The next primary contest after Florida is shaping up to be a confusing mess -- and one billionaire is getting a very special accommodation.
Updated 7:25 p.m.
If you thought the confusion surrounding the Iowa caucuses was bad, wait until you see Nevada.
When the traveling Republican circus moves on after Tuesday's Florida primary, it will head for the Silver State -- giving Newt Gingrich's most generous backer, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a chance to cast a vote for his candidate.
But with the caucuses scheduled for a Saturday morning, Adelson, an observant Jew, originally would not have been able to participate. So, largely at his urging, the state's Republicans will hold a special extra caucus, hours after the rest of the state has finished voting and reporting its totals.
In case the symbolism wasn't clear enough, the extra caucus, scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific time, is being held at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, an Adelson-funded private school in Las Vegas.
Party officials insist that's just a coincidence, but insiders say without the influence of Adelson, a generous donor to local candidates and causes, the rogue caucus almost certainly would not exist.
Here's how it is supposed to work, according to a conference call with Nevada GOP officials Friday afternoon. Nevada has 17 counties, but more than half the Republican voters are in Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas.
Each county was allowed to set its own caucus procedures this year, leading to a divergent array of start times and rules across the state. Some precincts will open their doors as early as 8 a.m.; others won't get under way until noon. But all must wrap up the action by 3 p.m.
At 5 p.m., the party will publicly announce the results of the caucuses for the 16 smaller counties. (Since these results will have been announced at the precinct level, the campaigns and media likely will already have a sense by then.)
At 7 p.m., just as the special evening caucus is getting under way, the results for the rest of Clark County will be announced.
Needless to say, this is not a normal way to run an election. Even the Iowa caucuses, for all their flaws, started at the same appointed hour across the state. Four years ago, Nevada's GOP caucuses, which drew 44,000 voters, all commenced promptly at 9 a.m.
The bizarre arrangement leaves the door open to all kinds of campaign hijinks. Party officials say attendees at the evening caucus will have to sign an affidavit swearing that they didn't already vote earlier, and their names will be checked against the voter rolls. Officials expect about 500 to attend the evening caucus, and while it is meant to accommodate those who observe a Saturday sabbath, such as Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists, the party won't "police" that requirement, executive director David Gallagher said on Friday's conference call.
Supporters of Ron Paul, who has a well-organized campaign in Nevada, have complained bitterly about the situation, which they believe will allow Adelson to somehow rig the caucus results in favor of Gingrich.
"This is all happening because Sheldon Adelson feels like he needs to intervene and cause chaos," said Carl Bunce, Nevada chairman of the Paul campaign. He likened the situation to allowing absentee balloting after an election has already ended.
Gallagher said the school's selection as a caucus site came before the Adelsons dumped $10 million into the Winning Our Future super PAC's scorched-earth effort on behalf of Gingrich, and that the school does not belong to the Adelsons, though they donated $25 million to build it and are expected to show up to vote there.
"It just happened to be Sheldon's name on the building," he said. "Sheldon doesn't own it. It's a school that has his name on it."
Other party regulars wonder why Jewish voters couldn't simply participate in the absentee balloting system the party set up to accommodate active-duty military personnel. But the party officials on Friday's conference call downplayed the situation, saying the evening caucus was the best way to accommodate the most voters.
For the Nevada Republican Party, which caved to pressure from New Hampshire and moved its contest from third to fifth on the calendar, the result seems likely to be an embarrassing mess that satisfies no one but gives everyone reason to complain. (One insider called the state party "a bad idea machine.")
But the party's chairwoman, Amy Tarkanian, professed Friday to be ecstatic about the arrangements. "I could not be any more happier than I am right now," she said.
Why some progressives are minimizing Russia’s election meddling
When it comes to possible collusion with Russia, Donald Trump’s most interesting defenders don’t reside on the political right. They reside on the political left.
Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich aren’t defending a principle. They’re defending a patron. Until recently they were ultra-hawks. Now, to downplay Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections, they sound like ultra-doves. All that matters is supporting their ally in the White House.
For left-wing defenders like Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald, by contrast, ideology is king. Blumenthal and Greenwald loathe Trump. But they loathe hawkish foreign policy more. So they minimize Russia’s election meddling to oppose what they see as a new Cold War.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.
At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
The transcript of the president’s conversation with The New York Times throws his shortcomings into greater relief than ever before.
“Now Donald Trump has finally done it” is a sentence many people have said or written, but which has never yet proven true. As Trump gained momentum during the campaign season, errors that on their own would have stopped or badly damaged previous candidates bounced right off.
These ranged from mocking John McCain as a loser (because “I like people who weren’t captured”), to being stumped by the term “nuclear triad” (the weapons of mass destruction that he as U.S. president now controls), to “when you’re a star ... you can grab ‘em by the pussy” (my onetime employer Jimmy Carter had to spend days in the 1976 campaign explaining away his admission to Playboy that he had sometimes felt “lust in the heart”), to being labelled by an in-party opponent a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and “a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen” (the words of his now-supporter Ted Cruz). I kept my list of 152 such moments in the Time Capsule series as the campaign went on.
I used to adore the Pride and Prejudice author. But over the years I’ve grown more ambivalent toward her and the fervor for her work.
I once confessed to an audience gathered for a pre-show talk about Pride and Prejudice that I felt a bit salty to see so many of them in attendance. A few months earlier, I explained, I’d given an absolutely fascinating lecture on Mary Shelley to maybe five people, one of whom was my Aunt Carmen. The crowd for Jane Austen—and it was a crowd—laughed. A mix of students, folks from the surrounding towns, and my colleagues were there to see a stage adaptation of what is arguably the author’s most popular novel. It was my job to introduce the performance, and I was terrified. It’s no small thing to talk about Austen in public. There’s always a cluster of people who have been reading her since before they could walk, and they not only have strong opinions but also know her and her writing like my mother knew the Bible.
The attorney general says he was acting as a senator, but a review of his activities that summer shows ambassadors seeking him out as a Trump surrogate.
It can be hard to get a straight answer out of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
When Senator Al Franken asked then-Senator Sessions at his Senate confirmation hearing on January 10 whether he “communicated with the Russian government,” he said, “I'm not aware of any of those activities.” Unprompted, Sessions then went further, saying, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have—did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it.” Then less than two months later, on March 1, The Washington Postreported that Sessions had, in fact, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—not once, but twice.
It was a serious omission, especially for the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, and one who is a vocal advocate for law and order. Scrambling to contain the damage, Sessions issued a statement that attempted to draw a very subtle distinction. Calling the report “false,” he said that he had “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” His spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, spelled it out even more clearly: “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign—not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” she said. (In fact, Franken had made no such qualification.) And a White House official insisted that Sessions had “met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,” not a campaign surrogate.
A long time ago, beds were expensive—but there's more to it than that.
With a guest in town occupying the second bedroom of our Manhattan apartment, my three-year-old son, a notorious sideways sleeper, bunked with my pregnant wife and me. Too many snores and little feet in the back of my neck, I relocated to the sofa, where I was blessed with the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.
As a self-diagnosed insomniac, a good night’s rest for me lasts anywhere from three to five hours. I generally break up the slumber with walks around the apartment, followed by lying awake and unearthing inconsequential paranoia that, come morning, will not live up to the hype. When I hear people claim they get eight hours of sleep each night, they might as well be talking about the Loch Ness Monster, or alien life. All three are things I suppose it’s possible someone may have encountered, but I cannot personally confirm their existence.
What’s gained and what’s lost when religion becomes an individualist—or even consumerist—endeavor?
Two perceived qualities of Orthodox Judaism—authenticity and ancientness—are enticing people outside this religious tradition to pay for the chance to sample it. In Israel, secular citizens and foreign visitors willing to fork over $20 to the tour company Israel-2Go can embark on a trip to an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, where they’ll watch men in black hats and women in long skirts buying challah bread from a kosher bakery while a guide narrates the scene. They can also pay to take a tour of the menorahs in Jerusalem’s Old City alleyways during Hanukkah; eat a five-course Friday night Shabbat meal in the home of an observant family; or hear a lecture about the different nuances of the black-and-white garb worn by men from various ultra-Orthodox sects.
Like many current presidential advisers, the new White House communications director and former Wall Street financier made a quick pivot from Trump basher to Trump loyalist.
Like many of Donald Trump’s closest non-family advisers, Anthony Scaramucci traveled a circuitous route into the inner orbit of the mercurial president.
The Wall Street financier and former Obama donor once called then-candidate Trump “a hack politician,” a big-mouthed “bully,” and “an inherited money dude from Queens County” and backed two other Republican presidential contenders, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, before embracing Trump as the party’s nominee.
Nearly two years later, Scaramucci, 52, is one of Trump’s most aggressive television surrogates and, as of Friday morning, the White House communications director.
In truth, the smooth-talking Long Island native—nicknamed “the Mooch”—made the transition from Trump basher to Trump loyalist quicker than many Republicans. After a 90-minute meeting with the candidate at Trump Tower in June 2016, Scaramucci was fully onboard and soon praised Trump as “a results-oriented entrepreneur capable of delivering bipartisan solutions to common-sense problems.” The soon-to-be GOP nominee, Scaramucci added, was “the only candidate giving an honest assessment of our country’s ideological decay.”
A conservative group is resisting congressional efforts to kneecap FOIA.
The health-care clusterfudge continues. Senator John McCain has brain cancer. President Trump throws another public tantrum. Russia, Russia, Russia.
That about covers the Big Political Headlines of the week. Now for something really sexy: the creeping assault on the Freedom of Information Act.
Stop right there! No clicking over to that Tucker Carlson YouTube rant. This is another one of those ticky-tacky, below-the-radar issues that may sound like a nonprescription substitute for Ambien but is, practically speaking, super important—especially in the Age of Trump.
FOIA is what enables regular people to pester powerful federal agencies into handing over information about what they’ve been up to. FOIA’s website calls it “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” Though a tad grandiose, that characterization is pretty much accurate. And never has such a tool been quite so vital as with the current White House, which has adopted a policy of unabashedly lying about pretty much everything.