19 Apr 2016

Tweet of the Week

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18 Apr 2016

Front-Runners Don’t Always Become the Nominee

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Donald Trump has been vociferously complaining that delegate contests he doesn’t win are undemocratic and unfair, and demanding that the GOP Convention rules be changed to award the nomination to him, if he should be in possession of a plurality of votes on the first ballot. And, as usual, you can find a lot of the dimmer commentators, particularly on television, succumbing to his arguments.

The truth of the matter is that the nomination process was never intended or designed to function as a uniform and monolithic expression of pure and direct democracy.

The contest for the nomination was obviously never meant to be decided entirely and consistently by voting in primaries. Nor was the nomination ever intended necessarily to be decided prior to the convention itself. In recent years, the impact of coverage of the primary contests by the national media has added much greater emphasis to primary voting than was the case in earlier periods, and has encouraged the snowballing of a frontrunner’s success, but 2016 is proving to be an unusual cycle featuring a minority populist groundswell of support for one candidate, who –like some others in the past– is widely unpopular and completely unacceptable to a large portion of the Party.

The Nominating Convention is not simply a rubber stamp process which counts up the results of primary voting. Political parties are private organizations operating on the basis of their own systems of rules, whose rules and processes commonly differ over 50 states. Different states choose their delegates at different times and different states appoint delegates by different processes. Some delegates are bound by the rules to vote (on at least the first ballot) for a particular candidate. Others are unbound.

The essence of the situation is that convention will be composed of delegates representing their state parties, and not by robots mechanically operating in accordance with a direct democracy.

If the nominating process were a pure democracy, one would suppose that, instead of our current system, there would be held a nation-wide primary balloting all on the same day, and no convention would be necessary.

But, actually, the nomination contest is intended to function as a complex process, incorporating local and regional customs, preferences, and eccentricities, and going on over an extended interval of time intentionally in order to expose potential candidates to a diverse geographical collection of constituencies and interests, to test their abilities and personalities, and to expose their records and personal histories to intense scrutiny at length.

The fact that, in recent decades, the American nominating system has grown more predictable, more primary-based, and less reliant on delegate contests at the convention itself does not mean that, in this unusual year featuring a highly-unusual front-runner candidate of controversial character and carrying dubious credentials, we may not see a return to a more old-fashioned convention-based decision-making process.

Donald Trump won’t like it if he loses despite entering the convention with the largest number of first ballot votes, but if that happens to Trump, he won’t be the first GOP front-runner to fall behind in the course of convention balloting. It has not happened recently, not since 1940, but Donald Trump would actually be the 23rd of 22 men who had exactly the same experience (two of them, John Sherman and James G. Blaine, twice).


Thomas Dewey had 36% of the delegate votes on the first ballot of the Republican Convention of 1940, but Wendell Willkie (who started with only 10.5% of the votes) won the nomination on the 6th ballot. Wilkie, of course, lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt who was breaking tradition by seeking a third term.



Leonard Wood

Frank Lowden

Hiram Johnson

Nicholas Murray Butler

William C. Sproul

Five rival candidates had more delegates on the first ballot in 1920, but Warren G. Harding cinched the nomination on the 10th ballot.



John Sherman

Russell A. Alger

Walter Q. Gresham

Chauncey Depew

Benjamin Harrison, who was initially not among the top four candidates in votes, won the nomination after 8 ballots. He went on to defeat Grover Cleveland in the general election.



Ulysses Grant

James G. Blaine

John Sherman

George F. Edmunds

Elihu Washburne

William Windom

Grant had the most votes on the first ballot, and all these other gentlemen had some, while James Garfield had zero, but after 36 ballots Garfield got the needed majority. Garfield was elected president, but was assassinated a few months after taking office.



James G. Blaine

Oliver P. Morton

Benjamin Bristow

Roscoe Conkling

John F. Hantranft

Dark horse Rutherford Hayes of Ohio rose from an approximate tie for 5th place to win on the 6th ballot. Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden. 20 electoral college votes were disputed, but a special commission (containing a Republican majority) awarded them, and the election to Hayes. Democrats agreed to stop resisting his inauguration after Hayes promised to end Reconstruction.



William Seward

Abraham Lincoln’s floor managers successfully pulled off a deal with the Pennsylvania delegation and got him enough votes by the third ballot to take the nomination away from William Seward.



Nathaniel P. Banks

The American Party actually nominated Banks, but it was understood that he would withdraw in favor of John C. Frémont who expected to be nominated by the newly founded Republican Party. Banks did withdraw and Frémont became the nominee of the merged parties on the 11th ballot. Frémont then went on to lose to the Democrat James Buchanan.

18 Apr 2016

Bad Math

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17 Apr 2016

Whining, Not Winning

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17 Apr 2016

The Hard Life of a People’s Commissar

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New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor yesterday tweeted the menu of the bill of fare on Bernie Sanders private chartered plane wafting the man-of-the-people back home from his meeting with the Pope.

Those champions of the common man certainly know how to live.


17 Apr 2016

Harvard Threatening its Final Clubs

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Harvard’s Porcellian Club

It is a measure of the hypocrisy and endemic intellectual confusion of today’s elite university administrators that they will commonly lavishly fund identity houses for spooks, beaners, broads, Injuns, and queers where representatives of recognized and privileged minorities can hang out, party, and discuss all their historic grievances ad nauseam in their very own safe spaces, while the very same university administrators will denounce male-only private clubs as flawed with a “deeply misogynistic attitudes, reflected by the long-standing refusal of many clubs to admit women as members.” Meanwhile, we are supposed to assume that the Harvard Women’s Center is obviously totally free of even superficial “misanthropic” attitudes.

The Harvard Administration is busy these days twisting the arms of its final clubs to co-educate, holding over their heads the threat of banning undergraduate membership in single gender fraternities or clubs with the expulsion of anyone who dared to violate such a ban as a penalty.

The Wall Street Journal remarked negatively on Harvard’s attack on students’ freedom of association.

17 Apr 2016

Suppose I Self-Identify as a 6-Foot-Five Chinese Woman?

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Today’s college students ponder the question.

16 Apr 2016

Nobody Likes Being Suddenly Woken Up

16 Apr 2016

The Struggle to Find a Respectable Three-Button Suit

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Harry Mount is frustrated to find that most tailors have succumbed to the two-button suit trend.

Last week I walked along Jermyn Street, spiritual home of the gentleman’s suit, and noticed something shocking. The jackets in the shop windows had lots of materials — tweed, cotton, wool — in all colours, shades and checks. But every single jacket had two buttons.

When did tailors get so boringly uniform? Why has the three-button suit — the classic style that dominated the 20th century — been wiped off the map? As a diehard three-button man, am I a fogeyish dinosaur, a walking Bateman cartoon: ‘The Man Who Wore a Three-Button Suit in the 21st Century’?

I seek solace (and a new three-button suit, in storm- grey, 13-ounce birdseye wool) from Tina Loder, a tailor for more than 30 years, and one of the few women tailors on Savile Row. ‘We’re going through a two-button cycle, just as we went through a three-button cycle a decade ago,’ she says. ‘Two buttons signal a casual informality and egalitarianism.’

But what if I don’t want to look casually informal and egalitarian?

Read the whole thing and insist on three-button suits.

Hat tip to David Wagner.

16 Apr 2016

Archibald Rutledge Turkey Call

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Guyette & Deeter Auction, 22 April 2016, Lot 483, A turkey call hand-made circa 1950 by famous Outdoor Writer and Poet Laureate of South Carolina Archibald Rutledge.
Estimate: US $1,250.00 – US $1,750.00 — Opening Bid: $650.00

Archibald Rutledge was heir to Hampton Plantation, Poet Laureate of South Carolina, and the direct descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a governor of South Carolina, and a Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. He published numerous articles on hunting and the out-of-doors in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and similar serial publications, as well as close to 40 books. He taught English for many years at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania.

Archibald Rutledge, 1883-1973

16 Apr 2016

Ancient Revolutionary Philosophy

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Emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti of the Ch’in dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BC.

Ian Johnson reviews, in the New York Review of Books, Sarah Allan’s Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts, a study of ancient Chinese manuscripts written on bamboo slips containing the views of heretofore-unknown Ch’in-suppressed Chinese philosophic schools completely outside the familiar Confucian and Taoist traditions, views favoring meritocratic rather than hereditary dynastic government.

As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China. The documents had been smuggled to Hong Kong and were lying in a vault, waiting for a buyer.

Universities and museums around the Chinese world were interested but reluctant to buy. The documents were written on hundreds of strips of bamboo, about the size of chopsticks, that seemed to date from 2,500 years ago, a time of intense intellectual ferment that gave rise to China’s greatest schools of thought. But their authenticity was in doubt, as were the ethics of buying looted goods. Then, in July, an anonymous graduate of Tsinghua University stepped in, bought the soggy stack, and shipped it back to his alma mater in Beijing. …

The manuscripts’ importance stems from their particular antiquity. Carbon dating places their burial at about 300 BCE. This was the height of the Warring States Period, an era of turmoil that ran from the fifth to the third centuries BCE. During this time, the Hundred Schools of Thought arose, including Confucianism, which concerns hierarchical relationships and obligations in society; Daoism (or Taoism), and its search to unify with the primordial force called Dao (or Tao); Legalism, which advocated strict adherence to laws; and Mohism, and its egalitarian ideas of impartiality. These ideas underpinned Chinese society and politics for two thousand years, and even now are touted by the government of Xi Jinping as pillars of the one-party state.

The newly discovered texts challenge long-held certainties about this era. Chinese political thought as exemplified by Confucius allowed for meritocracy among officials, eventually leading to the famous examination system on which China’s imperial bureaucracy was founded. But the texts show that some philosophers believed that rulers should also be chosen on merit, not birth—radically different from the hereditary dynasties that came to dominate Chinese history. The texts also show a world in which magic and divination, even in the supposedly secular world of Confucius, played a much larger part than has been realized. And instead of an age in which sages neatly espoused discrete schools of philosophy, we now see a more fluid, dynamic world of vigorously competing views—the sort of robust exchange of ideas rarely prominent in subsequent eras.

These competing ideas were lost after China was unified in 221 BCE under the Qin, China’s first dynasty. In one of the most traumatic episodes from China’s past, the first Qin emperor tried to stamp out ideological nonconformity by burning books. … Modern historians question how many books really were burned. (More works probably were lost to imperial editing projects that recopied the bamboo texts onto newer technologies like silk and, later, paper in a newly standardized form of Chinese writing.) But the fact is that for over two millennia all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification. Earlier versions and competing ideas were lost—until now.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Belacqui.

15 Apr 2016

Best Selfie Ever

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Via Melissa.

15 Apr 2016

Donald Trump Calls Ted Cruz

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15 Apr 2016

io9 Reviewer and “The Jungle Book” (2016)

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Katherine Trendacosta and Rudyard Kipling

Then leftist W.H. Auden, paying valedictory tribute to the reactionary William Butler Yeats in 1939, condescendingly conceded that Kipling’s literary merit gained him forgiveness for his Imperialist views:

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

Columbia graduate Katherine Trendacosta, night editor of io9, writing in 2016 is a lot less tolerant than was W.H. Auden back then.

Ms. Trendacosta decisively warns potential viewers of Disney Movie’s “The Jungle Book” (2016) that “Rudyard Kipling Was a Racist Fuck and The Jungle Book Is Imperialist Garbage.”

We are currently in the 21st century. We are in the second decade of the 21st century and there are not one, not two, but three Jungle Book movies on the horizon. And that means that it’s time to remind everyone that Rudyard Kipling was a piece of racist, imperialist trash. …

[There is] inherent racism and imperialism baked into The Jungle Book. And the argument about when the book was written and by whom doesn’t excuse either Disney or Warner Bros. from making adaptations of it in the 21st century. Unless these movies are loaded with historical context, or are subversive critiques of Kipling, they’re still adapting, for entertainment, a story that has fundamental issues. …

I’m not saying that Kipling should be censored, but I am saying that he cannot be presented without context. There are messages in The Jungle Book that are very hard to remove. Hell, Disney managed to add to the problems in the 1960s when it added a character called King Louie, who is widely seen as a racist caricature of black people. (Kipling’s book has monkeys, which are the worst of the animal lot, being incapable of having government and only able to mimic others without a decent culture of their own.)

And, at the end of the day, we’re still left with a story where a white person exoticizes a country and its people. How does this idea pass muster in 2016?

Whole thing.

Spectacular, isn’t it?

I find, to my amazement, that I now live in a world in which a graduate of an elite university is (apparently) unable to read “The Jungle Book,” a tremendously lovable children’s classic, with appreciation or enjoyment because she finds the author’s world-view and politics ideologically offensive.

Ms. Trendacosta does not actually find it necessary to review the Disney cartoon. She considers it sufficient to indict the author of the book on which, I expect, the animated feature is very loosely based, and to heap abuse on him and the original book.

I am frankly more than a little skeptical as to whether this reviewer has ever actually read “The Jungle Book.” She is probably, in reality, just applying political taxonomy based on a glance at the Wikipedia plot summary and an on-line political critique by Edward Said she found somewhere. Had she really read the book, I have to believe that she would speak differently.

Apart from this reviewer’s manifest unfamiliarity with, what the late Susan Sontag would have referred to as, the erotics of the reading experience of “TJB,” I was myself struck by this writer’s total reliance upon petitio principii, “the assumption of the initial point.” It never remotely occurs to Ms. Trendacosta that she is under any obligation to offer arguments against Imperialism or the late Rudyard Kipling’s belief in the superiority of British culture and institutions to those indigenous to India. Her own perspective is totally absolute and goes without saying, and if you were to violate it by thought crime, one gets the impression that you’d be lucky to get off being merely humiliated and ostracised. You should really be immediately taken out and shot.

io9 is a techie geek sort of blog, the kind of blog that reviews games, software developments, and nerd culture sorts of things, Marvel comics, Star Wars, Game of Thrones. It is depressing and alarming to find the likes of io9 infested by Social Justice Warrior-types, too illiterate to have ever read “The Jungle Book,” but ideologically intolerant and arrogant enough to denounce it anyway.

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