Tuesday, April 30, 2013


You know the rap on low-information voters: they don't feel it's worth their while to follow politics closely, or they simply don't have time, and so, among other things, they're easily manipulated by Republicans, who can create crises (debt ceiling brinkmanship, for instance) or block attempts to solve existing crises (persistent unemployment, for instance), secure in the knowledge that low-info voters will simply blame the president, since they're not really familiar with a lot of other people in government.

I'm struggling to detect an effective difference between these low-info voters and certain members of the Beltway press corps.

President Obama held a press conference this morning, in which, among other things, he was asked:
... do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?
He said:
... you seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job. They are elected, members of Congress are elected in order to do what's right for their constituencies and for the American people.
But this is not being covered as if there is anything wrong with the people the president is dealing with. Dylan Byers of Politico headlined not one but two posts "Obama the Helpless." National Journal's Ron Fournier, apparently angling for a job at a future Koch-owned newspaper, wrote,
Obama channeled [Bill] Clinton's April 18, 1995, news conference by projecting a sense of helplessness--or even haplessness--against forces seemingly out of a president's control.
And so on. In other words, this isn't about whether there's something wrong with anyone else in D.C. -- it's all about the president. Congress exists only as one of the things pathetic, helpless Obama can't do anything about.

The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie writes:
... congressional Republicans have agency, and at a certain point, they need to be held accountability for their actions. It's not on Obama that Republicans refused to expand background checks. To treat it as if it were obscures the realities of policymaking and helps Republicans evade responsibility for their choices.
But the rest of the press is having none of this.

At a certain point, I don't see how the press's refusal to focus on anything but the president is effectively different from low-information voters' tendency to focus on the president because they don't know any better. Maybe Beltway journos don't know any better either. They know Congress exists -- they just don't seem to grasp, literally don't seem to know, that it consists of people who actually have a sworn duty to the country to try to solve problems.

Jennifer Rubin is calling Senator Ted Cruz "a jerk" because he attacked fellow Republicans for being "squishes" in a recent speech at a FreedomWorks conference in Texas. Cruz is portraying himself and fellow hard-liners Rand Paul and Mike Lee as the guys who won the gun control fight for the GOP, at a time when fellow Republicans were going wobbly; in fact, as Dave Weigel has pointed out, Cruz's chronology is completely inaccurate and the Republicans were already winning the fight. But Cruz has no time for such facts. He's pleased with himself, and he doesn't seem to care who's pissed off at him.

But isn't that a bad career move for a rookie senator? Steve Benen think so:
All of this dishonest grandstanding may make right-wing activists swoon, but it should also cause Cruz some trouble on Capitol Hill. Senators have traditionally forged relationships with their colleagues in order to build coalitions and be more effective in passing legislation. Cruz is going out of his way to do the opposite -- scolding his veteran colleagues, lecturing them on his wisdom, and creating conditions in which just about everyone who knows him dislikes him.

This should make it all but impossible for Cruz to play a constructive role in the chamber, though that may not matter to him, since he doesn't seem especially interested in governing anyway.
But isn't that the direction the congressional GOP has been heading in for years now? Only silly, old-fashioned Republican members of Congress -- mostly retired ones -- think it's worthwhile to "play a constructive role in the chamber" and "be more effective in passing legislation." Cruz is just openly embracing the new style in a bolder, more avant-garde way than his fellow Republicans in D.C. He's not even pretending that he's willing to work with people who aren't hardcore. There's an honesty to this, at least.

Cruz is the future of GOP politics. He doesn't even bother trying to seem cooperative. He defines everyone to the left of him, even the likes of Jennifer Rubin, as sellouts and RINOs. (By the way, a lot of the right agrees with him on that.) His goal is noncooperation until the wingnut revolution happens, and then merciless application of right-wing Correct Thinking afterward. He's the counterrevolutionary New Man.

Remember, gun control is a horrible thing -- except when gun absolutists do it:
Arizona cities and counties that hold community gun buyback events will have to sell the surrendered weapons instead of destroying them under a bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Monday.

The bill was championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature who argued that municipalities were skirting a 2010 law that was tightened last year and requires police to sell seized weapons to federally licensed dealers. They argued that destroying property turned over to the government is a waste of taxpayer resources.

Democrats who argued against the bill said it usurps local control and goes against the wishes of people who turn over their unwanted weapons to keep them out of the hands of children or thieves....
So I assume the next piece of legislation from these Republicans will be a requirement that all pot seized in Arizona from illegal growers must be resold in Colorado at a profit, or sold as medical marijuana in California ... No? Really? Why, I'm shocked.

I'm sure you understand that these Republicans don't actually give a crap about proper use of taxpayer resources. They're just doing what Republicans do all the time when they're in power: showing liberals who's boss.

Now, I'm skeptical about gun buybacks -- I think manufacturers and dealers can make 'em and sell 'em faster than we can melt 'em down, though I'd love to think that someday the buyback idea might go so viral that it could really make a difference. Still, this sticks in my craw -- the people who yell "Freedom!" all the time are showing us (as if we didn't already know) that they believe in freedom only until it involves people doing things they don't like.

I'm hoping some municipalities will engage in civil disobedience on this -- go ahead, arrest the mayor and the police commissioner, and then maybe it'll happen in another town the next day and you'll have to do the same thing.

Failing that, I'd love it if someone of wealth or prominence in Arizona -- Mark Kelly, maybe? -- would set up as a federally licensed gun dealer in Arizona, buy firearms from municipal buybacks just as the law requires, then melt them down. Except I guarantee you that such a person would become the focus of national attention, with huge gun-community pressure to shut him or her down (even though pressure from gunners keeps the ATF understaffed and underfunded so it can't shut down legitimately bad gun dealers). Believe me, you'd hear grandstanding on this all the way from Washington. That dealer's license would be pulled faster than that of any other dealer in history, even someone who'd sold thousands of crime guns with a nod and a wink.


UPDATE: I'm reminded in comments that Arizona has legalized medical marijuana.

You may have seen this yesterday:
Former Rep. Ron Paul said the police response to the Boston Marathon bombings was scarier than the bombing itself, which killed three and wounded more than 250.

"The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city," Paul, a Texas Republican, wrote today on the website of the libertarian writer Lew Rockwell. "This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself."

Paul said the scenes of the house-to-house search for the younger bombing suspect in suburban Watertown, Mass., were reminiscent of a "military coup in a far off banana republic." ...
But it seems, according to a MassINC Polling Group survey, that the good people of Massachusetts didn't notice they were being oppressed;
In the days after the arrest of the surviving Marathon bombing suspect, Massachusetts residents expressed a strongly positive impression of law enforcement and give their stamp of approve to the overall response to the attack. Ninety-one percent of respondents approved of the decision to lock down parts of the Greater Boston area while the second bombing suspect was at large on Friday, April 19, and 86 percent have a favorable opinion of the Massachusetts State Police.

In the wake of the bombings, the public expressed more concern about public safety than the potential for restrictions on civil liberties. Nearly half (48 percent) said they are more concerned the government will not go far enough to investigate and prevent terrorism while 36 percent were more concerned civil liberties could be infringed....
I know, I know: a lot of sensible people agree with Ron Paul that the lockdown was excessive. But it was limited, and it was focused on a goal the populace shared. Nobody was tossed in a gulag.

Oh, and a lockdown probably didn't seem very different from the shutdown of the region, including suspension of public transportation, that took place two months earlier during a big blizzard.

And, yeah, the cops didn't find the guy -- though he was frozen in place, in a town crawling with cops, which may have helped bring the manhunt to an end a lot sooner.

You know why Massachusetts residents didn't feel oppressed by this? Because they think they and the cops were on the same side. The cops were acting in the interests of the people. They were seen as part of society, not as a malignancy sapping a free society's health. Believe me, you hear plenty of people grumbling about the government in Massachusetts, but people generally don't believe that government shouldn't exist. They resent government when it's ineffective, and unresponsive to people's needs. This didn't fall into that category. The cops were making hat seemed to be a reasonable judgment about how to keep the populace safe. So, yes, Massachusetts residents approved.

(Poll via Opinion Today.)

Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm sure you noticed this yesterday:
Across a variety of Sunday shows [yesterday] morning, Republican lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to take further action in Syria, three days after the U.S. revealed intelligence that suggests President Bashar al-Assad's regime has used chemical weapons.

The lawmakers urged an international response by the end of the year. Or, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned, the "whole region's going to fall into chaos." ...

"The president drew a red line on chemical weapons, thereby giving a green light to Bashar al-Assad to do anything short of that," [Senator John] McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."...
Today The New York Times notes that this puts McCain, Graham, and their ideological soul mates to the right of the Israeli government:
A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Israel was not urging the United States to take military action in Syria, despite intelligence assessments asserting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad recently used chemical weapons in the civil war gripping its country....

"We never asked, nor did we encourage, the United States to take military action in Syria," [Yuval] Steinitz [the minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations] said at a conference in New York sponsored by The Jerusalem Post....
Among the things Lindsey Graham is fretting about is this:
Graham seemed to warn that if the U.S. doesn't act, terrorist attacks involving chemical weapons could occur in the U.S.
That's lovely -- Graham is more worried that events in Syria could lead to a chemical attack here, an ocean away, than the Israelis apparently are about such an attack from a country on their own border.

It almost seems inappropriate to describe the incessant ginning up of fear by Graham and McCain as a tactic -- it's more like a nervous tic.

The wingnuts are flipping out because it's been reported that the FBI has located "Misha," the evil jihadi mastermind said by family members to have radicalized Tamerlan Tsarmaev. The wingers are just on the verge of crowing, Woo-hoo! We have the leader of the sleeper cell! Suck it, liberals! You thought the Tsarnaevs acted alone!

Except that Christian Caryl (a scholar and Foreign Policy contributing editor) tells us on the Web site of The New York Review of Books that he's spoken to "Misha," and the guy isn't living in a subterranean bunker, waiting for to go signal from Jihad Central Command. In fact, he denies any desire to see harm done to America, he's quite forthcoming about his identity, and he's apparently been quite cooperative with the authorities:
Today I was able to meet "Misha," whose real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov. Having been referred by a family in Boston that was close to the Tsarnaevs, I found Allakverdov at his home in Rhode Island, in a lower middle class neighborhood, where he lives in modest, tidy apartment with his elderly parents. He confirmed he was a convert to Islam and that he had known Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but he flatly denied any part in the bombings. "I wasn't his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this," Allakhverdov said.

A thirty-nine-year-old man of Armenian-Ukrainian descent, Allakhverdov is of medium height and has a thin, reddish-blond beard....

... He declined to describe the nature of his acquaintance with Tamerlan or the Tsarnaev family, but said he had never met the family members who are now accusing him of radicalizing Tamerlan. He also confirmed he had been interviewed by the FBI and that he has cooperated with the investigation:
I've been cooperating entirely with the FBI. I gave them my computer and my phone and everything I wanted to show I haven't done anything. And they said they are about to return them to me. And the agents who talked told me they are about to close my case.
An FBI spokesman in Boston declined to comment on an ongoing case. Allakhverdov’s statements, however, seemed to bear out recent reports that the FBI have not found any connection between “Misha” and the bomb plot.
Let's see: We now have his real name, his age, and a physical description. We know what state he lives in, and it's a state with a very small population (and he has a very distinctive name). Needless to say, it would take you about thirty seconds to find his town and street on any people-finder site. (I've already done it myself.)

Is this guy supposed to be a furtive, shadow-dwelling Enemy Within, invisible until he works his terrorist evil on America? If so, he's kind of not getting the point.

Look, the Tsarnaevs may have had ties to other plotters -- though that's seeming less and less likely. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has reportedly claimed inspiration from the U.S. born Anwar al-Awlaki -- who, of course, was killed by a U.S. drone. I know the right wants to be able to say that the Obama administration is allowing some terror network to go undiscovered and unpunished, but it continues to seem as if that dog won't hunt.

These people are insane:
Republicans want to limit the number of bullets federal agencies can purchase so American gun owners can buy more.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas have introduced a bill that would prohibit every government agency -- except the military -- from buying more ammunition each month, than the monthly average it purchased from 2001 to 2009.

The lawmakers say the Obama administration is buying up exceedingly high levels of ammunition in an attempt to limit the number of bullets the American public have access to on the open marketplace....

The issue came to the forefront this week as the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee held a hearing on it, in which Republicans balked at the bulk levels of ammunition the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has amassed over the years....
As the linked story notes, even the NRA dismisses the notion that Evil Janet Napolitano is buying up all the ammo, either to restrict the supply in the consumer market or in order to arm an Obama Agenda 21 Fascist-Socialist Reparations Korps.
"Skepticism of government is healthy. But today, there are more than enough actual threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy... there is no need to invent additional threats to our rights," the gun group wrote.
But the rumors persist, in part becuse Matt Drudge rules the D.C. media's world:

Here's a thought.

I believe we still need economic stimulus in America, but Republicans have made that impossible. Why don't we let the government buy massive amounts of bullets and just give them away to God-fearing red-blooded white Christian red-state Americans, who will then be allowed to sell, trade, and barter the ammo as they see fit? Yes, it would probably result in a massive uptick in violence, but we're Americans -- we clearly don't have any national will to fashion a response to that sort of thing. At least we'd have found the one kind of economic stimulus (apart from war) that Republicans would embrace with open arms. So what the hell. I've run out of better ideas.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Dave Weigel is a really smart guy, but on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing he wrote what may be the most naive thing he'll ever publish -- a post titled "Why the Conspiracy Theorists Will Have a Tough Time With Boston." Conspiracy theorists these days don't seem to have a tough time with anything, but it just became much easier for them to engage in their little hobby with regard to Boston as a result of this Daily Mail story:
An uncle of the Boston bombers was previously married to a CIA officer's daughter for three years, it emerged today.

Ruslan Tsarni, who publicly denounced his two terrorist nephews' actions and called them 'Losers', even lived with his father-in-law agent Graham Fuller in his Maryland home for a year....

[Fuller] told Al-Monitor that his daughter, Samantha, was married to Ruslan, whose surname was then Tsarnaev, for three to four years in the 1990s.

The couple divorced in 1999 more than ten years after he left the agency in 1987....

'I, of course, retired from CIA in 1987 and had moved on to working as a senior political scientist for RAND.'...
Now, why this should prove anything isn't clear -- the marriage broke up the year Tamerlan Tsarnaev turned 13 and Dzhokhar turned 6, and the marriage involved a relative who was estranged from the accused bomb plotters for years.

But, of course, "they" want you to believe it's all a coincidence!

Fuller has written several books, including one titled (gasp!) The Future of Political Islam, which, based on its publisher's description, seems rather middle-of-the-road ("The outcome of the struggle between extremists and liberals will determine the future of political Islam").

But there are already some off-the shelf conspiracy theories about him, because he's been a focus of 9/11 truthers (who don't really think he left the CIA in 1987):
Graham Fuller is on FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds' list of National Security State criminals who are known to be criminals by the FBI, but are being protected under the State Secrets Privilege.

During my three-week speaking tour of Turkey two years ago, I learned another interesting fact about Fuller: He led the CIA's 9/11 cover-up in Turkey.

By September 12th, 2001, most of the leading international-affairs journalists in Turkey knew or suspected that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been an inside job. But few wrote about their suspicions. Why not? Because Fuller had threatened them, and they feared for their lives.

That's right: Graham Fuller, then the CIA's top man in Turkey, spent September 2001 phoning and/or visiting Turkey's leading journalists, telling them that they had better not publicly question the official story of 9/11 OR ELSE. The journalists, knowing the CIA's penchant for assassinations and Fuller's reputation as a dirty dealer, feared for their lives. And the Turkish press was steered away – or should I say scared away – from questioning 9/11.

Fuller's obvious role as a 9/11 perp is one reason why one of Turkey's top parliamentarians told me that the CIA – not just Mossad – "had a hand in 9/11."

The one saving grace (of sorts) is that this is where purely right-wing conspiratorialists part company from the Alex Jones-style conspiratorialists (who distrust the government no matter which party is in charge). The truthers are much more likely to believe this than the birthers. So we're not likely to hear much about this from Fox pundits and Republican members of Congress. But the truthers will probably never believe the official story of Boston.

And someday I imagine right-wing crazies will find a way to appropriate 9/11 trutherism ... by blaming 9/11 not on Bush, but on Obama and Soros and Bill Ayers and Valerie Jarrett. I'm amazed I haven't run across that idea already.

In theory, the White House Correspondents' Association could have a big gala dinner with celebrity guests and insult-comedy speeches and swag bags, and it wouldn't necessarily be horrible. Nobody thinks comedians lose touch with their audiences when they celebrate and mock one another at roasts on Comedy Central or at the Friars Club. Everyone still loves Mad Men and Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad even though once a year there's an Emmy ceremony. And so on.

The problem with the dinner isn't the dinner itself, or the desire for glitz and glamour. The problem is inviting politicians. Imagine if there were a big, glamorous dinner every year for past and present Nobel Peace Prize winners, and for the individuals and organizations that might hope one day to be honored by the Nobel committee. Now imagine if the prizewinners' antagonists -- dictators, torturers, death-squad leaders -- were also invited to the dinner. That's what the WHCA is like.

When every pol is welcome to show up, the message is that none of what those SOBs are doing is beyond the pale. None of it is harmful to the nation. Nothing significant is really in the balance every day in D.C. Nothing is life-or-death.

Of course the journos are going to cozy up to some of the people they're writing about -- that's inevitable. But this dinner suggests that that's the only appropriate relationship between groups of Washingtonians who should be adversaries much of the time. This dinner suggests that they're all on the same side, all the time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


You may have seen this:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went after the Obama administration's handling of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation in a radio interview Thursday -- and along the way he claimed that Muslim Brotherhood members are in the administration and influencing its decisions.

"It's very clear to everybody but this administration that radical Islam is at war against us," Gohmert told WND Radio "And I'm hoping either this administration will wake up or a new one will come in at the next election before irreparable damage is done. Because radical Islam is at war with us. Thank God for the moderates who don't approve of what's being done. But this administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America."
(Emphasis added.)

Steve Benen says, "This is effectively what 21st-century McCarthyism looks like." Jonathan Bernstein accuses Gohmert of taking a "McCarthyite route."

I wouldn't call this McCarthyism -- not exactly. It's a bit different from the kind of thing Tailgunner Joe did. But it is reprehensible and dangerous.

McCarthy's accusations were taken very seriously by people with power. They could ruin lives. I very doubt that anyone is going to be fired from a job and rendered unemployable because of what Gohmert is saying.

The danger in this case is different. Powerful Republicans don't act on wild accusations of this kind by the likes of Gohmert (or Michele Bachmann), and occasionally offer tut-tutting condemnations, but the party takes full advantage of the fear stoked by this kind of verbal bomb-throwing.

This talk is the downmarket version of the way mainstream Republicans criticize the president, Democrats, and liberals -- notice how rapidly the Boston Marathon bombing has been turned into an Obama administration failure by Republicans, who didn't even pause briefly to treat the incident as one in which Americans ought to feel united. Gohmert is just cranking that message up to 11, and peddling his version to the more rabid members of the GOP base -- thus keeping those voters' fear and anger stoked, and solidifying their loyalty to conservative Republicanism.

If you're a "respectable" Republican, you think Gohmert is over the top, but you nod in agreement when the more responsible-sounding Lindsey Graham criticizes the White House on Sunday talk shows; to you, that's the "real" GOP. But if you're a World Net Daily fan, you need more than Graham -- and wen you hear Gohmert on WND Radio, you get what seems like the raw, angry version of the Graham message, and your party loyalty is reinforced.

So Gohmert and Bachmann aren't embarrassments to the party. They ensure that the party can effectively service all right-wing markets.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Here are the opening paragraphs of Keith Koffler's new Politico column, which is titled "Obama's Hubris Problem":
Tuesday morning, a peculiar announcement trickled out of the White House press office: President Barack Obama would be holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombings. At the White House. By himself. No press or other intruders allowed.

Except the White House photographer.

That Obama assumed Americans would want an iconic photo of him privately mourning the victims of the bombings was emblematic of a kind of hubris that has enveloped the president and his White House as the president commences his second term....
Well, here's the picture, an official White House photo by Pete Souza. Your call as to the appropriateness of this.

However, as I was Googling around, I came upon an article about the decision by the House of Representatives to hold its own Boston moment of silence.

Here's the photo accompanying that article:

Notice the caption:
Speaker Boehner speaks to President Obama after the Boston bombing. (Photo courtesy office of House Speaker Boehner)
Oh, but the fact that Boehner called in an official government photographer to take a picture of him being a Very Concerned Person in the aftermath of the Boston bombing is, um, ... well, it's different, because ... um ...

You tell me why it's different.


I don't blame anyone for being furious that sequester cuts affecting ordinary Americans didn't rouse Congress to action, but now cuts affecting upscale frequent fliers -- a group that includes members of Congress and their fat-cat donors -- seem to be getting a quick bipartisan response from our legislators. However, Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler is wrong when he says that Democrats are blowing a chance to reopen the whole sequester debate:
The point of sequestration is supposedly to create just enough chaos that regular people -- people with political clout, such as, say, business travelers -- demand that Congress fix it. Or as the Democrats conceived it, to create the public pressure they need to knock Republicans off their absolutist position on taxes.

Well, they got their outcry...and then promptly folded. They allowed Republicans to inaccurately characterize the FAA furloughs as a political stunt. Then without any organized effort to cast the flight delays as part of the same problem that's also keeping poor people homeless they assented to providing special treatment to the traveling class.

So now the big, predictable opportunity to return to the sequestration debate under genuine public scrutiny is gone.
Sorry -- this was not a big, predictable opportunity to return to the sequestration debate, for one simple reason: math is hard.

Voters literally have no idea how much money is being cut from air safety, or from any other program. Nobody talks about dollar amounts. Nobody explains that we expect government to do a lot of things, and the cost of doing those things adds up to dollar amounts that sound stratospheric to someone making a salary in the low to mid-five figures (or someone not working at all). Democrats don't talk about the necessary millions and billions because they're afraid Joe and Jane America would freak out, but, y'know, that's what stuff costs.

And because Joe and Jane have no idea, they think if you cut some $125,000 grant to some scientist studying cow flatulence -- a study that might actually tell us something very much worth knowing about climate-altering gases -- you could pay for an entire agency's worth of cuts. Or they think the government spends massive amounts on foreign aid, and they think that's totally unnecessary, and we could just eliminate that and all our budget problems would be solved.

Democrats didn't lose the sequester fight today. Democrats have spent the last few decades losing the sequester fight. They lost it long before it even began, because they've done absolutely no pushback against the notion that government budgets are riddled with colossal amounts of waste, the elimination of which is all we need to have balanced budgets and low taxes and a happy dance around the maypole to celebrate our widespread abundance.

Democrats have defended a few programs fairly vigorously at times -- Medicare, Social Security, public broadcasting -- and they've gotten Joe and Jane to accept the notion that the rich are undertaxed. But Democrats have let the "waste, fraud, and abuse" narrative become unquestioned gospel in the heartland. And so the public went into this sequester moment assuming that a few minor adjustments could get all the good stuff paid for.

Republicans understood that. Democrats didn't. So Democrats lost this fight before it began.


Well, of course we have fonder feelings about unpopular presidents after they're out of office. At that point they're harmless -- and not merely harmless; they're powerful people who've been tamed. We like seeing powerful people tamed. That's why our comedies are full of goofy dads and Keystone Kops and inept bosses; that's why Hollywood put Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. This shows up elsewhere in pop culture as well -- in the taming of men in romance novels, for instance. We don't actually rebel against power very much in this society, but we like to be entertained by images of authority figures who've been defanged. It's enjoyable.

We can feel oppressed by politicians' power over us. Some presidents know how to transmit images of themselves not wielding power, so that they seem less oppressive -- Reagan did that a lot, and it worked on a lot of Americans, and Obama has been doing it as well, with his date nights and his NCAA brackets and so on. Right-wingers hate it when Obama does it (ands a lot of us lefties hated it from Reagan), but a lot of Americans find it disarming.

Bush tried this when he was president, but even then he seemed to be challenging his political opponents. The message from his team seemed to be, "Yeah, he's at the ranch clearing brush again -- because having a ranch and clearing brush is what REAL MEN do. You got a problem with that, elitist punk?" He was determined to seem like the jock's jock -- an aggressive mountain hiker, say, or the best first-pitch-thrower-outer of any president ever, dammit! At least that's the message we got from his sycophants about his extracurricular activities.

Peggy Noonan says:
In all his recent interviews Mr. Bush has been modest, humorous, proud but unassuming, and essentially philosophical: History will decide. No finger-pointing or scoring points. If he feels rancor or resentment he didn't show it....

And all this felt like an antidote to Obama -- to the imperious I, to the inability to execute, to the endless interviews and the imperturbable drone, to the sense that he is trying to teach us, like an Ivy League instructor taken aback by the backwardness of his students. And there's the unconscious superiority. One thing Mr. Bush didn't think he was was superior. He thought he was luckily born, quick but not deep, and he famously trusted his gut but also his heart. He always seemed moved and grateful to be in the White House. Someone who met with Mr. Obama during his first year in office, an old hand who'd worked with many presidents, came away worried and confounded. Mr. Obama, he said, was the only one who didn't seem awed by his surroundings, or by the presidency itself.

Mr. Bush could be prickly and irritable and near the end showed arrogance, but he wasn't vain or conceited, and he still isn't. When people said recently that they were surprised he could paint, he laughed: "Some people are surprised I can even read."
Noonan and I must have been watching two different George W. Bush administrations. The trusting of the gut wasn't portrayed as something Bush did because, regrettably, he lacked intellectual depth -- it was portrayed as the way a real man and a real president and a real American makes a decision, with none of the caution and cost-benefit analysis and icky nuance that some overeducated Democratic pantywaist would bring to the same decision, and none of the absurd obsession with, y'know, evidence-gathering and facts.

Bush may say self-deprecating things now in response to his opponents' criticisms of him, but when he was president he struggled to name anything he'd ever done wrong while in office. What humility there was was a weapon of aggression -- when he went into humble mode, he did it relative to God, which was his way of saying, I love Jesus and you don't, you hippie America-hater.

The dancing Bush we saw a couple of times near the end of his term was, I guess, a preview of the Bush we see now. But for most of his term he was the petulant, stubborn self-proclaimed decider who did what he wanted -- or what his team had persuaded him he wanted -- and who didn't give a crap if you didn't like it. He can't do that anymore. So of course he seems less oppressive.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


You may have seen this yesterday:
An odd argument that President George W. Bush kept America safe from terrorism "except for 9/11" made its way to the House floor Wednesday, coming from Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

The claim resurfaced on the right immediately after the Boston bombings, and made its way back into conservative punditry in the days that followed, Steve Benen reported.

As Benen and others have noted, it's hard to ignore the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11 and the hundreds who have been killed since in tallying Bush's terrorism record. But the "since 9/11" count also leaves out the 2002 shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport [and] the anthrax attacks after 9/11....
It also leaves out a 2006 incident in North Carolina:
In March 2006, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove an SUV into an area of campus, striking nine pedestrians. According to reports, Taheri-azar said he acted because he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world." Taheri-azar also reportedly stated in a letter: "I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree."
But that didn't stop The Weekly Standard and Fox Nation from pushing this meme from Representative Cotton's speech:

"I rise today to express grave doubts about the Obama Administration's counterterrorism policies and programs," said the freshman congressman from Arkansas. "Counterterrorism is often shrouded in secrecy, as it should be, so let us judge by the results. In barely four years in office, five jihadists have reached their targets in the United States under Barack Obama: the Boston Marathon bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square Bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and in my own state -- the Little Rock recruiting office shooter. In the over seven years after 9/11 under George W. Bush, how many terrorists reached their target in the United States? Zero! We need to ask, 'Why is the Obama Administration failing in its mission to stop terrorism before it reaches its targets in the United States?'"
So no terrorists "reached their targets" after 9/11 under Bush. The underwear bomber was on a plane with a bomb under Obama, and that counts as "reaching the target" -- but the shoe bomber, who was also on a plane with a bomb under Bush, didn't "reach the target." And the folks who actually committed terrorist acts post-9/11 under Bush didn't "reach their targets." And under Obama, "reaching the target" counts as actually hurting people. Close counts in horseshoes and Democratic administrations.

And today we have this brief allusion to Cotton's speech on Rush Limbaugh's show:
I've got a sound bite here from somebody, five successful bombers during the Obama regime.
Limbaugh goes to a different sound bite and never elaborates on this -- but notice the wording: "five successful bombers." You'll hear that on Fox again. You'll see that on right-wing Web sites. You'll probably hear it on the floors of Congress: five who "reached their targets" will become five who succeeded in committing terrorist acts under Obama. As opposed to the terrorism-free Bush administration.


I've seen a lot of right-wing high-fiving in response to a recent poll that says George W. Bush is gaining in popularity. But as his presidential library opens, I have to say I'm not sure why right-wingers want to associate with him.

* In the wake of 9/11, Bush urged Americans not to demonize Muslims. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, many right-wingers have been vigorously demonizing Muslims.

* Bush said (both during and after his presidency) that he'd like the U.S. prison he established at Guantanamo to be closed. Right-wingers have steadfastly refused to allow that to happen, even now when the prison is falling apart and the majority of inmates are on hunger strike.

* In 2008, Bush rejected an Israeli request for bunker-busting bombs to attack Iran. Right-wingers (and some non-right-wingers) continue to urge military action against Iran.

* Bush pushed for immigration reform as president, and hopes reform can pass now. Many (most?) right-wingers are unswervingly opposed to immigration reform.

* Bush pushed through a stimulus package in 2008 after his policies helped cause a financial collapse. Many right-wingers advocate a balanced budget amendment that would effectively make it impossible to do stimulus spending in a recession.

If Bush were in office now, and could (God help us) run for yet another term, he'd definitely be primaried from the right.

If you live outside Red America, it's easy to forget just how different a place it is from the rest of the country. I just went to the Web site for Mitch McConnell's 2014 Senate reelection campaign, teammitch.com, and this was the first thing I saw:

Remember, that's not the title screen of a gun rights subsection. That's the title screen of the entire campaign site. That's the first thing Mitch wants you to see when you show up.

And literally every page on the site has this as a header:

Would any Democratic pol put gun control on every page of a campaign site? Would Democratic voters respond to that? I'll tell you this: we'll never beat the NRA until our side is as primed to respond on this issue as the other side is.


Meanwhile, I see from the site that McConnell has released a new Web ad. It's not subtle:

I love the way he starts out with class warfare, as if the GOP is the great defender of ordinary folks -- see, at approximately 0:20, the shot of fancy silverware in front of a placecard that reads "The President," followed by a "WALL STREET" street sign -- then (at around 0:38), he begins denouncing Obamacare, as if that's another way the elites get eliter at ordinary people's expense. (Of course, if you imbibe right-wing propaganda every day, that actually seems sensible.)

Then, at the end, we get this (taken from McConnell's CPAC speech in March):
Society may change, demographics may shift, but the principles that make us a free and prosperous society never do, and conservatives -- we own these principles. We own them.
That's the right-wing message, just as it's been since at least 1968: Conservatives own Americanism. Only conservatives can be loyal to America.

I've had it. Let 'em secede. Or let us secede. I no longer believe we can continue to live together in the same country.

Look, I haven't actually seen how the new George W. Bush presidential library handles 9/11 and its aftermath -- but when I read Politico's description, the only conclusion I can come to is that Bush (who's said to have personally approved all the displays) is celebrating what happened and his own role in it:
George W. Bush was a wartime president, and his new museum won't let you forget it.

High ceilings mean visitors can hear the wail of sirens on Sept. 11 across adjoining rooms, as Bush bellows resolutely: "Today our nation saw evil." ...

... A sign next to [a] mangled [beam from the World Trade Center] blares: "...and then there came A DAY OF FIRE." A wall lists all who perished.

"He was thrust into a new and unexpected role: War President," reads the display.

Iraq and Afghanistan are not their own sections. Instead, they are conflated with the so-called "Global War On Terror" in a room called "Defending Freedom." ...
Well, this is pretty much what you'd expect from a guy who put a picture of himself not-at-all-solemnly speaking through a bullhorn at Ground Zero on pages ii and iii of his presidential memoir, so it's literally the first thing you come to when you open the book, even before the title.

There are other pictures of this moment, but Bush, for his book, chose one of himself in which he doesn't look the least bit solemn or mournful, even though he was standing on a mass grave. Bush looks cocky in this picture. It's all about him. And, of course, he was making an empty promise that day, implying that he'd get the guys responsible, which he failed to do, and never really cared to do once he became mesmerized by the shiny object of Iraq.

But right-wingers, at least during Bush heyday, always acted as if 9/11 was the greatest day of their lives. It made them and their president the moral arbiters of America. It made it impossible to challenge their political dominance. That's all they cared about. Bush clearly looks back on that moment of unchallenged power with nostalgia. He misses it.

The right is responding to the Boston bombings pretty much the same way. In a way, it's even worse -- if you went to right-wing sites after 9/11, you were at least likely to find memorial shrines to the dead with solemn patriotic music and illustrations of eagles shedding tears. With Boston, they're going straight the liberal-bashing, Muslim-baiting, and Democrat-hunting. Never mind the absurdity of the notion that 9/11 was somehow a triumph for their guy but Boston was a horrible failure for the current administration. What's also clear is the self-righteous joy with which they're waving real and invented evidence of intelligence lapses, cover-ups, and Muslim group guilt. They're doing an end zone dance without even a pro forma pause to remember the dead and wounded.



There's nothing I can add to that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I know the wingnuts are gleeful because the right-wing Boston Herald is reporting that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on welfare in Massachusetts -- but what's their policy recommendation? Should the government go through a time machine before providing public assistance, in order to determine whether recipients will someday commit felonies? Or do righties think we should withhold public assistance from refugees?

And if it's the latter, should it be all refugees? Including the ones the wingnuts like? The Cubans, for instance?

I see that Elian Gonzalez's great-uncle Lazaro, paterfamilias of the "Miami relatives," came to the U.S. in 1984. During the battle for Elian's custody, he remained unemployed for seven months. Did he receive any government benefits upon his arrival, or while jobless during the custody battle, or in between, or afterward? Funny, I don't recall any right-wing journalists scouring the rolls to find out. And I suspect no winger would have complained if Lazaro or anyone else in his family was on the dole. Cubans, after all, are the good refugees.

And, yes, by all means let's hold state public assistance agencies responsible for monitoring potential terrorist activity -- because administering benefits and reviewing eligibility and rooting out fraud and making sure kids on public assistance aren't being chained to radiators by abusive parents leaves them so much free time to monitor geopolitically suspicious behavior, right? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Via Mediaite, we get Rush Limbaugh's take on the Boston bombing:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called out a variety of media outlets on Tuesday for trying to "to Dzhokhar [Tsarnaev] what they did to Trayvon Martin." He said that showing images of Tsarnaev at 14-years-old is an effort to humanize him and frame him as a "normal" or "mixed-up kid," rather than a accused murder and terrorist.

"The news media are doing to Dzhokhar what they did to Trayvon Martin," Limbaugh observed. "They're regularly showing a photo of Dzhokhar that was taken when he was about 14. Soft, angelic, nice little boy. Harmless. Cute. Big, loveable eyes." ...

Limbaugh said that the news media is actively attempting to frame Tsarnaev as an innocent child by repeatedly showing the image of him as a young teen....
Apart from the obvious problem -- um, Trayvon Martin was an unarmed person who was killed, not a killer -- let's consider what this tells us about the right-wing mindset.

According to Limbaugh, it's impossible to hold the following two thoughts in one's head simultaneously: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev seems to have been a really decent kid and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of an unspeakable crime. But I don't know anyone who has trouble thinking those two things at once. Yes, there are a few idiot #freejahar conspiratorialists on Twitter. But even as we ponder Dzhokhar's very normal American adolescence, do you see any broad call in liberal America for him not to be in custody, not to be charged, not to be accused of a capital crime? Is anyone out in the street protesting any aspect of this? Are there petitions? Are there editorials? Is there a movement?

There was discontent when Dzhokhar wasn't read his Miranda rights for a couple of days. There'll be discontent from death penalty opponents if he's sentenced to death. But no liberal is going to be upset at the mere fact that he's been convicted and sentenced. None of us are going to be upset if he's held accountable for what he's done.

You see, we can simultaneously believe that a person is guilty of horrible things and is also a human being. We can believe that a person is capable of decency and can lose his grip on the ability to be a decent human being.

And Limbaugh's inability to hold those two thoughts in his head at once tells us a great deal about American right-wing thinking in general.

Right-wingers can't regard Barack Obama merely as a guy with whom they have very strong disagreements. No -- he has to be the Antichrist. He has to be literally committed to the goal of destroying America. He has to intend the enslavement and impoverishment of the population. He has to intend the dismantling of the nation as it's existed for centuries. He has to be pure evil.

The same for the rest of non-conservative America -- we're all Hitler. The media is guilty of treason. The universities are disloyal. Hollywood wants to destroy the nation's foundations. Democrats in Congress are tools of Satan.

This is the conservative mind in our time. To them, everyone is either saved or damned. They don't acknowledge the existence of any point in the middle. This is why we can't work with these people.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


A couple of days ago, when there were some voices in the mainstream press and the blogosphere still unwilling to yell JIHAD JIHAD JIHAD in response to questions about the Tsarnaev brothers' motivation, we got headlines in the right-wing blogosphere like this:

And this:

Well, the press is certainly telling us now that the Tsarnaevs had an Islamist motive. Here's The Washington Post:
The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.

... officials said ... the evidence so far suggests they were "self-radicalized" through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world.
So the wingers are happy now, right?

On Sunday, I wrote about how the media and left-blogosphere were trying to move the Boston Bombing narrative to focus on what is wrong with how we treated the bombers as immigrants and away from the problem of Jihadism....

Sure enough, it’s no longer an implication, it’s being stated out loud.
Notice the not-too-subtle Washington Post spin here....

In other words, the Brothers Tsarnaev shared the Left's worldview that U.S. military intervention abroad in the wake of 9/11 was illegitimate....
So liberalism (which for wingnuts, encompasses everything from the radical leftists to the right-center) is to blame because not every voice in this broad spectrum was immediately willing to call these guys jihadists. But now that the brothers are effectively being called jihadists, it's also our fault for reporting what one of the brothers says was their motivation.

You can't win with these winger bastards.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, sensible people who feel anger are directing that anger toward, y'know, the people charged with actually doing the killing and maiming. That's not good enough for the Murdoch press. The Murdochites want you to hate Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamelan Tsarnaev and the mother of his child, who's a Muslim convert.

For what reason exactly? Well, there isn't one yet. She has a lawyer and didn't speak to authorities until today. No evidence suggesting that she was involved in the attacks has emerged.

But the two toxic strains of Murdochism -- throwback, unenlightened attitudes toward people who aren't white males and a determination to destroy all political opposition -- have come together in this case. It's old-school tabloid sexism to focus rage on a woman connected to a horrible crime. Add that to the political agenda -- in this case, the desire to demonize a headscarf-wearing resident of liberal Massachusetts who reportedly converted to Islam for a man who turned out to be a terrorist -- and Katherine Russell is a perfect target.

So this was the New York Post's cover yesterday:

Yesterday, Fox News had this:

And this:
On Monday night, conservative commentator Ann Counter appeared on Fox News' "Hannity" to discuss the latest developments in the Boston Marathon bombing. And by Tuesday morning she was making headlines for it.

Among the topics discussed was Katherine Russell, widow of deceased terror suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev....

"She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab," [Coulter] said. "This immigration policy of, you know, us assimilating immigrants into our culture isn't really working."

She wasn't done.

"No they’re assimilating us into their culture. Did she get a clitorectomy, too?," she asked.
"Boston Marathon Bomber's Widow Dodges Feds" was the lead story on the New York Post's Web site until just a few minutes ago. That story showed up at Fox Nation (under the headline "Mum’s the Widow as Feds Stay Near"), though now it's been supplanted by the current Post lead story, "Bomber Widow Leaves Home with FBI Escort and Lawyer, 'Trying to Come to Terms' with Blast."

Her lawyer says she knew nothing about the bomb plot. But why let that inconvenient fact get in the way of a good, rousing Two Minutes' Hate?

I just hope she has a bodyguard.

I'm sure Jeb is calling up those potential 2016 donors even as we speak, now that it's likely that we're not going to get an immigration bill identified with Marco Rubio, and now that he's seen the results of this new ABC/Washington Post poll about his brother George:

Days before his second term ended in 2009, Bush's approval rating among all adults was 33 percent positive and 66 percent negative. The new poll found 47 percent saying they approve and 50 percent saying they disapprove. Among registered voters, his approval rating today is equal to President Obama's, at 47 percent, according to the latest Post-ABC surveys.
Memo to Anthony Weiner and Mark Sanford: Don't try to come back in a year or two -- go off, do nothing, paint kitschy puppy pictures, and seem genuinely harmless for five years. Then wander back into the limelight. Oh, and coming back after an inventively embarrassing, highly public sex scandal is apparently impossible. Coming back after destroying the global economy and starting two ruinous wars you couldn't win on money we didn't have? A minor offense by comparison. Pity about all those dead soldiers, but at least you didn't post pictures of your wing-wang.

I'm amused by this, from the Post's write-up of the poll:
But on fiscal issues, Bush draws criticism from both left and right. Tea party Republicans regard him as a reckless spender.
Really? They do?

Teabag Republicans are so disgusted by Bush's profligate spending that only 93% of Republicans approve of him.

Well, the notion that tea party types hate big spenders regardless of party affiliation was always a crock -- as was the notion that they have a Ron Paul disgust at Republican military adventurism.

So a Hillary/Jeb race in 2016 is seeming quite possible. If so, talk about being stuck in a moment we can't get out of.

Monday, April 22, 2013


The Obama administration is refusing to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant and intends to try him in civilian court. The FBI is looking into possible sources of the Tsarnaev brothers' politicization, particularly in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's last trip overseas, but that won't be enough to prevent the wingers from howling about inadequate attention to their obvious involvement in an international terror network, or local terrorist cell, or something, anything, bigger than themselves.

But if the Tsarnaevs were part of a terror network or a U.S. cell, whatever they were part of was mostly incompetent, because they did many baffling things. Mother Jones has a list of eleven, including:
1. Wear a backwards hat and no sunglasses. Unlike his older brother, Dzhokhar made little effort to prevent cameras from capturing his face, making him easier to identify when the FBI released security camera photos on Thursday....

3. Leave the car in the shop. The Wall Street Journal reported that Dzhokhar stopped by an auto-body shop in Watertown on Tuesday to pick up the Mercedes he'd brought in for repairs....

6. Run out of cash...

9. Stop for snacks. The Los Angeles Times reported that the hostage escaped after the brothers stopped at a gas station on Memorial Drive to buy snacks. Did they think he'd have trouble with the lock? ...
Are we about to conclude that unless we drastically restrict our civil liberties, or profile and harass all Muslims, or severely curtail immigration, or all three, we're all going to die at the hands of THE ALL-POWERFUL TSARNAEV TERROR NETWORK? Because, yeah, they shed a hell of a lot of innocent blood, but either they got zero terrorist training -- my theory -- or they got terrible terrorist training, at least in the aspects of terrorism that didn't involve bomb construction.

So shudder in fear a little if you must, but get a grip: these guys weren't all that.

If Maureen Dowd really wants to know why a gun control bill couldn't pass in Washington, she shouldn't be examining President Obama's tactical skills -- she should be looking at the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, and asking herself how it's even possible to negotiate with a party that relentlessly politicizes everything, including (especially including) this attack.

How do you work with these people? The bodies weren't even cold and Lindsey Graham was pressuring the administration to treat Dhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant. John McCain piled on, arguing the same thing; so did Congressman Peter King on one of the Sunday talk shows. Graham went on TV Sunday and attacked the FBI; Michael McCaul, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, did the same.

Want to know what Democrats were saying in 2001 on the first Sunday shows after 9/11? Want to know how divisive they were?

Here's John Kerry on CNN's Late Edition on Septenber 16, 2001, talking to Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Senator Kerry, you're of course well-known as a Vietnam veteran. When the United States got involved in the early '60s in Vietnam it looked a lot different, of course, than when the U.S. left in the '70s. Are you at all concerned that what the U.S. is getting itself involved in right now could turn out to be another Vietnam?

KERRY: No, I mean, it just isn't. There isn't even any comparison. The country is united, galvanized, I think is the word, because we have been attacked in the most clear and dastardly way.

I mean, every American understands the nature of this threat.
Here's then-senator Hillary Clinton on ABC's This Week the same Sunday:
I am absolutely confident that the president and his advisers will put together a plan that will take into account the great difficulty that we face.
Here's Senator Charles Schumer on CBS's Face the Nation the same day, praising President Bush's willingness to offer a generous amount of federal aid to New York in the wake of 9/11:
SCHUMER: But he didn't have to do this. We're part of the blue states, you know. We're not part of his political sort of coalition.

And the fact that he was so generous, and then, late that night, when some in the Senate didn't want to do it, he stood them down, and said, "We have to do this." It speaks for his ability to unify the nation, and Hillary and I are both just really grateful to him for his leadership and his help for New York, as we are to all of America.
That's how divisive top Democrats were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

The unofficial media office of the Republican Party, otherwise known as Rupert Murdoch's media empire, is even less restrained than GOP members of Congress. A Wall Street Journal editorial reinforces the call for enemy combatant status and attacks the FBI. The Journal editorial page publishes an implicit call for enhanced interrogation from ex-Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey:
But if your concern is over the larger threat that inheres in who the Tsarnaev brothers were and are, what they did, and what they represent, then worry -- a lot.

For starters, you can worry about how the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, will do its work. That unit was finally put in place by the FBI after so-called underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up the airplane in which he was traveling as it flew over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009 and was advised of his Miranda rights. The CIA interrogation program that might have handled the interview had by then been dismantled by President Obama.

At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI's interrogation group as well?
Fox & Friends did an extraordinarily sympathetic interview with Greg Ball, a Republican state legislator from New York, who overtly called for the torture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:
“Were you surprised that people responded to it?” asked [Gretchen] Carlson.

“I think a lot of politicians, quite honestly, are full of crap,” Ball replied candidly. “They’re scared to say how they feel. I basically said what I believe a lot of red-blooded Americans felt.”

He said that getting information from terror suspects can save lives, and he “would be first in line” to use whatever tactics are necessary to extract that information, including torture.
And the weekend edition of Fox & Friends attacked Attorney General Eric Holder, primarily using a guest named Alonzo Lunsford, who was injured in the Fort Hood shooting:
[Gretchen] Carlson opened with the leading question, "The question may be, is this administration too politically correct to deal with the harsh realities of terror attacks when they occur on American soil?"

Lunsford was in synch with the Fox agenda. He quickly asked, "How many more times are we gonna let events like this happen on U.S. soil?" Saying we need to "stop being reactive" to terrorist attacks and "start being proactive," he added, "We have enough power and enough technology in our grasp where we can stop this from happening." When asked by co-host Alisyn Camerota what might have been done to prevent the Boston bombings, he said the Boston Marathon area should have been "more secure" and that the FBI should have bore down harder on now-deceased Boston suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev when they first interviewed him "until he is no longer a threat."
Find me anything like this in the mainstream "liberal" press, or from prominent Democratic politicians, in the first week after the 9/11 attacks. Go on, show me. Yes, we eventually were at loggerheads as a nation -- after bin Laden got away, after postwar transitions failed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, after weapons of mass destruction weren't found in Iraq, and after torture was uncovered. But the first week? No.

In the first week after 9/11, the mainstream press and D.C. Democrats rallied around the flag. In the week after the Boston bombings, the GOP rallied around the GOP.


UPDATE: Typos fixed.

Michael Mukasey, George W. Bush's last attorney general, puts party ahead of country in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today entitled "Make No Mistake, It Was Jihad" (working title, presumably: "Don't You Dare Give This Guy His Miranda Rights or Try Him in Civilian Court, You America-Hating Hippie"). I won't go into a point-by-point rebuttal, but let me just pull out a minor detail:
There is also cause for concern in that this was obviously a suicide operation -- not in the direct way of a bomber who kills all his victims and himself at the same time by blowing himself up, but in the way of someone who conducts a spree, holding the stage for as long as possible, before he is cut down in a blaze of what he believes is glory. Here, think Mumbai.
How eager was Dzhokar Tsarnaev to be killed by the cops in a blaze of jihad glory? Apparently, this eager:
New details on the brothers' fight with police suggests Tamerlan was killed when his brother ran him over, dragging Tamerlan underneath his car in his bid to escape.
Instead, we're reading about a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound made while he was in hiding, and unsuccessfully.

And, um, do we now have to think of every crime that ends in suicide by cop as (melodramatic minor chord) "a suicide operation"? A 2009 study says that a third of police shootings in North America are examples of "suicide by cop" Should every one of them make us "think Mumbai"?

Right-wingers think it's hilarious that the AP is reporting this:
A Massachusetts police official say the brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon before having shootouts with authorities didn't have gun permits....

He says it's unclear whether either ever applied and the applications aren't considered public records.

But he says the 19-year-old Dzhokhar (joh-KHAR') would have been denied a permit because of his age. Only people 21 or older are allowed gun licenses in Massachusetts....
We get this from Doug Ross at Director Blue:
A perplexed Associated Depress reluctantly reports....

So let's pass some more gun control laws, right, progressive nitwits?
And Weasel Zippers snickers:
Big surprise. You mean they weren't adhering to the law?
No, they weren't adhering to the gun laws. But you know what? They weren't adhering to the bomb laws, either.

So, since laws didn't stop these two people from making bombs and using them for mass murder and amputation, let's get rid of all of our fascist, anti-freedom bomb laws. Let's allow Americans to buy or construct large, intimidating bombs without the evil government breathing down their necks. Let's permit concealed carry of bombs -- with every state that allows concealed carry of bombs required to give a concealed-carry bomb permit to whoever has a carry permit in the most permissive state. We need more states allowing open carry of bombs, too.

And shouldn't we also make it legal to sell bombs over the Internet, or in the parking lot of gun shows, with no violation of the law, and no government oversight?

After all, the only thing that can stop a couple of bad guys with multiple pressure-cooker bombs is a bunch of good guys with pressure-cooker bombs. Right?

Ultimately, why even have laws against terrorism? Laws didn't stop the 9/11 hijackers, or the Fort Hood shooter, or the would-be shoe bomber or underwear bomber or Times Square bomber. Laws only deter law-abiding citizens; evil people don't respect laws.

So let's make terrorism legal. Because freedom.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This story, from Britain's Mirror, leads Drudge right now and is being accepted as gospel by the entire right-wing blogosphere, but I'm not buying it:
The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist "sleeper cell" linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.

Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.

More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar's dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: "We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.

"They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come."
So what's the theory here? As I read it, the theory is that they had a twelve-person sleeper cell -- or possibly fourteen, i.e., a dozen plus the Tsarnaevs -- and they had multiple pressure-cooker bombs made, but when they decided to target the Boston Marathon they used only two of the bombs and, seemingly, just two of the cell members planting the bombs. They had bombs left over, but the two guys were schlepping them around after the marathon attack and tossing them during the post-attack shooting with the cops, presumably because no one in this massive sleeper cell was available to plant them in the crowd at the Marathon. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Oh, and that shootout with the cops happened after a carjacking. We're suppoed to believe that the Tsarnaevs had to steal a car even though they have all these alleged accomplices. None of them had cars? (We know the three people in New Bedford have a car because we were told about its "Terrorista #1" license plate, which is obviously a joke. We were also told that, in fact, they weren't arrested, merely questioned, and that they were two men and one woman, not one man and two women. Details, details.)

And sleeper cells? Do they even exist? Back in 2005, ABC's Brian Ross quoted from an FBI report that cast doubt on the whole notion:
The 32-page assessment says flatly, "To date, we have not identified any true 'sleeper' agents in the US" ...

... "US Government efforts to date also have not revealed evidence of concealed cells or networks acting in the homeland as sleepers."
Where were the sleeper cells in the cases of the Fort Hood shooter and the would-be Times Square bomber and Najibullah Zazi, who wanted to attack the New York City subway?

Yes, there have been group plots -- but even the best known, the so-called Lackawanna Six, weren't actually plotting any activity at the time of their arrest.

A cell could certainly exist. But you're going to need to show me a lot more than this before I believe this incident was the product of one. If it was, the other cell members were awfully uninvolved this past week.

And this is very separate from the question of whether one or both brothers were radicalized or trained. I think it's quite possible Tamerlan, in particular, got encouragement and training. But we don't know yet.


This is a great story for an Obama-hating source to whisper to a reporter. Now, even if there are accomplices and even if arrests are made, there probably won't be arrests of enough accomplices, so the notion will always linger that we didn't get them all because the Obama administration Mirandized Dzhokar Tsarnaev or tried him as a civilian or didn't throw him in Gitmo or didn't torture him. And if no accomplices are ever found, then we'll "know" for sure that Obama really hates America. So if this is (as I suspect) a complete crock and (as I also suspect) disinformation from a grudge-holding wingnut in law enforcement, then it's really toxic. And this story, which may be utterly specious, may never die.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Please tell me the wingers aren't going to respond to this with their usual righteous indignation:
The two men arrested last night in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings drive a car with the licence plate that reads: 'Terrorista #1'

The students, named be neighbours by their first names Azmat and Diaz, drive a black BMW 330XI with the personalised plate....

They are thought to be from Kazakhstan and had not been seen since the bombings until last night when their ground floor apartment in New Bedford, MA, was raided by a dozen FBI agents at gunpoint....

Yes, because if you actually were a terrorist, you'd want to advertise it, right? Please, wingers, try to restrain yourselves. This is a joke that's now turned out not to be a joke. Refrain from your usual harrumphing.

And no, I don't want to hear that it's in bad taste. I'm Italian-American, and an Italian-American friend had a "MAFIA STAFF CAR" bumper sticker when we were in high school. Isn't that equally in bad taste? Doesn't the Mafia have a history of killing people? But we don't think twice about that. It's a joke. You can still buy the bumper stickers today. You can slap them on your car and drive to Godfather's Pizza.

Are your knickers in a twist because someone would use the phrase "Terrorista #1" in a lighthearted way? Tell it to this teenage girl from Argentina whose Twitter name is Terrorista #1. And here's a photographer who gave the title "Terrorista Numero 1" to a photo of a cat in a tree.

Oh, and you do recall that "Con los terroristas" are the first words of the song every idiot in America has danced to on YouTube, Baauer's "Harlem Shake," courtesy of a sample from reggaeton artist Hector "El Father" Delgado, right?

Oh, and let's not forget that the car also had "a sticker on the back which reads: 'F*** you, you f****** f****'." I'm pretty sure that's not from the collected writing of Sayyid Qutb.


AND: Charles Johnson reminds us that the two men (and one woman) were questioned, not arrested. It's been reported elsewhere that they "are believed to be fellow students or roommates of [Dzhokar] Tsarnaev."