1. If someone pokes Donald Trump, he must poke back. Must. Even if ignoring that initial poke would be the rational thing to do.
Now that thin skin is a characteristic we really don't want to see in someone who wants to lead "the free world".
What makes it even worse is the context of this most recent example of Trump's exaggerated self-defense: His responses are to the father and mother of a slain American soldier.
Trump's knee-jerk responses tell us not only that he would react like this to any needling by any foreign power but also that he lacks the ability to perceive nuances that most of us do perceive: What is appropriate behavior if one absolutely insists on criticizing the parents of someone whose grave is in the Arlington National Cemetery, and what is not.
The sad thing from Trump's point of view is naturally that had he kept his mouth shut we would no longer talk about the Khans and the sacrifice they have made. The sad thing more generally is that Trump is the Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.
2. A federal court has struck down North Carolina's very strict voter-ID law. On the surface that law was aimed at curbing "rampant" voter fraud, except that voter fraud is rare. When we dig deeper into the reasons for the struck-down law, we find this:
In particular, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. "This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)," the judges wrote.
So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. "With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans," the judges wrote. "The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess."
I'm very pleased to see that law struck down, and hope that this presages a trend of getting rid of other similarly biased laws. If Republicans are so concerned about fraud in voting, perhaps they should focus on what might happen after a vote has been entered into the voting machine.
3. This is an interesting opinion column on the economic differences between blue (Democratic leaning) and red (Republican leaning) states in the US. As you probably know, the blue states are, on average, wealthier (though with higher income inequality) and have better educated populaces. Then there's this:
This red-blue divergence is all the more striking because red states still receive much more in federal spending relative to the federal taxes their residents pay. In other words, blue states are generally outperforming red states even while heavily subsidizing them.
An important plank in the Republican platform is, of course, to reduce the kind of federal spending which tends to benefit the red states. That's as good a starting point as any for thinking about why people vote the way they do and to what extent their votes have something to do with their wallets.