Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I spotted this yesterday at World Net Daily:
The next presidential election is still three years away, but top-rated radio host Rush Limbaugh is already making a bold prediction about who will be the likely nominee for the Democratic Party.

"I think it’s going to be Chris Christie," Limbaugh said on his national program Tuesday.
This isn't the first time Limbaugh has talked this way:
... On June 5, Limbaugh first brought up the possibility of Christie looking to lead the Democratic ticket, saying at the time: "I'm not predicting it officially here, but I will not be surprised, if when 2016 rolls around and Governor Christie is seeking the presidency, I won't be surprised if he seeks the Democrat Party nomination."
Limbaugh's doing some multi-target trolling here. Obviously, he's aiming this at Christie himself, because Christie consorts with Antichrist Obama. Limbaugh's also targeting Hillary Clinton, because he hates women, Hillary in particular. (He said yesterday, "I don't think it’s gonna be Hillary.... I've always said she's not this brainiac that her conventional wisdom says. She messed up so much that the Clinton administration gave her.... She's not the smartest woman in the world.")

But Limbaugh's snark is also presumably based on this:
Last month, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey reported Christie was "cashing in donations from top Democratic fundraisers and other traditionally liberal donors across the country, even nabbing the support of a handful of rainmakers aligned with President Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel."

"While I do not agree with his stance on every issue, he is one of the best political leaders I have talked to in a long time," Ken Rosen, a UC-Berkeley professor who cut a $3,800 check to Christie after chatting with him at two events, told the paper. "He is willing to take on tough issues such as pension reform, education reform, mental-health issues, even if his views are not politically correct."

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll in June found Christie was actually given a higher net favorable rating among Democrats than among Republicans.
I don't know what's wrong with these people if they feel this way about Christie and consider themselves Democrats. (Well, in some cases I do know. Among the donors mentioned in the Star Ledger story are an investor, a venture capitalist, and five executives at a hedge fund -- one founded by, of all people, George Soros, not that that matters. Christie is very, very favorably disposed toward the money power, as they used to say.)

I'd just like to add this: I can imagine Hillary Clinton choosing not to run in 2016, or being unable to run for some reason such as health. I think the Democratic field will be weak if that happens. Alternately, I can imagine her running a fine campaign, but hitting a rough patch now and then. If she's not in the race, or there's a moment when she and the rest of the field seem to be struggling, I can very, very easily imagine that David Broder wannabes in the punditocracy will start penning column with titles such as "Democrats: Why Not Christie?"

Right? Don't you think at least one mainstream-media idiot will write a column like that?

Limbaugh will smirk. And for once he'll have a right to.

It's obvious that Ted Cruz wants to run for president in 2016, so this would seem to be a bad career move:
Ted Cruz is taking his hardball tactics to a whole new level.

The Texas freshman senator and his senior aides are unleashing a barrage of attacks on their fellow Republicans for refusing to support their plan to choke off Obamacare as a condition for funding the government. Cruz's chief of staff is lambasting fellow conservatives like Oklahoma's Tom Coburn for serving in the "surrender caucus." His top political strategist has compared Mitch McConnell to Barack Obama. And the senator himself has said many Republicans are "scared" to wage this fight.

... Cruz's strategy is a departure from the usually clubby chamber, as he's grown increasingly alienated from his caucus....
Yes, it seems like a bad career move -- but notice what's been going on in the polls for a long time now: Voters hate the Republican Party, according to polls, and really hate congressional Republicans.

The reason the GOP's poll numbers are much worse than the Democratic Party's is that Republicans, unlike Democrats, tell pollsters they don't like their own party. See, for instance, the recent Marist poll (PDF), in which 68% of Democrats said they approved of the Democrats in Congress, but only 35% of Republicans approved of congressional Republicans.

None of this, mind you, prevents disgruntled Republicans from voting Republican. There's a simple reason for that. Republicans may dislike their party, but the majority of them dislike it because it's not right-wing enough. So, come Election Day, they're obviously going to vote for the most right-wing major party on the ballot, even though it falls short of their conservatively pure standards.

A Pew poll just released today confirms this: 67% of Republicans say they think their party "needs to address major problems" within the party, and a majority -- 54% -- think party leaders need to move in a more conservative direction.

And the folks who really think the GOP has gone wobbly are the teabaggers: 53% of tea party Republicans say the party has compromised too much with Democrats.

And teabaggers overrepresented in the Republican primary electorate, according to Pew:
Tea Party Republicans have influence in the GOP partly because of their high level of political engagement. Overall, they make up a minority (37%) of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationally. Yet this group is more likely than other GOP voters to say they always vote in primary elections; as a result they make up about half of the Republican primary electorate (49%).
So, to sum up: In general, Republicans dislike their party, even though they vote for it. Teabaggers in particular see the party as a sinkhole of appalling squishiness -- and they vote more than non-teabaggers.

So, yeah, it's smart for Cruz to bash his own party.

Last night I actually saw people on Twitter defending Barbara Morgan, the spokeswoman for the Anthony Weiner campaign. The argument was: So you've never said anything like this about anyone? And my answer is: Well, yes, I have -- but my job isn't to handle public communications for a person running for a high-level office. This is just a sign that Weiner is not only personally embarrassing, he's assembled a campaign that is to campaigning what the '62 Mets were to baseball. Which is actually fun to watch, so I really hope he doesn't drop out of the race (and I fully expect he won't):
... The [Weiner] campaign staff awoke [yesterday] to see their former intern, Olivia Nuzzi, on the front cover of the Daily News. Inside the paper was an article bylined by Nuzzi in which she told a rather unflattering tale of her experience working on Anthony Weiner's mayoral bid.

Now, Team Weiner is firing back. TPM called Weiner's communications director Barbara Morgan to discuss an unrelated story Tuesday and she went off on a curse-filled rant about Nuzzi....

"Fucking slutbag. Nice fucking glamour shot on the cover of the Daily News. Man, see if you ever get a job in this town again," said Morgan....

"It's all bullshit," she said. "I mean, it's such bullshit. She could fucking -- fucking twat." ...

Morgan also expressed disbelief that Nuzzi criticized her credentials.

"And then like she had the fucking balls to like trash me in the paper. And be like, 'His communications director was last the press secretary of the Department of Education in New Jersey," Morgan said. "You know what? Fuck you, you little cunt. I'm not joking, I am going to sue her." ...
Morgan says she thought the conversation with the Talking Points Memo reporter was off the record. Josh Marshall of TPM insists that it wasn't. But sorry -- if your job is to talk to the press in a professional manner, and your previous jobs required the same skill, shouldn't you have the sense not to talk like this to a reporter?


Enough finger-wagging from me -- it's fun to watch, and I think we're going to have a lot more of this kind of fun from the Weiner campaign, which is starting to look like the Spinal Tap tour.

Now, please don't spoil it, mainstream media pundits.

I know what some of you are going to do: you're going to start talking about the nutjobs who run for office as Republicans -- the Christine O'Donnells and Carl Paladinos and Sharron Angles and Joe Millers and Todd Akins -- and you're going start telling us that Both Sides Do It!, because Anthony Weiner. See? you'll say. This is a problem both parties have! The GOP is no crazier than the Democratic Party!

The difference, of course, is that Anthony Weiner's actual policy ideas -- read 'em in this PDF -- are an utterly mainstream mix of liberalism and centrism. Some samples:
2. Pay Master Teachers More for Taking Tough Assignments.
18. Install Cell Service on Every Subway Platform.
24. Streamline the Business Improvement District Process (BID).
59. Lower the Tax Burden for Outer Borough Job Creation.
Wow, radical, hunh?

And yet when a few crazy teabaggers win Republican primaries in 2014 with rants about IRS abolition and sharia-law bans and letting states nullify federal laws, I bet the press will say, "Democrats, too, have had their share of embarrassing candidates. Anthony Weiner..."

Sorry -- no comparison. Weiner's campaign is a clown car. Personally, he needs help. But a sane politician with his platform would be a perfectly credible candidate.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Wow, Glenn Reynolds packs a lot of stupid into this post of exactly one hundred words:
MANNING IS ACQUITTED OF "AIDING THE ENEMY," convicted of a bunch of other stuff. The "aiding the enemy" charge was always weak, since Obama doesn't seem to think we're at war with anybody. Manning isn't really a "whistleblower," though, since he didn't even know what was in a lot of the stuff he turned over to Wikileaks, and when he did know, it was often stuff like troops' personal information.

The most damning piece of news he got out was that we entrust secrets to idiots like him. I'm sure they’ll do better with your healthcare information....
I love that first part: apparently the years of ongoing war and all those drone attacks -- not to mention the killing of bin Laden -- are signs, to Insty, that "Obama doesn't seem to think we're at war with anybody." Yes, he's just ordering the troops to kill people at random, for the thrills.

I'll skip over the whistleblower bit and go straight to the end: someone in the military leaked classified information, therefore government sucks (yes, because we all know our Galtian overlords in the private sector never misuse our private data), and thus Obamacare should be repealed. Or maybe the military should be completely privatized. Or maybe the point is that Obama sucks because Manning got a security clearance in ... um, 2008, back when George W. Bush was still president. Yeah, that must be it.

Alex Roarty of National Journal tries to figure out why Liz Cheney didn't just run for Senate from Virginia, where she lived until recently -- and doesn't come up with much:
... Her reputation as a hawk and stalwart supporter of the military would appeal to [Virginia]'s significant population of veterans and its large defense industry, and her more-moderate positioning on divisive cultural topics such as gay marriage is tailor-made for swing voters in the Washington suburbs....

Instead of trying to translate her anti-Obama message against a Republican, the message would make more sense against [Senator Mark] Warner, who has been a reliable ally of the Obama administration. Even if Warner looks unbeatable, Republicans could use a qualified candidate in Virginia....

But Cheney never seriously considered running in Virginia....

To be sure, Cheney would begin her hypothetical matchup with the state's former governor as the race's heavy underdog. A robust 61 percent of voters approve of the incumbent's job performance, according to a mid-July poll from Quinnipiac University....

But it's not as if her odds are much better against a popular Republican senator in Wyoming, either.... The Republican automated polling firm Harper Polling found the incumbent [Mike Enzi] leading Cheney 55 percent to 21 percent. There's no ideological divide for Cheney to exploit.... Enzi holds one of the most conservative voting records, according to National Journal's most recent vote ratings. And Cheney hasn't yet received the support from outside conservative groups that often comes with insurgent primary campaigns....
Allow me to speculate.

Liz Cheney, of course, is her father's most prominent apologist, and his biggest fan. What has Dick Cheney done with his life in the periods when he wasn't in Congress or serving a Republican president.

He was a CEO of a very large multinational company.

What do CEOs of very large multinational companies do to small, underfunded regional competitors?

They use money and influence to crush those competitors.

That's precisely what Liz Cheney -- plugged-in, nationally prominent, Northeast Corridor-based Liz Cheney -- decided she could do to local yokel Mike Enzi. (It's been reported that Papa Dick has "talked up his daughter's candidacy in meetings with wealthy Republican donors in New York.")

There are a few other things going on here -- Cheney's candidacy is meant to ensure that Enzi won't compromise with President Obama and the Democrats on anything between now and the 2014 primary, which Liz and her pals will regard as a win even if he defeats her -- but apart from that, this isn't a primary challenge.

It's an attempt at a hostile takeover.


(National Journal story via Memeorandum.)

I guess I'm supposed to be impressed that Pope Francis said something about gay people that wasn't hostile, but in comparison with Pope Benedict, Francis still sees the same sex acts as sinful, so he's just playing good cop to Benedict's bad cop:
Never veering from church doctrine opposing homosexuality, Francis did strike a more compassionate tone than that of his predecessors, some of whom had largely avoided even saying the more colloquial "gay."

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word "gay."

Francis's words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was "a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil," and an "objective disorder." The church document said men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not become priests.

Vatican experts were quick to point out that Francis was not suggesting that the priests or anyone else should act on their homosexual tendencies, which the church considers a sin.
Right -- the church thinks homosexual acts are sinful, and that if you're gay you should just stop engaging in those acts, and there's nothing here to indicate that Francis is deviating from that doctrine. Here's a slightly longer version of the quote from National Catholic Reporter's John C. Allen. The pope was responding to a question about whether there's a "gay lobby" in the Vatican:
"When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem ... they're our brothers."
Right -- the church believes you can have the tendency all you want -- just don't act on it, ever.

See this National Catholic Register story about a group called Courage:
The Courage apostolate's upcoming annual conference seeks to strengthen the faith and the confidence in Christ of Catholics who have same-sex attraction, helping them to live their call to chastity.
Yup -- if you're gay, you have a "call to chastity."

And maybe you're not gay at all. Father Paul Scalia -- son of Antonin and an ally of Courage -- has written about this:
... Scalia goes on to claim that many people have "have found freedom, to varying degrees, from homosexual attractions" and deny that people have sexual orientations: "Homosexual tendencies (to use a term from magisterial documents), do not constitute a fixed, unchangeable aspect of the person and therefore should not be considered an "orientation"..."
I don't see how anything Francis said changes this view, except he's saying it in a sunny, smiley way. The Catholic Church never yields on doctrine. (See what Francis said about the priesthood for women, in the same set of remarks: "On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.") This is the same old same old, with a human face.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Excuse me, but why are we paying attention to this story, from Frederic Dicker of the New York Post? And if the unnamed sources quoted in the story actually exist, and are accurately reproducing the sentiments of Bill and Hillary Clinton, why are they (the sources and the Clintons) so worked up?
Bill and Hillary Clinton are angry with efforts by mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner and his campaign to compare his Internet sexcapades -- and his wife Huma Abedin's incredible forgiveness -- to the Clintons' notorious White House saga, The Post has learned.

“The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging -- that Huma is 'standing by her man' the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did," said a top state Democrat....

In the view of many Democrats, the Weiners have also alluded more subtly to the Clintons.

For instance, Abedin, with her husband at her side, declared last week, "Our marriage, like many others, has had its ups and its downs."

"Who didn't think Huma was referring to the Clintons when she said that?" asked another prominent Democrat.

Worried about the potential impact on Hillary's likely run for president in 2016, the political power couple has begun aggressively distancing itself from the crippled mayoral contender, according to sources.

Meanwhile, at least one prominent Hillary Rodham Clinton political operative was described as close to "going public" with a sharp criticism of Weiner -- in order to send the message that the Clintons, fearing longtime damage to Hillary, want him out of the mayor's race. (That would be someone other than former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, who said yesterday that she was sure the Clintons wanted Weiner out of the race.)...
Hello? Everyone?

Please chill the hell out.

Anthony Weiner is not going to win the New York mayor's race. Anthony Weiner is not going to finish first or second in the Democratic primary and make it to a runoff. That means that this entire sorry episode is going to end on September 10, 2013 -- three years, eight weeks, and three days before Election Day 2016, when we will (presumably) decide whether Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, and more than two years before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. That is, unless Weiner drops out before September 10, which could also happen.

Here's the thing: people like us who pay attention to politics know about Hillary Clinton's ties to Huma Abedin. But the vast majority of Americans simply don't follow politics that closely. They know about Weiner from late-night comics. They think he's a jerk. They may think his wife is exercising bad judgment. And maybe they're vaguely aware that his wife was a Hillary aide. But to expect people whose lives don't revolve around politics to focus on Huma Abedin and dislike her as much as they dislike Weiner, then extend that distaste to Hillary, and to sustain that distaste for years, well into a distant future when we know Weiner will be the answer to a trivia question, is just ridiculous. Ordinary folks just aren't as politics-obsessed as political pros and mavens.

Those of us who do care about these links already have a lot of data points in our heads about Hillary -- the vast majority of us knew a long time ago whether we'd vote for her in 2016, based on a great deal of history and a lot of thoughts about her and the state of American politics. We're certainly not going to make up our minds about 2016 based on Anthony Weiner.

Well, no one is. The rest of the public will start focusing on 2016 a long, long time from now. They're no more likely to deprive Hillary of a vote because of Weiner than right-wingers are to shy away from voting for whoever the GOP nominates because of Christine O'Donnell.

Spotted this at Twitter this morning:

The link goes to this McClatchy story (emphasis added):
Six months ago, top Republican state lawmakers met with conservative allies to preview their strategy for the legislative session.

The party controlled the entire lawmaking process in North Carolina for the first time in more than a century, and top legislators made their ambitions clear. Big changes were coming.

The leader of a conservative political organization left the meeting calling the agenda "breathtaking."

After the session, the description seemed like an understatement....

Once the new laws take effect, the new North Carolina will require photo identification at the polls, levy a flat income tax that reduces rates for many, make it harder to get an abortion, offer less generous unemployment benefits, require cursive-writing education in schools, give low-income families vouchers for private schools, require fewer government regulations on businesses, resume executions for capital crimes and allow concealed handguns in bars and restaurants....
I understand the others -- they're high on the wish lists of right-wing billionaires and/or the angry right-wing base.

But cursive writing? Seriously?

Back in April, NC Policy Watch found that special interests really are interested in this (emphasis added again):
... When Rep. [Patricia] Hurley introduced the bill, her stated justification to mandate cursive writing instruction included the claim that PET scans show that your whole brain works when you're doing cursive, but that "only half" of your brain works when you are doing manuscript, and that your brain "doesn't work" when you are keyboarding.

A handwriting instructor, Kate Gladstone, became curious as to what kind of research supported Rep. Hurley's claim. Upon inquiring with Hurley's office, legislative assistant Deborah Holder sent Gladstone this article, MJ12 Berninger_NAESP Article_May2012 -- which, in fact, does not support Hurley's claims and even notes possible benefits to keyboard instruction in early grades.

Hurley mentioned during her introduction of the bill that ALEC supplied her with background information with regard to cursive writing instruction. Pressing further, Gladstone asked Hurley's office how she obtained research relevant to the bill, and Holder explained that they had received a lot of information from a "source in South Carolina."

Upon further inquiry, that source turned out to be a sales rep from Zaner-Bloser, a for-profit company that promotes cursive writing and sells handwriting instructional materials. Incidentally, the South Carolina legislature is considering an identical bill to mandate cursive writing instruction, no doubt after having received the same research pushed to them by the Zaner-Bloser sales rep....
I get it, but I don't get it. Zaner-Bloser is a privately held company from Ohio. Its CEO, Robert Page, doesn't seem to be a big deal on the right (I don't see any contributions at all to Republican pols from a Robert Page or Bob Page in Ohio when I search).

When I see multiple states pushing identical legislation that can be construed as right-leaning, that tells me ALEC is at work. And, of course, one of the supporters of this bill says she got information on it from ALEC.

But why? To help one little company? Wouldn't that money otherwise just go to another company taking another approach to the subject? Why wouldn't ALEC be just as happy to champion a company teaching a different way?

I just think ALEC is willing to get behind anything that offers even a slight opportunity to stir up conflict between Evil Liberals and Real Americans who support "traditional values." A writer at National Review's Corner, straining to find a pro-cursive argument, came up with this: "Students should be able to read the script of this country's historical documents." But how does that help students understand those documents? What can you possible learn from the script version of the Declaration of Independence that you can't learn from the printed text? And does mean that you're not a real Christian if you can't read Aramaic, or can't read the lettering of the original King James Bible?

To me this is just a Koch brothers group looking for a new issue to divide Americans with or engaging in right-wing social control. I wish these SOBs would stick to naked greed.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


It's official: they love the big lug (in fact, they love pretty much every Republican sane people regard as crazy):
Sen. Ted Cruz hasn't said whether he has presidential ambitions, but Sunday he won one of the first straw polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The Texas Republican captured 45 percent of the 504 votes cast by attendees at the Western Conservative Summit, a day after drawing several standing ovations during his luncheon speech at the fourth annual conference....

Placing second was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who delivered the keynote address Friday at the three-day summit, with 13 percent of the vote.

Tied for third were Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, and former Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, with 9 percent each....

Perhaps the most surprising finish was registered by Dr. Ben Carson, a conservative columnist and retired neurosurgeon, who wasn't a conference speaker but logged 7 percent of the vote....
It's not looking good for some of the big names:
Other prominent Republicans seen as potentially strong presidential candidates didn't fare as well in the straw poll. Bringing up the rear were Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsn, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The old saying is "Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line." This time around, I'm not sure that's going to hold.

On the other hand, there was one of these summits in 2011 (they take place at Colorado Christian University) and the winner was ...
um, Herman Cain, with 48%.
Second place, with 13 percent, went to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has not formally announced his presidential campaign but addressed about 1,000 people at the conference Friday.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who addressed the group Friday, got 10 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, won Colorado's Republican presidential caucuses in 2008, also got 10 percent. Nine other Republicans split the rest of the votes.
But Cain and Romney did top the polls at various times in 2011 before succumbing to self-inflicted wounds, and Santorum was the last guy standing against Romney. So I'm not sure we should dismiss that 201 result.

For 2016, it's hard to know who if anyone would be the "respectable" candidate with the money and killer instinct to destroy crazy-base challengers, the way Romney destroyed Santorum and Gingrich. So I think 2016 could be the year when the dam bursts and the party rejects the safe candidate, though it's way too early to tell.

And just to follow up on the post last weekend in which I said that Ted Cruz can't possibly tack to the center, let's look at what he said at the summit:
In his summit speech, [Cruz] unveiled the launch of Don't Fund It, a national campaign aimed at killing Obamacare by removing its funding from the Sept. 30 budget resolution. He also called for the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service, which he said would be possible by simplifying the tax code.
I rest my case. He's not going to tack to the center. Ever.

In today's column, Ross Douthat invokes Bolingbroke's notion of politics being divided into a "court party" (which governs in the interest of the elites) and an opposition "country party." Douthat tells us about the exciting new strain of Republican thinking that's struggling to be born:
... it's [Bolingbroke's] civic republican ideas, repurposed for a new era, that you hear in the rhetoric of new-guard Republican politicians like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, in right-wing critiques of our incestuous "ruling class," and from pundits touting a "libertarian populism" instead.
Douthat says that elitists run everything for themselves, old-guard Republicans and Democrats endorse this state of affairs -- and nouveau Republicans are the ones who think the whole system is rotten to the core and who'd like to change it for the benefit of the average Joe.

That last bit is where he loses me.

Douthat puzzles over the fact that the nouveau Republicans can't quite translate their pro-regular-folks agenda into action, with the result that voters reject the GOP (at least in presidential elections):
The problem for conservatives isn't their critique of this court party and its works. Rather, it's their failure to understand why many Americans can agree with this critique but still reject the Republican alternative.

... while Republicans claim to oppose the ruling class on behalf of the country as a whole, they often seem to be representing an equally narrow set of interest groups -- mostly elderly, rural (the G.O.P. is a "country party" in a far too literal sense) and well-off. A party that cuts food stamps while voting for farm subsidies or fixates on upper-bracket tax cuts while wages are stagnating isn't actually offering a libertarian populist alternative to the court party's corrupt bargains. It's just offering a different, more Republican-friendly set of buy-offs.
It never seems to occur to Douthat that maybe this isn't a failure to translate populist ideas into a workable approach to governance, despite the best of intentions -- the far more likely explanation is that the libertarian-populist rhetoric is utterly phony, a cheap cover story meant solely to get voter consent for the real GOP agenda, which is the tossing of a few crumbs to rural whites and the rest of the boodle to the rich. (And yes, this is as true of the Paulistas as it is of the rest of the GOP -- they're more than happy to see heroic capitalists hoard all the wealth while the unworthy suffer.)

It also never occurs to Douthat that cooking up elaborate pseudo-intellectual justifications for shoveling all the money and poser to the already rich and powerful is what Republicans do, and have done for forty years, ever since the first flowering of right-wing think tanks forty years ago, and especially in the Fox News/talk radio era.

Sorry, Ross -- you and your fellow "libertarian-populist" pundits may think this is an intellectual flowering, but it's just old bunkum in new bottles, with the formula slightly tweaked.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Juanita Jean spots this, which is happening despite the booming Texas economy Rick Perry is always bragging about. Or is it happening because of the booming economy?
TxDOT Plans to Convert Some Roads to Gravel

Citing a funding shortfall and the impact of a historic oil drilling boom, Texas Department of Transportation officials on Thursday announced plans to move forward with converting some roads in West and South Texas to gravel.

Approximately 83 miles of asphalt roads will be torn up and converted to "unpaved" roads, TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. The speed limits on those roads will probably be reduced to 30 mph....

All of the affected roads have been so heavily damaged by truck activity related to oil and natural gas exploration that they have become safety hazards, Barton said....
"Citing a funding shortfall"? But I thought Texas was swimming in money! Governor Perry's always telling us that, isn't he? But I forgot -- the state is swimming in money, but it's his mission in life (when he's not restricting abortion) to make sure that as little of that money goes to the goldurn gummint.

People who study less-developed countries talk about the "resource curse" -- the tendency of poorer countries not to become generally prosperous when their economies become start to be focused on extracting valuable commodities like oil. This is usually seen as a third-world problem:
Africa is cursed -- with riches. In an era of rising petroleum prices, African oil is drawing new interest from major companies around the globe, says John Ghazvinian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil....

But most Africans are seeing little benefit from this influx of oil drillers and investment. In fact, because of an economic paradox known as the "Resource Curse," they are often hurt by exports of their countries' oil....

... oil money tends to corrupt politicians. They end up vying to pocket a share of the finite petroleum riches, rather than looking for ways to invest in their country's long-term prosperity. "The governments aren't dependent on income taxes and therefore don't have to do what the citizens want," he says. "The state isn't an engineer of economic growth, but a gravy train. None of the money gets down to the people."
I don't think that's just a third-world problem. I think Rick Perry has set Texas on a course to become the Gabon or Nigeria of America -- a place where large amounts of money are generated by resources and as little as possible trickles down to the public. Freedom!


UPDATE: Typo fixed.

Friday, July 26, 2013


In his latest column, available at Townhall, Pat Buchanan explains that the candidacies of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer have us on a slippery slope to legalized sex between adults and children:
... Weiner's conduct does seem weird, creepy, crazy.

But it was not illegal. And as it was between consenting adults, was it immoral -- by the standards of modern liberalism?

In 1973, the "Humanist Manifesto II," a moral foundation for much of American law, declared: "The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered 'evil.' ... Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire."

Is this not what Anthony was up to? Why then the indignation?

... the front-runner in the New York mayor's race today quit Congress as a serial texter of lewd photos to anonymous women. The front-runner in the city comptroller's race was "Client No. 9" in the prostitution ring of the convicted madam who is running against him.

Weiner's strongest challenger for mayor is a lesbian about to marry another lesbian. The sitting mayor and governor are divorced and living with women not their wives. The former mayor's second wife had to go to court to stop his girlfriend from showing up at Gracie Mansion.

Weiner looks like a mainstream liberal.

... Once we cast aside morality rooted in religion -- as the "Humanist Manifesto II" insists we do -- who draws the line on what is tolerable in the new dispensation?

... Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton marched in gay pride parades with the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Anyone doubt that NAMBLA will one day succeed in having the age of consent for sex between men and boys dropped into the middle or low teens?

The Federal Drug Administration has approved over-the-counter sales of birth control pills to 11-year-old girls. High schools have been handing out condoms, pills and patches to students for years.

If sex among teenagers is natural and normal, and homosexual sex is natural and normal, upon what moral ground does liberalism stand to deny teens the right to consensual sex with the men and women they love?

Is denying this not age discrimination? What liberal can be for that? ...
Um ... right. That follows as night follows day.

And "Humanist Manifesto II"? I had no idea it was so influential -- in fact, even though I'm one of those immoral liberals Pat's so upset about, I'd never heard of it (or Manifestoes I and III). I had to take a quick Wikipedia break to look them up.

But, in fact, Manifesto II does express disapproval of many kinds of sex, and wants sexual freedom limited to adults (emphasis added below):
While we do not approve of exploitive, denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered "evil." Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity.
So Buchanan declares that this document that few of us have ever heard of was key to the development of the liberal worldview, and then he misquotes it. Try again, genius.

Here comes the latest right-wing freakout:
Uh Ho: Obama Says Vietnamese Dictator Inspired by Founding Fathers

"...we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson."
-- President Obama talking to reporters alongside Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.

That was the impression President Obama gave on Thursday when he spoke to the press after his meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Sang brought Obama a copy of a letter sent to President Harry Truman from Ho Chi Minh in which the communist dictator spoke hopefully of cooperation with the United States.

Obama, striking a wistful tone, observed that it may have taken 67 years, but the United States and Vietnam were finally enjoying the relationship that Ho once wrote of. After all, Obama said, Ho had been "inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson." ...
That's from The freakout extends to PJ Media, The Blaze, Drudge, Gateway Pundit, etc., etc.

But where did Obama get this notion from?

Um ... I assume he got it from Ho Chi Minh's own Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, written in 1945, which begins as follows:
"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights."

Those are undeniable truths....
So the fact Obama made reference to is, in fact, a fact.

Also: we normalization relations with Vietnam eighteen years ago this month. The trade embargo ended a year earlier, in part through the efforts of former prisoner of the Vietcong John McCain, working in concert with John Kerry. If the right had a problem with the fact that the U.S. has normal relations with Vietnam, it had an eight-year Republican presidency to raise those objections.

I heard nothing. I've heard nothing even from the current crop of right-wing loons in the House.

So shut the hell up, right-wing media.

As 2016 approaches, it appears that Chris Christie's foreign policy approach will be a noun, a verb, and 9/11. This leads him to praise government surveillance programs and President Obama, and to attack Rand Paul. In the current GOP climate, I really don't think this is going to work for him:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is ripping libertarians -- including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). -- for challenging government surveillance programs and failing to understand the dangers of terrorism.

"This strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought," the New Jersey governor said on Thursday at a Republican governors forum in Aspen, Colo. "You can name any number of people and (Paul is) one of them."
Um, let's get a fuller version of that "strain of libertarianism" quote:
"As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought," Christie said.
Very Giuliani-esque. And Christie's just getting warmed up:
"I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don't," he said. "And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001."
Yet more Rudy-ism:
"These esoteric, intellectual debates -- I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won't, because that's a much tougher conversation to have," Christie said, warning that after the next terrorist attack Americans may point to "this intellectual debate."
And as if Christie wasn't sure he'd done enough damage to his 2016 chances, he praised the president on foreign policy:
"President Obama has done nothing to change the policies of the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. And I mean practically nothing," he said. "And you know why? Cause they work."
Things have changed in the GOP. I'm not saying that the crazy base has gone full-bore Paulbot and isolationist -- I'm saying that the baseheads' views are evolving.

Right now, the folks in the GOP base are in a bizarre place: they hate Muslims, but they also hate Obama, so there's Paul-esque anger on the right about drones and surveillance, but it's mostly about surveillance of people like themselves and the potential use of drones on Regular Americans in America. Rand Paul embodies this contradiction: his famous filibuster concerned drones, but then he went on to say that it was fine for law enforcement to use drones in hot pursuit of criminals. (I think this may have upset quite a few of his fans, but I see where he was coming from. The new view on the right is: Obama will drone you if you're a law-abiding American who has guns! That's bad -- but if you're an actual criminal, or swarthy foreigner, you're in a completely different category.)

The sweet spot for 2016 Republican candidates, I think, will be some impossible combination of neocon muscularity against them!!! and an approach to us that's tinged with libertarianism. Ted Cruz is likely to hit this sweet spot -- Cruz gave Rand Paul a lot of help in his drone filibuster, but earlier this year he delivered a speech at a gathering sponsored by David Horowitz's Freedom Center titled "Confronting the Threat of Radical Islam" -- with lots of Benghazi talk -- and he's said that "Sharia law is an enormous problem."

But I think a lot of the candidates will hit that sweet spot. Christie could have hit it. But it looks as if he'll be running in 2016 as John McCain 2008, or Rudy Giuliani 2008. That's not smart.

Here's the full Christie clip -- which I found via Matt Drudge's Twitter feed. Drudge, don't forget, is a big fan and retransmitter of what Alex Jones puts out. Drudge helps drive the conversation on the right. If Christie is going old-school neocon -- at a time when what used to be called the war on terror is associated with Obama -- Drudge is going to sic Alec Jones on Christie throughout the campaign.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The Daily Beast's Richard Hasen thinks voter suppression in North Carolina could backfire:
There seems little doubt that the Republican legislature has passed these laws in an attempt to gain partisan advantage. As Nate Cohn explains, a recent study by the State Board of Elections on just the voter-ID portion of the [North Carolina] law certainly would have its greatest negative impact on nonwhite voters likely to vote for Democrats, and likely many other parts of the law will as well.

But if state Republicans think that this is their ticket to electoral victory, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise. To begin with, as Cohn points out, the effects of voter-identification laws on turnout are modest, more modest than both Republicans and Democrats likely believe. If nothing would be done in response to all the diverse provisions of the North Carolina law, the effects could be more serious.

There is good reason to think, however, that there will be a strong reaction from Democrats, minority voters, and voting-rights activists if this law passes. Litigation to bar paid voter-registration drives will probably be struck down. Activists will spend considerable energy seeking to negate the effects of these laws and to increase turnout.

In addition, a law such as House Bill 589 will energize Democrats. As I've argued, voter-suppression efforts often backfire, perhaps increasing fundraising and turnout on the left. The bill gives Democrats a great cause to rally around in North Carolina even as they will spend significant resources fighting the restrictions.
Ross Douthat agrees:
... precisely because the liberal outrage over voter ID laws is disproportionate -- for understandable historical reasons and cynical political reasons alike -- to their actual impact, it is quite possibly self-defeating for Republicans to keep pushing them. In exchange for a marginal benefit to their candidates on election day, the G.O.P. is handing Democrats a powerful symbolic issue for mobilizing minority voters, and sending a message to African-Americans that their suspicions about conservatism are basically correct, and that rather than actually doing outreach to blacks the right would rather not have them vote at all.
If this is accurate, it's not the only example in recent life of a powerful group choosing to punish the less powerful at a cost to itself. Look at the economy over the last six years. Yes, the rich are doing fine, but even they must realize that they'd be doing better if the rest of us had a little more money to buy goods and services. But here and in Europe they'd rather work the system to make sure it keeps punishing us. It's as if hurting the people they hate -- us "takers" -- is so soul-satisfying to them that they'd rather do it to us forever than have a sustained economic recovery.

The Republican Party clearly feels the same way about non-whites: let's keep alienating black and Hispanic voters, let's abort all attempts at outreach, and let's sustain that effort even if it means the GOP can't win another presidential election for the foreseeable future. It's as if the hate is just too satisfying not to indulge, no matter what the cost.

And if voter suppression leads to a backlash and higher turnout of suppressed groups, maybe they'll just double the hate and suppression, and thus double the backlash. Maybe they'll never learn.

Backing immigration reform is killing Marco Rubio in the polls, according to Public Policy Polling:
... Marco Rubio, who had led all of our polling since December, has dropped all the way to 6th place. Rand Paul now has the lead nationally, to go along with the leads he posted in our most recent Iowa and New Hampshire polls. And Ted Cruz has already hit double digits....

Rubio was at 21 or 22% on all of our polls between January and March but his support has now dropped to half that level....
(Rand Paul is leading the poll, but, as Ed Kilgore notes, that's despite the fact that he's actually down 1 point since April.)

Rubio, of course, wants to regain this lost ground by becoming the lead sponsor of a Senate bill banning abortions nationwide after 20 weeks.

But that's not going to save him in 2016. By backing immigration reform (and -- perhaps even more unforgivable -- working with Democrats to get a bill), he put himself way, way to the left of his party's base, and way, way to the left of his likely 2016 rivals. By contrast, a 20-week abortion ban doesn't really put him to the right of his likely rivals at all.

Ted Cruz backs the extreme Texas anti-abortion law that was recently passed and said that Wendy Davis's filibuster of that bill was meant to “protect the ability to take yet more lives.” As a lawyer, he authored amicus briefs on the anti-abortion side in two Supreme Court abortion cases.

Jeb Bush, as governor of Florida, reacted to the pregnancy of a 13-year-old girl in state custody by asking that a guardian be appointed for the fetus, an effort to prevent an abortion that he later abandoned after courts sided with the girl. He also signed a law tightening regulations on abortion clinics.

Rand Paul introduced a fetal personhood bill earlier this year.

Paul Ryan has said, "We don't want a country where abortion is simply outlawed. We want a country where it isn't even considered."

Hard to get to the right of those guys.

Maybe the bill will help get Rubio past Chris Christie, who, though anti-abortion and a serial defunder of Planned Parenthood, was pro-choice and a Planned Parenthood donor in the 1990s.

But that's about it. Rubio's going to have to find another on which he can go far to the right of the pack.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacks the House bill intended to curb the NSA's collection of phone metadata (which failed in a close 205-217 vote) by going after its principal sponsors, libertarian Republican Justin Amash and Democrat John Conyers:
Mr. Amash has no experience on the Armed Services, Intelligence or Foreign Affairs committees, but he nonetheless claims to know that his amendment wouldn't hurt U.S. security. He's teaming up with Michigan Democrat John Conyers and other anti-antiterror liberals who want the U.S. to return to a pre-9/11 mindset of treating terrorists like street burglars.

A better guide to reality are those who have had experience defending the country.
Well, it's true that Amash has never worn the uniform, but Conyers? Um, he has a bit of "experience defending the country," given that he was actually in the Korean War. In fact, he served in the Michigan National Guard from 1948 to 1950, in the Army from 1950 to 1954, and in and the Army Reserves from 1954 to 1957. He acknowledges that he was not on the front lines in Korea -- he was part of the Army Corps of Engineers, and worked on repairing aircraft -- but, um, he served in a war.

Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot? He never served.

Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger? He never served.

And I cross-checked the roll call vote on this bill against the list of miltary veterans in the House: 38 out of 81 veterans who voted supported a curb on the NSA. So the vote among veterans was pretty close to the vote among non-veterans.

(And I have to say it's disappointing to see the likes of Tammy Duckworth voting to retain the status quo while Louis Gohmert -- yes, he's an Army vet -- voted to rein the NSA in.)

Now, I've had harsh things to say about Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, mostly because I thought their revelations would weaken the president (and thus strengthen the hand of Republican nihilists) without weakening the national security state. But this vote suggests that what Snowden and Greenwald did might have a positive effect. I guess it's the obnoxious, self-important squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


At The American Prospect, Jonathan Bernstein expresses skepticism about the notion that Obamacare will make grateful voters into permanent Democrats -- as he explains, things tend to work out just the opposite way:
Almost 50 years ago, Congress passed and Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law establishing Medicare. It was, soon, wildly popular....

In the next congressional elections, liberals took a beating -- and the Democrats lost the White House in 1968. Scratch that -- Democrats lost five of the next six presidential elections.

That's not the only story I could tell like that. Social Security? It passed in 1935, during what turned out to be a very good election cycle for the Democrats. Implementation began after the 1936 election, and the 1938 election began a string of conservative coalition control in Congress that lasted 20 years.

Want another one? Let's try foreign policy. ... Republicans ... were in office when the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved ... a policy outcome universally applauded and most certainly associated with the party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Since then, Republicans have only won the national vote in one out of the last six presidential elections....
Bernstein's point is that people want certain things from government, and so they vote for the party that promises these things -- then, when whatever is promised actually arrives, voter motivation shifts to those who want something else, or want the opposite approach to government.

Which may be why Democrats will continue to win the presidency more or less forever.

You see, whenever Democrats get elected, they promise things. And then Republicans either prevent what Democrats propose from becoming law or do everything in their power to prevent implementation.

So if Bernstein is right, and the most motivated voters are the ones who haven't gotten what they want from their party, then Democrats may win elections forever, because Republicans will never let Democrats give voters what they want.

Which would be good -- in a terrible way.

Here's National Journal reporting on a new poll of the New York mayor's race:
A new Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic primary voters in New York City's mayoral election (and sideshow), conducted mostly before the latest revelations about Anthony Weiner's online behavior, shows Weiner still slightly ahead in the September 11 primary. But if Weiner slips out of the top two candidates -- or drops out of the race entirely -- former Comptroller Bill Thompson is in the driver's seat to capture his party's nomination once again.

Weiner led the primary in the poll, which was conducted July 18-23, with the support of 26 percent of likely voters. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was second, with 22 percent, while Thompson, the 2009 Democratic nominee, was third with 20 percent....

But ... if Weiner is damaged or withdraws from the race, Thompson is the new favorite. Weiner supporters were asked for their second choice, and with those allocated, Quinn holds a slight lead over Thompson, 30 percent to 26 percent, with de Blasio at 21 percent.

If no candidate can cross the 40-percent threshold, it would trigger an Oct. 1 runoff. And in a runoff between Thompson and Quinn, Thompson holds a clear lead, 51 percent to 42 percent....
And on the Republican side (which matters, given the fact that Democrats have lost the last five New York mayor's races):
In a very small sample of likely Republican primary voters, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Joseph Lhota gets 49 percent, with 35 percent for businessman John Catsimatidis and 7 percent for George McDonald.
So it's likely to be Thompson, Quinn, or Weiner vs. Joe Lhota. Now, let's sum up:

* Quinn is Mike Bloomberg's poodle.
* Thompson would be the poodle of top fund-raiser Al D'Amato.
* Lhota is Rudy Giuliani's poodle.
* And Weiner seems to be the subservient to the little man in his pants.

This is not encouraging.

This set of demands by the GOP Revolutionary Front, otherwise known as the House Republican caucus, should be read as a likely list of actual bills that will be passed -- with as little debate as possible -- in a blitz of legislative hardball in the early days of 2017 if Republicans sweep the 2016 elections:
On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee formally drafted legislation that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent and eliminate [President Obama's] newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. The bill cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and the humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent....

A House bill to finance labor and health programs, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, makes good on Republican threats to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. [In the] labor and health measure ... education grants for poor students will be cut by 16 percent and the Labor Department by 13 percent, according to House Republican aides.

... The House transportation and housing bill for fiscal 2014 cuts from $3.3 billion to $1.7 billion the financing for Community Development Block Grants, which go mainly to large cities and urban counties for housing and social programs, largely for the poor. That level is below the number secured by President Gerald R. Ford when he created the program -- without adjusting for inflation.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been flexing its muscle against hedge fund managers and insider trading schemes, would see financing cut 18 percent from the current level. Though Mr. Obama will finally get a fully operational National Labor Relations Board under a Senate agreement that forced Republicans to drop their filibuster of his three board nominees, House lawmakers are slashing spending on the board's operations.

Under other House legislation, the budget for the Internal Revenue Service would be cut by 24 percent, Amtrak would lose a third of its financing, and clean water grants from the Environmental Protection Agency would be slashed by 83 percent.
Right now, because Democrats control the White House and (at least for another year and a half) the Senate, these are shots across the bow. In 2017, if Republicans win, they will be actual laws. And as I keep saying, don't assume it's impossible -- no Democrat other than Hillary Clinton ever beats the leading Republicans in 2016 polls, and Hillary could have a health crisis between now and then, or falter in 2016 the way she did in 2008. Or the public could shrug and decide it's "time for a change."

The 2016 Republican presidential candidate will not run on a "massive cuts to popular programs" platform. Some of this stuff will be in the candidate's budget blueprint, but the press will ignore the plain evidence in that budget and focus on trivialities. (See Hillary's wrinkles! Biden -- what a buffoon!) And many of the GOP's agenda items in 2017 will be bolts from the blue -- even people who were anticipating the worst won't have seen them coming.

As bad as the Democrats often are, Republicans are immeasurably worse. It's that simple.


Look, I'm not going to vote for Anthony Weiner. Apart from the fact that I always regarded him as an empty suit, a guy who said a lot of things I agree with in a very loud voice when he was in Congress but never got much done, I now look at his sex confessionals and think: Anthony, you obviously can't keep this under control, and that's fine -- unless you're applying for a job that will subject you to massive amounts of public scrutiny every time you slip up, thus making it difficult to do that job. You could do all sorts of things with your life that would take you out of the public spotlight. But instead you want this. It's a bad fit.

But I don't think he should drop out of the race. Why? Can't voters process this information and make their own judgments? Isn't that the point of democracy?

The editorial board of The New York Times disagrees with me on that point:
... the serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.
Yeah, he probably should, for his own sake -- but if he doesn't, it's fine. We're big boys and girls. We can handle it.

More from The Times:
Mr. Weiner ... was forced to revisit the issue on Tuesday, and so were we all. A Web site called The Dirty had another woman's story, another round of sex texts, and another picture of Mr. Weiner's penis. The startling news was that this new episode apparently took place last summer, only a few months before Mr. Weiner was to begin another run at public office.
"The issue"? This isn't an issue. Stop-and-frisk is an issue. Growing economic inequality is an issue. This is just light entertainment -- or tedium, take your pick. (And no, I'm not going to get into the multiple meanings of the word "issue.")

Also: this was "startling news"? Seriously? You people don't get out much.

A Daily News editorial makes some of the same points. It was apparently written by someone who used to pen cover copy for paperback novels back in the late 1940s:
Weiner's dishonest, impulse-driven psyche is once more stripped as naked as the images of his texted private parts.
Weiner must also see that, having built his campaign on deception, he has badly damaged the process of selecting the city's next chief executive.

He needs now to announce, loudly and clearly, that voters should bypass the name of Anthony Weiner, which at this late juncture is locked onto the Democratic primary ballot.
I guess we're simply not capable of sorting these things out for ourselves. Damn democracy!

The News editorial eventually tries to turn Weiner's wife into the villain of the piece, or at least the other villain, in an ugly way:
Whatever Abedin's motivations, whether she is drawing on the love she proclaimed for Weiner or speaking out of shared ambition, it is simply wrong for Weiner to exploit a private relationship, about which the public knows nothing, as evidence of his worthiness for public office.

That Weiner is perfectly willing to take advantage either of Abedin's trust or of a partnership of ambition is perfectly clear from their joint interview with People.

... People published the joint interview in which Abedin sang her husband's praises and posed lovingly for pictures with him and their then six-month old son.

"It took a lot of work to get to where are are today, but I want people to know we're a normal family," Abedin said.

That was false, if not a lie deliberately told.
Omigod! Abedin has ambition! Burn her!

And how dare a politician "exploit a private relationship, about which the public knows nothing, as evidence of his worthiness for public office"! No politician prior to this has ever claimed a happy marriage as a selling point!

Oh, and my favorite sentence:
Lacking the dignity and discipline that New York deserves in a mayor, Weiner must recognize that his demons have no place in City Hall.
Yes, if there's one thing we've always been able to rely on from our mayors here in New York, it's dignity:

The editorial in the New York Post, notably, criticizes Weiner but doesn't call for him to drop out -- possibly because the Post has more respect for the democratic process, but probably because Weiner's continued presence in the race will sell a hell of a lot of papers. Below the Post editorial, I see this:

And here are the top two "Editor's Picks" in the sidebar of the Daily News editorial:

See, this is the thing: many of the media outlets wagging fingers at Weiner make money from "respectable" cheesecake and sideboob and the like. They're trying to get us horny in a socially acceptable way, after which we may turn to our Tumblr porn or Fifty Shades trilogy or whatever floats our boat. So if we shrug off what Weiner's done, or think he can't keep it under control but aren't aghast at the basic impulse, or think it's awful because of what it's done to the individuals directly involved rather than to our democracy or our souls, well, you can't blame us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I'm sure you've seen this quote:
According to Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) math, legalizing undocumented immigrants is untenable because for every valedictorian DREAMer -- immigrants brought to the U.S. as children -- there are 100 more who are carrying drugs across the border.

"Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in," King told Newsmax in an interview last week. "It wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases, but they aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents."

"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he continued. “Those people would be legalized with the same act."
The ethnic stereotyping is noxious; the imagery is ... well, curious. As Tim Murphy tweeted:

But I'm reminded of the last verse of the Randy Newman song "Sigmund Freud's Impersonation of Albert Einstein in America," which I've always thought perfectly captured the way certain white Americans recoil from people they regard as "exotic" while having prurient fever dreams about those same "exotic" others, and all the while thinking of themselves as utterly innocent:
Americans dream of gypsies, I have found
Gypsy knives and gypsy thighs
That pound and pound and pound and pound
And African appendages that almost reach the ground
And little boys playing baseball in the rain
Yup, that's pretty much what's in the heated imagination of Steve King, Real American, as he thinks of undocumented immigrants' muscular calves.


Pew just released a new poll showing a dropoff in President Obama's approval. The New Republic's Nate Cohn crunched the numbers and found the decline concentrated in one subgroup in particular:
Today's Pew Research poll paints a clear picture of the Obama defectors. They're almost exclusively white voters without a college degree. Obama's standing among minorities, college educated whites, and affluent whites has actually improved since the final Pew Research poll before last November's presidential election. Instead, Obama's support among white working-class voters has taken a huge hit, opening an unprecedented 41 point education gap among white voters....

The source of the collapse isn't clear....
Or maybe it is. The George Zimmerman verdict came down on July 13. The Pew poll was conducted July 17-21, when the verdict was being denounced as racist by many African-Americans and, well, many college-educated whites.

In fact, Pew's poll on the Zimmerman verdict -- which showed a big racial divide -- was conducted at exactly the same time, with exactly the same sample size. So I have to assume the two polls were one large poll.

I don't know what the order of the questions was, but it's generally recognized that early questions in a poll can influence answers on later questions. If bad feelings among non-college-educated white respondents were stirred up by Zimmerman questions, it seems possible that their answers regarding our first black president might turn a bit more negative.

So maybe this poll is just a snapshot of the post-verdict moment, not a sign of a larger trend.


Here's an intriguing question from Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones: Does Having Sisters Turn Boys Into Republicans? Mencimer writes:
... a new study by researchers from Loyola Marymount University and Stanford University's business school suggests [a] factor [that] may play a role in forming the political brain: the gender of one's siblings. According to the study, boys with only a sister were 15 percent more likely to identify as a Republican in high school, and they were 13.5 percent more conservative in their views of women's roles than boys who only had brothers.

The reason for this difference? Not genes or neural pathways, but something more mundane: housework. The researchers speculate that boys take their cues about women's roles from an early age, and that girls tend to be assigned more traditional chores when they have a brother. Watching their sisters do this housework "teaches" boys that washing dishes and other such drudgery is simply women's work. Boys with only brothers don't seem to have this problem because the chore load at home tends to be spread around more equally....

Perhaps even more important than the impact sisters have on men's political views is the way sisters may influence how their brothers turn out as husbands. The study found that boys with sisters grow up to be men who don't help much around the house. The researchers' data show that middle-aged men who grew up with a sister are 17 percent more likely to say their spouses did more housework than they did compared with men who had only brothers....
Interesting -- except that this past Sunday's New York Times reported research that seems to point in the opposite direction:
Consider, for example, the series of studies led by the psychologist Paul Van Lange at the Free University in Amsterdam. To figure out what motivates people to act generously, Professor Van Lange and three colleagues set up a game in which more than 600 people made choices about sharing resources with someone they didn't know and would never meet again.

... The givers were 40 percent more likely to have sisters than the people who made more self-serving, competitive choices. (There was no difference in the number of brothers; it was the number of sisters, not siblings, that predicted greater giving.) And Professor Van Lange's team pointed to another study showing that the more sisters a father has, the more time he spends raising his own children. After growing up with sisters, men who have opportunities to give are more likely to do so.

SOCIAL scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers....
Except that the social scientists cited by Stephanie Mencimer believe that the empathetic, nurturing behavior of sisters is regarded by their brothers as icky and gender-stratified and something they certainly wouldn't want to emulate -- or at least this is true if the brothers have only female siblings. And these boys grow up to be less likely to do housework.

I think social science can reveal real truths about human nature -- but I also think we're quick to seize on one study, or series of studies, that seems to tell us something intriguing (or stereotype-confirming). Such a study could be poorly designed, or might have an inadequate sample size, or (if it involves some artificial task) might not really model real-life behavior at all.

So, yeah, this research is interesting, but I'm going to remain skeptical about all of it.

Greg Abbott is the attorney general of the state of Texas, and -- alas -- the likely next governor of the state. He's the guy who described his typical workday as follows: "I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home."

He's also disabled -- paralyzed since a tree fell on him back in 1984. But as The New York Times reports today, disability-rights advocates aren't all on his side, because, among other things, he thinks the Americans with Disabilities Act -- championed and signed by Texas's own President George H.W. Bush in 1990 -- is unconstitutional.
In 2003, in response to a lawsuit filed against the state over the waiting lists for disabled services, Mr. Abbott and lawyers in the attorney general's office argued that a central provision of the law was unconstitutional. The section of the law that requires state and local governments to make public services and programs accessible to people with disabilities, they argued, was "an impermissible federal mandate," in violation of the 10th Amendment, which limits federal power.

"Our main goal is the integration of people into the community, and the foundation of that is the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Mr. Kafka, an organizer with the Texas chapter of Adapt, a disability rights group. "He continually fights against any kind of federal control."
So, um, does Greg Abbott do anything as a Texas government official to help fellow disabled people?

Oh yes, say his supporters. He makes certain locations in Texas more accessible to the disabled -- by making public appearances at them:
Many [disabled Texans] support [Abbott], describing him as a role model who has helped Texas become more accessible, as the managers and administrators of hotels, restaurants, courthouses and other buildings have installed ramps and made other accommodations to host Mr. Abbott over the years....

Mr. Abbott said he has created more opportunity for the disabled "than anyone in Texas has" -- including those hotels and other facilities where he has appeared that were once inaccessible.

"I've opened doors for the disabled in ways that no lawyer who brings lawsuits ever will be able to," Mr. Abbott said. "By the fact that people see me on a stage, people see me fight and rise to the highest echelons in Texas government. That shows that anyone with a disability doesn't have to hide behind some lawyer who's going to be representing them."
So if you want more wheelchair access in Texas, just limit yourself to destinations where Greg Abbott has made a personal appearance! Simply avoid destinations where he hasn't delivered a speech! Or become attorney general yourself! Then you'll get accessibility improvements wherever you go!

That's the conservative solution to the problems of the disabled!

Monday, July 22, 2013


A few days ago, I wrote about privately owned fuel cells that might allow companies to effectively disconnect from the power grid -- a possibility that makes me wonder whether we're entering an era when what have long been considered universal basic services (utilities, education, clean water) become more and more privatized, and less and less available to the have-nots.

And today I see a New York magazine piece by Bay Area resident Kevin Roose about how private shuttles run by Silicon Valley high-tech firms have muscled in on public bus stops in San Francisco -- a practice to which the government is now capitulating:
Silicon Valley shuttles have been commandeering Muni stops for years. It's always been illegal. And yet, city officials have mostly turned a blind eye. Now, instead of forcing these buses off their turf, they're bowing. It's as if Goldman Sachs were running its own trains on the 2/3 line [in Manhattan], and instead of shutting them down, the MTA decided to rearrange its own schedules to make sure Goldmanites could get from the Upper West Side to work on time.

In my experience, these Silicon Valley shuttles are very popular with the young, educated, upper-income tech workers who take them, and abhorred by most other city residents. According to the Chronicle, residents have been filing "complaints about shuttles forcing Muni buses to disgorge passengers in the middle of streets, blocking crosswalks, backing up traffic, traveling on restricted streets and interfering with bicycles using bike lanes."
During the recent transit strike in San Francisco, Roose wrote about the way upscale residents turned to car-booking and ride-sharing services, which wasn't a feasible solution for low-wage commuters:
... when policy-makers begin to see these services as legitimate replacements for public infrastructure, their incentives to make public services better will disappear. The BART strike has shown how decades of erosion of the tax base, coupled with the rise of a tech-savvy elite that can afford to pay for private services, has reduced public transportation to a second-class alternative and taken away much of the subway unions' negotiating leverage. After all, with so many private options for getting around, why does it matter if a few hundred thousand BART riders are stranded?
I just see this as part of an increasingly widespread belief, in blue as well as red America, that government-provided and government-guaranteed services are shoddy and second-rate and not really important because they're for, y'know, other people.