Friday, March 04, 2016

Deep in the Shit in Texas

Something is happening in Texas that the rest of the country needs to heed.  It's not getting a lot of attention, but it should.

It's bad enough that maniacs can get lots of guns, but it's a lot daunting that guns turn people into maniacs.  That's the charitable view of what's been happening in predominately GOPer state legislatures and state houses, as they compete to see who can come up with the most dangerously insane gun legislation.

Not to be outdone, Texas pushed the boundaries with a law that states that its universities MUST allow concealed firearms on campus.

But now that this law is actually going to take effect, the ground is moving beneath Texas, and its deep heart is in deep shit.

First, the law could only cover state-sponsored universities.  Private universities were given the option of allowing open carry and concealed guns.  Since the law goes into effect in August, they're making their choices. So far exactly none of the Texas private universities is allowing guns.  Zero.  This includes Christian colleges, though some are still praying on the matter.

But public universities and colleges have no choice, and it's freaking them out.  At least one University of Texas dean has quit and found a job in another state, announcing his opposition to the law and stating that it was a factor in his decision to get out of  Tombstone.

And that, it is feared, may be just the beginning: a brain drain that includes faculty leaving or not replenishing the ranks, and smarter students not coming at all,  Gee, who could have seen that coming?

As Texas public universities study the law, they find their options are few.  They can apparently keep guns out of dorms but not classrooms.  (How does that work?) But that's apparently still being debated by some universities.

 Meanwhile, the University of Houston has come up with suggestions for managing this new classroom situation, and it boils down to: don't say anything that might make somebody mad.

Don't teach controversial topics.  Unfortunately, as almost everything these days is controversial to someone, that's going to be difficult.  Not to mention an obvious deterrent to learning.  Academic freedom is on its way to becoming the latest victim of guns.  As well as education.

Some professors are pushing back.  Some at the University of Texas have signed a public petition vowing they won't permit guns in their classrooms, citing free speech concerns.  Ya think?

Other states are watching.  Georgia and Tennessee are among states with similar bills in process.  But it's not just southern states.  There are laws on the books in states like Pennsylvania that prevent city and other local governments from regulating guns in their jurisdictions.

 Guns in bars and restaurants, at Little League games, city council meetings, rock concerts, PTA meetings etc. are legal in lots of places now.  And of course,the stories of gun violence in these places, and in homes brimming with firearms, are ever more numerous.

 So why not guns on campus? Where late adolescents are exploring sex, drugs, drinking and new ideas, experiencing group pressures and learning about themselves as individuals, feeling the assumptions they've grown up with challenged in multiple ways (often simply by the presence of students from different backgrounds),  questioning anything and sometimes everything, while worrying about careers, grades, job prospects, teachers, family, each other and how the hell to pay back those loans.  What could possibly go wrong?

The absolutist interpretation of the second amendment trumps all other rights in America. This despite the fact that the words "well-regulated" appear in the amendment text.

So Americans have no right to peaceably assemble, to speak freely, eat lunch or apparently to learn anything, without the high threat level of an armed person going off and maiming and killing friends, family members and total strangers--lots of them, who may never even see who shot them.

We're so focused on the terrorist threat that we spend billions to counter it, and have given up most of our privacy.  But most Americans are less likely to be harmed by a foreign terrorist than by another American with a gun.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


In the Guardian article entitled For the Republican party it's Trumpocalypse Now, Christopher Barron argues--or actually summarizes what we know--that Trump's ascension means the Republican party is out of the hands of its former masters:The Trump campaign and its stunning success represents a fundamental reordering of forces in the Republican party. If you are traditional, limited government conservative in the GOP, this Super Tuesdsay will truly have made you exclaim “the horror, the horror”.

Barron characterizes the change as populist and nationalist, though you'd have to define those two words in a particular way to make that a definition, but hey we all know what he means.  Don't we?

As the GOP goes off in at least two directions--away from and towards Trump--especially until the mid-month winner-take-all primaries add more data--everyone is faced with this erupting ugliness without definition beyond that.  A panel assembled by New York Magazine that tried to predict what a Trump presidency would look like, came up pretty much empty, and at great length.  Nobody knows.  That this is a familiar trope from fiction about the rise of an American dictator, as well as from history elsewhere, is a source of stomach-churning dread.

Fortunately, what the GOPer Establishment apparently didn't see coming, the Democrats are seeing clearly, with plenty of time before the onslaught of the general election campaign.  Even within Trump's victories there are signs, noted by Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard (via Margaret Hartmann) using numbers from the GOPer Never Trump campaign:

The single most shocking number from Super Tuesday might have been this poll showing voter awareness about various aspects of Trump: Only 27 percent had heard about his reluctance to denounce David Duke and the KKK; 20 percent about Trump University and the fraud lawsuit; 13 percent about the failure of Trump Mortgage.

At some point, those numbers will all be at 90 percent because someone will spend a lot of money putting ads about them all over television in battleground states."

Last also offers other evidence suggesting that Trump has peaked.  However, Trump has trumped that so far by attracting hordes of "new" voters (they haven't voted in recent elections), while the Dem primaries see turnout below Yes, We Can levels.

But also fortunately for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton has improved as a candidate and Bernie Sanders is a statesman--he's signaled more than once that there will be no disunity among the Dems, that he's no Ralph Nader.

But it's going to be ugly, ugly, ugly.  Welcome to Trumpocalypse.

We Can't Take This Planet For Granted

Before it becomes even older news, Leonardo DiCaprio's eloquent statement in support of confronting the climate crisis was heard by perhaps a billion people as he accepted the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor.   The shot of him accepting became the most replicated image in Internet history.

It took a very long time since it was suggested (by me, among others, probably) that stars of this wattage needed to bring this issue into awareness, to help create what I once heard Bill McKibben call an "emotional consensus."  Like everything else on this crisis, we've been slow.  Maybe too slow, but we are where we are.  We are maybe close to some general acceptance of the reality of global heating.  And part way towards the emotional consensus to address it.  If this helps, especially the next generations, then maybe we're further along.

DiCaprio also spoke directly of the initial threat to the poor and Indigenous cultures, which are already feeling dramatic impacts, and at least in the near future, may well bear the brunt of the climate crisis effects. He also linked this issue directly to the movie for which he won the Oscar.

Meanwhile, the Guardian fills in some details on why DiCaprio has been outspoken on the climate crisis.  And the Washington Post story, titled Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar speech was about climate change, which is worse than we thought, cites an unnoticed study that suggests that cutting carbon more and faster than the baseline UN figures suggests may be necessary to avoid far future catastrophe.  Attacking the causes more urgently may be required.

Dealing with the effects involves seeing them for what they are, also a problem of perception.  For instance, last week a study showed that sea levels rose faster in the 20th century than in the previous 27 centuries, but might not have risen at all except for the climate crisis effects.  Now another study shows that the costs of sea levels rising "rise faster than the seas themselves."

Figuring that out requires, for one thing, that we see these disparate phenomena and costs as consequences of sea level rise due to the climate crisis.  Only when we see this can we begin to develop strategies for dealing with the problem in all its dimensions.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dead Blogging Super Tuesday

Trump, trump, trump--the marching feet of the disgruntled white GOPer base.  They gave Trump victories in Alabama, Georgia, Tenn., Ark., Massachusetts, and a close victory in Virginia where he overwhelmed the DC area northern Virginia GOPer elites who fled to Rubio.  Trump even won Vermont in a close contest with Kasich.

How could Trump win Mass. by bigger margins than in Georgia?  There are no black or college educated Republicans in Massachusetts.  

Tail Gunner Ted won his home country of Texas and the neighboring territory of Oklahoma.  Yet it's quite possible that this will also turn out to be his biggest delegate night of the primaries.

As for Rubio, he won only Minnesota late in the evening, and he'll have to wait for final vote totals in several states to see whether he got the 20% of the vote minimum to be awarded any delegates there.

While Hillary was still speaking--repeating chunks of her South Carolina victory speech--Rubio was again vowing that Trump would never be President.  His choice quote: "What's at stake my friends, is not just the future of America, but also the future of the conservative movement."  Great priorities, Marco.  For clearly the future of the conservative movement is more important than the future of America.

Later, in a piece with a title I really envy ("Goodbye, Rubio Tuesday") Jonathan Chiat suggests that it's really all over for Rubio, even if he waits for likely defeat in Florida to disappear.

So: Trump trumped, but arguably this is going to be the highlight of the campaign for him.  His victory in Mass. suggests he can sweep away opposition outside the South but his victories are apt to be closer, and the late-deciding voters seem to still going against him.  Once the events of the past week sink in, plus the increasing virulence of the opposition by other GOPers, might mean defeats.

On his night of triumph, Trump tried to sound conciliatory, though he couldn't suppress a bully taunt directed at Paul Ryan.  He made his statement to the media, not a rally, and answered questions.  While refreshing, this may have had as much to do with his last two events--where violence erupted in one, and silent black protesters were evicted from the next--than a strategic decision.

For the Republican Party, the night could hardly have gone worse. Rubio looks to be barely surviving, and Cruz winning states means he stays in.  Even Kasich can be buoyed by his votes in Vermont.  So no single candidate to trouble Trump.

But a fractured Republican party seems all but inevitable anyway.  Ed Kilgore highlighted a Rubio-Trump exchange that suggests that Rubio will not support Trump if he gets the nomination, and if Trump doesn't get the nomination, he may run anyway.  Though in his answers to the media, Trump said he is a unifier, Cruz in his remarks replicated Rubio in saying a Trump candidacy would be a disaster for America and the conservative movement.

For those with prurient interest in these things, the NY Times live blogging of Chris Christie introducing Trump was probably delicious.  Christie called him Massah Trump, and Trump called him Chris, while dissing New Jersey.  Coincidentally, several New Jersey newspapers called for Christie to resign or face a recall vote.

On the Dem side, Hillary replicated her South Carolina coalition for big victories in all the southern states, including Virginia (where the Beltway Dems supported her as the pro in the race.) Bernie won by acclamation in Vermont, and did take Oklahoma after all.  But things got interesting late, with a close Hillary victory in Mass., and both Colorado and Minnesota caucus going to Sanders.  So not a bad night for Bernie.  He ends up way behind in delegates, but tempts the punditry to see trouble for Hillary down the road.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Super Monday

Of course it's Super Monday--this day isn't even supposed to exist!  February 29, come on--how often does that happen?

Well, if it's Feb. 29 it must be an election year, and the Super Tuesday voting is completed tomorrow.  Everybody expects Trump and Hillary to win big.  So the expectations game involves how many states, how big.

Looking at state by state evals, there really isn't much good polling--so a lot of those states are guesswork.  Therefore there will be surprises, at least to the pundits.

The expectations game goes a little like this.  Ted Cruz is expected to win/must win Texas, but can he pick up another state, like Arkansas or Oklahoma?  Otherwise, Trump is expected to win everywhere else, and Rubio is not expected to win any state, but to pick up delegates.  So the pundits will be watching: how many states does he come in second?  But if Rubio wins Minnesota, for instance, then he's exceeded expectations. If he wins Virginia, more so.  If Cruz loses Texas, he's done.

If Rubio and/or Cruz exceed expectations, and Trump's delegate total is around 200, then the screaming really gets loud.  If Trump's total is 300 or more, it's Trumpet fanfares in the Tower; taps, fear and loathing for the rest.

If there's any voter revolt over Trump's Know Nothingisms, it is likely to show up in Minnesota and maybe Virginia or even Massachusetts. If the increasingly beleaguered Trump doesn't win everywhere, the noise gets louder.  If he does, it will sound like the GOPer death march, though Trump's aura of invulnerability will resume.  How justified that is depends in part on how many of these states have early voting.  And how much expected stormy weather affects turnout.

On the Dems, Bernie Sanders is given Vermont, and maybe Colorado and Oklahoma.  Oklahoma seems like a stretch to me. Hillary has raised more money in Okla than all the other candidates in both parties combined. If Hillary wins one or both of the latter, she's exceeded expectations.  If Bernie picks these up, and especially if he gets Massachusetts as well, it's doubting Hillary time again.

Republican candidate frenzy--with Trump and Rubio attacking each other in ways that would get an 11 year old called immature--are they helping either of them?  Or hurting both?  Trust the pundits to plumb the returns for answers, as will their respective consultants.

And yes, I hate myself for following this.  On the other hand, I am enjoying following the Golden State Warriors.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekend Political Update: Hillary's Obama Speech and the Trumpery of Today

After her nearly 50 point win in South Carolina Saturday, Hillary Clinton gave a victory speech that set the template for her Super Tuesday speeches beginning Sunday.  It was strategically positive, both in contrast to Trump and Co., and in line with the Democratic party as transformed by President Obama.

I don't know who Hillary's speech writers are these days, but they're getting very adept at sounding like Obama.  There were lines and cadences that were almost identical, with "imagine" a better future substituting for "hope" and "yes, we can."

She has the same unifying call, and has given it her spin with the organizing terminology of breaking barriers (instead of building walls.)  She's well on the way to identifying with the Obama coalition. She will need to inspire Bernie Sanders' supporters, and with a combination of positive themes and proposals, while making sure everyone knows the dangers of a triumphant Trump, she needs to generate voting.  If South Carolina is the template it seems to be, she's making great progress on the coalition, but not yet on the crucial turnout.

As Trump seems more inevitable and continues his act, Republicans are roiling.  The two aspects of Robert Kaplan's piece noted here last week were that Trump is the monster that GOPers created under the banner of conservatism, and that his candidacy was so extreme that it leads to voting for Hillary.

Others have made a similar case to Kaplan's that this is the current GOPer party's chickens coming home to roost.  And there's more talk of turmoil, but even the talk is in turmoil, as in this Washington Post piece which is boldly headlined The Republican party's implosion has arrived.  Within the piece however is evidence of revolt against Trump (and a few suggestions of not voting for him, though none of voting for Hillary) and also evidence of party members coming to terms with his candidacy, and even welcoming it.  Will GOPers unite behind Hillary hatred and lust for the Court?  That is the to be or not to be question.   

Meanwhile the other candidates are staying in at least until their home state primaries come up. (Ted Cruz saying that if Trump runs the table on Super Tuesday he'll be unstoppable probably means that Cruz feels he's got Texas)  Rubio, who now goes after Trump for everything including his orange spray tan, vows he's in it to the convention.

Trump's failure on Sunday to disavow David Duke and the KKK's support was puzzling to some, convincing others it was part of his southern strategy, and causing Jonathan Chiat to wonder if Trump was channeling the Know Nothings deliberately, or "more likely, he is even stupider than anybody previously believed."  But as Chiat writes, the Know Nothings got that name for doing precisely what Trump did Sunday, saying he knows nothing about white supremacists.  So maybe there is a current dog whistle involved.

Update: The New Yorker collects Trump's record of bigotry.

The David Duke story is likely to resonate for awhile (it quickly inspired a political consultant to declare Trump a bigot no one should vote for), but electorally the more significant Trumpism of the past few days was his ramble about a judge who ruled on an aspect of the Trump University debacle:"there’s a hostility toward me by the judge, tremendous hostility, beyond belief––I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine, he’s Hispanic, which is fine, and we haven’t asked for a recusal, which we may do, but we have a judge who’s very hostile.”

Linking that the judge is Hispanic with a possible Trump move for his recusal is the kind of inflammatory statement that got tagged immediately as "racial demagoguery."  But while others forget it in futile attempt to keep up with Trump's daily outrages, many Latinos will remember.  They will remember this slight, along with Trump's habit of referring to one of his Hispanic opponents as "little Rubio."  The Mexican wall etc. are policy matters, but these kinds of slights are more visceral, and they may be enough to motivate Latinos into the voting booths for the general election.

This I believe will survive a possible Trump pivot after the southern primaries are over.  Any prospective candidate looking at the primary season couldn't fail to notice that the momentum towards the nomination could be almost unstoppable if the south were won.  For GOPers this means appealing to their white base of de facto, closet and out racists.  For Dems it meant the African American voters plus enough urban white collar whites to offset the residual white collar GOPers.

Right now it seems to be working for Trump and Clinton.  By Tuesday night, we'll know better how well it's worked.  But even if Trump's tune changes as primaries move north and west, and the American media gets amnesia, it's very unlikely that black voters and particularly Latino voters will forget the Trumpery of today.