Friday, October 31, 2014


Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS reporter turned wingnut hero, has a new book out in which she claims that sinister forces from the government invaded her computer and monkeyed with her data. She's now released a video purporting to show what happened:
In her new book, "Stonewalled," Attkisson details how her computers were hacked in late 2012 during her reporting on Benghazi. Attkisson alleges that government agencies were behind the attack....

There is no way to confirm from the video alone that a hack is actually taking place. But Attkisson's decision to release the video suggests she plans on using it to make her case. Attkisson will give her first television interview to Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, on Monday.
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple quotes Attkisson's book, in which she says the attack in the video happened in September 2013 when, she says, the White House was complaining to CBS about her reporting. She writes:
That very night, with [White House officials Eric] Schultz, [Jay] Carney, and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I'm home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it's gone, gone, gone. I press the mouse pad and keyboard to try to stop it, but I have no control. The only time I've seen anything like this is in those movies where the protagonist desperately tries to copy crucial files faster than the antagonist can remotely wipe them.

Here's the video.

The curious thing about the video is that Atkisson says the alterations are happening while she has no hands on the keyboard, but when she briefly pans to the untouched keyboard, we don't see the screen, and when she's focused on the screen, we don't see the keyboard. She never pulls her phone hand far enough back to show both at the same time, so we never see the screen alterations happening without her input. Did she just fail, in her haste, to give us the really incriminating shot? Or is this video not what she says it is?

I'm not the only one who's skeptical of Atkisson's claims. Robert Graham, in a post at the blog Errata Security, says that a lot of the claims in excerpts from her book don't pass his smell test. Here's a small sample of what Graham writes:

Attkisson quotes one expert as saying intrusions of this caliber are "far beyond the the abilities of even the best nongovernment hackers", while at the same time quoting another expert saying the "ISP address" is a smoking gun pointing to a government computer.

Both can't be true. Hiding ones IP address is the first step in any hack. You can't simultaneously believe that these are the most expert hackers ever for deleting log files, but that they make the rookie mistake of using their own IP address rather than anonymizing it through Tor or a VPN. It's almost always the other way around: everyone (except those like the Chinese who don't care) hides their IP address first, and some forget to delete the log files....

Attkisson quotes an expert as identifying an "ISP address" of a government computer. That's not a term that has any meaning. He probably meant "IP address" and she's misquoting him.

Attkisson says "Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second". This doesn't even make sense. She claims to have videotaped it, but if this is actually a thing, it sounds like more something kids do to scare people, not what real "sophisticated" hackers do.

They also purportedly did this deleting in the middle of the evening, when an episode of Dancing with the Stars featuring Valerie Harper dancing to "Some Kind of Wonderful" was on, and when Attkisson was actually working. Wouldn't a sophisticated hacker have trashed files when Attkisson couldn't see the hack in progress, and thus couldn't catch it on video? Wouldn't that go along with concealing the IP address? Or am I missing something here?

Graham adds:

Some might believe this post is from political bias instead of technical expertise. The opposite is true. I'm a right-winger. I believe her accusations that CBS put a left-wing slant on the news. I believe the current administration is suppressing information about the Benghazi incident. I believe journalists with details about Benghazi have been both hacked and suppressed. It's just that in her case, her technical details sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theory.
But it's believable enough for Fox News:
Attkisson will give her first television interview to Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, on Monday.
Yup -- the night before Election Day.


UPDATE: Media Matters quotes four techies who don't think this is hacking. Here's one:

Matthew Brothers-McGrew, a senior specialist at Interhack Corp. in Columbus, Ohio, said that sometimes computers "malfunction, a key can get stuck, sometimes dirt can get under a keyboard and a key will inadvertently be held down." He explained that sometimes there can be software issues "where the computer will think a key is held down in fact it is not," and said that his firm tested holding down the backspace key on a computer in their offices, and found "if you have Word open it will continually backspace text at about the same rate we are seeing in the video."
Two of them add that someone with access to a document could just delete it without erasing it character by character.


UPDATE, NOVEMBER 8: Please read what John Sawyer says in comments. He describes exactly what I think happened.


Peggy Noonan wants arrogant Ebola doctors and nurses to know that her great-aunt came to America from Ireland in steerage in 1909, and didn't do any whining when she was subjected to repeated health examinations:
... Every day the ship's surgeon (possibly brusquely, probably officiously) examined her for signs of acute or long-term illness. The card noted her details.... On the back it says, "Keep this Card to avoid detention at Quarantine and in Railroads in the United States." If she failed the physicals she would be held at Ellis Island or sent back. There's a little notch to mark each day the doctor found her healthy. In the end there were nine.

... She accepted with grace the needs and demands of her new nation, took no offense, and acknowledged the utility of a quarantine or ban -- why would America be bringing in sick people who could spread disease?

... I miss such humility, don't you? Did we fail to encourage it by forgetting to honor it? Or, if these questions are insufficiently ideological, whatever happened to courtesy to the collective? We should bring it back. We could answer the current quarantine question if we faced it with the calm of a 1909 immigrant.
Yes, Noonan is certainly entitled to lecture Kaci Hickox and Dr. Craig Spencer on this, because we're all aware of Noonan's quiet stoicism when she's inconvenienced in order to protect the public's safety:
[Let me] try to draw a fuller picture of what it was like to be taken aside at an airport last week for what is currently known as further screening and was generally understood 50 years ago to be second-degree sexual assault.

I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your baggage. Feet in the footmarks. Arms out. Fully out. Legs apart. Apart. I'm patting you down.

It was like a 1950s women's prison movie....

I experienced the search not only as an invasion of privacy, which it was, but as a denial or lowering of that delicate thing, dignity. The dignity of a woman, of a lady, of a person with a right not to be manhandled or to be, or to feel, molested.

... Let me tell you what I say, in my mind, after things like this.... I think, We are embarrassing the angels.

... "Put your feet in the foot marks, lady." We are embarrassing the angels.

"You are embarrassing the angels." This is what I intend to say for the next 40 days whenever I see someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being. I mean to say it with belief, with an eye to instruction, but also pointedly, uncompromisingly. As a lady would. All invited to join in.
A 21-day quarantine in an unheated tent in Newark, New Jersey (where, by the way, it's going to be 35 degrees and windy Sunday night)? Take it like my dignified immigrant forebear, Nurse Hickox! A ten-second patdown in the airport? WAHHHH! WAHHHH!

Noonan's great-aunt minded her manners and deferred to the authorities. So that's what we should all do now, right, Peggy? Well, no -- we shouldn't defer to authorities Peggy Noonan disagrees with:
Support among the American public for quarantine appears at this point to be overwhelming. You can know this if you walk down the street and ask people, or if you look at a CBS poll that found 80% of respondents think citizens returning from West Africa should be quarantined until it’s clear they do not have the disease.

But America’s "professionals" in the scientific and medical communities, and certainly those in the White House, seem deeply uninterested in the views of common people.
Don't you love the scare quotes around "professionals"? Yeah, just because you're a doctor and have years of experience in the public health field, you think you're a big know-it-all about infectious disease! I know stuff about infectious disease too, you know! I watch CNN and Fox!

But this is contemporary conservatism in a nutshell: government is always bad, unless conservatives feel they're at personal risk, and then everyone who doesn't defer to authorities is a traitor. However, if the authorities don't approach the (real or imagined) threat in a way conservatives like, then we need authorities who agree with conservatives, and anyone who doesn't defer to them is a traitor. Government is good as long as conservatives are scared, and as long as it's a government of the right kind -- in both senses of the word "right."

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Paul Waldman thinks Chris Christie's "Sit down and shut up" response to a heckler was both calculated and sincere; Kevin Drum thinks it was largely rehearsed:
To me, Christie appears entirely under control. I don't doubt that there's some real annoyance there (even a Vulcan would get annoyed at your average heckler), but overall Christie's response gives the impression of being practically scripted. There are even a couple of instances where Christie seems like he forgot his lines and hurriedly tosses them in before heckler guy goes away and ruins his chance to get off his best zingers.
I think Christie does this mostly off the top of his head -- but I wonder if his people made an effort to let this guy get front and center at the event. And I do mean front and center -- there he is, perfectly framed in the shot:

Christie is trying very, very hard to get attention -- quarantining an asymptomatic Ebola nurse, saying he's "tired of hearing about the minimum wage," and trash-talking the Republican senators who are running for president while saying, "It's time to start offending people." That's just in the past ten days. Yes, he has a legitimate temper, but he's looking to make trouble right now. This heckler was a gift.

Waldman thinks this isn't a good approach to take to Iowa, however:
But you know where you don't get too many chances to show what a tough guy you are? Iowa. Campaigning for the caucuses is an interminable process of trooping from living room to senior center to VFW hall, meeting people in small groups, looking them in the eye and asking them for their votes. Christie is a pretty good retail politician, so it isn't that he can't perform in those settings. But being tough just isn't part of that show, and if the biggest part of Christie's appeal is that he can talk like an extra from Goodfellas when somebody challenges him, he isn't going to get very far.
Well, yes, but in Iowa he'll be looking ahead to states like New Hampshire and Florida, where they're not so Midwestern-nice. And there are hecklers in Iowa -- Michelle Bachmann was heckled in 2011 by a man angry at her anti-gay policy pronouncements, and one of Mitt Romney's most notorious soundbites was in response to Iowa heckling:

Speaking to an occasionally rowdy crowd two days before the Ames Straw poll, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made what seems likely to become a much-discussed flub, declaring to a group of Iowans that "corporations are people."

Pressed by an attendee at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday as to why he was focusing on entitlement reforms as a means of deficit reduction over asking corporations to share part of the burden, the GOP frontrunner shot back:

"Corporations are people, my friend... of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings my friend."
I don't think Christie's going to go all Joe Pesci on some caucus-going Republican farmer -- but if he's heckled by liberals, he's going for it. If he thinks it'll help him, I expect him to try to goad liberals into heckling him. He'll say provocative things in order to get heckled.

As they say in the music business, the guy knows three chords. These are the chords.

So Ted Cruz isn't going Android, even though Apple CEO Tim Cook has now come out as gay. On the other hand, Cruz does want to remind you that he's smarter than you are, and he knows that the states are supposed to be allowed to ban same-sex marriage:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday responded to Apple CEO Tim Cook coming out as gay by saying that was Cook's "personal decision."

Cruz, who opposes gay marriage, switched to the larger issue when asked on CNBC on Thursday about a piece by Cook in Bloomberg Businessweek in which Cook came out.

"Those are his personal choices. I’ll tell you, I love my iPhone," Cruz said....

Cruz said that marriage is a "question for the states" because of the country's federalist system.

"This is something we’ve seen over and over again, which is the federal government and federal courts deciding they don’t trust the people," Cruz said. "They look down on the people, they don’t trust us to make judgments about our own lives, so the federal government and federal courts are going to step in and impose their own policy preferences."
Cruz has called the Supreme Court's recent refusal to review same-sex marriage cases "judicial activism at its worst" and vowed to introduce a constitutional amendment to ban the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.

CNBC's Rebecca Quick pressed Cruz to explain that position.

"You yourself have talked about introducing anti-gay marriage legislation, trying to protect the rights of the states," she said. "But at the same time, you've also said that what the Supreme Court did by not ruling on the states who have allowed gay marriage, that that was tragic and indefensible?"

"You're exactly right," Cruz responded. "Look, I believe in the Constitution. I think we need to follow the Constitution. What the Supreme Court did, effectively striking down the laws of 30 states, was wrong and it was judicial activism."

"But if a state chooses to allow people of the same sex to marry, shouldn't they be allowed to do that?" Quick asked.

"Yes. No, no, I agree," Cruz said. "Perhaps you are not understanding my position. Marriage is a question for the states ... the issue is, constitutionally, should the federal government or federal courts impose their policy views in the place of the policy views of citizens of states."
Cruz doesn't seem to be saying that same-sex marriage is a special case -- he's saying flatly that "Marriage is a question for the states." As you'll see in the clip embedded below, he adds, "Marriage has been a question for the states since the beginning of this country." He says that what he regards as the usurpation of states' rights on marriage "is something we've seen over and over again."

When exactly? Maybe -- to give him the benefit of the doubt -- he just means in repeated recent court decisions clearing the way for gay marriage. But he's invoking the more distant past.

in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court overturned many states' laws banning interracial marriage. If Ted Cruz, in his infinite constitutional wisdom, thinks "Marriage is a question for the states" without qualification, and "has been a question for the states since the beginning of this country," does he think Loving was improperly decided? Does he thinks states had the inalienable right to ban interracial marriage in 1967? Does he think they have that right today?

It would have been nice if somebody on CNBC had asked him.

Ted Olson, the Republican superlawyer who's now working for the legalization of gay marriage, talked about this when Cruz began throwing around the phrase "judicial activism" in this context:
It's the same sort of thing that people said forty-some years ago when the Supreme Court overturned the laws of 17 states, supported by two-thirds of the population of the United States, that made it a felony to marry someone of a different race. That case, called Loving v. Virginia, is a landmark in the jurisprudence of the SC, striking down as unconstitutional a law that would have prevented the president's mother and father from getting married and being in Virginia at the time that he was born. It's a sad thing when people don't understand that the people cannot vote away the rights of minorities, that people cannot engraft into their constitution provisions that discriminate against a segment of our society -- whether that be persons of a particular race or nationality, or laws that discriminate against women.
Here's the Cruz clip:

On an unrelated note, watch the way Rebecca Quick asks Cruz about the right of the states to permit gay marriage, and watch, in particular, the way Cruz strains to avoid appearing superior and arrogant as he says, "Perhaps you are not understanding my position." Cruz thinks he's the smartest person in the room. Cruz struggles to conceal that sense of himself. He comes off as the annoying grind who has all the answers in class and thinks he's better than you as a result. That's not the style of someone who can get elected president in this country. That's why I fear a Ted Cruz presidential candidacy a lot less than many on the left.

That new Harvard survey of millennials is getting a lot of attention, and yes, this is bad news for the Democratic Party at this moment:
A new national poll of America's 18- to 29- year-olds by Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, finds slightly more than half (51%) of young Americans who say they will "definitely be voting" in November prefer a Republican-run Congress with 47 percent favoring Democrat control -- a significant departure from IOP polling findings before the last midterm elections (Sept. 2010 – 55%: prefer Democrat control; 43%: prefer Republican control).
But while there's significant drift toward the GOP, millennials are still Democrats -- they're just much more typical Democrats, which means they don't vote in midterms.
While more 18- to 29- year-olds (50%-43%) surveyed in the IOP's fall 2014 poll would prefer that Congress be controlled by Democrats instead of Republicans, the numbers improve dramatically for the GOP when only young people who say they will "definitely vote" are studied. Among these likely voters, the IOP's latest poll shows the preference shifting, with slightly more than half (51%) preferring a Republican-run Congress and 47 percent wanting Democrats to be in charge.
Millennials overall: pro-Democrat by 7 points. The subset of definite voters: pro-Republican by 4.

That just means millennials are becoming like their elders. Compare the results to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll, released Monday:
When asked whether they will vote for the Democrat or the Republican in their House districts, 50 percent of likely voters say the Republican and 44 percent say the Democrat. Among the larger universe of registered voters, Democrats have an edge -- 47 percent to 44 percent.
But millennials lean D on the issues somewhat more than their elders, according to the Harvard results. By 9 points, millennials blame Republicans more than Democrats for Washington gridlock (but they blame "All of them" most). They favor Democrats over Republicans on the economy by 4, on immigration by 6, on race relations by 18, and on health care by 8 (though there are a lot of "Not sure"s and "Declined to answer"s in all those categories).

Plutocrats and conservatives don't want the economy to recover for ordinary Americans as long as a Democrat is in the White House, and the president hasn't done enough to either push back against that, nor has he succeeding in framing the problem correctly. This never used to work well with the young, but it's working now. Young voters have less hope and are now more willing to shrug and say, "Let the other guys have a chance." Despite copious evidence, they don't have a clear picture of what "the other guys" are actually like. (Only 38% of them say they follow politics "very" or "somewhat closely.") o they're growing up to be typical American left and centrist voters -- disinclined to support the Republican agenda but not informed or motivated enough to oppose electing Republicans. Mission accomplished, GOP.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Jeb Bush is boasting that he did a better job during a public health crisis than President Obama is doing now:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is calling President Barack Obama's initial response to Ebola "incompetent."

"It looked very incompetent to begin with, and that fueled fears that may not be justified," Bush said during a discussion at Vanderbilt University, according to The Tennessean. "And now you have states that are legitimately acting on their concerns, creating a lot more confusion than is necessary."

Bush said the president was not "clear and concise" about his plans to combat Ebola, and described an incident in which anthrax was mailed in 2001 to a Florida-based tabloid, The National Enquirer, during his time in office as an example of a better approach to addressing public fears.

"We gave people a sense of calm, what the plan was," Bush said. "We talked in plainspoken English. We were totally engaged."
Ahhh, misty watercolor memories. The truth as reported at the time, in a Toledo Blade story, is that Jeb largely deferred to the administration of his brother the president. Was there "a lot more confusion than is necessary"? Were there "fears that may not be justified"? Here, you be the judge:
BOCA RATON, Fla. - Just over the tops of the gardenia bushes, the elderly woman spotted the culprit: a man in a gas mask - armed with a hose - spraying a strange mist into the air.

Startled, she grabbed her phone and dialed 911.

With police crews rushing to the quiet suburban neighborhood last week - and people drawn to their front doors - the drama was about to begin.

But by the time police cornered the bio-terrorist suspect, the scare was over: The man was wearing a dust mask while sandblasting his backyard pool.

The unfolding outbreak of anthrax at a local tabloid headquarters two weeks ago has thrown this community into a crisis....
Several employees of American Media in Boca Raton were exposed to anthrax in 2001. One died; another became ill but survived. The response to the crisis, as the Toledo Blade story notes, was a mess:
A breakdown in communication between federal and local officials and often changing and inaccurate information released to the public may have led to more panic and mass confusion....

Earlier statements from federal officials assuring citizens the anthrax bacteria that killed Mr. Stevens was naturally occurring, isolated, and unlikely to be sent through the mail, all turned out to be wrong....

Since [Bob] Stevens' death - the nation's first fatality from anthrax since 1976 - another employee at the same tabloid has come down with the disease, and five others have tested positive for exposure....

Federal officials were quick to downplay [Stevens's] diagnosis, saying the anthrax was from nature, and not terrorists. "It appears this is just an isolated case," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson....

U.S. Postal Inspector Del Alvarez assured reporters there was no evidence to show anything was sent through the mail.

By Sunday, Oct. 7, investigators found anthrax spores on the keyboard of Mr. Stevens' computer, and in the nasal passages of Ernesto Blanco a 73-year-old mailroom worker....

Over the next two days, more than 800 people - tabloid employees and recent visitors to the building - stood in the rain and heat, waiting for nose swabs and antibiotics.

On Oct. 10, a third employee, a secretary who handled the mail, was found to have anthrax spores in her nose.

By then, "powder panic," as it's now being called, was spreading faster than the germ.

Hours after the news broke, a post office in neighboring Deerfield Beach was evacuated after a postal employee found a package with strange particles. It turned out to be dust.

People were calling talk-radio shows in the area, urging listeners to stay away from buffets and salad bars....

Last week, the theories of federal officials were shattered when it was revealed that anthrax spores were found in a mail slot of the Boca Raton postal distribution center.

No longer was it only confined to the tabloid headquarters, as Mr. Thompson had been adamantly claiming....
What did Jeb do? Not much, apparently, even as officials at the federal and local level stumbled through their response:
During a visit last week, Gov. Jeb Bush appeared at a press conference about two miles from the tabloid headquarters, urging people to remain calm.

But not everyone was pleased with the way officials had handled the crisis. On the same day as the governor's visit, Congressman [Robert] Wexler visited the area and blasted federal officials for not keeping the community better informed.

He said some of the American Media employees and visitors have been forced to wait more than three days for test results.

And officials still appear to be promoting an atmosphere of silence. Several tabloid employees waiting for a second round of tests last week said they could not comment or they would be fired.

Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, said she was asked by federal officials not to release information unless investigators approve....
Oh, wait -- as Tommy Christopher notes, Jeb did do one thing:
Gov. Jeb Bush came to South Florida today, urging calm in a community that for weeks has been on the verge of panic about exposures to anthrax.

"I think while people have to be vigilant and they have to be aware to the new realities, they cannot be paralyzed into not traveling, or not going out to a restaurant or not driving down Yamato Drive," the governor said, referring to one of the main thoroughfares here.
Yeah, that's right: he said it was okay for people to travel. Remind me again: what are health officials at the federal level saying now with regard to Ebola?

Keith Ablow's Fox News op-ed "It's Time for an 'American Jihad,'" and his recent assertion that President Obama probably allowed Ebola into America because he thinks black people are owed reparations, aren't to be taken seriously, except as signs that Ablow is 52 years old and is not even remotely as well known as generational peers such as Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham; he's never had a #1 bestselling book of his own (he did co-author a parenting guide with Glenn Beck that sold some copies, but that doesn't count). He and his wife got married in 1995 and have two children; I don't know their ages, but maybe they're heading off to college soon, or are already there. College is expensive. It's time for Ablow to up his game.

What he's doing now, at this stage in his career -- suddenly generating more-extreme-than-thou, clickbait-y, high-concept rants -- reminds me of how some middling baseball players, after a few years in the majors, have suddenly decided to bulk up on performance-enhancing drugs, and have found themselves with vastly increased home-run totals and national acclaim. Think of ballplayers who decided to juice up when you read something insane like this:
An American jihad would reawaken in American citizens the certain knowledge that our Constitution is a sacred document that better defines and preserves the liberty and autonomy of human beings than the charter of any other nation on earth.

The Constitution, along with the miracle of our nation's founding and the providential history of America fighting and winning war after war against oppressive regimes, proves our manifest destiny not only to preserve our borders and safety and national character at home, but to spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government.

An American jihad would embrace the correct belief that if every nation on earth were governed by freely elected leaders and by our Constitution, the world would be a far better place....

We would urge our leaders, after their service in the U.S. Senate and Congress, to seek dual citizenship in other nations, like France and Italy and Sweden and Argentina and Brazil and Germany, and work to influence those nations to adopt laws very much like our own. We might even fund our leaders' campaigns for office in these other nations.
Yes, he's actually recommending that other countries operate under our Constitution, and that our politicians should run for office in other countries.

Does he mean it? Of course not -- but given the high level of wingnuttery in right-wing commentary, particularly on his own channel, he has to say something dramatic to cut through the clutter. He's got to do it -- the competition for the attention of the crazy base is fierce, and he's not getting any younger. He wants his piece of the pie.

Note that Ablow uses the phrase "manifest destiny" approvingly in the quote above. In his Ebola rant, he said in disgust, "We don't have a president who has the American people as his primary interest, who believes the country has Manifest Destiny and has been a force for good." My prediction is that he's already begun to sketch out the book he hopes will be his #1 bestseller, and title of it will be ... Manifest Destiny. (The subtitle will How the Treasonous Obama-Clinton Democrats Have Crushed America's Soul and Why the Spirit of Liberty Must Renew America's Purpose or some such blather.) His lecture fees will increase. Maybe he'll get his own prime-time Fox show. Maybe he'll be there to grab the baton when Limbaugh passes it. Even a middle-aged guy can dream, right?

Mark Leibovich writes about "the bumpkinization of the midterm elections" -- candidates running ads in which they wear flannel shirts, ride Harleys, shoot guns, and tell cornball jokes:
McFadden, a former college-football player who now coaches a youth team, recruited his players to appear in a "Bad News Bears"-style spot in which they mess up handoffs ("Washington is fumbling our future") and clobber each other ("Obamacare needs to be sacked") before the coach rouses them to "get out there and hit somebody." At that point, for no particular reason, one player hits him below the belt, leaving the coach to recite the "I'm Mike McFadden, and I approve this message" bit in a high-pitched squeal -- the universal signifier of a guy who has just been hit in his junk.
And, of course, the classic of the genre, from Iowa's GOP Senate candidate, Joni Ernst:
When Ernst, who grew up on a farm castrating hogs, opened her mouth to speak, she drew the inevitable connection between her upbringing and her current role as a Republican candidate for the United States Senate. "When I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork," Ernst said, smiling. Title cards reinforced her credentials. ("Joni Ernst: Mother. Soldier. Conservative.") "I'm Joni Ernst, and I approve this message because Washington is full of big spenders. Let's make 'em squeal."
Paul Waldman seems inclined to blame this on the voters as much as anyone else:
I wouldn't want to excuse Washington consultants, but let's not forget that responsibility is not zero-sum. Everybody who takes part in this is to blame. There are the candidates, who serve up a ten-course meal of drivel. There are the outside groups that swoop in and try desperately to distract and confuse. There are the reporters who decide that it's really important that they write another ten stories about somebody's chickens or somebody else's "gaffe."

But in the end, ultimate responsibility lies with the voters themselves. It is within their power to say to candidates, "Look, I'm upset about Congress' inability to solve problems too, but the fact that you put on a flannel shirt and told me a story about the wisdom of your grandpappy does nothing to convince me you'll actually be able to solve those problems." They could do that. But they don't.
Well, yeah, but the reason they don't is that they're constantly told -- by serious-seeming, non-bumpkinish journalists -- that the policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, and the parties' strategy differences (specifically, Republicans' absolute refusal to compromise on issues of substance), are less important than a generalized "gridlock" that in most stories and opinion columns is reduced to a simple playground standoff. Voters are told on a regular basis that the substance of our political arguments doesn't matter -- what matters is that Congress (everyone in Congress) fights like kids in a sandbox; what matters is that President Obama doesn't lead.

Journalists, pundits, and even Democratic politicians (and certainly Republican pols) dumb down economics, telling voters that they should think of the federal budget the way they look at their family budgets -- even though the federal budget includes many levers that help in the process of creating prosperity, in a way that family budgets don't. If voters are told that budgeting is simple -- jut spend less than you take in and you're golden (as recessions hit, people go without help they need, and Keynes rolls over in his grave) -- of course they think politicians with simplistic messages make a whole lot of sense.

Yes, a lot of voters are unsophisticated. But the sophisticated don't do very much to change that. So these are the campaigns we get.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Today a lot of pundits are trying to imagine the future with a Republican Senate and House. The Atlantic's Molly Ball thinks Republicans might be motivated to act in a constructive manner, because doing otherwise would be perilous for them:
When and if they take control of the Senate, Republicans will have a big incentive not to simply create more gridlock: It would make them look terrible, worsening their image as the "party of no" and making it harder for their presidential nominee to win in 2016. The same goes for passing unpopular legislation like the Ryan budget or repealing Obamacare -- which most voters do not favor, even though the law is also unpopular.... with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would be on the hook for Congress's actions. They alone would get the blame if Congress remained dysfunctional....
Paul Waldman believes Republicans will have to be extreme and intransigent in order to appeal to the party's base -- but he agrees that that's a perilous course for them, though he doesn't think they'll go so far as to shut down the government, which he thinks would be really perilous:
... They pass bills meant to mollify their supporters, the bills are filibustered by Democrats and the bills die. Other than stopping Obama administration appointments ... , Senate Republicans will have little to show their base.

And they will have even less to show the broader public. Obama will decry the do-nothing, radicalized Congress, and to the average voter, that's exactly what it will look like: a bunch of Washington blowhards having temper tantrums that don't do anything to improve Americans' lives.

Not only that, at various times they will have no choice but to make deals with Obama. McConnell, John Boehner and the more sober Republicans know that there's nothing worse for them politically than forcing government shutdowns and debt defaults. That means they will have to agree to continuing resolutions keeping the government open and making increases in the debt ceiling in order to avoid national and political disaster. And when they do, the tea party base of the GOP will be enraged.
Yeah? And so what?

Thanks to Republicans, Congress accomplished nothing in the past two years. Americans hate Congress for that, and congressional Republicans have staggeringly low approval ratings as a result. A year ago, Republicans shut down the government, and Americans really hated that.

And guess what? None of that mattered to Republicans. They're poised to have a great election.

The shutdown was in October 2013, and Americans forgot all about it by Thanksgiving, if not sooner. Everyone who thought it was going to affect this year's midterms was an idiot. Democrats never hammer away at Republicans the way Republicans hammer away at Democrats, and the mainstream press routinely blames both sides, so Republicans were never going to be held accountable for the shutdown. And most voters blame the president and his party for everything that's wrong with government, especially when the president is a Democrat and the right-wing media sets the tone of most debates, so voters aren't blaming Republicans for the do-nothing nature of the Congress, either.

Why should Republicans be worried if nothing is accomplished in the next two years? Hell, why should they even try to avoid another shutdown? They've proved that they suffer no long-term consequences for this sort of behavior. In the next two years, all they have to do is continue to let everything drift. Voters will stay angry, and Republicans will blame Obama -- with a little blame on the side for Hillary in foreign policy matters. Where's the peril? There is none -- Republicans are the Teflon party, at least as long as Democrats have the presidency.

Republicans may not have an immigration reform plan with broad support in their party, but if you don't care about a plan and would be happy with an "Obama sucks" catchphrase on immigration instead, then don't worry, they've got you covered. See if you can spot the catchphrase in this Breitbart story. Here -- I'll make it easy for you.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), says it's "un-American" for President Barack Obama to consider implementing an executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens across the country.

"It's unconstitutional, illegal, and we don't support it," Priebus replied when a Tea Party activist asked him about the president's plans for an executive amnesty on a conference call hosted by on Monday evening.

"I don't support it. It is wrong," Priebus said. "It is un-American for a president to try and do such a thing. I want to make it clear: There is no part of me, there is not a molecule in my body that agrees with the president on executive amnesty."
Did you spot it? I'm sure you spotted it. See also the headline to this post at National Review's Corner:
Immigration Agents' Union Begs Public for Help Fighting Obama's Executive Amnesty
This is what Republicans do. They don't govern. (Unless they control everything, they don't even try to govern, because that would involve compromise, which is unthinkable.) Instead, all they try to do is manipulate public opinion and set debate terms.

They're going to do for "executive amnesty" what they did for "death panels" and the "death tax" and "partial-birth abortion" and, well, "Obamacare" -- they're going to burn the phrase into Middle Americans' brains and make them hate it. Once they've really cranked up the use of this phrase, you'll be able to hook electrodes up to right-wingers' skulls and see the phrase "executive amnesty" setting off levels of anger and rage that you'd associate with images of Hitler selling children into Boko Haram arranged marriages catered by ISIS in an Ebola ward.

And why not? Hey, it beats legislating.

Right-wingers criticize President Obama for not imposing tough restrictions on people seeking to come to the U.S. from Ebola-stricken countries. But what if Obama's first response to Ebola fears had been exactly what conservatives are demanding?

I think they'd be denouncing the very policies they're now supporting.

Right-wingers hate Obama. To them, by definition, everything he does is wrong. Why would a tough policy from his administration -- a flight ban, or exclusion of those with West African visas, or mandatory quarantines even for the asymptomatic -- have been any different?

If he'd responded with tough policies, I think I know what would have happened. Recall that the first Ebola patient in America was Dr. Kent Brantly, a volunteer for Samaritan's Purse, a charity whose president is Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son. The next Ebola patient in the U.S. was Nancy Writebol, a missionary with Samaritan's Purse.

Graham was disinvited from the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010 after a series of anti-Islam statements over a number of years (for instance, calling Islam "a very evil and wicked religion"). He's questioned whether Obama is really a Christian. He's claimed that the IRS targeted Samaritan's Purse as part of a crackdown on conservative group. Earlier this year, he said that members of the Obama administration "are anti-Christ in what they say and what they do."

So imagine if President Obama had decided to prevent the return of Brantly and Writebol to America. Imagine if he'd imposed strict rules on travel into America by those who live or have worked in Ebola-stricken countries.

The right-wing noise machine, which carefully calibrates a negative message in response to everything Obama says and does, would have said that the policy was directed at an Evangelical enemy of the president. We would have been told that it was part of the president's "war on Christianity." Even now, thanks to right-wing propaganda, the face of Ebola volunteerism wouldn't be what it is now -- a hipster doctor gallivanting in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood, a nurse who's a registered Democrat. Instead, Fox News wold be flooded with images of noble Christian volunteers lamenting the fact that Obama won't let them come home for Christmas. (Christmas!)

Instead of portraying the federal government as a collection of bumblers, the right would portray it as the instrument of big-government totalitarianism. Oh, but it would be selective totalitarianism -- Obama won't seal the Mexican border, but he's turning away Christian missionaries who were born here.

I can't prove that this is what would have happened. But I've watched the right for two long to be in any doubt: nothing Obama did about Ebola would have satisfied them.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Talking Points Memo brings us the right-wing conventional wisdom on Chris Christie's now-abandoned effort to hold an asymptomatic Ebola nurse in an unheated quarantine tent against her will. The CW comes courtesy of Rush Limbaugh:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh isn't impressed by the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) handled the involuntary quarantine of a nurse who arrived Friday in Newark after working in Sierra Leone.

Specifically, Limbaugh is upset that Christie allowed nurse Kaci Hickox, who wasn't showing any symptoms of the Ebola virus, to be transferred Monday to her home state of Maine to serve out the rest of her quarantine. Limbaugh likened the move to Christie's post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.

"This is the second election in a row, one week prior to an election, the governor of New Jersey ends up, well I don't know -- arm and arm, hand and hand, in bed with, I don’t know how to characterize it -- but responding to Obama's demands," Limbaugh said Monday on his radio show.
Earlier today, Salon's Jim Newell wrote about Christie's decision to allow Hickox out of the tent. Newell quoted a post I wrote on this:
... this is going to work out all right for Christie. He gets to avoid the prolonged agony of a lawsuit and get himself out of the news. More important, he can jaw rightward about how Obama and the damn medical bureaucrats forced him to stop taking the bold measures that needed to be taken. As Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog, writes, "Cue new right-wing message: Christie bullied into endangering public by open-borders liberals."
I appreciate that -- but I wasn't really saying that that would play well for Christie among right-wingers. Frankly, I wasn't sure. Limbaugh's comments demonstrate that it didn't.

It would be one thing if Christie were actively playing the victim card. If he were whining now that he was forced to do this by jackbooted Obama administration thugs, or possibly by evil trial lawyers (as Newell notes, Hickox was threatening a federal lawsuit), he might be looking good right now in the eyes of Limbaugh and his crowd. But Christie is insisting that he hasn't reversed course:
When the New York Times asked the governor why he reversed his decision to quarantine Hickox, he emphasized that letting releasing the nurse wasn't a reversal at all.

"There’s been no reversal or change in any way to our policy or to our approach," he told the newspaper on Monday. "If people are symptomatic, they go into the hospital. If they live in New Jersey, they can quarantine at home. If they don't, and they're not symptomatic, then we set up quarantine for them out of state. But if they are symptomatic, they're going to the hospital."
No, no, no, Governor -- that's not how you do it. You leave her in the tent, or you say you were forced to free her by the fascist political correctness police.

Christie had an enemy -- as Mark noted in my comments, the right was already mounting a hate campaign against Hickox, noting that she's (gasp!) a registered Democrat, and has worked for (horrors!) the CDC. But Christie backed off.

He has an instinctive ability to play this wingnut-pleasing game, but he doesn't have the skills to play it at a big-league level.

Add this to news that Republicans are looking at Christie suspiciously because he's the head of the Republican Governors Association and Scott Walker is alleging that the RGA isn't spending enough money on Walker's struggling campaign, the implication being that Christie wants Walker to lose in order to eliminate him as a 2016 presidential candidate, and Christie's chances in the 2016 primaries just get worse and worse.

And Bridgegate has nothing to do with it. Republicans don't care about that. They just want him to be nice to fellow Republicans -- and pitiless toward everyone else. He's disappointing them on both scores.

I may be reading too much into this, but I think Kevin McCathy's use of the conditional mood is significant:
HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy landed here from Los Angeles with a bang: He bluntly warned that Republicans will blow the presidency in 2016 if they don't make some radical changes -- and quick.

McCarthy, speaking without a working microphone, told a group of Long Island donors that Republicans' gains in the House will amount to little if they can't govern over the next two years.

"I do know this," McCarthy said. "If we don't capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won't be a Republican president in 2016.” ...
He said "prove we could govern," not "prove we can govern." There's a huge difference, and I think he knows it.

Republicans will prove they can govern in the next two years if they work with the White House and congressional Democrats to pass significant legislation. That's what Jake Sherman, who wrote this up for Politico, thinks McCarthy means.

What I think McCarthy means is that Republicans hope to pass a whole lot of showoffy, wedge issue-y legislation that the president will veto -- neutering Dodd-Frank even more, gutting environmental regulations, undermining Obamacare, slashing taxes and non-military spending. Republicans don't want to pass anything Obama will sign. That would require compromise. Republicans don't do compromise. They want to show us what bills a Republican president would sign if given the chance -- that's what McCarthy means when he says Republicans have to show that they "could govern." Meanwhile, they want it to seem as if the gridlock is all Obama's fault.

I'm sure an all-GOP government could govern, if by "govern" you mean that it would do for the country what Brownback Republicans have done for Kansas or McCrory Republicans have done for North Carolina. But the plan is not to try governing now. This is a zero-sum game for Republicans. They don't want to compromise -- they want to win.

This is on the front page of the print New York Times today. Note the juxtaposition of the article and the inset photo.

Here's the online version right now:

The Bush article is a positive, upbeat, gee-whizzy story about how a fascinating, storied family with a beloved nonagenarian patriarch is coming together around the notion of a run by young Jeb, who seemed to be destined for greatness until he was lapped at the turn by his reformed-ne'er-do-well older brother. The two brothers aren't close -- but now the older brother is his younger brother's biggest booster! Their mother has doubts -- but she's keeping them to herself! Her husband, the saintly old patriarch, would desperately love to see his young son give it a go -- it's apparently the last thing on his bucket list!

Speaking for Jeb this weekend was his son George P. Bush:
In an interview that aired on "This Week" on ABC News on Sunday, George P. Bush said that he thought it was "more than likely" that his father would run. "If you had asked me a few years back, I would have said it was less likely," he said.
George P. is 38 years old and is making his first bid for elective office -- he's running for Texas land commissioner. Why that should qualify him for a spot on a national talk show I'm not sure -- but he is the brown-skinned son of a Hispanic mother when the GOP has a negative image with Hispanics, and he is bringing glad tidings of his father's interest in the presidency, so the mainstream media is happy to oblige.

With regard to that father, he Times tells us:
Some of the positions he has taken on immigration, taxes and education are at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy of his party.
That's an impediment to Jeb's run -- but it also thrills the mainstream press. He could be the non-extreme Republican Daddy we've been praying for! He could save us from that wrinkled old crone Hillary Clinton!

The Times story on Hillary tells us that Hispanic activists are really, really angry with her:
President Obama has promised executive action on immigration change after the midterm elections. But immigration activists have already turned their focus -- and their frustration -- to his potential successor....

Behind [recent] public confrontations is a quieter but concerted effort by a critical bloc of young Latinos to urge others like them not to automatically support Mrs. Clinton in an increasingly likely 2016 presidential campaign.
What's angering these activists? Well, this, for example:
In June, Mrs. Clinton told CNN that the Central American children "should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are," a statement that made some young Latinos question her commitment to their communities.

Not long after that, Jorge Ramos of Fusion asked Mrs. Clinton if she had a "Latino problem." Mrs. Clinton replied, "I hope not!" and then said only those children who do not have a legitimate claim for asylum or a family connection in the United States should be sent back.
Even though the Times story on Jeb deals only fleetingly with immigration and other hot-button issues, the message of these two stories, to the presumably liberal readers of the Times, is that, on issues that are significant to liberals, Hillary Clinton may not be all that, while Jeb may be surprisingly appealing.

Never mind the fact that Jeb, however much he may support immigration reform, said exactly the same thing about this summer's wave of child refugees:
We must close loopholes that allow for individuals to be released from federal custody between hearings. Except for those deserving few who may demonstrate true cause for asylum or protection from sex trafficking, these children must be returned to their homes in Central America.

Next, we must aggressively remove the incentives that encourage people to break immigration laws. It is vital that we clearly communicate that there will be zero rewards for those who imperil the lives of children by sending them to the U.S. illegally. The children who have come here were provoked by adults and made to believe that crossing our border would be the key to their family's escape from a life of poverty or danger. That must end.
And he's the most liberal Republican on this issue who might run for president.

The mainstream press wants a Republican to win in 2016. The press wants to believe that Republican won't be a right-wing extremist if he's elected. That's why the right-wing positions Jeb and and Rand Paul, in particular, are being graded on a curve (as are the positions of extremist Senate candidates Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner). The press hates Obama and hates Hillary. The GOP may position itself as so extreme in the next two years that even the MSM can't deny the extremism, but Republicans ill get the benefit of every doubt. Be afraid.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Republican voters like their candidates to be mean and pitiless toward those they consider to be the wrong kind of people. I guess Kari Hickox, a nurse who volunteered to work with Ebola patients, counts as the wrong kind of people.

I knew that when the healthy, asymptomatic nurse was brought to a hospital in Newark, she was taken to a tent. I didn't quite realize she was expected to live in that tent:
The nurse has spent the weekend in an isolation tent outside Newark's University Hospital. Doctors Without Borders says, "the tent is not heated and she is dressed in uncomfortable paper scrubs. She was permitted to bring personal belongings into the tent."
The tent isn't heated, and she's in paper scrubs? Is the plan to keep her in the tent for 21 days? Her quarantine, which started on October 24, will end on November 14. If that's the plan, here's the AccuWeather forecast for the last few days of her quarantine:

Yup -- low temperatures in the mid-30s every night. If she's still in an unheated tent, she really might be sick by the end of her quarantine -- though not from Ebola.

Here are the digs:

And here's her lovely toilet:

Oh, and she has no shower, according to The New York Times. It's no wonder that, as the Times tells us, Andrew Cuomo's effort to out-butch President Obama and Mayor de Blasio by being as much of a quarantine tough guy as Christie now seem to Cuomo, on further reflection, to be a tad sadistic:
Facing fierce resistance from the White House and medical experts to a strict new mandatory quarantine policy for all medical workers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday night that people quarantined in New York who do not show symptoms of the disease would be allowed to remain at home and would receive compensation for lost income....

The announcement by Mr. Cuomo seemed intended to draw a sharp contrast -- both in tone and in fact -- to the policy's implementation in New Jersey, where a nurse who arrived Friday from Sierra Leone was swiftly quarantined in a tent set up inside a Newark hospital, with a portable toilet but with no shower....
So Cuomo will at least let you do the time in your apartment or house. But Christie's more punitive approach is probably the sort of thing that appeals to the right-wing mind. See, for instance, the PJ Media post titled "Nurse in Quarantine Whines About the Way She Was Treated." If this bumps up Chritie's numbers in 2016 polls, I won't be surprised.

My wife and I have to fly at Christmas to see family. Once in a while we book returning flights into Newark -- but this year I absolutely don't want to do that. Do we want to take the risk, however minuscule, that someone with exposure to Ebola might happen to be on our flight? What if such a passenger gets sick on our flight -- even if the sick passenger is in row 11 and we're in row 28, with zero exposure to bodily fluids, will we be quarantined too, just so Chris Christie can show Iowa caucus goers what a macho man he is? Will we be quarantined in a tent? Christie might say so. Home quarantine I could understand under those circumstances, just as a precaution. But there's no freaking way I'm spending three weeks in an unheated tent in New Jersey in late December and early January.


UPDATE: On Twitter, here, here, here, and here, Christie clarifies that "a New Jersey resident with no symptoms ... who has come into contact with someone w/Ebola" will be allowed to be "quarantined at home." Um, that's no comfort to me -- I live just across the river in Manhattan. You want to put me in a tent? You can keep our airport.


UPDATE: Christie has bowed to pressure and is releasing Hickox. Maybe he's figured out that he was flat-out wrong on Saturday:
The woman tested negative for the Ebola virus, but Christie asserted the nurse is "obviously ill."

"When I left this morning she still had a fever and she was being tested for other illnesses after the Ebola test came back negative," Christie said.

“She may to be tested for that again because sometimes it takes a little bit longer to make a definitive determination,” he said. "There's no question the woman is ill, the question is what is her illness."

Christie said "all steps were taken" to try to make the nurse’s stay at the hospital comfortable.

"I hope she recovers quickly, and we’re going to do everything we can in New Jersey and with our public health system to make sure that she does," he said.
Cue new right-wing message: Christie bullied into endangering public by open-borders liberals.

Chris Christie, with the cooperation of his crypto-Republican pal Andrew Cuomo, has now made evil Doctors Without Borders volunteers into the new enemies of All Decent People:
On Thursday night, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sat beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at Bellevue Hospital Center as they offered soothing words to worried New Yorkers: New York City’s first case of Ebola, they said, was no reason for panic.

Less than 19 hours later, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, joined the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and struck a starkly different tone. The governors announced Friday that medical personnel returning to New York after treating Ebola patients in West Africa would be automatically subject to a 21-day quarantine.
The first person caught in the dragnet was a nurse named Kaci Hickox, who was returning to Newark Airport from Sierra Leone when the hammer came down. Hickox, who attended the University of Texas at Arlington, has written a Dallas Morning News op-ed in which she describes a seven-hour airport ordeal during which she was rarely informed of what was going on and was treated with intense suspicion, even though she has no Ebola synptoms:
One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn't. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.

Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.

I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.

Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.
Well, of course. The people in charge are in Trenton and Albany. The people yanking this nurse's chain are just doing what they're told.

They get a fever reading from a forehead thermometer; Hickox explains, in vain, that that could reflect nothing more than flushing deriving from her anxiety and frustration -- as subsequently turns out to be the case when, several hours later, her temperature registers normal and an Ebola blood test comes up negative. But by that time, she's effectively under arrest:
At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.

Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong....
(Eight squad cars? Seriously? That was really necessary? But you've got to give Christie this: he has a sense of theater. All the best pols do -- as do the most dangerous ones.)
At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. "Your temperature is 98.6," they said. "You don't have a fever but we were told you had a fever."

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. "There's no way you have a fever," he said. "Your face is just flushed."

My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.
Also: a tent? Is this the long-term plan for dealing with such cases? In January, too?

But there won't be cases, because volunteers won't fly back into America. They'll either decide it's not worth the trouble to go help out where they're needed or fly back through Canada and drive rental cars into the States. Fox News is available in Canada only on satellite, and the government is conservative, so the country doesn't have to pander to the panicked as demagogues drown out voices of reason -- Canada will impose quarantine on sick passengers, but, so far, not on the healthy. So doctors and nurses will almost certainly evade the U.S. quarantines if they really want to volunteer in the hot zone. Until that gets shut down, of course.

I get it, though. This is good politics for Cuomo (who's up for reelection in nine days) and for Christie (who still thinks he can be president). “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” is Saul Alinsky's 12th Rule for Radicals. Conservatives, who love Alinsky, love this rule in particular because they love identifying enemies and defining themselves as the opponents of those enemies. They'd say their opponent in this case is the virus. I think it's the doctor who bowled and the nurse who complained.


A side note on the fear factor: Joyce Wadler has an article in the Style section of today's New York Times about her 87-year-old mother's recent stroke. Wadler tells us her mother is quite physically and mentally impaired -- though not completely:
When the doctor asks what year it is, she says 1914. Her politics, however, remain intact.

"Who's the president, Mrs. Wadler?" the doctor asks.

"Obama, the big liar," Ma says.
Wadler's mother, you see, is one of the many older people in America who lives on a steady diet of Fox News. And here are the consequences:
“They're torturing me here," my mother tells them, as Fox News, to which she has fallen asleep for years, plays silently in the background. "I've got Ebola. I have ISIS."

My best friend, Herb, who has flown in from New York after my brothers have to leave, ... figures it out. The crawl on Fox is shooting out scare words and Ma's brain has them linked.

"ISIS isn't a disease, it's a terrorist group, Milli," says Herb, who has known my mother for 40 years.

"I've got ISIS," Ma insists. "I'm gonna make them test me."
Ailes and Murdoch, if there's an afterlife and a God, this is what you'll have to answer for.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


You know that every bad thing that happens anywhere is the fault of liberals who hate America, right? Apparently, according to Rush Limbaugh, liberals who hate America are even responsible for the terrorist attack in Canada by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:
... That's his preferred name, by the way: Abdul Zehaf. So much for the narrative that he was a recent convert to the religion of peace. He wasn't recent. He'd be a convert to the religion of peace for quite a while now....

He was not a lone wolf in any way, shape, manner, or form.

This then takes us to the hatchet suspect back to New York, and once again we're being told that this guy is a lone wolf, and he's a one-off.

... we already know that his name is Zale Thompson and that he was a strict Muslim who condemned the US and called for attacks on soldiers and police. And I have the posts on Facebook right here in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers to prove it! It dovetails back with exactly what we were talking about yesterday, is how the hell are young people in this country becoming to radicalized?

Who is telling them things that make them want to take action against people in this country and the country at large?

What are they learning?

What are they learning about this country that they end up hating it for?

Who's teaching them this stuff?

And I'm telling you it's the education system. They're not lone wolves. They are members of a radical sect, and they are doing what the radical sect openly says that it's going to do. I believe they have been radicalized by our own anti-America news media. I think they have been radicalized by our education system which features its own, if not anti-America, I don't want to mis-convey something here -- but if you sit in a classroom from kindergarten on up and you have a professor or teacher after teacher that tells you what a rotten place this is because of the way we treated women, the way we treated blacks, slavery, and what we did to the Native Americans and how the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer and the power base is stealing from the poor, what do you do?

If that's all you hear from the first moment of your exposure to formal education, quite likely you're gonna end up filled with rage and hatred. And those who also share those emotions who are recruiting people like you, you might find it attractive to join 'em.
That's right -- a guy who was born in Montreal and lived in Calgary and Alberta committed an attack in Ottawa because he learned in school that America was evil because of slavery.

And terrorism is Canada is also linked to the "Democrat Party":
The five years of pummeling of George W. Bush and the military in this country during the years of Iraq, 2003 to 2008, drove a portion of the Democrat voter base literally insane with rage and hatred. And the hatred didn't confine itself just to George W. Bush. It expanded into just hatred for the country as founded.

This is the kind of chaos and disquietedness and discomfort that the Democrat Party feeds on, and it isn't healthy.
I know Limbaugh would say that he's referring there to the perpetrator of the hatchet attack in New York. But he brought up the Ottawa attack -- I didn't. And there have been three such attacks this week -- two of them in Canada by native-born Canadians. But it's all the fault of "anti-America" media and schools and it's linked to the "Democrat Party." Right. Got it.


Bonus idiocy from Limbaugh, in reference to the New York incident:
At a news conference at a hospital where one officer was being treated for a serious head wound, the commissioner, William Bratton, said that investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and to determine a motive.

Naturally, they don't want to jump to any conclusions....
That was Limbaugh broadcasting yesterday. There are no quote marks in the transcript, but he's quoting from a story published the night of the attack. Here's a somewhat less selective quote from that story -- emphasis added:
At a news conference at a hospital where one officer was being treated for a serious head wound, Police Commissioner William Bratton said that investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and determine a motive....

Asked if the attack could be related to terrorism, Bratton didn't rule it out. He cited the fatal shooting of a soldier in Canada earlier this week -- what officials there have called a terror attack -- as reason for concern.

"This early on, we really cannot say yes or no to that question," Bratton said.
Limbaugh held forth on this subject yesterday. Also yesterday, Bratton announced his conclusion:
A hatchet attack on New York police officers was a "terrorist act" carried out by a self-radicalized Muslim convert who had been in the military and browsed Al-Qaeda websites, police said Friday.

"This was a terrorist act," police commissioner Bill Bratton told a news conference on Friday, one day after the attack, saying he was "very comfortable" describing it as a "terrorist attack."
Twenty-four hours of due diligence is too much for these wingnut vultures.

Friday, October 24, 2014


As if Jeb Bush's support for immigration reform and Common Core weren't enough to disqualify him for president in the eyes of the GOP voter base, now there's this:
CNN's Peter Hamby reported that during a speech Thursday night at a South Carolina fundraiser, Bush "singled out Fox News" while expressing "annoyance with the polarizing fights and constant negativity of the political news media."

Bush reportedly said that he only watches Fox "for a few minutes a day before switching over to SportsCenter."
Jeb doesn't like Fox? The main source of news for 47% of "consistent conservatives," according to Pew? A news source trusted by 88% of those "consistent conservatives"?

It's just more evidence to the angry base that Jeb isn't one of them -- and more evidence to all of us that, unlike John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 (and since), Jeb has no interest in tossing red meat to the angry base. So forget it -- he has no chance of winning the Republican nomination.


The same is probably true for Rand Paul. He just delivered what's said to have been a major foreign policy address -- Vox's Zack Beauchamp breathlessly described it as "one of the most important foreign policy speeches in decades." (Do GOP primary voters don't read Vox? Um, I don't think so.) At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman is less gobsmacked, but he thinks Paul may have done a fine job of needle-threading in the speech. I have serious doubts about that.
If you took out the five Reagan references and changed some words and phrases here and there, the speech Paul gave could have been delivered by Barack Obama. The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, apparently, is that the Republican says that we should always be prepared for war, but war should be a last resort, while the Democrat says that war should be a last resort, but we should always be prepared for war. Paul also added the controversial ideas that American values lead the world, and we're stronger abroad when our economy is stronger at home. And also, Reagan Reagan Reagan.

The interesting thing is that, despite the similarity of Paul's ideas to those of Obama, Paul's speech showed that it probably isn't all that hard to give GOP voters what tey want on foreign policy. All it takes is a little dexterity to push the right buttons, as Paul does in this passage:
Although I support the call for defeating and destroying ISIS, I doubt that a decisive victory is possible in the short term, even with the participation of the Kurds, the Iraqi government, and other moderate Arab states.

In the end, only the people of the region can destroy ISIS. In the end, the long war will end only when civilized Islam steps up to defeat this barbaric aberration.
He takes a policy position many Republicans will disagree with, but leavens it with the mention of "the long war" and "civilized Islam," giving a nod to the clash-of-civilizations sentiment so common on the right. Mission accomplished.
"Mission accomplished"? Seriously?

Look at the quote -- "only the people of the region can destroy ISIS"? "The long war will end only when civilized Islam steps up"? The base hates Muslims. The base doesn't believe that there is such a thing as "civilized Islam." The base doesn't want to hear that this war will be a stalemate for the foreseeable future -- that's weak-kneed, quisling, Obama talk. The base wants Ronald Reagan talk: "We win, they lose."

At Vox, Beauchamp writes,
The real target of Paul's speech were the neoconservatives: the wing of the GOP that believes that American foreign policy should be about the aggressive use of American force and influence, be it against terrorist groups or Russia. Paul's unsubtle argument is that this view, dominant in the GOP, is a departure from what a conservative foreign policy ought to be.

His tactic for selling this argument is innovative. He's reframed arguments with neoconservatives as arguments with Obama, banking on the idea that he can get everyday Republicans to abandon hawkishness altogether if they see Obama as a hawk.
He can't. Apart from hardcore Paulites, no one on the right could ever be persuaded that Obama is a hawk -- or Hillary either. The belief that all Democrats are disloyal, spineless, metrosexual love-bead wearers is bone-deep in Republicans' consciousness.

Unless you think all the older Republicans are going to stay home while under-35s do all the voting, this is a recipe for failure in the GOP primaries.


I'll say this, though: 2016 might be the year when a third-party movement could elect a president. This time, though, it would be an extremely right-wing third-party movement -- just not quite as right-wing on every issue as, say, Ted Cruz.

I think if Jeb Bush or Rand Paul decided to abandon the GOP to the Ben Carsons and Ted Cruzes, both the Chamber of Commerce and the mainstream media could flock to the breakaway candidacy. Jeb or Rand could be just as extreme on taxes and spending and abortion and guns as the most right-wing Republican, but the press would sigh and say "moderate" a lot, and declare this the best opportunity ever for America to break free of the two-party system. There'd be talk about how well Jeb or Rand might work with both parties in Congress -- no more gridlock! Compromise on everything! And a lot of voters, I think, would fall for this nonsense (especially if the running mate were a Democrat -- y'know, Joe Lieberman, Leon Panetta, Joe Manchin).

It won't happen -- but if it did, the press and a lot of centrist voters would be stupid enough to fall for it.


UPDATE: I love this, from Laura Ingraham:

"Left-leaning ESPN"?

If this had been President Obama, and not a prime minister who's a conservative and who therefore gets a free pass from the U.S. right-wing media, we'd never hear the end of it from wingnuts:
Stephen Harper spent about 15 minutes hidden in a Parliament Hill closet after a gunman stormed Centre Block where he and the rest of the Conservative caucus were guarded by MPs who'd fashioned sharp spears from flagpoles, sources say.

After they heard gunfire outside their meeting room door Wednesday, members of Parliament snapped close to 15 flagpoles to make weapons.

Some positioned themselves on risers that flanked doors, ready to attack an assailant.

"There were 15 flags up at caucus and all but two were taken down," one MP recalled.

"These guys were up there holding these spears ready to impale anyone who came in," the source said....

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, had been whisked into a closet in the Centre Block room shortly after the gunfights outside began....
A closet? A closet? Oh, man, the words "Obama" and "closet" would be linked in the righties' minds till the end of time. Yes, lefties would respond that George W. Bush was flown around the country in a desperate attempt to keep him away from the events of 9/11, but it wouldn't matter: the image of legislators sharpening spears and the sergeant-at-arms killing the gunman while the head of state cowered in the closet would be indelible.

And that's on top of this:
The Canadian police acknowledged on Thursday that the gunman who traumatized the capital in a deadly shooting rampage had not been identified as a security threat despite his criminal record in three cities, embrace of extremist ideas and intent to travel to Syria.

The police also conceded that they did not even know that the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had been in the capital for nearly three weeks....

"The R.C.M.P. did not even know Mr. Zehaf was in Ottawa," Commissioner Paulson said during the lengthy news conference. "We need to look at all operations to deal with this difficult and hard-to-understand threat."

The police, he said, had only learned about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's Syrian travel plans from his mother after his death. Nor was he among the 93 people that the national police forces monitor as being likely to travel abroad to join organizations recognized as terror groups under Canadian law.
(In earlier posts, I was wrong about that last point.)

Oh, and Stephen Harper may have called the attack terrorism, to the delight of right-wing American pundits, but Canadian police are talking about motives other than MUSLIM MUSLIM MUSLIM EVIL EVIL EVIL:
All the commissioner could offer as explanation for the violence of Wednesday was a combination of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's growing frustration over delays in his passport application, his apparent sympathies for radicalism and his "difficult circumstances," which appeared to include drug use, unemployment and mental health problems.

Right-wingers in America portray Obama as willfully perverse because he doesn't act and speak the way they demand he does. Well, here are Stephen Harper and the Canadian police acting in ways that fit American righties' caricature of Obama and his administration. Where's the mockery?