Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I know I should be freaking out about Ebola, but I want to write about The Washington Post's appalling decision to publish an opinion piece by a former Secret Service agent that includes this recommendation:
[Secret Service director Julia] Pierson should be replaced and the next director should come from outside the Secret Service, with the deputy director remaining an agent. In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.
Allen West? Seriously?

Let's ignore the fact that West resigned from the military a decade ago just as an investigation found probable cause to determine that he'd assaulted and mock-executed a prisoner in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let's ignore the fact that West specializes in verbal hand grenades, so it's preposterous to credit him with "diplomatic skills." The reason this is an insane recommendation is that we really can't be certain that West would consider it his duty to protect President Obama from harm.

Just last month, West wrote:
Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist in his foreign policy perspectives and supports their cause. You can go back and listen to his 2009 speech in Cairo, where Muslim Brotherhood associates were seated front and center.

All the circumstantial and anecdotal evidence points to that conclusion.
In June, West had these exchanges with Rick Wiles of Trunews:
"Do you think Barack Obama is secretly aiding the rise of an Islamic caliphate?" Wiles asked West.

"I don't think it is secretly happening, I think that you can look at his actions and he is enabling Islamist forces to be successful in the Middle East," West replied. "He is aiding the rise of radical Islamism, not just in the Middle East but really across the world."

West wasn't done there: "We don't really know who this President Obama is and I'm not talking about his birth certificate. We don't know who he is, we don't know about his college transcripts, we don't know what he was doing in Pakistan when he was back in college and who funded him to go over to Pakistan."

When Wiles asked if "Barack Obama is the ultimate jihadist" and "waging jihad against the United States of America,” West argued that the president "has without a doubt sided with Islamists."

"I believe Barack Obama has an eastern orientation, not a western civilization orientation," West said.
This is a man who has accused the Democratic Party of being "an anti-Semitic party" that "is aligning itself with Islamists"; he's also said, "I believe there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party: It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus." West says that Hillary Clinton -- possibly the next president -- has an "Islamist viewpoint." He's someone who might not even acknowledge the citizenship of American Muslims -- after all, he's said:
"We already have a 5th column that is already infiltrating into our colleges, into our universities, into our high schools, into our religious aspect, our cultural aspect, our financial, our political systems in this country. And that enemy represents something called Islam and Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that."
Oh, and did I mention that the woman he initially chose as his congressional chief of staff (until she was pressured to turn down the job) was a talk radio host who'd saud this in a speech?
I don't care how this gets painted by the mainstream media, I don't care if this shows up on YouTube, because I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment.

And if ballots don't work, bullets will.
This is the sort of extremism I wrote about yesterday -- extremism that's been mainstreamed because no one in the Beltway will challenge it, or even call it what it is. West is not universally regarded as beyond the pale -- hell, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley even recommended West as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, before walking back the recommendation.

In a rational political culture, a major newspaper would treat a recommendation like this for the Secret Service job he way it would treat a recommendation that David Duke be given the gig, or the head of the New Black Panthers. Then again, in a rational political culture, a guy like Allen West couldn't have even been elected once.

Mark Leibovich recently interviewed Mitt Romney for The New York Times Magazine. Here's what Leibovich tells us about Romney's "47 percent" remark:
Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.

"My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man," Romney said. "If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man." I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the "47 percent" line by a ranting supporter.
In response to this, Ed Kilgore writes:
... I'd say it captures the central nature of Romney's entire 2012 campaign. Throughout the primaries he was always in effect talking to some angry if not entirely coherent Republican voter or donor or media opinion-leader, and trying to "reflect back" to their POV, which Mitt did not entirely share but had to take very, very seriously. It's an almost impossible habit to break, and at a crucial moment, he couldn't.
To which I'd add: Well, if he couldn't break the habit at that moment, isn't it obvious that he never would have broken the habit as president?

There were a lot of people telling us, especially after the first debate with Obama, that all Romney's wingnut talk was just for show -- surely he would govern as a right-centrist. This bit of conventional wisdom reached its nadir when Buzz Bissinger, a self-proclaimed Democrat, endorsed Romney after that first debate. Bissinger wrote:
Romney finally did what he should have done all along instead of his balky cha cha with the old white men of the conservative Republican wing: he acted as the moderate he is, for the first time running as himself, not against himself, embracing his record as governor of Massachusetts....

I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naively. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran....
(Show of hands: Does anyone seriously think that the Romney who's been patting himself on the back lately for his hard-line foreign-policy talk during the campaign would have rejected the counsel of the "dirty old white men" as president?)

Romney sounded like a moderate in that one debate because the people whose wingnuttery he'd chosen to "reflect back" for months -- long after he won the nomination and was expected to swing to the center -- clearly gave him permission to say something, anything, in that debate that would allow him to gain ground on Obama. Before and after that, however, all he did was "reflect back" what his most feral supporters believed (especially the ones with money -- hey, apart from money, do you think there's any real difference between those right-wing billionaires and your uncle who watches Fox all day?).

Romney would have "reflected back" these people's opinions for four years -- or for eight. He would have been a Sam Brownback gone nationwide -- a veteran Republican acting like a tricorn-hatted zealot.

Grover Norquist had Romney pegged, as David Frum reported in early 2012:
Norquist: Romney Will Do As Told

... In his charmingly blunt way, Norquist articulated out loud a case for Mitt Romney that you hear only whispered by other major conservative leaders.

They have reconciled themselves to a Romney candidacy because they see Romney as essentially a weak and passive president who will concede leadership to congressional conservatives....

The requirement for president?
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
In Kansas, Brownback has done the Koch brothers' bidding, with disastrous results. Romney would have done exactly the same as president, or would have let Congress do it for him.


I want to add that the Romney article itself is rather repulsive. Mark Leibovich postures as a guy with a jaundiced take on the world of politics, but he gives us the faux-Leave It to Beaver schmaltz just the way Mitt and Ann Romney spoon it out to him:
"Hey, Ann, can you come here a sec?" Mitt Romney called out, sinking into the cushions of a walnut-colored easy chair, his legs outstretched on a matching ottoman. Romney's blue work shirt was tucked into faded jeans; sockless ankles peeked out from his New Balance sneakers. He paused as Ann Romney entered from the kitchen, where she was baking chocolate-chip cookies. "Sweetie," he continued, "what are some of the items we gave away at the Yankee swap?"
Gag me.

The credulous Leibovich goes on to tell us:
The Romneys are in downsizing mode. They have sold their Belmont, Mass., townhouse, and they also might sell the villa in La Jolla, Calif., which they purchased for $12 million in 2008 -- the one with the zoning and renovation troubles, the disdainful Democratic neighbors and the much-derided plans for a car elevator. On a lark, they recently decided to make their permanent home in Utah, where they are building a house adjacent to one of their five sons' 2.5-acre property.
Really, Mark? They're downsizing? That's not what the Salt Lake Tribune told us last fall:
... Mitt Romney's soon-to-be-constructed Holladay [Utah] house ... -- with nearly 5,900 square feet of living space -- will replace a rambler Romney is tearing down near Walker Lane and will be his second home in Utah. He recently bought a Deer Valley mansion that was on the market for $8.9 million.

With his vacation cabin in New Hampshire, a house scheduled for renovation in San Diego, Calif., and his condo in Belmont, Mass., Romney will have five homes across the nation, all of which are near the cities where his five sons live.
In fact, the Romney family bought two houses in Holladay, Utah, in 2013 -- "each of which is zoned for equestrian use," according to the Tribune. Yeah, Mark, they're jes' folks.

(And regarding the property in La Jolla -- where the Romneys have set out to replace a 3,000-square-foot-house with an 11,000-square-foot house -- read this about the Romneys' efforts to get through the permitting process. If they really plan to sell the place, it's because they can't do what they want, not because they're embracing voluntary simplicity.

The Wall Street Journal's Dante Chinni speculates on what the 2014 midterms will say about 2016:
As the 2014 midterm campaigns enter the homestretch, the Republican Party needs a net gain of six seats in Senate to take back control -- and of course, it doesn't particularly matter which ones, as long as the party gets to 51. But looking down the road toward the White House race, the outcomes in specific states will be a strong indicator of the national political mood -- and Republicans' prospects -- heading into 2016.

With that in mind, here are the five states that bear the most watching: Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina....

If ... Republicans candidates can score victories in a few of those five states it might give them momentum in crucial 2016 battlegrounds going into that cycle....
First, let me give Chinni his due: He goes on to acknowledge the ways that midterms and presidential elections are different. But if Democrats do poorly this November, especially in blue or purple states, I suspect that idiot pundits won't bother with that -- they'll immediately speculate that Hillary Clinton is in deep, deep trouble for 2016.

If so, that's ridiculous, for two reasons.

First, if this year's vote is partly a vote against anyone, it's a vote against Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. Second, the 2010 midterms (which, for a lot of voters, actually were a vote against the candidate who'd be running for president two years later) didn't predict what would happen in 2012 at all. In 2010, Republicans won governor's races in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Republicans won Senate races in Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- and, of course, earlier in the year the GOP had won a Senate race in Massachusetts.

In 2012, Barack Obama was victorious in every one of those states.

In midterms, old white people vote. As a rule, other demographic groups don't. Until that pattern is altered, midterms will usually favor Republicans.

And if Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' presidential nominee, she'll seem to represent continuity with Obama for some voters, while, for others, she'll represent a break with Obama (because the two of them have been opponents in the past, and possibly because the right-wing media portrays them as mortal enemies). That's why her poll numbers are still strong even though Obama's aren't.

A lot of things can happen between now and 2016. There might be domestic terrorism -- or there might be some successes overseas in the fight against terrorists. The economy might falter -- or the recovery might actually reach ordinary people a little bit. A Republican Senate and House could be politically shrewd -- or might be twice as extreme as just a Republican House, while doing even less good for the country (if that's even humanly possible).

So we don't know what's going to happen. Therefore, the upcoming midterms will say something about 2016 -- but not much.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Fox Nation today:

Fox Nation yesterday:


I'm pleased that The New York Times told us this today about many of the Republican Party's 2014 House candidates, but the paper downplays the impact:
One nominee proposed reclassifying single parenthood as child abuse. Another suggested that four "blood moons" would herald "world-changing, shaking-type events" and said Islam was not a religion but a "complete geopolitical structure" unworthy of tax exemption. Still another labeled Hillary Rodham Clinton "the Antichrist."

Congressional Republicans successfully ended their primary season with minimal damage, but in at least a dozen safe or largely safe Republican House districts where more mild-mannered Republicans are exiting, their likely replacements will pull the party to the right, a move likely to increase division in an already polarized Congress....
Um, yes, these likely victors are going to pull the House GOP further to the right, but what's more important is that they're delusional, and they're going to be in Congress, and having delusional people in Congress is not good for America.

But we never talk about this, in large part because D.C. press insiders don't want to show "bias" by acknowledging that one of our major parties is crazy.

The Times story minimizes one bit of craziness from one of the cited Republican candidates, Jody Hice of Georgia:
In a satirical book, he claimed he had found a homosexual agenda to "sodomize your sons" by seducing them "in your schools, in your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in your locker rooms."
As Yastreblyansky notes,
Hice's 2012 book, It's Now or Never: A Call To Reclaim America was not intended as satire. The satire was in a passage cited in the book from a 1987 essay by Michael Swift --
Tremble, hetero swine, when we appear before you without our masks
-- and the point is that Hice didn't know it was satire. He thought he'd discovered their secret plans....
But Yastreblyansky makes a further point that needs making: this sort of craziness isn't about to enter our political discourse, because it's already there. Congressman William Dannemeyer read this satirical manifesto into the Congressional Record in 1989, also believing it was a real plan of action.

And as for the "blood moons," they were the subject of a recent book by John Hagee -- yes, the religious right preacher whose inflammatory remarks about Catholics led John McCain to reject his endorsement in 2008. The book received very serious coverage on Fox News (the GOP's unofficial press office), then spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Oh, and by the way, Hice won't be the first member of Congress to say that Islam isn't a religion -- Allen West, who served one term in the House, said the same thing in 2010.

But we've spent years not talking about how widespread the Republican craziness is. Charlie Pierce reminds us that Democrats have punted on this:
The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party's failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970's. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party's standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us....

We are seeing yet another example of this failure at the moment in Iowa. Bruce Braley is running for the Senate against the famous swine de-baller Joni Ernst, and recent polls are indicating that Ernst has broken open something of a lead. Further, she is starting to get something of a pass on not knowing fk-all.... All of this despite the fact that Joni Ernst is a complete fking loon, and she has been a complete fking loon ever since she put down the de-balling blade and ran for office. She supported a Personhood Amendment. She has called for the impeachment of the president and the nullification of federal laws, putting herself on the wrong side of political issues for over 150 years. She is a lifelong Truther regarding our old pal, Agenda 21, the secret UN plan to steal all our golfs. She shouldn't be allowed into the United States Senate on a tour, let alone as one of its 100 members....

... Braley seems to have fallen down completely on the job. He keeps slanging her about the Koch Brothers, and about the minimum wage, but not about the fact that she spent her entire career prior to this race in a lovely little bungalow on the outskirts of Krazytown. If there were already an existing narrative about how the Republican party has rendered itself into Bedlam, it wouldn't be so hard for Braley to make the case now....
But Democrats would have to do this right. Don't call these people "crazy" -- you have to establish that they're dangerous. These people can't be described as comical or eccentric -- they have to seem like people you'd cross the street to avoid, because you don't know what they'll do.

This has to be done in the solemn warning tones Republicans use when they want to scare your grandparents on Fox. But if the press won't do its job, will heartlanders take the word of mere Democrats? People who, by definition, have inappropriate ideas and suspect patriotism?

But somebody has to try, or soon there won't be anyone left in government apart from delusional wingnuts.


Look, I expect that people who seek political office will try to calibrate their positions to electoral realities. What's surprising about Ted Cruz's upcoming campaign for president -- yes, he's almost certainly running, as this National Journal story makes clear -- is how unapologetic he is about his political calculations:
... Cruz appears ready to deploy the U.S. military, but not in a nation-building or occupation capacity, a position his team likely calculates as a poll winner, considering Americans' dissatisfaction with unsuccessful efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If and when military action is called for, it should be A) with a clearly defined military objective, B) executed with overwhelming force, and C) when we're done we should get the heck out," he said. "I don't think it's the job of our military to engage in nation-building. It is the job of our military to protect America and to hunt down and kill those who would threaten to murder Americans. It is not the job of our military to occupy countries across the globe and try to turn them into democratic utopias."

... he added: "In the Senate there is a wide spectrum of views on foreign policy. On one end of the spectrum you have Rand Paul; on a very different end of the spectrum you have John McCain. Both have been forceful about their views on foreign policy. I would characterize my position as a third point on the triangle."

Cruz calls this "the sweet spot."
Cruz himself says this, for the record -- he doesn't say, "This is what I believe is best for the country," he says this is the "sweet spot." He's admitting that the point of taking this position is that it seems like an appealing niche in the political marketplace. Surely other pols are this cynical, but Cruz flaunts his cynicism.

There's also this:
Cruz has never been shy about showing solidarity with the Jewish state....

Cruz has made three trips to Israel in less than two years in office. He has referenced the country thousands of times on the Senate floor, according to the Congressional Record. He has even begun meeting privately with Jewish leaders and advocacy groups during recent trips to early primary states. To leave no doubts, Cruz welcomes visitors to his personal office with a large, framed photograph of himself, his wife, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sources close to Cruz say much of this is meant to exploit the anxiety within the pro-Israel movement about Paul, who once echoed his father in suggesting an end to Israeli foreign aid....

"It's no accident that Cruz is sponsoring bill after bill, making speech after speech, about Israel and mentioning Israeli citizens and Israeli causes -- all with Rand right there in the chamber," said one Cruz adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the senator's strategy.
This is one of Cruz's own advisers admitting that the whole thing is primarily just a cynical anti-Paul strategy. If you were a hardcore Zionist, why would you take Cruz's support for Israel seriously after reading this?

Since our politicians (or at least the Republicans) don't do any actual governing anymore, I suppose it was only a matter of time before a young politician embraced and celebrated politics as a pure process of self-advancement, with no pretense of concern for America's welfare. Cruz reminds me of Mark Kostabi, the notorious 1980s art-world figure whose canvases were actually executed by hired painters and who described modern art as "a con," telling the world that "suckers buy my work." Well, I'd say suckers vote for Cruz.

Paul Krugman thinks this country isn't addressing its economic problems in large part because Americans simply don't realize how rich the rich are these days:
... most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.

The latest piece of evidence to that effect is a survey asking people in various countries how much they thought top executives of major companies make relative to unskilled workers. In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees, which was roughly true in the 1960s -- but since then the gap has soared, so that today chief executives earn something like 300 times as much as ordinary workers.
Krugman thinks this is because we don't really focus on the excesses of the rich -- with the exception of celebrities, who aren't the richest of the rich.
We may notice, and feel aggrieved about, college kids driving luxury cars; but we don't see private equity managers commuting by helicopter to their immense mansions in the Hamptons. The commanding heights of our economy are invisible because they're lost in the clouds.

The exceptions are celebrities, who live their lives in public. And defenses of extreme inequality almost always invoke the examples of movie and sports stars. But celebrities make up only a tiny fraction of the wealthy, and even the biggest stars earn far less than the financial barons who really dominate the upper strata. For example, according to Forbes, Robert Downey Jr. is the highest-paid actor in America, making $75 million last year. According to the same publication, in 2013 the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost a billion dollars each.
Krugman is right about the celebrities, but they're not the only people we focus on when we should be focusing on the ultra-rich.

The aim of a lot of conservative rhetoric is to direct ordinary Americans' class anger away from economic elites and toward cultural elites. And it doesn't take much to be defined by the right as "elite." If you don't attend church regularly, if you don't own a gun, if you live in an urban area or a college town (or anywhere that's less than an hour's drive from an ocean and that isn't in the old Confederacy), if you dislike country music or NASCAR, if you ever eat organic food (or, heaven forfend, arugula or kale), if you attended a college that's better known for academics than football or partying, if you're gay or have gay friends ... then you're an elitist in the eyes of many Americans. In fact, you're the embodiment of elitism -- and Wall Street tycoons aren't (because pursuit of profit trumps all the fancy foods their household staffs and favorite restaurateurs prepare for them). In fact, the only way you can be a billionaire capitalist and get caught in the net of what right-wing rhetoric defines as elitism is if you give money to Democratic candidates. (Just being a Democrat makes you an elitist, if you're not a member of a racial minority.)

We saw this, for instance, in 2009, when right-wing broadcasters ran multiple segments on the subject of Barack Obama's decision to order a hamburger with mustard.

This works. It dovetails nicely with right-wingers' habit of blaming our economic problems on the poor. (Remember Rick Santelli pushing back against the concept of mortgage relief, while young wannabe undermenschen on a Chicago trading floor cheered him on?) If the poor are guilty, and the non-True Patriot segment of the middle class is guilty, who has the energy to get angry at the superrich?

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Here's a story you probably missed last week:
On Tuesday night, The Daily Show did a segment about terrorist groups in the Middle East ... and correspondent Jessica Williams made a joke about a new terrorist super group forming that had "one member each from ISIS, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, Hamas, One Direction, and the Zetas drug cartel."

Most people giggled and chuckled at the satire. Or at the very least they smiled casually.

One Direction fans, however, were livid. And now they are basically asking for Jon Stewart's head on a stick.

Apparently Jessica mentioning One Direction in a bit about terrorists made the fans jump to the conclusion that she was calling member Zayn Malik, who is Muslim, a terrorist....
As a result of this, for quite a while on Friday, four of the top ten trending topics in the U.S. on Twitter were hashtags protesting an insult of One Direction's lone Muslim member that never actually happened:

* #TheDailyShowGoneTooFar
* #ZaynDefenseSquad
* #ZaynIsTheMostAmazingHumanBeing
* #ZaynSavesNotKills

Do I have to explain the joke? It was in reference to the fact that, out of nowhere, we were suddenly told that ISIS is the most dangerous terrorist organization out there -- and then we were told that, no, the Khorasan Group, some heretofore unknown recombinant form of Al Qaeda, is even more dangerous. The joke has nothing to do with One Direction having a Muslim member. It's quite possible that the joke was written by someone who has no idea that One Direction even has a Muslim member.

I bring this up because what happened to One Direction's fans on this occasion is what happens to Fox News viewers every day. This happened because some fan misunderstood a joke -- or maybe because some publicist decided to create a social media frenzy out of whole cloth. In any case, it's an isolated event. But at Fox, group hysteria like this isn't an isolated event -- it's a regular occurrence, and it's the result of a deliberate media strategy.

In recent days, for instance, Fox News commentator Ralph Peters has argued that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are being conducted at night because Preident Obama doesn't actually want to kill any terrorists. Panelists on Fox & Friends have suggested that an essay by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former health care adviser to the White House, about how he personally would prefer not to live past age 75 is a sign that "death panels" could be coming to American health care. Fox Nation is asserting that the Oklahoma beheading suspect is linked to Al Qaeda because the mosque attended by the suspect was run by an imam with ties to an Al Qaeda leader, even though that imam left long before the suspect attended the mosque. The spread of rage-inducing disinformation at Fox is relentless.

I'll say a couple of things on behalf of the teenage girls who misunderstood that Daily Show joke. First, they're young. It's not surprising that they reacted impulsively. The (much, much) older Fox audience doesn't have that excuse.

Also, you've got to give them credit: they know that "Muslim" is not a synonym for "terrorist."

But it's way too easy to use media to get people to believe things that aren't true. This Daily Show freakout probably happened because of a mistake. But at Fox, creating such freakouts is policy.

Maureen Dowd's column today begins with a barrage of quintessentially Dowdian snark, directed (of course) at President Obama:
THE president was at the United Nations on Wednesday urging young people across the Muslim world to reject benighted values, even as America clambers into bed with a bunch of Middle East potentates who espouse benighted values....

He and Secretary of State John Kerry have cajoled this motley crew for the coalition ... even though in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, powerful elements are financing some of the same terrorists that their governments have been enlisted to fight....

When American presidents rain down bombs on Muslim countries, they use the awful treatment of women in the Middle East as one of their justifications....

"Where women are full participants in a country's politics or economy, societies are more likely to succeed," [President Obama] said [in his speech at the United Nations]. "And that's why we support the participation of women in parliaments and peace processes, schools and the economy."

Yet, because we need the regressive rulers in the Persian Gulf to sell us oil and buy our fighter jets and house our fleets and drones and give us cover in our war coalitions, we don't really speak out about their human rights violations and degradation of women as much as we should....
Tough stuff.

But then midway through the column, Dowd suddenly declares that hypocrisy is a virtue, not a vice, and Obama should talk about human rights and women's rights less, not more:
The president should just drop the flowery talk and cut to the chase. Americans get it. Let's not pretend we’re fighting for any democratic principles here.

America failed spectacularly in creating its democratic model kitchen with Iraq. So now we have to go back periodically and cut the grass, as they say in Israel, to keep our virulent foes in check.

It is pre-emption. But the difference with President Obama's pre-emption is that there is an actual threat to the globe from a vicious, maniacal army.
So which is it? Is Obama an awful president because he's a hypocrite, or because he's not enough of one?

Dowd goes on to list examples of extreme ISIS brutality toward women She quotes Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and the author of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed on this subject:
"I've been working with women in the Middle East for 40 years, and I've never seen such brutality, such barbarism as that which ISIS is committing against women. It is unbelievable."
Then she quotes Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations:
Haass noted that one of the lessons we should have learned in fighting halfway around the world, from Vietnam to Iraq, is "the power of local realities."

"One of the things we've learned is that we can't deliver fundamental social and cultural transformation in this part of the world," he said. "Our ability to influence the position or status of women in the Arab or Muslim world is limited."

He said the Arab coalition is necessary because "our priority has got to be to push back and weaken ISIS.

"Even if we're not in a position to give women the better life they deserve," he concluded, "we are in a position to save many of them from what ISIS would do to them. And that’s significant."
And there Dowd's column ends.

So if Dowd is endorsing Esfandiari's view that the mistreatment of women by ISIS is shocking compared to what takes place in established Middle Eastern states, and Haaas's view that we simply don't have the ability to turn the Middle East into a human rights and women's rights paradise, and therefore it's enough to act in response to ISIS's excesses, then why does she spend the first half of the column accusing Obama of hypocrisy?

We know the answer to that, of course: It's just what Dowd does. Smug superiority it's what they pay her to deliver.

But she could at least refrain from building an argument and then thoroughly debunking the same argument within the space of one column.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


The beheading in Oklahoma is horrible. Is it garden-variety American workplace violence? Is it linked to Islamicist calls for violence against ordinary citizens in the West? I suspect both of these things are true. We don't know enough yet, and a lot of what we think we know may be quite inaccurate, but the story that's emerging suggests that it's not an either/or situation.
A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police said Friday....

[Alton] Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, [Moore, Oklahoma, police sergeant Jeremy] Lewis said...
The mainstream press is downplaying this story -- it's not prominent on the front pages of CNN, The New York Times, or The Washington Post as I type this -- while it's getting saturation coverage in the right-wing media. That means right-wingers are going to frame the story while the MSM plays catch-up. You know how that usually turns out.

A Facebook page identified as the suspect's is the subject of intense scrutiny on the right, although the name in the URL is Alton Threadgill, not Alton Nolen. The page identifies the subject as Jah'Keem Yisrael. The Daily Caller breathlessly reports some of the content:
Nolen’s Facebook "cover" photo appears to be of several Taliban fighters, according to a Google reverse image search.

He also posted images of Osama bin Laden and wrote in a caption on a photograph of the 9/11 attacks "A Future Prophecy Revelation 18:8 She (The statue Of Liberty) is going into flames. She and anybody who’s with her." He also referenced U.S. intervention in Iraq in a July 24 post, writing, "AMERICA SO CALL HELPS IRAQ (WHICH NOT)- WELL WHY CANT U HELP THE GAZA CITIZENS AGAINST ISRAEL...AMERICA AND ISRAEL ARE WICKED. WAKE UP MUSLIMS!!!"
A story by Caleb Howe at Ben Shapiro and David Horowitz's Truth Revolt gives us this:
This past Tuesday, posting on Facebook as Jah'Keem Yisrael, Nolen said "Shalom Alhakeium (O Ye Muslims) Allah (sWt) says in the last days, 'People will be lovers of themselves, proud and unholy.' So to all of U that masturbating which I think is 80% of the world and for whatever desire it is in your hear that U doing it for - U can get! (warning) This is the last days ... 2nd Timothy 3:2."
Assuming this really is the killer's Facebook page, that post suggests someone who's slipping into an unhealthy mental state -- someone who's become obsessed with sexual purity and end times. His religion is reinforcing what's going on in his head (which can happen with a lot of religions, not just Islam), but if he's losing the battle to keep himself from lashing out, his problems stem from more than just a few calls to jihadist violence on the Internet. They're also coming from within.

Oddly, another Truth Revolt story reinforces that notion, where I would have expected more "jihadists are coming!" propaganda:
Alton Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma this week, grew up in a rough neighborhood in the small town of Idabel, and was filled with anger and resentment, according to a friend from the neighborhood. Nolen "always had a temper" and a tendency toward violence, says Kenneth Tucker, a former Army reservist, corrections officer, and cop, currently working the oil fields in Oklahoma, who was friends with the suspect growing up. Tucker was "not surprised" to learn of the violent attack.

"I knew that he had a temper," says Tucker. "I knew that, like, most of us who grew up where we grew up ... we had attitudes. We grew up in a rough neighborhood and we grew up poor."

​Nolen is a convert to Islam, and his Facebook page and his arguments about Islam in the workplace have been prominent news stories today, but Tucker thinks there is more to the picture than religion. "I think it's funny they're trying to push it off as a religious thing," he says. "That's not the only reason people do things that are bad decisions."
I suppose this reinforces a different conservative message, one about a "culture of violence" -- the story goes on to identify other murderers from Nolen and Tucker's circle of friends -- but it does run counter to what we're likely to hear as the right-wing press floods the zone, and Republican politicians inevitably add to the demagoguery. (The first Truth Revolt story I quoted -- despite the fact that its headline is "BREAKING: Beheading Suspect Fired After Argument Over Stoning Women" -- also has positive things to say about the one Muslim family in Nolen's hometown.)

What we're likely to get instead is more like this, from Breitbart:

Suhaib Webb, an Imam with ties to former Al Qaeda mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki, had also previously been the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, which had been attended by Alton Nolen -- the man who on Thursday beheaded a former coworker after recently converting to Islam, Breitbart News has learned. Webb now serves as Imam of the sister organization of the mosque attended by Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Yes, except that the imam has been in Boston since late 2011, and Nolen went to prison in March 2011 -- he reportedly converted to Islam there -- and was released in March 2013.

So if what we're reading is accurate, I'd say the narrative is this: man with a rap sheet converts to Islam in prison -- where Islamic identity is, to some extent, like gang membership (as is white supremacism). He's not the most stable person and Internet calls to violence speak to him. But it's hard to know whether something else would have made him snap sooner or later.

A few thoughts here: the narrative of "Trained jihad fighters returning to Western nations to wage war!" is ridiculous, as is "Omigod they're coming over illegally and leaving Muslim prayer rugs near the Mexican border eeek eeek eeek!!!!" The violence ISIS is calling for doesn't require military training, or any more stealth than the average God-fearing Christian workplace shooter is capable of. Moreover, the propaganda is totally borderless -- and we're helping ISIS retransmit it by talking about it all the time.

On the other hand, what's the game plan here? ISIS isn't going to conquer a country of 300 million people a killing or two at a time. We already have plenty of insane killings, and we're still standing.

The game plan, with regard to the West, seems to be just to kill as an end in itself -- this will sound flip, but the ISIS folks seem to want it done for the lulz, as the kids say. Either that or they're delusional about how much damage a few scattered acts of violence can do.

Yeah, I know -- maybe they think we'll respond by bankrupting ourselves in order to attacking them. Except that we've done harm to Al Qaeda as well as ourselves in the past decade. If they're looking at that narrative, they want us to harm ourselves even if we do serious harm to them. I think they just want to kill for thrills and then (as I've said before) commit suicide by global cop. It's a live-fast-die-young mindset more than anything.

However, the right is going to tell us between now and November that eight-year-old Central Americans surrendering to the Border Patrol equal a beheading by a guy born in Oklahoma who never got closer to a Middle Eastern battlefield than a high-speed Internet connection could take him -- and America, I fear, will believe them. Will the GOP win all the close Senate races as a result? If so, I won't be surprised.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Talking Points Memo reports:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) joked that media outlets should refer to the man who jumped the White House fence, made it across the lawn, and got inside as an "undocumented White House visitor.

"We should insist that ABC, NBC, CBS, they refer to the visitor according to the term that is politically correct: an undocumented White House visitor," Cruz, a hardliner on immigration reform, said during his speech at the Values Voter Summit on Friday.
Where did Cruz get that from? My guess is that this was his inspiration:
The man who jumped the White House railing Sept. 19 deserves the right to live in President Barack Obama's home, just as the president is allowing hundreds of thousands of border-jumping Central Americans to live in Americans' homeland, says a new tongue-in-cheek petition posted at the White House website.

"We urge President Obama to immediately and publicly recognize that Mr. Omar J. Gonzalez, an oppressed migrant, was merely looking for a better life when he entered the White House after going over the classist, divisive and needless fence," says the petition, which was authored by D.A. King, founder of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which advocates for actual enforcement of immigration law....

"For justice and peace, upon his next return from the back-nine, Mr. Obama must award permanent lawful WH residency to Mr. Gonzalez and his family, along with a permit to work there. Because." concludes the petition, which can be electronically signed at the White House website.
That report was from the Daily Caller, and also appeared at Fox Nation, Free Republic, Lucianne.com, and quite a few other right-wing sites. Cruz's wording is a lot more direct, but the idea is basically the same.

Now, who's D.A. King? He was the principal lobbyist for a tough immigration law passed in his home state of Georgia last year:
He says the United States is filling up with immigrants who do not respect the law or the American way of life. He refers to Latino groups as "the tribalists," saying they seek to impose a divisive ethnic agenda. Of his many adversaries, he says: "The illegal alien lobby never changes. It's the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party joining forces with the Chamber of Commerce, the far left and the Democrats in an effort to expand cheap labor and increase voting for the Democratic Party."

D. A. King, who quit his job as an insurance agent a decade ago to wage a full-time campaign against illegal immigration in Georgia, is one reason this state rivals Arizona for the toughest legal crackdown in the country. With his Southern manners and seersucker jackets, he works the halls of the gold-domed statehouse, familiar to all, polite and uncompromising....
An AP/Fox News Latino story tells us more:
... The Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center hasn't put King's organization on its list of hate groups. But the center lists him as a "nativist" and has expressed concern about his tendency to call undocumented immigrants "invaders" and his contact with other more extreme activists....

Other critics take a harsher view.

"I think he works to push his agenda in a very divisive way," said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. "One has to look at who this man is. He is a convicted felon who is advising our legislators and our governor on very important policy matters."

King talks openly about his felony conviction. He pleaded guilty in 1977 to a charge of interstate gambling, stemming from work he did answering phones and picking up money for a bookmaker taking bets on sporting events in Alabama. He was ordered to pay a fine and to serve two years of probation.

The grandson of a Detroit police officer, King grew up in the suburbs of that city, served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and built a career as an insurance agent. He had no interest in politics or activism and didn't vote.

"What happened is when I started learning about illegal immigration, I went from being very, very shy to being very, very upset," he said.

In the late 1990s, a Mexican family moved in across the street from the house he shares with his wife in suburban Atlanta. Before long, there were about 20 people he suspected were in the country illegally living in the three-bedroom home, the yard was full of old vehicles and loud parties disrupted the neighborhood, King said. He complained to his local government about code violations but got no response, he said.

Then the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks marked his "aha moment," he said.

"I realized if I could have people living illegally across the street from me and there are people in the country who are flying planes into our buildings, this doesn't seem like a big effort at national security," he said....
His organization is called the Dustin Inman Society. It's named after an "a sixteen-year-old American boy" who was killed in 2000 by a driver who was an undocumented immigrant -- because, y'know, no U.S. citizen has ever killed anyone on the highway.

That's where the hero of the right gets his ideas, I think. How's that GOP rebranding coming along?


All of a sudden I'm seeing the name Carly Fiorina a lot -- at National Journal, at the Daily Caller, at Fox Nation (which links the Daily Caller story). Fiorina is out on the campaign trail saying that female voters shouldn't pay any attention to that silly war on women behind the Republican curtain; I expect the Caller and Fox Nation to offer Fiorina a platform for that campaign message, just the way Fox brought on Ann Romney to deliver exactly the same talking points. But National Journal is supposed to be different. Yes, its editorial director is Ron Fournier, who in 2008 shilled for the campaign of John McCain, for whom Fiorina was a key adviser. But it positions itself as a down-the-middle, balanced, non-advocacy news source. Why does it consider Fiorina newsworthy now?

Well, because (we're told) she's seriously thinking of running for president:
She's been to New Hampshire three times and South Carolina once. She's heading to Iowa this weekend, and then North Carolina and Michigan after that. Clearly, Carly Fiorina is thinking about 2016.
Well, if the GOP's #1 priority is winning the Senate, and she's being a good soldier for the party, then maybe she's going to all those states primarily because there's a competitive Senate race in all but one of them. Tell me more.
On the road, Fiorina is part campaign operative and part public figure. At the New Hampshire Republican Party's fall convention at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, N.H., she gave a rousing keynote speech to delegates about the party's need to convince voters of their own personal potential. (As she finished speaking, one man in the audience shouted, "Carly for president!")

Less than an hour later, she was onstage in a classroom nearby, going through a PowerPoint presentation issue-by-issue and explaining to local politicians and activists how the GOP can best talk about them: equal pay, minimum wage, women's health. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte opened for her, and GOP congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia listened in from the audience.

"If it looks like testing the water and sounds like testing the water, it's testing the water," said GOP strategist Jim Merrill, who ran Mitt Romney's New Hampshire operations in 2012.
Okay, now I believe she's thinking about 2016. But so what? She's not going to win the nomination. She's unlikely to be a top-tier candidate. There's no evidence of grassroots support for her in the party, and she lost the only race she ever ran by 10 points. So why do we care if she's testing the waters?

We care because the GOP wants her name out there now, in advance of the midterms. Is it working? Maybe:

Is Chuckles going to book her on Meet the Press now so she can deliver her canned message about how only Democratic sillybillies think Republicans are engaged in a war on women? Is she going to get a wave of mainstream press coverage as midterms approach? If so, then mission accomplished.

During the Clinton years, James Carville talked about the "puke funnel" -- the right's pipeline for scurrilous stories (first an unsavory right-wing media outlet, then a more "legitimate" right-wing outlet, then eventually the mainstream press). This is polite puke-funneling. Both parties do it. But Republicans do it much more successfully.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Ed Kilgore thinks it would be a great thing if Kansas governor Sam Brownback loses his reelection bid:
If the Republican governor of a very Republican state loses for undertaking a conservative political and policy revolution, complete with a purge of party "moderates" and reactionary legislation on just about every front imaginable, it may remind Republicans everywhere that there are limits to a meta-strategy of moving to the right, polarizing the electorate, and then winning on money and pure dumb luck. As a huge bonus, among the injured in a Brownback loss would be the Koch Brothers, right there in their Wichita lair.

... Brownback has very publicly made his state a conservative "experiment station" and sought to stamp out any dissent in his party, all in the pursuit of a sort of intellectual rogue's gallery of bad ideas, from supply-side economics to the harshest attacks in the country on reproductive rights. He not only deserve to lose, but his regime needs to be remembered with fear and trembling by Republicans everywhere.
That sounds wonderful, and it should happen -- but it won't. Yes, as this Mother Jones story reminds us, Brownback slashed taxes, promising economic renewal, but instead created a big budget shortfall, and slashed education spending, among other nasty surprises to the residents of this state. It's all done according to a Koch blueprint, and it's wildly unpopular. It should be an object lesson to Kochite Republicans everywhere.

But Republicans are already finding ways to explain Brownback's woes away. The principal argument on the right is that Brownback backed primary challenges to Republican moderates, and now those moderates are exacting their revenge -- you see that argument at the end of this Wall Street Journal op-ed by Kimberley Strassel. Yes, 100 or so Republicans have endorsed Brownback's Democratic opponent -- but this is being described as the cause of his electoral woes, not as a reaction to his unpopularity, orto the failure of his economic plan to deliver prosperity. Strassel writes:
Most of the blowback Gov. Brownback has received for his tax cuts has come from big-spending Republicans who preferred the status quo and have resisted the party's reform wave. Mr. Brownback rolled them during the tax fight, and their revenge now has been to unite with Democrats to cause him political mischief.
But wouldn't the voters would reject that anti-Brownback effort if they thought Brownback was actually doing a swell job? Strassel wants to bamboozle you into thinking that everything was just fine for Brownback until a group of disaffected RINOs betrayed him, and then voters just blindly followed those RINOs despite their previous delight with Brownback's sucessful governorship.

That makes no sense. It makes no sense, but that's the story Repblicans are going to tell themselves if Brownback loses.

See also this post at Right Wing News, which says that the 100 moderates betrayed Bronback because they want better coverage from the liberal media:
Somehow, in their teeny-tiny RINO minds, getting a liberal Democrat into office is better than having another Republican. And hey, it makes sense -- the media is far more likely to give you a verbal tongue-bath if you're a RINO than if you stick to your principles, and come on… principles are hard in the face of fawning media coverage.
Remember, to right-wingers, conservatism can never fail -- it can only be failed. If Brownback loses, Republicans will just tell themselves that he was sabotaged. It's never, ever conservatism's fault.

As expected, the GOP is trying to create a constitutional crisis where none exists, and no one's trying harder than Ted Cruz:
Conservatives are warning President Obama against using a lame-duck session of Congress to push through Attorney General Eric Holder's replacement....

Republicans have repeatedly urged Democrats to refrain from pushing through any non-emergency legislation in a lame-duck session, arguing that lawmakers who have lost their seats would have no accountability.

That holds true for selecting Holder's replacement, said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will consider the eventual nomination.

"Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder's successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced," Cruz said.
You love the Constitution, don't you, Ted? You think "every word of the Constitution matters," right? Well, here are some straightforward, easy-to-understand words in the Constitution, specifically in the Seventeenth Amendment:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years....
Yes, "for six years" -- not "for six years minus the time between their defeat at the polls and the swearing-in of their successors." A senator who's lost a reelection bid is still a senator. The Constitution -- which you claim to hold sacred -- says so.

I know you don't like the Seventeenth Amendment. Well, Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution's main text, which was superseded by the Seventeenth Amendment, said the same thing -- the term is six years, period.

So even though we know your demagoguery on this is just beginning, you should drop it. If you don't you, hate the Constitution.

Eric Holder is stepping down as attorney general, though he promises to stay on until his replacement is confirmed. If you believe that Republicans are going to take the Senate in November, that means Holder has to be confirmed between now and the swearing-in of the new Congress in January, which means probably in the lame-duck session, because otherwise the hearings and vetting and so on would have to begin while Congress is out campaigning. That's not likely to happen. A confirmation process that takes place in the lame-duck session would be under the Harry Reid no-filibuster rules, so Republicans can't block the process at any point with 41 votes.

Still, Republicans are going to look hard to find some way to slow-walk this thing past January -- or, given the fact that the replacement is likely to be named in a few days, browbeat red-state Democratic senators up for reelection into declaring themselves opposed to the appointee.

How much can they frighten Landrieu and Begich and Udall and Pryor and Hagan and Shaheen? Well, it depends on the appointee:

* Janet Napolitano. She's on the list? Seriously? She's tops on my list of candidates cowardly Democrats will run screaming from, primarily because anyone who watched Fox News at any time in Obama's first term "knows" that Napolitano considers domestic terrorists, by which she means the Tea Party and gun owners, to be a greater threat to the U.S. than foreign jihadists. That this is utterly wrong in so many particulars (for instance, the domestic terrorism report was overseen by a Bush holdover) won't matter -- she'll become massively controversial, and Democrats in tight races will have to distance themselves from her. Matt Drudge alone, with dozens of "Big Sis" headlines a day, will singlehandedly get her name withdrawn.

* Deval Patrick. The outgoing governor of Massachusetts would seem to be a fairly innocuous choice -- a lot of reporters today were speculating that he's the front-runner, in large part because he's in D.C. today, but as a Boston reporter noted, that was for a long-planned event. Patrick, however, is under fire in his home state for seemingly using political pressure to keep his brother-in-law, a convicted rapist, off the state's sex offender list. Not a good pick under those circumstances.

* Kathryn Ruemmler. Obama's former White House counsel did tell the president that he could make recess appointments when the Senate was holding meaningless pro forma sessions but was effectively in recess; the right considers this unmitigated fascism on Obama's part, and the Supreme Court has said Obama didn't have that right, but it's an obscure issue except to political pros, constitutional scholars, and right-wing rage junkies, so I don't think Republicans can browbeat Democrats into abandoning Ruemmler as a result. However, Ruemmler also negotiated a court-filling deal with GOP senator Saxby Chambliss that led President Obama to nominated Michael Boggs for a federal judgeship; Boggs has, among other things, ruled in favor of the Confederate battle flag. This one could be controversial from either side, though at a low level.

* Donald Verrilli. He defended the hated Obamacare before the Supreme Court, and got bad grades for his defense, but won the case. I doubt that Republicans could scare Democrats with that, even in Obamacare-averse states -- it's not a law he's associated with otherwise, and a right-wing Supreme Court did back his side in the case.

There are other names (Preet Bahrara? The guy who tried to jail Dinesh D'Souza? That would be a fun confirmation fight. I think Dems could handle that.)

Republicans, I think, will probably just press the argument that the confirmation shouldn't take place in the lame-duck session on principle, especially if they win Senate control in November. I'm not sure they can prevent confirmation, but if they can't, they'll work the refs with the argument that the new AG is illegitimate simply because of the way he or she was confirmed. Putting a permanent cloud over this person's head might be enough for the Republicans.


UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long.

Remember: if Republicans win Senate control, any confirmation process overseen by Harry Reid will be jackbooted fascism.


Every few months or so, someone from the mainstream media reports to us from what's supposed to be the new center of conservative intellectual ferment. I don't think MSNBC's Suzy Khimm was trying to find the future of right-wing thought when she attended a Heritage Foundation event recently, but I think that's what she found. I think conservatism's future is going to look just like its present and recent past:
What do conservatives think of liberals today?

Here's the view from the Heritage Foundation: Liberalism creates self-indulgent, licentious hedonists willing to cede every other kind of freedom to an increasingly authoritarian government.

"Give up your economic freedom, give up your political freedom, and you will be rewarded with license," said Heritage's David Azerrad, describing the reigning philosophy of the left. "It's all sex all the time. It's not just the sex itself -- it's the permission to indulge."

Liberals, said editor Bill Voegeli, want to create "the United States of Feeling Good About Ourselves." ...

But the threats to the traditional conservative worldview don't just come from the likes of climate-change activists or the Students for a Democratic Society. Libertarians have similarly espoused more permissive views towards drugs and sexuality, upending traditional conservatives' views on this and other social issues.

Azerrad acknowledged as much when pressed on the matter. "In that sense the libertarian policy priorities are not helping the cause when it comes to these issues," he said. Ben Domenech, the panel's moderator, added that libertarians today have a greater understanding that "the breakdown of the family has been a bad thing, and that it's led to more encroachments of government."
Did you read last month's New York Times Magazine cover story on libertarianism by Robert Draper and think that the right was going to stop being a collection of moral scolds? Did you read the previous month's Times Magazine cover story by Sam Tanenhaus, or many Times pieces by Ross Douthat, and think that the right's future is an empathetic "reform conservatism" that, among other things, sincerely looks for new explanations of the persistence of poverty, and new solutions, some of them even involving government intervention?

Silly you. You were told that conservatism is evolving, but it's not -- the conservative mainstream is unchanged. Conservatism still believes that the culture is depraved, the people are self-indulgent, and the government is evil.

Oh, and nothing is more evil than liberalism. Did you think a libertarian-leaning conservatism would soon make common cause with liberals on certain issues? Did you think reform conservatives would soon lead the right to compromises with liberalism?

"The left is intellectually dead, and where it's heading towards is authoritarianism," said Williamson, citing a Gawker blog post making the case for arresting climate change deniers and a "hate-filled angry crowd, screaming in rage" attending the People's Climate Rally in New York City, as among the signs of oppression. ("As you know from history, the kind of thing that has 'the people's' appended in front of it, genocide is just around the corner," he quipped earlier.) ...

Azerrad equated liberalism with the dystopian future of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." "The dictator will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile the subject to their servitude which is their fate," he said, quoting Huxley. "What a luminous description of the inner logic of liberalism," he continued.
Conservatism: same as it ever was. Draper? Tanenhaus? There's your Times Magazine cover story.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I wrote about Coffee-Cup-Ghazi yesterday, not realizing it would become a massive story on the right and in the mainstream media. I know that the process of cultivating Obama-hate is relentless on the right, but in October 2012, when I wrote a post about a photo of Obama saluting with a cellphone in his non-saluting hand, I found only scattered outrage -- and now I learn that the photo in question was from early 2010, and barely caused a ripple at the time. Why is this different?

Right-wingers are working this much harder because, as midterms approach, they're worried about the political impact of this anti-ISIS campaign. There are a lot of reasons to question Obama's strategy, but the public wants some action, preferably not involving ground troops, and the administration is delivering exactly that. The policy may prove wrongheaded in the long run, but the right is worried that the long run will be long after November.

OBAMA GOLFS WHILE BUTCHERS BEHEAD YANKS!!! was really working for the GOP. Notice you haven't heard any Obama golf jokes for a while. The feckless-president-ignores-terror narrative had Republicans believing they were on course to make gains, in particular, with female voters, specifically the so-called security moms. That's not going to last if there are bombs falling on Raqqah.

Maybe you don't believe that this campaign is going to be a winner with the voters. The point, though, is that Republicans probably believe it is. They know how much electoral benefit they got in 2002 from 9/11 and from pressuring Democrats to sign on to an authorization of force in Iraq.

So they have to seize whatever they can that might undermine Obama's image right now. They were calling him "unserious," but they're afraid that swing voters think those bombs look surprisingly serious. So the right is working extra hard to seize on anything that makes Obama look ridiculous.

Today's stupidest right-wing gotcha is from Asche Schow at the Washington Examiner:
What if we applied feminist logic to other crimes?

Feminists have been arguing that it's "victim-blaming" to suggest steps that women can take to reduce the risk of being sexual assaulted. But what if that same logic were applied to all crime prevention tips?

It might go something like this:

Stop blaming the victims of theft

We should be teaching people not to steal, not telling people to lock their doors and windows.

Parking in well-lit areas, not hiding keys near the front door, avoiding websites that ask for your Social Security number -- these are all just ways that we blame the victims of theft. And it needs to stop.

Stop blaming the victims of violent crimes

I don't want to live in a world where I can't jog down deserted streets at night. I shouldn't have to change my normal behavior because someone wants to attack me or steal my iPod.

Telling me to be aware of my surroundings perpetuates "burglary culture" where it is somehow my fault that I got mugged....
Here's the problem with this: If your car is stolen from a poorly lit parking spot, or you transmit your Social Security number to an email scammer, and the perpetrator is caught, the authorities won't let the perp go simply because they think you were "asking for it." The authorities won't assume that you wanted the perp to take your car or drain your bank account because you didn't take precautions. If the feds catch a hacker breaking into Web accounts, they don't reduce the charges against that hacker by concluding that access to any account with the password "abc123" was likely to be consensual. When the perps enter the criminal justice system, no one threatens to bring up the victims' complete history of incaution or gullibility ("You've used this password before, haven't you? On how many websites?") in order to get the charges dropped. And no Ross Douthat argues that the car was stolen or the money electronically transferred because our freewheeling car or Internet culture has too few moral restraints, to which the perp was having a perfectly understandable response.

Oh, and if you lock your car in a poorly lit spot and it's stolen anyway, no one says that you really wanted it stolen because you didn't also have a car alarm, because locking the car was your way of saying "No" to car theft, but not having an alarm was how you told the thief that "No" really means "Yes." Blurred lines, right?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit is outraged again:
A NEW LOW -- Obama's Salute to Marines -- Most Degrading Salute Ever to Men in Uniform
All right, show me. What was so terrible?

There's video, posted by the White House on Instagram:

And, of course, Fox Nation is piling on:

Disrespectful? The most degrading salute ever?

Is this not even in the running for the latter title?

Did Hoft or Fox Nation ever complain about that? Funny, I have no such recollection.


And for the hundredth time, let's recall what Garry Wills told us in 2007:
We are reminded ... of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of marines.

That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one. An exchange of salutes was out of order.
Also recall what David Alexander of Reuters wrote in 2008:
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time....

John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.

Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.

Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote....
So Reagan just made up a bit of faux-military protocol, and now it simply has to be done, especially by a Democratic president, and woe betide the president if it's not done to the exacting standards of right-wing bloggers.


ALSO: Here's my 2012 post on Obama's treasonous cellphone salute, and my 2013 post on Obama's treasonous failure to salute.


UPDATE: From ABC's Note:
Some are calling it the "latte salute." ...

The unusual gesture appeared in an Instagram video posted by the White House on social media....

The video drew ridicule from some Instagram users, who saw the unorthodox salute as "un-presidential."

"Hopefully it was just a slip by this President," one user posted.

Others saw unnecessary nitpicking in the criticism.

"People are dying from disease, abuse or even hunger," another user commented on the video. "Priorities." ...
At least the Note (which hasn't been written by Mark Halperin for many years, by the way) informs us that this tradition goes back only as far as Reagan. But we're also told Obama drinks tea, not coffee. (Commie!)


AND: Via Twitchy, I learn the precise reason why comparing the Obama and Bush salures is apples and oranges:

Got it? Obama's salute was not adorable. Therefore: treason!


PLUS: It was called a "latte" (even though the president drinks tea) because that's what the National Republican Congressional Committee decided to call it ("Watch Obama Salute This Marine With a Latte In His Hand"). Because lattes are just so, y'know, metrosexual.

The Science section of The New York Times asked twenty-two prominent individuals, "What is your greatest worry about climate change? What gives you hope?" One of them was Bush-era EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman. The great Republican moderate told us that what she frets the most about is that Both Sides Do It on climate:
What keeps me up at night are people who talk in absolutes. It's the people who say "humans cause it" or "people have no role in it," full stop. Science is not exact and the truth is in between. By taking the extreme position, they give an opening to the other side, and then people stop listening.
Seriously? If you're in a discussion of climate change and you say "humans cause it," you're an absolutist on the order of people who deny any human role whatsoever?

What's the middle ground? Elves cause it?

No, I know: the middle ground is that climate change is caused by a combination of human activity and natural climate activity. But among the population concerned about the climate, who is arguing that there's no natural component to climate change whatsoever? Who insists that every change in climate is 100% the fault of humans, and not a tiny bit less? Whereas there are all sorts of people -- including extremely wealthy and powerful people, as well as just about every elected member of the national government who belongs to one of our two major political parties -- who believe that the human contribution to climate change is zero.

The community of people calling for action on climate believes that the human contribution is a huge factor -- and it's what we can change. So of course that's where the focus is.

Whitman goes on to acknowledge that she believes in "implementing environmental regulation." Good, Christie -- we're more or less on the same page. Too bad your obsession with applying the one-size-fits-all centrist pox-on-both-houses formula to this situation blinds you to that fact.