the GOP campaign.  Suddenly (and finally) we heard about Trump’s hiring of illegal immigrants and getting fined for it, the fraudulent Trump “University” scheme, and Trump’s balking at turning over his tax returns.

And then, on the sideshow, you had Ben Carson talking strangely about “fruit salad” and God knows what.  Kasich was actually the only one talking and behaving presidential, and it was so out-of-place that even that looked bizarre.

Here’s the debate in three minutes:’

In a normal world, Rubio won the “debate” in that he was the most effective at taking down Trump.  But this is not a normal world politically, and I am sure Trump supporters think Trump walked away with it.

Rubio may have saved his candidacy for post Super-Tuesday.  Which is saying something.  But I think even though he handily did what he needed to do last night, it was probably too little too late.

I think Trump has this nomination, and last night’s debate was a preview of the problems he will have in the general: (1) not conservative enough for GOP base (soft on pro-Israel stance, said good things about Planned Parenthood, etc.); (2) shady business dealings in the past (four bankruptcies, etc); (3)  Kind of a Johnny One Note (the wall, the wall, the wall…) and (4) his shtick gets old.

This isn’t the end of the Trump, but it is the beginning of the end.

People Begin To Wake Up To Trump

Like me yesterday, many are realizing that Trump might actually win the GOP nomination.  A lot of this is spurred on by recent polls…

… from upcoming primary states that show that Trumps appeal is broad, geographically speaking.

Kevin Drum has a graphic about the pundit realization and freakout:


I understand the reason to be alarmed.  As an American, this is disastrous and embarrassing.  But then again, as a progressive, isn’t this the best thing?

I should also mention this: Charlie Cook (political handicapper of the first degree) sees something in the polls that indicates that Trump’s days are numbered:

Con­firm­ing the the­ory that Trump’s po­s­i­tion de­teri­or­ates as the field nar­rows, the NBC/WSJ poll played out four scen­ari­os with three-way con­tests.

In one, Cruz was first with 32 per­cent, Trump second with 30 per­cent, and Marco Ru­bio third with 26 per­cent. In a second com­bin­a­tion, Cruz had 38 per­cent, Trump 32 per­cent, Bush 9 per­cent. A third com­bin­a­tion put Cruz first with 37 per­cent, Trump with 31 per­cent, and Kasich with 18 per­cent. The last put Cruz at 36 per­cent, Trump at 29 per­cent, and Car­son at 12 per­cent.

When the poll pit­ted two can­did­ates against each oth­er, Cruz and Ru­bio each bested Trump by 16 points, Cruz up 56 to 40 per­cent, Ru­bio 57 to 41 per­cent. Trump did come out on top against Bush by 11 points, 54 to 43 per­cent, demon­strat­ing just how di­min­ished the Bush brand has be­come. Against the less-known Kasich, Trump was up by 8 points, 52 to 44 per­cent.

When asked wheth­er someone could or could not see them­selves sup­port­ing each can­did­ate, 70 per­cent of GOP primary voters could see them­selves po­ten­tially sup­port­ing Ru­bio, 28 per­cent could not (net plus-42 points), 65 per­cent could sup­port Cruz, 33 per­cent could not (net plus-32), 62 per­cent could sup­port Car­son, 35 per­cent could not (net plus-27), 56 per­cent could sup­port Trump, 42 per­cent could not (net plus-14), 49 per­cent could go with Kasich, 41 per­cent could not (net plus-8) and just 46 per­cent could back Bush, 53 per­cent could not (net minus-7). Kasich prob­ably suf­fers be­cause voters aren’t as fa­mil­i­ar with him as they are with the oth­er can­did­ates. As for Bush, the fam­ily brand has just gone sour.

One poll does not make a trend, but my hunch is that we’re see­ing the be­gin­ning of one. It’s not clear wheth­er the shift is oc­cur­ring be­cause Trump’s routine has grown stale, or be­cause he went too far in the de­bate, or be­cause GOP voters have shif­ted their fo­cus to pick­ing a pres­id­ent rather than send­ing a mes­sage. Maybe even the pro­spect of a va­cant seat on the Su­preme Court has re­in­forced the view that this elec­tion is ser­i­ous busi­ness with real con­sequences. Let me say it again: Trump is not go­ing to be the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee.

Trump No Longer A Clown

Ezra Klein wrote about Trump a couple weeks ago, and I dismissed him.  But now, I think we need to listen:

I’m not here to clutch my pearls over Trump’s vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his “she said it, I didn’t” game. The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him — it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that. It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.

It is undeniably enjoyable to watch Trump. He’s red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.

It’s so fun to watch that it’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is.

Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.


Trump answers America’s rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, “All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'” Trump doesn’t offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn’t so much that he’ll help you as he’ll hurt them.

Trump’s other gift — the one that gets less attention but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Klein goes on to say this — Trump’s demeanor — is what really terrifies him.  You cannot really criticize Trump for his ideology — except for a few key issues (the “wall”, for example), it is almost non-existent.  (In fact, talking about the mistake of the Iraq War, Trump is downright dovish compared to the other GOP candidates).  So how can you take fault with a man who makes no promises?  Klein again:

Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

And that means, I think, pushing the button.

So why is Trump so popular?  Over and over again, when asked to explain what they like about him, Trump supporters exclaim, “He knows what I’m thinking!” And what these people are thinking is that he’s making it safe for them to be “politically incorrect” again, giving sanction to publicly express their resentment toward people who don’t look and act like them. There are certainly reasons why these voters feel that way, but they are not due to populist anger toward the 1 percent. After all, the man they are cheering on with such enthusiasm is a man who spends half his time on the stump bragging about his vast wealth and explaining that it’s perfectly normal for businessmen like himself to bribe and cajole politicians to do his bidding. He’s never promised to change that system, not once. And his fans have never once asked him to.

So what does a Trump victory mean?  It means there is a man in the Oval Office who might to who knows what at any moment.  Unvetted and not record of political accomplishment, no shame, and an ego the size of, well, Trump.  And also an electorate who seems to think that political correctness is dead.

Be afraid.

Now That Scalia’s Body Is Cold….

… let’s get real about this guy.  Jeffrey Toobin:

Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast, looked backward.

His revulsion toward homosexuality, a touchstone of his world view, appeared straight out of his sheltered, nineteen-forties boyhood. When, in 2003, the Court ruled that gay people could no longer be thrown in prison for having consensual sex, Scalia dissented, and wrote, “Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” He went on, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a life style that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

But it was in his jurisprudence that Scalia most self-consciously looked to the past. He pioneered “originalism,” a theory holding that the Constitution should be interpreted in line with the beliefs of the white men, many of them slave owners, who ratified it in the late eighteenth century. During Scalia’s first two decades as a Justice, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist rarely gave him important constitutional cases to write for the Court; the Chief feared that Scalia’s extreme views would repel Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court’s swing vote, who had a toxic relationship with him during their early days as colleagues. (Scalia’s clashes with O’Connor were far more significant than his much chronicled friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) It was not until 2008, after John G. Roberts, Jr., had succeeded Rehnquist, that Scalia finally got a blockbuster: District of Columbia v. Heller, about the Second Amendment. Scalia spent thousands of words plumbing the psyches of the Framers, to conclude (wrongly, as John Paul Stevens pointed out in his dissent) that they had meant that individuals, not just members of “well-regulated” state militias, had the right to own handguns. Even Scalia’s ideological allies recognized the folly of trying to divine the “intent” of the authors of the Constitution concerning questions that those bewigged worthies could never have anticipated. During the oral argument of a challenge to a California law that required, among other things, warning labels on violent video games, Justice Samuel Alito interrupted Scalia’s harangue of a lawyer by quipping, “I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about video games. Did he enjoy them?”

Scalia described himself as an advocate of judicial restraint, who believed that the courts should defer to the democratically elected branches of government. In reality, he lunged at opportunities to overrule the work of Presidents and of legislators, especially Democrats. Scalia helped gut the Voting Rights Act, overturn McCain-Feingold and other campaign-finance rules, and, in his last official act, block President Obama’s climate-change regulations. Scalia’s reputation, like the Supreme Court’s, is also stained by his role in the majority in Bush v. Gore. His oft-repeated advice to critics of the decision was “Get over it.”

This Republican intransigence is a sign of panic, not of power. The Court now consists of four liberals (Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) and three hard-core conservatives (Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Alito), plus Anthony Kennedy, who usually but not always sides with the conservatives. With Scalia’s death, there is a realistic possibility of a liberal majority for the first time in two generations, since the last days of the Warren Court. A Democratic victory in November will all but assure this transformation. Republicans are heading to the barricades; Democrats were apparently too blindsided to recognize good news when they got it.

Like Nick Carraway, Scalia “wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.” The world didn’t coöperate. Scalia won a great deal more than he lost, and he and his allies succeeded in transforming American politics into a cash bazaar, with seats all but put up for bidding. But even though Scalia led a conservative majority on the Court for virtually his entire tenure, he never achieved his fondest hopes—thanks first to O’Connor and then to Kennedy. Roe v. Wade endures. Affirmative action survives. Obamacare lives. Gay rights are ascendant; the death penalty is not.

For now.  Obviously, the next SCOTUS nominee could change all that.  Unlikely that there exists a jurist as Scalia-esque as Scalia, but there are probably many who live in that same conservative bubble of which Toobin speaks.

NV, SC Primaries Shake Things Out

The Democratic Caucus in Nevada today was won by Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t a landslide. Hillary won by only five points or so. But it wasn’t a nailbiter either. She’s expected to do well in South Carolina next week on February 27. After That comes Super Tuesday, where most of the states are in the south and expected to go heavily toward Hillary Clinton.  It’s pretty clear now that Bernie Sanders has an uphill climb.

There are three takeaways from the primary results in South Carolina. The first is that Trump won big. Very big. If he keeps this up, he may be unstoppable. The second takeaway is that Ted Cruz ended up in a virtual tie with Marco Rubio. This probably came as a bit of a surprise to both Cruz supporters, who were disappointed, and Rubio supporters, who were jubilant.

The third and final take away from South Carolina is that the Republican primary race is essentially between three people now : Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. Jeb Bush, realizing this, has ended his run . Who would’ve thought that possible? Ben Carson and John Is such are still in the race, but obviously have no chance at all.

Hate Is The New Black

Whole Lot of Hatin’ Going On:

The number of hate groups on the American radical right expanded from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015 – a 14 per cent increase, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC released the statistics Wednesday in a new report, The Year in Hate and Extremism.

With the increase in hate groups came an increase in domestic political violence in the U.S., both from the radical right and from American jihadists.

“They laid plans to attack courthouses, banks, festivals, funerals, schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, clinics, water treatment plants and power grids,” writes Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the SPLC.

“They used firearms, bombs, C-4 plastic explosives, knives and grenades; one of them, a murderous Klansman, was convicted of trying to build a death ray.”

Using statistics from a year-end report from the Anti-Defamation League, the SPLC said a minimum of 52 people died from extremist violence in the U.S. in the past 12 months.

That was the most in a year since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 men, women and children dead.

The SPLC reports a growth in Klu Klux Klan chapters from 72 in 2014 to 190 in 2015 and attributes the rise in the 364 pro-Confederate battle flag rallies last year.

Those took place after South Carolina took down the battle flag from its Capitol grounds following the June massacre of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist flag enthusiast in Charleston, S.C.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, black separatist hate groups also gained strength, going from 113 chapters in 2014 to 180 in 2015. The SPLC says the growth followed the explosion of anger fostered by highly publicized incidents of police shootings of black men.

“But unlike activists for racial justice such as those in the Black Lives Matter movement, the black separatist groups did not stop at demands for police reforms and an end to structural racism. Instead, they typically demonized all whites, gays, and, in particular, Jews,” Potok writes.

“Conspiracy-minded anti-government ‘Patriot’ groups rose from 874 in 2014 to 998 in 2015 as well.

Potok notes that terror can breed hate crimes. After a jihadist couple in San Bernardo, California murdered 14 people in December 2015, it triggered a string of physical attacks on mosques and Muslims.

“Several political figures have harnessed that fear, calling for bans on mosques, Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East,” Potok wrote.

To be sure, the report offered less than flattering portrays of the Republican presidential front-runners when it came to fanning the flames of dissent.

Partly fueling the new rise in hate groups are such Republican presidential candidates as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, experts contend.

The SPLC went so far to use Trump’s image on the cover of its report.

Inside, the SPLC makes no apologies, noting: The armed violence was accompanied by rabid and often racist denunciations of Muslims, LGBT activists and others — incendiary rhetoric led by a number of mainstream political figures and amplified by a lowing herd of their enablers in the right-wing media.”

The group says that the right-wing politicians are fostering a sense of polarization and anger in the U.S. that might be unmatched since the political upheavals of 1968.

“Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right, leading to glowing endorsements from white nationalist leaders such as Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke,” writes Potok.

“White supremacist forums are awash with electoral joy, having dubbed Trump their ‘Glorious Leader.’ And Trump has repaid the compliments, retweeting hate posts and spreading their false statistics on black-on-white crime.”

The report noted that Donald Trump described President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s brutal “Operation Wetback” as a “very humane” way to accomplish mass deportation, and responded to the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally by saying, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

You can read the report here


Apple And The FBI Order

Interesting little development going on in the tech/privacy world and, depending on who you believe, a possible turning point for the better/worse.

After the San Bernardino shootings, the FBI seized the iPhone used by shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The FBI has a warrant to search the phone’s contents, and because it was Farook’s work phone, the FBI also has permission from the shooter’s employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, to search the device. Legally, the FBI can and should search this phone. That’s not up for debate. If the FBI gets a warrant to search a house and the people who own it say okay, there’s no ambiguity about whether it can search the house.

But if the FBI comes across a safe in that house, the warrant and permission do not mean it can force the company that manufactures the safe to create a special tool for opening its safes, especially a tool that would make other safes completely useless as secure storage. That’s the situation that Apple’s dealing with here.

The FBI obtained an order from a California district court on Tuesday ordering Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” in cracking Farook’s passcode. The court order doesn’t flat-out demand that Apple unlock the phone, which is an iPhone 5C running iOS 9. Instead, the judge is asking Apple to create a new, custom, terrorist-phone-specific version of its iOS software to help the FBI unlock the phone. Security researcher Dan Guido has a great analysis of why it is technically possible for Apple to comply and create this software. (It would not be if Farook had used an iPhone 6, because Apple created a special security protection called the Secure Enclave for its newer phones that cannot be manipulated by customizing iOS.)

Apple quickly said it would fight the judge’s order. Chief executive Tim Cook called it “an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” and said the order “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” He published a message emphasizing that the company can’t build a backdoor for one iPhone without screwing over security for the rest:

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

Apple, Google and other technology firms in recent years have stepped up encryption — allowing only the customers to have “keys” to unlock their devices — claiming improved security and privacy is needed to maintain confidence in the digital world.

This has sparked a national discussion on weighing security against privacy.  Not a new debate — we’ve had that since 9/11.  But this relates to our smartphones, and so everyone has a strong opinion, it seems.  Republican candidates are coming down on the side of national security in a few that is somewhat contradictory of the anti-big-government stance they often take.  Again, nothing new there.

Let’s see if we can’t shake out this tree a little.

First off, here is the actual order.  Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, a former federal prosecutor, relied on the All Writs Act, passed in 1789 (one of the first federal laws ever).  It has been used many times in the past by the government to require a third party to aid law enforcement in its investigation.

The order would require Apple (US) to create firmware to be loaded onto a specific phone to make it possible to do brute force password guessing. (Among a couple of other things, it would take away the maximum number of guesses to unlock the device.)

The significant thing about this case is that the FBI, minus any enforcing legislation, has gone and found itself a judge to order a company to do something.

Think about that — ‘ordering a company to do something’.  That is something arguably new in the current FBI approach.

The Apple case is remarkable in that it couches what the court views as “reasonable assistance” as basically breaking your own products.  Apple has quite rightly made the point that not only does this break company security and therefore customer privacy, but that if they create an exploit for the FBI, the vulnerability will be used by the likes of Putin and various repressive regimes.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have all voiced support for Apple‘s fight against a court order that Apple says would make iPhones less secure a,d it is not hard to understand why — they simply cannot run a global business if they are seen to do too many special favors for one government, the United States.

But is this really about privacy?  Do we as individuals really care about these things?  Let’s face it — we are now just little motors chuntering around creating metadata exhaust trails. The current conflict is not an argument about our privacy rights, since we seem to be content to leave ourselves all over the place (Facebook,. Twitter, etc.).  Rather, this might be a fight between governments and firms on how better to pin us down and hoover up the effluent we leave behind. You can see why they might all be getting testy about who gets what.

So I tend to think this is less about Apple preserving privacy for its owners, and more about it being seen in international quarters as subservient to the American government.  What will happen to the foreign markets of Google and Facebook and Apple and Android if it widely believe that one American judge can order these giant companies to invade one person’s privacy?

This is about the Benjamins just as much as about the privacy rights of people.

RIP Harper Lee

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” – Harper Lee

She has been ailing for some time and may have been taken advantage of with “Go Set A Watchman” (I suspect she didn’t want it published), but thankfully, she left the American conscience with one of the best books ever written.

She was 89.


Hamilton on the Appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court

[The President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2 (the “Appointments Clause”)

“Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!”

Aaron Burr in Hamilton

And among those fifty-one essays, Alexander Hamilton, under the pseudonym “Publius”, wrote Federalist 76 and Federalist 77, dealing with the appointment of (among other things) Justices to the Supreme Court.

So since Hamilton, the musical, is still taking the country by storm, and the appointment of SCOTUS justices is a hot-and-heavy topic, I thought I would check out what our favorite founding father said on the issue, to see if he could enlighten us.

So I read Federalist 76 and 77.  The real meat of Hamilton’s defense of the Appointment Clause of the Constitution lies in Federalist 76.

The Scalia Gambit

Without question, the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has set all sides of the political spectrum into a frenzy.  Everybody is weighing, but the stupidest comments are coming from Republicans who say that Obama shouldn’t nominate a justice at all because there is an election coming up.  Rand Paul, who supposedly loves the Constitution, says that Obama has a “conflict of interest”, which is ridiculous.

The Constitution on this issue is not hard to understand: “[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” The provision creates a power — and perhaps even a duty — in the president to make a nomination.  No, it does not give him a right to have his nominee confirmed or even considered. That power lies with the Senate.  But certainly the President SHALL do what the Constitution instructs him to do.

This puts the ball in the Senate’s court (so to speak) and Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell made the foolish error of showing his cards.  He said that the Senate will not vote on an Obama nominee.  They will delay, filibuster, whatever.

That’s fine, but who will pay the price for that?  Republicans, I suspect.  They need to show that they can govern, something that they have failed to do in the past few years.

Loretta_Lynch-10-facts-black-enterpriseSo knowing the GOP gamebook, what should Obama do?  Invigorate the base by nominating Loretta E. Lynch, the 83rd Attorney General of the United States.  Very qualified, and approved already for the Senate for AG.  And a black woman.

And the GOP can spend the whole election season explaining why this qualified black woman should not be the first black woman on the Supreme Court.  I don’t know how they can win the politics of this, even if they succeed in keeping her off the bench.

Hillary and/or Bernie can add fuel to the fire by saying that if they won the election, they would nominate…. Larry Tribe.  It might force Republicans to accept Obama’s nominee, as the lesser of two evils.  Especially if it looks like Trump might not take the White House.

Then, there’s this:

It could all come down to 17 crucial days in January.

If Democrats win back the Senate and lose the White House in November, they would control both branches of government for about two weeks before Obama leaves office. That overlap in the transition of power is set in stone. The Constitution mandates the new Congress begins work on January 3, while President Obama stays in power until January 20.

So if Democrats take back the Senate, President Obama could send a Supreme Court nominee to that new Democratic majority, which would have 17 days to change the filibuster rules and ram in a vote before a new President takes power.

Sri_SrinavasanSo maybe Obama might do better to select a consensus nominee. Sri Srinivasan is an often-mentioned choice.  He is 48, an Indian-American, and a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees.  Obama first nominated him to the post in 2012, and the Senate confirmed him, 97-0, in May 2013, including votes in support from GOP presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Now, undoubtedly there are bloggers and pundits on the right who see this playing out — politically — in their favor.  And to be sure, if you are embedded on the bigoted women-and-immigrant-hating right side of the political spectrum, you’re not worried about Lynch or Srinivasan being nominated, and you hope their nomination will rally other bigots like you. Bring it on!

The problem is… America isn’t like the right.  It’s not that conservative, and you only need to look at Trump to know there is a problem with right wing politics these days.

South Carolina Primary Outlook

A the Republican debate last Saturday, which I didn’t see, this occurred:

TRUMP: George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.
DICKERSON: But so I’m going to — so you still think he should be impeached?
BUSH: I think it’s my turn, isn’t it?
TRUMP: You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
DICKERSON: All right. OK. All right.
Governor Bush — when a member on the stage’s brother gets attacked…
BUSH: I’ve got about five or six…
DICKERSON: … the brother gets to respond.
BUSH: Do I get to do it five or six times or just once responding to that?
TRUMP: I’m being nice.
BUSH: So here’s the deal. I’m sick ask tired of Barack Obama blaming my brother for all of the problems that he has had.
BUSH: And, frankly, I could care less about the insults that Donald Trump gives to me. It’s blood sport for him. He enjoys it. And I’m glad he’s happy about it. But I am sick and tired…
TRUMP: He spent $22 million in…
BUSH: I am sick and tired of him going after my family. My dad is the greatest man alive in my mind.
BUSH: And while Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe. And I’m proud of what he did.
BUSH: And he has had the gall to go after my brother.
TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that.

Now, it is gospel on the left that (a) the notion that Bush 43 “kept us safe” is laughable when you take into account, as you should, 9/11/01 and (b) the justification for the Iraq War was based on known lies.

What’s remarkable is that these things were said (a) by a Republican candidate for President (b) on national television (c) to Bush’s brother (d) just before a primary in a Southern state which loves the Bushes.

For any other candidate, that would have been political suicide.  But the first post-debate poll, and from a reliable polling firm, too, tells us this:

Donald Trump is the clear front-runner heading into Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary.

A new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday found Trump leading in the crucial third-nominating state by a large margin.

According to the poll, 35% of likely Republican voters supported Trump. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tied for second with 18%.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) trailed in fourth with 10%, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson each captured 7% of the support.

So once again, the notion that Trump “went too far” never proved reliable.  I’m not particularly surprised anymore.  Also, as the transcript above shows, Bush didn’t really hit back so much as clutch his pearls (“Oh, how dare he!”).

I still believe that Trump has a ceiling.  But we won’t know what it is until the establishment candidates — who remain at this point to be Kasich, Bush and Rubio — unite behind one candidate.  I don’t see that happening before Super Tuesday, which may just mean that Trump will have the momentum to be unstoppable.

Hamilton in 7 Minutes (A Cappella and A Bit Whiter Than Usual)

0:00 – Alexander Hamilton
0:30 – My Shot
0:41 – The Story of Tonight
0:49 – The Schuyler Sisters
1:08 – You’ll Be Back
1:30 – Right Hand Man
1:43 – Helpless
2:00 – Satisfied
2:14 – Wait For It
2:29 – Ten Duel Commandments
2:40 – That Would Be Enough
2:57 – Guns and Ships
3:31 – Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
3:35 – Non-Stop
4:02 – What’d I Miss
4:04 – Cabinet Battle #1
4:14 – Take A Break
4:34 – Say No To This
4:45 – The Room Where It Happens
5:01 – Washington On Your Side
5:11 – One Last Time
5:20 – We Know
5:24 – The Reynolds Pamphlet
5:30 – Burn
5:50 – Blow Us All Away
5:55 – It’s Quiet Uptown
6:27 – Who Live, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Breaking: Scalia Dead at 79

Just coming over the news. Found dead at a West Texas “luxury ranch”, whatever that is.

UPDATE: Very quick initial thoughts (I will “eulogies” him later.)

The political implications of this are huge. For one thing, this Supreme Court term had many important 5-4 issues in front of the Court, or… what would have been 5-4. Immigration, climate change, even abortion… big issues. These become 4-4… which means the lower court stands (for better or for worse).

More importantly, this is the first time since Clarence Thomas 25 years ago that a President will attempt to nominate an Associate Justice with the Senate (who needs to approve) in the majority of the other party. And even with Thomas, Bush still had two years left. Obama is in his last year. Will the Republican Senate try to “run out the clock”? You bet. Will that itself be controversial? Yes, and expect that itself to be a campaign issue about weekday is wrong with Washington.

And speaking of the campaigns, this becomes a huge issue, guaranteed to motivate voters on both sides.

The political landscape, and in many ways, the future direction of the country have changed, although nobody knows which way.

For the first time in maybe ever, this election will control ALL THREE branches of government. Think about that.

Oh, Give It A Rest, White People

The Guardian reports:

The NFL has been accused of various misdemeanours down the years, from ignoring head trauma to failing to control its players’ off the field activities. Now we can add another problem to the list: allowing hate speech to be disseminated during the Super Bowl via the medium of song and dance.

That, at least, is the view of a group behind an “Anti-Beyoncé Protest Rally”, which is due to take place on 16 February outside NFL headquarters in New York. “Do you agree that it was a slap in the face to law enforcement? Do you agree that the Black Panthers was/is a hate group which should not be glorified?” reads the group’s posting on Event Brite. “Come and let’s stand together. Let’s tell the NFL we don’t want hate speech & racism at the Superbowl ever again!” The group did not respond to the Guardian’s request for more information.

Beyoncé was the star of Sunday’s Super Bowl half-time show, appearing alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars. She performed her new single, Formation, which referenced the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The proposed rally is not the only dissent that has risen after Beyoncé’s performance. On Monday the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani appeared to be particularly incensed by the reference to Black Lives Matter and described the performance as an attack on the police. “I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive,” he told Fox News. “And what we should be doing in the African American community, and all communities, is build up respect for police officers.”

Giuliani also believed the Super Bowl was the wrong platform for Beyoncé. “This is a political position and she’s probably going to take advantage of it,” Giuliani said. “You’re talking to middle America when you have the Super Bowl. So if you’re going to have entertainment, let’s have decent, wholesome entertainment. And not use it as a platform to attack the people who put their lives at risk just to save us.”

This is yet another exhibit in a theory I have long espoused — i.e., that conservatives have binary minds. Black Lives Matter is not an attack on ALL police and people who put their lives at risk.  It is attacking bad police and bad police training.  Is that too nuanced for people like Giuliani?

Last Night’s Dem Debate

I didn’t see it, but in a way, if Kevin Drum is right, I have seen it before with these two:

Here’s roughly how the first hour of tonight’s debate went:

Bernie: Free health care for everyone!

Hillary: Let’s not overpromise. Maybe we can get partway there. You know, one percent at a time.

Bernie: When I’m president we’ll have free college for everyone!

Hillary: But we have to get the policy right. All the stakeholders need to buy in. It’s tricky.

Bernie:  We need radical transformation of our criminal justice system!

Hillary: A commission had some good ideas recently and I endorse them.

Bernie: Let the children in!

Hillary: Yes, but first we need an appropriate process.

OK, I’m kidding. Sort of. But this is the bind Hillary Clinton is in. Bernie Sanders delivers all these big, stem winding proposals and doesn’t really have to explain how he’s going to pass any of them or get them paid for. But he sure is visionary! Hillary, conversely, is just constitutionally incapable of talking like this. When a problem is raised, her mind instantly starts thinking about what works and who will vote for it and where the payfors are going to come from. And that means she sounds like an old fuddy duddy patiently explaining why your bright idea won’t work. No wonder young voters don’t care much for her.

This has been true the entire campaign, of course, but I thought tonight’s debate brought it into much sharper relief than usual. Did it hurt her? I’ve pretty much given up trying to divine the reactions of the studio audience to these debates, so I don’t know. I guess that if you think we need to dream big dreams and the fuddy duddies ought to stand aside, you’re more convinced than ever that Hillary is part of the problem, not part of the solution. If you have some respect for how hard the political process is, and how slowly progress is made, you’re more convinced than ever that Bernie is talking through his hat and Hillary is the only reasonable choice.

And for those who are undecided? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Well, that’s probably the best analysis of the Democratic race in 2016 that I have read.  Visionaries versus fuddy duddies.  Count me in the latter (although to be fair, there are plenty of older people in the Bernie camp, and plenty of young people in the Hillary camp).

Who is right?  Well, me and the fudds are.  I mean, we just are.  There’s this thing called Congress, and this other thing called the Supreme Court, and change doesn’t happen without them.  Bernie cannot be a one-man revolution unless this country is a dictatorship.

Debate transcript here.

Activist Supreme Court Rules On Climate Change


In a major setback for President Obama’s climate change agenda, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review

“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.

When the court does something unprecedented procedurally, that usually means they are doing something political (e.g., Bush v. Gore).  No doubt the five conservatives on the court were motivated by Obama’s use of executive orders.

Gravitational Waves Discovered

You never know…. maybe they will be important some day.

Anyway, 91 tears ago, Einstein proposed that there was such a thing as gravitational waves, which are basically ripples in space-time.

Yeah, sounds like Star Trek.

But see, two black holes crashed into each other. One black hole had the mass of 29 suns; the other was the equivalent of 36 suns, although both were about 91 miles in diameter.  That’s dense.

And they crashed into each other at half the speed of light.  About 1.5 billion years ago… producing, wait for it, gravitational waves which were observed on September 14, 2015, scientists announced today.  The waves were less than a proton in width.

What have you discovered today?

UPDATE: A tutorial —

Oregon Standoff Update [It’s Completely Over]

Despite the fact that most of the leaders and participants have surrounded or been, in one case, killed, the Oregon standoff continues…. barely.   The remaining four diehards at the Malheur National Wildlife Center have re-dubbed it “Camp Finicum”, named after the armed protester who was killed a couple weeks ago.

National attention on the standoff has waned since Finicum’s death, but things have continued to get weirder. Franklin Graham, the minister, has gotten involved at some level to try to bring an end to the standoff. Ammon Bundy, the main leader who is now jailed in Portland, reportedly in solitary confinement, has been making regular statements to the public via recorded messages released by his lawyers, and police have tightened the cordon around the refuge even as the handful of militants holed up inside ​have sounded the call for their supporters on the outside to “stand up” in their defense.

A Facebook page for his ranch announced that Cliven Bundy, who came to the national spotlight in a fight with the federal Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights for his cattle in 2014 (and father of the two Bundy brothers who led the Oregon protest), was heading to Oregon yesterday.  After landing in Portland, Oregon, Bundy was taken into federal custody by the FBI.  He reportedly faces weapons charges and a conspiracy charge to impede federal officers relating to the 2014 incident (only took 671 days).  It’s essentially the same charge faced by his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, in connection with their takeover of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.

Yesterday, before the elder Bundy’s arrest, the remaining four protesters in the Wildlife Center said they would surrender today.  It is unclear how the arrest of Cliven Bundy will change that.  But it looks like it might finally be over.

To be sure, the crackpot right will hold this up as further proof of an invasive government, and Finicum will continue to be eulogized as a martyr.  I don’t think it will get wide play outside the crazy circles.

UPDATE — Live stream of the crazies (warning: contains paranoia and self-righteous preening… and even bagpipe music):

UPDATE – 12:50 pm.  This livestream above (which may be over by the time you read this) is amazing.  Sandy and Sean Anderson and Jeff Banta  have all surrendered. On the phone are KrisAnne Hall, “Constitutional Attorney, Author, Speaker, Radio Host” [and worst suicide hotline operator on earth], and Gavin Seim, “Pictorialist, Portraitist, Civil Liberty Activist, Speaker, Christian”. Also Michelle Fiore and Rev Graham.  They are trying to get a guy named David (David Fry) to walk out with his hands up, and David is FREAKING out that he will be shot.  He says he is suicidal.  And he just said: ““I declare war against the federal government right now.”

12:57 pm: David Fry is not going to come out until his grievances are met.  What are those grievances?  His “first amendment rights”, meaning that he doesn’t want his taxes going to pay for the death of babies (abortion).  Don’t think that’s going to happen.  He doesn’t understand why his grievances are not being met — his negotiators don’t have the heart to tell him that he lives in a democracy.

1:15 pm:  Background on David Fry

1:58 pm:  He’s given up.  The siege is over.

What New Hampshire Primaries Mean

First, the results:



The Sanders beat over Clinton was waaay more than expected and the Trump beat over the pack was also more than expected.  Meaning…. outsiders are in.

Recognizing that I am painting with a broad brush (which you have to do in these types of analyses), here is how I see it:

The non-establishment demographic comes from two places and goes in two directions.  One part of it comes from the right, weened on decades of Fox News and anti-government rhetoric. Initially designed to hurt Democrats (particularly, Bill Clinton) that rhetoric now devours anything viewed as “establishment”, including establishment Republicans (meaning, any Republican senator or governor).  These people are primarily Trump supporters.

The second part comes from millennials, people too young to vote when 9/11 happened.  And a lot of them.  We marvelled at Obama who took the youth vote by 20 points.  That’s nothing compared to Sanders, who won the youth vote 85% to Hillary’s 15%.

Unlike the Trump supporters, these people not misinformed so much as naive.  They have an idealistic vision of how politics work — it’s all about the vision.  These people obviously embrace Sanders’ vision and rage.

Both groups do not care much about experience, elect-ability in the general election, or specific policy details about solutions.  They just like the way their outsider candidate sticks it to everybody else.

This is bad news to everybody else in that it boxes them in.  The more you attack an outsider, the more insider you appear, which only increases the popularity of the outsider.

The Washington Post, talking about Hillary, nailed this phenomenon, and in two short paragraphs explained Hillary’s problem:

In her concession speech, Clinton tried to get back to a more reform-oriented posture by alluding to the very good campaign finance and voting reform proposals she’s rolled out. But Clinton continued to describe Sanders’s success in limited emotional terms — as if he is merely speaking to people’s anger and frustration. Some pundits similarly describe Trump’s appeal as an ability to harness “anger.” Yet there’s more to it than this. What both Trump and Sanders share is that they treat the problem as one of political economy, in which both the economic and political systems are rigged in intertwined ways, thus speaking directly to people’s understandable intellectual assessment of what is deeply wrong with our system and why it no longer works for them.

The long term danger for Clinton is that Sanders has framed the whole race in a way that will make it very hard for her to counter this argument. If the Democratic establishment steps in to rally for Clinton, that risks making her look more like an old-guard political creature of the very establishment that Sanders is indicting, only now it will be rigging the system on her behalf.

What can Clinton do, when the political system — the one she is without question a part of — is the “bad guy” in the 2016 framework?

Let’s brainstorm:

(1)  She can try to reposition her as an outsider
(2)  She can try to reposition her opponent as an insider in outsider’s clothes
(3)  She can make a case for the “establishment”

Options one and two seem to me impossible.  And worse than impossible, disingenuous.  Which leaves option three.

What does that mean in terms of political tactics??

No, she does not give a full throated defense of “Wall Street”.  But she does poke holes in the myth that everything about Wall Street is bad.  Rather than run from Wall Street donations and her speaking fees, she talk about The Clinton Foundation, and the Wall Street donations to that, and what the Clinton Foundation does.  It makes a nice contrast to Trump’s millions, which aren’t use for much philanthropy, and Sanders’ rhetoric, which is about as effective in actual change as a bunch of drum circles in Zuccotti Park.

And she releases those speech transcripts.

The point being, if you’re going to be seen as establishment, then defend the establishment.  Not so much what it has been, but what it can be.  Let’s call in Toby:

That’s my unsolicited advice to Mrs. Clinton.  She won’t siphon off the majority of the young vote, which voted in a crazy 85% for Bernie, but she’ll get enough of it.  She needs to that  – oh, and not take her non-white vote for granted.

As for the Republican nomination, Nate Silver is right.  It’s time for the GOP (and the Democrats for the matter) to warm up to the fact that Donald Trump is the front-runner.  He’s going to do well in South Carolina.  And beyond.

I was right about Kasich coming in second by the way.  You would think this would make him viable, but it won’t.  His New Hampshire strategy paid off… in New Hampshire.  But he has little money, and his victory has no legs.  And he doesn’t think Fargo is a funny movie, so… fuck him.

Bush did well, in New Hampshire, and has tons of money.  He’s got endorsements (including Sen. Graham of South Carolina), so I think he emerges as the “establishment” candidate for the GOP.  Rubio is in for more rough times ahead, with the Bush bashing, and I think his downfall will be more precipitous than many imagine.  At some point — maybe a month and a half — I think you have Trump, Cruz, and Bush as the remaining three.  Beyond that, I don’t know how it plays out.

UPDATE:  Christie is out.  Not surprising since he put all his cards down in New Hampshire and came in sixth.

UPDATE #2: Fiorina is out.  Even less of a surprise.

Carson should be out.  Maybe after SC.

So what we have is essentially a five-man race after New Hampshire: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich.  Kasich, as I said above, won’t last long.  Rubio might be able weather the storm.  But like I said, it will come down to Trump Cruz and Bush.

In Which I Speak My Mind To Disgruntled Millenials

CatM32JWcAETniBHey, kids! Yeah, YOU on the blue bar! Get off my lawn!

But before you do, shut up about Wall Street.  It was that way before you were born, and you weren’t the first generation to figure out that it has problems.

And while you were watching Pokemon cartoons in the early 1990s and learning to, you know, walk, Hillary Clinton was fighting for universal health care, and got beaten up badly.  Even her compromise, which was pretty close to Obamacare, got defeated with ugly Republican tactics.

I guess my point is…. just because Bernie articulates your frustration doesn’t mean he has the skills to fix things.  In fact, I can assure you he hasn’t weathered one-tenth of what Hillary has in the fight for progress.  He hasn’t faced the GOP destruction machine.  It’s easy to campaign on the problems that we face; it is nothing… NOTHIHG… compared to fixing them.

Many of you are like those people who think they have discovered a new band, and everyone already knows about it.  Just because you were born in the early 1990s doesn’t mean that you are more knowledgeable about current events.  There’s been several generations before you who have fought these battles.

You may ask, well, why didn’t any this stuff get fixed then?  It’s because of people like some of you, who are let “the perfect” become the enemy of “the good”.  I’m talking about those who think that by casting a vote for change, suddenly health care become universal, and Wall Street excesses go away.  But that kind of thinking is as delusional as those yokels in Oregon who just don’t understand how government works.

Look, many of you simply don’t know HIllary, but are happy to believe the smear machine.  That’s the whole POINT of the smear machine, and you’re letting it working.  Except for her husband, there has been no politician so tested by the forces that try to lie and deceive and bring this country into the hands of the rich and powerful.  Bernie is a good man, but he hasn’t paid his dues.  Hillary is the trojan horse — the one who can get in there and pull the coalitions together to get things done.

As for “Wall Street connections”, what does that even mean?  She takes money from Wall Street contributors?  So what?  So has Elizabeth Warren.  It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Elizabeth Warren has specifically said that the next president’s agenda should:

  1. Defend Dodd-Frank against attempts to weaken or compromise it.
  2. Scale up enforcement, investigations and convictions: “When big financial institutions are not deterred from breaking the law… then that’s what they will do.”
  3. “Tackle the shadow-banking sector,” which created “runs and panics in the short-term debt markets that spread the contagion across the financial system.”
  4. Create a “targeted financial transactions tax.”
  5. Break up the biggest banks. First “cap the size of the biggest financial institutions,” then create a new Glass-Steagall Act “that rebuilds the wall between commercial banking and investment banking.”

Do you know where Bernie stands on these issues?  Do you know where Hillary stands?  I will leave it to you to decide who has the better plan for each (although Bernie doesn’t HAVE a specific plan for dealing with #2 and #3), but before you just ASSUME Hillary is in Wall Street’s pocket, you should, you know, investigate.

Anyway, I’m glad there is a generation of politically active people, because it was kind of lonely there for a few decades.  So welcome.  Pull up a folk guitar, learn a little from your elders, and then take over the world.

Also, get off my lawn.

NH Primary Predictions

Quick post to get it on the record that Sanders will best Clinton in NH by 12, and although Trump will win the GOP, the big story coming out of the primary will be Kasich, who comes in second. 

Yes, second.

Iowa Leftovers and New Hampshire Appetizers

The fallout from the Iowa results (blogged below) was pretty silly on the right.  Trump turned into a whiny baby and alleged that winner Ted Cruz cheated.  What Cruz’s people did, apparently, in some Iowa districts, was tell voters that Carson was leaving the race (based on a CNN report which didn’t actually say that), and that they had better switch to Cruz.  Typically, Trump was whining and murmuring legal action.

The thing is: Trump was right.  But Cruz would have won anyway, and now that the candidates are in New Hampshire, Trump seems to have moved on.  He’s going to win bigtime in the Granite State.

Meanwhile, on the left, Hillary was declared the (slight) winner, but not by much.  There continue to be murmurings of voting irregularities and miscounts on the Dem side — nothing that reflects badly on either campaign — and Iowa might hold an audit if the results.  Anyway, in terms of delegate count, it won’t make much difference, although we could learn, as we did in 2012 Republican Iowa Caucus, that the person we thought had won din’t actually win.

A very good debate last night (as my tweets suggest).  At one point, I thought to myself, “Here are two people in the Democratic race for president, fighting over who is the most progressive.  That word, “progressive” — Democrats used to run from that word.  Now, they embrace it.  You couldn’t invoke that word 8, 12 or 16 years go.”

Five more days until NH weighs in.

And since I last posted, we have said goodbye to Rick Santorum and Rand Paul.  It is a little surprising about Rand Paul because he wasn’t in the lower depths like Santorum or Huckabee.  He was in there with Christie and even polling better than Bush.  But here’s the thing about Paul: it really looked like he HATED the process. No fun at all.  Maybe it was his contempt for people or having to ask for money. Plus, he’s the only presidential candidate who is running for re-election somewhere else — for his House seat. So maybe it is not surprising he quit.

Anyway, as for Santorum, he didn’t have the ride he had in 2012.  Remember this?

Iowa Wrap-up: Winners and Losers

IAresultsTechnical winners in that they got the most votes/delegates:  Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, although the latter is so razor-thin and close that it might turn out to have been Bernie Sanders (in 2012, it turned out that Santorum won over Romney, except that wasn’t known for several weeks and everyone assumed that Romney).

Winners and losers in the sense that they exceeded, or failed to meet, expectations:  Marco Rubio “won” for Republicans by coming in a very close third, almost beating Trump.  Trump “lost” in that he absolutely insisted he would win and he really really didn’t.  On the Democratic side, Sanders “won” in the sense that he really did almost win, and that gives him momentum into New Hampshire (where he is expected to trounce.

Say “goodbye” to:  Martin O’Malley, Mike Huckabee

Other: MSNBC has some exit polling which tells us several things which we already knew, and some we didn’t:

  • Sanders supporters are young and unmarried and don’t necessarily identify as Democrat, but are very liberal; the generational enthusiasm gap for Hillary is profound — 84% of those under 30 supported Sanders, as did 60% of those between 30 and 44. That’s even true for women.
  • Cruz was favored over Trump and Rubio by all age groups, but not by much in any of them
  • Higher-educated Iowans (college grad or more) favored Rubio then Cruz then Trump
  • Cruz won white evangelicals by a lot, while Trump and Rubio basically tied for second.
  • Trump won among people who thought immigration was the biggest problem, Rubio won among people who thought the economy and jobs was the biggest problem, and Cruz won among people who thought government spending and terrorism were the biggest problems
  • For those who made their decision within the past week, Rubio won.  For those who made their mind up more than a month ago, Trump won.  This suggests that Trump’s decision to skip the debate hurt him, since he only got 15% of those who made up their mind this past week (compared to Rubio’s 28%)

The pulls in the Republican party seem to have to do with conservative ideology.  Look how “very conservatives” voted re: Cruz, Trump and Rubio compared to “conservatives” and “moderates”:


It is pretty hard to untangle that one.

UPDATE: Poor Jeb Bush spent $14.1 million on ads in Iowa and came in 6th place (with 2.8% of the vote).  That means he spent $2,800 per vote. That’s about 18 times as much money as first-place winner Ted Cruz spent for each vote he received. It’s also 34 times as much as silver medalist Donald Trump spent, and 10 times the amount spent by third-place winner Marco Rubio.


Iowa Caucus Results

10 pm and more than half the results are in. It looks like Ted Cruz is going to take the Republican nomination, with Donald Trump in second, and Marco Rubio in third.  However there is an outside possibility that Marco Rubio might even come in second. The bottom line is, Donald Trump did not come in first which means he is vulnerable.  Had he not boasted of being a winner all the time it might not be a big deal. But because he boasted so much, this really punctures his “winner” mystique.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton appears poised to win, but not by very much.  Martin O’Malley came in a very distant third and is stopping his campaign.

On to New Hampshire.

UPDATE: With 99% in, Cruz wins with 29%, Trump has 24%, and Rubio has 23%. This makes Cruz and Rubio the “winners” and Trump the loser.

10:30 pm: Huckabee ends campaign. Hillary ahead of Bernie by only 0.7%

10:50 pm:
89% of Democratic precincts reporting
Clinton 49.8%
Sanders 49.6%

This Is Inciting Violence. Just Saying.

“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them,” Trump said at his rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I will pay for the legal fees. I promise,” he added. “They won’t be so much because the courts agree with us too.”

The Demographics of The Political Public Today

Everybody interested in politics needs to look at this Pew article.

It’s fascinating and too complicated to summarize here, but basically we learn:

  1. Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities that reflect not only their politics but their demographics. The result has been a rise in identity-based animus of one party toward the other that extends far beyond the issues. These days Democrats and Republicans no longer stop at disagreeing with each other’s ideas. Many in each party now deny the other’s facts, disapprove of each other’s lifestyles, avoid each other’s neighborhoods, impugn each other’s motives, doubt each other’s patriotism, can’t stomach each other’s news sources, and bring different value systems to such core social institutions as religion, marriage and parenthood. It’s as if they belong not to rival parties but alien tribes.
  2. This political sorting has roots in two simultaneous demographic transformations that America is undergoing. The U.S. is on its way to becoming a majority nonwhite nation, and at the same time, a record share of Americans are going gray. Together these overhauls have led to stark demographic, ideological and cultural differences between the parties’ bases.
  3. At the turn of the century, there was no partisan difference in the votes of young and old. But in recent elections, there has been a huge generation gap at the polls. And Democrats and Republicans have become much more ideologically polarized.
  4. The cleavages between the political tribes spill beyond politics into everyday life. Two-thirds of consistent conservatives and half of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. And liberals say they would prefer to live in cities while conservatives are partial to small towns and rural areas. In their child-rearing norms, conservatives place more emphasis on religious values and obedience, while liberals are more inclined to stress tolerance and empathy. And in their news consumption habits, each group gravitates to different sources.
  5. Identity-based hyperpartisanship is thriving at a time when a majority of Americans tell pollsters they’d like to see Washington rediscover the lost art of political compromise. As ever, many Americans are pragmatists, ready to meet in the middle.  Yet nowadays these Americans are the new silent majority. They don’t have the temperament, inclination or vocal cords to attract much attention in a media culture in which shrill pundits and 140-character screeds set the tone. Those most averse to political compromise are ideologically consistent conservatives and liberals, majorities of whom want their side to prevail.

  6. The Democratic base, dubbed the “coalition of the ascendant” by journalist Ronald Brownstein, is often the coalition of the unengaged, especially during non-presidential elections. In 2014, for example, just 19.9% of 18- to 29-year-old citizens voted, a record low. The old turning out in force more than the young is nothing new – that seems hard wired into the human life cycle. This matters little when the generations vote alike, but it makes a huge difference when, as now, they don’t. Thus we have the alternating red and blue election outcomes of the recent past, with President Obama’s victories in the big turnout years of 2008 and 2012 playing hopscotch with the GOP romps in the low turnout midterms of 2010 and 2014. This in turn has contributed to a Washington that’s paralyzed by gridlock and a hothouse for the sort of rancor that can fire up the hyperpartisans but can also send nonpartisans farther off to the political sidelines. And so the cycle of mean-spirited, broken politics perpetuates itself.

  7. The public remains in a foul mood, frustrated by stagnant incomes, a shrinking middle class and gruesome global terrorism. Just 19% say they trust the government to do what’s right. Moreover, most Republicans and many Democrats say they believe that, on the issues that matter most to them, the other side is winning. And not since the early 2000s has a majority of the public said the nation is on the right track, making these past dozen years the longest sustained stretch of national pessimism since the onset of polling.
  8. Politics is never static, which means today’s state of affairs isn’t necessarily a template for the future. This campaign has already illuminated deep fissures not just between both parties but within them. A lot of political business will get transacted between now and November. No matter what the outcome, the political firmament is likely to look different next year.

And my favorite graphic in the bunch:


I think this is a windfall year and old paradigms don’t matter.  We can explain what is going on by looking above.  Numbers 6 and 7 explain Trump, as well as the many people I have heard who are pro-Sanders AND pro-Trump.

Iowa’s Raucus Caucus

At long last, today is the Iowa caucus.  Let’s take a quick refresher course, yes?

The Des Moines Register poll came out yesterday and showed Trump ahead over Cruz, but not by much.


Here’s the thing to remember.  To have your caucus vote count, the candidate must meet a 15% threshold.  Caucus-goers who vote for an under-15% candidate on the first ballot get to vote again.  This means that in most Carson, Paul, Christie, Bush, Huckabee, Paul, Santorum, Fiorina, and Kasich voters — almost 45% will vote again — for Trump or Cruz or Rubio.

So it looks good for Cruz and even Rubio.  Yes, Trump will do the best on the first ballot.  But not so much on the second and third.  His popularity is wide, not deep.

On the Dem side, you have Hillary Clinton ahead of Bernie Sanders, 45 percent to 42 percent.  Very close.  And since Kasich will probably not make the threshold (although he certainly could), his voters will voters again.  Will they go to Clinton or Sanders?  I’m guessing Clinton.

That said, Iowa campaign coverage is always the worst. It seems to involve political journalists marveling at themselves for actually being in Iowa.

Next week is New Hampshire, the first REAL primary.