Friday, 5/20/16

  1. The Year of the Disrupter
  2. The Rhyming
  3. What antidote for torpor?
  4. Expecting too much
  5. Antisemitism, left and right
  6. Duly noted. Stay tuned.


Tensions in the Republican presidential race exploded over the weekend. Supporters of Donald Trump shouted, cursed and threw chairs during a state party convention in which they failed to force rules changes they wanted. Even though they were attempting to get more delegates than the caucus results in the state suggested they deserved, they attacked the process as unfair. The state party chair subsequently received death threats against her and her family.

Mr. Trump responded with self-righteousness and hypocrisy. He released a statement in which he listed a series of procedural complaints about the convention, attacked the Republican Party for not being inclusive enough and warned that “millions of Americans are outraged” and that “the political world is changing.” He offered a throwaway line, three paragraphs down, condemning his supporters’ hooliganism in a statement that mostly justified it.

(Washington Post Editorial) Well, I, er, slightly modified it to put Donald Trump in the position of Bernie Sanders, the GOP in the position of the Democrats.

But it’s plausible, isn’t it? Donald Trump really isn’t the only disrupter in this election cycle, and the success of Sanders testifies to Democrat failures toward some constituencies every bit as much as Trumps testifies to Republican shortcomings.


One of the backwater debates this year has been whether Trump is a fascist or just a narcissistic a**hole. I’m in the fascist camp, but his insincerity and shape-shifting make it a close call:

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

(Robert Kagan)

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.


Too many people are simply not paying attention. We are comfortable in our nice homes with our wicked-fast internet and cable television, the endless Best Buys and Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bed, Bath and Beyonds as far as the homogenized eye can see. Most people simply do not know that the water has heated up to a rapid simmer, almost a boil.

Something has to awaken our friends and family from their lethargy. Will it be men showering with girls? Will it be nuns sent to jail?

The chances of jailing the Little Sisters slipped away a bit this week with the rather odd decision of the US Supreme Court ordering the lower court rulings against the Sisters to be vacated and ordering the Obama administration and the Little Sisters to agree on an accommodation proposed by the Court …

What a lot of nonsense this has been. President Obama has picked a fight with a congregation of nuns who care for the indigent elderly. Obama has decided that their work is not Catholic, according to the accommodation he so graciously offered only to churches. Someone said that Jesus Christ himself would not qualify for the religious exemption offered by Emperor Barack because Obama says you’re not Catholic if you minister to those of other faiths.

(Austin Ruse, Alas, the Little Sisters Are Not Going to Jail)

A brief reprise of the SCOTUS decision in the Little Sisters’ case. I noted Wednesday that the outcome is a substantive victory for the Little Sisters. I perhaps should have focused more on the oddity of the substantive victory being formally a “punt,” as the metaphor seems to be taking root. It really is extraordinary for a court not to decide a case, as did SCOTUS here. Yet, if you grant that not polarizing the country further by an explicit rebuke to Team Obama is a good idea, the form does seem Solomonic.

It will be interesting to see if this Solomonic precedent spawns progeny.


She tapped into an equally persistent theme in the one book she wrote without her husband, “The Angry American: How Voter Rage Is Changing the Nation” (1996).

In that book, she identified deep-seated voter anger, fueled by an uncertain economy, cultural divisions and disenchantment with government, as a potent force that politicians needed to understand and harness. “People hate government,” she wrote, “because they expect more than government can possibly deliver, particularly in this era of budget constraints.”

In a sense, the book offered a preview of the current political climate. “Remember Peter Finch flinging open the window in the movie ‘Network’ and screaming, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’” she wrote in her introduction. “The question of the decade is, What happens now that the window has been opened?”

(From the New York Times Obituary for Susan J. Tolchin, political scientist and author of several books)


American Jews and their “defense” organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League tend to be exquisitely attuned to real or potential anti-Semitism emanating from the right, much less so from the left. For example, in January, before the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz attacked Trump for having “New York values”; Hillary Clinton suddenly opened up about her Christian religious beliefs while fending off a challenge from a Jewish candidate; and Bernie Sanders was busily attacking “a handful of people on Wall Street [who] have extraordinary power over the economic and political life of our country.” Only Cruz’s comment received attention as an alleged anti-Semitic dog whistle, even though Clinton’s and Sanders’s statements were objectively at least as open to that charge.

(David Bernstein)


A federal Judge in Brownsville, Texas has absolutely hammered the Department of Justice for the unethical behavior of its lawyers in defending President Obama’s immigration executive actions.

The behavior sounds pretty egregious, but the Order sounds a bit high-handed, too. Put it in the “duly noted” and “stay tuned” categories.


Surprisingly, Hanen does not discuss whether he has the legal authority to impose this remedy. Most of the people who have to comply with this order are lawyers who will never enter Hanen’s jurisdiction and have nothing to do with the DAPA case. Hanen is even trying to regulate practices in state court in other states. If a DOJ lawyer plans to appear in in state court in Maine in 2021, Hanen in Brownsville, Tex., believes he has the power now to regulate that. Given Hanen’s focus in his order with making sure government officials “play by the rulebook,” I’m interested to know what rulebook governs Hanen’s remedy and whether he is playing by it. But we may have to wait until the government appeals Hanen’s order to find out.

  • Ilya Shapiro, writing at the Libertarian Cato Institute (emphasis, with which I disagree, added, although “much if not all” is an equivocal prediction):

I can’t overstate how unusual such a sanctions order is. Judge Hanen even said that in a normal case, he’d simply strike the guilty party’s pleadings – meaning the government’s entire defense, handing a summary win to the challengers – but he couldn’t do that here because such a move would imperil the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over a case of national import. He also said that he’d disbar the attorneys responsible if he had that power, but instead simply revoked the out-of-state lawyers’ ability to practice in his court pro hac vice (for this case).

Amazing. I’m sure that much if not all of this will be affirmed on appeal.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.