Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Combover Whisperers

Jim Geraghty goes to the cutlery drawer and pulls out the long knives:
Technically we’re supposed to welcome previous Trump fans-turned-foes with open arms. But barring some miraculous comeback by Ted Cruz, the Trump campaign will have cost the Republican Party the presidency after eight years of Obama, and perhaps the Senate and even the House – and Scalia’s replacement on the Court as well. Years of effort spent attempting to dispel the accusations of inherent Republican misogyny, xenophobia, hypocrisy, ignorance and blind rage have been undone by Trump’s campaign. And every Trump advocate in front of a camera had a hand in this.  
We’re not just gonna hug it out. 
I checked the calendar. It's March 31. We are still several months away from the general election. It's reasonable to assume any damage Trump has done can be mitigated. Still, Geraghty makes an important point about Trump's media cheerleaders:
Donald Trump didn’t suddenly change in the past few days, weeks or months. He’s the same guy he always was, the same guy that most of us in the conservative movement and GOP have been staunchly opposing for the past year. He didn’t abruptly become reckless, obnoxious, ill-informed, erratic, hot-tempered, pathologically dishonest, narcissistic, crude and catastrophically unqualified for the presidency overnight. He’s always been that guy, and you denied it and ignored it and hand-waved it away and made excuses every step of the way because you were convinced that you were so much smarter than the rest of us. You were so certain that you had received some superior wavelength giving you special insight into the Donald; only you could tell that it was all an act.
J'accuse! Yes, we should call out the Ann Coulters and Newt Gingriches and the Matt Drudges. They aren't nearly as smart as they thought they were. And yet, and yet. . . this bit of dialogue from "The Princess Bride" sticks in my mind:
Grandpa: It was ten days to the wedding. The King still lived, but Buttercup's nightmares were growing steadily worse.
The Grandson: See, didn't I tell you she'd never marry that rotten Humperdinck?
Grandpa: Yes, you're very smart. Shut up.
Conservatives are used to recriminations -- we've had experience galore with it in the last two election cycles. It's too soon for that. Hillary Clinton is still likely to be the nominee for the Democrats. She is a weak candidate and corrupt to the core. She can be defeated and she richly deserves it. The story is not concluded. Eyes on the prize. And while we're at it:


Stepping on rakes

I believe the term is message discipline:
Donald Trump said women who undergo abortions should be punished if the procedure is made illegal. In an interview for a town hall meeting to air on MSNBC Wednesday night, Trump said "there has to be some form of punishment" for women.
Really? Just kidding:
"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. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."
If you are always talking, you inevitably are going to contradict yourself, especially if you are too busy talking to actually do some thinking first. Trump never stops talking and now, finally, it's biting him in the ass. This tendency is also why comparing Trump to Reagan never made any sense. Reagan spent years reading and absorbing the works of the best minds in the conservative movement. He believed in something other than himself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Saint Combover

All in -- here's a screen grab from Drudge:

Love means never having to say you're sorry
A lot going on here, but we'll begin at the bottom. Note two things in particular: the scare quotes around the word battery, and the red herring reference to Huma Abedin.

One can argue the relative merits of the battery charge that was filed against Corey Lewandowski, The Donald's combative campaign manager, but the charge has been made. It's an inconvenient story for Trump; there's any number of sites with video of the incident if you'd like to learn to more, but it's tangential to the larger issue -- Trump's bizarre tendency to double down when something inconvenient happens. His response to the charges being filed was breathtakingly stupid:
Responding to a question about the bruises on her arm, a photo of which Fields tweeted out shortly after the incident (below), Trump expressed skepticism: “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” he demanded.
Trump's largest hurdle is how women perceive him and his behavior. This won't help. And, by the way, who cares what Huma Abedin did? In case you do, here's the link.

The more amusing part is the "you saved me" reference. Trump has been involved in the beauty pageant business and apparently has corresponded with Miss Wisconsin 2005, who apparently has an incurable illness. Very nice of him to do so, but it's not clear what that has to do with running the country.

There's a larger problem that this screen grab illustrates. And we'll get back to that next.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues

I haven't had time to listen to the entirety of the Charlie Sykes interview of The Donald, but from all reports it didn't go well for Trump. There are links to the audio of interview all over the place, but I haven't been able to find a transcript yet. Patterico has a few quotes:
“Is this your standard?” Sykes asked. “That if a supporter of another candidate, not the candidate himself, does something despicable that it’s okay for your personally –a candidate for president of the United States– to behave in that same way? I mean, I expect that from a 12-year-old bully on a playground. Not someone who wants the office held by Abraham Lincoln.” 
“I did a retweet,” Trump said. “And it was art by someone else.”

“Your wife is a beautiful, classy woman, why can you not say the same about Ted Cruz’s wife?” Sykes asked.

[*I don’t know Ted Cruz’s wife. I’m sure she’s excellent though. I don’t know her, but you know, all this was was a response to what he did.]

In response, Trump explained that his decision to tweet the photo of Cruz’s wife grimacing was a very “mild” response.

“I didn’t even know it was necessarily a very bad picture of her versus [my wife] Melania,” he said.
And regarding Trump's record for business:
“Why shouldn’t conservatives here in Wisconsin think your claim to be a conservative is just a giant fraud?” Sykes asked.

“As a businessman, I never even thought about all the things you’ve talked about,” Trump said before lauding his past business successes.

“You’re not answering my question,” Sykes responded.

“I am a conservative,” Trump said. “I’m not so conservative when it comes to the pure aspects of trade… I believe in free trade, which is nice and conservative,” he said before repeating his usual talking points about being a tougher negotiator with other countries by threatening to implement costly tariffs on imported goods.

“It’ll never happen,” Trump said of a tariff. “But you have the threat out there.”

“Well you’re a much better negotiator than I am,” Sykes said. “But you just said it’ll never happen, so you’ve basically said your negotiating ploy is a bluff.”
As damaging as this stuff is, the larger problem for Trump is that it reveals something that people need to understand -- he doesn't do his homework. Trump was completely unaware that Charlie Sykes has been opposing Trump pretty much from the get-go and if he'd even bothered to do any rudimentary research, he would have understood the landscape and avoided Sykes entirely. For a guy who has overseen as many enterprises as Trump has, you would think he'd have information at the ready to counter such questions. Attention to detail isn't his thing, though.

Which brings up another point -- Trump has a big problem looming with keeping his delegates in line. Ace Commenter Chuckwagon Boy brings to our attention a Politico piece that describes how Trump is winning the votes, but losing the count:
More than 700 GOP activists are running for the state’s 34 delegate slots (34 more will be elected as alternates). Steve House, Colorado's GOP chairman, has put all of their names, phone numbers and candidate allegiances on the state GOP website, which shows Cruz with more than 100 would-be delegates in his corner, compared to just over 70 for Trump.

“Cruz has the activists behind him, it’s pretty clear,” Penry said.

On Saturday, Cruz drew 71 percent of the more than 1,000 ballots cast in an unofficial presidential straw poll at the El Paso County GOP assembly, the largest county Republican gathering in the state. Trump, meanwhile, drew 18 percent, and Kasich won 11 percent.

“Trump has no operation here. Zero,” Murray said. “I see no evidence of organization from him. I see evidence of support; there are a lot of people who support him. There are people organizing and strategizing about slates at the county assemblies. I’ve seen no one from Trump.”
Ted Cruz has his faults, but he's a smart guy and he pays attention to details. He spends a lot of time doing the blocking and tackling, building the local networks and getting the support of the party organizations at the local level. Colorado is a key state and Trump not having an organization to woo the party activists shows that he doesn't understand what it takes to win. The popular vote doesn't mean much if it doesn't translate into delegates.

We're at a point where things could change. Watch carefully.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meanwhile, back on the hustings

You may not have noticed, but this feature was a campaign-free zone for the past week. It got interesting again over the weekend, though:
Bernie Sanders did not just win all three states that voted this weekend -- Washington, Alaska and Hawaii -- he won them by overwhelming, impressive margins. The presidential hopeful won every county in Washington, and some of his biggest victory margins came from the state's most rural and traditionally conservative areas.

The win will likely mean a fundraising boost for the small-donor driven campaign. Sanders does not have a super PAC and instead has enjoyed injections of cash from his fans after big wins or important nights in the election calendar. According to the campaign, supporters from Washington State already give to his cause at disproportionately high rates, so these wins will likely produce another windfall.
These were routs -- Hillary Clinton got crushed in all three states. And that's a problem for her. It won't do to pretend that no one supports her candidacy, but if she were a more popular candidate, she wouldn't get crushed. The prevailing wisdom is that Clinton is going to be the next president, but we thought that eight years ago as well. She should have flicked a septuagenarian socialist away long ago, but here we are.

Martyrs

It's not terribly difficult to be a Christian in the United States. In other parts of the world, it's liable to get you you killed:
A suicide blast claimed by Islamist militants ripped through crowds of families celebrating Easter at a park in the city of Lahore on Sunday, killing at least 70 people and injuring an additional 300 in an attack the jihadists said had deliberately targeted Christians.

The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber in the parking lot of Gulshan e-Iqbal Park around 6:30 p.m., transforming a joyful scene of picnicking families into a spectacle of chaos and horror. Many children were among the dead, local officials said.
No surprise on the perpetrators, either:
A spokesman for the Jamaat ul-Ahrar militant group, which is an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, asserted responsibility in a telephone interview on Sunday.

“It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter,” the spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. “It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia Islamic law is imposed in the country.”
Meanwhile, in Yemen:
The Islamic State committed a grisly Good Friday commemoration, crucifying a Catholic priest. 
The Rev. Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest, was kidnapped in Yemen in early March during a raid on a nursing home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

His execution by the Islamist sect, using the same method used by the Romans on Jesus and marked on Good Friday every year, was confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

Father Uzhunnalil was a native of India and had been the object of both prayers and diplomatic efforts since the March 4 raid where 16 Christian nuns and nurses were killed.
It won't do to pretend that Christians aren't capable of terror themselves. You could ask Lord Mountbatten about that one, to use just one example. We are called to be better than we are, but as sinners we regularly fall short. What we rarely face, at least in the West, is the possibility that we might die for our faith. As we enter into the Easter season, it's worth remembering that martyrdom isn't an abstraction.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Luke 24

He is not here; he has risen
1 On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared.

2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb,

3 but on entering they could not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 As they stood there puzzled about this, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side.

5 Terrified, the women bowed their heads to the ground. But the two said to them, 'Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?

6 He is not here; he has risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee:

7 that the Son of man was destined to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.'

8 And they remembered his words.

9 And they returned from the tomb and told all this to the Eleven and to all the others.

10 The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. And the other women with them also told the apostles,

11 but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.

12 Peter, however, went off to the tomb, running. He bent down and looked in and saw the linen cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.

Two thousand years on, we are still amazed. And we believe. Happy Easter, everyone.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Marketing

Before they make me run

Watch this one

Higher education has been exceptionally loyal to the Left for a very long time. Other than expressly evangelical colleges and universities, you'd be hard pressed to name too many that aren't leftist. You'd think that loyalty would be worth something. You'd be mistaken:
There is a widespread (and not-unfounded) perception that the top university endowments are approaching irrational levels—Yale’s chief Ivy League rival has been called a large hedge fund with a small research institute attached to it.

Meanwhile, desperate cities and states—caught between the unpayable pension promises created by decades of irresponsible governance, bloated workforces organized into unions that keep asking for more, poor residents wanting and needing more basic services, and rich residents threatening to flounce out of town unless they get more ‘amenities’—have no choice but to scrounge under the couch cushions for extra cash. And university endowments are a prime target.
The invaluable Walter Russell Mead notes that the state of Connecticut is now considering legislation that would tax the investment profits of colleges with endowments of over $10 billion. One college in Connecticut meets that standard -- Yale. And it's not surprising; some schools are sitting on a pretty huge pile. According to U.S. News, the top ten at the end of 2014 were:

Only two public institutions on the list
It's a list that is reeking of prestige. And with the exception of Notre Dame, all of the private schools on the list are in states that are typically run by liberals. Back to Mead:

These schools should think about ways to clone themselves—either by setting up satellite campuses that offer low cost, high quality education to people in all parts of the country, or pioneering new ways to make MOOCs and other forms of online education really work for a larger portion of the population. Some such efforts are already underway at these campuses, but there is much more to be done. If tens of thousands of Connecticut students were benefiting from Yale’s efforts in the state, politicians would be much less eager to go after its endowment.

From the point of view of much of the public, highly-endowed colleges are becoming an underperforming asset: The feeling is growing that elite fat cat universities are an expensive luxury, and that the money spent propping up their endowments would be better spent buying school lunches for needy kids, or topping off up the pensions of retired civil servants.
I doubt Yale or Harvard would take Mead's recommendations, because they'd view such efforts as diluting their brand. But they can't roll up the sidewalks forever. We are all broke, in ways that can't be imagined. Plundering the endowments of these schools will only buy more time until the day of reckoning arrives.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Omens

So, how do you interpret this announcement?
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau issued a stern public warning Thursday that protesters who interfere with public safety will be arrested, as activists await a decision any day on whether two officers will be charged in the shooting of Jamar Clark.
And this:
“We will not allow people to set fires on our streets or occupy and vandalize our buildings,” Harteau said. “We will not allow people to jeopardize the safety of others by causing massive disruptions and hindering emergency vehicles from helping those in need.”
I'm guessing the police know how the decision is going to go. I would also imagine the protestors aren't going to like the decision. Place your bets.


The new archbishop

I'm surprised, but pleased:
The news Thursday that Acting Archbishop Bernard Hebda will become the permanent leader of the Twin Cities archdiocese came as a relief to area Catholics — and as a shock to Hebda and Vatican observers.

Hebda, who has been splitting his time between the Twin Cities and Newark, N.J., since Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned last June, will be installed officially May 13.
Archbishop Hebda came to my parish, St. Rose of Lima, early on after he'd been appointed as the interim replacement for Nienstedt. I was out of town that day, Mrs. D and the kids were there and they were impressed. The plan was that Hebda would return to Newark after the Vatican found a permanent replacement, but that has changed. Given the amount of trouble this archdiocese faces, I would wager that the Pope and his advisors figured that Hebda needed to be here.
Given the speed of events, Hebda said he had no master plan for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. However, he plans to work with clergy, staff and parishioners as he charts his path forward.

"Up to this point … my primary concern is to do no harm," Hebda said at a news conference Thursday morning at the Cathedral. "After May 13, [the day he is installed] it's going to be my responsibility to set a longer course."
It will be an interesting process to watch.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Vagaries of weather

As far as I can tell, it did not snow at all at my house yesterday. Near my office, about 25 miles away as the crow flies, almost a foot of snow:
The National Weather Service says an estimated 12 inches of snow fell on Savage by early evening Wednesday, before it began to taper off in the south metro. That total stood up at 11:56 p.m., when the National Weather Service updated the storm's totals.

Other reports include 11.5 inches of snow in Burnsville, 11 inches 2 miles south of Lakeville and 10 inc inches in several locations.

By contrast, as of 7 p.m., 3.7 inches was recorded at the airport, with 3.2 inches at the Weather Service's office in Chanhassen.

In downtown Minneapolis, snow was swirling through the taller buildings late in the afternoon but failing to coat the streets and sidewalks below thanks to temperatures holding above freezing. It stopped downtown in the early evening, and the northern suburbs largely escaped the early spring reminder of Minnesota’s reputation.
It was bizarre driving home yesterday. As I slogged through the streets of Burnsville, the snow was falling fast and hard and the commute was slow -- the plows could not keep up with it. As I made my way north, it looked like a particularly malevolent snow globe throughout Bloomington, Richfield and into south Minneapolis, but as I approached downtown Minneapolis, the snow was minimal. Once I crossed the Mississippi River, it was gone. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Go figure

Least surprising news of the day:
Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers Wednesday, triggering sharp criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility in the wake of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Brussels and Paris.

Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for Guantanamo detention closure, declined to provide the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee with details. He would not say whether the incidents occurred before or after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

"What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of (Guantanamo) detainees," Lewis said during an exchange with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
I honestly don't know if closing Gitmo will help or hurt. I would like it if we could be realistic about the implications, though.

Howl

who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,

-- Howl, Allen Ginsberg

Forget Allen Ginsberg -- if you want a howl of pain, come to Emory University:
Students protested on campus earlier this week at the Emory Administration Building following a mysteriously appearing series of overnight, pro- Trump for president (“Trump 2016″) chalkings. The chalkings were too much to bear for many students who received no trigger warnings.

“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added.
Emory is widely considered to be one of the finest universities in the country. Further evidence:
Roughly 40 students gathered shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the outdoors space between the Administration Building and Goodrich C. White Hall; many students carried signs featuring slogans such as “Stop Trump” or “Stop Hate” and an antiphonal chant addressed to University administration, led by College sophomore Jonathan Peraza, resounded “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” throughout the Quad. 
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!

Man, are these people gonna hate annual performance reviews.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A public service

The Pioneer Press gets to an important question:
Bad songs spew from the radio, infect your ears in stores and dampen evenings at the corner bar. But what elevates a song from merely bad to truly the worst?

The worst songs are like an infection you can’t quite shake. They burrow into a corner of your brain and set up shop, looping idiotic choruses and inane lyrics endlessly through your skull. Sometimes, you don’t even have to hear the song at all, just reading the title will get it stuck in your head on repeat.

In honor of March Madness, we’re launching a contest to find the Worst. Song. Ever.
I'm going to play. They have identified three of the very worst, in my opinion, which are:

"I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," by England Dan and John Ford Coley
"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," by Rod Stewart
"We Built This City," by Starship

I'll expound on my reasoning later on, but for now, it's time to play.

Ain't no drag

Papa won't have a brand new bag, at least not in Minneapolis:
A proposal to ban Minneapolis stores from handing out plastic bags — and require them to charge customers for paper bags — has cleared an important hurdle at City Hall.

Monday, following a lengthy public hearing, the City Council’s Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee voted 4-0 to forward the plan to the full council. It appears the plan may have enough support to pass the 13-member council; in addition to the four committee members who voted in favor of the plan, two other council members attended the meeting to voice their support. A fifth committee member, Council Member Andrew Johnson, expressed support for the plan but abstained from voting because he intends to work on an amendment that would make the policy more “consumer and business friendly.”
So think about the utopia that Minneapolis is creating -- you need to buy something and you're not particularly wealthy. You might have to carry what you're purchasing, say, groceries, around on public transportation, which for most people still means a bus. The plastic bags make it easier. But we don't believe in easy in Minneapolis.

Don't worry, though -- you can always get all the bags you want in Roseville or Richfield.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brussels

I'm on the move today so not much time to respond to the latest terrorist attacks, this time in Belgium. I will pray for the victims today. After that, we can discuss the implications, yet again.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Open thread

A lot of things going on, not much time to write today. Have at it, if you wish.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Yep

Brilliant!
The greatest advantage Donald Trump has  is the self-indulgence and stupidity (pardon the redundancy) of his opponents.

Waupun 59, Xavier 58

A heartbreaker, but another fine season for my beloved Hawks. They will be back. Meanwhile, Waupun was at the state tournament for the first time since 1927, so you have to be happy for them.
Blocked again

Friday, March 18, 2016

Xavier 82, G-E-T High 75

Shout it out loud
On to the finals on Saturday afternoon against Waupun. Go get 'em, Hawks!

Rule 5

Saul Alinsky's Rule 5:  “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”


The Process at St. Rose -- Conclusion?

One of the more disheartening bits of news we had in 2015 was that our parish pastor, Fr. Robert Fitzpatrick, had been accused of sexual misconduct and was being removed from ministry. The Archdiocese promised a thorough investigation of the matter. Now we know the result:
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reinstated a priest who had been accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1980s.

The Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick had been pastor at Corpus Christi and St. Rose of Lima churches in Roseville before the allegation surfaced in August. Fitzpatrick denied the allegation and went on voluntary leave.

In a statement Thursday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda says police closed the case based on a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations. He says the archdiocese conducted its own investigation. A ministerial review board concluded the allegation was unsubstantiated and recommended that Fitzpatrick be returned to ministry.
A few thoughts:

  • It was pretty close to a universal belief at St. Rose that Fr. Fitz had to be innocent of the charges. While I can't say I know Fr. Fitz well, the allegation never made sense to me, either. 
  • While I'm sure that everyone at St. Rose would love to have Fr. Fitz back right away, it's probably not going to be that simple. It's been six months and it's not as though priests are simply a widget one installs into a machine. While Fr. Fitz is a vibrant, energetic priest, running two parishes is complicated and he's also in his late 60s. I don't know what toll this ordeal has taken on him, but I'm certain it's been tough. If it were up to me, and it certainly isn't, I'd hope that the Archdiocese would return him to both St. Rose and Corpus Christi, but that it also would move a younger priest into position to learn from, and ultimately succeed, Fr. Fitz. 
  • We were fortunate to have a wonderful, gentle priest serve St. Rose during this period. Rev. Jim Devorak has been unfailingly supportive of our parish and was a comforting presence for a congregation that needed comforting.
  • We aren't likely to learn much more about how the process unfolded, because the Archdiocese has needed to be exceptionally careful in how it handled this case. We know essentially nothing about the accuser and that's just as well. I've always suspected the timing of the accusation related to the deadline for victims of priests to come forward, which more or less coincided with the initial announcement. It's possible that, if the accuser had hired Jeff Anderson or one of the other attorneys who have been litigating these cases, we might hear more, but I suspect if the Archdiocese feels comfortable in reinstating Fr. Fitz, there's not much of a case available. Frankly, I'd rather not hear any more about it. I will pray for the accuser, whoever he (or she) is.
We'll learn more in the coming days. I am happy for Fr. Fitz and for my parish. While we don't know what will happen just yet, we do know that the uncertainty is over. There's comfort in that.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Motes and beams and tu quoque

Victor Davis Hanson, making a salient point (actually a lot of them) about our favorite orange-y politician:
There are many ways to assess Trump. The debates and rallies give us glimpses of his ill-preparedness (at least in comparison to his rivals). So far his vision has not transcended banalities and generalities. He seems to have no team of respected advisers, at least not yet. Indeed, at this point, advising Trump apparently would be a career-killer in the Boston–New York–Washington corridor. No one quite knows who talks to him on foreign policy. He is an empty slate onto which millions write their hopes and dreams, as “Make America great again” channels the empty “Hope and Change.”  
Those are grounds enough for rejecting him. But what we don’t need is high talk about Trump as something uniquely sinister, a villain without precedent in American electoral history or indeed public life. That is simply demonstrably false. Trump thrives despite, not because of, his crudity, and largely because of anger at Barack Obama’s divisive and polarizing governance and sermonizing — and the Republican party’s habitual consideration of trade issues, debt, immigration, and education largely from the vantage point of either abstraction or privilege.
And if you click the link, you'll see Hanson pull out dozens of examples in which our betters from the party of Bull Connor have said or done things that match up well with Trump's particular sins. A particular favorite:
Trump is all over the place on abortion, flip-flopping almost daily and without much clue about the mission of Planned Parenthood. But he has not seen abortion on demand as a good thing because it falls inordinately on the poor and minorities — in the fashion of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who matter-of-factly said to a friendly reporter, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” If we thought Ginsburg’s callous remark was a slip of the tongue, she clarified it a few years later with a postscript: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.” Did prominent philosophers, ethicists, and humanitarians sign a petition demanding that she step down, given her judicial ill temperament and what can only be described as displays, on not one but two occasions, of crackpot notions of racist eugenics?
That's what we call a rhetorical question. And Hanson's larger point bears repeating:
We could play this tu quoque all day long, but the fact that we can play it at all suggests that Trump is hardly, by current standards, beyond the pale, much less that he is aberrant in U.S. presidential-campaign history. He is or is not as uncouth as Barack Obama, who has mocked the disabled, the wealthy, typical white people, the religious, and the purported clingers, and has compared opponents to Iranian theocrats and said that George W. Bush was “unpatriotic” — all as relish to wrecking America’s health-care system, doubling the national debt, setting race relations back six decades, politicizing federal bureaucracies, ignoring federal law, and leaving the Middle East in shambles and our enemies on the ascendant.
Emphasis in original. If you'd like to argue we should be better than all that, I agree. But we aren't, now are we? That's another rhetorical question. Our esteemed commenter Picklesworth was making a similar point yesterday:
What if the problem isn't the candidates for president? What if the problem is the electorate? I realize that no candidate can say that. Nor can any party. But it might well be true. 
OR... what if our problem is systemic, not based on personalities or electorates at all? What if our system produces dysfunction over time. Over any short period of time we might see decent leaders, but as the field grows, we'll see a progression towards the mean. I'm no statistician. Not even close. But isn't that a possibility? And why do we keep assuming that our system is just plain awesome when the results suggest that this isn't necessarily true?
If you would reject Donald Trump for his ignorance, his lassitude, his bluster and his evident lack of any guiding principle other than "Donald Trump ought to run things," I hear you. I agree with you. If you are arguing that we should elect someone who is a better, wiser human being than Donald Trump, hear hear. If you're arguing that Donald Trump is a uniquely malevolent force in public life, nope. Or, as T. S. Eliot put it:

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!

We're quite good at planting corpses in the garden.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Submitted without further comment

Ex-Viking WR Mike Wallace, explaining his move to Baltimore:
“When this process started, I knew that I wasn’t going back to Minnesota,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “I was like, ‘I need a good quarterback.’ ...I need a quarterback who I know is proven and can get things done.”
Discuss.

Meanwhile, on the port side

It was a bad night for Bernie Sanders. I'll know how bad as the day goes on and all the "feel the Bern" folks I encounter on social media react to events. I expect it to get all Kubler-Rossy before too long. Yes, some people are truly addled enough to believe that Bernie's insane math works, but my sense is that a lot of Bernie supporters simply recognize that Hillary Clinton is a horrible candidate and a worse human being. That hasn't changed, even as the Hillary campaign slogs through the spring mud.

My take -- there are ambitious Democrats out there who sat out this cycle primarily because they were terrified of crossing the Clintons. If I were a Democrat who wanted to be president, I'd be secretly rooting for Hillary to lose to Trump, because that loss would clear the Clintons from the field once and for all. And if Trump were to get bored with being president, or preside over a disaster, it would set the Dems up nicely for 2020.

Of course, that would assume there's a viable Democrat out there who could run. There has to be one, right? Can you name one?

Your choice

Trump or Cruz. That's the choice that's left. Or sit it out. That's a choice, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

There's nothing for you here

Why did Trump go to UIC? A hypothesis from "Mrs. Davis" at Chicago Boyz:
Allowing a stupid person to demonstrate their stupidity by asking them a hard question does not confer responsibility for their stupidity upon the questioner.

By choosing to hold a rally at UIC, Trump knew that he could get his enemy to demonstrate who they are and what tactics they prefer. It does not make him responsible for what they chose to do. And what he ultimately chose to do was prevent violence, not promote it.

Trump was pushing a negative so hard it became a positive and allowed him to ridicule his opposition. BLM, OWS and SJWs are being turned into the Bull Connor of the 21st century by their own actions. Trump is just giving them the opportunity to reveal themselves. Then he makes them live by their own rules.
Politicians sit yourself down
There's nothing for you here
Won't you please come to Chicago
For a ride

Applied Saul Alinsky. Back to the article, now quoting a recent Trump appearance on Hardball, in which he has some fun with the always sputtering Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: When you set up rally in Chicago where it’s mostly Hispanic and blacks, you knew there would be a lot of people that have the time to come out and protest your situation. It was no surprise here, was there in what happened? Given the venue of your event,

TRUMP: It shouldn’t matter. You’re the first one to say it. It shouldn’t matter whether it was whoever lives in the city. It shouldn’t make a difference. Whether it’s white, black, Hispanic, it shouldn’t matter.

MATTHEWS: They don’t like what you’re saying. They don’t like what you’re saying.

TRUMP: We shouldn’t be restricted from having rally here because of ethnic make up or anything like that. I’m somebody that feels strongly it shouldn’t make any difference. You usually feel that too. I’m surprised you’re bringing this up because it shouldn’t matter,
But it does matter. I can't prove it, but I would be willing to wager that Trump and his people have chosen some of their more particularly outrageous rhetoric precisely because they understand how it tends to rile up the opposition. And the audience for these morality plays isn't saying much now. But they've been watching the protests carefully. They've seen Ferguson. They've seen the Occupy crowd. They've seen the anarchists. 

The next day, some guy rushed the stage at a Trump rally in Dayton. And the next day he got a chance to offer his deep thoughts on CNN. Trump loves this conversation, which isn't a conversation at all. 

Trump is a buffoon, we are told. The buffoons are telling us this. You can always trust expertise in such matters.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Epistemology

Perhaps I'm spending more time than I should on trying to understand the factors driving Donald Trump's continued success. I believe this essay from Sean Trende gets to an important point:
To be clear, racism and racial resentment clearly play a role in the Trump candidacy. But to write it off as a mostly racial phenomenon, as many on the left seem to do, is a mistake.

If you look at where Trump’s electoral strength has been concentrated, it has, in fact, been in areas with high concentrations of African-Americans. This is consistent with the “racial threat” hypothesis that political scientists have commented on since the 1940s, and more generally with the liberal interpretation of his candidacy.

But Trump’s support is also concentrated in counties with high levels of unemployment, high numbers of voters with a high school diploma and nothing more, and low housing values. These are the people that globalization left behind, who fifty years ago would have had decent paying jobs in factories or even performing manual labor, and who could hope that their children would have the same. Instead they see their towns characterized by vacant buildings, drug problems, and government dependence.
It's all out there to see, if one cares to look. Mostly, we don't. Back to Trende:
But it goes well beyond economic issues. What drives this quest for “authentic” candidates is also cultural.  I would ask my readers to consider: How many people who staunchly oppose gay marriage do you know? How many people who are “pure” creationists – who believe that God created the world largely “as-is” – are in your circle of friends?

I would guess that for a large number of readers, the answer is quite close to “none.” Yet these are not obscure viewpoints; in fact, the “pure” evolutionary viewpoint is a minority view in America. The odds of having no one with these views in your circle of friends are, literally, astronomically small. We’ve self-segregated as a society, and people who adhere to what we might call a cosmopolitan worldview or morality system increasingly fail to interact with people who view the world differently. As a result, cultural traditionalists have been otherized.
Emphasis mine. And the implications?
Cosmopolitans also happen to occupy the commanding heights of American culture, and they’ve become increasingly aggressive in promoting what one of my friends called a “sneering disdain” for traditionalists—an attitude I myself sometimes struggle to keep in check.  So it is unsurprising that when the RAND Corporation recently polled candidates’ supporters, “people like me don’t have any say” was the strongest indicator of support for Trump, beyond education, beyond income, and beyond antipathy toward Muslims and Hispanics.
Again, emphasis mine. I live in a middle-class neighborhood, but other than waving at my neighbors as they drive by in their cars, to destinations I can't necessarily identify, I don't spend a lot of time interacting with most of them. I don't honestly know if my concerns match theirs. Hell, life is easier if you don't have those sorts of discussions any more.

Most of the houses on my street were built about 50 years ago, the time Trende describes in his essay. A few of the original owners on my block are still here. At least one of my neighbors has worked for a small manufacturing facility that is less than a mile from here and he has, in the main, walked to work every day since he moved into his house in the mid-60s. He is still working there, even though he is now in his 70s. I have no idea concerning my neighbor's politics. One thing I know -- he has been able to have a tidy life, on a tidy street, in a tidy neighborhood, for his entire adult life. And I also know that the life he's led is well-nigh impossible to duplicate now.

We have more information now at our fingertips than ever before. I can get the answers to countless questions with a few keystrokes. It's a tremendous time to be alive. It's easy to confuse the accumulation of knowledge with wisdom. And it's also easy to assume your beliefs are justified if you aren't challenged on them. It's also easy to go through life without thinking deeply about why you believe what you believe. We recognize this failing in others. The fancy term is epistemological closure. If you'd prefer another explanation:
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Back to Trende:
In case you can’t tell, I’m deeply ambivalent about our outburst of populism. I don’t particularly care for either populist candidate, and I certainly don’t share either of their worldviews. But I also know that I operate from a position of relative privilege here; I’m by-and-large on the winning side of the culture wars, my job is in little danger of being outsourced, and a relatively large cohort of people (for some reason) listen to what I say. You could say that I have a fair amount of empathy for the devil. Which in the end, may be all the devil really wants.
We may not be able to duplicate the conditions that my neighbor has experienced. But we'd better understand that the "devil" Trende describes may live on your block.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hoo boy

I don't remember a lot about 1968; I was four years old for most of the year and whatever concerns I had back then were more about toys and dealing with my brothers and the other kids on the block than on what was happening in the world. It may not matter, though, because 1968 may be back:

Donald Trump canceled his rally at the UIC Pavilion Friday evening due to concerns about safety, according to his spokesperson.

A speaker came out to the podium and made an announcement.

"Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight's rally will be postponed until another date. Thank you very much for you attendance and please go in peace," he said.
If you don't know Chicago, UIC is the University of Illinois at Chicago, a large campus just west of downtown Chicago. The neighborhoods west of UIC and the medical center are considered the west side of Chicago. These neighborhoods are poor and desperate. These were the neighborhoods where Fred Hampton was gunned down by the Chicago police department in a raid against the Black Panthers. It's been nearly fifty years since those events, but it's never been too far from the surface.
The 10,000 seat Pavilion was nearly filled when the rally was canceled. As the crowd waited for the event to begin, it became apparent that it included at least hundreds of protesters. Activist Jedidiah Brown told me he and other infiltrators were on a mission to disrupt Trump's speech as often as possible.

"How does a man who speaks a message that's going to take America backwards become the possible frontrunner of an entire party that represents American values?" Brown asked.
After all, what represents American values more than shouting down people you disagree with?
The crowd of protesters outside the area swelled to at least 1,000 people. Some attendees said they had signed up for tickets, but those tickets were never collected so anyone could have gotten into the event. Protesters surrounded the Pavilion, heckling attendees as they left.

Protesters outside the Pavilion were loud, but peaceful. Inside the Pavilion, there appeared to be thousands of protesters in attendance, mostly young people and UIC students. At the announcement, undercover protesters who had entered the Pavilion as Trump supporters broke into wild celebration, shouting "We stopped Trump! We stopped Trump!"
Well, did they? I'm not so sure. This much I do know -- we're in for an ugly summer.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Eagle and the Gold

So I posted this image the other day, without explanation:

Hardware
Now that we have official word, I no longer need to be cryptic, so an explanation is in order. The badge on the left is the Eagle Scout badge, the highest available award for the Boy Scouts of America, which the Benster earned in 2014. The badge on the right is the Gold Award, the highest available award for the Girl Scouts of America. Fearless Maria received official word yesterday that she has earned the Gold Award. We are exceptionally proud of Maria for this accomplishment.

The accomplishments aside, what continues to bring me up short is thinking about why it matters so much. The percentage of Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award is similar to the number of Boy Scouts who earn the Eagle, about 5% in both cases. To earn these awards, you have to work hard and you have to be persistent. You also have to see beyond yourself. As parents, Jill and I spent a lot of time and a certain amount of treasure to help the kids earn these awards, but the effort we put into it pales in comparison to what Ben and Maria had to do. As a parent, all you can really do is attempt to put your kids in a position where they have an opportunity to succeed. It's an encouraging sign that both Ben and Maria have demonstrated that they can succeed.

We aren't leaving a very good world to our kids; the challenges on the horizon are pretty daunting. The challenges involved in Scouting, and the personal development you gain from meeting the challenges, are only the start. We're going to need all the Eagles and Gold Award winners that we can get.

Nothing changes

I watched most of the debate last night. It wasn't the usual clown show and I suspect that is because Jake Tapper was at the helm. For the most part, the discussion stayed on the issues. Very quick impressions:

  • I guess John Kasich is from Ohio.
  • Marco Rubio, having seen the damage done, backed off his Fozzie Bear shtick and went back to his favorite place, Soundbite City. If he doesn't win Florida on Tuesday, he's toast. In other words, he's toast.
  • Ted Cruz was the same as always. He's still the smartest guy in the room and yet he still has a difficult time connecting with people. I believe the term is "emotional intelligence," and it's most likely going to be his undoing. He'll continue to win some states, but unless some external factor changes the trajectory of the race, he's not going to make it.
  • The Donald was relatively subdued. At this point, that's what he needs to be. You either buy his song and dance or you don't. I don't. 
The central question of this campaign remains -- do you believe that Donald Trump can find and reassemble the Reagan Democrats? Or are they gone now, gone forever. At least on the Republican side, that's the crux.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Not sure if I believe this, but...

If you are looking for a reason to support The Donald, and I'm not, you could do worse than to consider whether John Hayward is correct:
Trump definitely doesn’t have trouble staying on offense.  He’s already done an amazing job of swatting Bill Clinton aside, after decades of Republicans chasing him around like Wile E. Coyote trying to bag the Road Runner.  Maybe he really can maul Hillary Clinton, in a way other Republican candidates would fear to attempt — allowing themselves to be pushed into a beta role where they spend all of 2016 sounding faintly apologetic about daring to run against the First! Woman! President!, as they spent 2008 and 2012 running against the First! Black! President!

For a taste of things to come, consider the Washington Post op-ed flaying Bernie Sanders on feminist grounds — not for rudely talking over Clinton during a debate, but for failing to let her interrupt him.  The First! Woman! President! Is entitled to special privileges on the debate stage to compensate for centuries of patriarchal oppression, don’t you know!  Good luck trying to lash Donald Trump with this wet-noodle feminist-privilege nonsense.  He’ll tear quite a few pages out of Clinton’s playbook and throw them right in her face, then laugh when her friends, donors, and former employees in the media have the vapors over it.

Maybe that approach will hurt Trump more than his supporters believe, if politically-correct attitudes have a death grip on society… but they really want to watch him try it.  If he does successfully face down media bias and the feminist battalion of the P.C. army, it could be a game-changer for many other candidates to follow.
And there's more (emphasis in original):
One other thing about Trump’s possible effect on the Democrats: it’s true that if he does manage some sort of cross-party fusion, it could weaken conservatism within the Republican Party.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and to be brutally honest, the state of the 2016 race so far would suggest conservatism isn’t terribly strong in the GOP right now.  We shouldn’t really be surprised, because conservatives have been complaining about how the Party establishment betrays them for a long time, especially since the rise of the Tea Party movement.  Trump’s campaign is not the cause of that situation, but a consequence of it.

Let’s knock off the foolishness about President Clinton being better for conservatism than President Trump right now.  She won’t listen to conservatives at all.  She thinks of them as enemies at best, and turkeys to be carved up for her dependent constituents at worst.  If the Democrats win in 2016, they’re going to push hard with a variety of social-engineering techniques to make sure they never lose again.  That task will be made much easier if the GOP lies in disarray after a vicious internal battle.  You can harbor all kinds of doubts about a Trump presidency, while still accepting that it’s wouldn’t be worse for conservatism than the worst-case scenario of Clinton finishing Obama’s “transformation of America.”
I'm not certain if what Hayward is arguing represents his drinking Kool-Aid out of a brandy snifter, a form of trying to intellectualize vulgarity as a potential for public good. And the idea that Trump represents a potential for political realignment is, at best, a dubious hypotheses. It's quite possible, even likely perhaps, that rank and file Democrats will eat their spinach and dutifully pull the lever for Hillary, but Hayward knows the reason they might not (again, emphasis in original):
And look: a big part of Trump’s appeal is the way he speaks, without reservation, of America as the team he’s playing for, the team he wants to win.  That really is an alien idea for the modern Democrat Party, whose ideology is driven by loathing for American history, the multi-culturalist conviction that it’s nothing special (or that it’s especially bad), and the ironclad conviction that grievance is more important than opportunity.

Somehow we’ve reached the point where a slogan like “Make America Great Again” is reflexively spit upon as chauvinist, nationalist, nativist, or even racist.  If the idea that America’s President should be one hundred percent focused on what’s best for American citizens, and American taxpayers, finds some purchase in the Democrat coalition, it’s going to tear through them like a computer virus.

If Trump could do no more than convince a substantial number of Democrats to demand solid government value for our tax dollars, it would spark a revolution among blue-collar Democrat voters.  They’ve been sedated for generations into accepting ridiculous wastes of tax money, because they think fresh dollars can easily be printed up in the Treasury basement after Obama’s inept mega-government flushes each billion dollars down the toilets of corruption and incompetence.  If I were a top Democrat, or one of their Republican Establishment junior partners, I’d be scared to death about the prospect of my voters awakening from that trance.
We'll see about all that. I am pretty certain of this much -- the last two candidates who are likely to be standing at the end of this month will be Trump and Ted Cruz. The ol' GOPe couldn't have envisioned a worst-case scenario that matches what seems likely to happen. A change is coming; what the contours look like is still an open question. Oh, and by the way, read the rest of Hayward's piece.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

1000 Words


VDH with a full head of steam

More Victor Davis Hanson:
For half the week, I live at ground zero of Trump’s so-called poor white support, such as it is in blue California, and half the week I am with his critics on the Stanford campus. Aside from logic and to be crude, class is the chief divide that reveals attitudes about Mr. Trump. “Comprehensive immigration reform” for elites is a catchword that your children are not going to schools with Mexican illegal immigrants, who are not all dreamers but often include at least a few quite dangerous gang members. I know open-borders advocate Mark Zuckerberg’s kids will not enjoy a diverse Redwood City immigrant experience. (Why exactly has he stealthily bought up his surrounding neighborhood and staffed it with private security teams to adjudicate whom he sees while entering and leaving his compound?)

The children of Republican elites do not sit in classes where a quarter of the students do not speak English. When that specter of diversity looms, parents yank their kids and put them in the prep schools of Silicon Valley that are rapidly reaching New England numbers (or maybe better southern academies that followed integration). Their children are not on buses where an altercation between squabbling eight year olds leads to a tattooed parent arriving at your home to challenge you to a fight over “disrespecting” his family name. The establishment Republicans have rarely jogged around their neighborhoods only to be attacked by pit bulls, whose owners have little desire to speak English, much less to cage, vaccinate, or license their dogs. They have never been hit by illegal-alien drivers in Palo Alto. In other words, they do not wish to live anywhere near those who, as a result of an act of love, are desperately poor, here under illegal auspices, and assume California works and should work on the premises of Oaxaca.

But in rural Fresno County it is not uncommon to have been sideswiped and rear-ended by those who fled the scene, leaving their wrecked cars without insurance and registration. I doubt that CNN morning anchors have woken up to an abandoned Crown Victoria in their yard that swerved and went airborne in the night—its driver (who spoke neither Spanish nor English but a dialect of Mixteca Baja) found in the shrubs still sleeping it off.
There's a lot more at the link. And you should read it.

Must be the bread

So what happens when you force feed a crap sandwich? Well, this:
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has won the Michigan Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press, narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton in a stunning upset.

Clinton had been widely expected to win the Rust Belt state, having led Sanders by double digits in polls leading up to Tuesday's primary.

But the Sanders campaign deemed Michigan a “critical showdown,” and aggressively attacked Clinton for her policies on trade and her ties to Wall Street. Sanders is hoping his win in the delegate-heavy Midwestern state — second in delegates only to Texas so far — will show that his populist economic message can resonate elsewhere.
A few gentle reminders are in order:

  • Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. She has all the institutional advantages, but she can't make the sale because her resume is actually a crap sandwich and people who study the matter find that out quickly. She's failed in just about every endeavor she's undertaken and has the personal warmth of Frau Blucher to boot. If her surname was anything other than Clinton, you would have never heard of her. Joe Biden has to be muttering to himself in the ol' Naval Observatory.
  • Bernie's "populist economic message" has always been popular, because those who rob Peter to pay Paul will always have Paul's support. In a place like Michigan, there are a whole lotta Pauls.
Meanwhile, it appears that Donald Trump's victory speech last night was half speech, half infomercial:

A host of Donald Trump-branded products, including Trump Steaks, Trump Water and Trump Wine, made cameo appearances at the businessman's victory speech Tuesday night in Jupiter, Florida.

Trump flaunted the products as a rebuttal to 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who last week condemned Trump's presidential bid and criticized some of his failed business ventures.

Trump paraded his products one by one, touting them as testaments to his business acumen.

Must. Avoid. Kool-Aid. Joke.

What a comprehensively bad campaign this has turned out to be. It's astonishing, really.

Sure, why not?

I'd be cool with this at the right price:
The Bears' decision to let running back Matt Forte walk away in free agency could end up backfiring on them.

According to ESPN.com, Forte is drawing interest from the last team that Bears fans want to see him sign with: the Green Bay Packers.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson usually tries to avoid bringing in outside free agents, but it appears that he might be willing to make an exception with Forte, if the two sides can agree on a price.

Although the sight of Forte in a Packers uniform would probably make any Bears fan cringe, it would likely bring a smile to the face of Aaron Rodgers.
It's easy to see the advantages of this move, should it happen. Eddie Lacy was problematic last season and while he seems to be getting in shape, you have to wonder. Forte is an excellent runner and receiver and, from what I can tell, a really smart football player. He would give the Packers a lot of options that they don't really get out of James Starks. And let's face it, there's always an added joy in sticking it to the Bears.

If I were a betting man, I'd assume Forte is more likely to end up in New England, but he'd look very good in green. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Hold on to your wallets

The Lege is back in town:
A coalition of DFL legislators is launching an effort to ensure that all workers in the state have paid family and sick leave, an issue emerging as a top priority for Democrats this legislative session.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said Monday it would help families in challenging financial times.

“A paid family leave program in Minnesota will ensure that workers have some degree of security when a major life event occurs,” said Sieben, the chief Senate sponsor. “Families need time together when a major life event occurs. … It seems to me this is the most basic family value.”
Well, all righty then. And lookit the benefits!
Nearly 136,000 workers in Minnesota would benefit from the program each year, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Up to $461.8 million in benefits would be paid out a year.
How cool is that? Up to $461.8 million! Where is the money coming from?
The proposal would establish a state insurance program that would offer workers in the state a portion of their pay for up to 12 weeks a year for pregnancy or medical issues. Workers would also receive 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a sick family or to care for a newborn child.

Employers and employees would share the costs of the program, which is estimated to cost workers earning the state median income about $1.70 a week. Workers would be reimbursed up to 80 percent of their pay while taking leave.

The Legislature would need to come up with some start-up money, but Senate staff said they won’t know how much until fiscal analysts can determine the initial cost.
Oh, you get to share the costs! Sharing is good! In other words, the gubmint is going to take money out of your current income, and the income of others, and establish a fund that will require a few benevolent administrators to administrate, and call it a benefit. But what if you don't want it?
While the program would be mandatory for employers and employees to participate in, it would not be required for employers with existing paid family and sick leave policies. 
Remember -- as always, the gubmint knows best. You might not be saving enough money or spending it on stupid stuff, so Nurse Katie will see to it that you comply. It's for the best.

il miglior fabbro

This one has been out there a few days, but it's pretty much spot-on. Here's Victor Davis Hanson:
The problem for Trump is not just that he cannot score points on ideas and so he monotonously strikes back with ad hominem slurs, but also that, off the cuff and in passing, he is capable of saying almost anything. Over two hours, those anythings — especially when they are windows into his past and his present values — finally add up.
More, a lot more, at the link.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Give the drummers some

You don't really want another post about the Donald, anyway. So let's talk high school winter drumline.

It's not universal by any means, but there are a number of high schools in the area that compete in winter drumline. As it happens, Irondale High School, the school of both the Benster and Fearless Maria, is one of those schools. Fearless Maria plays marimba for the Irondale drumline, which is in the middle of an outstanding season. So what does a drumline performance look like? Here's an example of an Irondale performance from back in 2009:


It's an odd mix of motion and music; not surprisingly, the schools that compete successfully in drumline tend to have strong music programs and often compete in marching band competitions as well. Irondale has been competing in drumline for nearly 30 years now and is usually one of the better teams in the state. They compete in the Minnesota Percussion Association, a circuit that goes beyond Minnesota and includes schools from South Dakota and western Wisconsin.

Every year, the schools that compete have to come up with a show theme and a new musical theme, which can be a pastiche of existing music, or original composition. At Irondale, they've done both over the years. Last year's show featured some music of recent vintage. This year, more of the music is original. Students who compete in drumline often stay with the music and join independent drumlines such as River City Rhythm or Minnesota Brass. As with most things, the longer you are into it, the more elaborate the shows become. RCR's show from last year had a silent movie theme and was tremendously entertaining:


The practice time involved in drumline is substantial. Maria's drumline practices at least twice a week and usually most of the day on a performance day. It's hardly unusual for Maria to spend north of 20 hours a week at it. We've been able to visit exotic ports of call such as Foley, Elk River and South Saint Paul this year, and we'll also be going to the state championships at St. Cloud State University later in the year, where Irondale has a good chance to win. We are also thinking of going to the national championships in Ohio, which take place in April.

Participating in high school activities is much more of an all-in proposition than it was when I was a student; ask a hockey parent about the level of commitment in time and treasure required to have a child play. I'm not particularly comfortable about it, because at times it seems more like work than fun, especially when you are leaving the high school in the shadow of 10 p.m. What I try to remember is that the experiences will pay off down the line, because you can't help but learn life skills that carry over into other areas -- teamwork, dedication to a goal, the value of continuous application, persistence, and most importantly answering the bell when you'd rather not. It's been a great experience for our family.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

One Hour Godwinizing

Feh.


The scene is Orlando, land of the Magic Kingdom. I gotta think Trump knew exactly what the images would look like when he asked the attendees to do that.

Feh.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Standing room only on the fainting couches

Let's stipulate that no one really wants to think about Donald Trump's, ahem, private parts, other than his wife. Let's also stipulate that it would have been better for everyone concerned if The Donald would have let the topic pass without further comment.

Now that we've said that, can we please, please stop with the fainting couch responses that we've reached some sort of cultural nadir because a presidential candidate really ought to have a two-drink minimum? How long have we been making these sorts of jokes? Well, Bill Clinton was the subject of a million of them, but you can go back further than that. Here is an image from an episode of Saturday Night Live that aired on December 2, 1978:

It's short, it's sweet, and everybody wants to see it
That's Dan Aykroyd playing Richard Nixon, proposing a comeback campaign for president and showing his aide (Walter Matthau) a prototype bumpersticker. I remember watching that episode well, as I was a teenager and didn't have anyplace in particular to go that evening. But it goes back even further than that. Jimmy Carter famously discussed his own libidinal urges with Playboy magazine in the run up to the 1976 election, which he further discussed in a debate with President Gerald Ford. And Lyndon Johnson. . . well, let's just say he had a healthy regard for his own equipment. We could go further back than that (hello, Grover Cleveland!), but you get the point.

Let's just say this -- if you are a fan of Bill Maher, or Jon Stewart, or anyone else who talks about politics while working blue, and you are saying that what Trump said is scandalous, just stop it, because you have no credibility.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Home Truth

We'll start this morning with Walter Russell Mead, and I can't argue with a word of it:
The Republicans are suffering from an establishment power vacuum that has allowed a demagogue to very nearly take control of the party; and the Democratic establishment, constantly trailed by an air of scandal and suspicion, is unable to engender much enthusiasm from its base. It’s still not clear which of the two parties will win the demolition derby that the 2016 election has become. But it’s looking more and more that no matter which party ‘wins’ this bizarre election contest, the clear loser is the United States.

Our political system is in deep trouble, and while one can think of some procedural fixes that could help (superdelegates on the Republican side, stronger and more impartial enforcement of government rules on information security and conflict of interest in the case of the Clinton machine) the real problems are more dangerous and harder to treat: A moral and spiritual collapse that has frayed the bonds between the country’s ordinary people and those who seek to lead them, a hollowing out of institutions from Congress and political parties to local churches and civic life, and the disintegration of a shared national intellectual and cultural framework for discussing the issues that confront us. As we approach a critical presidential election at a time of global turmoil and disorder, the state of our union is not strong.
I take that back -- I can argue one point. The last thing the Republicans need is superdelegates. In fact, that would simply reinforce the most legitimate concern for many supporters of the Donald and his campaign: the sense that the elites within the party haven't been listening to the voters, and won't unless they get an outer borough 2x4 upside their heads.

Other than that... well, it's spot-on. Consider the likely alternatives for the fall: a combover putz who likes to talk about his schwanz, facing off against the most thoroughly corrupt politician on the American stage. It's amazing that our political process can deliver such a freak show, yet here we are.

As for the debate last night, I doubt much changed. Ted Cruz was good and "Little Marco" had his moments, but there was nothing either candidate said that is likely to move people off their current positions. There also seemed to be some guy from Ohio on the stage, but I'm not sure who he was. He wasn't wearing a scarlet sweater vest, so it probably wasn't Jim Tressel. I'll have to do some research and get back to you.

As for Mitt Romney's cri de coeur? Useless. In fact, probably worse than useless, because it once again reinforced the Trump argument about out-of-touch elites lecturing the huddled masses, yearning to breathe something yuuge. Mitt Romney is correct in everything he said. No one cares.

 It's no good, of course. None of it is. You can't change the list of particulars that Mead identified overnight. The hollowing out of our institutions has been a long, relentless process of rot, much of it going on for a half century or more. We're not going to be able to fix it from Washington. We need to look closer to home.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

No jamdown for you, yet

Before we forget, something to note and celebrate:
Minnesota child-care providers have overwhelmingly voted against unionizing, likely ending a debate that has been emotionally charged and politically divisive for a decade.

The fight pitted some child-care workers against others and sharply divided legislators along party lines when they passed a law in 2013 that would allow the vote to unionize.

By the time the votes were tallied Tuesday, the lopsided results dealt a decisive loss to labor: 1,014 "no" votes to 392 who favored unionization. Although there are about 10,000 licensed child-care providers in the state, only those who care for children receiving state subsidies were eligible to vote. That meant 2,348 providers were eligible when voting began Feb. 8.
One quibble -- if you think the debate ends here, you haven't been paying attention. The Left never stops coming and nothing is settled until the Left prevails. We'll be revisiting this matter. Bet on it.

Things that make you go hmmm...

Writing for the Washington Post, Todd Zywicki notices something:
Following the South Carolina primary, an interesting article by Michael Harrington went around Facebook that speculated that Donald Trump’s victory in the South Carolina primary was attributable to Democrats voting in the Republican (open) primary. One of the good things about Harrington’s article is that he put out a testable hypothesis — that turnout in the Democratic primary a few days later would be less than 390,000. In fact, it was 367,000. Harrington concludes that had South Carolina had a closed primary, Ted Cruz would have won the primary there. I don’t know him and the author seems to be anti-Trump based on other things he has written — but the fact that his prediction was borne out adds some independent verification to his thesis.
Why does this matter? Back to Zywicki:
Because so far the primary calendar has been heavily tilted toward open primaries. But there have been four closed elections: the Iowa caucus, the Nevada caucus, and Super Tuesday’s Oklahoma primary and Alaska caucus. Ted Cruz won three of those four closed elections.

So here’s where it potentially gets interesting. Although the media are looking forward to March 15, this Saturday (March 5) there are four Republican primaries/caucuses: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine. All are closed.
So does that mean Ted Cruz is going to win these closed events? We'll find out soon enough. Underlying what we've seen so far are two interesting questions:

  • Who are the Trump voters? and
  • What is their motivation?
We've talked quite a bit, maybe too much, about motivation here. I've also assumed that many Trump voters are disaffected and that they are either new to the political process, or they've been away for a long time. But are we certain that we know who the Trump voters are? I'm not certain at all.

Meanwhile, other questions arise:
  • If a series of closed primaries delivers more wins for Ted Cruz, what does that tell you about the Republican base?
  • Are there enough potential extra votes to be had in the Trump camp to make up for the losses the party suffers if Trump becomes the standard-bearer?
If Trump gets through to the general election, his candidacy is a complete roll of the dice. The problem for Republicans, particularly in the last two cycles, is that the other side was more motivated and the candidates the Republicans ran were hesitant to fight. Trump will fight. So will Ted Cruz. I'm not sure which one would fight more effectively. Trump's genius in dealing with opponents is his ability to boil the insult down into a soundbite -- the notion that Jeb Bush is "low energy" was perfect. Cruz can't do that. If left to his own devices, Cruz will speak in paragraphs. But then again, if Cruz is the nominee, he'll have more time to prosecute the case against the Democrats generally, and Hillary Clinton in particular. And he'll be good at it.

And all that leads to the most important question:
  • Do you trust your brain, or do you trust your gut?
Well?


Wednesday, March 02, 2016

That's Really Super, Super Tuesday

I didn't go to the caucuses on Tuesday, but I didn't need to. Plenty of other people did and in Minnesota, it appears that Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders won. Here's a screen shot from the Secretary of State's office:

A disappointing night for Rocque "Rocky" De La Fuente
The most interesting number is the one you need to compile, which is the total number of voters for each party. In this caucus, more Republicans cast ballots than Democrats. In Minnesota, that's significant. And it also appears that this turnout wasn't a Jesse Ventura-like moment, since Trump finished a distant third.

Marco Rubio won the vote, but it doesn't mean he won outright. According to the latest numbers, here is the delegate count for Minnesota:

A win, but not a win
Ted Cruz, by finishing second, nets the same number of delegates, at least for the moment. It appears that six additional delegates are not yet accounted for; perhaps they will go to Rubio.

The upshot is this -- nice result for Rubio here, but otherwise, in nearly every other place, he got his ass kicked last night. And while Ted Cruz ended up winning three states, it's difficult to say he had a good night, either. The winner last night was the Donald and there's no point trying to spin it any other way.

On the other side of the aisle, Bernie Sanders dominated here, but it doesn't matter much, because Hillary Clinton won big most everywhere else. So where are we at?

  • Trump doesn't have things wrapped up yet, but he's definitely closer to that goal now. Cruz needed to win more states last night than he did and it's difficult to see where Marco Rubio is going to win next. Barring a deus ex machina moment, Trump is likely to be the GOP nominee.
  • Hillary is winning, but she's laboring to get it done. Every time I see her on television, she just looks like hell. I also don't see much enthusiasm for what she's selling, either.
  • We're now in the game theory portion of the contest. Carson and Kasich probably should go home now, although they'll probably stay in for a little while longer. The question at this point is who will be the last Republican standing? The GOPe hates Cruz, but would they really be willing to let The Donald take over the party by shunning Cruz? Grab that microphone, Lindsey Graham:
Former presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday Republicans might have to support Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in order to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination—just days after he joked about killing Cruz on the floor of the Senate.

“Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means, and I don’t wish him ill—I was making a joke about Ted—but we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump, and I’m not so sure that would work,” Graham told CBS, as Trump solidified his position as frontrunner with a string of Super Tuesday victories.

Asked to confirm if he would rather support Cruz than see a Trump nomination, Graham laughed. “I can’t believe I would say yes, but yes,” he said.
  • Ever the comedian, that Lindsey Graham.
  • One last aside -- the "Donald Drumpf" joke is lame, lame, lame. He's never had that name, since it was his parents who changed the family surname. I understand that people hated hearing Trump making fun of the sainted Jon Stewart for changing his name, because one must never speak ill of Stewart, but come on, man. We can do better than that. And I'm sure we will.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Nope

It's caucus night in Minnesota. I'm not going this year. I've been trying to keep a greater distance from party politics in the last few years and this is the year to make a clean break. I'm not particularly happy with any of the presidential candidates on offer, and on the local level it really doesn't matter much because the DFL so utterly controls my district that we could offer up Jesus Christ as the candidate in District 41B and He'd still lose 60-40 to whatever Education Minnesota acolyte the local machine chooses to run this time. Maybe I'll feel differently in the fall, but I doubt it.