December 3, 2016

This is my last real weekend — weekend weekend.

It's not that I'm not going to work ever again, but I'm never going to have work scheduled on a weekday/weekend schedule once classes end this coming Thursday. That means this is my last chance to feel the feeling that is The Weekend. Not that I'm not working this weekend. I am. But in my own way, on my own schedule.

"Americans' support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply."

"Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president."
In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.... This year, for the first time in the 49 years Gallup has asked about it, less than half of Americans want to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.

"Trump’s win has made the rest of the world more self-righteous, especially here in Pakistan, especially among men."

"He is the final proof, if any proof were needed, that a man can have it all, that a man can be all the man he wants to be — a billionaire and a porn star in his own life’s movie — and still make people love him and trust him with their future."

Wrote Mohammed Hanif in a November 11th NYT op-ed titled "After Trump, Fear and Gloating in Pakistan."

"In the province of Sindh, where I live, licensed shops, usually called wine stores, have operated even since prohibition."

"The stores are supposed to sell only to non-Muslims, but they don’t discriminate. Owners have to pay off the police, though, and any dispute can result in the shops having to close down. The laws can be cruel and absurd. Last summer, the local police in Karachi banned liquor stores from keeping freezers, in order to stop consumers from buying a cold beer. Apparently chilled beer was a threat to our faith and to peace, but warm beer was just warm beer. In late October, a High Court judge ordered the closure of all these stores after accepting a petition that said alcohol is prohibited not only in Islam but in Christianity and Hinduism, too. This ban means that only those who can afford imported liquor will keep buying from a flourishing network of bootleggers.... The rich drink in their own homes and frolic or puke on their own lawns, but the assumption is that if the poor get drunk in public spaces, they’ll make a nuisance. Which is why those who can afford fine scotches can also afford to give everyone else lectures about our religious duties. It seems that those who suck the blood of poor people want to make sure it’s not tainted with cheap alcohol...."

Writes the novelist Mohammed Hanif in a NYT op-ed titled "Pakistan Has a Drinking Problem."

What a delightful writing style! I'm going to read all his other NYT op-eds — there are 10 of them — linked here. Why have I not noticed him before?

Here's one of his novels, "A Case of Exploding Mangoes."

The pressure on Obama to pardon Bowe Bergdahl and put him out of reach of the President-elect who has him “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”

Obama gave up 5 Taliban detainees to get Bergdahl back, and now Bergdahl, who faces trial for desertion and misbehavior, is pushing for a pardon.
At rallies, Mr. Trump repeatedly brought up the prisoner exchange as a bad deal. At a town hall-style meeting in August 2015, for example, he called Sergeant Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and pantomimed shooting him. Mr. Trump also falsely claimed that Americans were killed searching for Sergeant Bergdahl and that the five Taliban ex-detainees were back on the battlefield.....

The administration transferred the Taliban detainees without obeying a statute requiring it to notify Congress 30 days before the transfers.... In addition, former soldiers came forward to describe the circumstances of his capture, accusing him of desertion. That fueled Republican complaints that sending the Taliban detainees to Qatar had been too steep a price....
The argument for a pardon seems to be that a Trump administration cannot give Bergdahl a fair trial.

"Of course, if you expect the pressure groups on our side of the fence to act as a unit on their perceived interests, then you can’t expect another self-identified group not to act as a unit on its perceived interests."

"In this case, the actors are the suddenly consolidated working-class white people, the Irish and the Jews and a lot of Italians and plenty of Middle Europeans, Poles and Czechs, all those others who once had to be addressed separately but now, in the face of a growing minority-majority nation, cling together in one gang.... It was the belief that one interest/identity group—those white-working-class guys—wasn’t necessary to win elections that seems to have been the fatal flaw of the Clinton campaign; they were right in the sense that it wasn’t necessary to win the popular vote, which they did. But it was necessary to win decisive counties in purple states. Why the voters they didn’t get were no longer gettable is a good question, but the answer can’t be that liberals were paying too much attention to the voters they could... [I]f all you do is push down on a seesaw, the other end goes up. If all you do is assert the importance of your side’s pressure groups, other pressure groups will feel threatened and act out...."

That's Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker, out and proud as a Democratic Party partisan, and — as I read it — essentially letting Trump off the hook on the racism charge.

"China's reaction is relatively mild. It doesn't want to get off on the wrong foot with Mr Trump."

"And it sees Mr Trump as an inexperienced politician, so for now it's willing to forgive him and not play this up."
It may also be somewhat reassured by statements from the US that its policy on China and Taiwan has not changed. But behind the scenes it's safe to say China is working hard to "educate" the Trump team on not repeating such diplomatic faux pas.
Trump didn't know what he was doing?

ADDED: Trump is in a position to leverage other people's belief that he doesn't know what he is doing. Those not burdened by feelings of inferiority and incompetence can resist showing off how much they know and even lure those who think they're smart into giving away more than they would if they believed their antagonist had superior knowledge and skill.

One used to hear of clever lawyers who got their adversaries to perceive them as just an old country lawyer.

AND: From "So, Why Can't You Call Taiwan?" by David A. Graham in The Atlantic:
As is typically the case with Trump, it’s hard to tell whether this blithe overturning of protocol is intentional or simply a result of not knowing, or caring, better.

There are various reasons Trump might be intentionally poking China. Trump spoke harshly about China throughout his presidential campaign, accusing Beijing of currency manipulation, land-grabbing, and taking advantage of the United States. He also showed a willingness, if not an eagerness, to slaughter nearly every sacred cow of American foreign policy.

Some Trump confidants have suggested existing policy on Taiwan should become one of them. John Bolton, who served as Bush’s ambassador to the UN, has been advising Trump, and Bolton has been a very public advocate of the U.S. cozying up to Taiwan in order to show strength against China....
Remember when Obama made the Dalai Lama go in the back door, past the trash bags? To not anger the Chinese?

Obama's foreign policy is to cower. We are weak, but he talks about how essential we are. I don't know if Trump is going to be a disaster or a delight, but I can't hear criticisms of him right now because I'm too busy looking at the fecklessness of our current president.

"So, to quote from one of Dylan’s transformative anthems which holds as much meaning today as it did when it was first sung in the 1960..."

Said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing (by video) a crowd that had assembled for a Coldplay concert. He then quoted:
"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don’t criticise, what you cannot understand. Your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command. Your old roads rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’."
People knew what he was talking about: demonetization. His address even had a joke about Rs 100 notes:
"You have been smart in asking me to only address the gathering and not sing, else I’m pretty sure your audience would be asking you for their money back, and that too in Rs 100 notes."
Social media reacted:

And other Bob Dylan songs are pressed into service:

That's from "Blowin' in the Wind," quoted to refer to reports that demonetization in India is killing people. The new policy — imposed suddenly and meant to control black money and counterfeiting — is a ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes. So people have had to line up to exchange their large notes for smaller notes, like those Rs 100 notes Modi saw fit to joke about. And there are reports that more than 50 people have died waiting in bank queues.

December 2, 2016

"Mattis is also informally known as a 'warrior monk'..."

"... a nod to his intellect and expertise as well as his marital status: 66-year-old Mattis has never wed."

Why do you think that happened? 2 explanations spring to my mind. A third as well, but it seems much less likely. Or okay, there are 4 things, and now they all seem equally likely.

Rush Limbaugh gives me a shout out and called something I said "astute" — but there was something about it he had to contradict... which makes me say something that might be even more astute.

On the show today:
Ann Althouse. She's from Wisconsin. She has a blog -- she's had it for a while -- and she wrote a blurb last night, a post, about two political science professors who have recently discovered the term "low-information voter" and sought to define it.
He was pointing at this post of mine from yesterday, where I criticized the professors for characterizing Trump voters as "low-information" voters. I said that Rush Limbaugh has used the term for years "to refer to the people who are accepting the view of the world presented in the mainstream media (which he sees as thoroughly biased in the liberal direction)."

I thought polisci professors ought to be informed about what's on Rush Limbaugh's show, and I made the wisecrack that if "you're writing about American politics," and you don't know what's on Rush's show, "then you yourself are low-information."

Rush said my observation was "very kind" and "astute," but as he went on, I could see that he didn't really agree with the way I'd defined the term I'd given him credit for coining. In fact, ironically, the definition he proceeded to give matched up pretty well with the polisci profs' definition!

The polisci profs —  Richard Fording and Sanford Schram — had said:
Low information voters are those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues.
That part of their definition fits with what Rush said on his show today when he got very specific about what he meant by the term. He said he coined the term back in 2008:
There was a TIME Magazine story that literally said a voluminous number of Obama voters never followed the news. And I said, "Well, there you go!" (laughing) I mean, makes perfect sense. So low-information voters began as low-information voters. They don't know anything! They don't follow the news. They're pure addicts of pop culture... but they don't have the slightest knowledge of politics. And they haven't been taught much about it, and that's what low-information voters are....
So that's different from what I said, which was that they do listen to the news, but — in Rush's view — they don't get enough information because the mainstream news has so much liberal bias. Rush is actually pretty close to what Fording and Schram said, it's just that the professors looked at the people whose lack of information coincided with liking Trump and Rush was looking at the people whose lack of information coincided with liking Obama.

If you lack information but you vote, what is your vote based on? The professors said:
Our research finds that Trump has attracted a disproportionate (and unprecedented) number of “low-information voters” to his campaign. Furthermore, these voters are more likely to respond to emotional appeals — whether about the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama. They are the ideal constituency for a candidate like Trump.
Now, Trump won. So did Obama. Maybe elections are won by whoever does best at reeling in the LIVs.

I wonder if Fording and Schram have applied their science to the 2008 election. If they did, maybe they would write that their research finds that Obama has attracted a disproportionate number of low-information voters. That's what the old TIME Magazine article seems to have said.

And then wouldn't it also be that those voters too were swayed by emotional appeals? Fording and Schram list some emotional issues they think may have worked to bring LIVs to Trump — "the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama."

But you could make a comparable list of emotional issues that brought LIVs to Obama — hating the war, fearing climate change, and the thrill of the first African-American President.

"Attorneys for President-elect Donald Trump have moved to block the vote recount in Pennsylvania, adding to complaints filed to stop similar proceedings in Michigan and Wisconsin."

Politico reports:
"Despite being no more than a blip on the electoral radar, [Jill] Stein has now commandeered Pennsylvania's electoral process, with an eye toward doing the same to the Electoral College," the complaint filed Thursday states. "There is no evidence -- or even an allegation -- that any tampering with Pennsylvania's voting systems actually occurred."

"This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally."

"The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up."

Said Corey Lewandowski at the election post-mortem at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, covered by The Washington-Post in "Shouting match erupts between Clinton and Trump aides."

The Post snarks that Lewandowski was complaining that "Journalists accurately reported what Trump said."

I missed the event, but it sounds to me as though Lewandowski was saying that the media didn't understand — or pretended not to understand — they way Trump was reaching people. I presume that  Lewandowski was making the same point that was made in the widely admired and shared piece by Salena Zito that appeared in the September 23, 2016 issue of The Atlantic, "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally":
When he makes claims like [only 41.5% of 16 to 24-year old blacks are employed], the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.

When I presented that thought to him, he paused again, “Now that’s interesting.”
The WaPo article has lots more about the Kennedy School event, with particular emphasis on the Clinton aides beating up on Kellyanne Conway. I don't think I need to say that Conway held her own, but don't look to WaPo to present her as a feminist heroine. Her performance is predictably underplayed, making the article rather boring, as WaPo, on December 2nd, sinks back behind its paywall for me.

"Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq."

Wrote General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis, in a letter from a few years back (which is getting shared this week, now that Trump has named Mattis for Secretary of Defense). Mattis was reacting to people who say they're too busy to read.

Trump told the Prime Minister of Pakistan he would "love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people."

Quoted in the NYT article "Trump’s Breezy Calls to World Leaders Leave Diplomats Aghast."

Trump talks like Trump. What if big-shot leaders respond well that sort of thing? What if it works? Trump has been talking to powerful people over big stakes for a long time. It's possible that he knows what he's doing. But the unnamed diplomats are "aghast"...

"We need to remove arbitrary barriers to service by women in our armed forces... There is no draft in today's military..."

"... but it is difficult to say we have true equality if we continue with a Selective Service system that only requires compulsory service from men."

Said Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The chair of the committee is John McCain, and he had no comment yesterday, as a spokesman said President Obama supports requiring women to register for the draft.

Registering for the draft is a symbolic ritual... until the draft becomes real. Is the symbolism of equality worth it? The government, if it ever reinstates the draft, can opt only to call up the males on the list. So why not go for equality in the symbolism? Perhaps the better question is: Why put young people through this symbolic ritual? Or: Why discriminate against men, subjecting only them to the ritual?

As for an actual draft, compelling men and women into service, I have never been able to picture Americans accepting forcing their daughters into combat. But if you allow women in combat and you force women into service, would we tolerate a system in which, when it comes to combat, women have a choice and men do not?

(I've thought about these questions a lot, because Rostker v. Goldberg comes up in Conlaw2. That's the 1981 case that said males-only registration doesn't violate the Equal Protection Clause. And for the record: My mother was a WAC in WW2.)

"French President François Hollande announced Thursday that he will not run for re-election, citing his unpopularity and likely inability to garner enough support."

That's pronounced gar-NAY in French.

Hollande's popularity is at 4%. I just typo'd "poopularity" for some reason. Must be my French accent.
He is the first French president since the war not to attempt to run for re-election.

François Fillon, the right’s presidential candidate and the favourite to win next spring, said Hollande had “admitted with lucidity that his obvious failure stopped him going any further”. Fillon, who last week called Hollande’s presidency “pathetic”, said Hollande’s presidency was ending in a “political shambles”.
"The war" means The Second World War.

"In the back of my head, I can still hear my dad’s voice: 'Take your time, but hurry up.'"

The thoughts of a 29-year-old man, who, hunting for elk in Montana, "came upon a sleeping grizzly bear nestled in the dirt in the middle of the trail, all but concealed by foggy conditions and the animal’s muddy brown fur."
In the dim morning light, [Justin] Souza had strayed within 10 yards of the sleeping giant. The hunter’s presence did not go undetected, however. The grizzly stirred, lifting its head a little to get a glimpse of who had disturbed its slumber. Then, the bear put its head back down. Meanwhile, Souza backpedaled, putting distance and a tree between him and the grizzly. He flipped the safety off his rifle, just in case. The bear jumped up, but began lumbering away from the hunter, up the hillside. Souza relaxed. Figuring this was the final phase of the encounter, he took out his phone to capture a video clip of the retreating grizzly. But the bruin abruptly spun around, and barreled back down the hill, making a beeline toward the hunter.
In the video, the first second shows the great speed of the bear. The rest is only audio, but you can try to imagine where the bear is at the point when the first rifle shot is heard. Souza's breathing after the shots also fills out the story. The camera is shut off. He does not perform photography on the dead beast, but I bet you will go back to the beginning to see that second of live bear at least one more time.

"Souza said the bear huffed violently and lunged, blood pouring from its mouth in its final moments, still heaving as its inertia brought it sliding down the hill toward him until after the fourth and final shot."

Trump condemns bigotry in all forms and envisions an inclusive America premised on our own American dream.

I picked out this clip from Trump's Cincinnati "Thank You" rally. I wish I had a transcript. Perhaps later.

"People would understand if this were a proposal that would destroy the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Temple Mount."

Said the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association lawyer about the proposal to build a ski resort in the place the Ktuxana Nation call "Qat'muk" — "where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world."

If grizzly bears relocate out of this area, the Ktuxana believe that they will lose the guidance of the spirit.
[The developer of the resort] says he does not believe the resort would violate anyone's ability to believe in their faith or to practise it but is leaving it up to "constitutional scholars" to debate its impact on religious freedoms.
You probably don't believe there is any such thing as the Grizzly Bear Spirit, so bears leaving the area could not mean that any spirit has actually gone. The Ktuxana will not be stopped from believing anything they want to believe, but what they believe will change if the ski resort is built. The belief that the Grizzly Bear Spirit is there, benefiting them, will be replaced by a belief that Grizzly Bear Spirit has deserted them. So is it correct to say that the government, authorizing the building of the ski resort, puts a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion?

I don't know the details of Canadian law, but the case is reminiscent of the 1988 American case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, in which the Yurok, Karuk, and Tolowa tribes failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that the government puts a substantial burden on their religion if it allows the building of a logging road in the Chimney Rock area of the Six Rivers National Forest, which the tribes hold sacred.

Obviously, these cases only happen because the Native Americans do not — not in a legal sense — own the land.

December 1, 2016

"This particular round of hostility between Reddit's leadership and the pro-Trump board began when Reddit banned r/pizzagate..."

"... a subreddit devoted entirely to supporters of a conspiracy theory accusing Democrats of running a secret child trafficking ring, headquartered in a Washington pizza shop. The New York Times and others have debunked the theory, which has only encouraged its believers to implicate those debunkers in the conspiracy, too. Reddit shut down the subreddit, which had a lot of crossover membership with r/The_Donald... The Trump-supporting subreddit has long accused Reddit of trying to censor them because of their political beliefs.... Over the past several months, r/The_Donald has been extremely skilled at exploiting Reddit's algorithms to spam the site with aggressive pro-Trump memes, conspiracy theories and inside jokes. Reddit had to change one of its algorithms over the summer to try to stop r/the_Donald from dominating the board that displays all of Reddit's content, known as r/all. [Chief executive Steve] Huffman said Wednesday that 'stickied' posts from r/the_Donald's moderators would no longer appear on r/all, at all... In response to Huffman's announcement, r/The_Donald's mods stickied a tweet from Lauren Southern: 'Soft quarantine for @thedonaldreddit & @reddit is acting like they're benevolent for not outright banning the sub.'"

From "Reddit to crack down on 'most toxic users' of pro-Trump forum."

ADDED: This news story made me look up  r/The_Donald. I started reading this discussion:
I don't like Trump, and I didn't vote for Trump... but I support T_D wholeheartedly for one reason. And that is because there have been numerous times in the past few months where the only place on this site where certain news stories were allowed was /r/The_Donald. I want a diversity of ideas and opinions, not an echo-chamber of my beliefs.