February 13, 2016

Another GOP debate.

I'm not live-blogging (nor is John tonight), but I'm watching and very interested in how they will talk about the death of Antonin Scalia.

Please comment. I'll drop in if I can (and if not, will say a few things tomorrow).

ADDED: The first question was about the vacancy left by Justice Scalia, and all of the candidates were called upon to address whether President Obama deserves to have control of the nomination. The moderator, John Dickerson, was heavy-handed enough pushing the idea of Obama's power and duty that the audience resorted to booing. As for the candidates, it was interesting. Each showed something of his personal style in addressing the question:

With the death of Scalia, "Clarence Thomas" starts trending on Twitter — full of ugly jokes.

How will the death of Antonin Scalia affect the presidential election?

I am absorbing the shock of the loss of Justice Scalia, who has been such an important figure in American constitutional law throughout the years. He was the first new Justice to come onto the Court in the time that I've been teaching. (I began in 1984, and he was nominated, by President Reagan, in 1986.) I've been reading his work for 30 years, and now there will be no more of his writings.

What will happen? I assume that it will be almost impossible for President Obama to get a nomination through the Senate. Is some compromise possible? Perhaps some old and widely respected, neutral-seeming judge or law professor? Do such beasts still roam Earth?

Is it unseemly to talk about the election? No, it is necessary. An old man has died. And he is a man who said, quite recently: "For the believing Christian, death is no big deal." The examinations of his life's work will need to be made, but I feel compelled to talk about what we are always talking about: the next election.

Both conservatives and liberals are launching furious thoughts and plans, including the plan to peg the other side as politicizing the Court and for showing its fighting spirit too soon, while the news of death is so fresh.

There's a GOP debate tonight. We'll get a first taste of how the new focus on the Supreme Court will work. Both parties' candidates are going to say their party needs to have the nomination, lest terrible things happen. Which party has the better argument that things will go awry without their person holding what must be seen as slot number 5 in what will make majority — a majority that will be either liberals or conservatives, depending on whether we get a liberal or conservative President?

The liberals have a great hunger after all these years with only 4, always needing to win over a swing vote. Imagine if they get it: No more of the endless puzzling over what Anthony Kennedy might think about this or that issue. The liberals will be 5, and all the arguments and opinions will be different.

If the conservatives get the nomination, we'll have more of the same, including the susceptibility that Justices appointed by a GOP President have to the lure of the liberal side of the Court, where a Justice can feel the love of the legal elite (as Justice Scalia loved to point out).

Will liberals overreach and show too much of a raging desire to control the Court and make it solidly liberal at long last, touching off a reaction among conservatives? Or will conservatives flare up with hostility to women's rights and gay rights and affirmative action and all the many issues that make them look too mean and ugly?

ADDED: Obama needs to figure out how to present a nominee in a way that would make the Republicans look as bad as possible if they oppose and obstruct. Even if the nominee is rejected, political progress will have been made.

I predict that candidates and their supporters in both parties will overplay their hand and get into trouble. There's no way everyone can show restraint and act neutral and dignified about the Court. It's more a matter of who self-inflicts the most harm.

"U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead at 79."

Reported in the Chicago Tribune.

AND: "Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said."
According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body....

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday afternoon, calling Scalia a man of God, a patriot and an "unwavering defender of the written Constitution." "He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution," Abbott said. "We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."
ALSO: The NYT obituary by Adam Liptak. Or... I should say, the beginnings of what should be a long obituary. The NYT still has nothing on the front page, 18 minutes after I put this post up. I found the Liptak piece by searching the site. [UPDATE: There's a full obituary at the link now and a big banner headline on the front page.]

AND: From a post I did just 9 days ago:
Have you noticed the meme The next President will appoint as many as 4 Supreme Court Justices?

It seems hard to believe that there could be 4 vacancies to fill within one 4-year presidential term, and we have not seen more than 2 per term unless we go back as far as Richard Nixon. Nixon had 4 appointments, all within his first term. Consider the age of the current Justices: Justices Scalia and Kennedy will turn 80 in the next few months. Justice Ginsburg will be 83 next month, and Justice Breyer turns 78 in August.

A reader detects a Drudge juxtaposition

From yesterday (archived page here):

Get it?

Frosted tips!

That "Milo: Twitter tweeking election" link goes to a CBS Philly article: "Milo Yiannopoulos: Twitter Will Try To Sway The Presidential Election."

I don't know if "tweeking" is a misspelling of "tweaking" or a deliberate reference to the "side effect of extreme over indulgence in crystal meth or crack cocaine" or the "South Park" character (whose full name is, interestingly enough, Tweek Tweak (both spellings)):

"Surprisingly, OkCupid found that people have become more sexually conservative in certain ways."

Would You Consider Sleeping With Someone on the First Date?

"While “no” responses increased among gay and straight people of both genders, the change was biggest among gay men and straight women. The number of gay men responding 'yes' declined from 83 percent to 57 percent, while straight women dropped from 48 to 25 percent. What’s more, fewer people now say they’d date someone just for the sex. In 2005, 49 percent of OkCupid users said they would, while last year just 41 percent did. The number of people who said love was more interesting to them than sex at the moment remained unchanged, at 75 percent."

From "How OKCupid Users' Views of Sex Have Changed Since 2005/A new report from the company finds that American daters are growing more traditional in some ways, and more open-minded in others" in The Atlantic.

IN THE COMMENTS: Mingus Jerry said:
The OKCupid users that were in it for the sex simply moved over to Tinder instead.  
Similarly, Henry (upthread) said:
The article fails to mention competing services that have grown in popularity in the last ten years, some of which promote hookups more aggressively. The change must just as likely indicate shifting markets as shifting mores.

Madeleine Albright says you might think she knows better than "to tell a large number of women to go to hell."

"But last Saturday, in the excitement of a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, that is essentially what I did, when I delivered a line I have uttered a thousand times to applause, nodding heads and laughter: 'There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.' It is a phrase I first used almost 25 years ago, when I was the United States ambassador to the United Nations and worked closely with the six other female U.N. ambassadors. But this time, to my surprise, it went viral."

What does "the excitement of a campaign event for Hillary Clinton" have to do with it? She didn't blurt out something unusual in a moment of excitement. She repeated an old line that had worked over and over before audiences where people have nodded, applauded, and laughed. It was tested and true.

The op-ed, in the NYT, is titled "My Undiplomatic Moment." But how is a line "uttered a thousand times" characterizable as a "moment"? How can Albright portray it as a momentary deviation within a long career, when she's been saying it consistently?
I absolutely believe what I said, that women should help one another, but this was the wrong context and the wrong time to use that line. 
But all those other times were appropriate, because the audience gave her a warm reception? She set the heads nodding, the ladies chuckling. Pivoting from her nonexplanation for her go-to-hell gaffe, Albright proceeds to get back to condescending to young women:
And while young women may not want to hear anything more from this aging feminist, I feel it is important to speak to women coming of age at a time when a viable female presidential candidate, once inconceivable, is a reality.
When was it inconceivable? It was certainly always conceivable to me. I was born in 1951 and grew up hearing that Margaret Chase Smith could be President. Maybe I'm not picking up the inconceivable/reality distinction.

[In the comments, rhhardin calls attention to the 2 abortion-related words in "a viable female presidential candidate, once inconceivable, is a reality." Within that metaphor, if Hillary is viable, then it's too late to abort her.]

Albright moves on to her concern about "the tone of the debate." Not her tone, telling women who don't support Hillary that there's a special place in Hell for them, but the tone those of other people. What's wrong with the tone? Here, she — absurdly — has nothing. She just muses that people are "complacent" about the gains women have made and that we need "an informed dialogue that crosses generations."

Albright badly embarrassed herself and lacks the skill and grace to talk her way into a good light.  It makes me want to go back and review what she achieved for us as Secretary of State (other than being the first female Secretary of State).

"Appearing on America's favorite quiz show—the show so staid and reliable that John Oliver quipped at last year's Emmys that it might just be the most permanent fixture on earth..."

"... can make female contestants feel that they are running a sexualized gauntlet of unwelcome tweets, emails, and Facebook messages replete with explicit sexual material. I know, because I was one of them."
When I taped the show in August, I knew I'd bombed and tried to salvage it with a joke. I wasn't prepared for that joke—a reference to "Turd Ferguson" from the old Saturday Night Live Celebrity Jeopardy! Sketches—to go viral when the show aired in September. Twitter chatter during the game led to an article on Uproxx, then more and more elsewhere, and a YouTube video whose views ballooned into the millions in the following days. The experience of going viral is brief but intense. It had the peculiar urgency of a dream—especially when I started reading the comments....

The unsung heroes: the trimmers.

I got some email from a reader named Jim about my recent post that quotes Camille Paglia impugning Hillary Clinton as "a time-server and trimmer." He says he'd never seen "'trimmer' used to describe a person (except in the very literal sense of yacht crew)" other than in a book by Harry Crosby, “A Wing and a Prayer: The 'Bloody 100th' Bomb Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in Action over Europe in World War II”:

Jim observes that this use is "positive, acknowledging the importance of people who do their jobs diligently."
Camille P used the term pejoratively, but only mildly so, in the sense that merely being good at your job doesn't qualify you to be the boss. Or so I read things. I don't think she meant anything more harsh, though one or two of your other commenters took her meaning to be someone who shifted with the winds.
In his email responding to my request to quote him, Jim added: "I never forgot that reference as a testament to the unsung heroes who keep the world running well." (He also recommends the book, saying "an aviation book written by a navigator appealed to me since I'm a former naval flight officer.")

"Over the years, Mrs. Clinton has shown an unfortunate tendency to oscillate between harshness and compassion on immigration questions."

"She seems to reach instinctively for the tougher-sounding policy before coming around, eventually, to positions that more closely reflect American ideals of welcome — ideals that Mr. Sanders voiced fluently on Thursday night."

From a NYT editorial, "Mrs. Clinton’s Mixed Immigration Message."

Ironically, Mrs. Clinton is closely reflecting American ideals. These ideals are mixed and not unalloyed welcome. Americas do endlessly oscillate between harshness and compassion. I can see finding Clinton's instincts unpleasantly complicated and unbeautiful, but these instincts are also our own.

The analogy that springs to my mind is LBJ looking at a portrait of himself and condemning it as "the ugliest thing I ever saw."

By the way, here's a 2004 clip of Hillary Clinton staunchly defending marriage as a sacred bond between a man and a woman:

This is a certain kind of politician. LBJ was that kind. Can we give the trimmers some respect?

Trimmers? Remember Camille Paglia used that word to insult Hillary Clinton? I've got to do a separate post about "trimmers" as a pejorative and how it can be seen as a positive. After I called attention to Paglia's use of the word, I got some excellent email on that topic. But let me take that up in a separate post.

"As a Mexican-American, I can tell you... don’t be surprised to hear more about a new meme: 'Latinos for Trump.'"

Writes Ruben Navarette Jr. in The Daily Beast: "No Joke: Trump Can Win Plenty of Latino."
[W]hile Latinos haven’t forgotten what Trump said about Mexican immigrants being criminals and rapists, and how he wants to deport 11 million people, they have begun to put such comments in the context of a candidate who, it often seems, has offended just about everyone in this country.

"Long guarded by aides vigilantly limiting his exposure, Rubio has abruptly morphed into a freewheeling raconteur..."

"... in front of a press pack that he has kept at a distance since launching his presidential run last April."

Writes Sean Sullivan in WaPo, theorizing (aptly) that Rubio is desperate to undo the framing Chris Christie imposed on him in the last debate. He's got to prove he's not scripted and robotic.

This could be very funny. It's like the set-up in a sit-com. In the next episode of Rules for Rubio, Marco, earnestly making a point, repeats one phrase 4 times, causing his friends to mock him as "robotic." Determined to prove that he's not robotic, Marco decides to abruptly morph into The Freewheeling Raconteur:
MARCO: Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I did everything they told me to do and it came out so wrong.

ADVISER: Well, here's your chance to try the opposite. Instead of repeating all those talking points you learned, say something you just think up right there on the spot, something right from your actual brain.

MARCO: Yes! I will think of ideas, using my own brain, sending thoughts straight out of my mouth. Spontaneous! I'm not a robot, I'm a man. I'm a freewheeling raconteur!
But if it were a sitcom, Rubio would get into much wilder trouble, saying the wrong things. In Sullivan's article, there's really very little to support the "freewheeling raconteur" characterization. I'm willing to believe that Rubio's manner seemed different to the reporters who spend hours and hours traveling about with him, but where are the funny quotes? Yes, he said something about the coldness and hardness of Twix bars and there's that "pussy" conversation we talked about yesterday, but this reader can't see the abrupt morphing into freewheeling raconteur I read about in the opening paragraphs.

It's like Sullivan made me DVR an episode of Rules for Rubio and it really wasn't that funny.

C-SPAN host demonstrates the C-SPAN straight-face protocol, to be deployed when a serious caller turns out to be a joker.

The man's ostensible topic is why I support Donald Trump:

"Suddenly, it was the secularists who seemed stodgy: racist, authoritarian, élitist..."

"The Times started referring to them as 'the secular elite.' In 2007, the Times reported that a protest of the A.K.P. by hundreds of thousands of Turkish secularists was motivated in part by a 'fear' of the life styles of their more religious compatriots—by 'snobbish' complaints that 'religious Turks were uneducated and poor' and that 'their pesky prayer rugs got underfoot in hospital halls.' It’s difficult to imagine the Times reporting in an equally condescending manner about the élitism of Americans who oppose the Christian right."

From "Cover Story/The head scarf, modern Turkey, and me," by Elif Batuman in The New Yorker. As for head scarves, here's a conversation the author (who is the American daughter of Turkish immigrants) had with a cab driver in Istanbul (she was his sole passenger):
[O]nce, when a driver pressed me particularly jovially for an opinion, I said something like “I think all women should be respected. It shouldn’t depend on their hair.”

The driver replied that I was absolutely right, that of course women should be respected, and that the head scarf was the best way for women to remind men of this necessity for respect. Men, after all, were worse than women: they could sometimes forget themselves, and then unfortunate things could happen, “even”—he said in a hushed voice, adding that he didn’t like to mention such things in front of me—“even rape.”

I replied, in my simplistic Turkish, that to me this sounded like a threat: either cover your head or rape can happen. The driver protested in ornate phrases that nobody was threatening anyone, that to speak of threats in this situation was unfitting, that he could tell from my smiling face that I was a good and trusting person, but that the world was an imperfect place, that some men were less like humans than like animals, and that it was best to send clear signals about what one was or wasn’t looking for.....
Later, she describes her experience walking through Urfa after accidentally leaving on a head scarf that she kept with her to wear when she visited religious sites that women cannot enter without wearing a head scarf:
[W]alking through the city with a head scarf was a completely different experience. People were so much nicer. Nobody looked away when I approached. I felt less jostled; men seemed to step aside, to give me more room. When I went into a store, a man held the door for me, and I realized that it was the first time anyone had reached a door before me without going in first and letting it shut in my face. Most incredibly, when I got to a bus stop shortly after the bus had pulled away, the departing vehicle stopped in the middle of the street, the door opened, and a man reached out his hand to help me in, calling me “sister.” It felt amazing. To feel so welcomed and accepted and safe, to be able to look into someone’s face and smile, and have the smile returned—it was a wonderful gift....
Batuman gave some thought to wearing the head scarf all the time in Turkey. It's all communication, and failure to wear it communicated something she didn't mean to say to the people around her — perhaps that "I disapproved of them and thought their way of life was backward." So why not wear the head scarf, not just to make her experience easier, but also to make "the people who lived here feel so much better"? If they are poor and working people, and she is elite and privileged, shouldn't she adopt their form of expression? She wears high heels — which are more burdensome than a head scarf — to business meetings in NYC in order to get better respect from the people there. Why suck up to those elites and not to the common people in Turkey? She thinks of the answer: Because "it felt dishonest, almost shameful, as if I were duping people into being kind to me." We're left to infer the what that means about the heels in NYC. I think it's: But there's nothing dishonest or shameful about duping privileged people at business meetings in NYC.

Much more at the link. Read the whole thing. You don't know where it goes. In fact, I don't know where it goes. I stopped to write this blog post when I was only 2/3 of the way through. I decided to write this blog post when I was only 1/4 of the way through — that is, when I read the material about how Western elites notice elite condescension to working class, foreign Muslims but not the equivalent condescension to working class American Christians.

February 12, 2016

"My boys wanted to know, 'What was the word? What was the word?' I said, 'I can’t tell you.' I had to make something up."

Said Marco Rubio, quoted in a NYT article titled "Bruised Marco Rubio Gets Personal and Aggressive," which says:
Mr. Rubio expressed disgust with Mr. Trump’s use of obscene language earlier this week, describing how his two young sons had watched a news clip of Mr. Trump insulting Senator Ted Cruz on the eve of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
Does the newspaper have to go all in with the drama? "Obscene language"?! The word was "pussy," and Donald Trump didn't even really use it — if we observe the use-mention distinction — because he was quoting someone else (and even chiding that person, saying he never wants to hear that word from her again).

This is ridiculous drama. When you call someone a "pussy" to mean that they are timid, you are referring to the little animal, the kitty cat. It's like calling someone a mouse. It shouldn't even be regarded as a bad word. It's true that "pussy" can be used to refer to a woman's genitalia, but so can "box" and "snatch." As George Carlin said in his famous "Seven Dirty Words" routine:
Now the word twat is an interesting word. Twat! Yeh, right in the twat. Twat is an interesting word because it's the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, We're going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane.  Everybody loves it. The twat stands alone, man, as it should.
Now, when Donald Trump calls somebody a twat, let me know. In public, I mean. And I'll show a brief flutter of outrage. In private, they're all free to call each other twats. And pricks. Because I'm for gender equality.

Bonus George Carlin joke: "Yes, you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick. No, no."

And by the way, this post gets the civility bullshit tag. I hope you understand the restrictive use of the civility bullshit tag. It's for political speech calling for more civility. My working theory is it's always bullshit. In this case, with Rubio, it obviously is. I'm also giving this my using children in politics tag. I don't like it.

"There is no political architecture that will convince any Sunni over the age of 3 that he or she has a future with the Iraqi state."

"The administration is trying to use a limited military weapon to defeat an adversary that only a political offensive can overcome, and we’re not willing or able to make that effort."

Said Ryan C. Crocker, a former American ambassador to Iraq, quoted in "Sunni Resentment Muddles Prospect of Reunifying Iraq After ISIS" (in the NYT).
Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, worried that military gains in Iraq without political overhauls would be counterproductive. “At some point, they make things worse,” he said....

Mr. Crocker... said he had given up hope that the Obama administration would become more deeply engaged in seeking a political accommodation between Iraq’s factions. But he and Mr. Pollack, along with other experts on Iraq, have joined a task force organized by the Atlantic Council, a research organization based in Washington, that will make policy proposals on Iraq to the next administration.

“Unfortunately, that’s 11 months away,” he said. “The Islamic State rose because of a political vacuum,” he noted. “It wasn’t a military success but a political failure that allowed it to take hold.”

"No one else could make this work, and there will be plenty of people who say she should be listed among those who tried and failed..."

"... but this, to us, is the essence of Tildaism."

Top-rated comment: "David Bowie may be gone but hopefully we'll always have St. Tilda."

OK Go video of the day: "I Won't Let You Down."

After yesterday's post — embedding OK Go's "Upside Down & Inside Out" — my son John emailed me links to 2 other OK Go videos, the first of which is to the one you see above, which is immensely entertaining. Keep watching, as different things happen, and if you're emotionally like me, you'll be exclaiming in amazement at various points and profoundly moved by the beauty of the ending. And if you're as old as I am, you might, at a certain point, say aloud, as I did: "June Taylor Dancers!" And if you indulged in MTV in the 1980s, as I did, the audio might take you back to Scritti Politti:

Cruz campaign practices the withdrawal method on an ad with an actress who's done porn movies.

Here's the Cruz ad:

If I had to guess what was supposedly so offensive about that, I'd say they were making fun of people with substance abuse problems. Maybe recovery therapy sessions are supposed to be looked upon with empathy. The support group must be supported.

But no, the female in the little drama — about people seeking treatment for their addiction to Marco Rubio — was discovered to have done "soft-core pornography."
The woman, Amy Lindsay, as first reported by BuzzFeed, has appeared in multiple movies with titles like “Carnal Wishes,” “Insatiable Desires” and “Private Sex Club.” Ms. Lindsay told BuzzFeed that she was a Christian conservative and a Republican, deciding between supporting Mr. Cruz or Donald J. Trump....
She applied for the acting job through the normal process and got hired. Then she was rejected because the campaign is embarrassed by the jobs she's taken in the past and their own failure to do a background check commensurate with their potential for embarrassment.

I hope the Trump campaign figures out a way to embrace this woman, who is, we're told, deciding between Cruz and Trump. Cruz — who's running another ad about how mean Trump was to an old woman who wanted to keep her house and not lose it to eminent domain — would have denied a job to a woman who's struggled in the acting industry. Here's that Cruz ad about Trump's oppression of the female homeowner:

I'd like to see an ad, copying that presentation, putting Cruz in exactly the same negative light, oppressing the ex-porn actress. I'm not saying the Trump campaign should do it. I'd just like to see it, because there are those of us who will empathize with a woman who's treated as toxic because she took a sex-related job at some point, and there are those of us who don't want to give big political power to someone who's excessively censorious about sexual expression.

ADDED: Original Mike said: "Oh, for crying out loud, Cruz. I thought you believed in redemption."

Yes, that's what I thought when Meade told me about it. I said: "Not very Christian of him."

Citation: John 7:53-8:11.

Go, and do not sin again.

Hillary Clinton delivers a "low blow" to Bernie Sanders.

"Low blow" is his term.

ADDED: Here's the text of that clip: