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The Bottom Line on The Donald and His Party

[ 185 ] May 4, 2016 |


It didn’t come out of nowhere, no matter what conservative pundits are going to claim as they reconcile themselves with their party’s nominee:

The paranoid mendacity of Joe McCarthy, the racial pandering of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and George Bush, the jingoism and anti-intellectualism of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin — all these forces have embodied the essence of American conservative politics as it is actually practiced (rather than as conservative intellectuals like to imagine it). Trump has finally turned that which was always there against itself.

And the paradox is that he has managed to pull off the trick of downplaying or abandoning unpopular orthodox Republican ideas while being highly unpopular with the general electorate:

It is easy to find examples of parties where ideologically orthodox members felt sold out by moderate leaders who softened party platforms. Think of Tony Blair in the UK or Dwight Eisenhower in the US.

But at least those moderate leaders tend to be broadly popular with the public and to win elections. That allows those ideologically orthodox party members to get half a loaf — in the form of implementation of a watered-down version of a party platform.

Trump has somehow found a way to throw away the ideologically extreme ideas that orthodox conservatives cared about while actually making the party less popular. His nomination is a recipe for conservatives to sell out and lose anyway.

And don’t kid yourself: Trump is a terrible general election candidate. I’m not basing that on the head-to-head polls, which show Clinton thumping Trump; they generally aren’t very predictive this far out, and while they might mean more than usual this year because of how well-known both candidates have been for so long, there’s no way of knowing that ex ante. Rather, it’s that 1)the Democrats have a structural advantage in the electoral college all things being equal; 2)his unfavorable ratings are insanely high, putting him in a major hole and negating Hillary Clinton’s own high unfavorables, which should have been a major opportunity for the GOP; 3)Trump is almost certain to mobilize a high minority turnout; and 4)giving sexist boors enough rope is one thing that Clinton does really well. I would never say that it’s impossible for a major party candidate to win an election under the current partisan configuration, but Clinton is a yooooooooge favorite.


And when they finish digesting, the results will be the same …

[ 24 ] May 3, 2016 |

From the NRO, shortly before T-Hour in Indiana.

Why Cruz has failed to build on his massive Wisconsin victory will be the subject of another column. But one should note that as the media spotlight glared, Cruz’s share of the vote in national and in state polls dropped.

I can’t tell if this is a clumsy jab at The Media, or an admission that after about 30 seconds of Solid Cruz, most people would prefer to vote for a sack of cockroaches. Maybe it’s both. If The Media hadn’t given Cruz so much airtime, he wouldn’t have grossed out so many people, sounds like something a distraught neo-con would say.

For whatever reason, Republicans whose votes were potentially up for grabs have looked at both men and decisively chosen Trump. Movement conservatives and Republican activists will digest this lesson for months and years to come.

Considering that the lesson of Barack Hussein Obama 2008 is still working its way through, I think they need to eat more fiber.

But in all seriousness, I hope they’ve put up nets around NR HQ.

As of tonight, we might know whether Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate. And barring unforeseeable events, it is certain that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Those are two reasons (of many, unfortunately) why — other than the first years of the Civil War, when the survival of the United States as one country was in jeopardy — there was never a darker time in American history.

Maybe insisting on the right to oppress other human beings isn’t a good idea?

No that can’t be right. Forget I said anything.

Since this is a walk down memory lane sort of evening, remember this?

Donald Trump leads the polls nationally and in most states in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner. But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.

Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me.

If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives?

Nothing we haven’t known for years.

I’ll Wear This Badge with Pride

[ 52 ] May 3, 2016 |

Given that the other option is working on this 8000 word encyclopedia article on the history of forests, I’ve naturally spent the last hour or so arguing against Rania Khalek’s ridiculous “Hillary is worse than Trump” pablum on Twitter. In case you are curious a vote for Hillary is a vote to kill everyone outside of America. Evidently, the entire world is affected precisely the same way by the United States and thus feels the same way about the 2016 election. Good to know that the Germans, Vietnamese, Iraqis, and South Africans are all the same. Trump at least gives the world a chance! Or something. It’s that kind of evening.

Anyway, there’s one person out there who is willing to console Khalek against my meanness. Thanks to TBogg for bringing this to my attention.

Freddie doesn’t like me? Oh my! How will I sleep tonight?

“At the risk of eventually looking deeply ridiculous…”

[ 75 ] May 3, 2016 |

Fortunately, I only put my money where my blog was in one case; I’ll pay that out on Friday.

Goddamnit, Ted, you disappoint me.


And . . . scene

[ 268 ] May 3, 2016 |

Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

This comment thread seems from a different era altogether than the one in which we live now.

Yale and Calhoun

[ 42 ] May 3, 2016 |


Yale University, an institution that won’t revoke an honorary degree even if the recipient is later shown to be a mass murderer, not surprisingly refuses to rename Calhoun College, named for the architect of secession himself. Instead, it decided to name new colleges after Benjamin Franklin and the civil rights activist Pauli Murray. The esteemed historian and Yale professor Glenda Gilmore says this is not enough and that Yale will eventually cave on this because John C. Calhoun represents evil.

To be sure, there’s something noteworthy about the contrast between these two figures who now sit across campus from each other. Although they lived in different centuries, Calhoun in the 19th, and Murray in the 20th, in many ways, she lived in — and fought against — the world that he built.

Calhoun, a Yale graduate, congressman and the seventh vice president of the United States, owned dozens of slaves in Fort Hill, S.C. Murray grew up in poverty in Durham, N. C., as the granddaughter of an enslaved woman. Calhoun championed slavery as a “positive good”; Murray’s great-grandmother was raped by her slave master. Calhoun profited immensely from the labor of the enslaved people on his plantation; Murray was a radical labor activist in Harlem during the Great Depression.

Calhoun perverted constitutional principles when he shaped a states’ rights doctrine that precipitated the Civil War and set in place a 90-year legal justification for segregation and disfranchisement. Murray fought for four decades against the regime that Calhoun authorized and published “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” the first comprehensive survey of segregation statutes across the nation. Calhoun was a patriarch who whipped his slave Aleck for offending Mrs. Calhoun; Murray was a gay woman who became a founder of the National Organization for Women.

The decision to keep Calhoun’s name overestimates his value for Yale students. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, argues that “removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” and living in Calhoun’s shadow will make students “better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future.”

That last bit is patently absurd. Calhoun does have plenty to teach us about slavery. But renaming Calhoun College does not get in the way of teaching about slavery. Calhoun College is not retaining its name because it’s a rare opportunity to teach about slavery. It’s retaining its name on the principle of never going back on honorary naming (and no doubt there are wealthy donors who are behind this as well).

Texas Prison Museum

[ 26 ] May 3, 2016 |


When I lived in Texas, I kept wondering if I should go to the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. It was both horrifying and fascinating at the same time. Why would someone go see an electric chair in a prison largely dedicated to celebrating law enforcement? But maybe the answer is that I would go to see who would go see that. In any case, I never actually went. But evidently, prison museums are a burgeoning set of tourist attractions across the country and the Texas Observer has what is actually a really interesting article on the Texas Prison Museum.

But while the museum may reinforce a message of humane treatment as progress, it also reflects prison administration to the exclusion of inmates, says Elizabeth Neucere, a history master’s graduate from SHSU who wrote her thesis about the museum. While panels throughout the museum explain the work inmates do, few exhibits feature prisoners’ voices. Most inmates mentioned by name were executed, tried to escape, or were considered “famous and infamous.” A photo exhibit featuring executed inmates is one of the few displays that allows visitors to hear the voices behind the bars.

“The Texas Prison Museum … inhibits the possibility for public forum by creating silences in its historical presentation through the active choices made in exhibit design or display that makes a narrative superficial or absent,” Neucere writes in her thesis. “Impropriety in the Texas prison system goes unnoticed by museum visitors, making contemporary inmate battles for human rights seem unwarranted.”

For instance, Neucere says, the exhibit on inmate punishment displays handcuffs, a ball and chain, and old padlocks, as well as the bat, a leather strap with a wooden handle legally used to whip inmates until 1941. The card next to the bat says “Used for corporal punishment on convicts until the mid 1940s,” omitting the 1909 state investigation that uncovered abusive use of the bat, debates about banning it during the 1912 governor’s race, and its temporary replacement with the “dark cell,” an early form of solitary confinement. The bat returned to widespread use in the 1930s before being banned in 1941. But none of this information is present in the display.

The museum’s selective silences, Neucere says, are partly a response to Ruiz v. Estelle, which resulted in federal oversight and major reforms to the prison system after the 1980 ruling that it was unconstitutional. “Ruiz is not remembered fondly among the prison system and this is reflected in the museum, along with any other court case against the system,” Neucere writes. The plaintiffs’ accounts of overcrowding, inmate-on-inmate violence and inadequate medical care brought negative publicity. She suggests that, consciously or not, the case likely influenced the museum founders’ presentation of the story.

Pierce, the volunteer archivist, says there’s probably some truth in that argument. Many people who helped with the museum were directly involved with Ruiz compliance issues, “and they were preoccupied with people being sued and fired,” he says. “I think the thing they liked about the museum is that it gives a sense of authenticity, history and importance: ‘Yeah, I worked at the prison system, and there were some bad things about it sometimes, but we have a history.’”

Asked if he thought some of the decade-old informational panels should be updated, Willett, the museum director and retired warden, was hesitant. “History doesn’t change, so a lot of what’s out there is, in my mind, never going to be updated other than to just refresh it from the fading,” he said. “Some of the stuff is historical, and it’s over with, and it won’t be changed.”

It won’t be changed? Now that’s some wishful thinking! In fact, the article goes on to note that Neucere is taking over as curator next year and certainly will change some things. But curators don’t have full power. Most museums has something like a board of governors. Who tends to serve on these boards? Often they are staunch conservatives, either political appointees or people who are very invested in telling specific stories. So I’d be awfully skeptical that any changes to this museum will be fast. Law enforcement’s influence is likely to remain high, not to mention that I’m guessing the average visitor to this museum does not tend to skew as a Sanders voter. Yet such a museum actually has a ton of potential to tell really interesting stories about the past and present.

And Yet Khanna Persists…

[ 19 ] May 3, 2016 |

empty-suit1For some obscure reason, Parag Khanna persists not only in existing, but also in writing books that find major publishers.  My review of Second World can be found here. The intrepid Dan Drezner was given the unenviable task of reviewing Connectography (yes, that is its actual name); the results are impressive. Some of the choicest bits:

Parag Khanna may well be the most connected man alive. “Connectography” represents Khanna’s latest effort to arbitrage his personal networking skills into a theory of geopolitics…

The fluff is voluminous. Khanna and his editors clearly believe that his prose style is a winning one, but for this reader it was like struggling through the transcription of a TED talk on a recursive loop…

I wish that Khanna wee right about the power of connectivity. The world would be a better place. I fear, however, that he does not know what he is talking about.

And via Drezner, this Evgeny Morozov review of one of Khanna’s earlier efforts leaves a lot of blood and intestine on the floor.

Graffiti in the National Parks

[ 75 ] May 3, 2016 |


One of the bad sides of social media’s domination over the universe is that has incentivized graffiti and stunts that promote individuals or allow them to show off to their friends by desecrating monuments and places of natural beauty. There was the graffiti artist a couple of years who decided to make her mark in national parks across the country. There was the Chinese tourist who decided to write his name on the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. Now we have this terrible incident in Arches National Park when a couple of idiots decided to go hog wild and carve their names so deep into the delicate rocks of the region that it can’t be fixed.

Graffiti etched into one of the popular red rock arches in Utah’s Arches National Park may be too deep to be repaired, the park’s superintendent said on Thursday.

The vandalism, which was discovered by park staff last Saturday and includes names and numbers, spans about six feet on the so-called Frame Arch, park superintendent Kate Cannon said.

The site of the graffiti is near a hiking trail to one of the park’s main attractions, Delicate Arch, a 64-feet high sandstone structure that has been known to draw hundreds of visitors at a time.

Authorities have not yet identified any suspects, Cannon said. In a post on their Facebook page, park officials appealed to the public for information that would lead them to the culprits.

Defacing a national park can lead to a sentence of six months in prison and a $500 fine, according to the website for the U.S. Department of Justice.

How about 50 years in Supermax for something like this? What’s really frustrating is that this took so long that others must have seen it. How could you not intervene if you saw this? Walking up and punching them would be a good start.

The Ultimate Trump Supporter

[ 84 ] May 3, 2016 |


A friend posted this on Facebook the other day. It is an excerpt from Brenda Elsey, “Cultural Ambassadorship and the Pan American Games of the 1950s” just published in the International Journal of the History of Sport.

“The death knell of the Pan-American Games may have sounded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 8 July 1979. at evening, the Brazilian women’s basketball team entered the gymnasium to begin their practice. To their surprise, the US men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight barred their entrance. Knight claimed that the Brazilians arrived early and asked a police officer to eject them. The Brazilian women reported that Knight called them ‘prostitutes’. When the officer refused to eject the Brazilian squad, an altercation ensued. According to the police officer’s testimony, Knight punched him on the left side of the face and yelled, ‘get your dirty hands off me, ni**er’. The officer arrested Knight, but sports delegates orchestrated his release in time to coach the men’s final game. Knight justified his behaviour as a patriotic reaction to the anti-Americanism among the rest of the continent. A judge convicted Knight of assault in absentia and sentenced him to six months in jail. Knight refused to appear in court for the trial or sentencing, stating, ‘the only f__king thing they know how to do is grow bananas’. Puerto Rico’s delegate to the International Amateur Basketball Federation, Genaro Marchand, called Knight, ‘an ugly American’. Despite his behaviour, Knight received support at home. The president of Indiana University refused his resignation and he continued to coach the US Olympic basketball team.”

In other words, Bobby Knight is the perfect Trump voter.

Why #NeverTrump Was Never Going to Work

[ 203 ] May 3, 2016 |

The party is coalescing around the nominee:


International Man of Principle Bill Kristol is getting the message:

“I mean, I guess never say never. On the one hand, I’ll say #NeverTrump, and on the other hand, I’ll say never say never.”

Watching the #NeverTrump crowd move into the Trump camp as his nomination becomes ever less evitable is going to be highly entertaining.

…when he’s right, he’s right:

The key to a more egalitarian society is for everyone to go to elite colleges

[ 144 ] May 3, 2016 |


Now nobody actually comes right out and says this, for the obvious reason that it sounds pretty idiotic when you say it out loud. But a lot of people sort of believe it anyway:

Higher education, once seen as the nation’s great leveler, has become a guardian of class division and privilege in America. At the country’s most selective schools, three percent of students come from families in the bottom economic quartile, while the top economic quartile supplies 72 percent. A high-achieving poor student is only one-third as likely to go to a competitive school as her wealthier counterpart.

If you’re actually interested in attacking class distinctions, as opposed to looking for tips on exactly what you have to do to get Cameron and Abigail into the most selective preschool in the area, you will notice that there’s something rather disturbing about the math in this paragraph. To wit: a “rich” kid (broadly defined) is twenty-four times more likely to go to a selective college than a “poor” kid (broadly defined.)

Is this because selective colleges are discriminating against poor kids? Well obviously they are, in the sense that their selection criteria result in schools with essentially no poor kids (again, “poor” here is a term of art, meaning lower middle or working class, as well as actually poor). What to do?

It doesn’t seem as if closing this gap should be so difficult. Some 30,000 low-income high school seniors in America each year are top students but don’t go to selective schools, or to college at all. Catharine Bond Hill, a prominent economist who studies equity in higher education, found that the share of low-income students at highly selective colleges could rise by 30 to 60 percent with no decrease in academic quality.


About 3.3 million people graduate from high school in the USA every year. 30,000 is less than one percent of that total. So, based on current entrance criteria, the hypothetical creation of a perfectly egalitarian system of admissions, in which SES had no effect whatsoever on an applicant’s chances of admission to a selective college, would result in an increase of what is essentially a statistical handful of “poor” (sic) kids getting into such schools. (If currently 3% of students at selective colleges are “poor,” a 30% to 60% increase in this figure would result in between 3.9% and 4.8% of all students at those colleges falling into this economically ecumenical category).

Also, too:

Getting a bachelor’s degree is the best way to escape poverty.

Wait, are we talking about selective colleges, or just college? Apparently the former:

Talented students should go to the best college they can — and not just for the career advantages later. A student who could get into a top school is nearly twice as likely to graduate there than if she goes to a noncompetitive school. The top colleges are the only ones where students of all income levels graduate at the same rates. The reason is money: Selective colleges are richer. They can afford to provide specialized counseling and lots of financial aid. And running out of money is the most common reason people drop out.

Again, nobody ever says “let’s make society more equal by sending more people to selective colleges” because, you know, math: The overwhelming majority of Americans (conservatively, 95%) can’t go to selective colleges, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS FOR A COLLEGE TO BE SELECTIVE.

Indeed a large majority of Americans won’t graduate from college, period — one third of adults have college degrees, up from 5% in 1950 — because among other things college functions as a signaling mechanism and a purveyor of positional goods (i.e., degrees) and as college degrees become more common the signal becomes fuzzier and the goods become less valuable (by definition).

In sum if your egalitarian social theory is that the way to attack social inequality is to send more poor kids to Vassar — or indeed any college — you need a better theory. But that theory is what passes for social criticism on much of what passes for the liberal left in contemporary America.

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