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How long can this keep going on?

[ 319 ] May 19, 2017 |

The purpose of this thread is to facilitate a discussion of the following issue:  Almost every day now, one or more stories appear in the national media that would each individually constitute a bombshell-level scandal in the context of any previous presidential administration.  Since it’s hard to see the causes of these stories (rampant corruption, equally rampant incompetence, Titanic-level staff leakage regarding both of the former, legal proceedings flowing from all of the above etc.) changing in any significant way as long as Trump is president, the question becomes: how long can his administration last at this rate?  The floor is yours.


Roger Ailes

[ 127 ] May 18, 2017 |

Roger Ailes has died.  Ailes’s gifts to the American public included Richard Nixon’s presidency and Fox News: indeed it’s fair to say that the ascension of Donald Trump was the culmination of his life’s work.   In addition to his polluting of public life with a constant stream of right wing propaganda in the guise of legitimate journalism, Ailes was a serial sexual harasser of his employees.

And although de mortuis nil nisi bonum be a maxim of our profession, feel free to make an exception in this case.


Robert Mueller named special prosecutor to look into Russian involvement in election

[ 193 ] May 17, 2017 |

Mueller is the former head of the FBI.  This is not good news for Trump.

A little dinner at Irvine

[ 31 ] May 17, 2017 |

I realize the following doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world, but we must all cultivate our own hydroponic gardens:

My email in-box is getting blasted with announcements that Erwin Chemerinsky has been named the new dean of UC-Berkeley’s law school.

Chemerinsky has spent the last ten years as the dean of UC-Irvine’s new law school, which admitted its first class in 2009.  His avowed goal was to create a “top 20” law school from scratch, since apparently what the world needs now is not a new Frank Sinatra, but another top 20 law school (I would have thought 20 top 20 law schools were enough, but I am apparently not a sufficiently disruptive and innovative thinker in the fast-moving world of contemporary higher education).

Chemerinsky didn’t achieve this essentially pointless goal (UC-Irvine was ranked 30th in 2015 and 28th this year), but he did manage to hire an impressive faculty, with perhaps its most impressive feature being its stupendous salaries: a quick skim of the public records indicates that a bunch of legal Anteaters are pulling in north of $300,000 in compensation, not counting benefits, which tack on another 30% to the payroll.

Long story short: a back of the envelope calculation indicates the law school is probably spending around $30 million per year in direct operating costs, which is a lot, given that this year the school’s total net tuition revenue is going to be around $9 million, and of course it has no alumni network yet from which to extract donations (The school got a $20 million founding gift from an Orange County real estate mogul but that money is likely long gone, given that the first entering class paid no tuition and the next two got very heavy discounts).

Long story shorter: UC-Irvine’s law school is costing the parent university a fortune, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  Of course it’s hard to quantify the inchoate benefits in ACADEMIC PRESTIGE accruing to the larger university from its hosting the third-highest ranked law school in the greater Los Angeles area. Oh wait, it really isn’t: those benefits add up to approximately zero dollars per year, more or less.

None of this touches on the fact that the dumpster fire that is the hiring market for entry level lawyers in California needs another top 28 law school like Donald Trump needs two scoops of ice cream and a suitcase full of crystal meth.

For these fantastic achievements in the field of lighting mountains of money on fire for no good reason, Chemerinksy got rewarded with the deanship of something UC-Irvine will never be in a million years, i.e., a genuinely elite law school.   Hopefully EC at least improves Berkeley’s recent .333 batting average in regard to hiring law school deans who don’t sexually harass or assault students and/or staff. (In light of the institution’s recent history I can’t help but note that one of the two other finalists Chem beat out was Laura Gomez, a Latina woman who is an extremely impressive person in every way, but who has yet to light enough money on fire to sufficiently impress university administrators).


The little narcissist that couldn’t

[ 68 ] May 17, 2017 |

White man who inherited a vast fortune and then via a bizarre series of events was handed the presidency of the United States advises young people on how to overcome the harsh fact that life can be very unfair, especially to him:

President Donald Trump, amid his own swirling controversies, advised United States Coast Guard Academy graduates that while things aren’t always fair, “you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.”

The comment was a clear reference to the fact that Trump’s White House is now besieged by bipartisan questions about his alleged request that former FBI Director James Comey to halt an investigation into his former top national security aide.
“Never, never, never give up. Things will work out just fine,” he said in New London, Connecticut, Wednesday.
Then, dropping the pretext even more, he bemoaned the media coverage of his presidency.
Once hoped for as a reset, Trump's foreign trip now bogged in White House crises
“Look at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media,” he said. “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down, you can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”
I imagine Trump has probably heard the word “surety” a lot in his business dealings.

Send a third stage guild navigator to the White House briefing room

[ 186 ] May 16, 2017 |

The Spicey must flow.

As I said earlier today, i.e., a couple of crises ago, there’s no way to predict how all this will play out.

But I do think it’s quite possible that Trump won’t be president by the end of the summer.  There’s a lot of golf to be played, and a lot of rubes to be scammed, and I bet most of the GOP bigwigs are by this point longing for a divorce that on some level Trump himself probably wants just as badly.

The emperor of ice cream

[ 148 ] May 16, 2017 |

One of the peculiarities of the present moment is that a couple or three times a week Donald Trump does or says something that would pretty much destroy a normal presidency, but which seems to have little effect on either his popularity with Republican voters or on the support he’s receiving from elite GOP actors.

We’re running a very interesting social experiment right now, which is to put the executive branch of the government of the world’s most powerful nation in the hands of a narcissistic imbecile with the attention span of a fruit fly, the emotional stability of an over-tired toddler, and the substantive political knowledge of a seventh-grader who didn’t really study for his American Government exam.

A couple of preliminary thoughts on another surreal morning:

(1) This is in many ways a unique situation in at least American political history, so people who confidently opine regarding how it’s all going to turn out can be confidently ignored (These are generally the same people opined there was no chance Trump would get the GOP nomination, and then followed that up by predicting with equal confidence that there was no chance he’d get elected).

I have no idea of if or when GOP voters and/or elites will turn on Trump, but since we’ve never been anywhere like this before nobody else has any idea either.

(2) The good news, such as it is, is that President Dunning-Kruger doesn’t have the faintest idea how inept he is at every facet of his job, so that makes it more likely that he’ll get nothing accomplished, at least in a systematic way.  Of course he could get a lot accomplished in a non-systematic way, by for example blowing up the world because he got only one scoop of ice cream on a night when he was in a particularly bad mood. So you could say the glass is half full (of cheap vodka)  Stay tuned to find out what happens!

(3) The really bad news is that our political system is now so screwed up that it’s easy to imagine a far more competent version of Trump becoming president, and I expect this will happen relatively soon, assuming there still is a relatively soon after President D-K is done with the four-year (?) run of his latest crappy reality show.

What is it like to be a goldfish?

[ 135 ] May 11, 2017 |

I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He’s got a lot of dough, now. He didn’t use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was ‘The Secret Goldfish.” It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.

Commenter Cheerfull flags this very interesting tweet storm from Vox’s Dave Roberts, which puts forth the theory that Donald Trump isn’t really a person in a robust sense of that word, but rather a biological entity that reacts stereotypically and impulsively to stimuli, more or less like a goldfish.

It’s a radical theory and I don’t really buy it, or rather I think it’s probably (!) overstated, but it’s a sign ‘o the times that a theory that the president of the United States’s mental life is indistinguishable from that of a goldfish has a certain plausibility.

Anyway, what exactly is wrong with Trump?  There’s been endless speculation that he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and/or that he’s a sociopath, and/or that he’s in the early stages of senile dementia.  All these claims seem, again, somewhat to very plausible.  Of course it’s possible that this is all over-interpretation, including, ironically, Roberts’ purported meta-interpretation of the other forms of over-interpretation he says are going on, and that Trump is merely a very evil and very stupid man, who has ended up as the most powerful politician in the world because of the Wisdom of the Framers, with James Comey and Vladimir Putin assisting on the own goal.

I guess we’re going to find out, maybe.


Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election.


Our idiot king

[ 262 ] May 11, 2017 |

Ladies and gentleman, the president of the United States:

But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?

We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?

Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.

I’ve mentioned before that for me the most startling discovery about Donald Trump is that he is such an ignorant and stupid man.  Now Republicans in recent decades have taken to electing some deeply incurious and simplistically-minded presidents, but in comparison to Trump, Bush the Lesser is Isaiah Berlin and Ronald Reagan was Jeremy Bentham.

Trump isn’t just stupid and ignorant for a person with a kind of important job. We’re not grading on a curve here: Trump is stupid and ignorant in comparison to the average American.  Which when you consider what the average American does and doesn’t know, and then mull over that hypothetical paragon’s likely reasoning skills . . . oh yes I’m being the worst thing you can be, a snotty “elitist,” who is not awed by the simple wisdom of the common folk, but for reals, even or I should say especially the common folk know what the simple English expression “prime the pump” means literally.  I mean it’s one thing not to be familiar with the oeuvre of the great economist Alicia Keynes, but have you ever tried to mow a lawn or draw a cup of beer out of a keg or . . . it’s alright doctor I’ll come quietly now.





Memories of another time and place

[ 50 ] May 9, 2017 |

Back in the 1990s I used to have lunch with Archibald Cox regularly in the CU faculty lounge (For many years he spent his summers in Boulder).  Archie, as he was known, was a gentleman in the old style: it might be 90 degrees in July, and he was long retired, but he would still wear a suit, complete with a bow tie, if he was going to be at the law school.   He had many interesting tales to tell. The ones I remember best were about things like grading 200 blue books — all written in long hand of course: a task that would take several weeks of every summer when he was a law professor.  I never had the nerve to ask him about the Saturday Night Massacre, although it was one of my earliest and most vivid political memories (I was 13 at the time).

In retrospect, what seems most anachronistic about that incident was the behavior of old-style Republican brahmins like Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who chose to resign rather than advancing their careers by allowing themselves to be complicit in Richard Nixon’s sordid machinations.

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honor bred, with one
Who were it proved he lies
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbors’ eyes;
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
Yeats, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing”

I suppose Kant wouldn’t approve but I do

[ 17 ] May 9, 2017 |
Gilchrist family in 1933. Corliss is in the back row on the far left

Gilchrist family in 1933. Corliss is in the back row on the far left

Corliss Gilchrist, was born May 7, 1925, in Ayrshire, Iowa, one of sixteen children born to James and Arrah Gilchrist. He passed away May 3, 2017, at his home in Altoona, IA. We told him the process to impeach Trump had begun – so that he could rest in peace.

Corliss was united in marriage to JoAnne Cronk in 1946 and remained a very loyal and dedicated husband through her many years of illness. He cherished his family and time spent with his daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Corliss was a proud union member and took great pride in his work with Armstrong Tire, retiring after more than 40 years of service. In his free time, he enjoyed fishing, gardening, tending his flowers, jigsaw puzzles, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes. He also had a great love for animals, especially cats.

Corliss will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. He was a stoic, hardworking, and simple man who had a joyful outlook on life, never taking things for granted.

Corliss is survived by his daughter, Judith Teachout of Altoona, IA; son-in-law, Ronald Clater of Des Moines, IA; grandson, Cory (Katie) Clater of Granger, IA and their children, Gavin, Gillian, and Gage; granddaughter, Laura Teachout of West Des Moines, IA and her children, McKenzie, Ayrianna, and MJ; granddaughter, Angela (Jason) White of Spirit Lake, IA and their children, Matthew and Breanna; granddaughter, Kristin (Alex) Thornton of Altoona, IA and their children, Julian and Griffin; his siblings, Ken Gilchrist of Ankeny, IA, Corrine LaFleur of CA, Jeanette Moore of CA, and Janice Mahan of GA; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, JoAnne; daughter, Kathleen Clater; and 11 siblings.

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, May 8, 2017, at Hamilton’s near Highland Memory Gardens, 121 NW 60th Avenue in Des Moines with burial to follow at Highland Memory Gardens Cemetery. The family will receive visitors one hour prior to service time.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa or the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in loving memory of Corliss.

Online condolences may be expressed at

Views differ

[ 69 ] May 8, 2017 |

Via FiveThirtyEight.

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