Ad hominim “diplomacy”

An oxymoron of a title for this post, of course, but … usually difficult not to take the bait.  A tit for tat right back at @realDonaldTrump from Roland Paris, a former foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Trudeau. Paris tweeted about Trump: “Big tough guy once he’s back on his airplane. Can’t do it in person, and knows it, which makes him feel week. So he projects these feelings onto Trudeau and then lashes out at him. You don’t need to be Freud. He’s a pathetic little man-child.”

Politics in 1968

There is a lot of reminiscing going on about the anniversary of the tragic assassination of Robert Kennedy. Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg, for instance, asks today “what if 1968 never happened?” and plays “a little What If.” He writes:

It’s virtually certain that Kennedy would not have won the Democratic nomination for president in Chicago. In the pre-reform system, winning a few primaries just wasn’t that important. As long as Lyndon Johnson backed Hubert Humphrey, Humphrey had the delegates necessary to win.

But with Kennedy alive, the disastrous convention might well have been very different, especially if (as Nelson W. Polsby once speculated) Kennedy had been offered and accepted the vice presidential nod. With that, the Democrats would have been able to come a lot closer to being united at their convention, and it’s hardly implausible that a Humphrey/Kennedy ticket might have defeated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

The substantive changes had Humphrey won would likely have been enormous. The Vietnam War would almost certainly have ended much more quickly. Great Society programs would have (at least) had another four years of strong White House support. Nixon wound up putting four justices on the Supreme Court during his first term; presumably the two most liberal Humphrey picks would have been at least as liberal as Lewis Powell and Harry Blackmun, and the other two would have been far more liberal than Warren Burger and William Rehnquist.

It is the Humphrey tie that strikes me. It reminds me a of a photo of my Dad and Vice President Humphery that was taken during a campaign visit by Humphry to St. Louis in 1968.

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End-Times for Liberal Democracy?

“After years of simmering disenchantment with status quo politics, “2016 was a watershed” for populist parties and movements, says Yascha Mounk, a political theorist at Harvard University. Major democracies have seen movements that challenge democratic norms and institutions score victories at the ballot box amid rising economic anxieties and mass migration. Meanwhile, leaders in Hungary and Russia have modeled an alternative to the liberal democratic order that has predominated since the end of the Cold War, says Mounk, who holds fellowships at the German Marshall Fund and New America Foundation. The trend toward populist politics “is seemingly still accelerating,” he says, as the coming year is set to bring at least three elections in Europe.”

http://www.cfr.org/global/end-times-liberal-democracy/p38618

Tim Wakefield and the Glory of the Knuckleball – The New Yorker

The knuckleball—also known as the knuckler, the fingernail ball, the fingertip ball, the flutterball, the floater, the dancer, the bug, the butterfly ball, the moth, the bubble, the ghostball, the horseshoe, the dry spitter, and, curiously, the spinner—has been around, in one form or another, for nearly as long as professional baseball itself, though for much of that time it has been regarded with suspicion. Spinning is precisely what it does not do. In fact, a lack of spin is about the only identifying characteristic of the pitch. There is no right way to hold a knuckleball when throwing it (seams, no seams; two fingers, three), and no predictable flight pattern once it leaves the hand. “Butterflies aren’t bullets,” the longtime knuckleballer Charlie Hough once said. “You can’t aim ’em—you just let ’em go.” The pitch shakes, shimmies, wobbles, drops—it knuckles, as they say. Which is doubly confusing, because the term “knuckleball” is itself a kind of misnomer, a holdover from the pitch’s largely forgotten infancy.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/05/17/project-knuckleball

NYTimes: In ‘Half Earth,’ E.O. Wilson Calls for a Grand Retreat

Q. Why publish this book now?

A. Because a lifetime of research has magnified my perception that we are in a crisis with reference to the living part of the environment.We now have enough measurements of extinction rates and the likely rate in the future to know that it is approaching a thousand times the baseline of what existed before humanity came along.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/science/e-o-wilson-half-earth-biodiversity.html

Reconceptualising Specialist Environment Courts and Tribunals

Ceri Ailsa Warnock (University of Otago – Faculty of Law) has posted Reconceptualising Specialist Environment Courts and Tribunals (37 Legal Studies, 2017, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Specialist environment courts and tribunals (SECs) are, in the main, reflective of highly dynamic forms of adjudication, mixing judicial forms with powers more traditionally found in the executive. However, despite their novel legal nature the literature on SECs is predominantly promotional and it fails to address the challenges to legitimacy and governance engendered by these institutions. Nor does it evince a robust theory of environmental adjudication. These omissions not only impoverish the discourse but practice unsupported by theory is creating an unstable edifice. To illustrate this point the difficulties experienced in New Zealand are examined. The argument is made that only by confronting the challenges created by SECs can we begin to lay the foundations for a new theoretical model capable of explaining and accommodating environmental adjudication.

http://lsolum.typepad.com/legaltheory/2017/01/warnock-on-specialist-environment-courts.html

An Open Letter to Myself – Richard Falk

I have a politically active liberal friend who in the aftermath of the Trump victory believes rather fervently that ‘clarity,’ not ‘hope,’ is the opposite of ‘despair.’ To be awake to unpleasant, even dire, realities and resist the temptations of denial demands increasing resolve in the face of the mounting evidence that the human species is facing a biopolitical moment threatening civilizational collapse and species decline and fall as never before. Wakefulness can give rise to mindfulness, encouraging radical choices of right action individually, and even possibly collectively. My friend’s clarity was more narrowly focused—limited to recovering and carrying on in America after the unexpected electoral victory of Trump. For those of us living here, the fear of what Trump will do ‘to make America great again’ is overwhelming and deeply depressing without taking the slightest account of the biopolitical crisis threatening the future of the human habitat as well as already producing the extinction of many species that are being swept away by forces beyond their, and more often, our control.

https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/an-open-letter-to-myself/