Thursday, October 27, 2016

Authors, Authors

If you want to start a discussion among theatre scholars, just speculate on who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.  It’s been a running argument since he shuffled off this mortal coil, but now scholars at Oxford are saying they have deduced that at least some of them were co-authored by Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.

The New Oxford Shakespeare edition of the playwright’s works — which will be published by Oxford University Press online ahead of a worldwide print release — lists Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare’s co-author on the three “Henry VI” plays, parts 1, 2 and 3.

It’s the first time that a major edition of Shakespeare’s works has listed Shakespeare’s colleague and rival as a co-author on these works, the volume’s general editor, Gary Taylor, said in a phone interview.

“No one has had the confidence to put the name actually on the title page,” Mr. Taylor said. “Which is perfectly reasonable because the only reason that we can do it now is because Shakespeare has entered the world of big data.”

The “Henry VI” plays have long been believed to be the work of more than one author. Names floated by scholars in addition to Marlowe’s include Robert Greene and George Peele.

As a theatre scholar — albeit more of modern American (post-World War II) drama — we used to discuss this all the time back in grad school, and the possibility of Marlowe as a collaborator was more or less a given. Were it not for copyright and the staunch support of the Dramatists Guild today that protects a playwright’s work, a lot of people could lay claim to authorship. Playwriting is inherently collaborative. Input from the director, the designers, even the actors, can change or refocus a script, but we playwrights are the ones who get stiffed on the royalties.

Four hundred years ago, it would be an event if a play went up strictly as written. For one thing, a lot of the actors couldn’t even read. There was no such thing as a director; that’s a 20th century concept evolving out of the actor/manager persona. So what we see in the folios probably wasn’t what the audience was hearing anyway.

In the larger scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter to me if there was more than one author of Shakespeare’s work or if he didn’t write them at all.  The works speak for themselves.

Three Little Words Again

Back in June of 2004 I wrote:

So while presidents may come and go, their legacy lives on after them and the consequences of a Supreme Court vacancy can change the course of the nation. Anyone who may have doubts about John Kerry or quibble with his stand on the war in Iraq should keep three little words in mind when they go into the voting booth in November: The Supreme Court.

We’ve had more than 200 days to consider the fact that Antonin Scalia’s corpse was still warm when the Republicans announced that they would basically say fuck their constitutionally mandated responsibility; we’re not voting on another one of President Obama’s picks for the Supreme Court until after the election in November, if then.  Now there are those who are saying that they won’t vote on any of Hillary Clinton’s appointees ever.

As Ilya Shapiro at The Federalist smugly notes, the Republicans are fully within their rights to do so because neener neener nyah nyah:

Clinton’s admission that her nominees would “be in the grand tradition of standing up to the powerful”—like some black-robed community organizers—is far more damning than her nonsensical positions on Heller (Second Amendment) or Citizens United (declining to punish producers of a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton).

Should senators rubber-stamp judicial nominees of that ilk, who care not about the law but rather hew to particular policies, out of a sense of tradition or deference to the executive? I simply can’t blame politicians who follow their convictions. If you truly believe that a particular nominee would wreak havoc on America, why not do everything you can to stop him?


So when you get past the gotcha headlines, breathless reportage, and Inauguration Day, if Hillary Clinton is president it would be completely decent, honorable, and in keeping with the Senate’s constitutional duty to vote against essentially every judicial nominee she names.

There is a simple way to solve this problem and get the Court back to its full complement of justices: elect more Democrats to the Senate than Republicans and get a vote on the nominees.  It would be nice to get more than 60 Democrats elected so that there wouldn’t have to be a fight over the filibuster rule, but we’ll take as many as we can get.  That’s why it’s important to beat Marco Rubio here in Florida, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Roy Blount in Missouri, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania; those at the very least.

Because if we don’t and the Republicans have their way, we could be looking at ten years — assuming Hillary Clinton wins a second term — between the time Justice Scalia checked out and his replacement is seated, and that’s assuming that no one else leaves the Court, either of their own volition or via the hand of the supporting role in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”

Your move, voters.

There’s That Word Again

The word is “consent.”  In recent weeks it’s been in the news because a number of women have come forward to claim that Donald Trump touched them, ogled them, or just plain creeped them out without their consent.  Mr. Trump either denied it completely or implied that they really didn’t mean it; who could resist his charms?  Ick.

But now “consent” is back, but this time in another way and with a meaning and force of law that could have a real impact on the election.

In a dramatic escalation of a long legal battle between the national Democratic and Republican parties – and in what is arguably a fitting culmination to the year of Donald Trump – the Democratic National Committee is asking a federal court to hold the Republican National Committee in contempt of court for allegedly violating a decades-old consent decree limiting so-called “ballot security” activities at poll places.

The Democrats’ filing Wednesday, among other things, ask that the consent decree — which is set to expire Dec. 17 — be extended for another eight years. The DNC is also asking the court to block any coordination between Trump and the RNC as it relates to Election Day poll monitoring activities that many fear will amount to voter intimidation.

The legal move by the DNC comes in response to Donald Trump’s calls for vigilante “poll watchers” to come out in force nationwide on Election Day. The RNC had hoped to be freed from the consent decree as soon as next year, and Trump’s actions now threaten to hobble the GOP for nearly another decade, if Democrats have their way.

As Trump has amped up his rhetoric claiming a “rigged elections” and urged his supporters “go over and watch” voting sites in “certain areas, the RNC has tried desperately to distance itself from the campaign’s poll monitors efforts, given the consent decree. But Trump campaign hasn’t made that easy. Wednesday’s filing cites comments made by Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), Trump’s running mate, at a town hall event and by Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, to the Washington Post suggesting collaboration with the RNC on anti-voter fraud activities.

The court is going to have to rule very quickly; we’re coming down to eleven days to go before the polls open on Election Day.

The overarching fact is that the Republicans know full well that there are more Democrats in the country than there are Republicans.  That means they either have to convince the electorate that their candidate is better than the Democrats’ or that they have to find some way to deprive certain members of the opposition of the vote.  This year especially they have a hard time with the first method, so they have to use the second.

In other words, if you can’t win fair and square, cheat.

Tales From The Dork Side

Remember Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL)?  Yeah, me neither except for the fact that he was a total waste of skin in Congress yammering on about teabagger issues and generally being a dick.  His constituents wisely voted him out after one ignominious term and replaced him with Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth.  But old Joe is still at it.

walsh-musket-tweet-10-26-16Yeah, you and your scooter-riding buddies go ahead and grab your musket, Joe, on November 9.  We’ll be waiting.

All this talk about revolution and rebellion from the Trumpistas if the election doesn’t go their way is just the right-wing mindset gone gonzo.  They fully believe that they are the only ones destined to rule and anyone else is illegitimate, especially if they’re not white Christian men.  The fact that a black man will be followed by a woman into the White House is enough to make them go even further over the edge than they did with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

The way to make them STFU is to make sure that we get out there and vote.  Get your friends and neighbors.  Vote early if you can.  Let’s make sure that not only does Hillary Clinton win, so does every Democratic senate candidate and as many House and local candidates as we can get in, too.  That will stuff a ramrod down their muskets.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Historical Perspective

The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States, King Edward VII was on the throne in Great Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled Germany, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was very much alive as was Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and my maternal grandmother was five years old.

HT to LGM.

An Odd Crop Of Supporters

There was a mild kerfuffle when the father of the Pulse nightclub shooter showed up at a Clinton rally in Orlando last summer, which proves only that unless you’re Dick Cheney and can have the Secret Service screen out people in the parking lot, it’s tough to prevent some deplorable characters from showing up.  But via Miami New Times, this batch at a Trump rally is worth noting.

So who is this new face of Trump’s elusive black support?

He’s none other than Michael the Black Man, also known as Maurice Woodside or Michael Symonette, who has made waves in Miami in recent years with protests against the Democratic Party and rallies for the GOP.

He’s also a former member of the murderous Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, which was led by the charismatic preacher Hulon Mitchell Jr., who was charged by the feds in 1990 with conspiracy in killings that included a gruesome beheading in the Everglades.

Michael, along with 15 other Yahweh followers, was charged for allegedly conspiring in two murders; his brother, who was also in the cult, told jurors that Michael had helped beat one man who was later killed and stuck a sharpened stick into another man’s eyeball. But jurors found Michael (and six other Yahweh followers) innocent. They sent Mitchell away for 20 years in the federal pen.

In the years that followed, he changed his last name to Symonette, made a career as a musician, started a radio station in Miami and then re-invented himself as Michael the Black Man, an anti-gay, anti-liberal preacher with a golden instinct for getting on TV at GOP events. He’s planned events with Rick Santorum and gotten cable news play for bashing Obama.

Since 1997, he’s been charged with grand theft auto, carrying a weapon onto an airplane and threatening a police officer, but never convicted in any of those cases.

So why is he supporting Trump? Reached on his cell phone in Lakeland, he said he likes Trump’s plan to lower taxes, but also offered a complicated answer tying Hillary Clinton to a range of racist activities.

“One reason is because Hillary’s last name is Rodham, and their family members are Rothchilds, who enslaved 13,000 slaves as collateral,” he says. “She’s also on camera kissing the head of the Ku Klux Klan and saying, ‘That’s my mentor.’ That’s all on my website.”

I bring this up because at the Trump rally yesterday in Miami there was someone holding up one of Michael’s signs with the URL blacked out (so to speak) and it was held by a white person.

blacks-for-trump-10-26-16Um, okay.

Trump to GOP: You’re On Your Own

The tactics of someone who’s in it for themselves and no one else.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has no further high-dollar fundraising events planned for the remainder of the campaign, dealing another serious blow to the GOP’s effort to finance its get-out-the-vote operation before Election Day.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the party and the campaign, held its last formal fundraiser on Oct. 19. The luncheon was in Las Vegas on the day of the final presidential debate.

“We’ve kind of wound down,” Mnuchin said, referring to formal fundraisers. “But the online fundraising continues to be strong.”

While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is headlining her last fundraiser Tuesday night in Miami, her campaign has scheduled 41 other events between now and Nov. 3 featuring high-profile surrogates such as her daughter, Chelsea, running mate Tim Kaine and the entertainer Cher, according to a schedule sent to donors this weekend.

Trump’s campaign is continuing to bring in donations that will boost the party, but the lack of a formal fundraising schedule effectively turns off one of the main spigots to the Republican National Committee. The national party collected $40 million through Trump Victory as of Sept. 30. The RNC has relied on the funds to help pay for hundreds of field staffers deployed across the country as part of its national ground operation, which is working to turn out voters to support the entire Republican ticket.

RNC officials said that party leaders, including Chairman Reince Priebus, are continuing to bring in resources for the party. “The RNC continues to fundraise for the entire GOP ticket,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.

It’s like he knows he’s going to lose so why should he care about what happens to the party?  It’s not like there’s any love lost between them.  But it really does make it clear that the only reason Mr. Trump is running as a Republican is because he saw them and their base as more gullible and pluckable, and he would have lost the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton in a landslide.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thank You, Friend

I received a very pleasant surprise today from a friend of this blog: a donation to the BBWW coffers.

I won’t embarrass my friend by mentioning any names, but let me take this opportunity to say a heartfelt and humble thank you for your support and encouragement.  It is a vote of confidence and an inspiration to keep on going.

Two weeks from today will not only be the election, but it will also mark BBWW’s thirteenth anniversary.  I’ll have more to say about that at the time, but having your support — financially or otherwise — is one of the reasons I keep doing this.

Thank you.

First Things First

If you think calling Donald Trump a dictator-in-waiting is over the top, then what would you call someone who thinks that the First Amendment needs to be changed because freedom of the press is ruining his campaign?

In an interview with WFOR, CBS’ Miami affiliate, Trump was asked if he believes the First Amendment provides “too much protection.”

Trump answered in the affirmative, saying he’d like to change the laws to make it easier to sue media companies. Trump lamented that, under current law, “our press is allowed to say whatever they want.”

Yes, they are.  That is the point.

Funny (not really) how certain amendments, like the Second, are sacrosanct to Mr. Trump while others, like the First, Fourth, and Fifth are a threat to Law ‘n’ Order.  These are the same people who are calling for less government and more freedom.

Two Weeks Out

Is the race over?  Superstitious folk and pollsters with long memories (1936 and 1948) say never say it is, but it’s hard to imagine anything other than a giant meteor changing the trajectory of the race.

There are those who are going around saying yes it’s over; Hillary Clinton has a 93% chance of winning, according to the New York Times Upshot.  I prefer to go with the people at FiveThirtyEight who are a little less convinced (although still convincing) with an 86.3% chance.

fivethirtyeight-pollsonly-10-25-16The Oracle speaks:

As I wrote last week, Hillary Clinton is probably going to become the next president. But there’s an awful lot of room to debate what “probably” means.

FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only model puts Clinton’s chances at 85 percent, while our polls-plus model has her at 83 percent. Those odds have been pretty steady over the past week or two, although if you squint you can see the race tightening just the slightest bit, with Clinton’s popular vote lead at 6.2 percentage points as compared to 7.1 points a week earlier. Still, she wouldn’t seem to have a lot to complain about.

Other statistical models are yet more confident in Clinton, however, variously putting her chances at 92 percent to 99 percent. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big difference, since people (wrongly) tend to perceive odds above 80 percent as sure things. But flip those numbers around, and instead of Clinton’s chances, consider Donald Trump’s. The New York Times’s Upshot model gives Trump an 8 percent chance of winning the election. Our models say a Trump presidency is about twice a likely as The Upshot does, putting his chances at 15 percent (polls-only) and 17 percent (polls-plus). And our models think Trump is about four times as likely to win the presidency as the Huffington Post Pollster model, which puts his chances at 4 percent.

So let me explain why our forecast is a bit more conservative than some of the others you might be seeing — and why you shouldn’t give up if you’re a Trump supporter, or assume you have it in the bag if you’re voting for Clinton. We’ve touched on each of these points before, but it’s nice to have them in one place. I’ll also show you what probability our model would give to Trump and Clinton if we changed some of these assumptions.

TLDR: 1) A lot of voters are still undecided; 2) The model is calibrated on general elections since 1972; 3) The models are allowing for more unlikely events (giant meteor, perhaps?); 4) State outcomes are correlated with one another.

As we say frequently, the greater uncertainty in the FiveThirtyEight forecast cuts both ways. So while we show a greater likelihood of a Trump win than most other models, we’d also assign a greater possibility to a Clinton landslide, in which she wins the election by double digits. But while the campaign is almost over, the suspense isn’t quite done.

In other words, if you can’t bear the suspense, you still have the World Series (which Nate pegs the Cubs as favored to win) or the new TV season to distract you.

Short Takes

Militants attack police academy in Pakistan; many killed.

Vatican to help mediate political situation in Venezuela.

Ex-attorney general of Pennsylvania sentenced to prison.

Pentagon trying to get back recruitment bonuses.

No kidding: Study says guns on campus won’t make them safer.

Game 1 of the World Series is tonight in Cleveland.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Bigly List

The New York Times has compiled a list of the 281 people, places, and things that Donald Trump has insulted via Twitter since he announced his run for president in 2015.

The mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey is “not a nice person.” The golf swing of the actor Samuel L. Jackson is “not athletic.” A lectern in the Oval Office “looks odd,” and the mobile carrier T-Mobile’s service “is terrible.”

These comments are not private thoughts, nor are they the result of an embarrassing hidden camera, an off-the-record comment or a document release. They are public statements made by Donald Trump to his 5.9 million Twitter followers.

We know this because we’ve read, tagged and quoted them all.

The end result is “Donald Trump’s Twitter Insults: The Complete List (So Far).” It’s not a sample of some insults, or just those about his political rivals — though plenty of those exist. It’s the full count — a 100 percent sample, in polling terms — representing our best effort to categorize more than 4,000 tweets Mr. Trump has made since he declared his candidacy in June 2015.

Of those, we found that one in every eight was a personal insult of some kind.

Neither I nor BBWW are on it.  I don’t know whether to be relieved or insulted.

Back To When?

Via C&L, we meet a Trump voter who wants to take her country back to a time when we didn’t have “the homosexuals” and “the abortions.”

A voter named Barbara explained that she was motivated to support Trump because “morality and values” were important to her.

“Based on what the country was based on,” she said. “I think that the laws that Obama has passed, the way the country has — I call it down turning. Some of the other people are proud of it and happy for it. I personally am against it, the homosexuals, the abortions. All the stuff, I am against.”

“When Donald Trump says ‘Make American Great Again,’ is that what you hear?” Dickerson wondered. “That it’s going to go back to before the time that you’re now describing?”

“That’s part of it,” Barbara agreed.

I’m not sure how far we’d have to go back in time to make Barbara happy.  If history is any guide, there have been gay people since the days that the first Homo Sapiens got together and checked out the hunky dude in the tight loincloth from the next cave over.  Abortion has been around since people figured out where babies come from.

Actually, I get where Barbara is coming from.  She wants gays back in the closet and abortions in the back alley so that we can all go on with our lives pretending that everyone is happily straight and that all babies are bundles of joy.  There were no teens driven to suicide because of bullying or being disowned for being “different,” no families torn apart by religious bigotry and poorly-suppressed reality, and there was no rape or incest or life-threatening birth defects.  Life was perfect until Barack Obama came along and in eight years just ruined it all.

PS: “The Homosexuals” and “The Abortions” sounds like the line-up of an ’80’s heavy-metal band concert.