Photo of the day

From a recent photos of the day gallery from the Telegraph:

The shape of Mount Hood is cast as a shadow as the sun rises through clouds near Portland, Oregon

The shape of Mount Hood is cast as a shadow as the sun rises through clouds near Portland, OregonPicture: Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian via AP

Trump and the GOP

Two really great columns recently on how Trump is the apotheosis of the modern Republican Party.  First, Robert Kagan:

Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? [all emphases mine] Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself…

Then there was the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks. No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces? Who opposed any plausible means of dealing with the genuine problem of illegal immigration, forcing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to cower, abandon his principles — and his own immigration legislation — lest he be driven from the presidential race before it had even begun? It was not Trump. It was not even party yahoos. It was Republican Party pundits and intellectuals, trying to harness populist passions and perhaps deal a blow to any legislation for which President Obama might possibly claim even partial credit. What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?

Oh man, good stuff.  And sadly, very much spot-on.  And a great take from Josh Marshall that hits similar points:

This is a fairly good description of what the media is now wrongly defining as the GOP’s ‘Trump problem’, only in this case the problem isn’t programming debt. It’s a build up of what we might call ‘hate debt’ and ‘nonsense debt’ that has been growing up for years.

This crystallized for me after the last GOP debate when Trump told Chris Cuomo in a post-debate interview that the IRS might be coming after him because he’s a “strong Christian.” Set aside for the moment how this unchurched libertine was able to rebrand himself as a “strong Christian.” What about the preposterous claim that he is being persecuted by the IRS because he is a devout member of the country’s dominant religion? Republicans simply aren’t in any position to criticize this ludicrous claim because they have spent years telling their voters that this sort of thing happens all the time – to Christians, conservatives, everyone the liberals at the IRS hate. And this, of course, is just one example of hate and nonsense debt coming due. Shift gears now and they’re “RINOs.” …

Until now GOP elites have managed to maintain a balance or needle-threading sleight of hand wherein the GOP had become the functional equivalent of a European rightist party (UKIP or French National Front) yet masqueraded as a conventional center-right party (UK Conservatives or French Republicans) – all under the go-along leadership of the people The Washington Posteditorial page imagines run the GOP. But the set up was already under extreme strain, as evidenced by the 2011 debt default drama, the 2013 Cruz shutdown and the end of the Boehner Speakership in 2015. Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he’s done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.

Yes!  Trump is not something new and totally different, rather he just far more nakedly represents what the contemporary Republican Party has so sadly devolved into.

What Donald Trump knows about his supporters

They don’t like Black people.  Sure, there’s plenty more to it, but that part is true.  Somehow, I expect his refusal to disavow the support of the KKK of all things will still not hurt him.

Oh, and on a totally related note, check out this graph from a post on the relationship between white ethnocentrism and support for various Republican candidates:


The graph below shows that, among Republicans, ethnocentrism was more strongly related to support for Trump than to support for the other GOP candidates. Republicans with the highest levels of ethnocentrism using this measure were about 15 points more favorable toward Trump, compared with those who had the lowest levels of ethnocentrism.

Are you a racist if you support Trump?  No.  Are racists a lot more likely to support Trump?  Hell yes.

Photo of the day

This gallery of nature photographs from The Scottish Seabird Nature Photography Awards (via the Telegraph, of course) is awesome.  This wasn’t even the winner.

The tenth annual Scottish Seabird Centre Nature Photography Awards

Nature’s Foragers: Kingfisher With Fish by Bob Humphreys Picture: Bob Humphreys

Quick hits (part II)

1) A nice example of how Obamacare is actually keeping people healthier (and saving us all money).

2) Great to see that real progress is being made against the horrible-ness that is shark fin soup.

3) Benjamin Wallace-Wells on the problem with “the lanes” analogy everybody has been using.


[Romney strategist Stuart Stevens’] view is that the political profession became obsessed, in this election cycle, with the theory that there are certain fixed “lanes” in the Republican Party—establishment, conservative, libertarian—and that each candidate’s first task is to win within his lane. (“Our theory was to dominate the establishment lane,” Jeb Bush’s strategist Mike Murphy told the Washington Post, in a postmortem. “The establishment lane turned out to be smaller than we thought it would be.”) So Bush, Cruz, Rubio, and the others have been content to fight for supremacy within smaller and smaller segments of the electorate, while Trump competes for all of the voters. Stevens disdained the lanes theory. “It’s like some mass hysteria—it’s like the tulip mania of politics,” he said. Meanwhile, “Trump is concerned with winning the election.”

4) Google doing some good for the first amendment.

5) Enough with “leadership” already.  Not everybody should be a leader.

6) Can I just say I’m not the least bit surprised that a Texas school dramatically increased recess time and saw great results.  Heck, works for the whole country of Finland.


7) David Frum on the limits of Super Pac’s.

Never has so much bought so little of what it was meant to buy. Obviously the funds expended on behalf of Jeb Bush have bought a great deal for a great many people. Even if the estimate of Mike Murphy’s take is overstated—or possibly confuses gross billings by his firm with net income to himself—the 2016 super PACs have provided princely incomes for their principals and comfortable livelihoods for hundreds more. The question that is bound to occur to super PAC donors is: “Are we being cheated?” Increasingly, super PACs look like the political world’s equivalent of hedge funds: institutions that charge vastly above-market fees to deliver sub-market returns…

But having shoved his or her way forward, how much does the politician truly benefit from the super-PAC system? The politician’s natural interest is to spend as little as possible on consultants’ fees. That’s not in the consultants’ interest, obviously. The effect of the super PAC system is to put the consultants, not the politicians, in charge of the largest pools of political money—and then to wrap those consultants’ takings in layer upon layer of non-transparency and non-accountability.

8) America’s un-American resistance to the Estate Tax.  (Though, it’s no secret; a certain political party has a lot to do with this).

9) Honestly, I’ve got too much torture in my life lately.  I’ve reading a very good novel about Mexican drug cartels.  Knew I’d run into torture there.  Also, reading some really good historical fiction about 17th century Indians and Jesuits in Canada.  Did not realize I’d run into so much torture there.  And while doing some research on Native Americans and torture, covered this gruesome article about Comanche Indians.

10) What is it with Ted Cruz and the gold standard.  Such a dumb idea.

11) Enjoyed this take on Apple vs the FBI.

12) Sandoval has said he doesn’t want the job, but nice Greg Sargent on Obama floating his name:

Only two Republican senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine, were brave enough to say that they would vote on President Obama’s nominee. This is what passes for moderation in today’s G.O.P.: simply stating a willingness to do the job you were elected to do.

Unfortunately, for too many Republicans moderation now equals apostasy. These Republicans have stubbornly parked themselves so far to the right for so many years that it is hard to tell whether they can hear how deranged they sound.

The truth is they are afraid — and they should be. They know Mr. Obama has a large pool of extremely smart and thoroughly mainstream candidates from which to choose a nominee. They know that if the American people were allowed to hear such a person answer questions in a Senate hearing, they would wonder what all the fuss was about.

So Mr. McConnell and his colleagues plan to shut their doors, plug their ears and hope the public doesn’t notice. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to rationalize this behavior. Don’t be fooled. It is panic masquerading as strength

13) NYT Editorial laying into Senate Republicans on the issue.

14) Why Indiana Jones never published his research.

15) A former Scalia clerk has some not nice things to say:

Antonin Scalia generally detested science. It threatened everything he believed in. He refused to join a recent Supreme Court opinion about DNA testing because it presented the details of textbook molecular biology as fact. He could not join because he did not know such things to be true, he said. (On the other hand, he knew all about the eighteenth century. History books were trustworthy; science books were not.) Scientists should be listened to only if they supported conservative causes, for example dubious studies purporting to demonstrate that same-sex parenting is harmful to children. Scientists were also good if they helped create technologies he liked, such as oil drills and deadly weapons.

His own weapon was the poison-barbed word, and the battleground was what he once labeled the Kulturkampf, the culture war. The enemy took many forms. Women’s rights. Racial justice. Economic equality. Environmental protection. The “homosexual agenda,” as he called it. Intellectuals and universities. The questioning of authority and privilege. Ambiguity. Foreignness. Social change. Climate research. The modern world, in all its beauty and complexity and fragility.

Most of all, the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs, not weaknesses to be extinguished. Who refuse to dehumanize people and treat them as pawns in some Manichean struggle of good versus evil, us versus them. Who decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn.

16) Nobody ever has really asked my young kids if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend (okay, they ask David now that’s actually a teenager, but that’s okay).  Nice post on how stupid it is to be asking this of the pre-school set.

17) Great Jon CohnStop calling Marco Rubio a moderate!  Simply being to the left of Ted Cruz does not make you moderate.  It just makes you not a complete off-the-deep-end extremist.

18) Really good David Brooks on today’s problem of “antipolitics.”  Really good but for one thing– somehow he writes the whole column without ever mentioning today’s nihilistic Republican party.

19) Is blind hiring the best hiring?


The Bern is over

Results in South Carolina plus current polling make it awfully clear.  Unless there’s some totally unforeseen external shock to the race, the nomination will be Hillary’s.  Credit to Bernie– he’s made far more of a good run then I expect he himself ever believed he would.  He’s kept Hillary honest and forced her to organize and run hard and probably pulled her to the left.  But the revolution will not be happening.  Here’s Nate Cohn on the SC results and what currently polling has to tell us:

She did it the same way that Mr. Obama did: with overwhelming support from black voters, who favored Mrs. Clinton over Bernie Sandersby a stunning margin of 87 to 13, according to updated exit polls — a tally that would be larger than Mr. Obama’s victory among black voters eight years earlier. They represented 62 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls, even higher than in 2008.

The result positions Mrs. Clinton for a sweep of the South in a few days on Super Tuesday and puts the burden on Mr. Sanders to post decisive victories elsewhere. If he does not — and the polls, at least so far, are not encouraging — Mrs. Clinton seems likely to amass a significant and possibly irreversible lead. [emphases mine]

For Mrs. Clinton, the path to the presidential nomination is straightforward: fight Mr. Sanders to a draw among the nonblack voters who dominate the party’s contests in many Northern and Western states, and win by huge margins among black voters, who represent about a quarter of Democratic voters nationally. They represent the majority of Democrats in the South, which will play a crucial role on Super Tuesday…

As a result, the Sanders campaign has effectively conceded the South on Super Tuesday. The campaign is not airing advertisements there, according to NBC News data. It’s instead concentrating resources in five states with far fewer black voters and far fewer delegates: Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont. It is a strategy that aims to maximize Mr. Sanders’s chance of winning states, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent Mrs. Clinton from running up huge delegate leads from the South.

The likelihood of a Clinton landslide in the delegate-rich South means that Mr. Sanders can’t compensate with a few narrow, feel-good wins outside the South. The thing to watch on Tuesday night is whether Mr. Sanders can win by big — even double-digit — margins in states like Minnesota or Massachusetts. The margins matter, because delegates are awarded proportionally in the Democratic nomination contest…

The polling, at least for now, says Mr. Sanders is not positioned to win by these sorts of margins. He’s in a tight race in Massachusetts. He’s in a tight race in Oklahoma, a state with a below-average black population and a large number of working-class Democrats. There is not much polling in Colorado or Minnesota, but there isn’t much evidence of a blowout there or in neighboring Wisconsin.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, predictwise agrees, as Hillary has moved from the 80’s to 95% chance of winning, which strikes me as about right for the circumstances.


Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week gallery:

A stray dog stands among outboard motors that were used by refugees and migrants to reach the Greek northern island of Lesbos, in Mytilene, Greece, on February 23, 2016.

Aris Messinis / AFP / Getty
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