Saturday, April 19, 2014

IN TOPEKA, THE KIDS, AT LEAST, ARE ALL RIGHT

Michelle Obama is scheduled to give a commencement address at a combined graduation ceremony for five high schools in Topeka, Kansas, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which concerned Topeka's school system. Some of the people involved in the graduation are upset:
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day.

... Taylor Gifford, 18, ... started an online petition Thursday evening to urge the district to reconsider its plans. She and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Obama's visit would limit the seating options for family and friends.

"I really would like it to have a peaceful solution, but there is so much misinformation going on," Gifford said.
Lefties who are reading this are accusing Topeka of being just as racist as it was sixty years ago, while wingnuts are expressing schadenfreude. But have you read Taylor Gifford's petition? I really believe she doesn't mean any disrespect to the First Lady at all:
We are honored to have the First Lady speak at commencement and the student body was literally crying and jumping for joy when the news was announced and we are in no way shape or form ungrateful for what the Board has done for us.

There are problems that come with the combining of the commencements. First of all, for most families in [Unified School District] 501, money is short and we have spent hundreds of dollars buying graduation announcements that are now incorrect. The district has stated they will not refund this. Topeka High School's graduation on its own takes approximately two and a half hours. The combining of five high schools will increase that to about six hours. With increased security the total time will be brought up to eight hours. Secondly, families have many people coming from states away taking sick leave to see the graduation. They will come to Topeka, only to find that they cannot be involved. Those with divorced families have to choose which side of the family they want to invite, this doesn't even include siblings.

This petition will go to the Board to keep graduation times the same and find a way for the speech to be given at all commencements, whether the First Lady is there in person or she has her speech recorded and replayed.
It seems as if these kids are deeply invested in the ceremony (in a way that I, as a cynical 1970s high school graduate, can't quite imagine), and that they've made complicated arrangements for this event that are now in doubt, which upsets them even though they were thrilled when the First Lady chose to speak to them. It seems as if they're really trying to avoid difficulties for their families. Believe me, a hater wouldn't have bothered to put that bit about "jumping for joy" into her petition -- nobody in modern America who truly hates the Obamas even tries anymore to show minimal respect.

Another kid quoted in the story has the same complaints (and proposed solution but calls herself a "die-hard Democrat." Why would she bother to say that, in a deeply Republican state, if she were a hater?

I don't know about the parents. I don't know about the other kids. But these two don't seem motivated by hate.

I HEARD FROM A GUY WHO HEARD FROM A GUY WHO SAYS OBAMACARE SUCKS

No, Republicans aren't going to move on, obviously:
When President Obama announced on Thursday that eight million Americans have now enrolled for insurance under the health-care law's exchanges, he delivered this message to Republicans: It's time to move on from the five-year Health Care War. And Republicans immediately responded with their own message -- no. "The president says that Republicans have not accepted Obamacare as settled law. He is right. Republicans cannot and will not accept this law," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a statement.
So anti-Obamacare absolutism is still the GOP electoral strategy. A couple of days ago, Brian York wrote that voters in this year's midterms will pass judgment on Obamacare based on whether they're benefiting from it or not:
When it comes to the politics of Obamacare, there's really only one question that matters: How many Americans are benefiting from the new health care system, and how many are hurting?

... So who has, in fact, been harmed by Obamacare? The first question, of course, is what "harmed" means. But let's define it as anyone who faces higher premiums, or higher deductibles -- adding up to a total higher cost — and/or a narrower choice of hospitals, doctors and prescription drugs than they had before. For them, health care is a more expensive and troublesome proposition than it was before Obamacare....

We know more about Obamacare's beneficiaries. First there are the three million or four million low-income people added to the Medicaid rolls....

Then there are the people who receive federal subsidies to buy health coverage through Obamacare's exchanges....

Add to that young people who are now remaining on their parents' coverage until age 26, the ... people who were in the past denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and others who in some way have a better deal under the new system, and you have the universe of Obamacare's beneficiaries.

How does that compare to the number of people who have gotten a bad deal from Obamacare? It's impossible to know right now, and that makes it impossible to make much of a political calculation.

... Will people who pay more, or who get less, or both, take their Obamacare unhappiness out against Democrats this November? Some surely will. But how many, and how strongly motivated they will be, will probably remain unknown until after the polls have closed....
But I don't believe that Republicans are trying to marshal an army of people genuinely or seemingly harmed by Obamacare to win the midterms and the 2016 elections. I think they're doing what they usually do, which is to rally a white, economically comfortable, suburban/exurban voter base against supposed outrages from which they aren't personally suffering.

The GOP standard operating procedure is to get people in zero-crime suburbs worked up about urban gangbangers, to get people in 99% white Christian neighborhoods infuriated about imminent sharia law or the War on Christmas, to get people who live under all-GOP governments angry about ACORN and Democratic voter fraud. The outrages don't have to be happening at all, or may be happening in highly isolated locations or even in other countries (Free Republic is full of stories about "creeping sharia" that inevitably turn out to be from the U.K. or Continental Europe). The fact that the angry base can't actually reality-test the stories actually works to the GOP's advantage -- the base trusts the right-wing media so much that any story demonizing liberals and Democrats is automatically assumed to be true, especially when the truth of the story is unknowable.

So tossed-off allegations like this are assumed to be true:
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law.

"It's hard to get accurate numbers on anything," Huelskamp told his constituents at a town hall in Salina, Kan....
Hell, why not say that? It fits with the GOP's general "cooking the books" meme on Obamacare enrollment numbers.

Meanwhile, Joan Walsh notes that House majority whip Kevin McCarthy has introduced a nasty new yardstick for measuring the success of the health care law:
McCarthy ... lists five new metrics for measuring success, including how many enrollees have actually paid, and how many didn't have insurance before. Those are old talking points, but ... McCarthy also tacks on an ugly parenthetical, asking "how many received a subsidy (raising concerns about fraud)." Brian Beutler at the New Republic calls this an effort to "welfarize Obamacare," to stigmatize it and also make it subject to the same hysteria about "fraud" that conservatives use to smear other social programs.
See? There doesn't actually have to be any fraud. The base will just be outraged at the fraud that surely must be happening!

So, yeah, Republicans are going to keep fighting the evils of Obamacare -- regardless of whether those evils exist. For the party's base, they're just going to continue to create a reality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

ASK RICK SANTORUM WHETHER A CHILD CAN WIN YOU AN ELECTION

Supposedly intelligent people believe that Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy is a game-changer for her mother in 2016. Hillary can't lose now! Right?

If you want to know whether being associated with an appealing, sympathetic, very young child automatically guarantees you an election victory, you might want to ask Rick Santorum. In the campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, he spent a great deal of time talking about his youngest daughter, Bella, who was three years old at the time and who has a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy 18:
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.
He made Bella the centerpiece of an online campaign ad:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family -- his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child....

"During the last debate I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red-eye home to see my three year old daughter Bella, who had surgery earlier that day," the Republican presidential candidate said. "Following that debate, Karen and I got numerous emails and calls from supporters asking how she was doing. We were so touched by the tremendous outpouring of support, the thoughts and the prayers we received for our sweet Bella."

"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia near the end of January 2012, shortly before the Florida and Nevada primaries. All of this seemed to endear Santorum to quite a few voters; The New York Times reported that it was part of Santorum's appeal to socially conservative women:
But more than his energy proposals, or his stance on immigration or foreign policy, it is Mr. Santorum's personal biography that women say moves them the most. And he has not been shy about sharing the facts of his life, and most poignantly, the story of his youngest child, known as Bella, who was born with trisomy 18, a fatal disorder....

Bella, and Mr. Santorum's staunch anti-abortion stance, are among the reasons Carol Klotz, a retired antiques dealer in Metairie, La., prays for him every morning at Catholic Mass. She also started a rosary group that prays for the country and Mr. Santorum.
But Rick Santorum didn't win the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney did. Santorum won a number of states, but he lost the primaries. And, really, the race wasn't all that close.

Sympathetic biographical information will get you only so far. The war records of George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John Kerry in 2004, and John McCain in 2008 didn't get them elected. Sarah Palin's baby didn't elect her ticket in '08. Sure, plenty of people will coo over Chelsea's daughter in 2016. But Chelsea's pregnancy is not a 2016 game-changer.
TRUE PATRIOTS DON'T NEED ANY OF YOUR DAMN LAWS TO KNOW WHO HAS WHICH RIGHTS

I appreciate the unqualified contempt Timothy Egan expresses in this New York Times op-ed about the Bundy Ranch standoff -- but I think the analogy with which he opens the piece is a bit off base:
Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn't paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What's more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital.

Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not.

So what's the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.
That last line is pretty much dead-on. (I might qualify it and say that the Midwesterner-turned-Easterner who runs Fox News assumes, probably correctly, that his exurban audience has a soft spot -- or maybe "collective mancrush" would be closer to the mark -- for those Stetson-wearing bad boys.) But I think Egan is too quick to assume that there'd never be a posse of armed defenders for a National Mall vendor.

The vendor would have to be the right kind of Real American -- maybe a "Hanoi Jane"-hating 'Nam vet who doesn't believe Obama's birth certificate and who thinks Allen West and Donald Trump would make a hell of a 2016 ticket. Maybe he'd claim to have gotten on the wrong side of some real or imagined quota system (he'd have to be white, of course), or maybe he'd just claim that Evil Obama and Holder were trying to shut him down because of all the "pro-freedom" bumper stickers on his pushcart. Could I imagine Fox News doing a hundred segments on this guy? Could I imagine a crew of belligerent malcontents daring the cops to remove his cart from the Mall, even though he wasn't fulfilling the requirements for a vendor? Sure I could.

We know that Fox doesn't care about the letter of the law if someone's case for special treatment seems emotionally correct to the Fox audience. Recall the 11-year-old girl who was initially denied the right to sell mistletoe at a Portland mall last Christmas. It didn't matter that other vendors there had gone through an application process for the limited vendor spots -- this girl was selling mistletoe, for heaven's sake (War on Christmas!), and she had a Fox-worthy story about how she wanted to work rather than beg, so Megyn Kelly, among others in the right-wing media, made her a victim. In the end, she got special dispensation to sell her mistletoe.





To the right, the law doesn't determine who's allowed to do what. The deserving are the people right-wingers feel are the deserving. There's a higher law, and only True Patriota know what it is.
WHY I'M NOT LAUGHING AT DICK MORRIS

I think Digby is far too quick to dismiss Dick Morris's latest column:
Morris is best understood as the top pundit in ... DC Comics' Bizarro World of Htrae, a cube-shaped planet in which everything is opposite of what we know as reality here on Earth. (Opposite of Htrae, get it?) Take his latest offering in upside-downism: He claims that in their latest nefarious vote fraud scheme, George Soros and his Democratic minions are preparing to steal elections from Republicans by having states adopt the national popular vote to determine electors in the Electoral College.

Yes, you read that right. Using the national popular vote to determine who wins the presidency would be stealing elections. Let that sink in for a minute.
Hendrik Hertzberg explains what's got Morris so upset:
Suppose you could get a bunch of states to pledge that once there are enough of them to possess at least two hundred and seventy electoral votes -- a majority of the Electoral College -- they will thenceforth cast all their electoral votes for whatever candidate gets the most popular votes in the entire country. As soon as that happens, presto change-o: the next time you go to the polls, you'll be voting in a true national election. No more ten or so battleground states, no more forty or so spectator states, just the United States -- all of them, and all of the voters who live in them.

Unless you've been following this pretty closely, it will surprise you to learn that, before this week, ten states (counting D.C.) had already signed on. Now [with New York] it's eleven, and between them they have a hundred and sixty-five electoral votes -- sixty-one per cent of the total needed to bring the compact into effect.
The plan seems quite straightforward -- an exercise in pure democracy, and perfectly constitutional, because, according to the Constitution, states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they see fit.

So why should we take Morris's denunciation of the plan seriously? Because he's road-testing arguments that, if the plan takes off, will almost certainly be used by other right-wingers to disenfranchise Democratic voters and delegitimize elections that Democrats win:
Why are Democrats pushing this plan?

Democrats usually see a smaller percentage of their people go to the polls than Republicans do.

Under the electoral vote system, they figure why beat the drums to get a high turnout in New York City when the state will go Democratic anyway? But if it’s the popular vote that matters, the big-city machines can do their thing -- with devastating impact.

And think of the chances for voter fraud! Right now, the biggest cities, the ones most firmly in Democratic control -- Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco -- are all solidly in blue states. Not only does this make it unnecessary to maximize turnouts there, but it also makes it unnecessary to promote double voting, fraudulent voting, and all the other tricks of the trade at which Democrats excel.

If the popular vote determines who will be the next president, we can bet that the machines will be out in force lining up voters, real and phony, to pad their statistics.
I'll briefly note that Morris is wrong about which are "the biggest cities" in America -- Washington is actually #24, San Francisco is #14, and Detroit is #18, while three of the top 10 (Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas) are in decidedly non-blue Texas.

But never mind that. In a country where voter ID laws are (alas) regarded as a very worthy idea by large majorities, this kind of talk doesn't sound crazy.

As soon as we approach the moment when states intend to put this into effect, I expect the entire right to argue along these lines -- and claim that what we need is a national set of vote-suppression laws, because now that nasty voter fraud by Those People really might have implications for the whole country.

At the very least, this line of argument could help delegitimize any Democratic president elected after the plan takes effect. (I know, I know -- that will happen anyway.)

Republicans are going to use this as yet another excuse to rally their base around hatred and suspicion of the rest of us. They're going to make this seem like a sneaky, devious, anti-democratic move intended to encourage fraud. They're going to pit us against one another again.

Remember Lani Guinier? President Clinton nominated her to be an assistant attorney general for civil rights. Then it was revealed that she'd written favorably about alternate ways of allocating votes in elections as ways of empowering minority groups -- for instance, in an election for a five-member city council, each person would get five votes, which could all be allocated to one candidate if the voter chose.

"Proportional representation" voting would be available to every voter -- but it was caricatured as a devious scheme, and Guinier was called a "quota queen." She didn't get the job.

We could have a fight like this again, and a lot of right-wingers who are less buffoonish than Dick Morris will be saying what he's saying now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DICKISH POWER LINE POST OF THE DAY

Here's a story from The Washington Post:
Dartmouth College's president lamented Wednesday that the Ivy League school's promising future "is being hijacked by extreme behavior," including sex assaults, parties with "racist and sexist undertones," and a campus culture in which "dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception."

Philip J. Hanlon, a Dartmouth alumnus who took office in June, said such problems were taking a toll on the image of the 245-year-old college in Hanover, N.H....
The reaction to this from Power Line's Steven Hayward is that the problem is all a figment of lying liberals' imagination -- or is it that the problem is real, but is all liberals' fault? Hey, it's his blog -- why does he have to choose? Both answers are true!

First: it's all a myth spread by lying liberals.
Hanlon is implicitly siding with the current rage about "rape culture" on campus. Some conservatives have questioned the general statistic that even President Obama has cited that one out of five women experiences rape in their college years.
And if Obama says it, you know it's a lie!

Then comes the 180: What Hanlon says isn't a lie after all, but everything he's citing is liberals' fault:
Leaving aside this quarrel, allow me to suggest that Hanlon and the feminists are actually right about a larger point: college campuses currently tolerate -- indeed actually encourage -- a predatory climate toward women in which there is enormous social pressure to have sex, and are permissive about massive alcohol use by undergraduates whose chief purpose is to undermine inhibitions.
I love the notion that colleges currently "are permissive about massive alcohol use by undergraduates." You mean currently as in for about a century?

But there's more. Did you know that rape only happens in climates of liberalism?
Step back and note something obviously out of whack with this whole controversy. It is said that college campuses are the prime venue of "rape culture." But most college campuses are run by liberals, and liberalism and its correlates -- maximum individual liberation in all things sexual -- is the dominant orthodoxy.
Um, you know where else there's a rape crisis? In the military. Is the military "run by liberals"? Is it a culture that encourages "maximum individual liberation"?

More:
Why is this problem ostensibly most severe where liberalism reigns? Perhaps for the same reason that poverty and social dysfunction are worst where liberalism reigns supreme (Detroit). Hanlon notes a rising number of reported rapes at Dartmouth. He should be embarrassed by this. But he ought to ponder this question: is sexual assault a problem at conservative colleges like Hillsdale, Patrick Henry, Liberty University, or Regent University?
Actually, it is a problem at Patrick Henry, as this recent New Republic story makes abundantly clear. Would we know if it were a problem at the other schools? I'm sure we wouldn't. I'm sure the culture at those schools is a culture that covers up the truth about sexual assault and encourages the women who are attacked to blame themselves -- after all, that's the pattern seen at Patrick Henry. (That may also be true to a disturbing extent at secular schools, but those who are assaulted are much more likely to be exposed to the notion that blaming victims of sexual violence is an outrage.)

So there you have it, according to Power Line. Liberals invented drinking to excess on campus. Rape culture is liberal -- and the belief that rape culture exists (which it doesn't) is also liberal. Got it?

RAND PAUL MAY AS WELL QUIT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT NOW

I don't know what the truth is regarding the most unnerving story of the day:
Fliers call on Ukrainian Jews to register with pro-Russian separatists

Pro-Russian separatists from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine denied any involvement in the circulation of fliers calling on Jews to register with separatists and pay special taxes.

The fliers were distributed earlier this week in the city, where pro-Russian separatists led by Denis Pushilin this month took over several government buildings and declared their secession from Ukraine as the Donetsk Republic amid a standoff with authorities.

The fliers were official-looking documents that carried what was presented as Pushilin's signature...
Pushilin has denied any connection to the fliers, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League says the ADL is "skeptical about the flier’s authenticity," (UPDATE: The New Republic's Julia Ioffe is certain the fliers are fake), but the story is disturbing nonetheless -- as were several aspects of Vladimir Putin's annual televised Q&A session today: his assertion of Russia's right to use force in eastern Ukraine, his reference to the region as "New Russia," and his use of Edward Snowden as a pawn (Snowden fed Putin a question, apparently pre-recorded, regarding mass surveillance; Putin swore his government wouldn't dream of engaging in any such thing).

But this is not excellent news for Rand Paul.

Now, I don't agree with Brent Budowsky that Paul's wobbly foreign policy could lead to something approaching a fifty-state landslide for Hillary Clinton if he ran against her -- mostly because I think Paul can't possibly get as far as the general election. His father had an approach to foreign policy that seemed suited to the when-the-hell-will-we-leave-Iraq? moment. But Putin is really going to keep up the provocations for the foreseeable future; for that and other reasons, it's not going to seem like 2008 in 2016. Because of Putin, Syria, Iran, the not-entirely-dead Al Qaeda, and (God help us) Benghazi, it's going to be far too tempting for Republican voters to rally around an Obama-weakened-America message -- and not around Paul's, which, as Budowsky says, is not isolationist so much as incoherent:
One moment Paul says he might support a military attack against Iran. Then he implies he might accept a nuclear-armed Iran and follow a policy of containment. Then he says he won’t tell us what policy he prefers, comparing himself to Ronald Reagan.

First Paul charged that Dick Cheney championed the Iraq war to make money from Halliburton. Then he retreated. Maybe Cheney's motive for the Iraq war was not money, he flipped, but then maybe it was, he flopped.

In his self-appointed national address answering President Obama about Syria, Paul claimed that Obama would ally with al Qaeda, which was a lie. He then opposed any effective U.S. response to Assad's mass murder in Syria, for which Assad would be grateful.

Then Paul opposed American economic aid to Ukraine, claiming this aid would help Russia, when the aid was designed to help stabilize Ukraine against Russia.
There's obviously a huge effort under way on the right to stop Paul (with possibly a little non-righty help). BooMan noticed an awful lot of anti-Rand writing all at once a couple of days ago:
It must be Bash Rand Paul Day because Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal and Jennifer Rubin and Richard Cohen in the Washington Post all have pieces lambasting Sen. Paul for a variety of sins and apostasies.
Also running at the same time: Paul-bashing pieces from Rich Lowry and Steven Hayward of Power Line. All five pieces ran on April 14 or 15 -- gosh, you'd almost think there was a coordinated effort to take some of the luster off Rand Paul on Tax Day, when it might have been feared that the libertarian hero would be looking especially heroic to his fans.

Want more evidence that an effort is under way to make sure that Paul-style isolationism never gains purchase in the GOP? Well, obviously, there was the recent gathering at which several presidential aspirants lined up to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring; beyond that, though, there's this National Review story (also from April 15):
John Bolton's political-action committees are pulling in big bucks. Together, the former United Nations ambassador's groups, a PAC and a super PAC that will back candidates who share Bolton's belief in a muscular foreign policy, raised nearly $2 million since their launch in November, sources say. They will file a report with the Federal Election Commission later today.

The haul includes an impressive $1.1 million raised in the first quarter of 2014. As of Tuesday, the PAC had $318,000 cash on hand and the super PAC had over $1.1 million cash on hand. Though a good portion of the money came from top-dollar donors -- Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus and conservative philanthropist Roger Hertog among them -- over 7,000 small-dollar donors also contributed online and via direct mail. The group also boasts backers in all 50 states.
But wait, there's more -- this happened yesterday:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence jumped into the debate over foreign policy Wednesday during a trade mission to Germany, saying the Obama administration's policy of "conciliatory diplomacy" toward Russia has failed.

It's the clearest sign so far that Pence, who flirted with a run in 2008 while leader of the Republican Study Committee in the House, is considering a bid for president in 2016.

His speech in Berlin, while focused on trade relations between Indiana and Germany, took direct aim at the administration's "reset" with Russia. That was one of the major initiatives of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's already being widely considered as the likely Democratic nominee if she chooses to run....
Would Pence enter the race in 2016, obviously as an extreme longshot, but possibly funded by Adelson or other deep-pocketed hawks, perhaps not so much to win as to be a foil for Rand Paul in the debates? And given the lack of foreign policy experience among the top-tier candidates, doesn't Pence (who spent a decade on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) have a pretty good shot at the #2 slot?

It's really Paul vs. the vast majority of the right on foreign policy. I don't think they'll let him win.
THE BUNDY RANCH IS NOT A BATTLE IN THE SO-CALLED REPUBLICAN CIVIL WAR -- WHY?

We've been hearing lately that the tea party is losing its battle with the Republican establishment. Establishment candidates are swatting back tea party primary challenges. Fat-cat Republican donors are withholding money from candidates who might shut down the government or press for a U.S. debt default. The old guard is winning. Crazy radicalism is being contained.

But then there's Fox News, with its wall-to-wall coverage of Cliven Bundy's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.

The GOP is trying to look responsible, but its Ministry of Information is cheerleading anarchy and violent insurrection. (It's not just Fox, of course. Here's National Review, reputedly part of the thoughtful wing of conservatism, giving Bundy a thumbs-up.)

But do you notice what's not happening? Insurgent GOP candidates aren't demanding that incumbent Republicans take sides on the Bundy Ranch. They're not digging up old, seemingly innocuous votes to fund the Bureau of Land Management and portraying them as evidence that veteran GOP officeholders are freedom-hating enablers of big-government totalitarianism. This doesn't appear to be an issue in Republican primaries at all. It's just a media event.

This tells me that the so-called GOP civil war has evolved into a sort of gang truce -- or, to mix the metaphor a little more, it's turned it into a good cop/bad cop act. Establishment Republicans (after moving further rightward, though not all the way into Ted Cruz territory) are now winning the elections -- but the read-meat-craving teabagger base is getting its jollies from a battle far outside the electoral sphere. Hold your nose and vote for Lindsey Graham, then turn on Fox and cheer on a bunch of revolutionaries in Nevada. Barcalounger radicals get their vicarious 1776, the Chamber of Commerce gets its stable corpocracy. Everybody wins!

Um, everybody wins except for America's non-conservative citizens. And that's the problem: this is a nice equilibrium point for the GOP. The party looks less crazy and more electable. The wacko-bird base doesn't alienate America's middle. The crazies have their fun, and the Lindsey Grahams and John Cornyns just keep winning.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IS OUR CHILDREN LEARNING?

While lurking at Free Republic, I came across a link to a video of a 2010 local news report that contains excerpts of radio ads from Frazier Glenn Miller's Missouri Senate campaign. (Miller ran as a write-in candidate in that race -- no, not as a Democrat, Freepers -- and got a whopping seven votes.)





I bring this up because the reporter on the story, after giving us a taste of Miller's rhetoric ("We've sat back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks, and our media. We've allowed tens of millions of foreign mud people to invade our country"), turns to someone who's supposed to be an expert from academia -- political science professor Charles Moran from Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school in Kansas City. At 1:43 in the clip, Professor Moran offers possibly the stupidest imaginable response to what Miller says:
In both parties you have these extreme wings that are very vocal right now. You have the tea party movement that is pretty active as far as Republicans are concerned, and you have MoveOn.org that's energizing the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
OK, that's bad enough -- here's a rabid racist and anti-Semite, and the prof compares him to MoveOn. (Even the tea party comparison is a bit much.) But wait for it -- what Professor Moran says next is even dumber:
And you never had all that stuff back in the sixties and the seventies, to get all the people worked up.
Right, professor. American politics in the 1960s and 1970s was wall-to-wall moderation.

Sure glad our youth have you to turn to for an informed perspective on American politics.

And lest you think this guy is left-leaning -- after all, our right-wing friends tell us that all professors are left-leaning -- here's a review from his Rate My Professors page:
... if you are a democrat/liberal you are going to feel awkward, and cringe at some of the stuff he says... If you're a republican you'll definitely love what he has to say its like Fox News live. easy A either way.
I believe that last part.
HOW THAT TRYING-TO-BE-NICE-TO-CONSERVATIVES THING WORKED OUT FOR SALLY KOHN IN REAL LIFE

Sally Kohn, a progressive commentator who used to work for Fox before a recent move to CNN, has a post up at Yahoo News titled "What I Learned as a Liberal Talking Head on Fox News." What she learned, she says, is that the people at Fox aren't ogres ("My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life"). From this, she says, has come a profound lesson:
Once I had that experience with some of the most visible voices on "the other side" -- in my case, the right -- it was an easy leap to find connection and compassion with everyday conservative audiences. These aren't evil people, either, or stupid, or any of the other things that some liberals, in their lowest moments, have suggested.

... if I want [my] viewpoint -- and those who share it -- to get more powerful, so that we can fix these systemic problems once and for all, then demonizing people who disagree with me won't help. In fact, I need to persuade them. And no one will even listen to your argument, let alone agree with you, if they think you don't like them....

The bottom line: We respond more positively to and are persuaded by people who treat us pleasantly....

Kindness, respect, finding the basic goodness and human dignity in everyone ... that is how we begin the conversations that lead to change.
So ... how did that work out for Kohn during her Fox years? Well, I see that she wrote a column during the 2012 campaign titled "I Like Michelle Malkin." In it, she said some very nice things about Malkin, and also called for a general improvement in our political discourse:
But the larger point is that, with a very few Hitler-esque exceptions, I don’t believe and I hope that no one in politics or public life believes that those who disagree with us are fundamentally evil. I believe Michelle Malkin is a smart person, a loving mother and a patriot who wants the best for her country.
But she also accused Malkin of engaging in "hysterical hyperbole" (quite accurately, I'd say):
In a recent column, Michelle Malkin argued that Mitt Romney is being naively civil in calling President Obama a "nice guy". Malkin decried "disastrous, bend-over bipartisanship" and wrote, "it's not nice to delude the American electorate in the name of comity, politesse, and simpering civility."

What I find endlessly impressive about Michelle Malkin is her ability to condemn supposed incivility on the part of the left while championing incivility on the part of the right. Accusing the left of sexist attacks against the Right while demeaning progressive women as "femme-a-gogues". Bemoaning racist smears against her own Filipino heritage while labeling Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren "Fauxchahontas". Labeling Barack Obama a bully while mobilizing her own website of aggressive Internet trolls who nastily attack anyone who disagrees with her. You've got to respect a woman who can so blatantly misrepresent the actions and intentions of her opponents in an attempt to disguise from her own bad behavior.
She then went on the radio show of Sean Hannity -- whom she describes in today's column as "a good friend and mentor" -- and debated Malkin on the air. It was not a civil debate:
"I think we can disagree without being disagreeable," said Kohn. No sooner did she make this assertion than the conversation descended into a name calling and screaming between the two pundits.

"I think that Sally has made quite a nice name and career for herself casting herself as the voice of reasonableness and mistaking her own smugness as civility," responded Malkin. "I really don't need lectures from her or anybody else about having to get along with liberals and progressives." ...

"What she wants to do is cast me as a hypocrite for calling out liberals for their rape jokes, death threats, serial misogyny against conservative women," said Malkin. She defended her comments about liberals that some find offensive as being "funny."

"look, you want to call it moral equivalence and dismiss it that way, that's fine," said Kohn. "I'm not going to have the fight with you. I'm just not."

"You're the one that accused me of hysterical hyperbole," Malkin said to Kohn....

"You're a coward," Malkin said.

"I'm not entirely sure I know how to respond," Kohn replied. She apologized to Malkin but her apology was rejected. "I'm a naive idealist who believes in America that we can uphold the tradition of our founders that we can disagree with each other,: said Kohn.

Hannity did say that Malkin should accept Kohn's apology, but she refused. "This is all kabuki theater," said Malkin. "She's not going to be happy until we are all completely politically and ideologically lobotomized and only speak in dulcet tones the way that NPR hosts do."
The rest of the right-o-sphere responded about as positively as Malkin. The Right Scoop posted audio of the debate under the headline "Red Meat: Michelle Malkin Torches Sally Kohn for Her Phony Civility." Mofo Politics used the headline "Michelle Malkin Yells at Psychotic Liberal Sally Kohn," and added:
FYI: Sally Kohn is really ugly...
If Kohn has ever actually won over a conservative on any issue whatsoever, I'm not aware of it. No right-winger is ever going to agree with her that Michelle Malkin engages in hypocrisy, and Kohn's assertion that she means this with all due respect because she's sure that Malkin is personally a fine human being surely doesn't help get her point across to the right.

Just own your outrage, Sally. Or walk away from partisan warfare altogether. Don't try to have it both ways.
HOW THE DHS REPORT ON RIGHT-WING VIOLENCE DOVETAILED WITH THE NATIONAL ROLLOUT OF THE TEA PARTY

As Rachel Maddow, Charlie Pierce, and others have noted, the federal government lessened its scrutiny of extreme racist and anti-Semitic groups after a Department of Homeland Security report on such groups was leaked in 2009, the consequence of which was widespread outrage on the right. I just want to remind you of the timing of that: the report went out to law enforcement officials on April 7, 2009, and -- as Daryl Johnson, the report's author, noted in a Salon article published in 2012 -- it was leaked to the public a few days later:
The DHS report, released on April 7, 2009, served as a warning to law enforcement concerning the resurgence of right-wing extremism in the U.S. The report was immediately leaked by an unknown individual who obviously took offense with its findings.

Roger Hedgecock, an ultra-conservative "shock jock" based in Southern California, admitted to receiving the official intelligence report from an anonymous individual. By April 12, 2009, Hedgecock had pushed the report into the public domain using his radio program as well as an article he published in World Net Daily.... Hedgecock wrongfully claimed the DHS report demonized veterans and classified all conservatives as potential terrorists....

Hedgecock's story was soon aired by Fox News and touted by prominent conservative media figures like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin....
Remember what else was about to occur at that time? The first nationally hyped series of tea party demonstrations -- the Fox-branded "Tax Day Tea Parties," on April 15, 2009.




Now, as people like David Niewert repeatedly pointed out, the DHS report wasn't about the teabaggers.
It carefully delineates that the subject of its report is "rightwing extremists," "domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups," "terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks," "white supremacists," and similar very real threats described in similar language.

Nothing about conservatives. The word never appears in the report.
Tea party types painted Hitler mustaches on pictures of President Obama. They didn't mean this as a compliment. The DHS report was about people who admired Hitler. Big difference.

But this didn't stop mainstream rage junkies such as Michelle Malkin from insisting that the report was all about their crowd -- in particular, the tea party movement that was about to have its big coming-out party on national television:
... the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent "economic downturn" and the "general state of the economy" for stoking "rightwing extremism." ...

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs ... and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.
That meme spread like wildfire -- and so here was Dave Weigel on April 15, 2009, reporting on that day's D.C. tea party rally:
Yesterday's news that the Department of Homeland Security had warned local police departments about a rise in far-right extremism spread like chain mail among everyone involved with the Tea Parties. It was the reason many people cited for keeping their names out of reporters' notebooks. It also manifested in the jokes of multiple speakers, who mocked the idea that this event was a meet-up of "right-wing extremists," and in signs that read "Napolitano: Obama's Gestapo Queen" and "Fight Federal Fascism" and "Kulacs tomorrow? Then what? Gulags. History repeats."

"Now anybody who doesn't believe in Obama's policies is a terrorist," said Bob Hughes, who said the DHS report was his motivation for coming to the protest. "This is just like what the Nazis did. Stormtroopers. Secret police. It's been done before and it looks like we’re going in that direction again."
Weigel led his report with this photo:





Now, it should be noted that the Obama administration was already backing away from the report even before all those April 15 rallies:
The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins...."
But the tea party movement was already on the nation's radar, thanks to lavish funding and the right's noise machine, led by Fox. So the timing can't have helped.

In his 2012 Salon article, Daryl Johnson explained what happened next:
In the face of enormous media and congressional criticism, DHS made the decision to cancel all of its domestic terrorism-related reporting and training for law enforcement. It also instituted a new grueling vetting process, which essentially stopped all work at DHS on this now "politically charged" topic. Within three months after the leak, DHS officials deliberately eviscerated the team of analysts responsible for monitoring domestic terrorist threats and assigned them to different office responsibilities. Subject matter experts left the agency as a result -- leaving a single analyst to perform the massive amount of work needed during a period of heightened domestic terrorist activity throughout the country.
Johnson added:
The Tea Party should know that DHS had never targeted its membership or its activities. In fact, I first learned of the Tea Party during the ensuing media backlash against the DHS right-wing extremism report.
But nursing a grievance in public was excellent publicity for the tea party, as its funders and publicists knew. So that was that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WHY DOES THE RIGHT REGARD BITTERNESS AS ADMIRABLE?

Perhaps you saw this on Twitter this afternoon:
Josh Romney on Tuesday tweeted a photo of his father, Mitt Romney, paying his taxes, alluding to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) charge during the 2012 election that Mitt Romney did not pay his taxes for ten years.....
Here's the tweet:

You know what? Reid's attack was pretty nasty -- but politics ain't beanbag, and if Romney had released a few more years of returns (Mitt's father, of course, released twelve years' worth when he ran for president), that attack could have been neutralized. And, well, it's not as if Romney is the only presidential candidate ever to take a tough hit.

I can think of a few other people who got pummeled in presidential campaigns, some of them a hell of a lot worse than Mitt Romney. John Kerry. Al Gore. Mike Dukakis. And yet I didn't see any of them lashing out at their electoral antagonists a year and a half after losing a presidential election.

But on the right, it's common to lash out when you've been bested. On the right, it's admired.

I'm struck by the fact that Romney could have mailed his return or e-filed it, but chose to make a big public show of lining up at a post office, presumably so his son could do this -- but I'm also struck by the first tweet posted in response to this one:

Love that man! Yup, love him for spending the time since his defeat expressing bitterness abut his loss and repeatedly trolling the man who beat him, and, now, trolling one of his surrogates.

But the average right-winger has no problem with this, or with, say, Sarah Palin's perpetual nursing of grievances, or Dick Cheney's relentless attacks on the White House after Cheney's own administration left office in utter disgrace. Hell, let's go back to Richard Nixon, who mastered the art of bitterness, even while he was on top -- he was bitter in victory.

Right-wingers love feeling aggrieved -- and I guess they love pols who act out that feeling for them.
YOU DON'T FEAR A MOB WHEN IT'S YOUR MOB

An awful lot of right-wingers have rallied to the defense of insurrectionist-wannabe Cliven Bundy, who makes violent threats in support of his demand to continue grazing his cattle on federal land in perpetuity for free, in defiance of the law and of more than one federal court ruling; the latest supposedly respectable defender of Bundy is John Hinderaker, the Power Line blogger who's also a lawyer with deep professional ties to the Koch brothers.

(Has the right-wing noise machine made Bundy a cause celebre as part of a Koch attack on Harry Reid, the man Hinderaker and others have suggested is the sinister mastermind behind the attempt to require Bundy to enforce obey the law, because, allegedly, his own interests are on the line? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.)

Whatever the reason for the right's embrace of Bundy, I think Kevin Drum is a bit off base when he sees this as an example of "the cravenness of the modern right":
The fact that so many on the right are valorizing Bundy -- or, at minimum, tiptoeing around his obvious nutbaggery -- is a testament to the enduring power of Waco and Ruby Ridge among conservatives. The rest of us may barely remember them, but they're totemic events on the right, fueling Glenn-Beckian fantasies of black helicopters and jackbooted federal thugs for more than two decades now. Mainstream conservatives have pandered to this stuff for years because it was convenient, and that's brought them to where they are today: too scared to stand up to the vigilantes they created and speak the simple truth. They complain endlessly about President Obama's "lawlessness," but this is lawlessness. It's appalling that so many of them aren't merely afraid to plainly say so, but actively seem to be egging it on.
But Bundy's prominent supporters -- at Fox News, in the rest of the right-wing punditocracy, and in all likelihood within the donor community -- aren't "afraid" to speak up. They just don't see anything worrisome about this. They're supremely confident that the members of the GOP base who are aroused by this appeal to lawlessness will never turn on the interests they care about.

The right has been astonishingly successful at inspiring rank-and-file conservatives to flirt with anarchism while shielding corporate interests from any and all risk. The right may want to shut down the government, openly defy gun laws, delegitimize the president and his administration, and, in this case, violently prevent the Bureau of Land Management from enforcing the law, but we've seen ever since, oh, January 20, 2009, that none of this anarchic anger will ever be turned on Wall Street or the rest of the business community. The mob isn't going to leave Nevada and head for Lower Manhattan with weapons locked and loaded. Corporate suites elsewhere are perfectly safe, as are corporate tax breaks and other perks. These enraged right-wingers are so effectively brainwashed that they're never, ever going to question the Fox/Koch taxonomy of heroes and villains.

So it's not out of fear that prominent conservatives urge this on -- it's out of a sense that it's a team-building exercise: today, anarchy, tomorrow, a vote for the straight GOP ticket.
GOP'S "FEMINIST" TAKE ON PAY EQUITY FOR WOMEN: CAPITALISM ROCKS!

How much contempt do Republicans have for ordinary workers? Well, Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was on Face the Nation on Sunday, trying to put a "feminist" face on the GOP's refusal to back legislation intended to reduce the pay gap between male and female workers -- and it's not just that Blackburn made a ridiculous argument based on a strain of Republican thinking that ended long ago:
"It is Republicans that have led the fight for women's equality. Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors."
(As Ed Kilgore notes, the platform of the Republican Party backed the Equal Rights Amendment for years -- until 1980, when the convention that nominated Ronald Reagan ended the party's support forever.)

It's also that when Blackburn was asked about equal pay for women, she not only shrugged off the possibility a legislative remedy, she segued into Randian riffs about entrepreneurialism and the glory of being part of the 1%. Remember when Eric Cantor commemorated Labor Day by praising small business owners? Remember when Michelle Malkin expressed her support for Mitt Romney by asserting with a sneer that "Romney types ... are the ones who sign the front of the paycheck, and the Obama types are the one who have spent their entire lives signing the back of them"? Blackburn's response on pay equity for female workers contained some of the same contempt for ordinary workers, because, to Republicans, the only real American is a capitalist.

Here's a partial transcript, with emphasis added:
SCHIEFFER: But why did the Senate Republicans, then, block this?

BLACKBURN: Well, because the legislation was something that was going to be helpful for trial lawyers, and what we would like to see happen is equal opportunity and clearing up some of the problems that exist that are not fair to women. We are all for equal pay. I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage, and I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys being condescending to us. But, you know, I got to tell you, one of the things that we need to do is look at access to capital. Small business owners that are female, that is their number one problem, is access to capital. We need to also look at regulations, how that is affecting them.


It was recently reported that Blackburn might run for president in 2016. I don't know if that's true or if it was just a phony story floated to raise the profile of a female Republican during a period when the GOP is getting a lot of criticism on pay equity and other women's issues. Whatever the case, I wonder how pro-female she would appear as a candidate when she can't even bring herself to call herself a woman on her congressional website. Yup, according to her own site, she's a "congressman."


Strange.

Monday, April 14, 2014

WE'RE CRIMINALIZING MENTAL ILLNESS AGAIN

I suppose I should be having a hearty chuckle over the "shoe truthers" -- Rush Limbaugh and others -- who believe the shoe-throwing incident at a Hillary Clinton speech last week was staged, but I'm just saddened by the whole incident. I missed the New York Daily News story about the alleged shoe-thrower when it first appeared, but it's clear from that story that the woman is not sane:
Before a wig-wearing nutjob threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton, the footwear flinger gave her heart to accused Colorado mass killer James Holmes.

Alison Ernst, 36, of Phoenix, was identified Friday as the sneaker-tossing kook who targeted the former First Lady one day earlier during a speech at a Las Vegas casino.

And Colorado officials confirmed she was the loopy lady escorted from the courtroom after a bizarre -- and bald-headed -- outburst during an August 2012 court hearing for Holmes....

In a bizarre lawsuit, Ernst said Holmes 'enters my head like Dennis Quaid in 'Innerspace' and he zooms to my heart and plays with it and forces me to care for him.' She said she wanted a restraining order to keep Holmes from invading her head.

Twenty months earlier, she arrived in a Colorado courtroom with her head shaved while wearing a red dress before declaring she held evidence "vital to the defense of James Holmes." Two deputies quickly escorted her outside....
Did she get help? Apparently not. Is she being treated now as someone who needs help? It sure doesn't seem that way:
Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort....

She could face up to a year in federal prison on each charge if she's convicted....

Las Vegas police booked Ernst last week on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge and freed her with a June 24 court date. Charges haven't been filed in that case.

A disorderly conduct conviction could get Ernst up to six months in county jail....
Well, prisons basically are America's mental-health system, aren't they? Certainly that's true for those with violent tendencies. If you're mentally disturbed, you can gain admission by hurting someone, or trying to. That's how James Holmes got into the system. At least nobody had to die before the system discovered Alison Ernst. She won't get help, but at least somebody noticed her. That's ... something, isn't it?
OF DRAGNETS, AND THE LACK THEREOF

The U.S. government tells us that it has to keep careful tabs on the electronic communications of ... well, everyone, because otherwise it might miss a message that passes between a murderous terrorist and an as-yet-unidentified co-conspirator one or more "hops" away. I keep thinking about that as I read about Frazier Glenn Miller, the suspect in three anti-Semitic Kansas killings, because this was a guy whose association with the scum of the earth was -- openly -- as little as one "hop" away, a fact that we've known for more than thirty years.

There's this:
The suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller, was a prolific poster under the screen name "Rounder" on a website called the Vanguard News Network, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center, which tracks hate groups, flagged a thread Miller posted Saturday that described a phone conversation with Craig Cobb, a fugitive from Canada who tried to mold a tiny North Dakota town into an all-white enclave until he wound up in jail on charges of terrorizing residents.

Miller wrote in the post, titled "Craig Cobb phoned today," that Cobb "sounded confident and healthy." He noted that a pre-sentencing investigation had been completed ahead of Cobb's next hearing and added that he made Cobb "promise to visit me IF and WHEN he can."
And there's this:
Frazier Glenn Miller ... was close associates with Kevin William Harpham, the man arrested for the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Jr. unity march in Washington in 2011.
The site where Harpham shared his ideas with racist comrades, the Vanguard News Network (VNN), was created in 2000 by Alex Linder, a former National Alliance member. The VNN site motto is “No Jews, Just Right.” In addition to featuring racist and anti-Semitic blog articles, the site has become a virtual meeting place for nearly three thousand white nationalists. Linder runs the site from his Kirksville, Missouri home. He also publishes the crude racist tabloid, The Aryan Alternative, with fellow Missouri white nationalist Frazier Glenn Miller.

[...]

Miller thanked Harpham for a “gigantically large” donation of $500, according to a post on VNN in December 2006. The posting also noted that the contribution paid for nearly 7,000 copies of the tabloid and that Harpham was one of the top 5 or 6 donors from the site. Harpham also donated cash to Miller's 2006 and 2010 congressional campaigns.
Why, it almost seems as if there's never been a white supremacist Miller didn't associate with:
[In the 1980s,] Miller had ties to The Order, a white nationalist terrorist organization whose members assassinated Denver talk show host Alan Berg.... The leader of the group, Robert Mathews, had given Miller $200,000 in cash that was part of the $3.8 million stolen during an armored car robbery.
How does the All-Seeing Eye of the government not keep careful watch on this guy? How does it manage to miss the fact that he's about to grab a gun and kill some people? Why the hell do we live in a panopticon if the seers don't even see something like that coming?

I'm also reminded of a somewhat more low-tech dragnet we've been asked to accept in recent years. This is from Timothy Noah's review of the new Matt Taibbi book, The Divide, in The New York Times yesterday:
Taibbi is ... skillful at explaining how bureaucratic imperatives in the criminal justice system can spin scarily out of control. In New York City, you start with a "broken windows" theory that says cracking down on petty crime can prevent little criminals from becoming big criminals. Possibly because that's right, violent crime goes down. But paradoxically, that makes a cop's life more difficult rather than less, because criminals are getting harder to find even as new computer systems are enabling the police commissioner to keep track of which precincts are making the most arrests. The solution turns out to be aggressive use of a stop-and-frisk policy that gives cops a blank check to "search virtually anyone at any time." The police start behaving "like commercial fishermen, throwing nets over whole city blocks." Some of the fish get prosecuted or ticketed for ever-pettier offenses; 20,000 summonses, for instance, are handed out annually for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. But most fish aren't guilty of anything and must grow accustomed to being routinely cuffed and ridden around in a police van before they are tossed back into the water. These fish are, of course, typically black and poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that throwing a similar fishnet over entire Wall Street firms would produce a criminal yield at least as high as any random ghetto block. But innocent Wall Street fish would have a much bigger megaphone with which to proclaim their constitutional rights, and guilty Wall Street fish would have much better lawyers.
I'm not arguing in favor of the principle that it's OK to stop and frisk people based on a generalized suspicion about their kind, but if you accept that principle, isn't Frazier Glenn Miller the kind of guy who ought to have to demonstrate to the cops every few weeks or so that he's not packing? He's a convicted felon -- does he have the right to own firearms at all? If you have no problem with the way Mike Bloomberg's cops treated teenage boys in Harlem, why shouldn't Miller have been treated the same way?
WELL, AT LEAST FRAZIER GLENN MILLER WASN'T A REAL TERRORIST ... Y'KNOW, A MUSLIM

First of all, thank you, Yastreblyansky, Aimai, Tom, and Crank -- you did some amazing work while I was gone.

And now I see we've had a series of shootings at Jewish centers in the Kansas City area, with a white supremacist in custody. The Kansas City Star describes the suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., aka Frazier Glenn Cross, as "A 73-year-old southwest Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism" -- as if, until now, he's just been a crank with unpleasant opinions, rather than, among other things, the founder of the White Patriot Party, an offshoot of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The New York Times tells us more:
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it sued Mr. Miller in the 1980s for intimidating African-Americans, and he has had several run-ins with the law since then. He served six months in prison after he was held in criminal contempt for violating the terms of the court order that settled that lawsuit. He also served three years in federal prison for weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of the center's founder, Morris Dees. As part of his plea bargain, he testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 trial.
I don't know about you, but I'm really struck by that. Miller has served less than four years in prison for all that? Imagine an Islamist right now getting away with a few years in the pen and a period as a federally protected witness with a rap sheet like that.

And the Times summary is rather bare-bones. Here's more, from Brent L. Smith's book Terrorism in America. As you're reading this, mentally replace the names with Middle Eastern names, and try to imagine what the reaction would be to these activities:
... Miller and a small cadre of Klansmen began stockpiling weapons in the summer of 1984. Stephen Miller (no relation to Glenn Miller) ... and three other White Patriot Party members met with Robert Norman Jones to arrange for the theft of U.S. military weapons and equipment....

Miller used the services of military personnel sympathetic to WPP's cause to assist with pramilitary training. It was, perhaps, Miller's greatest mistake. Morris Dees, the outspoken critic of the extreme Right and the director of The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, filed a lawsuit demanding a Defense Department investigation of the U.S. military's links with WPP paramilitary operations. Alarmed by this use of active duty military personnel, a federal court judge in North Carolina issued a court order prohibiting Miller from conducting any paramilitary training.
Miller's WPP continued to receive stolen military equipment from a man named Robert Norman Jones. He was arrested for trying to buy C-4 explosive from an undercover police officer. But meanwhile, Frazier Glenn Miller and plas continued their paramilitary training. They were charged in 1986 with violating the court order prohibiting this.
When his trial began, Glenn Miller decided Morris Dees had to be killed. WPP member Simeon Davis was told that Dees "a 'thorn' in the side of the White Patriot Party and needed to be 'plucked out.'" Although no immediate attempt was made to kill Dees, WPP members did conduct surveillance on his residence, his vehicle, and the home of the attorney with whom he was staying during the trial. Glenn Miller and Stephen Miller were convicted that summer but remained free pending a series of appeals.
Frazier Glenn Miller -- appealing a conviction and now facing a federal indictment -- went underground with two members of the WPP.
... the three men wrote their own "Declaration of War." ... Miller's document included an assassination point system for the killing of Jews, blacks, and federal judges. Morris Dees' name topped the list. Armed with fully automatic weapons and homemade fragmentation grenades, the band travelled from Louisiana to Ozark, Missouri....
They rented a mobile home and plotted revolution. They mailed their Declaration of War to a local newspaper, which enabled them to be located and arrested.

And after that, Frazier Glenn Miller was able to turn state's evidence and do just three years in the pen. And here he is now, a free man who apparently had no difficulty obtaining a weapon so he could shoot some people at Jewish centers just before Passover. Good thing for him his name wasn't Ahmed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Soon they'll be demanding reparations

So true. Everywhere they go, conservatives face heartrending discrimination simply because of who they are.

Herded into segregated schools.
"Conservatives only" drinking fountains.
Wasn't Rosa Parks ordered to the back of the taxi?
[Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names]