Friday 2/3/17

  1. The Othello Principle
  2. Voting for Prohibition with flasks in their pockets
  3. That Executive Order again
  4. Mario Savio twists in his grave
  5. Judgment redux

1

A small shop posted a sidewalk chalkboard that looked forward to a GREAT 2017. Someone took that as a Trump endorsement — by a Natural Foods shop, no less! — and called for boycott.

“He will not divide us,” is a refrain of some Trump protesters. An impartial observer would say that the anti-Trump zealots need little assistance in creating a climate of division.

Someone close to me observed, “Legitimate opposition to Trump’s policies is rapidly becoming hatred for half the country.” Is that an exaggeration?  Perhaps not.

What is at the root of this hatred?

Those who boycott may be suffering from what Dennis Deaton, in his book The Ownership Spirit, calls the Othello Principle: “The eye sees what the mind looks for.”

In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello is in love with Desdemona. Iago plays on Othello’s jealous nature and convinces Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Othello begins to see evidence that isn’t there. Enraged, Othello kills the innocent Desdemona.

Our reactions are colored by what we are feeling within. Were jealously and rage not in the mind of Othello, he would not have misinterpreted the actions of Desdemona. Author Anaïs Nin credits the Talmud with these words: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

How often we forget that truth about life, we assume that how we are interpreting life is an accurate, camera-like representation rather than an interpretation colored by our inner-state of mind.

(Barry Brownstein) It should not need to be said that the Right does much the same thing (Starbucks virtue signals an immigrant-hiring initiative and watch what happens), though the anti-Trump intensity is extraordinarily high.

I’ve got to remember this “Othello Principle,” though it may differ little from “confirmation bias.”

2

Mencken, ribald observer of American democracy, saw it all coming. Writing just shy of a century ago, the Sage of Baltimore took delight in deriding the dully submissive average American as “a pliant slave of capitalism, and ever ready to help it put down fellow-slaves who venture to revolt.” Yet as Mencken went on to explain, “this very weakness, this very credulity and poverty of spirit, on some easily conceivable tomorrow, may convert him into a rebel of a peculiarly insane kind.” Mencken foresaw the likelihood of people expected to do what they are told one day deciding that they’d had enough.

Simmering popular discontent, he continued, would pave the way for “the professional mob-master, the merchant of delusions, the pumper-up of popular fears and rages” to offer himself as champion of the great unwashed. Other demagogues had already illuminated the pathway for such a “corsair of democracy,” according to Mencken. “There were lightnings along that horizon in the days of [Theodore] Roosevelt; there were thunder growls when [William Jennings] Bryan emerged from the Nebraska steppes.” These, however, were mere preliminaries. “On some great day of fate, as yet unrevealed by the gods,” Mencken predicted, “such a professor of the central democratic science may throw off his employers and set up a business for himself. When that day comes there will be plenty of excuse for black type on the front pages of the newspapers.” …

Conservatives should applaud the way that Trump’s ascent has reenergized left-liberals. After all, in character and temperament, Trump himself represents the antithesis of all that conservatives putatively cherish. For the gaudy Trump, nothing is sacred or fixed or permanent. Everything is for sale. Let’s make a deal.

Furthermore, Trump’s success in hijacking the GOP has exposed the emptiness of that party’s claim to uphold conservative principles or any principles whatsoever. There too, Mencken got it right decades ago. The hypocrites who today preside over the Republican Party are direct descendants of the pols who in Mencken’s day cast their vote for Prohibition “with flasks in their pockets.”

(Andrew Bacevich)

3

Back to the immigration Executive Order with some information that’s new to me:

First, the order is probably unconstitutional. As federal Judge Ann Donnelly wrote in issuing an emergency stay preventing two refugees from being returned to their home countries, “The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that [their removal] violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” To be sure, the petitioners are not citizens. But the 14th Amendment distinguishes clearly between the privileges and immunities of “citizens,” on the one hand, and the due-process and equal-protection rights of “persons” on the other.

The president’s executive order may also violate the Establishment Clause. The White House insists that the order does not create a religious test for immigrants, but there are two indications to the contrary. Over the weekend, former Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that after Mr. Trump announced a “Muslim ban” during the campaign, the candidate came to him and said “put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” Unsurprisingly, Mr. Giuliani produced a Muslim ban in drag.

Moreover, the language of the executive order makes it clear that after the temporary suspension ends, non-Muslims will receive preferential treatment. The secretaries of state and homeland security are directed to give priority to refugee claims made by individuals citing religious persecution, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” For refugees from many of the world’s most dangerous places, this excludes Muslims—including Muslims from a Sunni-majority country such as Syria, whose government is dominated by a Shiite minority.

Setting aside constitutional issues, the executive order is of dubious legality. The United States’ fundamental immigration statute, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, forbids discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas based on an individual’s “race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.” On its face, excluding potential immigrants from specific countries violates the law.

In response, the Trump administration points to a 1952 law that permits the president to suspend the entry of any class of aliens that he determines to be contrary to the national interest. But as the Cato Institute’s David Bier observes, the 1965 act modifies and restricts the power, with exceptions only as provided by Congress. As Justice Robert Jackson observed: “When the President takes measures incompatible with the . . . will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb.”

(William Galston)

That’s the Wall Street Journal. Charles Lane at the Washington Post says “sorry, but it’s probably legal“:

The basic problem facing the various states and private plaintiffs now flocking to federal court is that the president enjoys extremely wide authority over immigration matters.

Under the 1980 Refugee Act, the president decides how many refugees the United States will resettle on U.S. soil each year, which is why President Barack Obama could crank the target up from 85,000 in fiscal 2016 to 110,000 in fiscal 2017.

Trump’s order invokes an even broader statutory provision that allows the president to restrict or suspend the entry of “any aliens or . . . any class of aliens” whose admission he deems “detrimental to the interests of the United States,” for pretty much as long as he thinks is necessary.

Historically, courts have been deferential toward presidents’ exercise of this authority, both because Congress’s delegation is so clear and because of the judicial branch’s traditional, and usually well-founded, reluctance to weigh in on matters affecting foreign affairs and national security.

The still-forming constitutional case against Trump’s order does not, therefore, deny his broad power. The argument would be that he has abused it — exercised it in violation of the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment — by imposing criteria that disfavor Muslims and favor Christians, without showing any actual connection to a policy goal, or making any attempt to achieve that goal though less restrictive alternatives.

… To be sure, Trump’s own prejudiced remarks about Muslims undermine his claim to be acting rationally and impartially in the national interest. It will certainly be interesting to watch administration lawyers try to defend their boss’s words, or explain them away, when judges start grilling them in open hearings.

(Emphasis added) Again, I know too little of immigration law to opine anything more than that even if it’s legal and constitutional, it was ill-conceived and poorly executed because of Trump’s desire to put on a show regardless of administrative complexities or appearances.

4

Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor at U.C. Berkeley a few days ago affirmed that campus’ historic support of free speech, allowing a scheduled speech by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to continue.

If Administration won’t make Berkeley SnowflakeSafe®, from offensive speech, 1500 violent jackboots* will make it SnowflakeSafe® from offensive speech. “As of 8 p.m. local time, there were no reports of arrests.”

Berkeley. Mario Savio is turning in his grave, and the Bullshitter-in-Chief is Tweeting threats to cut federal funding to Berkeley.

* I am told on Facebook, but have not confirmed, that this was more like 1480 peaceful demonstrators and 20 coordinated anarchists (if that’s not an oxymoron) on a mission. That would make me feel better, but then why couldn’t police stop them if they were just 20?

5

Someone objected to my assertion that Trump v. Clinton per se manifested that we’re under judgment.

Okay, then, let’s try this: “We get the government we deserve.”

Does that feel better? Me neither.

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.