Noted & Quoted

2016AprilWeek of April 25 to May 1

In sum, the Republican party is in a very bad way. Bereft of good organization—nationally, in many states, and in Congress—it is struggling to field and support principled, electable candidates for office and cannot hold them accountable to those principles after victory. Worse, its leaders are pale imitations of the giants who carried the party banner in previous eras. Granted, in several of the states—like Wisconsin and Texas—the party seems capable of governing effectively for the public interest, but the national party lacks this kind of coherence, many states are in terrible shape, and congressional Republicans have mostly been an embarrassment.

It is fair to ask: What is the point of the Republican party these days? It has won an extraordinary number of offices over the last several cycles, as voters have registered their discontent with Obama-style liberalism. But to what purpose? If we believe Burke and Madison, then a party should elevate and manage the public discourse, around principles that advance the general welfare. Nobody honestly believes today's Republican party is capable of this on a national level. Instead, the complaint of Iowa senator James Grimes from 1870 is much closer to the mark:

It looks at this distance as though the Republican party was "going to the dogs"—which, I think, is as it should be. Like all parties that have an undisturbed power for a long time, it has become corrupt, and I believe that it is to-day the [most] corrupt and debauched political party that has ever existed.

Such a party hardly has the wherewithal to resist a demagogue like Trump. Lacking sensible organizations or trusted leadership, the party was vulnerable to such an infiltration, and he sensed it.

Source: Republican Party Down | The Weekly Standard

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The letter to the committee from StemExpress also said some of the last-minute "exhibits" were unverifiable, out of context, possibly doctored screenshots of their website. One screenshot makes it look like StemExpress was advertising fetal tissue as "profitable," they said, when the website was really discussing the company's tissue procurement business as a whole.

Republicans refused to divulge the sources of any of their exhibits, other than to say that they were "discovered" during the course of the committee's investigation. But Media Matters discovered that most of the exhibits seem to have been ripped straight from the Center for Medical Progress's website. The silly charts above were apparently created by committee staff, based on God only knows what data.

And all of this might be funny if it weren't so tragically misguided or so dangerously irresponsible.

Source: Why Congress's investigation into Planned Parenthood has scientists terrified - Vox

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[T]he Republican race has not only defied “momentum” but often contradicted it. Whenever Trump seemed to be on a glide path to the nomination (such as after Super Tuesday or March 15), he’s had a setback. When he’s seemed to be vulnerable (such as after losing Iowa or Wisconsin), he’s rebounded.

This maybe — or probably — is just our reading too much into noisy data. But it’s possible there’s some sort of thermostatic effect at work. When Trump seems to be on the verge of becoming the presumptive nominee, there’s more focus on his awful general election numbers; meanwhile, the media’s incentives for covering him change, with the possibility of Trump imploding at a contested convention becoming a more attractive story than the man-bites-dog narrative of Trump winning the nomination in the first place. When Trump seems to be in trouble, conversely, Republicans are forced to contemplate the problems of a contested convention and the inadequacies of Cruz and Kasich, and the media becomes more eager to tell a Trump comeback or pivot story.

Source: It’s Trump’s Nomination To Lose* | FiveThirtyEight

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Trump may be a plurality candidate, overall, not a majority candidate, but there is no question that he’s the front-runner.

The nominating rules allow picking someone else, but they don’t mandate picking someone else.  If the party picks someone else, it will not be due to popular will or demonstrated momentum.  It will be due to a conscious decision to use the rules to override those things.

That won’t be illegitimate, per se, but it will be fatal.  There is, in fact, no scenario in which the Republican Party continues to be what it has been during our lifetimes so far.  It’s not the party of conservatism or small government if it nominates Trump.  But at this point – in terms of probabilities, based on what we know – it falls apart if it doesn’t.

Source: Trump soars; die is cast for a GOP crack-up; meanwhile, Dems' same-old isn't the 'future' - Liberty Unyielding

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Week of April 18 to April 24

5) Aborted Baby Parts Are Valuable

One of the most interesting things about the revelation that abortion clinics sell fetal body parts is that the unborn child is not considered a valuable human when it comes to ending her life prematurely, but her body parts are considered incredibly valuable precisely because of her humanity. Invoices regarding the sale and transfer of fetal organs were presented at the hearing. One customer paid $22,610 for 38 fetal brains. Another paid $3,340 for a fetal brain, $595 for a “baby skull matched to upper and lower limbs,” and $890 for “upper and lower limbs with hands and feet.”

Source: 11 Takeaways From Hearing On Baby Parts Trafficking

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We’re accustomed to the discourse of democracy with the primaries, but the truth is that this really isn’t popular democracy. They are party contests that have acquired a patina of democracy, in that they are competitive elections. But they do not, in any way, shape, or form, represent the “will of the people.” It’s a haphazard system that has two aims: produce a nominee, and grant the nominee the illusion of democratic legitimacy. Having a candidate that appears to be affirmed by a popular vote offers us the image of a popular process, and that was the goal: to prevent a situation where a candidate without a popular endorsement can be the nominee. But a process where 7 percent of the voting population, state-to-state, can select the nominee is barely democratic.

Now, make no mistake: whether this process should be more democratic is a worthy question for debate. But right now, the process only looks democratic. And yet people are accustomed to seeing it as a popular process; 58 percent of Republicans think that the nominee should be the delegate leader, even if he doesn’t have a majority.

Source: The Republican Nomination and the Language of Popular Democracy - Ordinary Times

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Trump’s worst-case scenario probably leaves him with around 1,158 pledged delegates (assuming Kasich stays in), while his best-case scenario probably leaves him with 1,283. We also don’t know what the 130 or so unbound delegates will do; at least some of them would vote for Trump on the first ballot.

Regardless, this race seems destined to be decided by Republicans who vote in a closed GOP primary in places like Berkeley, Compton, and Watts, Calif.

Source: How the Republican Race Plays Out From Here | RealClearPolitics

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This year’s anniversary object is the Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC 7635, which lies 8 000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. This object was first discovered by William Herschel in 1787 and this is not the first time it has caught Hubble’s eye. However, due to its very large size on the sky, previous Hubble images have only shown small sections of the nebula, providing a much less spectacular overall effect. Now, a mosaic of four images from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) allows us to see the whole object in one picture for the first time.

Source: Hubble captures birthday bubble

 

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Goldberg: But you still believe a limited strike would have been the right thing to do?

Gordon: I believed it, and I said so at the time. And this is what I thought the president thought as well. The president made clear that the regime’s use of chemical weapons in August 2013 was an example of what he meant when he warned against CW use. And remember, he said in the Rose Garden, even after he decided to go to Congress, right, he said—here’s the quote, “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced? Make no mistake—this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?”

Goldberg: So your position is still a yes on a strike.

Gordon: Yes. But without denying the president’s concerns about a slippery slope. I think it would have been possible to say that this is not about changing the regime in Syria, it’s not about going to war in Syria—but when the United States says you can’t use chemical weapons, you can’t use chemical weapons. I accept that there was some risk of a slippery slope if he used CW again. But Assad would also have had to run that risk, and that’s just the dynamic that you’re in, so we needed to plant in his mind that if he tested our resolve, well, he was running a pretty big risk, too. And that might not be in either of our interests, but it certainly wouldn’t be in his.

Source: Philip Gordon: Obama Should Have Bombed Assad Over Chemical Weapons - The Atlantic

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[T]he rapprochement scenario is unlikely, especially since the GOP intellectuals are disconnected not only from Trump, but also from a significant portion of the GOP voter base. Some think tankers have spoken “reform conservatism”—a new mix of issues designed to appeal to today’s struggling lower middle-class voters—but this effort itself is controversial among conservatives, and looks to be going nowhere. The reform camp has failed to achieve the fusionist consensus that Buckley and Meyer forged decades ago, which brought together the three main strands of conservative thought—economic, social and foreign policy—under one anti-communist umbrella.

Today’s conservative intellectuals appear to be splintering, over Trump, over Cruz, over questions like immigration and America’s proper role in the world. If they scatter, the loss of conservative intellectuals as a somewhat unified force could mean the end of the era of the GOP as the party of ideas. The battle of ideas is already an uphill battle for Republicans, especially given Democratic advantages in the faculty lounges and in the mainstream media—and without a reliable phalanx of intellectuals to help defend it in the larger marketplace of ideas, the Republican Party would eventually lose the respect of conservative-minded voters as well, potentially dooming it to suffer long-term electoral damage or outright disintegration. This could mean that the Democrats would take the initiative in shaping the country’s policy directly for years or decades to come.

Source: How GOP Intellectuals’ Feud With the Base Is Remaking U.S. Politics - POLITICO Magazine

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Some will outright deny the legitimacy of the Democratic win; all will expect it to be a briefly passing thing to be resisted at all costs until normal politics reasserts itself. While the same people who wrote the “party autopsy” after 2012 will proclaim after a Trump defeat that now it is time to revert to the true Reagan-Kemp-Ryan gospel, Republicans with an eye to the future will recognize that Trump discovered something new and important about national politics. Trump inspired millions of Americans to vote as if “white” were an ethnic bloc, something often seen in state elections in the South, but rarely if ever before seen in a presidential contest. Yet this new sighting will likely recur again and again as the relative wealth and power of downmarket white America shrink—and especially if a President Clinton’s immigration policies accelerate that shrinkage. President Obama’s famous hope that the “fever will break” in favor of a more calm, deliberate, and technical politics of adjustment between a pro-market right and a pro-intervention left will seem even more forlorn, as November’s winners perceive a non-recurring opportunity to take all—and November’s losers fear they could lose all.

Source: Hillary Clinton's Polarizing Path to Victory and the Republican Party - The Atlantic

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Here is where German intellectuals come into the story. Journalists and academics have had a hard time understanding why the Pegida movement emerged when it did and why it has attracted so many people in Germany; there are branches of the Pegida movement in other parts of Europe, but they have gathered only marginal support thus far. Those who suggest it is driven by “anger” and “resentment” are being descriptive at best. What is remarkable, though, is that “rage” as a political stance has received the philosophical blessing of the leading AfD intellectual, Marc Jongen, who is a former assistant of the well-known philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Jongen has not only warned about the danger of Germany’s “cultural self-annihilation”; he has also argued that, because of the cold war and the security umbrella provided by the US, Germans have been forgetful about the importance of the military, the police, warrior virtues—and, more generally, what the ancient Greeks called thymos (variously translated as spiritedness, pride, righteous indignation, a sense of what is one’s own, or rage), in contrast to eros and logos, love and reason. Germany, Jongen says, is currently “undersupplied” with thymos. Only the Japanese have even less of it—presumably because they also lived through postwar pacifism. According to Jongen, Japan can afford such a shortage, because its inhabitants are not confronted with the “strong natures” of immigrants. It follows that the angry demonstrators are doing a damn good thing by helping to fire up thymos in German society.

Source: Behind the New German Right by Jan-Werner Müller | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

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Yes, just because this system is an improvement over the past doesn’t mean it couldn’t bear further reform. But any changes should at least start with the acknowledgement that, for both parties, there’s no such thing as a purely democratic process. We already have the electoral college, gerrymandered congressional districts, two senators apiece from sparsely populated states, the filibuster and House rules giving the majority almost complete control over the legislative agenda. Faced with a vast array of co

Source: In defense of the unfair, messy presidential nomination process - The Washington Post

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The purpose of America's post-WWII foreign policy was to clarify a complicated and often dangerous world for the leaders of a large republic responsible for the life, liberty, and prosperity of its citizens by ensuring a degree of stability abroad. These are our allies, it said, and these our adversaries, for we know them by their actions and affections. Did it sometimes lack nuance? Yes, because it wasn't meant to be a work of art but a guide to making life and death decisions.

The "playbook" Obama disparages provided Kerry with what was surely his finest moment as secretary of state. When the Syrian despot tested not only an American president's promise but the moral content of the international order, America had to act, Kerry said, and lead. "History," said Kerry in a stirring speech on August 30, 2013, explaining why it was necessary to strike Assad, "would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency."

Obama hadn't let his secretary of state know that he wasn't going to strike Assad, making a fool of Kerry. But Kerry's incoherence since then, his efforts on behalf of Zarif and Lavrov, his romance with monsters are evidence of something much more ruinous. In dismantling the global order backed by American power and leadership, Obama has left the world, including his secretary of state, unmoored.

Source: A World Unmoored | The Weekly Standard

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...[I]n a major development within the field researchers have begun documenting how brain activity differs between individuals. Such differences had been largely thought of as transient and uninteresting but studies are starting to show that they are innate properties of people's brains, and that knowing them better might ultimately help treat neurological disorders.

The latest study, published April 8 in Science, found that the brain activity of individuals who were just biding their time in a brain scanner contained enough information to predict how their brains would function during a range of ordinary activities. The researchers used these at-rest signatures to predict which regions would light up—which groups of brain cells would switch on—during gambling, reading and other tasks they were asked to perform in the scanner.

Source: New Evidence Points to Personal Brain Signatures - Scientific American

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While the general, who commanded all U.S. forces from 2008 to 2010, said he supports a unified country, he added the U.S. government needs to consider whether Iraq has already been divided into three sectors by the sectarian violence -- Shia, Sunni and Kurd. Odierno fingered the newly emboldened Iran as a primary agitator.

"Today, I think it's becoming harder and harder to have a unified Iraq,” he said. “And the reason is I believe the influence of Iran inside of Iraq is so great, they will never allow the Sunnis to participate in a meaningful way in the government. If that doesn't happen, you cannot have a unified Iraq."

Odierno, who argued for leaving 20,000 troops in Iraq but met resistance from several senior Obama administration officials as well as then Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, said the decision to pull out became a self-inflicted wound.

The withdrawal made it harder, if not impossible, for the U.S. government to independently assess what was happening on the ground, at a time when the alienation of the Sunni population fueled the rise of ISIS.

Source: Top general: 50,000-troop coalition needed in order to crush ISIS | Fox News

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Revitalizing American exceptionalism begins with the unique role the United States plays in shaping and upholding international order. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has led allies and partners in maintaining a global order aimed at reducing the prospects of great power war, opening markets to trade and investment, maintaining monetary stability, and creating institutions and norms to manage interstate relations.

Underwritten by American military, economic, and soft power, this order — for all the deviations from it — has served U.S. interests remarkably well. It has also served the interests of most of the world. In part because of the economic and political stability this order helped engender, the past seven decades have seen a dramatic economic expansion, the longest period of great power peace in modern times, and an expansion of democracy in areas where it had never previously taken root.

Sustaining this order has required American power, expressed through global leadership that is widely perceived as legitimate. The United States has not acted alone, but no other nation could have led the effort. No other country can do so now.

Source: It’s Time to Start Talking About American Exceptionalism Again

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About four dozen known galaxies orbit our own. The largest in terms of breadth is the Sagittarius dwarf, discovered in 1994 – but it’s big only because our galaxy’s gravity is ripping it apart. The next two largest are the Magellanic Clouds. Now, Gabriel Torrealba at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have found a new galaxy about 380,000 light years away in the constellation Crater. “It’s the fourth largest satellite of the Milky Way,” Torrealba says. Named the Crater 2 dwarf, the new galaxy

Source: Never-before-seen galaxy spotted orbiting the Milky Way | New Scientist

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Michael Needham of Heritage Action has argued that a conservative populism – one that attacks the way the federal government works for the well-connected – could appeal to Trump voters. But Trump ran in Iowa as a supporter of ethanol subsidies. Though the Export-Import Bank hasn't really come up in the GOP primaries, I'd bet that if Trump said we have to double it to take on China, his supporters would welcome the idea. Those who want a conservative with a populist streak are likely already voting for Ted Cruz.

National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru has argued that Trump's rise has vindicated reform conservatives such as himself, who argued that the GOP needed to revise its policy agenda to appeal to lower-income Americans. Consider me skeptical that more serious policies would appeal to voters who are attracted to a candidate who has made a mockery out of policy.

I'm not saying I have any clear solutions for the conservative movement in the wake of Trumpism. But as we work through its implications, I'd encourage my fellow conservatives to avoid wishful thinking.

Source: Conservatives engage in wishful thinking on channeling Trumpism | Washington Examiner

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The presidential nomination process is the weakest part of our political system and, not coincidentally, the only one not addressed by the Framers of the Constitution.None of the successive reforms made since 1968 has produced a perfect system, and in a nation of this size none can.A national primary would penalize all but a few nationally known candidates. Caucuses tend to favor candidates with constituencies of well-organized voters. Reasonable people can differ about whether it's fairer to allocate delegate proportionately or by winner-take-all.Arguments over the rules inspired one of my Rules of Life which is: "All process arguments are insincere, including this one." A loser's real gripe is not with the process but the result.

Source: Donald Trump's insincere process arguments | Washington Examiner

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Week of April 4 to April 10

...[P]robably the greatest example of party durability is seen by the Democrats, who, in 1866, found themselves on the wrong side of the Civil War.  That is, as we dryly noted when I practiced law, a bad fact. The party didn’t even field a nominee in 1872, instead endorsing the Liberal Republican candidate Horace Greeley (who died before the Electoral College voted). Yet in 1874, the party picked up an astonishing 94 seats (which would be 140 seats under today’s terms).  Two years after that, Democrats won a majority of the popular vote (yet lost the Electoral College in a disputed election).  They won the presidency outright in 1884, less than a decade after the end of Reconstruction.

So even assuming Trump loses badly (I think he will, but it is too early to say anything definitively), it is nevertheless unlikely that he destroys the GOP. The American public has historically had a decidedly short-term focus on elections.  If the Republicans can come back rather quickly from overseeing the Great Depression, and if Democrats can come back rather quickly from losing the Civil War, we should expect any damage caused by Trump to be fleeting.

Source: The Real Reason Trump Can't Break the GOP | RealClearPolitics

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Critics erroneously compare Libya today to any number of false ideals, but this is not the correct way to evaluate the success or failure of the intervention. To do that, we should compare Libya today to what Libya would have looked like if we hadn’t intervened. By that standard, the Libya intervention was successful: The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country.

Critics further assert that the intervention caused, created, or somehow led to civil war. In fact, the civil war had already started before the intervention began. As for today’s chaos, violence, and general instability, these are more plausibly tied not to the original intervention but to the international community’s failures after intervention.

The very fact that the Libya intervention and its legacy have been either distorted or misunderstood is itself evidence of a warped foreign policy discourse in the US, where anything short of success — in this case, Libya quickly becoming a stable, relatively democratic country — is viewed as a failure.

Source: Everyone says the Libya intervention was a failure. They’re wrong. - Vox

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You could look at the week as an aberration that Trump, the magician, will somehow surmount. In fact, these episodes tumbling one upon the other ratify what Trump skeptics said all along: that he is utterly unprepared to be a serious candidate, let alone president of the United States; that an endless stream of insults against all who get in his way wears thin over time; that he is winging it and stubbornly refusing to do the homework the enterprise he’s engaged in requires; and that trashing ethnic and religious minorities can win you a fair number of votes but not, thank God, a majority of Americans. The always instructive Yogi Berra explained the New York Yankees’ loss of the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates by saying: “We made too many wrong mistakes.” In the case of Trump, journalists are so worried about their old mistake of underestimating the man’s staying power that they now risk making the wrong mistake of missing his fall.

Source: This time it really is the end of Trump. Really. - The Washington Post

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One story that you could tell about the second half of the Obama Presidency is that the politics of the country have been pushed along by movements—Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Tea Party—that are not basically about the contest between Democrats and Republicans but, rather, emanate from outside them. The scope of what counts in politics, of whose voices matter, has been broadened beyond those who normally vote. No one knows whether these populist tendencies will abate or change each of the parties, but this year it is clear that the traditional biases of electoral politics have given way to the more various terrain beneath them. The influence advantage that voters have over non-voters is more tenuous; the distance between the concerns of the campaigns and the experience of the country has narrowed. This election season has been strange and often alarming, but that is in part because it has been aimed at a broader audience—because it has been, in some crude ways, more democratic than what came before.

Source: Sanders, Trump, and the Rise of the Non-Voters - The New Yorker

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