Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | December 31, 2016

So Long, 2016

And good riddance.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | November 8, 2016

Short Link Collection, Election Day Edition

Better late than never.

Incidentally, apparently today is the 18th Brumaire in the French Revolutionary calendar. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.


1. Jonathan Chait: “Here’s How Donald Trump’s Authoritarianism Would Actually Work.”

2. Bruce Blair: “What Exactly Would It Mean to Have Trump’s Finger on the Nuclear Button?”

3. Evan Osnos: “President Trump’s First Term.”

4. Benjamin Wittes has advice for career civil servants on what they can and should do to limit the damage of a Trump administration.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | November 7, 2016

Why the Supreme Court is Not a Good Enough Reason to Vote for Trump

A link collection. (Obviously, meant to post much earlier, but life got in the way.)

1. Jennifer Rubin: “Why the Supreme Court isn’t enough”: “The Supreme Court is not irreparably changed with one new justice. If Trump — heaven forbid — were elected and named one justice to the court, his term could prove so ruinous that he ushers in decades of Democratic rule, which would put many more liberal judges on the Supreme Court and lower courts.” Besides, most of the culture war battles that conservatives have lost in the Supreme Court have already been lost. Also: “One could easily imagine Trump ‘trading’ Democratic support for his wall for a less conservative justice on the court. Remember, he says that everything is up for negotiation. … Trump believes in executive power, to put it mildly. Don’t you suppose he would choose justices who would give him ample latitude to rule by executive decree?” (emphasis in original)

2. George Will: “Do Republicans really think Donald Trump will make a good Supreme Court choice?” A taste:

There is every reason to think that Trump understands none of the issues pertinent to the Supreme Court’s role in the American regime, and there is no reason to doubt that he would bring to the selection of justices what he brings to all matters — arrogance leavened by frivolousness.

Trump’s multiplying Republican apologists do not deny the self-evident — that he is as clueless regarding everything as he is about the nuclear triad. These invertebrate Republicans assume that as president he would surround himself with people unlike himself — wise and temperate advisers. So, we should wager everything on the hope that the man who says his “number one” foreign policy adviser is “myself” (because “I have a very good brain”) will succumb to humility and rely on people who actually know things. If Republicans really think that either their front-runner or the Democrats’ would nominate someone superior to Garland, it would be amusing to hear them try to explain why they do.

See also: “The sinking fantasy that Trump would defend the Constitution.”

3. Ramesh Ponnuru: “Trump’s Meaningless Vow on the Supreme Court”:

Trump’s word is meaningless. He stiffs creditors and contractors. He lies about matters small and large: about having told Republicans to hold their convention in Ohio, about letters he supposedly received from the NFL and about having opposed the Iraq war from the start. Trump isn’t even trustworthy on his signature issue of immigration: He flip-flopped twice in one day during the campaign about whether high-skilled immigrants should be kept out as a threat to American jobs or welcomed as a boon to our economy.

Why would he keep his word on the courts? He doesn’t care about the Constitution or the proper role of judges. When he talks about the Constitution, it’s glibly and dismissively. When it’s suggested that the Constitution might pose an obstacle to his plans, he says it “doesn’t give us the right to commit suicide.” He knows almost nothing about the law: He can’t tell the difference between a judicial opinion and a bill.

The few times he has taken an interest in constitutional issues, he has been on the other side from most conservatives. He thinks the government should have broad power to take people’s property and give it to developers; they don’t. He has used courts as a weapon to silence critics, and thinks it should be easier to use them that way. Most conservatives find that record and that idea appalling. If President Trump asks his aides to find him a judge who agrees with him on these issues, they will start by scrapping his list.

4. David Frum: “The Supreme Court Isn’t a Sufficient Reason to Vote for Trump”: “It’s a Trump commitment, and Trump commitments are notoriously worthless. The only thing you can be sure you get with Trump is … Trump himself. Every other offer is subject to cancellation without notice.” And: “Although Donald Trump cares little about constitutional norms, he cares a lot about getting his own way. … If Donald Trump ever gains the power to nominate a justice of the Supreme Court, what he will seek will not be conservatism. It will be pliability on whatever issue is preoccupying Trump at that particular moment.”

5. Damon Root: “Is SCOTUS a Good Reason to Support Trump? Libertarian and Conservative Legal Experts Weigh In.” Pretty good collection of quick takes.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | October 12, 2016

How We Got To Where We Are

Links on a theme:

1. Noah Smith: “Trump happened because conservatism failed”:

Add all this up, and what do you get? A massive, total failure of all three pillars of modern conservatism within a 15-year period. It’s little wonder, therefore, that Trump voters were unwilling to vote for Republicans who offered them only more of the same – the same economic policies that seemed to cost them their jobs and businesses and wages, the same foreign policies that embarrassed their country, the same social policies that had done nothing to save their families. Even when the conservative ideology was offered with maximum fire and vitriol, in the person of Ted Cruz, they weren’t willing to bite. So they looked around for something else, and Trump was there.

2. Sean Trende & David Byler, RealClear Politics: “What’s Going On With the Republican Race?”:

Because Trump was able to consolidate his branch of the Republican Party so early, while the others have fought among themselves, he’s been able to stay above the fray to a certain extent, and to build an air of inevitability around his nomination.

3. Josh Marshall, TPM: “Making Sense of the Conflagration”:

Trump brings together aggression and narcissism with a kind of militant ignorance which can be harmless or even amusing in the make believe world of reality TV or New York real estate but becomes positively dangerous on a national and global stage, thrashing about like a hose spewing fire. As Will Saletan memorably put it, the GOP is a failed state and Trump is its warlord. On his own Trump is simply a bracing case study in abnormal psychology. But he didn’t shoot to within reach of the most powerful office in the world by happenstance. He is the product of a political and cultural breakdown on the American right, a swaggering reductio ad absurdum of every breach and breakdown and violation of extra-statutory norms we’ve seen over the last two or three decades.

4. David Blankenhorn, The American Interest: “listening to Trump Voters” (footnotes omitted):

The overwhelming majority of those I interviewed simply do not believe that their elected leaders, including those from their own party, are honest or can be trusted even to try to do the right thing. In my view, this sentiment is toxic, particularly in a democracy, and, probably more than any other factor, explains Trump’s rise. He’s an alluring candidate for the large and growing proportion of Americans who believe that the core problem with our politics is politicians.

I learned that many non-affluent Americans fear that the hour is late and that “we’re losing everything.”

I learned that many decent, sincere people who feel disregarded, disrespected, and left behind—in ways that I do not feel and have never felt—can disproportionately embrace political opinions that I view as bigoted or paranoid. And I wonder, if there is fault here, whose fault is it?

I learned that possibly the most significant divide in American life today is the class divide. Much current scholarship, and certainly the interviews reported here, suggest that the approximately one-third of Americans with four-year college degrees are essentially thriving, while the other two-thirds fall further and further behind on nearly every measure. And to make the matter worse, today’s upscale Americans are less and less likely even to interact with, much less actually give a damn about, those other Americans. Again I wonder, if there is fault to be assigned here, where should it be assigned?

5. Alec MacGillis, ProPublica, The Atlantic: “The Original Underclass: Poor white Americans’ current crisis shouldn’t have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has”:

In my own reporting in Vance’s home ground of southwestern Ohio and ancestral territory of eastern Kentucky, I have encountered racial anxiety and antagonism, for sure. But far more striking is the general aura of decline that hangs over towns in which medical-supply stores and pawn shops dominate decrepit main streets, and Victorians stand crumbling, unoccupied. Talk with those still sticking it out, the body-shop worker and the dollar-store clerk and the unemployed miner, and the fatalism is clear: Things were much better in an earlier time, and no future awaits in places that have been left behind by polished people in gleaming cities. The most painful comparison is not with supposedly ascendant minorities—it’s with the fortunes of one’s own parents or, by now, grandparents. The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated. And the bitterness—the “primal scorn”—that Donald Trump has tapped into among white Americans in struggling areas is aimed not just at those of foreign extraction. It is directed toward fellow countrymen who have become foreigners of a different sort, looking down on the natives, if they bother to look at all.

6. Dartagnan, Daily Kos: “Three Words That I Wish I’d Never Hear Democrats Say Again.”

7. Rod Dreher, The American Conservative: “Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People.”

8. David Frum, The Atlantic: “The Impossible Task Facing Republican Leaders”:

For a decade, Republican voters have signaled they wanted to protect Medicare, cut immigration, fight fewer wars, and nominate no more Bushes. Their party leaders interpreted those signals as demands to cut Medicare, increase immigration, put boots on the ground in Syria, and nominate another Bush. Outdated ideology and obstinate donors impelled elected officials onto a disastrous path. More ideology and more obstinacy won’t rescue them from the cul-de-sac into which they walked themselves.

9. Timothy Burke: “The Machine of Morbius”:

What Trump is for many of his closest supporters is someone that scares and horrifies their social enemies, and that’s all he needs to be. Trump is the leader of a social crusade: his meaning is the crusade itself. Trump is a sign, not a man.

Trump is vengeance for every teacher who made someone feel stupid, for every promotion that went to someone with a higher degree, for every younger boss who asked for your TPS reports or moved your cubicle, for every kid who lectured you about intersectionality and told you that you should call yourself ‘cisgendered’, for every tech-sector nouveau riche who bought up all the property in your formerly sleepy town and then relentlessly pressured the school board to put more money into gifted programs and get rid of the trade-school electives.

He’s payback for every memo that told the secretaries they’d have to learn a new software program by Monday or be fired, for every gay marriage the local clerk had to perform, for every corner store where suddenly it seemed one day the customers all spoke Spanish. Trump is punishment for every old blue blood who looked you up and down when you showed up at a social function bursting with pride about your new successful business. Trump is sticking it to the insurance agent who makes you fill out a thousand forms and then denies your claim, for the car inspection that tells you have to make a five-hundred dollar repair that you can’t afford just so the car doesn’t pollute so much, for the social worker who pokes into your life because you slapped your kid in the market once. For every kid that left home to go to the big city, for every sibling that became a meth addict. For every church that closed and every mortgage that went underwater. For every time you were told by someone who presumed to imply authority over you that things you thought were true were false. For the things that you thought would never change that have changed. For the regrets that you cannot bear to admit are your own fault and for the sorrows that come from things done to you by others.

Trump is all of that and more.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | October 10, 2016

Random Art Blogging, October 2016

Frits Thaulow - The Adige River at Verona - Walters 3797

Frits Thaulow, The Adige River at Verona, circa 1894.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | September 30, 2015

Random Art Blogging

Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin 002

Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin, Landscape, circa 1870.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | August 31, 2015

Assorted Links

Glacier Peak 7137b

1. “Have Republicans Learned to Love the Berlin Wall?”: “Yes, you read that right. A former White House official and Reagan aide is demanding that Mexico maintain a Berlin Wall to keep its own citizens from escaping.”

2. Ann Althouse on the psychohistorical forces leading to Trump: “Consider whether Trump is revealing something that has long been true about the American presidency, that he is not such a great outlier. And I’m not just talking about Obama. I’m thinking about all the Presidents I remember in my lifetime. It’s a trajectory, and if you plot it out, you’d see that Trump is next. Trump is next, we are idiots, and we are screwed.”

3. On Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet.

4. The Wild Effect and the Pacific Crest Trail: “Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir about hiking the trail was published in the spring of 2012, and the film version starring Reese Witherspoon came out in December of last year. Before the book was published, about 300 people would take out permits to attempt the full hike, which usually takes four to five months. It’s not yet known how many will try this year, but estimates range from 1,600 to 3,000 — 10 times the number who tried before the book came out.”

5. Game of Thrones is planning on eight seasons.

Image Credit: Glacier Peak, Washington. Photo by Walter Siegmund, August 2003. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | July 25, 2015

Saturday Link Collection

Walnut Street Bridge

So. What’s been happening since I more-or-less went into radio silence:

The UK election. A major earthquake devastated Nepal. ISIS, somehow, endures in Mesopotamia. The Greeks voted to reject proposed terms, and then, when the Powers That Be in Europe were unmoved, the Greek government and parliament accepted substantially the same terms (if not worse). The Affordable Care Act survived its latest litigated challenge. SCOTUS has made marriage equality the law of the land. The US Women’s National Team won the World Cup in spectacular fashion. New Horizons visited Pluto, successfully. The Iran deal. Charleston. Confederate flags have started coming down, even in South Carolina (I would not have predicted that).

And, a week-and-a-half ago, a man decided to shoot up my hometown, killing four marines and one sailor.

Some links for your consideration:

1. A good start: the president has commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent offenders.

2. Steve Saideman: not every threat is an existential threat.

3. “No matter what the parliament decides and whether Greece ultimately stays in the euro or leaves, Europe will pay a price down the road for such a vengeful act.”

4. A schematic guide to the Iran nuclear deal.

5. “No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong.”

6. Frequently asked questions about visiting Japan.

7. An interview with Judy Greer.

8. Big changes are coming to Firefox, supposedly.

9. Sadly, Judge Richard Kopf has decided to stop blogging.

Image Credit: Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photo by Zack Johnston, December 2, 2005. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Paul A. Forsyth | July 15, 2015

Photo of the Day

Charon by New Horizons on 14 July 2015

Pluto’s moon Charon, as imaged by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 14, 2015.

I am told that the dark region toward the north pole of Charon has provisionally been designated Mordor.

Image Source: NASA via Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by: Paul A. Forsyth | July 13, 2015

Getting Close!


Fig. 1: Pluto as imaged by the New Horizons spacecraft, July 7, 2015, at a distance of approximately 8 million km.

New Horizons Full Trajectory Sideview

Fig. 2: New Horizons trajectory through July 13.

Image Source: NASA via Wikimedia Commons.

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