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Image pulled from Regent University’s website

It’s been too long since John Kasich lectured women on how to live their lives. So he did it again. Nice.

Funny thing, out of Trump, Cruz and Kasich, my wife hates Kasich the most by far. It’s not hard to see why. Cruz is such an obvious creep that he’s barely even threatening, and Trump definitely has major issues with powerful, successful women, no question. But Kasich just seems to have this ingrained, boundless contempt for women in general (particularly younger women) that he cannot or will not (most likely cannot) keep under wraps. He stereotypes, he condescends, he lectures, etc., all coming from a place that women are stupid and shallow and need to be told how to think and what to do by an old white dude (and a pretty ignorant one at that). Gee, one should avoid situations where alcohol is served to avoid sexual assault? Great tip! Perhaps your expertise extends to telling seminarians about things a person picks up in second grade Sunday Scho–oh damn. Incidentally, it’s easy to forget considering the image he’s presented, but Kasich is an evangelical/Religious Right type, just one a little bit better about hiding it than some.

I would argue Kasich is the most misogynistic of the three, which is pretty astonishing considering who the other two guys are. But I’d argue it nonetheless. The problem he has that Trump doesn’t have–aside from not knowing his weaknesses–is that he’s so goddamn boring that he only really gets attention when he’s being an asshole, and it clashes with the sober statesman he’s presented as.

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May be overstating the public’s desire for Avatar sequels, but what do I know? I don’t agree with this, though: Cameron’s career has been in creative decline ever since Aliens, though creative decline here has, as it sometimes does, led to unbelievable commercial success. He peaked in a very high place (The Abyss, which has shockingly never had a Blu-ray release, only one of those first-generation DVDs that looks like a postcard on your newfangled television, might have topped Aliens but for the fourth grade writing assignment ending), but his writing has deteriorated steadily beginning with Terminator 2 (where he went from writing things that became catchphrases to writing catchphrases, basically, and we began to see the bloated runtimes that would characterize his career going forward). I wasn’t surprised that Avatar was a huge hit since it promised the sort of uncomplicated escapism that audiences have long craved, as Titanic also did, nor was I surprised when people decided it kinda sucked when they thought about it some more–other than spectacle it accomplished absolutely nothing they hadn’t seen before. At this point, given the direction his career has gone, writing mediocre sequels to a mediocre sub-Dances With Wolves white guy meditation on native peoples seems what he should be doing. At least there’s an honesty to that, unlike George Lucas’s smaller, personal films. Is there nobody with the money to make these things?

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While he’d certainly fare a little better than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in a general election, it’s worth remembering that the casual sexism, condescension, and tendency toward outburst that embody John Kasich’s public presentational style would make for a less than ideal contrast with Hillary Clinton. So by all means, laugh at the man who only makes the news by embarrassing himself: the man still most likely to give us Donald Trump, the man who continues to operate a presidential campaign that has been unable to compete in more than a handful of states, and yet the man who is still the smart, clever one of the bunch. Kasich is a classic example of a man who doesn’t understand his weaknesses–Trump has the same exact traits, but he uses them to his advantage in getting what he wants, while Kasich continually gets himself into situations that grant him no sympathy from Republicans when he’s jumped on by liberals. Just fucking useless.

I honestly don’t understand why the GOP just doesn’t do the easy thing and give the nomination to Trump. I mean yes, he’ll almost certainly lose, and more likely than not Republicans will lose the Senate too and a lot of House seats. But it won’t be all that bad for them: most of the seats they’ll lose will be relative moderates they don’t like anyway that they can replace with staunch conservatives for the midterms. Of course, they’d have to deal with a liberal Scalia replacement in this occasion, but if Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues in her foolish insistence of refusing to retire from the Court at a politically advantageous time, then that could be undone easily enough (I’m hoping that the next Democratic president would float Pam Karlan’s name as a possible replacement to induce her to retire, but that’s beside the point). Let’s not kid ourselves: a Democratic Court would make short work of the Roberts Court’s major precedent, but it would almost certainly not engage in similar judicial activism to theirs (impossible to imagine a Kagan- or Breyer-written opinion finding a Constitutional right to healthcare, say). And even if Democrats somehow managed to recapture the House, it would be a small majority built on red-district Democrats desperately wanting to serve more than a single term, and Clinton herself has become so locked into a mode of pragmatism that I couldn’t even tell you accurately what her top priorities as president would be (aside, of course, from ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East) and I pay a lot of attention to these things! Maybe something to do with infrastructure would pass, perhaps a voting bill, but nothing at all like the ACA, and almost certainly nothing on healthcare at all (a necessary reminder that throwing in the towel on healthcare going forward would be the equivalent to anti-abortionists chucking in the towel after passing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban under Dubya). Naturally, even the smallest of small ball measures would be trumpeted as FascistCommunism, but if I’m a Republican, on the whole, this doesn’t seem too bad to me. On the other hand, the defeat of Trump would be easy to write off as a one-time thing, they’d still be able to make use of whatever clout he has with his supporters in the future as a surrogate if they wished to use him as such, and all they’d have to do would be to just wait for the steady stream of Clinton scandals, domestic inertia and “humanitarian” foreign interventions to chip away at her popularity. I suspect we’ll be about due for another major banking scandal during her presidency that could be very dicey, and possibly an economic slowdown as well (it is a cycle, after all, and “up” times don’t last forever). And given Clinton’s treatment of Sanders in the primaries, she cuts a very first President Bush type of figure, someone who’s been in the bubble for quite some time and isn’t well-equipped to manage a rapidly changing party whose center of gravity is becoming more ideological and less amenable to the sorts of centrist compromises the Clintons cut back in the Gingrich days. Running on Obama’s legacy was the smart move for Clinton just like running on Reagan’s was for Bush, but at the end of the day, it couldn’t smooth over the ideological divisions forever for Bush and it won’t for Clinton. In other words, there’s plenty of reason to think that 2020 could be very competitive, and the likely consequences of Clinton wouldn’t be too bad from a practical perspective. Compare this with a Cruz defeat, which would be impossible to blame on anything other than his doctrinaire conservatism, and could well lead to the sort of real reformist movement that Republicans have been desperately trying to stifle starting before Obama even took office.

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I’m loving it. One of the best things about this election cycle is that it’s exposing just how irrelevant the traditional organs of right-wingery actually are, and seeing them just unravel is great. For some reason, National Review is given a lot of respect by non-conservatives. I suspect it’s for Noah Cross-related reasons. Regardless, the whole idea that putting out an anti-Trump issue was going to turn the tide against The Donald was nuts–particularly one so inept and foolish that saw fit to oppose a demagogue with a shaky grasp on reality by having Glenn Beck denounce him. Regardless, almost nobody reads or cares about what is in that magazine. And now that the rank-and-file have demonstrated how much they think of the elites, the feeling is being reciprocated. Scars are being created that won’t heal anytime soon. It’s pretty wonderful.

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I do from time to time talk to left/liberal people who lament endless war in the Middle East, but who blanch at the idea of just leaving. And obviously quite a few support the ISIS war, have supported Libya and the near-bombing of Syria, etc. It’s just irresponsible! Crazy peacenik hippies! Of course, the sober, well-educated Ivy Leaguers of the foreign policy establishment know much better:

The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen has made it so that [al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula] not only controls considerable territory and thrives on the revenue it can extort and raise there, but so that the people living there would rather remain under the control of fanatics than be subjected to the chaos, deprivation, and misery that the rest of Yemen’s civilian population has had to endure. If that continues, AQAP would become even more of a threat than it already is.

Or not.

Here’s Andrew Bacevich:

In the 20th century, “our” side won because American industry and ingenuity produced not only superior military might but also a superior way of life based on consumption and choice—so at least Americans have been thoroughly conditioned to believe. A third assumption asserts that U.S. military power offers the most expeditious means of ensuring that universal freedom prevails—that the armed might of the United States, made manifest in the presence of airplanes, warships and fighting troops, serves as an irreplaceable facilitator or catalyst in moving history toward its foreordained destination.

That the commitment of American armed might could actually backfire and make matters worse is a proposition that few authorities in Washington are willing to entertain.

It’s hard to think of someone more in line with this fruitless way of thinking than Hillary Clinton. But, hey, she’s electable.

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Does anyone really think that a Supreme Court with Merrick Garland as the median vote would really do any of this stuff? If so, why? In all likelihood, I think it would be a lot like the pre-Alito Supreme Court, which was sorta ok. It’d probably be a lot less friendly to anti-abortion state ordinances than that Court was, but still.

Also, since it’s been a few weeks, it’s worth noting that this epic Supreme Court showdown that supposedly was going to happen is being fully drowned out by the din of presidential primary politics. This was predicted by some and maybe inevitable regardless of the identity of the nominee. But it shows once again the eternal Democratic folly of relying on procedural and policy-based appeals at the expense of narrative and personality, which are (admittedly unfortunately) how most actual people engage with politics. Garland is suitable for the first set but calamitous for the second. Not saying it all has to be the soft stuff–you do that too long and you get Trump–but Democrats often go way too far in the other direction, fail to motivate people to action, and then wonder how on earth the public elects unpopular Republican politicians again. We’ve gotten sadly used to this in midterm elections, but it’s essentially a party-wide epidemic on many levels, and only because of the fundamentals of party polarization does this not drag them down in % 4 = 0 years. I’m not entirely sure why or how it started–I suspect it has much to do with the DLC/New Democrat culture in a non-ideological sense, which often made stars of deeply boring policy wonk types like Evan Bayh and Tom Vilsack. This would track with the party’s current stars being Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have no roots in that tradition and are far more able to handle the narrative elements, and whaddaya know, it works, and in the case of Sanders it’s obviously pulled in supporters that are not all left-wing socialists. Not that nominating a 45 year old black progressive would mean greater odds of getting onto the Court, but it’s a more compelling story for liberals to spend any time considering than a centrist who’s been an elite judge for 20 years and is weak on criminal justice issues.

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I travel and see almost-recent films on the plane for free, and then I briefly write about them. You know the drill.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Finally got around to seeing this film, and my overall reaction was a resounding, tremendous, profound meh. Unlike George Lucas with the prequels, J.J. Abrams managed to make an entertaining Star Wars movie. And…that’s about it. Honestly, that seems to be just about all that people wanted, and I can appreciate the increased emphasis on comprehensible action sequences and practical effects, as well as actors and writers who display something more than bare incompetence. But ultimately it had the effect on me that a Marvel superhero movie typically has on me, which is boredom after watching product filled with empty spectacle. Which Star Wars always was, of course, if we’re being honest, but now we’re onto films about the idea of what a Star Wars film should be, which loses me.
  • Black Mass. Johnny Depp disappears into a character again, which I swore I’d never see the day. I do find the Whitey Bulger stuff fascinating, as I’ve written before, and this is pretty much the movie I wanted to see. The film’s depiction of Billy Bulger is one of Hollywood’s most plausible portraits of a politician I’ve seen to date. And its take on disgraceful former FBI Agent John Connally is slimily perfect. Dodgy Boston accents are not to be found, amazingly. Not a replacement for seeing the amazing documentary on this story, but damn good nonetheless.
  • Creed. Boxing is a confounding sport because (a) I don’t give even the slightest damn about it, and yet (b) it’s been the subject matter of dozens of great films. Whereas, say, basketball has one good-ish movie that I’m aware of and no great ones. Creed is, like the new Star Wars, essentially a retelling of the first film in its franchise, but while The Force Awakens basically retreads the same story beat by beat, Creed reworks the source material into a story about absent and surrogate fathers, managing to avoid being a “race film” while still managing to speak to the concerns of black folks in a universally applicable way. In a mainstream studio film. Which is basically an impossible task that Ryan Coogler pulls off seemingly effortlessly. This gets right so much of what bugged me about The Force Awakens, which is deliberately engineered to exploit nostalgia for Star Wars and doesn’t really stand on its own if you don’t have that (as I don’t). I also have no real nostalgia for the Rocky movies and yet I quite liked Creed. So there.
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