April 2, 2016

For the Rio Olympics "epically poor ticket sales."

And then there's the raw sewage:
“2016 Olympians Will Be Competing In Poop Water, And The IOC Doesn't Care,” blared Deadspin in August. “Brazil Can’t Clean Up its Shit in Time for the Olympics,” observed Gawker.... Officials are still scrambling to implement emergency measures that will clean up the water venues ahead of the Games. If they make progress, the Olympic athletes may be spared stomach cramps and infections....

Man in shorts... Alex Trebek...

For all 10 of the April Fool's jokes in yesterday's "Jeopardy!," go here. #8 amused me the most:

The treadmill.

The picture comes from the Wikipedia article on treadmills, which I was reading because my son John had done a Facebook post linking to a Forbes article that displayed like this...

... and I thought it was a sad sign of the times that the idea of "relaxing and rejuvenating activities" was illustrated by a person running on a treadmill. A treadmill was once a very clear symbol of drudgery.

I was looking for a video clip from the movie about Oscar Wilde that showed him on the prison treadmill — this kind of treadmill....

... and I didn't find it, but searching for Oscar Wilde + treadmill got me to this:

"If they wanted to, the delegates could deploy a 'nuclear option' on Trump and vote to unbind themselves on the first ballot..."

"... a strategy Ted Kennedy unsuccessfully pursued against Jimmy Carter in 1980," observes Nate Silver.
Although I’d place fairly long odds against this thermonuclear tactic, there’s also the possibility of piecemeal skirmishes for delegates. In South Carolina, for instance, delegates might unbind themselves on the pretext that Trump withdrew his pledge to support the Republican nominee. Remember those chaotic Nevada caucuses that Trump won? They could be the subject of a credentials challenge. There could also be disputes over the disposition of delegates from Marco Rubio and other candidates who have dropped out of the race. A final possibility is “faithless delegates,” where individual delegates simply decline to vote for Trump despite being bound to do so by party rules. It’s not clear whether this is allowed under Republican rules, but it’s also not clear what the enforcement mechanism would be.
By convention time, we'll know what the margin is. If Trump has the majority, 1,237, or a bit more, there is still a game to be played. If he has only 1,237, the majority is lost if just one of those delegates flips, for any of a range of technical or political reasons. Trump has to keep wrangling his delegates, and how will he do that among these "mostly dyed-in-the-wool Republican regulars and insiders"?

Trump has a lot of pride in his knowledge of how things work in the real world — how China is "killing us" in these trade deals, etc. etc. — other politicians are naive and he's the one man who can bring expertise in handling wily people who are trying to take advantage. But the real world of this delegate game has brought him up short. It must really hurt his pride, privately, and it hurts his image publicly.

Remember how, in his meeting with the RNC about the wrangling of the delegates, "Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do." That's a nightmare for him. He suddenly sees the dimension of the game he's been so proud of playing so well, and he's ill-equipped to enlarge the operation into something that can work in the coming phase. I'm picturing him losing heart, losing steam. He got so inflated about the polls and how much he'd been winning. And now he sees he's only winning in Part 1, and he didn't even understand Part 2. He doesn't have a team that could play Part 2.

Trump is going to have to rely entirely on a direct appeal to the people. He'll argue that it's outrageous and undemocratic to deny him the nomination. But the decision will be made at a convention where there's a vote — that's democracy too — of a set of delegates. And a majority of them are going to be opposed to him — even if a majority are pledged to him.

What's really Trump's problem with Megyn Kelly?

"Trump's habit of trying to flatter his way into the good graces of female journalists is well-documented.... Kelly is an unattainable female quarry who bruised his ego...."

Says WaPo's Callum Borchers.

Did Sarah Palin feel a "lack of energy" in the Wisconsin GOP crowd? She "felt a lot of seriousness."

Did she think the crowd responded well to her? "Well, I think so — I didn't get booed, I dunno."

"Trump famously suggested that we target the families of terrorists. Suppose we target them for shame instead of violence."

"[I]magine a fully-briefed President Trump talking about the losers in that terrorist’s family, by name. That’s world news. It would get back to them. Imagine Trump talking about how many cousins have inbred in that family. Imagine Trump humiliating the terrorist’s family in ways that only Trump can. Ordinary insults would have no impact. But the weapons-grade humiliation that Trump wields can definitely leave a mark. It might take some testing to find the most humiliating approach, but some form of persuasion would have a permanent impact on the family’s reputation, even coming from an enemy like Trump. He’s that good. (Or that evil, depending on your point of view.)"

Says Scott Adams, expatiating on the wonders of humiliation. He asks us to use our imagination, and for some reason, in this post, he doesn't talk about visualizing how the game progresses, the counter-moves and further responses. He stops at the point where you might find it amusing. Are you amused? Are you enthused?

AND: If families deserve shame for the actions of a member, how does that play out for all the mothers whose sons enter a life of crime? How mean to them do we want to be?

"When I see a woman rip a 40-yarder off the goalpost, then I’ll agree they deserve more pay."

"When I see a woman control the ball, dazzle à la Maradona or Messi, then I’ll agree they deserve more pay. But they can’t and they don’t. The women’s game is good but so far beneath the men’s game, men’s skills... there’s no reason they should be paid the same..... And interesting that the other women’s sport screaming for more money, and getting it, is tennis — good as Serena is, she wouldn’t win a game off the 500th ranked male. Probably not a point on his serve."

A comment by one "Abie Normal" of San Marino, California on a NYT article about equal pay for female soccer players.

On that commenter's name...

On that "wouldn’t win a game off the 500th ranked male"....

The drama of "considering" whether the federal government has the power to deprive North Carolina of billions in grant money.

It's a very scary drama:
The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.
Perhaps North Carolina feels threatened. Pushing federal policy — or the Obama administrations idea of policy that's never put in the clear text of any statute — by threatening to cut off billions is undemocratic and underhanded.
Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life....

Federal agencies have used the threat of lost money to pressure a handful of municipal governments in California and Illinois to change their policies and allow transgender students to use the restrooms of the gender they identify with....

Dan Forest, the Republican lieutenant governor and the president of the State Senate... is correct that federal anti-discrimination laws do not explicitly mention gay and transgender people: the Obama administration has repeatedly called on Congress to pass a law banning discrimination against them in employment decisions....

The Obama administration would not need to go to court to withhold grant money....
But it would be taken to court, and under existing precedent, it would lose. The conditions the states accept when they take grants need to have been clearly stated by the federal government. The states are entitled to know what they are binding themselves to as they take the money. The requirement that a choice-of-gender principle must apply to the sex-segregation of bathrooms isn't something that was understood when North Carolina accepted the grants that the Obama administration is considering taking away.

Let me just quote a little something from the Roberts opinion (joined by Breyer and Kagan) in the Obamacare case:
[O]ur cases have recognized limits on Congress’s power under the Spending Clause to secure state compliance with federal objectives. “We have repeatedly characterized . . . Spending Clause legislation as ‘much in the nature of a contract.’ ”.... The legitimacy of Congress’s exercise of the spending power “thus rests on whether the State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of the ‘contract.’ ”
(The position taken by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito cuts even more strongly in favor of the states.)

The subject here is the power of conditional spending. The question whether there's an equal protection right to use government bathrooms based on your gender identification is a different matter.

Wisconsin, April 2nd... snow.


It will be in the 60s tomorrow, but for now... some brightness, brighter now, actually, as the sun is out.

UPDATE: We've been alternating between storms and sunshine. I've lost count of how many times it's shifted from one to the other. Completely sunny then dark and snow-stormy. I learned the word "clipper."

"Liberty is the idea that our minds and bodies belong to ourselves.... Liberty cannot be extinguished... through laws; it can only be unjustly punished."

The Libertarian Debate was on TV last night, as I'm noticing this morning, reading my son John's live-blogging of it, which begins:
9:03 — Gary Johnson uses his opening statement to talk about his "wonderful family," including his grandchildren and his fiance, with whom he shares "a passion for health and wellness." "It's great to be in love, and I'm in love!" He talks about starting a successful "handyman business," then selling it in 1999 — "nobody lost their job." He also points out that he got elected governor in a state that's 2 to 1 Democratic, New Mexico. And he's adventurous: "I climbed the tallest mountain in each of the seven continents!"

9:05 — John McAfee's opening statement strikes a different tone — philosophical, not personal: "Libertarianism is grounded in the concept of liberty. What is liberty? Liberty is the idea that our minds and bodies belong to ourselves. . . . Liberty cannot be extinguished . . . through laws; it can only be unjustly punished."

9:06 — Austin Petersen sketches his biography to highlight how he's learned the value of liberty. He grew up on a horse farm near a town called Liberty, Missouri. He learned about "economic liberty" as a kid, when his parents sent him to sell chrysanthemums. He learned about "personal liberty" from "the Golden Rule." "I may be the youngest candidate in this race, but I'm the oldest in libertarian years!"
Funny that 2 of them were so personal and one was so abstract. It's the excessive abstraction that scares me about libertarians, so maybe I should be wary of McAfee, even though I loved his quote and immediately chose it for the post title.

Anyway, the whole live-blog is well worth reading. Ah,  yes, here's some more about McAfee, perhaps explanatory of why he, unlike Johnson and Peterson, declined to make his opening statement a Song of Myself:
9:38 — McAfee is asked about his shady alleged activities in Belize and Guatemala. "You're still technically a fugitive!" He was also arrested for driving on Xanax. McAfee says . . . well, he's never been charged with murder! (That's reassuring.) He admits his DUI was "the stupidest thing I've ever done."
I like this Peterson-Johnson engagement with the iconic issue of our day, forced cake decoration:
9:42 — Petersen challenges Johnson on his support for requiring bakeries to make cakes for same-sex weddings. "Should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a Nazi wedding cake?" Johnson says: "Yes!" Petersen accuses Johnson of not understanding the free market. Petersen frames his argument as pro-gay: "Let the bigots out themselves!"
That's 2 damned different forms of libertarian. The libertarian position should be Petersen's, don't you think? Petersen is only 35, by the way. Asked about it, he said, "I'm 35, so I'm constitutionally eligible.... Don't hate me because I'm young and pretty!"

April 1, 2016

"LSD could make you smarter, happier and healthier. Should we all try it?"

A serious article in The Washington Post. Excerpt:
Here’s why scientists think it works: When someone takes a psychedelic, there is a decrease in blood flow and electrical activity in the brain’s “default mode network,” a group of brain structures found in the frontal and pre-frontal cortex. The default mode network is primarily responsible for our ego or sense of self; it “lights up” when we daydream or self-reflect.

When we trip, our default mode network slows down. With the ego out of commission, the boundaries between self and world, subject and object dissolve. These processes may be related to something called the “primary mystical experience,” a phenomena highly correlated with therapeutic outcomes. As Matthew Johnson, a principal investigator in Johns Hopkins’s psilocybin studies, explains, these experiences include a “transcendence of time and space,” a sense of unity and sacredness and a deeply felt positive mood.
Note the quick jump from "mystical experience" to "therapeutic outcomes." Disrespect for religion is an undercurrent to this discussion, which assumes the legal use would entail the assistance of medical professionals. The article quotes drug-policy expert Mark Kleiman, who "emphasizes the importance of containing the experience, both during the trip, for the purposes of safety, and afterward, 'so it’s not merely a one-off mystical experience, but actually something you could build a life around.'"

You can't build your life around a religious experience?

"The video does not support evidence of a sexual assault. It does support that a punch was delivered by the 15-year-old..."

Said Janesville Police Chief David Moore about the incident at the Trump rally last Tuesday.
[Moore described the man who got punched in the face] as using “very animated hand gestures” during the verbal altercation and emphasized the closeness of people of the crowd. “These are pretty close quarters,” he said. “These are emotional times and the brushing up or pushing against someone is probably occurring all over in that crowd.”

Moore said [the man] did not wish to pursue assault charges against the girl, but police have referred the girl to juvenile authorities on a tentative disorderly conduct charge....

"Legally though, there's a big bar that you have to get over to prosecute anybody for these crimes, much less somebody who is running for president."

"... I do understand that when somebody is running for president, there is a higher bar you have to get over because we can’t have a system in which we are constantly charging people who are running for president of crimes. ... Politically, there are severe questions about her judgment that voters really have to look into. Legally... there is a higher bar you have to get over before you prosecute somebody who is running for president. That's just a fact."

Said National Journal reporter Ron Fournier, quoted by Glenn Reynolds in "Hillary's delusional media courtiers/Clinton acolytes can't seem to grasp that Beltway-insider status doesn't exempt from prosecution."

In Donald Trump's ancestral Scottish homeland...

"Delegates are generally supposed to represent voters.... But delegates may not personally support the candidate that voters picked...."

"The outcome of the convention could come down to whom the delegates personally favor.... Delegates Selected By Candidates May Be Less Likely to Switch Sides... Delegates Chosen By Party Members Could Flip Their Support... Some Delegates Can Only Be Released by Winning Candidates... Some States Don’t Bind Their Delegates to Primary Results at All... Party Leaders Who Are Automatic Delegates Could Favor Anyone... It’s also possible that the rules will change...."

A primer — with cute illustrations — at the NYT — about something that should not have been under the radar. I've been thinking about it for a while, but it seems like something not everyone — e.g., Trump — has been thinking about enough.

"The Club For Growth,which asked me for $1,000,000 in an extortion attempt, just put up a Wisconsin ad with incorrect math."

"What a dumb group!" — tweets Donald Trump.

And: "The Club For Growth said in their ad that 465 delegates (Cruz) plus 143 delegates (Kasich) is more than my 739 delegates. Try again!"

ADDED: Here's the ad:

What's more misleading — Trump's tweets or the ad?

2 views on the connection between believing abortion is murder and wanting to punish the woman who gets one.

Donald Trump got caught in the act of being confused, and I'd like to plunk him down at this fork in Abortion-Is-Murder Road. The signpost on the left fork reads Jill Filipovic Way:
If anti-abortion advocates sincerely believe abortion is murder, they should also say that women have to be punished for it. If a fetus is the same as a 5-year-old, then a woman who ends a pregnancy should be just as guilty of murder as a woman who pays a hit man to kill her kindergartener. Claiming ignorance that murder was murder wouldn’t work.

It’s an ugly thought, and it’s electorally and socially unpopular, and that’s why some of them don’t say it out loud; others realize that while they may find abortion morally wrong, they don’t in their heart of hearts believe removing an embryo from a woman’s body is the same as slaughtering a 5-year-old. But start making those kinds of distinctions and the whole case against abortion falls apart.
Yeah, down that road you'd have to punish the woman, but the whole point is, political disaster lies down that road, and what Jill Filipovic wants is for you to run all the way back down Abortion-Is-Murder Road and go somewhere else entirely — where you see that this whole territory lies inside the body of another person and she gets full control over what happens inside there.

But hang out in this fork a tad longer. There's another way to go: It's Scott Adams Way:
Do we really need penalties for every law?... [W]e all might be better off if our government always took the side of maximizing human life while leaving room for private citizens to make tough choices as needed. A law without penalties does that.....

Governments should always favor human life, even in the gray areas. But human beings often need the freedom to make hard choices about life. If the government makes abortion and doctor-assisted dying illegal, it sends a message about the priorities of government to protect life. But by being silent on penalties for those things, government would also allow citizens and their doctors to make the hard decisions.
Adams wants to make abortion illegal, but then provide no enforcement mechanism. This is similar to having a law that's just not enforced, except the commitment to do no enforcing is locked down in the text of the statute. It's just an expressive law, the people saying "we care," but we're not going to do anything about it, because private citizens need room to govern their own private lives.

Can travelers on Abortion-Is-Murder Road take the Scott Adams fork?

Donald Trump didn't bother to understand Wisconsin, and Wisconsin seems to mind.

Maybe you think we're a frumpy pathetic rustbelt backwater and we'd be happy that you showed up at all and acted like you cared.

But it's not that way at all. The WSJ's Kimberly A. Strassel does a great job of summing up Wisconsin GOP politics for outsiders:

Traces of cruel neutrality at the Althouse blog.

I wanted to show you this exceedingly creepy anti-Cruz ad...

So let me balance it with a Cruz campaign ad...

"Mason Receives $30 Million in Gifts, Renames School of Law After Justice Antonin Scalia."

That's the headline in the school's press release. Interesting use of the comma splice. An occasion to reflect upon the old saying Correlation is not causation.

But it must be fair to say that the $30 million caused the name change. It couldn't have been the sole cause, and who can know what weight it added to the side of the scale that held genuine respect for the late Justice and belief in the desirability of attaching this label to all the students and alumni and faculty and staff of the school? The man is very recently dead and he is associated with strongly stated opinions on many of the most controversial issues of our day, so it's not like the time Yeshiva University took the name Benjamin Cardozo for its law school. Cardozo had been dead for nearly 4 decades when that name was chosen, and Cardozo even in his time was not viewed as controversially political.

If $30 million gets George Mason to adopt the name Antonin Scalia, I wonder what amounts of money would cause other schools to adopt other names. George Mason was already considered conservative, but Scalia amplifies the brand and adds quite a bit more edge. What if lovers of Harry Blackmun had wanted to get George Mason to put his name on their school? Would $30 million have been enough or would it take more?

My school has long been associated with the left end of the political spectrum, but we like money too. It's hard to imagine situations where offers are made that go against the grain of the law school's own idea of its brand, but what if someone were to offer us $30 million to name the school The William H. Rehnquist School of Law? Why would anyone do that? Just to lean on us? Would we resist? Up the amount. If not $30 million, what about $90 million? It's not absurd to imagine the offer. Chief Justice Rehnquist was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I'm sure that geographical association would play a role in our deliberations.

Who put up that money for the George Mason name change? $20 million came from an anonymous donor who worked through the Federalist Society, someone who was "a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family." The other $10 million came from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The William H. Rehnquist School of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Nice ring?

Oh, I see how easy it would be to rewrite this post as an April Fool's Day announcement, but I'm sick of April Fool's Day.

Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do....

The NYT reports on Trump's "unity meeting" with the RNC people: 
When the discussion turned to the wrangling of delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland this July — an issue that has dogged Mr. Trump and his skeletal campaign organization for months — Mr. Priebus explained that states all had different rules governing how they were selected.

... Mr. Trump mentioned Louisiana, where he won the primary, but where Senator Ted Cruz is likely to come away with more delegates after exploiting peculiarities in the state’s system, according to those briefed on the meeting....

But when Mr. Priebus explained that each campaign needed to be prepared to fight for delegates at each state’s convention, Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do....
Trump has been using his "businessman" template for everything. He presents himself as a businessman with a lifetime's worth of skill and savvy, and he offers to plug BUSINESSMAN into the role of President. He's got an awful lot of confidence that this will be a wonderful experience for us, that it will make America great again. But it looks as though the businessman had not yet noticed that the fight for delegates extends beyond the primary/caucus day and requires campaign people on the ground who know the local rules and how to play the game. Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do....

In his businessman life, perhaps, Trump has assembled so much support around him that he can do his bit at the top — whatever it is... figurehead, idea man, starring role, big talker — and he can pass off everything that doesn't demand — doesn't command — his attention to his people, his people who've been with him for so long, making what needs to get done get done within his well-established operation. But the campaign is a new operation, and they're shown here — perhaps the NYT is distorting — failing, crucially, to understand and succeed within the one task that confronts them.

So the businessman template hasn't worked so well in the relatively simple fight for the nomination. How can there be any confidence that BUSINESSMAN will plug brilliantly into the presidency and make America great again?

I'm recalling what Trump said when he talked to The Washington Post about how he wanted to "open up" the libel law. I wrote a very detailed examination of the text of the absurdly digressive conversation — you can read that here — because I wanted to see how he relates to the law and what he thinks could or should be done to the freedom of the press. At one point the interviewer said "how would you change the law?" and Trump answered "I would just loosen them up." Somebody said what I would have said: "What does that mean?" And Trump's answer displays exactly the problem I'm talking about this morning:

"I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you, but I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up."

He assumes he has people, good people who know what's needed and how to get it and they will attend to the details. He'll float above it — setting goals, doing face time, being interestingly expressive — and the real work will get done, don't worry about it, he has people for that.

But he doesn't have people who know how to do want needs to get done — not for this campaign and obviously not for the presidency. He must know that, and yet he asks that we trust him: Go ahead, plug BUSINESSMAN into the presidency. It will be great. He must know that doesn't make sense. What on earth is he going to do about that if he happens to win?

Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do....

March 31, 2016

Is April Fool's Day getting an early start this year?

I saw:

Then I saw:

Come on, people...

"If I were in my car and getting ready to reverse and saw Donald in the backup camera, I'm not confident which pedal I'd push."

Ted Cruz makes a joke.

Vanity Fair says it would be "crazy" and "career suicide" for Paul Ryan to "to try to steal the Republican nomination."

So it's a great idea then?

No way Vanity Fair would be warning the GOP off a bad idea is there?


If Trump can't lock it down with a majority of delegates, and most Republicans are not just opposed to him, but appalled at the idea of a Trump nomination and see him as wrecking their party, why would they give him the nomination out of fear that the people — who don't in the majority support Trump — somehow treasure the principle that the man with the most delegates gets the nomination? And if they're looking beyond Trump, why would they feel compelled to hand it to Cruz or Kasich? Because they entered the competition and stayed in? But they lost. The nomination isn't a participation trophy. If there's an open convention and they're looking past those who ran the race, the most obvious choice is Paul Ryan — attractive, vigorous, honest, vetted. Pick the best — the best candidate and the best potential President. Sure, some Trump/Cruz/Kasich voters may feel that's not fair, but there are plenty of us who're not stuck on any of those three, including many people who will have voted for one of them.

"I cannot understand why I was detained, my flat trashed, my passport seized and two PCs, two tablets and my phone taken."

"I was denied a shave, shower, food. I was stripped of any dignity to appear in court without looking like a disheveled hobo that I am not."

Said a London man who had tweeted: "I confronted a Muslim women (sic) in Croydon yesterday. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ‘nothing to do with me’. A mealy mouthed reply."

"Not even going to speculate. It’s art for art's sake. I don’t know."

A very nicely put together local news report about a little art project in Denver that involves sticking painted doll faces to walls. I love the interviews with various people, like the one I quoted in the post title and the lady who says "I’ve commented to my husband, ‘Look at those.’ But he never seems to notice them" and the range of opinion from "cool" to "a little disturbing."

The video mockery Turkey's president Erdogan wants taken down from the internet.

I wouldn't have noticed that but for Ergogan's effort at suppression. The video comes from a German TV show, extra3. Note the mockery of Angela Merkel in the video.
Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for Ms. Merkel, confirmed that the German ambassador to Ankara, Martin Erdmann, had been summoned on March 22 over the video.... German officials would not confirm reports that the Turkish side had requested that the video be taken down from the Internet.

But [Sawsan Chebli, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Foreign Ministr] said the ambassador and a deputy foreign minister, who called his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday, had “made clear that political satire in Germany is, of course, protected and therefore there is neither a necessity, nor a possibility, for the government to take action.”

The show’s reaction to the dispute was tongue-in-cheek. It posted a political cartoon showing a figure resembling Mr. Erdogan brandishing a fire extinguisher at a laptop, while threatening, “Either you erase this video, or I will extinguish the Internet.”

"Mr. Obama needs to be straightforward about deploying more troops. 'It has not been transparent for the public'..."

"...Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview, referring to the evolution of the military campaign. 'My view is that the president jumps through hoops because of his views of this politically.' Mr. Obama has not made a clear argument that giving the Pentagon freer rein can lead to greater success against ISIS. It seems inevitable that the next president will be dealing with this fight. Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor by being frank with the American people about the struggle and choices ahead."

The last 2 paragraphs of a NYT editorial titled "America Needs Frank Talk on ISIS."

A philosopher discusses whether it's "wrong" to vote out of "self-interest."

And after wading through the obvious examples of rich people voting for Republicans who seem to be about advancing the interests of the rich and poor people voting for Democrats who seem to be channeling benefits to the poor, Gary Gutting hits upon the example that readers of the NYT are supposed to find fascinatingly complex: funding an art museum. (He specifies a museum of contemporary art simply.) Can you morally vote for this funding solely because you'd like to enjoy it?
[Y]ou might claim that the museum would in fact benefit the community as a whole, since more and more people would come to enjoy art they’d previously had no exposure to, or found repugnant.

But suppose in fact people would not come to enjoy the art, and on the whole there would be a higher level of unhappiness because of the museum. Why should your vote be determined by what a bunch of philistines would think? It might seem that I could rightly vote for my own self-interest when I have good reason to think that others should share that interest, even if I know they won’t.

"In the scene, the movie’s antihero, a thug played by Malcolm McDowell, barges into her home with three of his cronies..."

"... before they assault her husband and trash their house as Mr. McDowell belts 'Singin’ in the Rain.' Mr. McDowell cuts off Ms. Corri’s clothes, then tells her helpless husband to watch before he rapes her. Kubrick insisted that Ms. Corri appear naked for multiple takes. That scene and other violent and sexually explicit material initially earned the film an X rating in the United States. It remained controversial for years after its limited British release, drawing protests and news reports of alleged copycat crimes. Nevertheless, 'A Clockwork Orange' was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, director and screenplay, in 1972."

From the obituary of Adrienne Corri, who died this month at the age of 84.

I went looking for more information about Corri's experience. I found this:
Adrienne Corri initially declined the role of Mrs. Alexander because Kubrick was getting applicants to de-bra in his office while he trained a video camera on them. She made it clear that wasn’t on. “But Adrienne, suppose we don’t like the tits?” “Tough.”
Little was accomplished during the first two days of shooting [the rape scene with Corri], but on the third day, Kubrick blocked out a portion of the action with McDowell, instructing him to knock [the actor Patrick] Magee to the floor and begin kicking his guts out. The director then suddenly asked McDowell, "Can you sing?" It was suggested that the actor could improvise a song-and-dance number while administering the savage beating. McDowell confessed that "Singin’ in the Rain" was the only tune he knew by heart. This resulted in what Kubrick calls the CRM, or "critical rehearsal moment," during which the director and actors come together to create a defining scene. Kubrick immediately looked into obtaining the rights to the song, and discovered that the fee was $10,000 to use it for 30 seconds. Once the rights were in hand, shooting proceeded immediately. Kubrick later invited Stanley Donen, the director of the musical classic, to view his scene and then asked Donen’s personal permission to use the song for the sequence. "He wanted to make sure I wasn’t offended," Donen reports in the biography Dancing on the Ceiling. "Why would I be? It didn’t affect the movie Singin’ in the Rain." Gene Kelly, who had performed the famous number in the 1952 film, felt otherwise. When Kelly and Kubrick met at an awards ceremony following Clockwork’s release, the danceman refused to talk to the director.

"Well it's unethical, it's immoral. It's everything I can think of that is a travesty against empathy..."

"... against caring for a human, a child. I mean yea, it's everything that's important to me as an artist in this field," said the tattoo artist about the woman who was arrested for letting her 3 children get tattoos.

The children were all under 13, and the tattoos were not done at a commercial tattoo parlor — is that still the term? tattoo parlor? — but by her brother. The children's father called the cops. He's the mother's ex-husband, and he's fighting for custody of the children.

What were the tattoos of? How big were they? What part of the body was tattooed? Do these questions matter to you? Does religion matter? The tattoos, on the ankle, were: 1. a cross, 2. an infinity symbol with a cross, and 3. a heart with an arrow.

Can children get tattoos? Here, there's a specific statute: "tattoos prohibited for certain persons," a Class A misdemeanor. So the answer is clearly no, unless you want to make an argument for a religious exemption.

Here's a Wikipedia article "Religious perspectives on tattooing."
Christian Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina started tattooing, especially of children, for perceived protection against forced conversion to Islam during the Ottoman occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.... This form of tattooing continued long past its original motivation. Tattooing was performed during springtime or during special religious celebrations such as the Feast of St. Joseph, and consisted mostly of Christian crosses on hands, fingers, forearms, and below the neck and on the chest. In India many Christians tattoos Cross Sign under thumb area. Orthodox Coptic Christians who live in Egypt commonly tattoo themselves with the symbols of Coptic crosses on their right wrists, the history of this custom is similar to that of the Christian Croat tatto[o]s.... 
I have no idea if this woman — her name is Ashley Weir — had any religious notions about what she was doing. Only 2 of the 3 tattoos had a cross. So let me pose a hypothetical. What if 3 children received cross tattoos that the Christian mother believed were needed as protection from forced conversion to Islam?

Here's an illustrated article about old women in Bosnia and Herzegovina who have tattoos they received when they were young. They did not go to commercial tattoo parlors to get these tattoos. They tattooed each other.
At the height of the cult, mothers took to tattooing their children at home, usually before they were ten years old. The tattooing process involves using a crude needle and a special solution made of charcoal, grime, honey, and milk extracted from the bosom of a lactating woman who has already had a male child....
Special power was ascribed to this milk.
Although the cult outlasted the Ottoman oppressors, communist authorities made tattooed women targets of hate campaigns. Threatened and treated like criminals, they would often lose their jobs due to their religious allegiances. Eventually women stopped tattooing their children out of fear and the practice was more or less extinct by the 1950s.

... "There was a paraffin lamp," [one woman remembered], "milk was taken from the woman who feeds a male child and it was mixed with the soot from the lamp. Then she took the needle, dipped it, and tattooed a cross on my hands until the blood ran. My hand was numb so I didn't feel anything. She wrapped it and I held it like that for one day without washing."
What would you do with an American mother who belonged to a cult like this and followed the traditional practice? What would you do with an American mother, a Christian, who heard about this practice and adopted it as part of a custody battle with her ex-husband, a Muslim?

(Again, I don't know the details of the case reported in the news today. I'm just pursuing the ideas using hypotheticals.)

NOTE: This post was corrected to show that the second tattoo, the one with the infinity symbol, also had a cross.

March 30, 2016

"To everyone who likes that Lewandowsky got charged: Will you agree that everyone who does nothing more than that should undergo criminal prosecution?"

"Are you willing to pay the taxes to cover that? Are you ready to find out that you've already done it and you're going to be needing to hire a lawyer? Oh, but it's so funny when it happens to somebody else, somebody you don't like. If that's what you think, please just admit to yourself that you are entirely morally corrupt."

Said I, talking over on Facebook.

Trump says "there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, then takes it back.

The criticism erupted. Hillary Clinton tweeted that punishing the woman is “horrific and telling.” And John Kasich, who opposes abortion, said: "of course women shouldn’t be punished.... I don’t think that’s an appropriate response, and it’s a difficult enough situation than to try to punish somebody." Why isn't it the appropriate answer for those who oppose abortion rights? Is abortion not the woman's decision? Why shouldn't the decision-maker be held responsible if abortion is to be banned? It sounds as though you don't respect women as decisionmakers.

It took less than 3 hours for Trump to recant in a statement that read:
If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. 
The woman is a victim of her own decision? How does that respect the autonomy and full personhood of the woman? Those who want to ban abortion should take responsibility for what they are really saying about women, that women should be denied a choice they want to make. Unless you think the denial is based on women's inability to think for themselves and ascertain what's right and wrong and define the meaning of life for themselves, then you should hold women responsible for choosing to do something that you think the majority has the power to forbid and you want to forbid. If you think women are incapable of thinking for themselves, say that outright. It would take political courage. If you think women are capable and would be choosing to do something that is properly forbidden, then admit that they deserve punishment. Ah, but that too would take political courage.

A new Marquette poll has Cruz way up in Wisconsin at 40%, with Trump at 30% and Kasich at 21%.

The poll was completed before Scott Walker's endorsement of Cruz. (The previous Marquette poll, done last month, had Trump at 30% and Cruz at 19.)

The new poll also showed Walker's job approval up, so if the GOP primary is (as some have said) sort of a referendum on Walker, Cruz ought to do even better.

Also in that poll, Feingold's lead over Ron Johnson is down to 3 points, and — in the state supreme court race — Rebecca Bradley is up 5 points over JoAnne Kloppenburg (despite an effort to portray Bradley, based on her college essays, as a homophobe).

The libertarian candidates for President are going to do a debate — on real television.

And John says: "Based on the photos, I'd say: Johnson for president, Petersen for vice president, and McAfee for head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives."

The photos:

"You fool! You touched me! You want to kill me?!... Touch can kill!... Why did you do that, you big fat fool?!"

A memorable scene from an old movie, called to mind by recent touchings in the news:

What really happened in this grope-punch-pepper-spray incident at yesterday's Trump rally in Janesville?

Video and descriptions at USA Today and at The Daily News. And here's the police press release.

The young woman is pepper sprayed, which looks terrible, but she's also seen smacking or trying to smack a man on the head. There's some confusing discussion of "groping." There might be a groping off camera. I've looked at several of the available angles, and I do see 2 hands holding her back, touching her on one shoulder (as she is getting very fervent vocally, aiming the word "fuck" right in the face of the white-haired man).

I'm connecting this incident with the San Francisco State dreadlocks confrontation — blogged here — and the charging of Corey Lewandowski. In the SFSU case, the woman grabs the man, and in the Corey Lewandowski case, the woman is touched only after she touches Donald Trump twice. There seems to be a traditional stereotype at play that ignores or minimizes battery by a female and holds the male responsible to refrain from doing anything physical, even in self-defense. It's an interesting stereotype. Perhaps you support it. The man should never hit the woman, even if she is hitting him. But how does that traditional model work in modern conditions of demanded equality, in which a woman actively participates in a rowdy protest or pursues journalism aggressively or instigates a confrontation with a passing stranger?

Paying $508 a month to live in a box — a "pod" — tucked up against the wall in someone else's apartment.

In San Francisco.
Many people have apartments with the space/ capacity to house another person but choose not to because there isn't an attractive way to do so. Temporary partitions offer poor privacy, especially in terms of sound. They also tend to ruin whatever room they're in - you're less likely to use your living room if it doubles as a bedroom.

I think pods can provide a needed fix here. Yes the living room housing my pod is smaller - but it's by no means ruined. If pods can provide an attractive way to add a bedroom to an apartment, I think they could help a lot of people out. People with the extra space wanting to bring in more money by subletting, people looking for cheap and simple housing, or people wanting to add another bedroom so their friend can move in could all benefit.

What this all comes back to, though, is making a pod people would be willing to live in....
... pod people... hmmm.

Well, the tiny house/tiny housing movement marches on.

Presumably, he gets to use the bathroom. Does he also get the use of the kitchen and the living room during the day or is he supposed to stay in his box and only use the rooms as a path to get to his box?

IN THE COMMENTS: Todd said: "Those look like they could double-stack." That made me remember Kramer's chest of drawer:

"The last person in the world who should be lecturing journalists on how to do journalism is President Barack Obama, Yet there Obama was Monday night at a journalism award ceremony, yodeling banalities about the role of a press in a free society..."

"... moaning over the dangers posed by 'he said/she said' reporting, and—to the delight of the assembled audience—attacking Donald Trump in every way but name. The press-heavy crowd, convened by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to give the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting to Alec MacGillis, clapped at Obama’s 30-minute address, encouraging his best Trump-baiting lines about 'free media' and the dangers of 'false equivalence.'"

Yodels and moans Jack Shafer (at Politico).

Go to the link if you want to see the argument that  that Obama is an anti-free-press guy. It seems to be mostly resentment that Obama isn't generous enough opening himself and his administration to the press. He's been successful at controlling information from his end: "Obama holds infrequent news conferences, and he wastes reporters’ time by refraining from answering questions with any candor." I can see whining about how that makes journalism harder to do, but not how it makes him anti-free-press. The press is still free. Freedom doesn't mean everyone else is making it easy to do all the things you're free to do. You've got to step up, not demand cushier spoon-feeding.

Cruz says "It’s against the rules for Kasich to be on the ballot" at a contested GOP convention.

There's a rule that was adopted at the 2012 GOP convention:
The rule, drafted and imposed by forces loyal to Mitt Romney, requires that any candidate eligible for the nomination win a majority of delegates from at least eight states or U.S. territories. Kasich is unlikely to approach that threshold ahead of the convention.
If forces loyal to Romney could adopt a rule that serves their interests in 2012, why can't a new rule be made in 2016? Doesn't it simply depend on who has the votes to make the rules? I can see why Cruz wants to set himself up as the only alternative to Trump if Trump can't get a majority of delegates, but why should the convention be left with only Cruz as the fall back? And won't Cruz change his argument if it turns out that he can't get a majority in 8 states? So far, he only has 5.

I think Cruz is making the argument about the 2012 rule to focus all the stop-Trump energy on himself right now: Don't waste your primary vote on Kasich.

By the way, the latest Wisconsin poll shows Cruz in third place: Trump 31%, Kasich 29%, Cruz 27%. But that was taken before Scott Walker endorsed Cruz. Some people here in Wisconsin are seeing the primary as a kind of "referendum on Scott Walker," especially since Donald Trump is openly attacking Walker:
Donald Trump arrived in Wisconsin Tuesday and made it abundantly clear that he’s running against Scott Walker in this state’s looming presidential primary, saying Wisconsin “is doing very poorly,” is “losing jobs all over the place” and is mired in “vitriol” over the governor.
Is Cruz putting effort into defending what Walker has done? And is Walker really a big Cruz supporter?
In a recent interview, Walker said he knew both Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich well, and said both are “perfectly fine.” But he indicated that the delegate math simply doesn’t work out for Kasich: “If you’re just looking at the numbers objectively,” Walker said last week, “Senator Cruz is the only one who’s got a chance, other than Donald Trump, to win the nomination. My friend Governor Kasich cannot.” Walker indicated in the WTMJ interview that Cruz could handily take on Hillary Clinton in the general election as well.
Kasich has the distinction of representing neither the pro- or the anti-Walker side. And he's the last moderate standing on the GOP side.

AND: Can the last-moderate-standing position work? Maybe not. Maybe America just wants some big disruption this year and can't be talked down. People got high on Trump and Sanders, perhaps because of a horror of having Hillary stuffed down our throats, and we just don't know how to come back to normal. Cruz isn't normal. He's disruptive too. Try this disruptive but not as disruptive character. That's the pitch for those of us who don't like too much wild-eyed drama in our politics?

"You're saying I can't have a hairstyle because of your culture?"

At San Francisco State University, a white male with dreadlocks responds to confrontation by a black woman in viral video that ends with the woman's hand over the camera lens.

From the news report:
[Cory] Goldstein says this confrontation started on campus quad when the unidentified woman went to hand him a flyer but pulled it back and said “sorry we don’t want people with your hair here.”...

[The woman] tells him in the video that he is appropriating her culture and when he tries to walk away she obstructs his path.

“Yo, stop touching me right now,” Goldstein says he tries to walk up the stairs. She then grabs his arm to keep him from leaving. “I don’t need your disrespect,” Goldstein says as she releases her grip on him and he walks away. Goldstein understands she and her friend were trying to explain why his hair was a form of “cultural appropriation” but he says her approach was not done in a positive way....
It's interesting that this video went viral the same day that Trump's campaign manager got charged with battery for touching a female reporter who was touching Donald Trump. Goldstein is lucky this is on video. At around 0:30, the woman says something about Goldstein touching her, when clearly she is the one making the physical contact.

Touching aside, hair is a touchy issue. It's gentle of Goldstein to see the potential for positive conversation about the politics of what he calls his "hairstyle."

March 29, 2016

And so, it's hot dogs and crêpes Suzette in Heaven today....

We have to say good-bye to another icon of our childhood....

"Patty Duke, an Oscar-winning actress renowned at midcentury as a child star of stage, film and television, who, amid public struggles with bipolar disorder, went on to cultivate a respected screen career in adulthood, died on Tuesday at a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was 69."

Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski just got charged with battery...

... in the incident involving the Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields.

MEANWHILE: In Wisconsin, anti-Trump disorder rages on:
Six protesters were arrested and could face trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer charges after dozens initially entered the Holiday Inn Express on Monday evening as part of an anti-Donald Trump protest.

Janesville Police Sgt. Mike Blaser said police gave the protesters several opportunities to move out of the building without being arrested but they refused. “I think tonight is just an indication in a smaller scale of what we might see tomorrow,” Blaser said. “We've been planning for several days and we will have assets on the ground to help us manage whatever size crowd we do get here tomorrow.”...

The six protesters arrested would not identify themselves to police before booking, Blaser said. They had joined hands inside of PVC piping and may have also been handcuffed inside the piping, he said.

The protesters used “professional” tactics, including having their own medic on scene, he said. They were members of the Showing Up for Racial Justice and Groundwork Madison groups. The protesters entered the building at 6:30 p.m. Rock County sheriff's deputies were helping Janesville police separate them at about 9:30 p.m.
Trump is speaking at the hotel at 4 p.m. today, and the protesters attempted to occupy the place at 6:30 p.m. last night. It seems as though part of the "professional" tactic is to intimidate any private business that might want to rent a venue to the Trump campaign.
Melissa Sargent, a Democratic representative to the state Assembly from the Madison area, was among those inside. “We're here to call on the Holiday Inn to take a stand against hate,” Sargent said....

Kristen Brock-Petroshius of Madison, a member of Standing Up for Racial Justice, said the group has been working with the local organizers of the anti-Trump demonstration, set for Tuesday outside the Janesville Conference Center, a part of the hotel. Brock-Petroshius said local organizers have received death threats, and Monday's protest was an effort to avoid any bloodshed that might be caused by Trump supporters....

“A lot of us think, … if this was the beginning of Hitler's rise to power in Germany, how many of us would sit by the sidelines and do nothing?” Brock-Petroshius said. 'If we can prevent the violence he is inciting from taking hold and become stronger in these coming months, then we've done our job.”
All the violence is on the other side. The protesters cite death threats they've received and predict some Hitler-like future, so strong tactics are justified.
The owners of the Holiday Inn Express and Janesville Conference Center do not plan to cancel Trump's appearance Tuesday, as some protesters have called for.
There's no violence disorder if everyone gives up and goes home. So the tactic is to shut today's event down, to make Trump cancel again.

"Another wonderful reason to celebrate that Scalia's worthless corpse lies rotting in the ground along with his radical ideology of bigotry and misogyny."

That just happened to be the newest comment when I read the WaPo news report: "Supreme Court deadlocks over public employee union case; Calif. teachers must pay dues."

"We grow, mostly, by dying."

A startling sentence, found in "Runs in the Family/New findings about schizophrenia rekindle old questions about genes and identity," by Siddhartha Mukherjee (in The New Yorker). Context:

"Rush Limbaugh’s blessing of Trump is killing conservatism."

That's the headline at The Washington Post on a column by Michael Gerson. Now, Rush hasn't endorsed Trump, as Gerson must concede. In fact, he has to say:
Limbaugh takes pains to preserve neutrality between Trump and Ted Cruz, whom he describes as the obvious choice “if conservatism is the dominating factor in how you vote.”
That's in stark contrast to our local talk radio people who are overtly anti-Trump. So what's Gerson's problem?
But Limbaugh has also consistently defended Trump as a legitimate choice for those whose dominating factor is the humiliation of “the establishment.”... Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy are noted but considered secondary. “I think with the case of Trump,” argues Limbaugh, “there’s a much bigger upside than downside.”

The upside, in this view, is not just taking the political fight to liberalism; it is also overturning a failed and corrupt Republican political order. Limbaugh dismisses defenders of this order as fundamentally self-interested. “[Trump] has put together a coalition that’s exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win, and yet, look what they’re doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race, because they’re not in charge of it.” Opposing Trump is the work of a “cliquish, elitist club,” preserving its influence and employment prospects. This criticism is sometimes expanded to include the conservative intelligentsia. “I’m talking about the establishment,” says Limbaugh, “conservative media, the brainiacs, the think tanks, the professors.”
Gerson argues that the GOP "establishment" — he always puts it in scare quotes — actually is conservative, conservative within "the constraints of our constitutional system" (as opposed to some "fantasy world") and within norms of "civility, inclusion and tolerance" (as opposed to "casual misogyny, racial stereotyping and religious bigotry"). And Trump is not a real conservative, Gerson says, because he "does not reason from first principles" and he appeals to "authoritarian populism" instead of — as Russell Kirk puts it — "an enduring moral order, political prudence, and restraints on power and human passion."

Scott Walker endorses Ted Cruz.

[Walker] didn't name Trump when he left the presidential race, but made clear then that he didn't want him as the nominee. He said at the time he was "helping to clear the field" and hoped others would do the same "so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner."

Last summer, Trump attacked Walker, saying "Wisconsin is doing terribly" under him, citing problems with the state budget. Nonetheless, Walker said during his presidential run that he would support the eventual nominee.....

"All we need to do is change our 'frame' for terrorism and start treating it as a medical problem."

"Trump already started that process by suggesting we quarantine the United States from all Muslim immigration – which seems terribly unfair – just to avoid contact with the 1% who might be infected with the radical islamic terror virus. Trump is approaching the problem as if it were a medical emergency. First you quarantine, then you solve...."

Wrote Scott Adams, who's "fairly certain that the idea virus of radical islamic terror can also respond to mental health treatments, once we figure out the best approach."

I think we need some background reading on the way the Soviets used mental health treatments:
The campaign to declare political opponents mentally sick and to commit dissenters to mental hospitals began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As Vladimir Bukovsky commented on the emergence of the political abuse of psychiatry, Nikita Khrushchev reckoned that it was impossible for people in a socialist society to have an anti-socialist consciousness. Whenever manifestations of dissidence could not be justified as a provocation of world imperialism or a legacy of the past, they were self-evidently the product of mental disease. In a speech published in the Pravda daily newspaper on 24 May 1959, Khrushchev said:
A crime is a deviation from generally recognized standards of behavior frequently caused by mental disorder. Can there be diseases, nervous disorders among certain people in a Communist society? Evidently yes. If that is so, then there will also be offences, which are characteristic of people with abnormal minds. Of those who might start calling for opposition to Communism on this basis, we can say that clearly their mental state is not normal.
The now available evidence supports the conclusion that the system of political abuse of psychiatry was carefully designed by the KGB to rid the USSR of undesirable elements....
It seems to me that we've already gone too far toward thinking of other people's ideas and beliefs as mental illness. And I'm saying that even though I believe much more than most people that our embrace of political, social, and religious beliefs is a deeply emotional process. I don't think you should have much faith in this thing you call reason. Emotional needs must be met. But you need to examine what emotional needs of yours you are indulging when you feel the pull to call other people mentally ill.

"I’m a little surprised that talk show hosts would be supporting somebody. You’d think there’d be a certain impartiality."

Said Donald Trump as he encountered Wisconsin talk radio.

Trump did a show with Charlie Sykes yesterday not knowing that Sykes was a #NeverTrump guy until Sykes came right out and told him "I'm a #NeverTrump guy."

And Vicki McKenna said to him "You’re in Wisconsin, where it’s a different state, sir, than you might be used to." And:
“Look, if you’re going tobe the presidential candidate, you have to find a way to unify a whole bunch of people right now who are at each others’ throats,” McKenna told Trump. “And we feel it viscerally here because we went through the (protest) occupation in 2011 and a recall election in 2012. That’s the landscape you’re facing here when you’ve got Republicans acting like ‘recallers’ to other Republicans.”
Does Trump have the focus to understand Wisconsin? The linked article is by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert, who stresses "[t]he stand-alone nature of Wisconsin’s primary, where the national spotlight, more than a week of on-the-ground campaigning, a statewide anti-Trump ad blitz and a politically engaged, high-turnout electorate make for a volatile environment" and the "Upper Midwest culture where Trump’s flamboyant style of personal combat isn’t easily embraced."
If the front-runner can prevail in those conditions, it would be a huge blow to the “Stop Trump” movement. But if Trump loses, opponents will crow about his failure to win the kind of white, blue-collar “Rust Belt” state he claims he can wrest from the Democrats in November.

"The truth is, we don’t know how Mrs. Clinton would fare in a no-holds-barred debate with a tough challenger—because she’s not faced one in this primary."

"From the way the Democratic superdelegates have been awarded, to the number and timing of debates, the entire primary season has been orchestrated to serve Mrs. Clinton’s interests by a party that is mostly in her pocket. This is why the last man standing is an angry, white-haired socialist. And yet the former first lady still can’t put him away."

From "Yes, Donald Could Beat Hillary/Conventional wisdom says he has no chance. But what if he blows up all the old rules?" by William McGurn (in the WSJ).

Despite what I just quoted up there, McGurn is in what I'd consider a pretty heavy state of denial. The column ends with:
Sure, it’s possible the GOP front-runner will implode, just as it’s possible all those polls showing Mrs. Clinton with a double-digit lead over Mr. Trump will indeed come to pass. But some of us who never thought he would get this far are a little more reluctant to be so categorical about an election that is still seven months away.
A little more reluctant? To be so categorical? You should be completely over your categoricality.

AND: Bernie Sanders has not been a tough competitor. He's been damned nice to her. He only fights on the issues. He holds himself above all sorts of attacks that Donald Trump would unleash with vigor, delight, and — his favorite — unpredictability. And yet Hillary's campaign is portraying Sanders's campaign as unacceptably negative. They're resisting debate because they don't like his "tone." His tone!

How is she going to deal with Trump's tone? Refuse to debate? One of the arguments McGurn examines — arguments for why Hillary is supposed to trounce Trump — is the Clinton will make him look "like an ignorant yahoo" when they debate. Will she even dare to debate?

March 28, 2016

"A Wisconsin woman who was the first person known to survive rabies without a vaccine has given birth to twins."

Nice to hear about good things happening to Jeanna Giese-Frassetto, who was bitten by a bat in 2004— in a church in Fond du Lac.

Here's some of the description of her case that can be found in the book "Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus":

"Brussels attacks were a terrorist interrogation failure..."

"When Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the logistics chief for an Islamic State terror cell, was captured, Belgian officials followed law enforcement procedures with precision. They provided Abdeslam a lawyer, told him he had the right to remain silent and put him into the Belgian criminal justice system. Four days later, the terror cell carried out bombings in Brussels that killed 35 people — including at least four Americans — and injured hundreds more. Astonishingly, officials did not question Abdeslam at all for his first 24 hours in custody. He spent Friday night in the hospital recovering from a leg wound sustained in the raid. When he was finally returned to the police on Saturday, he was questioned by authorities for a grand total of . . . two hours – and then was not questioned again until after the attacks. Why? 'He seemed very tired and he had been operated on the day before,' a senior Belgian security official told Politico. He seemed tired? That’s precisely when they should be interrogating him. The CIA used sleep deprivation as one of its most effective interrogation tools. But for Belgians, a terrorist’s exhaustion is a reason to stop questioning, not intensify it. But here is the most incredible part: During those two hours of questioning, The Post reports, 'investigators did not ask... about his knowledge of future plots.'"

"The Justice Department said Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple..."

"... allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation."


"Sean Combs, the hip-hop mogul known as Diddy, steered the creation of the Capital Prep Harlem school..."

"The school will replicate the model of Capital Preparatory Magnet, a year-round school in Hartford that says it has high graduation and college acceptance rates...."
Beginning in 2011, Mr. Combs recruited Mr. Perry to bring his educational model to Harlem, provided office space and quietly rallied support in the community, [the founder of the Hartford school, Steve] Perry said.... "I think that there’s a lot to be found in the fact that you have someone such as Combs, who is highly visible within our community, who has decided that his major push is going to be with our model and in education"...

Donald Trump in Wisconsin — doing the Charlie Sykes show.


1. He didn't even know that picture of Heidi Cruz he retweeted was supposed to be a particularly bad picture of her.

2. Sykes replays that ad with women reading old Trump quotes about women. Trump's response is about all the women he's hired and put in high positions. Look at his actions. And he was "a celebrity," going on Howard Stern and such, not thinking about how it would sound if he were to run for office.

3. Trump has said Wisconsin is doing terribly. Won't that make Scott Walker look bad? Trump says he got the info from TIME Magazine.

4. Isn't Trump's claim to be a conservative just "a giant fraud"? Trump says he's a strong conservative, but trade might be an exception. When it comes to trade, he's for "smart trade."

5. What would happen to the price of goods if Trump imposed the tariff he's threatened? Trump says it will never happen. You just need a threat to get a good deal. Sykes asks how's that going to work if you just revealed it's a bluff? Sykes chuckles at what he clearly thinks is a gotcha. Trump ignores it.

6. If you can't unite Republicans, how can you unite the country? How can you beat Hillary? Well, he will beat Hillary, Trump asserts. And he's a businessman, and that's what this country needs. We're getting ripped off! Sykes breaks in: How are you going to work with Congress? How will you get along with Paul Ryan? I'm not surprised that Trump simply says he'll get along.

7. Sykes: "Mr. Trump, before you called into my show, did you know I'm a #NeverTrump guy?" Trump: "That I didn't know." Sykes splutters a bit, perhaps slightly wounded that Trump didn't care enough to find out about him. Trump makes a good interpersonal move, stating that he knows Sykes is "an intelligent guy" and "You know what's going on." And that's a segue back to an issue... NATO. Which is kind of amusingly backhanded, because Sykes wanted to talk about himself. But why is Sykes's #NeverTrumpishness significant to Trump? Trump goes on many shows and probably rarely is the interviewer a supporter. What does "NeverTrump" add to the standard opposition? It's not as if his other hostile interviewers are in a not-now-but-possibly-later frame of mind. They're all presumptively NeverTrumpers. How can it faze him?

8. Sykes gets back to the issue he began with, Trump's retweet of the photos of Heidi and Melania. Sykes couches it is some kind of statement about not beginning the show with the standard Wisconsin hospitality, but he immediately moves to badgering Trump about apologizing. Does Trump ever apologize? Sykes wants to know. Unsurprisingly, Trump brushes past the abstraction of whether he ever apologizes and goes on again about how Cruz owes him an apology for that ad with the GQ picture of Melania and there's a repetition of all the business that began the show: That ad was independent of the Cruz campaign (Sykes), but Cruz knew all about it (Trump). Sykes advises Trump about the people of Wisconsin: The people of Wisconsin would like to hear him say the candidates shouldn't be talking about each other's wives. Trump says that's great. He agrees... but Cruz started it. Sykes reacts to the "he started it" with: "We're not on a playground." Trump agrees, and: "My views are not playground views. My views are that our country is losing on every front...." And there he is back on the issues. He rattles off his issues — NATO, the Second Amendment — and the clock has run out and Sykes can only get in the thanks for coming on the show.

"@IvankaTrump Congrat's! Hopefully he will grow up to live in a world w/o the kind of hate your dad promotes/incites."

Fro the annals of The Family is Fair Game — some tweeter with the name Andy Ostroy managed to distinguish himself:

"Gov. Nathan Deal said he will veto the 'religious liberty' bill that triggered a wave of criticism from gay rights groups and business leaders..."

He said it "doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people" and: "Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment...."

But the First Amendment doesn't give "broad protections" against neutral generally applicable laws that burden religion. The idea of exempting for those with religious beliefs from following the law that applies to everyone else comes not from the First Amendment, but from statutes like the one Bill Clinton signed in 1993 and the one Nathan Deal is vetoing today.

"Cruz herself has decided she doesn’t want to talk about what she went through.... She has every right to make that decision for herself..."

"... no one is obligated to be a spokesperson — but it’s still profoundly important for stories like hers to come out, for people to simply know that the wife of a presidential candidate dealt with this sort of challenge, isn’t ashamed of it, and has continued to live a rewarding life — and to see that most other people aren’t reacting with horror or disgust. That anyone would weaponize Heidi Cruz’s mental-health problems suggests we have a long way to go before we defeat the stigmatization of mental illness, and it does very real harm to people who are suffering."

From "Attacking Heidi Cruz for Her Depression Is a Disgraceful Move" in New York Magazine.

"This is absolutely a crisis for the party elite — and beyond the party elite, for elected officials, and for the way people have been raised as Republicans in the power structure for a generation."

"If Donald Trump wins, he will change what it means to be a Republican."

Agonized former GWB press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Quoted in "How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump"(NYT).

Can you say the equivalent thing about Bernie Sanders and the Democrats? This is absolutely a crisis for the party elite — and beyond the party elite, for elected officials, and for the way people have been raised as Democrats in the power structure for a generation. If Bernie Sanders wins, he will change what it means to be a Democrat.

If not, why not?

The origin of Hillary's email problem: "She hated having to put her BlackBerry into a lockbox before going into her own office."

WaPo reports:
She insisted on using her personal BlackBerry for all her email communications, but she wasn’t allowed to take the device into her seventh-floor suite of offices, a secure space known as Mahogany Row.... Her aides and senior officials pushed to find a way to enable her to use the device in the secure area. But their efforts unsettled the diplomatic security bureau, which was worried that foreign intelligence services could hack her BlackBerry and transform it into a listening device....

“The issue here is one of personal comfort,” one of the participants in [a meeting of security, intelligence and technology specialists], Donald Reid, the department’s senior coordinator for security infrastructure, wrote afterward in an email that described Clinton’s inner circle of advisers as “dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts.”

March 27, 2016

"Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us — a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain..."

"... it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say 'going through the motions'—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort — the labor, the motions, the dance — of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love."

From "The Empathy Exams," by Leslie Jamison:

"Does Empathy Make Us Immoral?"

A question asked by Paul Bloom, a Yale psychology professor, quoted by John Tierney in a column titled "Empathy May Be Overrated in an Election, and in a Leader."

According to Bloom, "empathy is biased and parochial":
It favors vulnerable children and animals, and discriminates against unattractive people. You’re more likely to sympathize with someone in your social group rather than an outsider, especially one who looks different...

[E]mpathy can be manipulated to inspire aggression.... “If I want to do terrible things to a group, one tried-and-true way is to arouse empathy for victims of that group,” Dr. Bloom said in an interview. “Often the argument for war is rooted in empathy for victims of the enemy.... Sob stories are not a good way to make public policy... The best leaders have a certain enlightened aloofness. They recognize the suffering of victims of terrorists, but they also recognize that going to war will create future victims. They make policy by taking into account numbers and cost-benefit analyses. They use rational means to achieve good ends.”

Is Ted Cruz stealing delegates from Donald Trump?

Jonathan Karl talked to Donald Trump on "This Week" this morning:
KARL: OK. Now, you're getting closer and closer to getting the delegates you need to clinch the nomination. But look at what happened in Louisiana. You won the state of Louisiana. But it looks like Ted Cruz is coming out of there with more delegates, maybe as many as 10 more delegates. And he's getting them on the key committees that will write the rules for the Republican convention. Is Ted Cruz trying to steal this nomination from you?

TRUMP: Well, it tells you what a crooked system we have and what a rotten political system we have. And frankly, I'm so -- I'm millions of votes more than -- I have millions of votes more than "Lying Ted." I have millions -- millions of votes more. I have many, many delegates more. I've won areas. And he's trying to steal things because that's the way Ted works, OK. Uh, the system is a broken system. The Republican tabulation system is a broken system. It's not fair. I have so many millions of votes more. I've brought people into this party by the millions. You understand that. They voted by the millions more. It's one of the biggest stories in all of politics. And what do I have? I have a guy going around trying to steal people's delegates. This is supposed to be America, a free America. This is supposed to be a system of votes where you go out, you have elections, free elections, not elections where I won. I won Louisiana and now I hear he's trying to steal delegates. You know, welcome to, uh, the Republican Party. What's going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace. I have so many more votes and so many more delegates. And, frankly, whoever at the end, whoever has the most votes and the most delegates should be the nominee.
So the Cruz campaign is hard at work on some tactics that Trump will be characterizing as not merely too dirty to be used but further evidence that Cruz is a liar. 

On "Meet the Press," there was some discussion of "delegate double agents" and "zombie delegates":

"Marauding parents in Easter Egg hunt rampage."

"Out-of-control adults push children to the ground, steal their buckets and leave one four-year-old 'bloody' at chaotic free event/Children were trampled as 1,000 people stormed the PEZ center field/9,000 eggs were laid out on three different age-bracketed sections/But when the egg hunt started, 'parents stormed the field stealing eggs'/One four-year-old was left 'bloody', many toddlers 'pushed into the mud.'"

In Orange, Connecticut.

In other Daily Mail news of American chaos: "Serial rapist killed by runaway trailer while distracted by porn on his cell phone in Memphis... just blocks from where he terrorized numerous women."

"Senator Bernie Sanders routed Hillary Clinton in all three Democratic presidential contests on Saturday..."

"... infusing his underdog campaign with critical momentum and bolstering his argument that the race for the nomination is not a foregone conclusion."

Washington 73%. Alaska, 82%. Hawaii, 71%. Those are some amazing numbers.

And now Hillary must wait 9 more days for another contest, for a chance to show her campaign is still vital. She'd better win in Wisconsin. But Bernie was here yesterday, stirring up the crowds, causing birds to suddenly appear.

"Do these two messages about terrorism add up?"

John Althouse Cohen asks, pointing at "two messages we've been hearing a lot — often from the same people":
(1) When speaking about Islamic terrorists, it's considered appropriate to adopt this understanding tone — not that we're excusing the acts, but that we recognize that terrorism comes from being oppressed and disenfranchised, that people turn to terrorism as a last resort, etc. (I don't necessarily agree with those statements, but I've heard them countless times, from people who seem to feel very strongly about it.)

(2) We're told that the word "terrorist" is used too selectively, and especially that we should be more willing to apply it to white men and Christian men (e.g. the KKK, mass shooters, and those people who occupied the Oregon wildlife refuge).
Well, wait a minute... how oppressed and disenfranchised are white, Christian men?
Trump's success has been attributed to the existence of those oppressed, disenfranchised, white, Christian men. They're not at their last resort — terrorism — if they can get their champion elected President. Maybe those "same people" John is talking about — those people who believe this theory of the cause of terrorism — should be heartened at the prospect of Trump winning: It may save us from domestic terrorism.

I'm looking anew at Obama's old guns-and-religion statement:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
He imagined these people pathetically holding onto abstractions of power to soothe themselves in their weakness, not getting up the gumption to do anything. He was showing and trying to stir up empathy. He was not alarming his audience — rich people in San Francisco — about the potential for domestic terrorism.

But that was 2008, and now it's 2016, and they've got Donald Trump "explain[ing] their frustrations with "anti-immigrant sentiment" and "anti-trade sentiment." We're spared decline into violence because we have democracy — and yet the nice people of the elite places like San Francisco see Trump as the embodiment of violence, not any kind of bulwark against it.

"What is wonderful about spending an hour in a church, even if you are not a believer, is..."

"...the sense that you are trying to deal with larger mysteries, for which there are no answers. But you’re also, on another level, just shutting yourself off from the world at large for an hour. I don’t have to deal with the transubstantiation of the spirit or God with a large G."

From "How the Novelist Douglas Kennedy Spends His Sundays."

He's talking about going to St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan for a Sunday service. There is "an absolutely sublime choir and a great organist and a bit of Anglican ritual thrown in." This is in the late afternoon. Earlier in the day, before 3 a.m., before sleeping, he was in a jazz club, and when he woke up, at 11 or 12, he put on "ecclesiastical music" — "a Bach cantata or one of William Byrd’s masses, some work by Thomas Tallis" — which is "very fitting for Sunday morning." He likes the "calm" of that music and the aesthetic beauty of St. Thomas's, and — as for the jazz — he doesn't give that a religious spin. He says "I'm a jazz junkie," so I guess the jazz is the sin, "junkie" being a drug metaphor.

There are those who say they believe, and what do they do? Consider those who say they do not believe but put elaborate time and attention into the practices of religion. I wonder how many in the first category really do not believe (whether or not they see and admit that to themselves) and how many in the second category really do believe (whether or not they see and admit that to themselves). And I wonder how much the love of music confuses and complicates these inquiries.

In the 1970s, I used to go to services at an Episcopal church in Manhattan. One Sunday, the organist spoke to the congregation. He was resigning, he said, because he needed money, and they weren't paying him or weren't paying him enough. He chided us: Not only did musicians deserve to get paid, but the Christian church would not have the place that it has in the world today if it were not for the music.

Here's a Sunday morning music program recommended by Douglas Kennedy: "For the God Who Sings."