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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Rooting for a big-time Cruz win tonight, with the ultimate hope of a floor fight in Cleveland. A contested convention not only means several more months of Cruz and Trump wallowing in the mud, it also means guaranteed chaos during the actual convention, and all but ensures a damaged party not in a condition to win in November. The notion that the GOP establishment has any better clue how to operate in such an environment than Trump’s people or Cruz’s people is a fantasy, since they all have the same amount of experience: none. Honestly, a scenario where Trump winds up a dozen or so votes short of winning the nomination is probably the perfect scenario so far as I’m concerned–it would look like theft to give it to anyone else, but it would be possible to do so, and given how much Republican elites have been driven by panic to do stupid things this cycle, I can’t see how they wouldn’t try.

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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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Sometimes you really can’t make this stuff up.

George Mason was a founding father…  The law school at the university that bears his name is changing its name to the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University.  Good lord. You are deemphasizing the name of a founding father to honor a man who fetishisized the beliefs held at the founding?

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I’ll be off traveling for a week. If recent history is any guide, some huge newsworthy event will occur when I’m gone (both the Scalia death and the beginning of the ISIS war happened at such a time), so what’s it going to be? Iran launching a war on Saudi Arabia? Marco Rubio quitting the Senate and becoming a high school gym coach? John McCain punching Ted Cruz in the face? (It would be the best thing he’s ever done, incidentally.) All I know is, it’ll be something. Enjoy it!

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I find the parallels of this to mindless teabagger sheeple amusing.

Microsoft has been forced to dunk Tay, its millennial-mimicking chatbot, into a vat of molten steel. The company has terminated her after the bot started tweeting abuse at people and went full neo-Nazi, declaring that “Hitler was right I hate the jews.”

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John Kasich has made his case for staying in:

Mr. Kasich ignored all calls to step down. He campaigned Wednesday in Wisconsin, where the next Republican primary will be held April 5, and his advisers argued that the race’s final stretch of 20 states, mostly in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and the West Coast, put Mr. Kasich in a far stronger position than Mr. Cruz to halt Mr. Trump.

“When we get to Pennsylvania, we get to New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island — let me tell you, I drop out, Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee,” Mr. Kasich said. “I don’t believe that Senator Cruz can come to the East and win.” […]

After Tuesday’s voting, Mr. Trump had 739 delegates, Mr. Cruz had 465 and Mr. Kasich had 143.

It is deeply odd that Kasich has remained a candidate. He’s essentially run a two-state race at this point, which is less than you typically need to win. Unlike other candidates, he’s barely registered any support where he hasn’t extensively campaigned, indicating that he has no base and little enthusiastic support. And that win made it impossible for anybody but Trump to win the nomination outright. The notion that Kasich will pose any real challenge to Trump in the Northeast is a fantasy, while Cruz could plausibly build a winning coalition among libertarian and highly religious Westerners and Midwesterners. Of course, at this point, Republican elites have changed their mind so many times about who they want in and who they want out that it’s not surprising that Kasich doesn’t want to let the fantasy of his presidential nomination die, and their unrelenting stupidity and panic makes this somewhat understandable.

It is ironic that Kasich has the reputation as a hard-headed, sober type, considering how silly his logic is on this whole thing. The notion that a convention deadlocked between a large Donald Trump faction and a smaller Ted Cruz faction would choose John Kasich as a compromise option is ridiculous given how he’s campaigned. Even Rubio won more contests than Kasich. Kasich has barely even tried to win among the party’s conservative base, apparently believing that there are enough moderates around to hand him the nomination. Yes, in a contested convention “anything” could happen, and a multiballot convention hasn’t happened since the modern primary system was put in place, but the idea that delegates would take it away from the top two vote-getters and give it to a very distant third is crazy. And if he did, the nomination would be worth as much to him as it was to William Howard Taft in 1912. Kasich has no real base within the Republican Party, has run a campaign under circumstances that should have persuaded him to drop out, and has stuck around mostly by simply failing to leave despite there being no reason to stay. And he’d be a terrible general election candidate, by the way: take Bob Dole’s “edgy” humor, subtract Bob Dole’s likable personality and replace it with nothing (save an obsession with a wonky, backfire-ready issue, the Balanced Budget Amendment), and you have Kasich. His treatment of women on the campaign trail in particular suggest he would have a difficult time disciplining his mouth while facing off against the first woman presidential candidate (most likely). His history with Lehman Brothers would invalidate any sort of GOP critique of Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street ties. He would likely lock down Ohio, a must-win Republican state, but other than that he has serious liabilities.

All I can say is that, as a Democrat, John Kasich’s irrational campaign is one of the best things to happen to us this year, and in its own way as sure a sign of GOP elite breakdown and folly as Trump is.

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