Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The latest David Brooks column, on Indiana's "religious freedom" law, has been mercilessly picked apart by Charlie Pierce, Yastreblyansky (here and here), and Driftglass, among others. The Brooks passage that's most infuriating is this one:
Morality is a politeness of the soul. Deep politeness means we make accommodations. Certain basic truths are inalienable. Discrimination is always wrong. In cases of actual bigotry, the hammer comes down. But as neighbors in a pluralistic society we try to turn philosophic clashes (about right and wrong) into neighborly problems in which different people are given space to have different lanes to lead lives. In cases where people with different values disagree, we seek a creative accommodation.
We expect Brooks to be exasperating in this way. We're not surprised that "the well-mannered moral monster," as Pierce describes him,"would like all those hysterical gay people to start using their inside voices and to understand that their desire for equal protection under the law would be better served if they understood the feelings of the people who think they are sodomite insects who are all going to hell."

But what am I hearing from Shakesville's Melissa McEwan, a committed progressive? She's an Indiana resident, and she's written a post for a site called Model View Culture in which she also chides progressives for urging a boycott of Indiana, and in which she further argues that the regressive nature of the state is actually progressives' fault:
Many of the people calling for the boycott are, realistically, individuals who have never set foot in Indiana, never will, and probably couldn’t pick out Indiana on a map. But there were also corporate leaders who immediately embraced the notion of a boycott. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced his company would be “cancelling all required travel to the state of Indiana,” and called on “other tech CEOs and tech industry leaders to please take a stand.

Hoosiers are already hurting economically....

The idea that we need more pressure in order to be moved to do something is absurd. People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance. We are too busy trying to survive.
(Let me interrupt right there. "People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance"? Does McEwan think the participants in the Montgomery bus boycott were part of the economic elite? A century ago, were the strikers who built America's labor movement part of the 1%, in McEwan's estimation?)
What you need to understand about Indiana is that the state government doesn’t give a fuck about the people of the state. If you don’t, either, you’re on their side. Not ours.

The truth is, progressives with resources have been boycotting Indiana for decades. That’s actually why we’re in this situation. If you want to know what a boycott would really look like, what result institutional neglect will really have, this is it. This legislation -- it’s the result of Indiana having been de facto boycotted for years, written off as a place unworthy of investment by people who could help.
Yes, we effectively wrote this legislation, according to McEwan, by not rebuilding the state's economy from scratch with a benignly carpetbaggish crash program of progressive entrepreneurialism. (Those of us who have absolutely no head for business are, I guess, guilty even if we have nothing of this kind to offer Indiana -- hey, you know what you are if you're not part of the solution....)
...What a generalized boycott of Indiana would do is harm working people -- among whom are queer business owners, as well as queer employees of inclusive and supportive employers, and also queer employees of discriminatory employers, because that’s the only job they can get in a state with far too few jobs.

And let’s be honest here: It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering “Boycott Indiana!” had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people.

Which underlines what’s really the worst thing about this idea: It’s reflective of a vicious stereotype that disappears the existence of the very people for whom the sloganeers purport to care.
That's right -- we're pressuring Indiana because we're the haters.

I'm at a loss. I don't know where to begin.

I'm struck, though, by how much overlap there is between McEwan's leftier-than-thou cry of rage and the self-satisfied windbaggery of Brooks. Ultimately, isn't McEwan also calling for "deep politeness" while excoriating those who choose confrontation? Isn't McEwan arguing that we should never fight and should always look for a "creative accommodation"?

And aren't they both full of it?

(McEwan post via Tom Watson at Forbes.)


BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden reports:
Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn’t buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person’s lifestyle.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013....

Eleanor May, a spokesperson for Paul’s 2016 re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate, said the rights that count are those in the country’s founding charter. “What he is saying in this video is that he does not classify rights based on behavior, but rather recognizes rights for all, as our Constitution defines it,” May told BuzzFeed News.
Holden writes:
But it’s unclear how far -- and to whom -- Paul extends the argument that rights cannot be defined by behavior.

Practicing religion, for example, is a behavior enshrined as a primary American right. Free speech is behavior protected by the Bill of Rights....
Um ... gun ownership? Is gun ownership not "behavior"?

We know that Senator Paul is one of the most uncompromising supporters of gun rights in Washington (which is quite a high bar to clear). We know he's put his name to fundraising appeals from a group that's so pro-gun it's fought to defeat Eric Cantor and other Republicans. We know Paul announced a threat to filibuster all gun control legislation in 2013 (around the same time as the interview quoted above), and we know he blocked confirmation of President Obama's choice for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, because Murthy thinks gun violence is a public health issue. So, yeah, Paul is pro-gun.

I guess he thinks gun ownership is so fundamental to the makeup of certain human beings, is so hard-wired, that it simply can't be considered "behavior." Ask me to pass a background check at a gun show? That's discrimination! I was born this way!

Gay sex? A choice. Owning an assault rifle? An essential part of who you are.


The standard narrative of the 2014 elections is this: Republicans suppressed the Tea Party and avoided running divisive candidates. Even candidates such as Joni Ernst who'd expressed Tea Party-esque views in the past developed the discipline not to talk about those views. The Republican Party's template for the future is to run electable candidates who reassure voters that conservatism isn't scary.

But I suspect that Republicans drew another conclusion from their 2014 electoral successes. In many states, GOP candidates won even after supporting extremely divisive legislation. Controversial Republican governors such as Florida's Rick Scott, Kansas's Sam Brownback, Maine's Paul LePage, and,of course, Wisconsin's Scott Walker all won reelection. Republicans increased their majorities in state legislatures. These wins came after Republicans passed laws that not only busted unions and limited voting rights but significantly restricted abortion in state after state.

So even as Republican candidates learned to be circumspect in their language about social issues in particular -- no more "legitimate rape" talk -- they were developing a sense of what they could get away with while retaining the support of moderate voters.

I think that's why 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls aren't being cautious about Indiana's "religious freedom" law. They think 2014 means they can get away with this:
Key Republican presidential hopefuls are backing Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act...

"I think Governor Pence has done the right thing," Bush said [on Hugh Hewitt's radio show], according to the New York Times. "I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all...."

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination last week, said in a statement that he favors the new law....

Earlier today, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum said in a tweet he supports Pence....
Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio also backed the law during an appearance on Fox News.
This comes at the same time that Chris Christie -- widely regarded as a moderate -- has expressed support for the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion at the federal level after 20 weeks.

These guys are looking and 2014 and concluding that voters will still vote for you if you think like Todd Akin as long as you don't talk like Todd Akin -- or, perhaps, as long as you don't talk like Todd Akin in the few months leading up to a general election. They think they can be religious-right warriors now, when the only voters they have to worry about are GOP primary voters. They assume the vast majority of non-Republican voters aren't paying attention to what they're saying now or won't remember by November 2016, at which point they will have dialed down the rhetoric and spent several months saying only bland and anodyne things about social issues.

Will this work? Will they get away with it? We'll see. But they won't if we remember.

Monday, March 30, 2015


A Boston Globe opinion piece by a psychology professor named Laurence Steinberg predicts that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers will argue that he was only kinda-sorta over the adult age threshold at the time of the Boston Marathon bombings, as a way of trying to save him from the death penalty. Will this really happen? And is this an odd line of argument when our legal system treats much younger defendants as full-blown adults?
As the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, moves into its defense phase, his attorneys likely will lean heavily on the science of adolescent development to argue that their client should be spared the death penalty. Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s lead defense attorney, has already made several references about Tsarnaev’s youthfulness and susceptibility to the influence of his older brother....

Tsarnaev was 19 at the time of the bombing, an adult under every state’s criminal law. States often have departed from the presumptive age of majority, 18, in prosecuting and punishing juvenile offenders, but the departures always have been toward a younger, not older, dividing line. Arguing that a 19-year-old is still an adolescent is a step in a new direction.
I'll say. In Wisconsin last year, two twelve-year-old girls were charged with stabbing a classmate in an effort to appease an Internet-based fiction character called Slender Man; earlier this month, a judge ruled that the two girls should be tried as adults. Obviously, the defense in that case will raise the subject of the girls' age -- appropriately. But why are we even arguing that two girls of this age are pseudo-adults before the law?

The two defendants in that case are white, but it's primarily nonwhite youths who get tried as adults in America. A quick Google search finds these headlines: "Black Missouri teens increasingly tried disproportionately as adults"; "Black, Latino youths disproportionately sentenced in adult courts" (in California); "Black boys are more likely to be tried as adults in Chicago"; "Colorado minority youth disproportionately tried as adults."

In his article, Steinberg points out that the Supreme Court has embraced the notion that adolescents aren't fully capable of adult decision-making, although the Court has primarily focused on minors:
The defense team will probably point to several US Supreme Court decisions issued during the past decade, in which the Court’s majority concluded that adolescents’ immaturity rendered them less culpable than fully mature adults. Writing for the court’s majority in Roper v. Simmons, the case that abolished the juvenile death penalty, Justice Anthony Kennedy identified three features of adolescence that mitigate juveniles’ culpability: impetuous decision-making, heightened susceptibility to coercion, and an unformed personality.

In subsequent decisions that built on Roper, the court connected adolescent impulsivity to research on brain development, arguing that adolescents’ neurobiological immaturity meant that their crimes are often due to factors they can’t control. More recently, research also has identified the neural bases of adolescents’ intensified susceptibility to peer pressure and is revealing the period to be one of heightened neuroplasticity, or capacity for the brain to change.
But how often do we apply this in the cases of nonwhite youths charged with run-of-the-mill crimes? Do we say that a nineteen-year-old charged with a gang-related shooting -- or, for that matter, a nonwhite sixteen-year-old being tried as an adult -- ought to earn our empathy because his adolescent brain hasn't developed full maturity? Is that happening in our courts on a routine basis?

I think what Steinberg is talking about is scientifically valid. But I also think we need to decide who's an adult in this society and who isn't for the purposes of the law -- and we ought to try to apply a single standard. If we're going to let some lawyers argue that a nineteen-year-old bomber was a still-developing child, we shouldn't be saying that two twelve-year-old girls are adults, or that thousands of nonwhite teenage boys caught up in the criminal justice system are also adults well before their eighteenth birthdays. It makes no sense.


Marco Rubio is going to be one of the youngest candidates in the presidential race, but I see from a Wall Street Journal story that he apparently wants his campaign to be a bridge to the twentieth century:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is laying plans to announce his presidential bid in two weeks....

Mr. Rubio has made tentative arrangements to announce his White House bid on April 13 at the historic Freedom Tower in Miami, a Rubio adviser said, though aides haven’t yet made final the location and timing. The Freedom Tower is where thousands of Cuban refugees were admitted to the country during the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants.
First of all, yes, Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants, but despite his efforts at confusing the issue, his parents were not Castro-era refugees -- they came here in 1956, as The Washington Post reported four years ago:
During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.

But a review of documents -- including naturalization papers and other official records -- reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959....

Rubio’s office confirmed Thursday that his parents arrived in the United States in 1956....
The Freedom Tower wasn't used to provide servants to immigrants until after Castro took power.

Beyond that, what kind of time warp is Rubio living in if he thinks the way to win the presidency in 2016 is to run against the commies? According to a January Pew poll, 63% of Americans favor reestablishing relations with Cuba. Even among Republicans, opposition is only at 48%. (And as I've noted, in Iowa, which is an agricultural state, there's strong support for increased trade with Cuba.)

Look, I know that the GOP's voter base is very old. I know that there's been a hole in the Republican soul ever since the Berlin Wall fell -- Republicans really miss hating communism. But, guys, it's 2015. Fidel Castro is something like 137 years old. It's over. We won. Stop living in the past -- especially you, Marco, you young whippersnapper.


The Journal story also discusses the announcement plans of other presidential aspirants. Regarding Hillary Clinton, there are no surprises:
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is likely to end years of speculation about her political plans and officially jump in the race in mid-April, a person familiar with the matter said.
And as for Jeb Bush:
Less clear is the timetable for former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. His announcement could come as late as this summer.
So wait -- the entire chattering class has spent months demanding an immediate Hillary Clinton announcement, but Jeb might not make his candidacy official until months from now and that's OK? I'm just looking for a clarification on that.


Pity the poor Senate Republicans -- according to Jonathan Martin and Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times, they really, really want Loretta Lynch to be confirmed as attorney general, if only because that would lead to the resignation of Eric Holder, history's second-greatest monster (after Barack Obama) -- but they can't actually vote for Lynch because primary voters will be mean to them:
The nomination of Ms. Lynch, a seasoned United States attorney from New York, has laid bare the difficult politics confronting the new Republican majority. Lawmakers have found nothing in Ms. Lynch’s background to latch on to in opposition, and many are loath to reject the first African-American woman put forth to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But, they say, their constituents have told them that a vote for Ms. Lynch affirms Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which she has said she finds lawful.
May I just remind you that a number of these Republicans won't be up for reelection until 2018 or 2020? At which point we will almost certainly have a new attorney general -- and if it's Hillary Clinton's attorney general, that person could be the new Antichrist? And yet these senators think they'll be brought low in a Republican primary three or five years from now for a vote confirming Lynch?

What's crazy about this is that the GOP Establishment demonstrated in 2014 that it could help non-teabaggy incumbents survive a contested primary. Yes, Eric Cantor lost a House primary, but he was asleep at the switch and didn't fight back against his Tea Party opponent. And yes, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi barely survived a primary challenge. But all sorts of alleged RINOs survived -- including the likes of John Boehner and Lindsey Graham, who are frequently maligned by the purists. (Graham, by the way, plans to vote for Lynch.)

Many Republican senators think they'd be committing career suicide if they cast this one vote -- yet Graham does all sorts of things that would seem suicidal, as does Boehner. Why do they survive?

The answer is obvious: They're frequently on television denouncing President Obama and his policies as the gravest threat in the history of the Republic. That's the secret -- if you have conservatively incorrect votes on your record and you have to get through primary season, get some help from the Establishment, and cover your right flank by planting yourself in front of as many TV cameras as possible and yammering about golf and Teleprompters and "leading from behind" and Bowe Bergdahl, or, for the future, Benghazi and erased emails and Huma Abedin.

Just toss the voters large slabs of red meat. Then you can vote however the hell you want in situations like this.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Via Zandar, I see that Power Line's John Hinderaker doesn't believe that the injuries Harry Reid sustained back in January could possibly have resulted from exercise equipment:
In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.
Would it be irresponsible of Hindrocket to speculate? Apparently it would be irresponsible not to:
When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters.
Oh, but this isn't idle speculation -- Hindrocket has unimpeachable sources!
A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.
Well, that settles it then! Case closed!

No, wait -- Mr. H doesn't want to leap to conclusions:
Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.
To be sure, it was a Rube Goldberg-y sort of accident, if it happened the way Reid's spokesman said it did:
The accident occurred when an elastic exercise band broke, striking Reid in the face and causing him to fall, said spokesman Adam Jentleson. Reid struck part of the equipment as he fell, breaking multiple bones near his right eye.

As he hit the floor, he broke several ribs.
Can anything like this even happen? How many people have ever suffered serious injuries from these things?

Well, a lot, actually.

Go here if you want to read a brief article from Case Reports in Ophthalmological Medicine about a man who suffered a detached retina after his eye was hit by an elasticized exercise band. Go here if you want to read about a woman who's suing a Manhattan fitness club for $1 million because, she claims, "she suffered severe injuries, including a loss of vision in one eye, when an exercise resistance band snapped from her foot and hit her in the face."

Here's an account of a pretty terrible accident:
While attempting to measure how much force a heavy elastic exercise band produced when used for biceps curls, the band slipped loose and struck me in the right eye. The immediate pain was excruciating and lasted several minutes. After that a severe burning/itching sensation remained for hours. Vision through the eye was extremely blurred with a dark donut-shaped zone blocking one third of it.

I immediately went to my eye doctor, who sent me to a surgeon specializing in eye injuries. Upon inspection he determined that the cornea had been collapsed and the iris damaged to the point where it was bleeding into the space between the cornea and the lens....

What followed was a week of sitting upright in a chair virtually all the time in an attempt to hold the eye as still as possible. Once torn, the very delicate iris is prone to rebleeding after the initial bleeding stops. I even had to sleep sitting up. Three rebleeds occurred in spite of this and it was three weeks before the iris has healed. During this period there were days where the pain in the eye was so all-consuming that psychologically I ceased to exist other than as a vessel of the pain. Even high doses of vicodin had no effect on it.

... muscles in the upper left quarter of the iris were permanently torn. The iris can no longer contract, is frozen at 8 millimeters in diameter and off center toward the 10 o'clock quadrant. This wide open iris causes considerable glare during the day and when watching television. I have been told there is nothing that can be done to correct this condition.
You want more? There's this from a newspaper in Washington State:
One of those horror stories belongs to a Puyallup man who shared his story with me on the condition I don’t use his name. He’s hired an attorney in an effort to recoup medical expenses.

He was in a boot camp class with a bright red band fully extended with both hands over his head. When one of the handles broke, the band snapped around and hit him in the face. He broke his nose, and his eye filled with blood. A friend rushed him to the emergency room, where he underwent a barrage of expensive tests and needed stitches.

He couldn’t see with his damaged eye for several days, and his face was bruised for a month. He had to sleep sitting in a chair so the blood would drain from his eye.
And then there's this, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's SaferProducts.gov site:
I was injured by the Target Embark resistance band while exercising to a dvd. During a pull up sitting on the floor, the door opened and the ball catapulted and hit me square in the right eye. I didn't even know it happened right away - it took me a minute to register something had even occurred. It caused a broken lower eye socket, a traumatic cataract, traumatic glaucoma, corneal damage and mydriasis. I have undergone 2 surgeries, one an implant to correct the fracture, and one cataract removal and pupil cerclage. I most likely will need to have glaucoma surgery and a corneal transplant. I am functioning well and can see decent since the surgery, but my eye is plagued by constant inflammation and general achiness.... I consider myself lucky to have vision in my eye still, but I definitely won't ever be the same.
This report was accompanied by a rather unpleasant photo:

That particular exercise band was recalled. It's one of several such recalls, as you can see if you go to the site of this Dallas law firm, which actively solicits clients for resistance band injury lawsuits, as does this California law firm.

So, yeah, these things can hurt you. I'll leave you with this, which I guess could have been a lot worse:


Tim Swarens, a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, tells us that Governor Mike Pence is backtracking hastily on the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he signed on Thursday:
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week....
The negative response to this law has been impossible for Indiana to ignore. I think that's great. I think it's great that other states considering such laws will now need to think twice.

So why can't be there be similar negative groundswells in response to regressive state laws on other subjects?

Oh, yeah, right:
I spoke with Pence on the same day that ... Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle announced that his company will abandon a deal with the state and city to expand the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis because of RFRA’s passage.

Oesterle’s statement is a telling sign that the outrage over RFRA isn’t limited only to the political left. Oesterle directed Republican Mitch Daniels’ 2004 campaign for governor. And it’s a signal that the damage from the RFRA debacle could be extensive....

Pence said, for example, that he had a “cordial and productive” conversation with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who announced shortly after Pence signed the RFRA legislation on Thursday that the company will cancel all corporate-related travel to Indiana. That conversation, however, has not led to a reversal of the Salesforce decision.
Right -- this groundswell is effective because the issue matters to the business community, which has become more and more gay-friendly in recent years. Generally speaking, progressive forces alone aren't capable of bringing this kind of pressure to bear.

We're at cross purposes with the business community on economic issues, and on fighting climate change. On other issues, the business community has no dog in the hunt: fighting police brutality in non-white communities, say, or defending abortion access, or closing the gun show loophole. Businesses want to retain LGBT employees and customers, so the issue of LGBT rights is a rare area of agreement between progressives and a large segment of the business community.

Yes, progressive forces have won a few without having business on their side -- higher minimum wages here and there, the reversal of anti-union legislation in Ohio. But it's rare. We're still not very strong. We're going to be embattled until we can put a scare into conservatives without needing reinforcements.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


You've probably seen this:
Rand Paul Suggests Gay Marriage Is The Result Of A 'Moral Crisis' In America

In a video posted yesterday by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Rand Paul addressed “a group of pastors and religious leaders at a private prayer breakfast” in Washington D.C. on Thursday about the need for “revival” in America complete with “tent revivals” full of people demanding reform.

He suggested during the event that the debate about legalizing same-sex marriage is the result of a “moral crisis” in the country: “Don’t always look to Washington to solve anything. In fact, the moral crisis we have in our country, there is a role for us trying to figure out things like marriage, there’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some sort of other marriage.”

Are you surprised to learn that Rand Paul is talking like Rick Santorum rather than like a libertarian dudebro? Well, it's not as if he hasn't been dropping hints. There'll be this one in the fall:
Kentucky's junior senator is going to produce not one, but two books this year....

We already knew Paul was slated to pen Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America, due in bookstores on May 26....

And the second book? ...

Center Street's site says the senator will author Our Presidents & Their Prayers: Proclamations of Faith by America's Leaders. That book is due out on Sept. 8.

In the 144-page book, "Rand Paul reveals the practices of each President of the United States and sheds light on how religion played a part in their governing and personal lives," the publisher's description says.
We know he's been trying to court the Christian conservative vote for a while. CBN tells us that one of the pastors Paul was addressing on Thursday was David Lane of the American Renewal Project. He was the focus of a New York Times article this week titled "Evangelicals Aim to Mobilize an Army for Republicans in 2016."
... Mr. Lane is positioning himself as a field marshal. A fast-talking and born-again veteran of conservative politics with experience in Washington, Texas and California, Mr. Lane, 60, travels the country trying to persuade evangelical clergy members to become politically active.

His hope is that the politicized pastors will help mobilize congregations that have been disheartened by the repeated failure of socially conservative candidates, and by a party that has softened its opposition to same-sex marriage.
A 2013 Right Wing Watch story went into more detail:
... David Lane [is] an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Mormon, Christian-nation absolutist who has declared war, not only on secularism and separation of church and state, but also on establishment Republicans who don’t embrace his vision of an America in which the Bible serves as “the principle textbook” for public education and a “Christian culture” has been “re-established.” He decries Supreme Court rulings on prayer and Bible reading in public schools, and says, “It’s easily defended that America was founded by Christians, as a Christian nation.”

... [A] David Lane-organized pastors briefing is credited with Mike Huckabee’s win in the 2008 Iowa caucus. Evangelical political strategist Doug Wead has described Lane as “the mysterious, behind the scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee” ...
As the Times story notes, Paul has tried very hard to court Lane -- and now has a member of the Lane family on his payroll:
[In 2012,] Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky attended [a Lane] event in South Carolina.

“They say you’re anti-Israel,” Mr. Lane said he told Mr. Paul when they met, and asked if he had ever been to Israel. When Mr. Paul said he had not, Mr. Lane, whose daughter now works for Mr. Paul, asked if the senator would be interested in going on a tour with evangelical leaders from Iowa and South Carolina.

Two years ago, Mr. Paul, his wife, Kelley, and their sons joined about 50 pastors and evangelical leaders on the trip. Afterward, Mr. Lane said, he received a note from Mr. Paul in which he wrote that he had awaked from a dream singing “How Great Thou Art” and that two of his sons had committed their lives to Christ.
Expect more of this from Rand Paul. He is not running as a hipster libertarian.


Jeb Bush would seem to be the near-ideal presidential candidate for the billionaires who own American democracy -- he wants what they want and believes what they believe. But now they're making it clear that he's not sufficiently deferential on one particular issue:
The warnings trickled in soon after an announcement began circulating last month that James A. Baker III, the former diplomat who is now a foreign policy adviser to Jeb Bush, would be a featured speaker at a conference hosted by J Street, the liberal pro-Israel advocacy organization.

It could be problematic, conservative donors and Israel hawks told Mr. Bush’s team, if Mr. Baker spoke at the event, according to three people briefed on the discussions....

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and a powerful donor to Republican “super PACs,” is among those who have expressed concerns to Mr. Bush’s friends and allies, several of them said. Mr. Adelson is said to be incensed over Mr. Baker’s comments and the lack of pressure put on him by the Bush team before his address -- a significant concern, given that Mr. Adelson has the resources to pour tens of millions of dollars into the Republican presidential primary....

“A few months ago, people I speak to thought Jeb Bush was the guy. That’s changed,” said Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, a conservative pro-Israel organization....
Jeb doesn't feel he can rein Baker in, so he's tried to appease the money gods in other ways:
Mr. Bush has responded to the criticism carefully. His spokesman issued statements criticizing J Street ahead of the speech. On Wednesday, after the speech, Mr. Bush wrote an opinion article for the National Review criticizing President Obama’s handling of nuclear talks with Iran.
It's not going to be enough, as Matt Lewis notes at the Daily Beast:
“Whether Jeb disavows James Baker, & how quickly & strongly, could be an oddly important early moment in GOP race,” Bill Kristol tweeted....
Jeb can win the nomination, I suppose, even while alienating the majority of GOP primary voters on issues like immigration and Common Core, as long as fat-cat money enables him to barely finish first in enough states in a crowded field. But it's unlikely that he can win the nomination if he alienates these fat cats.


Meanwhile, in Ohio, Governor John Kasich would seem to be just what the oligarchs want, a guy who's tried to bust unions in his state and who launched a crusade for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution -- but, as Joan Walsh notes, he's not purist enough for the oligarchs:
[National Review's Eliana] Johnson does note that Kasich is “the governor of a swing state with a strong record of achievement who has been a part of the Republican sweep of the Midwest” who also “eliminated an $8 billion deficit without raising taxes.” But none of that seemed to matter to these “pro-growth” conservatives.
And why is that?
There’s an important glimpse of an answer in this dispatch from a Kasich meeting with big New York donors. This is the group, by the way, that hosted [Scott] Walker in February, though the gathering was hijacked by Rudy Giuliani insisting President Obama doesn’t love America....

Apparently Kasich turned them off with his “prickly” answer to a question from conservative intellectual powerhouse Avik Roy, about whether he wants to repeal Obamacare yet maintain its expansion of Medicaid. When pushed, Kasich defended Medicaid recipients: “Maybe you think we should put them in prison. I don’t. I don’t think that’s a conservative position. Because the reality is, if you don’t treat the drug addicted and the mentally ill and the working poor, you’re gonna have them and they’re gonna be a big cost to society.”

Another turn-off for the big New York money guys? “He also talked about the need for a renewed bipartisan spirit on both sides of the aisle, citing Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, and Jack Kemp and Charlie Rangel, as models for contemporary lawmakers to emulate,” Johnson reports. She concludes: “At the dinner’s close, there was little appetite for a Kasich presidency among those who’d assembled to hear him.”
Sorry -- the muckamucks don't want to hear about compromise, even from a very, very conservative governor. They don't want part of what they want. They want it all.


And they've sent a simillar message to Democrats with this warning shot:
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said....

The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material

Moreover, banks' hostility toward Warren, who is not a presidential candidate, will not have a direct impact on the presumed Democratic front runner in the White House race, Hillary Clinton. That's because their fund-raising groups focus on congressional races rather than the presidential election

Still, political strategists say Clinton could struggle to raise money among Wall Street financiers who worry that Democrats are becoming less business friendly....
Right -- and this is true even though the bank-friendly Hillary Clinton is the all-but-inevitable Deocratic presidential nominee and the bank-friendly Chuck Schumer is the all-but-inevitable next leader of Democrats in the Senate.

Oligarchs have near-total control over American politics, yet they're still not satisfied because it's near-total control. Every so often, someone refuses to obey them on one or two issue. That can't be allowed!

I don't expect this to change in my lifetime.

Friday, March 27, 2015


No reputable media outlet has reported on any possible motivation for the downing of Germanwings Flight 9525 apart from the claim that copilot Andreas Lubitz was suffering from a significant level of depression -- so elements of the Islam-hating right are now just turning him into a Islamist terrorist, based on evidence that appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking on their part.

Here's Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:
GERMAN NEWS REPORT: Co-Pilot of Germanwings Airbus Was MUSLIM CONVERT ...’Hero of Islamic State’?

... A German news website claims Andreas Lubitz was a Muslim convert.

Speisa.com reported:

According to Michael Mannheimer, a writer for German PI-News, Germany now has its own 9/11, thanks to the convert to Islam, Andreas Lubitz.

Translation from German:
All evidence indicates that the copilot of Airbus machine in his six-months break during his training as a pilot in Germanwings, converted to Islam and subsequently either by the order of “radical”, ie. devout Muslims , or received the order from the book of terror, the Quran, on his own accord decided to carry out this mass murder. As a radical mosque in Bremen is in the center of the investigation, in which the convert was staying often, it can be assumed that he -- as Mohammed Atta, in the attack against New York -- received his instructions directly from the immediate vicinity of the mosque.

Converts are the most important weapon of Islam....
This is signed,
Michael Mannheimer, 26.3.2015
Michael Mannheimer is described as "a writer for German PI-News," but PI-News, a Muslim-bashing German site where many of Mannheimer's essays can be found (check the "Downloads" box in the right column on PI's English-language page), denies any responsibility for this report:

("CTs," I assume, are conspiracy theories.)

It's not unreasonable to imagine that Mannheimer would love to see the rap pinned on Muslims, regardless of the facts. Titles of his essays include "Eurabia: The Planned Islamization of Europe" and "Islam as Victor of Western Value Relativism." On his Facebook page, there's this, in Google's translation:

There are more essays at the Islamophobe blog Gates of Vienna. Here's one called "Islamization: The Thousand-Year Crime Against Germany and the Peoples of Europe." Here's another, about the Anders Breivik massacre, titled "Why No Guilt Attaches to Islam Critics for the Massacre in Oslo."

And as Gawker's Jay Hathaway notes, the evidence for Mannheimer's claim is virtually nonexistent:
[The] story came from PI-News blogger Michael Mannheimer's personal website, where he put together the following information:
* Lubitz trained as a pilot in Bremen, which is also the home of a mosque that was investigated in December for alleged supporting the Islamic State. (This is true, according to Der Spiegel.)
* Lubitz took a few months off at one point before returning to work and getting recertified to fly. (This is also true: Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr confirmed that Lubitz "took a break in his training six years ago. Then he did the tests again. And he was deemed fit to fly.")
From these two data points -- a mosque recently under investigation and a break Lubitz took six years ago -- Mannheimer concluded (and this is roughly translated from the German by Google): "Probably Lubitz converted to Islam during this interruption."
Yeah, that's a bit of a leap.

We're also supposed to believe this was a jihadist attack because a couple of pro-jihad Facebook pages have appeared honoring Lubitz. You can see screenshots of a French one at the Gawker link; Pam Geller posted a screengrab of another one, which looks decidedly sketchy, and, for all I know, was posted by Islam-haters to discredit Muslims:

But now it's too late. Like 9/11 truthers or Newtown truthers, Islamophobes will never, ever believe that Lubitz wasn't a jihadist killer. Some will just float idle speculation "responsibly":

Others will turn the story into rage-porn for themselves, like Debbie Schlussel:
We don’t know what Lubitz’s religion was at the time he crashed the plane, but why else would he lock the pilot out of the cockpit after he went to the bathroom, and deliberately murder Westerners? I’m sure we’ll now be told the usual crap: he was mentally disturbed, it had nothing to do with Islam, he had financial troubles or was angry that he still lived with his parents (in this case, he did) and didn’t have a girlfriend. Or one of the other lines we’re typically fed....

We don’t know a lot about this guy. But I wouldn’t be surprised if ultimately it comes out that the guy had a prayer mat at his family home, or if he secretly was known as “Abdullah” or “Mahmoud” or “Al-Tayar” (Arabic for “the pilot”). I also wouldn’t be surprised if we are actually never told about Lubitz’s true intentions and behavior. Authorities want us to like Islam and be “tolerant” of this “peaceful” religion of death and destruction, and they try to sugarcoat and whitewash it at every turn.
Could this be true? It's possible. Anything's possible. But these people know nothing. Yet now, in their world, this is all but established fact.


Harry Reid says he won't run for reelection in 2016 -- but hey, Reid had a tough reelection fight in 2010, so maybe that will actually make it easier for Democrats to defend the seat! That's what Dave Weigel is thinking:
Reid's decision, like the 2010 retirement of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, may create one of the rare cases in which an open seat is easier for a party to defend than the incumbent. Nevada has been swinging strongly Democratic in presidential years, as the party's machinery turns out Hispanic votes and wins by landslide margins in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Barack Obama won the state twice; even John Kerry had strongly competed for it, losing by only 2.6 percentage points....
Sounds good, I guess. So who's the bright light in the party who'll take the torch from Reid?
Reid's preferred successor is rumored to be Catherine Cortez Masto, the attorney general who'd been term-limited out of office in 2014. It's exceedingly unlikely that Reid, who never lost his grip on his political operation, would have made this announcement without some assurance that Masto or another strong Democrat would run to replace him.
Strong Democrat? Really? Um, nobody's polled Cortez Masto since 2012, but the last time someone did (Public Policy Polling), the numbers weren't great:
Q5 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Catherine Cortez Masto?
Favorable........................................................ 24%
Unfavorable .................................................... 22%
Not sure .......................................................... 53%

* * * *

Q7 If the candidates for Governor in 2014 were Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who would you vote for?
Brian Sandoval ............................................... 51%
Catherine Cortez-Masto.................................. 33%
Not sure .......................................................... 16%
That's the rising star who's going to hold the seat for the Democrats? Oh, terrific.

By the way, that 57% "Not sure" number came after Cortez Masto had been office for five and a half years. (By the time of the election, she'll have been out of office for nearly two years.)

Maybe I'm misreading the situation from my vantage point at the opposite end of the country, but here's my usual lament: Why don't Democrats have any stars? What's their problem?


Salon's Joan Walsh thinks the interview Scott Walker gave to Hugh Hewitt Wednesday was a "debacle," particularly because of this:
Walker: I remember the movie in the 80s, Trading Places...

Hewitt: Right.

Walker: ...you know, with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, it’s like Iran and Israel are trading places in the sequel. In the eyes of this president, our ally is supposed to be Israel. Our adversary has been historically Iran. And yet this administration completely does it the other way around. We need to call radical Islamic terrorism for what it is, and a commander-in-chief who’s willing to act.
Walsh adds:
No word on which nation is Aykroyd and which is Murphy; hoping other reporters will follow up. (If Walker finds that metaphor doesn’t work, he can play around with “Freaky Friday.”)
But is it really a gaffe to oversimplify complex problems? Several times over the years I've quoted some of Saint Ronald Reagan's pop-culture references, such as this one from 1985:
And the way I see it, if our current tax structure were a TV show, it would either be "Foul-ups, Bleeps, and Blunders," or "Gimme a Break." If it were a record album, it would be "Gimme Shelter." If it were a movie, it would be "Revenge of the Nerds" or maybe "Take the Money and Run." And if the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, ever wants a theme song, maybe they'll get Sting to do, "Every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you."
Reagan may have refrained from talking about geopolitics in terms of movie titles and song lyrics, but he still liked to oversimplify. Recall what he said in September 1984 after a suicide car bomber blew up the U.S. embassy in Aukar, Lebanon, and it was revealed that planned security improvements hadn't been put into place:
Mr. Reagan, referring yesterday to the incomplete security measures, said, "Anyone that's ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would."
Five weeks after saying that, Reagan won reelection in a 49-state landslide.

And don't forget that the man who would undoubtedly clear the Republican primary field if he were eligible for the U.S. presidency -- Benjamin Netanyahu -- put out a campaign ad this year that featured Chuck Norris talking about foreign policy:
"I have done three movies in Israel, Delta Force being my favorite," Norris says in the spot, "and I formed many friendships while there. You have an incredible country and we want to keep it that way. That's why it's so important to keep a leader who has the courage and vision to stand up against the evil forces that are threatening not only Israel, but the United States. So, I ask you to vote for Prime Minister Netanyahu on election day. Thank you for listening to me."
And while we're on the subject of Netanyahu and the acceptability of oversimplification, let's not forget the visual aid at Bibi's 2012 UN speech:

So, yeah, if you want to appeal to heartland righties, keep it simple, stupid.


Walker has been criticized for saying he'd be ready to fight ISIS because he took on unions in Wisconsin. I see from Walsh's piece that Hewitt didn't consider that a gaffe:
“I was on Meet the Press that day,” [Hewitt] bragged, “and I said that was not a gaffe....”
I agree. I think Jim Henley makes a lot of excellent points:
Walker isn’t so much flailing about to distract from his foreign-policy inexperience as staying on-message. Walker’s whole claim to fame, his appeal to both the party’s money-boys and its mass base, is his successful war on Wisconsin’s public-employee unions.... By claiming that standing up to Wisconsin’s state employees showed that he could stand up to foreign terrorists, what Walker was really doing was seizing any opportunity whatsoever to remind primary voters, activists and donors, “I have public-employee-union scalps.” ...

This is standard, contemporary, political dreariness in messaging. “How’s the weather back home, Senator?” “Sunny, which at least gives people a little relief from the way my opponent’s tax policy is driving the economy to ruin.”
And Henley's absolutely right about how, to conservatives, all enemies more or less run together:
A farrago like “Kenyan Muslim socialism” exists at all because, in the right-wing mind, progressive activists, Latino immigrants, government bureaucrats, feminists, queers, community organizers, civil rights campaigners, unfriendly governments and foreign terrorists all belong to a category of “Anti-American” anathemas. These most fanatical believe the anodyne center-left Barack Obama wants to promulgate Sharia law and cram homosexuality and matriarchy down America’s throat: at the same time. Scott Walker may or may not believe, in his heart of hearts, that public-employee union members are “as bad as” the adherents of ISIS, but plenty of people do, as any new-site comment section or Reddit subforum will indicate. All these groups want to “destroy America.” The rest is details.

A bigger group probably agrees that, sure, likening ISIS and unionized state workers is an exaggeration. But it’s not like they’re offended on behalf of the state workers. Walker’s comparison doesn’t stir them to empathetic outrage on behalf of their fellow citizens. While these conservatives don’t think public workers are terrorists, they also don’t have any fellow-feeling for them. They have, instead, antipathy. So eff those guys anyway.
See also this extremely popular item, which you'll find on many, many vehicles in America, and which also brings geopolitics down to the level of the everyday:

If you've bought one of those, you're not going to get upset when Scott Walker reduces foreign policy to pop.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Shortly after we learned that the co-pilot of a Germanwings aircraft that crashed in the Alps deliberately sought to down the plane, we began getting more information about that co-pilot: he was Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old who'd suffered from mood disorders and -- contrary to speculation from Pat Robertson and the right blogosphere -- apparently wasn't a Muslim, much less a jihadist:
A mother of a schoolmate told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he had told her daughter he had taken a break from his pilot training because he was suffering from depression.

"Apparently he had a burnout, he was in depression," the woman, whom the paper did not name.

She said her daughter had seen him again just before Christmas and that he had appeared normal. She added he was a "lovely boy". "He had a good family background," she told the paper.

Carsten Spohr, CEO of Germanwings parent company, said in a press conference today that Lubitz "took a break in his training six years ago. Then he did the tests (technical and psychological) again. And he was deemed 100 percent fit to fly."

"I am not able to state the reasons why he took the break for several months."

... Lubitz was identified as a German citizen and [prosecutor Brice] Robin said he was not known to terrorism links or extremist links, but the prosecutor said he was expecting more information from the German authorities. Mr Robin added his religion was "unknown".
So how will American right-wingers deal with the fact that they can't blame this on Islam?

I think they'll just blame it something else. I can see a few possibilities:

* Eurosocialism. One commenter at Fox Nation is already making that the scapegoat:

Every right-thinking True Conservative will tell you that the European welfare state is toxic to the human soul and must lead inevitably to the end of civilization as we know it, because, heck, if the American social safety net is indistinguishable from full-blown communism, then the European version is even more Stalinesque, amirite?

* Socialized medicine. It looks as if Lubitz actually took time to try to cope with his depression, and it's quite possible that he got treatment for it (although treatment is sometimes not effective). Nevertheless, expect right-wingers to assume that a massive bureaucratic delay prevented Lubitz from getting help, whether or not that's the case (and whether or not he might have faced worse delays here in America, and might have found treatment inaccessible or unaffordable in what the right considers the pre-Obamacare Golden Age).

* The decline of religion in Europe. The prosecutor says Lubitz's religious affiliation is "unknown." He may not have been a believer, or he might have been a believer but not a churchgoer. In America, lack of belief is considered bizarre and unnatural; in Europe, it's perfectly normal. Expect religious rightists to blame what Lubitz did on Euro-godlessness (either his or the society's) -- because, obviously, without a God there's simply no reason not to kill everybody you can possibly kill, just as, in Phil Robertson's worldview, there's no reason not to tie up a man and then rape and murder his wife and daughters before his eyes if you don't believe in God. (Penn Jillette has the best response to that, by the way.)

So don't worry. American right-wingers will be just fine. They have plenty of scapegoats to choose from.


UPDATE: We Hunted the Mammoth informs us that right-wing blogger and "men's rights" activist Vox Day thinks this crash could have been prevented if women had been more willing to have sex with the co-pilot:
... reactionary fantasy writer Vox Day -- real name, Theodore Beale -- is literally suggesting that it could have been prevented “if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of blowjobs.”

Here’s his, er, argument, from a post on his Alpha Game blog today....
Why he did it, no one knows yet, but it won’t surprise me to learn that Lubritch [sic] was a deeply angry and embittered Omega male....

Now, obviously no one else was responsible for Lubritch’s actions if it indeed was Omega rage at work. He alone bears the blame. But it is somewhat haunting to think about how many lives might be saved each year if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of blowjobs.
So he alone deserves the blame -- but somehow his actions are also the fault of unfair blowjob distribution by the “sluts of the world?”
As a 28 year-old airline pilot, Lubritch would likely have been married in a more traditionally structured society. It’s not impossible that the Germanwings deaths represent more of the indirect costs of feminism.
I can't. I just can't.

(Hat tip: nancydrewed.)


Former Afghanistan captive Bowe Bergdahl has now been charged with desertion, which means the right is once denouncing the administration for getting him freed and saying positive things about him. So I'll just offer a few links to posts I wrote about this last summer:

* Funny, Jake Tapper Used to Want Berghdahl Freed

* In 2011, Ollie North Wanted Us All to Wear Bowe Bergdahl POW Bracelets

* Imagine My Surprise: Allen West Is a Bowe Bergdahl Hypocrite

* A Few More Nominees for the Bergdahl Hypocrite Hall of Fame

And, from Gawker:

* Angry Conservatives Forgot Their Old Angry Tweets Supporting P.O.W.

When the failure to free Bergdahl was a useful stick to beat Obama with, Bergdahl was a right-wing hero, cruelly neglected by an evil president who hates America and the military. The minute Bergdahl was freed, word went out on the right: "Everyone skate counterclockwise now." Bergdahl was now a traitor. Obama's hatred of America was the reason Bergdahl was freed.

But I'm stating the obvious, right?


Everyone knows that President Obama's criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu was the result of his raging anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel -- right-wingers all tell us this, so surely it must be true. Netanyahu deserves nothing but praise for his words and deeds! It's hateful to criticize the way he conducted himself during his electoral ampaign!

Oh, wait:
Netanyahu Told to Mend Ties With Washington

Israel’s president on Wednesday officially handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the task of forming a new government, saying its first priority was to repair relations with the United States and indirectly chiding Mr. Netanyahu for his Election Day warning that Arab citizens were flocking to polling places in “droves.”

“One who is afraid of votes in a ballot box will eventually see stones thrown in the streets,” the president, Reuven Rivlin, said as he ceremonially received the certified results of last week’s election. Later, standing next to Mr. Netanyahu, he described “a difficult election period” in which “things were said which ought not to be said -- not in a Jewish state and not in a democratic state.”
What?! It's Netanyahu's job to mend ties with the U.S., and not the other way around? Netanyahu said things "which ought not to be said ... in a Jewish state"?

Why does Reuven Rivlin hate Israel? Why does he hate Jews?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


In a post intended to rebut Ted Cruz skeptics, National Review's Kevin Williamson writes:
Is Ted Cruz “too extreme”? Longtime Cruz-watchers note that he starts his stump speech with reference to the moral philosopher John Rawls (free advice for Team Cruz: that did not go down well at Hillsdale!) a favorite of progressives and chief antagonist to Robert Nozick, a favorite among libertarian-ish types. That citation is too high-minded to be pandering, and it is too Harvardian to be intended to stir up primary voters of the sort who are always going on contemptuously about “the elites” as they rah-rah for the gentleman from Texas ... and Princeton, and Cambridge, Mass.
Nonsense. Of course it's "intended to stir up primary voters of the sort who are always going on contemptuously about 'the elites.'" The Republican base loves to denounce "elitist" liberals and Democrats, but, for some on the right, that contempt derives from a barely concealed envy. Right-wingers may praise the common people, but what many of them really want is for one of their own to give us stuck-up lefty eggheads a taste of what they regard as our own medicine. The ones who love Cruz think it's wonderful that he has Harvard and Princeton degrees, and love the fact that he tosses out allusions to philosophers they've never heard of, because they think he might be the one to deal out that sort of payback. (Then there are conservatives who've actually heard of Rawls. They think Cruz is taking a stick out of liberals' hands and beating us with it.)

Right-wing brainiac envy was a major reason for the burst of Gingrichmania in the 2012 primary season, as Dave Weigel noted:
When he talks to Republicans, especially to Republican voters who may not be inclined to back him, Newt Gingrich wins them over with a promise. He will outsmart Barack Obama. He will challenge him to "seven Lincoln-Douglas-style debates," as he said last week at the Republican Jewish Coalition's confab. The president can even "use a teleprompter," jokes Gingrich. It's one of the tightest punchlines in conservative politics.

... [Republicans have] started to imagine him facing off against Barack Obama, the president they consider a pure media creation who can't put two words together unless they're in blue type on a screen in front of him....
Brainiac envy helps explain why right-wingers made a hero of William F. Buckley, who never used a common expression when a showoffy ten-dollar word would do. It's why they boast about the sheepskins of Dr. Charles Krauthammer and Dr. Thomas Sowell. It's why they all pretend they've read Hayek for pleasure. It's why Williamson himself tosses in those unexplained allusions to Hillsdale College and Rovert Nozick in the passage above -- See? We're intellectuals too, you liberal snob.

The right alternates between egghead envy and embrace of the Noble Primitive -- Sarah Palin, Phil Robertson, George W. Bush right after 9/11, and Saint Reagan, of course. It may be that the latter is more in fashion for 2016, which mean the voters will embrace the gee-whizzy college dropout Scott Walker rather than Cruz. But some will always want to believe that conservative Doctors of Thinkology will trump those on the evil left. And they'll be in Cruz's corner.


The New York Post gives us James O'Keefe's latest gotcha:
Cornell dean says ISIS welcome on campus in undercover video
... Well, okay, he's an assistant dean. And not an assistant dean whose focus is academics or ideas:
... A video sting operation shows Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, agreeing to everything suggested by an undercover muckraker posing as a Moroccan student.

Scaffido casually endorses inviting an ISIS “freedom fighter" to conduct a “training camp” for students at the upstate Ithaca campus -- bizarrely likening the activity to a sports camp.

Is it OK to bring a humanitarian pro-“Islamic State Iraq and Syria” group on campus, the undercover for conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas asks.

Sure, Scaffido says in the recorded March 16 meeting....
First of all, here's how Scaffido is described by Cornell:
Advisor to the Cornell Concert Commission (CCC), Cornell University Program Board (CUPB), and Slope Day Programming Board; maintains the Registered Student Organizations (RSO) web server; is a member of the Events-Management Planning Team (EMPT); is available for event planning consultation.
(Slope Day is a century-old Cornell traditional celebration that's evolved into something like an outdoor music festival with additional fun and games; recent headliners have included Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Gym Class Heroes.)

Here's Scaffido's bio from the website of the State Theater of Ithaca, where he's a board member:
Mr. Scaffido is an Assistant Dean of Students for Student Activities at Cornell University. Having served in the field of higher education for over 20 years, Mr. Scaffido specializes in large-scale event planning/production, and advising student organizations. At Cornell, he oversees the promotion and production of major events, including concerts, lectures, comedians, and Slope Day. He has also assisted with major community events, including working on visits by the Dalai Lama and Wynton Marsalis.
So this isn't the guy you turn to for deep thoughts on geopolitics at Cornell. This is the guy you turn to when the Dalai Lama books three events in Ithaca:
People from beyond Central New York purchased tickets.

“I think it's a good range,” said Joe Scaffido, assistant dean of students for student activities. “We noticed a lot of people with shipping addresses outside Central New York and we understand that a lot of hotels are already booking up, so we know people have purchased tickets to all three events. So we're anticipating a lot of out of towners, which I think is great for our community.”

Scaffido said the Dalai Lama's visit will be good for the surrounding community, too.
Beyond that, when "Ali," O'Keefe's pseudonymous ambush questioner, describes what he wants from Scaffido, it's really unclear whether he's talking about Islamic State supporters or "freedom fighters" resisting the Islamic State:

"ALI": I think maybe, be nice to start a humanitarian group that supports, you know, the distressed communities, a humanitarian group in the Middle East, northern Iraq, and Syria. And I think it would be important for especially these people in the, you know, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the families and the freedom fighters in particular and their families, I think it would important to, maybe, just probably educate, but to maybe send them care packages, whether it be food, water, electronics.
From this description, could you tell which side the people in "the distressed communities" are on? Yes, in Scaffido's position I might have asked for some clarification -- but as I keep telling you, he's not a department head, but rather the guy Kevin Smith turns to for "crew assistance" when he's making an appearance at Cornell and wants footage for a straight-to-video documentary.

Scaffido does drop the ball when asked about Hamas:
"ALI": If you did, like, supported, like, Hamas or something like that, is that a problem or-- ?

SCAFFIDO: The university is not going to look at different groups and say, "You’re not allowed to support that group because we don’t believe them" or something like that. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the university wants the entire community to understand what’s going on in all parts of the world.
But I don't this guy has more than the vaguest idea what Hamas is.

And regarding ISIS, it's never clear whether "Ali" is talking about supporters or opponents. As Mediaite's Tina Nguyen writes:
... it’s possible that Scaffido thought that the guy referred to anti-ISIS forces when he kept talking about “freedom fighters”.... Another, barely charitable opinion: Scaffido doesn’t know what the term “ISIS” stands for, and the volunteer took advantage of it by continually referring to the group as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Right -- and because "Ali" does both, that's double the bamboozlement for a guy whose job description does not include keeping up on current events.

Why does this guy get to represent the ideology of America academia anyway? O'Keefe doesn't care, nor do the Murdochites and others who keep retransmitting O'Keefe's nonsense. They've embarrassed someone they can describe as an ideological enemy. That's all that matters.


Lindsey Graham gave a speech Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Talking Points Memo notes that in the subsequent Q&A session Graham blamed Al Gore for Republican intransigence on climate change:
"You know, when it comes to climate change being real, people of my party are all over the board," Graham said after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations while responding to a question about whether Republicans could work with Democrats to address climate change.

"I said that it's real, that man has contributed to it in a substantial way," Graham continued. "But the problem is Al Gore's turned this thing into religion. You know, climate change is not a religious problem for me, it's an economic, it is an environmental problem."
Where have I heard this before? Where have I heard that Republicans have no responsibility for their own words and deeds on this issue because Al Gore has held a gun to their heads and forced them to spout climate disinformation while throwing snowballs on the Senate floor in order to "prove" that warming can't possibly be happening?

Oh, right -- it was from David Brooks in 2012. He also said Republians can't help acting out this way because Al Gore keeps brutally abusing them with vicious facts:
The period around 2003 was the golden spring of green technology. John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bipartisan bill to curb global warming. I got my first ride in a Prius from a conservative foreign policy hawk who said that these new technologies were going to help us end our dependence on Middle Eastern despots. You’d go to Silicon Valley and all the venture capitalists, it seemed, were rushing into clean tech.

From that date on the story begins to get a little sadder.

Al Gore released his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. The global warming issue became associated with the highly partisan former vice president. Gore mobilized liberals, but, once he became the global warming spokesman, no Republican could stand shoulder to shoulder with him and survive. Any slim chance of building a bipartisan national consensus was gone.
As I wrote at the time:
Why? Why couldn't Republicans continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Democrats on environmentalism? If the shoe were on the other foot -- if Democrats were the ones rejecting a sensible policy because they didn't want to be associated with an unpalatable partisan on the other side, Brooks the Moralist would wag his finger at their destructive partisanship and wonder why they couldn't place party over country and do the right thing -- to use a favorite Brooks word, the moral thing.
So Brooks and Graham think alike on this -- and I wonder why that is. Could the "conservative foreign policy hawk" who gave Brooks his first ride in a Prius possibly have been the senator from South Carolina, a state with a thriving auto industry? I think it just might have been Graham -- about whom Brooks said this in 2010, in a conversation with Gail Collins that specifically referenced climate change :
As far as I’m concerned Graham is the bravest politician in the country, bar none. When I get depressed about the nature of politics these days and am looking at the bottom of my nightly bottle of tequila (O.K., I’m exaggerating), I lift a glass to the voters of South Carolina and thank them for sending this guy to Washington. If every senator were like Graham, this country would be in excellent shape.
Yes, I think Brooks and Graham have discussed this idea and agreed to let themselves off the hook for their failure to persuade more of their fellow Republicans to moderate their climate views: It's not your fault, Lindsey! It's the fault of that disgusting Gore fellow! Oh, you're so, right, David! It's not your fault either! It's all Fat Boy's fault!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


It's being reported that Ted Cruz and his family will sign up for Obamacare, despite the fact that he hates it with the fury of a thousand suns. It's also being reported that he has no choice:
"We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care, and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that," Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

Cruz's wife, Heidi, is going on an unpaid leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs to join Cruz full time on the campaign trail, Cruz told the Register.

Bloomberg was first to report that Heidi Cruz has taken the leave. CNN noted that Cruz, who has boasted about not needing to receive government health care benefits, would no longer be covered under his wife's health insurance plan.
But wait -- not so fast. The Washington Post follows up:
That may sound like a done deal, but his campaign stressed Tuesday evening that Cruz is still weighing his options. "Senator Cruz said he would ‘presumably’ use his employer health insurance, for which the only option is Obamacare," campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said in an email. "But there are other options that the senator is considering before making a final decision about how to make sure his family is insured."

It seems worth noting here that Cruz doesn't have to sign up through an Obamacare exchange. He could opt to purchase a private family plan off the exchange. Some of his Republican colleagues, also opposed to the health-care law, had previously told CNN they would do just that.
But why do this? Cruz had a pretty swell health insurance deal:
His detractors noted that Mr. Cruz enjoyed the benefits of his wife’s health plan as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, which the firm said was worth at least $20,000 a year.
That's a Cadillac plan -- and Heidi Cruz is entitled to continue it for her family for 18 months under the federal COBRA law. Yes, that would be expensive for the Cruzes, undoubtedly more so than an Obamacare plan. But if Ted Cruz thinks Obamacare is worse than Stalin and Hitler combined, then you'd think he and his family would do anything to avoid it.

(Besides, the Cruzes can afford an alternative -- at Goldman, Heidi was a managing director, which is a step up from vice president; VP was her title for seven years. The Cruzes had a reported net worth of more than $3 million in 2012 and 2013, and they were able to lend $1.2 million to Ted's 2012 Senate campaign.)

So, as Dave Weigel argues, Cruz is doing this just so he can gripe about how horrible Obamacare is and how much better a person he is than the evil Obama -- this despite the fact that he has other options if he hates the health care law that much:
Now, Cruz is finding a political advantage in his unhappy journey into Obamacare. In an interview with CNN, Cruz contrasted his sacrifice with the law-dodging ruthlessness of the Obama administration. "I believe we should follow the text of every law, even law I disagree with," Cruz told CNN's Dana Bash. "If you look at President Obama and the lawlessness, if he disagrees with a law he simply refuses to follow it or claims the authority to unilaterally change."

Cruz is deftly using the oddly-enough angle of this news -- Obamacare-hating senator forced into Obamacare -- for a populist cause. He's not the first Republican to do so. In his successful 2014 campaign for Senate, Colorado Representative Cory Gardner repeatedly talked about the family plan he'd held onto until it was scrapped for not meeting the ACA's standards....

Why was Gardner on the endangered plan? Because he declined the coverage available to him as a member of Congress. At personal cost, he took a decision that made him more relatable and vulnerable to the insurance market. And now Cruz has done the same.
But that was an off-year Senate election. This is a presidential election. Surely, once Cruz starts whining about how horrible it is to be on Obamacare, somebody in the press is going to point out that Cruz had other options (unlike the less wealthy, less connected people for whom the law was intended). Right? Right?

And yes, I know -- 18 months of COBRA benefits won't get the Cruzes all the way to January 2017, when Ted hopes to be taking the presidential oath of office. But o ou really think he'll still be in the race 18 months from now. And if he thinks he will be, why not take the COBRA option for as long as possible? Answer: It's all for effect.