Hello! Rebecca Onion is still out, and I’m still Gabriel Roth, here to highlight thought-provoking pieces from Slate and around the web.
How are the Supreme Court justices responding to the death of Antonin Scalia? Dahlia Lithwick suggests that Clarence Thomas may be breaking his 10-year silence to take Scalia’s place in oral arguments: “It’s as if he feels duty-bound to ask the very question Justice Scalia—whose chair stands beside him, draped in black bunting—would have asked.” As if that weren’t surprising enough, Mark Joseph Stern suggests that “Scalia’s other legacy—his dedication to interpreting statutes in accordance with their text and plain meaning—will be taken up by a frequent ideological opponent: Justice Elena Kagan.”
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued on Sunday that Donald Trump’s rise in the Republican primaries is due in part to “Obama-era trends in liberal politics.” Will Saletan rejects that argument. “Obama didn’t cause Trump,” Saletan writes. “What caused Trump was the GOP’s decision to negate Obama in every way, and thereby become the party of Trump.”
And speaking of Trump, as we seem to do so much lately: Three decades ago he launched a campaign to save the world from nuclear war. “Impatience, combativeness, impulsiveness—not exactly what you’re hoping for when it comes to the guy in charge of the nuclear trigger,” writes Ron Rosenbaum, whose 1987 profile of Donald Trump, anti-nuclear activist, is reprinted on Slate today. “On the other hand he seemed genuinely aware of just how much danger nukes put the world in and how futile efforts thus far had been to deal with that danger.”
A self-driving Google car caused a collision in Mountain View last month. The accident itself was trivial—the Googlemobile was traveling at 2 m.p.h.—but it points to a problem for driverless transportation. “So far no software remotely approaches the ability of humans to constantly and effortlessly guess what other people want to do,” writes Samuel English Anthony, a Harvard computer scientist. “The human driving down that narrow street may say to herself ‘none of these oncoming cars will let me go unless I’m a little bit pushy’ and then act on that instinct, but behaving that way will be one of the greatest challenges of making human-like AI.”
Impatiently, combatively, impulsively,