Trump-free Open Thread for Monday, May 9, 2016


We’re stuck with you-know-who for months to come, so I hope you appreciate this special gift from me to you:

  1. North Carolina sues U.S. over ‘bathroom law’ — All right, I’m now convinced of it: North Carolina is engaged in a deep, dark plot to make us in South Carolina look like a buncha dang’ liberals. Oh, and The Wall Street Journal is actually leading its site at this hour with this story about the issue of who goes to what bathroom. Have we hit bottom yet?
  2. Sanders favored in West Virginia primary — Is this thing never going to end?
  3. Philippines Votes For President; ‘The Punisher’ Leads The Pack — Wow. It seems other electorates are going nuts as well. A generation ago, I remember the uplifting campaign of Cory Aquino. Now this…
  4. Panama Papers include dozens of Americans tied to financial fraud — This is about money and offshore accounts and… (yawn). For those of you immune to the soporific effect, this database is now searchable. If you find that I have a vast fortune hidden away somewhere abroad, please let me know, so that I can go to there.
  5. The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru — This is kind of a scary story, about the kid (still in school, albeit graduate school, when 9/11 happened) who is “according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself.” Not John Kerry, or Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates before him, but Ben Rhodes…

23 thoughts on “Trump-free Open Thread for Monday, May 9, 2016

  1. Karen Pearson

    Resolve the bathroom law simply; you can kick anyone out who doesn’t look gender in question. Unless you make people strip it’s really hard to identify a trannie. Sanders is serious; he’s going to try to push Clinton to the left. And she’ll give something to get him to tell his followers to vote for her. Americans? Financial fraud? The apocalypse is upon us!!!

  2. Harry Harris

    Interesting comment by the NC governor that the US shouldn’t dictate bathroom and locker room policy for the states when the law in question dictates such policy to the cities and forbids them to pass local rules. Much of this type of legislation strikes me as grandstanding for one’s political base. I applaud Gov Haley for declaring the SC bill’s irrelevance, though she certainly isn’t above grandstanding.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That was a deft use of the bully pulpit. The bill was probably going nowhere anyway, but her dismissal of it made it easier for lawmakers to go with their instincts and let it die…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        It was particularly deft because, if you’ll recall, Nikki didn’t take sides in the Kulturkampf. At least, she didn’t choose one of the two sides that are the only ones offered by national media: She neither embraced choosing one’s bathroom as The Ultimate Civil Rights Issue of Our Time nor the Hell No We Ain’t Gonna Stand for It approach. She talked about politeness and kindness and respect, and noted that she was unaware of there being a problem that this bill was needed to redress.

        It was neatly done.

  3. Doug Ross

    Here’s a fascinating analysis of why he-who-will-not-be-named has done so well in the Republican primary process. It’s by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip. He has a background as well as a certified hypnotist and explains some of the techniques The Donald uses. A lot of it makes sense, including this one point:

    “6. To bend reality, Trump is a master of identity politics — and identity is the strongest persuader.

    “Do you think it is a coincidence that Trump called Megyn Kelly a bimbo and then she got a non-bimbo haircut that is … well, Trumpian?” Adams writes. “It doesn’t look like a coincidence to this trained persuader.”

    One way to achieve this is by deploying “linguistic kill shots” that land true, and alter perception through two ways.

    “The best Trump linguistic kill shots,” Adams writes,”have the following qualities: 1. Fresh word that is not generally used in politics; 2. Relates to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded).”

    Writes Adams: “Identity is always the strongest level of persuasion. The only way to beat it is with dirty tricks or a stronger identity play. … [And] Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities.

      1. Doug Ross

        Berkeley Breathed has reemerged in the past few months with Bloom County and has put Trump in the middle of Opus and Bill The Cat’s crosshairs.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          My favorite Bloom County strip made fun of cranky readers in a way you have to be a newspaper editor and veteran of many such calls to appreciate fully…

          Opus is working for the local newspaper, sitting at his desk listening to a complaint over the phone from a reader. Let’s call her Mrs. Johnson.

          As Mrs. Johnson builds toward the climax of her complaint, Opus tries to head her off saying “no… don’t say it…”

          But she says it: “… I’m going to cancel my subscription!”

          Opus, alarmed, covers the receiver to shout the bad news to his colleagues: “MRS. JOHNSON IS LOWERING THE BOOM!”

          That was funny because it was generally the climactic point of such calls. And it was a nice relief to laugh at the strip, because in real life you had to be polite to the reader, and make like them cancelling their subscriptions would be a terrible thing indeed, and talk them down from it (which almost always worked, if you put in the time and listened long enough — you didn’t have to agree with them; you just had to listen)…

    1. Mark Stewart

      Although others would generally argue that Trump’s supporters do not generally appear to be Alfa Males themselves.

      Certainly in my view Trump gets the fearful, despondent minions yearning for another shot at being an actual alfa male. Of course, he gets some other sorts, but I think this a fair characterization – not meant to impugn any one guy’s sense of manhood to be sure.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          But only for about a week. Then it breaks down, and it has to go back into the shop.

  4. Phillip

    Hey I thought this was supposed to be a you-know-who-free thread.

    Re #5: Turns out the writer of that piece had a major axe to grind about the Iran nuclear deal before writing that story, and even managed to find a way to use the article to get in a dig at another journalist with whom he had a personal disagreement.

    Maybe this NYT magazine story scared you: not me. The story the Times Sunday magazine ran that scared me was the one from two weeks earlier: How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      A story with a happy ending? I’ll have to go read that one…

      I liked Richard Cohen’s take on the piece:

      Rhodes calls the foreign policy establishment “the Blob” and he, like the president, dismisses its fusty thinking and crows the cleverness of their own, especially — and amazingly — the success of their Syria policy. Their only standard is the number of Americans who have died there — very few. That is commendable, but it is false to assert by implication that an alternative policy would have done otherwise. The intervention in Libya cost zero American lives; so too the ones in Kosovo and Bosnia. The United States could have implemented a no-fly zone in Syrian skies. It could have grounded the Assad regime’s helicopters, which drop barrel bombs on civilians, eviscerating them with nails, pellets and scrap.

      No one knows anymore how many have died in Syria’s civil war — maybe as many as 400,000. More than 4 million people have fled the country, swamping Europe and coming pretty close to destabilizing governments. The continent has turned sour, inhospitable to migrants yet hospitable to right-wing groups last seen in black-and-white newsreels. Russia now arguably has more influence in the Middle East than the United States does, and Iran and its proxies are everywhere. The United States hasn’t pivoted. It’s plotzed.

      If this is success, what constitutes failure? When Obama and his mind-melded sidekick proclaim their own brilliance and the failure of almost everyone else, what are they talking about?…

      1. Bill

        Cohen can get pretty puffed up at times, turning into a moralizing scold. This is one of those times. James Clapper provided a less simplistic and therefore more realistic view of things in his recent talk with David Ignatius.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m an Ignatius fan, and I read his piece this morning with interest. Three things that jumped out at me:

          1. His description of the underlying problems in the Mideast — “the large population bulge of disaffected young males, ungoverned spaces, economic challenges and the availability of weapons” — took me back to the early ’90s, or maybe the late ’80s. Anyone besides me remember those pieces (in such publications as Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic, etc. — about the coming global demographic bomb? With the Cold War ending, the theory was that the next big threat to the world was the hordes of disaffected, unmarried young males with no prospects. I’ve thought about that frequently in recent years, but haven’t written about it because first I’d have to dig up those old articles…
          2. While he said “I’m there” on Obama’s wish to give up on the Mideast (and substitute whichever words you prefer for “give up on”), he added a respectfully disloyal postscript: “I don’t think the U.S. can just leave town. Things happen around the world when U.S. leadership is absent. We have to be present — to facilitate, broker and sometimes provide the force.” (For “leave town,” see what we did in Iraq in 2011.)
          3. A little something for those of you who still don’t see Edward Snowden as an abomination: “Clapper said the United States still can’t be certain how much harm was done to intelligence collection by the revelations of disaffected National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. “We’ve been very conservative in the damage assessment. Overall, there’s a lot,” Clapper said…” And he expects there will be more…
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I thought the ending was odd, though:

            After a career in the spy world, Clapper argues that intelligence issues are basically simple; it’s the politics surrounding them that are complicated. “I can’t wait to get back to simplicity,” he said, his eye on that calendar.

            My reading about intelligence-gathering (at the moment, I’m reading The Art of Betrayal: A Secret History of MI6) is that it’s WAY more complicated than politics.

            Politics tends to oversimplify intelligence. It plays either as “Saddam has WMD; we must stop him;” or “There were no WMD; Bush lied.” The hall of mirrors that is intelligence and counterintelligence generally does not lead to such simplistic answers…

          2. Doug Ross

            ““We’ve been very conservative in the damage assessment. Overall, there’s a lot,” Clapper said…” And he expects there will be more…”

            A lot of what? Maybe some examples would further his case. If you want to paint Snowden as a traitor rather than a whistleblower, prove it.

            My guess is they’re afraid of what Snowed HASN’T released (his get out of jail card).

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