Thursday, April 30, 2015


So the crazies are being crazy again:
... This week, members of the conservative fringe [have] apparently become convinced that the army is holding a large training exercise in the American southwest in order to prepare the ground for a federal government takeover of Texas....
Yes, they really believe the U.S. military would seize control of the Lone Star State -- and the governor of Texas is effectively telling them that their fears are legitimate:
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military exercises in the state, responding to citizen fears, stoked by online conspiracy theories, that the maneuvers are a ruse to impose martial law.

Operation Jade Helm 15 is a large-scale training operation scheduled for elite military forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Green Berets. The operation will involve about 1,200 personnel operating in Southwestern states including Texas from July 15 to Sept. 15.

Fears about the exercise have roiled for weeks online. Several websites, videos and Twitter users have argued that it is really a federal takeover of hostile states, including the confiscation of guns.

To address those concerns, Abbott instructed Maj. Gen. Gerald “Jake” Betty, commander of the Texas State Guard, to keep a watch over the exercises and help keep local law enforcement agencies and their citizens informed....
What exactly do these folks fear? Salon quotes the site of a radio host named Dave Hodges, where it's predicted that there'll be targeted assassinations of True Patriots, after the population has been trapped and subdued:
In recent days, I have learned that the reason that we are seeing Jade Helm activity in so many areas and we are also witnessing the prepositioning of massive military equipment, is because Jade Helm forces will isolate certain geographic areas, thus trapping a segment of the population and keep them from fleeing to other areas. The second part of Phase III of the Jade Helm operation will be the insertion of Special Forces death squads among the civilian population which will target key dissident leaders.
Oh, but it gets worse. Elsewhere at the Hodges site, we're told that Jade Helm is the U.S. government's plan to let jihadists into America, as part of the Obama administration's War on Christianity:

... Obama Is Playing for the Other Side

The lack of inaction against ISIS parallels his excessively weak nuclear treaty with Iran which will ultimately allow the Iranians to gain the ability to launch nuclear weapons against Israel. Obama is allowing Iran to send weapons to Yemen....

Americans Should Fear Obama

... As I have reported in the past, the President’s half brother, Malik Obama, is involved and is a leader in the distribution of arms both in Gaza and in Central America. Malik Obama is in charge of weapons procurement and finances for the Muslim Brotherhood. President Obama has never disavowed his half brother’s actions.

In fact, Obama has been fermenting a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the White House....

Jade Helm In the Hands of Obama Is a Christian Genocide In the Making

Jade Helm is about dissident extractions. We have seen here, that the Obama administration considers Christians to be domestic terrorists. The Jade Helm infiltration techniques, planned to be implemented and spoken of by Jade Helm authorities, speak to the existence of death squads and the intention to use them. Jade Helm is about martial law and mass relocation. Given Obama’s past behavior toward Christians, all people of faith should fear for their lives. This administration has drawn a clear line in the sand against Christians.
Elsewhere, Hodges links Jade Helm to the recent claim by Judicial Watch that there's an ISIS training camp in Mexico a few miles from El Paso. The Judicial Watch report said ISIS is working with Mexican drug cartels; Hodges goes further, seeing a vast conspiracy involving ISIS, the Mexican police and military, Mexican and Peruvian drug cartels, and, for good measure, the DEA.

Or perhaps the truth is in an alternate theory about Jade Helm, found at the site Before It's News:
... Jade Helm just might be preparation for a threat from Russia.

After all the Chechen parliament has just threatened the US that if we arm Ukraine they will retaliate by arming Mexico so it can gain back land we purchased from them in the Treaty of Guadalupe....

Now here is the kicker, the land that our government is reportedly running the Jade Helm Drills on, just so happens to be the same land that Mexico would be targeting in the event the Russians armed them and we gave arms to Ukraine!
Don't laugh -- your Fox-watching uncle probably believes a great deal of this.

And one of our two major parties is so afraid of conspiratorialists like this that it takes them seriously. That's what's frightening.


Jesus, you don't have to be an angry young demonstrator to be skeptical of this Washington Post story by Peter Hermann. Do you have even a passing familiarity with mid-century noir, James Ellroy, Richard Price, John Gregory Dunne? That should be enough. Has it not penetrated your consciousness in all your decades on this earth that police departments circle the wagons when one of their own is accused of wrongdoing -- especially when the accusations are accurate -- and that it's routine to promise favorable treatment to a dumb schlub in lockup who'll play ball?

But no, Hermann writes this up as if it comes from the most reliable of authorities, people who have no motivation whatsoever to distort the truth, and he offers only the barest hint of skepticism:
A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety....
(Or, perhaps, so it will be harder for less credulous reporters to find out more about this prisoner and follow his increasingly less painful trajectory through the legal system now that he's done the cops this huge favor?)
It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.
That's it. That's as much skepticism as Hermann can muster.

Jayne Miller, a reporter for Baltimore's WBAL, is not having it.
WBAL's Jayne Miller told MSNBC that the Post’s story was “inconsistent with what we reported.”

“We have reported for some time that by the time that prisoner is loaded into that van, Freddie Gray was unresponsive. Secondly we have no medical evidence that Freddie Gray suffered any injury that would indicate that he had injured himself,” Miller told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Wednesday night.

Gray was only in the van with the second prisoner for the final five minutes of the ride, Miller told Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday evening. There is “no evidence [Gray was] banging [his] head against van,” Miller tweeted....

Miller also pointed out that on April 23, Commissioner Batts said that the second prisoner had said Gray was “mostly quiet.”
Despite her skepticism, Miller won't speak ill of Hermann. She told Chris Hayes:
This is no problem with my buddy Peter Hermann at The Washington Post, who wrote this story. There is a search warrant that contains that information that's written by a Baltimore City police officer.
Yes, I'm not doubting that Hermann is reporting on a document that actually exists. But you can report it as one claim that needs to be carefully weighed or you can report it as The Official Word From On High, and Hermann chose the latter.

The document leak had the intended effect:

Fox, of course, is going wall to wall with this -- it's the lead story at three different Fox sites right now:

So there you go. If there's a trial for any of the cops in this case, now all you have to do is get one or two conservative white males on the jury -- they already "know" the cops are not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, because Fox says so. Acquittal guaranteed.


I find myself thinking of something Eric Boehlert wrote about the Post in 2004:
When [Robert Parry] went to Newsweek [as a reporter] in 1987, “it soon became clear they didn’t want to pursue the Iran-Contra story much at all. They didn’t want another Watergate -- that’s the way it was put. The magazine was owned by the Washington Post, and although people look back on Watergate as a crowning achievement, it was a very unpleasant experience to live through, and [publisher] Katharine Graham didn’t want to go through it again. So the feeling at Newsweek was, Let’s just take what the White House is telling us, the ‘mistakes were made’ explanation.”
The two situations aren't really analogous -- a White House can make life a lot more difficult for a news organization than a police department can, especially a police department that's not even in the news organization's home city. But the impulse to cover up for the authorities seems the same. Yes, important people -- our sources! -- failed to do the right thing, but, really, isn't it better for all concerned if we refrain from riling up the public by telling them the truth?


UPDATE: From Mother Jones:
And there's another reason to be skeptical. Information that comes out of jails is notoriously unreliable, for the simple reason that anyone in jail has a real incentive to get out; cooperating with the people who determine when they get out is an obvious way to score points. This report from the Pew Charitable Trust walks through the conflicts in detail. According to the Innocence Project, 15 percent of wrongful convictions that are eventually overturned by DNA testing originally rested on information from a jailhouse informant.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Hillary Clinton is calling for criminal justice reform:
Hillary Rodham Clinton focused her presidential campaign Wednesday on the unrest in Baltimore, vowing to work to upend the criminal justice system by ending the “era of mass incarceration” and equipping every police officer on the street with a body camera....

The sentencing reforms Clinton will champion focus on nonviolent offenders. She said they will include shifting people found guilty of such drug crimes from lockups to treatment and rehabilitation programs. Other alternative punishments would also be explored for low­-level offenders, particularly minors, a Clinton campaign aide said....

“We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance,” she said. “These recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.”
Now, you'd imagine we're in the process of reaching a consensus on the need for criminal justice reform -- after all, Republicans as well as Democrats are saying reform is necessary:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul want to ease mandatory minimum sentences. Gov. Chris Christie wants to release nonviolent offenders pending trial without bail. Gov. Scott Walker, former Gov. Rick Perry and former Senator James Webb want to expand drug treatment as an alternative to prison. Senator Marco Rubio wants to make it harder to convict federal defendants without proving intent....

The extent of that change is made evident in a new book [the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law] has compiled featuring essays by many of the major presidential candidates laying out ideas for tackling the criminal justice system. Mrs. Clinton and her Democratic rivals approach the issue from a social justice perspective, while Republicans like Mr. Cruz, Mr. Perry, Mr. Paul and Mr. Rubio see it through a fiscal, libertarian or religious lens, but they share a consensus about the goal.
But we've been through this sort of thing before. Remember, in the middle of the last decade, the need for health care reform seemed so obvious that a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, signed a universal coverage bill, clearly intending to run for president as the guy who got all the residents of his state insured. But by the time he was the Republican nominee for president, he had developed an unquenchable hatred for the national program that mimicked the one in his state, as had nearly every Republican in America. If Democrats were for slightly modified Romneycare, Republicans were against it.

Similarly, not long ago, Democrats began expressing support for cap-and-trade as a response to climate change.

Or remember cap-and-trade? The climate change response John McCain and Sarah Palin supported in 2008? It was a conservative idea -- but once Democrats began to support it, Republicans turned against it.

This happens all the time. (Remember how Republicans demanded Bowe Bergdahl's release until President Obama actually got him released, then howled in fury because they'd suddenly concluded that Bergdahl was a traitor?) So why shouldn't we expect it to happen again on crime?

Ed Kilgore is concerned, especially in the wake of Baltimore's unrest:
... Republicans everywhere may be tempted to exploit the reflexive support for police officers among white citizens that is beginning to exhibit itself everywhere black protests arise. As John Judis observed at National Journal this week, the likely election of Dan Donovan--the prosecutor who appeared to work hard to avoid any grand jury indictment of the cops who killed Eric Garner--to Congress in Staten Island next Tuesday may signal a new era of racial backlash, battening on conservative anxieties already aroused by the years of attacks on Obama and manufactured fears of his supposed mania for “redistribution.”

If there is a supply of backlash voters, there will certainly be a demand, if only among the crowded GOP presidential field where the candidates will soon run out of ways to demonstrate their True Conservatism. The more historically minded of them may realize that St. Ronald Reagan himself built his California political career on a foundation of backlash to rioters, albeit student radicals more than African-Americans per se.
Kilgore isn't sure the GOP's newfound empathy for the detained, accused, and incarcerated will last, especially when many of them are people of color. I'm skeptical as well.


At Breitbart, John Nolte is looking at the problems of America's inner cities and is washing his hands of them, Pontius Pilate-style. There's nothing odd there -- nearly all right-wingers do that. To them, either everything is fine now in the non-white parts of America (which doesn't stop those damn malcontents from grumbling) or everything that is wrong is the grumblers' own damn fault (usually because the grumblers' are on the "liberal plantation," which is the main point of Nolte's rant). Nothing noteworthy here. It's just standard-issue contemporary right-wing invective.

But let's not miss the implication of Nolte's headline:

His argument is that Baltimore is having problems because it's been run by Democrats for decades. But he doesn't say that Baltimore is a problem only for those Americans who are members of that Democratic Party. No: the way he puts it is that if something is the Democrats' problem, it's not a problem for America -- implicitly, because Democrats aren't Americans. According to Nolte, America has no responsibility for, or interest in, what happens in Democratic strongholds, except to shield Americans (an exclusively non-Democratic group) from the work of Democrats (an exclusively non-American group).

Thus, Nolte writes:
Contrary to the emotional blackmail some leftists are attempting to peddle, Baltimore is not America’s problem or shame. That failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem.... Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore since 1967, the last time there was a Republican Mayor....

Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat....

Democrats and their never-ending grievance campaigns; their never-ending propaganda that government largess is the answer; their never-ending caves to corrupt unions; their never-ending warehousing of innocent children in failed public schools -- that’s a Democrat problem, not America’s problem.
If I were to argue that illegal border crossings are a Southern and Southwestern problem, not America's problem, or that tornadoes are a heartland problem, not America's problem, it would sound ridiculous -- of course we have to care about these things as a nation because, yes, we are one nation.

But conservatives don't think like that. To them, they're Americans. We Democrats aren't, and the mostly Democratic residents of Baltimore aren't -- at least not until we all regain our senses and become conservative Republicans.


And I'm ignoring the fact that the makeup of the government of Ferguson, Missouri, at the time of its unrest gives the lie to Nolte's linkage of Democratic governance with unrest.


So Bernie Sanders is entering the presidential race:
... Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks.

Sanders' entry into the Democratic race ensures that Hillary Clinton will face a challenge to win the support of the liberal wing of the party.
Yes! Finally Hillary Clinton will be challenged by a genuine progressive!


Well, it's already happened. In fact, it's been happening for years. Here's Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake in 2011:
Bernie Sanders to Primary Obama? Don’t Make Me Laugh

... Whenever the talk of a primary comes up, I always ask “who is going to do this?” The answer is always someone like Bernie Sanders or Jan Schakowsky, the same people whose job it is to put the Good Liberal Housekeeping Seal of Approval on whatever piece of neoliberal shit the White House cooks up to please the bond vigilantes. The people who suddenly become okay with war when the White House says so, who shake their fists in the air with outrage right before they fold, the people you can count on to always be there when there’s nothing they can do…and are nowhere to be found when they can.

... Yesterday Bernie’s job was to stand up in the Senate and whine about Tea Party extremists. If Bernie had one-tenth of their conviction, his vote alone could have saved the country from the shitty health care bill that put them all in office.
(This is accompanied by a photo of Sanders on the floor of the Senate with the caption "Last Train to Loserville.")

But Hamsher was late to the game. Alexander Cockburn was bashing Sanders as a sellout in the pages of The Nation years before Hamsher started blogging. From 2000:
Independent in name only, Sanders sold out to the Democratic machine long ago. He's no longer part of a movement.... In his re-election race for November, he's outflanked on both politics and gender....
The column goes on to refer to "Sanders' dismal trajectory." Yup -- he was a sellout fifteen years ago, long before he reached the Senate.

And then there's this, published in 2011 in CounterPunch shortly before Cockburn's death. It was writted by Thomas Naylor, but it appeared when Cockburn was well into his second decade as the magazine's co-editor:
The Myth of Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has recently been elevated to near godlike status by the political Left in the United States.... The more often he is accused of being a socialist by his political enemies on the Right, the more convinced the Left becomes that he surely walks on water.

Although Sanders may have once been a socialist back in the 80s when he was Mayor of Burlington, today, a socialist he is not. Rather he behaves more like a technofascist disguised as a liberal, who backs all of President Obama’s nasty little wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Since he always “supports the troops,” Sanders never opposes any defense spending bill. He stands behind all military contractors who bring much-needed jobs to Vermont....

Sanders is the darling of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the right-wing Likud government of Israel. He has done everything within his power to keep the myth of Islamic terrorism alive. He never questions the U.S. government’s unconditional support of Israeli acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. It is as though these are nonevents....
So, yes, if the Democratic Party shifted far enough to the left to nominate Bernie Sanders, and the country shifted far enough to the left to elect him, there'd be plenty of lefties in America who'd be looking for someone to save us from the latest faux-progressive phony.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks it's outrageous that civil authorities are asking the people of Baltimore to remain peaceful in the wake of Freddie Gray's death:
What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray's death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray's death and so they appeal for calm....

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.
Charlie Pierce seconds this:
Non-violent resistance requires a kind of implicit reason on both sides. It requires that both sides see an end to matters, that they acknowledge, even tacitly, that there is a level of violent repression that is unsupportable in a civil society. But how does one reason in the face of brutalized futility? How does one reason in the face of repeated injustices, of unacknowledged crimes, and of injuries blamed not on the perpetrators, but on the victims? The logic of non-violent resistance breaks down in the face of that, when official violence fails to acknowledge any limits at all, when it does not recognize any possible point at which official violence becomes intolerable to the public at large. At that point, there is no telling what comes next.
Is this really true? Is it correct to say, "Non-violent resistance requires ... that both sides ... acknowledge, even tacitly, that there is a level of violent repression that is unsupportable in a civil society"?

I think the point of nonviolence in the civil rights era was precisely that it was a shockingly brave response to officials who didn't acknowledge limits on how violent they could be, because they believed that the larger white society agreed with them that the people to whom they were dealing out violence were of a lower order of humanity. Coates says that nonviolence is more than the Baltimore authorities (or the Ferguson or Cleveland or New York authorities) deserve -- but obviously it was more than Bull Connor deserved, too. It's not an approach that should be chosen as a favor to the authorities. It's an approach that should be chosen because it's seen as a potentially successful tactic. This happens if it's believed that there's a third group of people -- some percentage of the broader public and the more conscience-driven public officials -- who will more readily recognize which side is the oppressor, and will press for action.

You may doubt that it can work, and maybe it can't. But it might. One thing is clear: my fellow white people are relieved when there's unrest like what happened last night in Baltimore, whether they'll admit it or not, because it gives them the excuse not to care about the brutality routinely dealt out to black people by cops -- horror stories like those that recently appeared in a Baltimore Sun story quoted by both Coates and Pierce:
Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones -- jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles -- head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement....
Yeah, my fellow whites say, that's awful, but look at that looted CVS. And that cop is bleeding, isn't he?

We basically still run the country, the president's lineage notwithstanding, so it's a war for our hearts and minds. Would peaceful protest reach us? We're not completely incorrigible. It might. In any case, the point isn't whether we deserve nonviolence. The point is whether it'll more effectively get through our thick skulls.


You played Telephone as a kid, right? One person whispers something to the next person, who repeats it to the next person, who repeats it to the next, and so on. The fun is finding out how much the message has changed after several repeats.

Right-wingers play Ideological Telephone. It's a very different game: Instead of changing the message inadvertently, they do it deliberately. The fun for them is increasing the level of hate in America, as fellow right-wingers become enraged at what they now think someone they don't like has said.

Righties playing it now. Here's something President Obama said today during an appearance at the White House with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe:

I don't have the exact wording. It's being reported several different ways. Here are a couple of other reports:

You get the message.

[UPDATE: Here's what he said, via NBC:
"If we really want to solve the problem, we could. It would require everybody to say this is important, this is significant and that we just don't pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, when a young man is shot or when his spine is snapped."]
Now, how is it being reported over on the right? Here's Fox's Todd Starnes:

And here's a random right-winger:

The president did not "speak derisively" about the CVS -- unless you also think he "spoke derisively" about Freddie Gray when he said that we shouldn't pay attention to black communities only when one of their residents is killed the way Gray was killed.

Todd? SNITFIT? Do you think the president went out of his way to speak derisively of Freddie Gray?

The right wants us to be at one another's throats in a left-right war. There's enough tension in American society as it is (as if that isn't obvious at this moment) -- but when there's a fire, out comes the right with gasoline cans.

And somehow, safe in exurbia, none of these right-wingers are ever burned.


Donald Trump is trending on Twitter because of his reaction to the unrest in Baltimore:
Donald Trump has been heavily criticised after appearing to blame "our great African American President" for the violence in Baltimore.

The entrepreneur singles out President Barack Obama for the riots that started after Freddie Gray's funeral.

Gray, 25, suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody and died on 19 April.

... none of the nuance or emotion of the case was processed by Donald Trump, who tweeted:

I'm not in the habit of even semi-defending Trump, but the tweet he's being attacked for is just right-wing conventional wisdom right now:
On the April 27 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox host Lou Dobbs responded to the events by blaming the violence against the police on Obama, asserting that "there is a war on law enforcement" that is being "corroborated if not condoned by this administration."

... Later during the show, Dobbs invited Fox contributor Keith Ablow to comment, and he also blamed Obama for the violence, adding that people who want to tear down the system like the people in Baltimore "might be taking [their] cues from this president" ...
And there's this, from Samuel Gonzalez at Right Wing News:
It’s called community organizing and that’s who Barack Obama is since he took office.

Like no other president in U.S. history, he has used the power of his office to foment chaos such as what we saw in Ferguson.

... Obama’s infamous comment, “...the police acted stupidly...”, when a police officer rightly arrested a college professor trying to break into his own home ... set a bad tone around the country on how the community views police....

The only point of disagreement on the right is on which black elected official is solely responsible for the violence: the president or Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. From
Baltimore mayor's 'balancing act' gave protestors permission to turn violent

“I wanted to give space to those who wished to destroy,” that is how Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake described her policy Saturday at a press conference. Her words, which effectively told police to stand down as those gathered to protest the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray smashed store windows, looted 7-Elevens and forced attendees at a Baltimore Oriole-Boston Red Sox baseball game to remain in the stadium because it wasn’t safe outside.
That's a misquote, of course, and almost certainly a deliberate one. What the mayor said was certainly subject to misinterpretation, but it wasn't this. Here it is:
"I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate, and that’s what you saw.”
The second-last sentence invites a reasonable interpretation: "It’s a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, [regrettably,] we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well." The final sentence could be read as suggesting that she likes the balance that permits property destruction, but if so, why would she be positive about efforts to "deescalate"?

Well, of course the right will seize on poorly chosen words -- that's what the right always does. Beyond that, though, we see why the right is obsessed with Saul Alinsky. Alinsky's twelfth Rule for Radicals is:
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Right-wingers personalize every possible news story -- there's always a liberal individual, or handful of individuals, on whom all True Patriot rage should be focused.


Meanwhile, Trump is ready to solve the problem, or so he says:

Drop Trump off in the middle of a scene of violent unrest and let him try to work it out? Yeah, I'd grab popcorn and watch that.

Monday, April 27, 2015


It's clear that we're just going to keep going through this awful cycle -- an appalling and clearly unjustified black man's death at the hands of cops, followed by publicity and outrage, then a local response in which the rage boils over, blood flows and property gets destroyed. Nobody wins, nothing improves, repeat ad infinitum. Baltimore now; who knows where next.

But to bring this back to the sort of thing I usually write about: Sooner or later, this is going to influence national politics -- and not for the better. Sooner or later, right-wing politicians are going to rediscover the language of "law and order" that elected Richard Nixon twice and that gave us racially divisive politicians, of both parties, such as Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani in my city and Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia. And the new round of "get-tough" pols might be worse than the ones from my younger days -- many of those guys, at least, had some lingering fondness for the New Deal or the Kennedys. The new crop will probably combine "get-tough" attitudes and Koch economics. It's not going to be pleasant.

In fact, I think it's likely that somebody in the 2016 Republican presidential field is going to rediscover the old "law and order" language. It was always politically effective -- but then crime declined dramatically in he last twenty years. It can come back with a vengeance, though, if white Americans regularly turns on the news and sees shop windows smashed and cop cars burning.

I actually think the cycle of police brutality and community rage could be much more of a threat to the Democrats' chances of holding the White House than any email server or huge check written to the Clinton Foundation. If inner cities are burning, Republicans aren't going to pass up the opportunity to stoke fear and thus build tribal solidarity.

I understand if you're so outraged at what happened to Freddie Gray (and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and all the rest) that you think what I'm missing the point. All I can say is: Yes, I get the point. Outrageous things are happening to black people at the hands of cops. But violence in response to brutality is, among other things, going to make Republicans' jobs much easier in 2016. I was born in 1959. We oldsters spent a lot of years watching white politicians exploit black anger. It can happen again, and it probably will.


I was hoping not to write about the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but people are taking it way too seriously. Here's Ezra Klein:
The White House Correspondents' Dinner has become a strange event. It is, ostensibly, an evening when the president and the press can come together to share a few lighthearted laughs. But it's evolved into a recital of brutal truths -- albeit one neither side ever really admits happened.

The joke of President Obama's performance on Saturday was that he wasn't joking. Everyone just had to pretend he was.
Of course the president wasn't joking, and of course the seriousness of what he said won't be acknowledged. The point of the WHCD is that it's a ritualized event at which people say what they mean about the Beltway's conflicts, but everyone agrees not to get real about resolving those conflicts, because, hey, it's just a fun, silly night, right? It's not that people won't admit it ever happened -- it's that it's neatly pigeonholed as not serious -- which is why real things can be talked about there. It's like a Feast of Fools at which the political order is mocked, even though the feast never really challenges the political order -- the feast is a safe space for blowing off steam.

The WHCD is when Washington roasts itself -- and, remember, if you want to land a blow that leaves a mark, you don't do it at a roast. Fox News doesn't broadcast roasts of Democratic politicians -- it frames its attacks as news and packages them as serious stuff. Subjecting yourself to a roast is a way of quarantining the worst things said about you. That's why you see Justin Bieber, a teen idol turned noxious adult, subjecting himself to a Comedy Central roast. It places the criticism of him in a safe, harmless space. It does no damage to his career.

Yes, I know: some on the right, particularly Power Line's John Hinderaker, are whimpering about the mean things Obama said at the dinner, particularly about climate change in the segment featuring Keegan-Michael Key as Luther, the president's "anger translator":

That's fun, and it's fun to imagine that Hinderaker's whingeing and whining represents genuine hurt feelings. (The portrayal of Luther, a regular feature on Comedy Central's Key and Peele, is, Hinderaker says, a "hateful bit.") But Hinderaker is a soldier in the Koch army -- Think Progress remind us in 2011 that Hinderaker's law firm, Faegre and Benson, represented Koch Industries, and it was noted in 2012 that the Kochs had tried to place Hinderaker on the board at the Cato Institute. So he's just using the president's remarks as an excuse to do his usual climate bamboozlement on behalf of energy billionaires. The plutocrats' army of climate distorters is now so huge -- at this point it includes pretty much every elected Republican in America -- that even a forthright defense of climate science by the president of the United States in a highly visible forum changes nothing about the ongoing debate. Everyone went home after the dinner and resumed their old stances. It's still the official policy of the GOP that climate change is a non-issue because it snows sometimes.

So, yes, I wish what the president said mattered. It doesn't.


Jeb Bush's campaign made a seemingly provocative venue choice for an event, whispered in some reporters' ears, and now The New York Times is covering Jeb's choice more or less the way the campaign wanted the choice covered:
MIAMI BEACH -- On his way to an ecologically friendly hotel here on Sunday, Jeb Bush ate a Paleo-diet-approved bison burger wrapped in lettuce and served by a Democrat-loving drag queen turned waiter....

His inaugural gathering of major donors and fund-raisers here was a sometimes flamboyant, and sometimes inadvertent, spectacle of Republican Party stereotype busting.

The message: Should he run for president, as widely expected, Mr. Bush will do it on his own, inviting, unconventional, South Floridian terms.

The two-day retreat here was held at 1 Hotel South Beach, known for its environmental ambitions and theatrical design.

Inside the beachside hotel, hundreds of Bush supporters found a brochure encouraging them to use complimentary electric cars made by Tesla, a longtime Republican Party demon because of its federal tax subsidies.

They encountered a copy of the sustainability-focused, left-leaning Modern Farmer magazine. (Headline: “Can plant factories save us from climate change?”)...
(Not only is Modern Farmer "sustainability-focused," its launch was bankrolled by Frank Giustra, the friend of Bill Clinton whose sale of uranium interests has attracted the attention of the times and Peter Schweizer.)

In the Times story about Jeb, there is some skepticism ("How much of this approach is window dressing, rather than a genuine break from his party’s past, remains hazy"). But Jeb did get the message out to readers of Eastern-sophisticate media: When he says things the rubes want to hear about gay rights and climate change, he's doing it with his fingers crossed behind his back. He doesn't really mean all that stiff. He's hip, just like you!

(Even all the talk about Bush's new Paleo diet seems for show -- if he thought he was getting fat, why didn't he start the diet before he'd be heading out out onto the hustings, where he'll be offered Iowa state fair corn dogs and New Hampshire diner pancakes? Answer: He wants this to be part of every story. It's meant to make him relatable to voters, especially non-Republican voters, who watch self-improvement segments on daytime TV and read self-improvement books and websites. It's an Obamaesque approach, and it might be working for him.)

Jeb's campaign wants Times readers to know that he was waited on by a drag queen and didn't run screaming. The campaign tried to send a similar message back in February, spoon-feeding a story about Jeb's social tolerance to BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins. Coppins wrote it up under the title "Jeb Bush, 2016’s Gay-Friendly Republican" -- but the effort blew up in Jeb's face when, shortly afterward, he defended businesses' right to discriminate against gay customers and when his super PAC hired Jordan Sekulow, a militantly homophobic lawyer who, among other things, defends draconian anti-gay laws in Africa.

But Jeb's campaign obviously intends to keep plugging away with this message. It's all meant to make the public, or at least the media, believe about Jeb approximately what Buzz Bissinger said he believed about Mitt Romney after the first Obama-Romney debate, in which Romney cynically recast himself as a moderate:
[Romney] revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation....

I think Romney realizes that lowering the rate to 20 percent will not fly if he is to lower the deficit and make the plan work. And he is hardly the only candidate to assert something during a campaign that will change once in his office....

I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naively. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran....
If you believe a modern Republican when he pretends to be a moderate, I invite you to revisit the 2000 George W. Bush campaign -- and the presidency that followed. We shouldn't be fooled again, but it's quite possible we will be.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I imagine this is what's going to happen:
Author of book questioning Clinton donations demands federal probe

Federal investigators must probe Hillary and Bill Clinton’s finances, the author of a new book targeting the power couple’s foreign donations insisted Sunday.

“You see a series of actions that are enormously beneficial ... for the benefit of Clinton donors and I think this warrants investigation,” said Peter Schweizer, who wrote “Clinton Cash,” said on Fox News Sunday.

... Schweizer said Sunday he has no “direct evidence” that Hillary Clinton intervened on behalf of these foreign interests. But he argues a federal investigation could search for improper links using subpoena powers, much like it did in the bribery case against now-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and a public corruption case against convicted former Gov. Bob McDonald (R-Va.).

“I am a journalist I don’t have access to government records,” Schweizer said. “I certainly don’t have access to her emails.”
Clever of him to get in a mention of those emails.

Yeah, this will happen, though probably not soon. We'll be solemnly told by congressional Republicans that the only time such hearings can possibly take place is 2016 -- and I mean throughout 2016 (or, rather, throughout the first ten months of 2016, ending sometime in late October). Impeaching Bill Clinton after he'd won two elections and built up a reservoir of goodwill didn't work out for Republicans, so they're basically going to impeach Hillary Clinton while she's running for president -- and, if she somehow wins the election, they'll just keep impeaching her.

Or we can elect Jeb or Scott or Marco and watch America turn into Kochistan before our very eyes. Anyone have an alternate scenario that could plausibly happen?


National Review's Brendan Bordelon makes clear that Rick Santorum is approaching this campaign all wrong:
Rick Santorum was the returning champion at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum on Saturday. But inside Waukee, Iowa’s Point of Grace Church, it certainly didn’t feel like it.

After his upset victory in the 2012 Iowa caucus -- driven largely by the state’s powerful evangelical voting bloc -- many expected the former Pennsylvania senator to be welcomed back with open arms. But compared to the other eight Republican candidates present at the Des Moines-area conference, Santorum’s speech fell strangely flat.

The audience didn’t clap much, and when they did it was usually polite and perfunctory. Lines that felt like they were meant to be showstoppers were at times met with awkward silences.
Gosh, what happened?
Part of that may have been due to his choice of subject matter.... Santorum was selling a populist economic message that didn’t seem to land.

He called the Republican Party’s supply-side, free trade message outdated and pushed for a minimum wage hike. “We’re keeping down the wages of American families,” he said. “We need to say we’re on the side of American workers.”

Observers believe Santorum may be misreading his audience this time around. “It didn’t resonate,” said Dennis Goldford, a professor of politics at Des Moines’ Drake University. “Santorum sort of moved to that blue-collar conservatism, populist kind of approach ... That’s not what will sell this particular crowd.”
Right -- these are conservative American Christians. They don't want to hear about helping the poor and the downtrodden with their struggles.

Now, you might think Santorum bombed because he's just not connecting with any voters this year -- he's very low in the polls, after all. But Bobby Jindal is also struggling in the polls, and Bordelon says that his speech went over like gangbusters:
Bobby Jindal is barely breaking 2 percent in Iowa polls -- but you’d never know it from the way he wowed the crowd at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit on Saturday.
So what did he do that Santorum didn't? Well, he was a cheerleader for Jesus:
“Our God is an awesome God, can I get an amen?!” he began, spreading his arms wide and striding away from the podium. “Amen!” the audience responded loudly.
He talked about himself as a Christian:
Veering away from policy specifics, Jindal instead spoke at length about his personal journey to Christ -- thanking his high school friend for giving him his first Bible and describing the moment he came to Jesus during a choir performance at LSU.
And he attacked the enemies of conservative Christians:
“Here’s my message for Hollywood and the media elite,” he shouted, in the first standing ovation of the evening. “The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America!” ...

“We saw corporate America team up with the radical left to come after our religious liberty rights,” he said, referring to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s fight against gay rights groups after he signed a religious freedom law last month. “They might as well save their breath, because corporate America is not gonna bully the governor of Louisiana!”
See, Rick? That's the winning message: (a) tribal solidarity plus (b) rallying the troops against social-issues liberalism. Compassion for the needy? Don't even bother.

The point of Christianity, for this crowd, is to identify the saved (us) and the damned (everyone else) and to say, "We saved people are so much more awesome than the damned." All that "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me" stuff? Lose it, Rick. These people don't care.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


I really don't understand this:
Michigan governor Rick Snyder may be the newest GOP candidate for the White House.

Snyder mingled with donors at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Las Vegas on Friday and told at least one attendee that he was a candidate.

On Saturday morning, the former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman told reporters: “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

In a talk with the RJC board, Snyder himself was not as explicit. Ari Fleischer, a board member and former spokesman for President George W Bush, told the Guardian: “[He] didn’t say to the board that he was running. He made a real strong presentation about his results and successes in Michigan.” ...
So Snyder may be running and may not be. But why would he run? I mean, sure, he's done a couple of things that could appeal to GOP primary voters:
In office, Snyder has pushed legislation to put Detroit under emergency bankruptcy management and signed a controversial “right to work” bill that greatly restricted the ability of unions in Michigan to collect dues from members.
But he's done so many things that would infuriate the typical primary voter.

* He not only agreed to the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, he boasted about doing so during his reelection campaign in 2014.

* His state didn't set up a pure state Obamacare exchange, but the exchange in Michigan is a federal-state partnership, and if the Supreme Court gets rid of it, he's said he would seek a state exchange.

* In 2012, he vetoed a voter ID law.

* He supports immigration reform, and said so at an immigration summit with Mike Bloomberg.

* His outreach to his state's Muslim community gets right-wing media reactions like this:
Michigan’s liberal Democrat, er ... liberal Republican In Name Only (RINO) Governor Rick Snyder wants more Muslim aliens -- he specified “refugees” -- to come to Michigan. He’s made Muslim immigration the centerpiece of his Michigan economic policy. Just what we need.

Yesterday, he told Hezbollah- and HAMAS-supporting Muslims at the tax-funded, Muslim-dominated Arab American National Museum, that their community is a “role model” for Michigan, and that he wants them to help him bring more immigrants -- he cited “refugees from the Middle East who are struggling” and whom he wants to attract and help (with more government aid) -- to Michigan. Oh, and -- bonus! -- he vowed to hire more Arab Muslims on his staff.
And this:
Republican Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder will be giving the opening remarks for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference on Friday, August 29. ISNA has Muslim Brotherhood origins and a lineup of Islamist speakers. Former President Carter is the keynote speaker.
What is he thinking? Is being a twelfth- or thirteenth-place finisher in the GOP presidential primaries really a useful career move for him? Because, yes, there might be voters in these primaries who don't think it's necessary to meet all the litmus tests -- but they're going to vote for Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, or perhaps Chris Christie or Lindsey Graham. Or they're going to vote for someone who meets the litmus tests and is also a right-to-work-loving Midwestern governor, like Scott Walker.

Snyder? Toast. I don't get why he's doing this.


Dana Perino thinks we're all just too nasty these days:
Dana Perino, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush and co-host of the Fox News Channels "The Five," makes a plea for civility in her book "And the Good News Is ..."

Shes worried that "Weve gone from being the confident leader of the free world to bickering about every living thing under the sun."

Perino is not against arguing, mind you. "(B)eing civil means that we can argue vehemently and then either find some compromise, call it a tie or move onto something else," she writes.

She has some solutions for the partisan rancor that is paralyzing our government and poisoning our discourse.

"If you dont start off thinking the opposition is evil," she writes, "but that they want to get to the same place you do, then youre already on your way to having a more civil and productive conversation."
Yes, that's right: Perino thinks it's a bad thing to regard the opposition as evil.

That would be this Dana Perino:
Fox News' Dana Perino Calls Jim Carrey An '*Sshole' Over Gun Control

'Red Eye' panel member Dana Perino recently attacked actor Jim Carrey on Fox News for a comedy video that parodied gun owners and the late Charlton Heston....

'Red Eye' host Greg Gutfeld asked his panel if Carrey was a hypocrite for having armed body guards while attacking gun owners....

“In Jim Carrey’s case, it doesn’t make him a hypocrite; it makes him an *sshole,” said Perino.
And this Dana Perino:
Fox News host Dana Perino unloaded on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Tuesday, calling him a “destructive entity” in Washington, D.C.

Perino, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, was reacting to a jab Reid took at her former boss Monday.

“He’s an absolutely poisonous figure in Washington, D.C. He’s been a disaster for this country,” Perino told host Hugh Hewitt.

“And he is an equal opportunity basher, right? He goes after everybody,” Perino added. “And I think it is so frankly disgusting, and I’m a pretty level-headed person. But that person, Harry Reid, has been the most destructive entity in Washington when it comes to stability. By far.”
And this Dana Perino:
Freedom of belief doesn't appear to be important to Fox News host Dana Perino, who suggested that if atheists don't like having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, well, "they don't have to live here."

... Regarding atheists, Perino said during a live segment, "I'm tired of them." She continued, "I remember working at the Justice Department years ago when I first started right after 9/11 and a lawsuit like this came through, and before the day had finished, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘under God’ in the pledge."

"If these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here," she concluded.
And this Dana Perino:
Fox's Perino Lashes Out At Democrats For Preventing Expansion Of Anti-Abortion Hyde Amendment In Human Trafficking Bill

... During the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino chided Senate Democrats for demanding the removal of the anti-abortion language from the bill, claiming that "the human trafficking bill is not moving forward today because Democrats are jerks on this issue"...
But apart from all that, she's such a nice person, isn't she? Yes, I sure am glad she's doing her part to restore civility in America's political life.

Friday, April 24, 2015


At the Daily Caller, Kerry Picket has what seems to be a Hillary Clinton gotcha:
Hillary On Abortion: ‘Deep-Seated Cultural Codes, Religious Beliefs And Structural Biases Have To Be Changed’

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a feminist tone on Thursday. She told attendees at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

“Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper,” Clinton said.
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey, citing a tweet from a Religion News Service reporter, writes:
David Gibson suggested this might be Hillary Clinton’s “clinging to guns and religion” moment, and he may be right....

In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is. As Hillary admits here -- albeit unwittingly -- the at-will destruction of the unborn goes against religious beliefs, long-held cultural values, and the structural “biases” that exist to recognize the value of human life. That’s what the “clump of cells” fallacy has to overcome, and as Hillary and the Left have discovered, it’s a tall order. And it’s not just abortion, but also same-sex marriage and forced participation in it, euthanasia dressed up as “right to die” movements, and the rest.
Is this an accurate reflection of what she really said?

Well, you might think so if you've only read the quote as excerpted by the Caller, or if you took the Caller's advice and watched the speech clip starting at 8:26:

But try watching it from 6:31. Here's what Clinton says, in context:
All the evidence tells us that despite the enormous obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. Think about that. A girl born twenty years ago in Tanzania could not hope to one day own or inherit property. Today she can. If she were born in Nepal, there was a tragically high chance that her mother and even she would die in childbirth. Today, thankfully, that is far less likely. A girl born twenty years ago in Rwanda grew up in the shadow of genocide and rape. Today she can be proud that women have led the way out of that dark time, and now there are more women serving in her country's parliament than anywhere else in the world.

But the data leads to a second conclusion: that despite all this progress, we're just not there yet. Yes, we've nearly closed the global gender gap in primary school. But secondary school remains out of reach for so many girls around the world. Yes, we've increased the number of countries prohibiting domestic violence. But still, more than half the nations in the world have no such laws on the books, and an estimated one in three women still experience violence. Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half. But far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth.

All the laws we've passed don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.
She's talking about women being able to go to school and own property and live in societies where rape and beatings aren't shrugged off. She's talking about women being able to survive carrying a child to term. Undoubtedly she would include access to abortion under the heading of reproductive health care, but she explicitly includes prenatal care.

She's not saying what these people claim she's saying.

But that's how the right does it. If this gets picked up by Fox or Drudge (or both), every conservative will be certain forever that Hillary made a big speech in 2015 focusing on abortion (or maybe abortion plus euthanasia and gay marriage) and demanded that all cultures be forced to yield to them, and to hell with their cultural values.

It's a huge distortion of the truth. But distorting the truth is what the right-wing media does best.


Uh-oh -- Mediaite says that the liberal fascists are being fascistic again:
The gay New York City hoteliers who recently played host to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have their own controversy to deal with: Activists are calling for the boycott of their properties, including a gay hotel and establishments on Fire Island.

Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass ..., two gay real estate moguls who run numerous vacation properties marketed towards the LGBT community, spoke with The New York Times yesterday about the reception they held for the presidential candidate....

Within hours, a Facebook page calling for the boycott of the Fire Island Pines Establishments and the Out NYC Hotel, all owned by Reisner and Weiderpass, gained more than 2,500 followers, its wall filled with angry messages blasting the two for selling out their ideals.

“Weiderpass, an out gay man, held a ‘reception’ this past weekend for Senator Cruz,” said the first post on the page. “The question, among so many others, is, WHY???!!!”
Why so cranky? Just because of stuff like this?
Days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, Senator Ted Cruz has filed two bills to protect states that bar gay couples from marrying.

Cruz's legislation would establish a constitutional amendment shielding states that define marriage as between one woman and one man from legal action, according to bill language obtained by Bloomberg News.

A second bill would bar federal courts from further weighing in on the marriage issue until such an amendment is adopted.
Gosh, I can't understand why little things like that get people so upset.

Obviously, what's being done to these poor, suffering hoteliers is just as bad as what intolerant lefties tried to do to upstanding businesses like Chick-fil-A. So the right-wing response should be obvious: True Patriots need to patronize the hotels these men run!

But ... um ... they're gay hotels, aren't they? And you can't really be gay if you're a True Patriot. What to do?

Well, the Out isn't a completely gay hotel, as Ian Reisner explained in this interview:
The OUT NYC is New York’s first straight-friendly urban resort. How have you enhanced the hotel experience for your customers?
My vision was not to open a gay ghetto.... We are truly the first gay-owned, gay-operated, gay-programmed, straight-friendly facility. One-third of my 20,000 sleeping customers who have come through the doors since we opened have been straight. Their way of thinking is that staying at a gay-owned and operated facility will definitely be more chic and definitely more fun, and they’re right!
It's "straight-friendly," righties! So you have to show support! For the Cause of True Conservatism!

So book a room! C'mon, aren't you ... curious?


This New York Times story about Ted Cruz sure seems like a gotcha:
Senator Ted Cruz has positioned himself as a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, urging pastors nationwide to preach in support of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, which he said was “ordained by God.”

But on Monday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful struck quite a different tone.

During the gathering, according to two people present, Mr. Cruz said he would not love his daughters any differently if one of them was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states.

The dinner and “fireside chat” for about a dozen people with Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, was at the Central Park South penthouse of Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, longtime business partners who were once a couple and who have been pioneers in the gay hospitality industry....
But on the right, this isn't considered a gotcha at all. Here's Paula Bolyard at PJ Media:
If you’re a left-leaning reporter who believes that the only reason half of Americans oppose same sex marriage is because they’re hateful bigots who are acting out of raw animus, events and statements like this cause you all kinds of cognitive dissonance and consternation. All good leftist reporters believe in the deepest recesses of their hearts that mean-spirited Republicans who disagree with the push for same sex marriage never, ever associate with gay people -- unless they’re snooping around in their bedrooms....

This may come as a surprise to reporters at the Times, but Senator Cruz -- like most Republicans -- has gay friends (and supporters) and he’s willing to engaging in dialogue with people with whom he disagrees. And guess what? This is not newsworthy.
When thinking about people outside the party's core demographic (straight white men and their wives who are either Christians or right-wing Jews), Republicans don't seem to have animus or hate, necessarily -- they just want members of these outside groups to quietly accept the back of the government's hand. They think that's perfectly reasonable -- they believe gays and blacks and Hispanics and other non-favored groups should want to be Republicans even though Republicans want to deny them rights. A backlash against gay marriage? Extra hurdles in the pursuit of voting rights? A hard line on immigration? Republicans think minority groups should masochistically embrace these policies.

The odd thing is that some minority-group members do. Republicans, for instance, expect all black people to be like Clarence Thomas and Allen West and Mia Love (those who haven't seen the light are said to be on "the Democrat plantation"). In the case of gay people, Republicans expect a reaction like the Facebook message posted yesterday by one of Cruz's hotelier friends:
The fact that Senator Cruz accepted the invitation to my home was a step in the right direction towards him having a better understanding of who I am and what I believe in. We spent most of the time talking about national security issues and in particular the challenges from ISIS, Iran, and defense of Israel -- these are issues for which we did find common ground. However, i did not shy away from the opportunity to ask the Senator about social issues, in particular marriage equality, and made it clear that I completely disagree with him on that issue.
In other words: I'm just so thrilled to have talked to him about his belief that I'm a second-class citizen.

Republicans don't really hate you if you're not a straight white Christian. They like you -- as long as you know your place.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Bloomberg Politics says that Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, is targeting Jeb Bush next. I'm not sure I believe it, but here's the story:
Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances that he expects to publish this summer.

“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with,” Schweizer told me on Wednesday. “We’ve found some interesting things.”

Schweizer says he and a team of researchers have been poring over Bush’s financial life for about four months. Among other things, they’re scrutinizing various Florida land deals, an airport deal while Bush was governor that involved state funds, and Chinese investors in Bush’s private equity funds....

As he did with the Clinton book, Schweizer is hoping to partner with media organizations interested in reporting on and advancing his examination of Bush’s finances....
Assuming he's telling the truth about this, rather than merely claiming to have an anti-Bush project in the works in order to maintain a posture of objectivity -- which media organizations do you think will partner with him?

Do you think one of them will be Fox?

Here's the way the so-called liberal media works: You dig up anti-Clinton dirt of this kind and The New York Times is as eager to run it as Fox is. But the conservative media has never worked that way, at least not in my experience. Sure, during the primary season a not-excessively-wingnutty Republican might get less-than-worshipful coverage on Fox -- Mitt Romney certainly did in late 2011 and early 2012 -- but Fox knows that the wagons must eventually be circled.

Even if no one at Fox is thrilled at the prospect of a Jeb candidacy, he could very well be the right's guy in 2016. So I think there's no way in hell Fox will work with Schweizer on this. And if it there really is Jeb dirt and Fox gives it a miss, that tells you all you need to know about the difference between the conservative media and the non-conservative media.


Did Hillary Clinton personally pave the way for Vladimir Putin and his cronies to increase their control over the international market for uranium, all in return for dirty money shelled out to the Clintons and their foundation? That's certainly what a New York Times story you probably read (or decided was too long to bother with) would like you to believe.

Do I think people involved in the deal got too cozy with Bill and Hillary? Yes. Do I think this sort of thing goes on all the time? Again, yes.

This is now, according to the Times:
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
This was a quarter-century ago, less than a year after Ronald Reagan left the White House:
The Reagans are being paid roughly $2 million to tour the Japan of Nobutaka Shikanai, the right-leaning founder of the Fujisankei Communications Group and one of Japan's most successful and most controversial entrepreneurs. Even though there is a growing practice in Japan of hiring big-name American power brokers, the company has been stung by criticism that it is taking this idea to an extreme. Still, it is hardly passing up the chance to let Mr. Reagan help showcase the $5 billion-a-year conglomerate.

... the younger Mr. Shikanai, who is joint chairman and chief executive of Fujisankei, has quickly set the company's sights abroad for the first time. A month ago Fujisankei purchased 25 percent of Britain's Virgin Music Group for $150 million, giving Fujisankei access to some of Virgin's biggest hits and an overseas outlet for its Japanese recording artists.

The company has invested an additional $10 million in the film maker David Puttnam, a former president of Columbia Pictures, and Hiroaki Shikanai says he might be interested in a movie studio someday, following in the steps of Sony, which recently bought Columbia.
Reagan was criticized for that -- but conservatives would still sing hosannas if he became the fifth face on Mount Rushmore.

And were the insider connections to the Clintons decisive? The Times would suggest they were, but Susie Madrak is right to note the way the Times story downplays the exact decision-making process. From the Times:
Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Madrak writes:
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (this one) is a multi-agency committee chaired by the US Treasury, not the State Department....
It consists of the heads of the Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy Departments, plus the U.S. Trade Representative and the head of the Office of Science & Technology Policy. Madrak writes, regarding Hillary:
She used her magical powers to force every single one of these agencies to do her nefarious bidding -- and override the security interests of the United States to allow these evil Rooskies to have access to uranium?

... And not one of those people ever made a peep. It's a conspiracy! Because Clinton!
I'd add one more person: the president. He believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Russians could be dealt with as reasonable people. Approving this deal was in sync with that idea, not in contradiction. How does it represent the Evil Clintons gone rogue?


I also want to talk about Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining magnate whose business machinations ultimately led to the deal that's the subject of the article. Giustra is a friend of Bill Clinton and a donor to Clinton's causes.

But, see, as a society we like guys such as Giustra. Conservatives have their Giustras and liberals have theirs -- fat cats who give generously to admirable causes and who, not incidentally, hobnob with high government officials.

Giusta got a philanthropic award last year from the Dalai Lama. He does good deeds:
Mr. Giustra donates to a broad-range of charities locally and internationally. Ranging from local charities including The Boys Club Network, StreettoHome and internationally like the Elton John Aids Foundation and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (yes, he has President Bill Clinton on speed dial). He established The Radcliffe Foundation in 1997 which supports a wide variety of international and local charities. Focusing on issues ranging from disaster relief, economic development and homelessness to offering children around the world hope for a better future.
And he does this in conjunction with Clinton and other swells:
[There are] charity events with U2 front man Bono, fundraisers co-hosted with jazz diva Diana Krall, face time with supermodel Petra Nemcova in the name of tsunami relief. And, of course, he has been welcomed into Clinton's inner circle as a bona fide Friend of Bill, or FOB.
This is how we think social problems need to be solved, because both liberal and conservative elite politicians, in the post-Reagan new Gilded Age, agree that business leaders are a huge force for good in the world. Yes, there are politicians who don't feel this way, but they scrounge for pennies while the politicians favored by swells run (or ostensibly run) the country.

That's how system works, folks. It will take a hell of a lot more than just examining the habits of the Clintons to change that fact.


I understand why George Packer, writing for The New Yorker, is saying he's tired of politics -- other longtime political observers (Jon Stewart, Andrew Sullivan) are also throwing in the towel. (Politics is making me weary these days, too.)

But Packer says what's been lost for him is the "fun."
It might not be wise for a sometime political journalist to admit this, but the 2016 campaign doesn’t seem like fun to me....

American politics in general doesn’t seem like fun these days. There’s nothing very entertaining about super PACs, or Mike Huckabee’s national announcement of an imminent national announcement of whether he will run for President again....
Packer goes on and on about what he's anticipating in the upcoming campaign that, in his view, won't be "fun" -- but when he gets to a list of proposals that he says "would make American politics more relevant, more interesting -- maybe even more fun," the list doesn't sound like fun, but rather like eat-your-vegetables earnestness. A couple of examples:
2. A Republican should run against the Republican Congress. Its negativism has become a disgrace to the party and the country....
Oh, please. Republicans run against the Republican Congress all the timer -- they just do it by saying that Congress isn't radically right-wing enough. And negativism? Packer thinks that's what's really awful about congressional Republicans? What, they're too grumpy? Replace "negativism" with "nihilism" and you're a lot closer to the truth.
6. A Republican and a Democrat with national reputations should hold hands and break the partisan rules. They should announce early on the intention of making the other his or her running mate in the event of winning the nomination -- if only to test whether the political center is really as dead as it seems.
Oh, good Lord. David Broder lives!

Seriously, George, have you looked at Congress? Or the states? We're electing ideologues -- the ideologues your magic Third Way dream team would have to work with if they somehow came to power. Also: This, to you, would be fun? Here, check out this recent column by Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman, co-chairs of the centrist group No Labels (which, yes, still exists):
Our movement, No Labels, identified ... goals by asking the American people what national problems they most wanted their representatives in Washington to solve. The resolution will establish a framework for a National Strategic Agenda that can appeal to citizens and leaders of all political stripes:

• Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years;
• Secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years;
• Balance the federal budget by 2030; and
• Make America energy secure by 2024.

... For our government to change course, goals must first be agreed to and set, then substantive policy negotiations can be held. That’s what a National Strategic Agenda is all about -- think of it as setting a destination in your GPS or favorite navigation application on your phone. The GPS or app may give you multiple options to reach the destination (goal), and there may be alternatives suggested along your way, but you know where the journey will end. You know you will accomplish the goal of arriving at your destination.
Hey! Hey! WAKE UP!

Packer rails against the sclerotic nature of our politics -- a would-be presidential candidate makes a "national announcement of an imminent national announcement" and so on. But what's more sclerotic than this No Labels proposal? A national survey that leads to a resolution that leads to a framework that leads to an agenda (or an Agenda) that leads to ... um, "substantive policy negotiations"? Which simply have to bear fruit, because Huntsman and Lieberman say so? Because everything in Washington ultimately always gets resolved once there's a framework for an agenda for a negotiation?


What's odd about Packer's essay is that there's a lost Eden for which he's nostalgic, and it doesn't seem like the Third Way, good-government, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington era he appears to crave now:
Since I was eight years old, and the Republican candidates were named Nixon, Rockefeller, and Reagan, and the Democrats were Humphrey, Kennedy, and McCarthy, I’ve been passionate about American politics, as a student, a witness, and a partisan. Politics was in my blood, at the family dinner table, in my work and my free time. But at some point in the past few years it went dead for me, or I for it....
So Packer is nostalgic for the period of our politics that started in 1968? The year we made Richard Nixon president? Packer wants earnest statesmanship, but he longs for forty or so years of dirty tricks, secret slush funds, candidate demonizations, foreign policy failings, ideological warfare, sexual embarrassments, and financiers given leeway to destroy the economy repeatedly? That was, I suppose, a grim sort of fun, but it wasn't good government.

We're just getting the first New York Times story built on Peter Schweizer's book about Bill and Hillary Clinton's ongoing search for cash, and, well, it's a bit sleazy. But Schweizer also swears he's going to go into Jeb Bush's secret deals. And Scott Walker and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, to name three, have plenty of sleaze in their past.

So this campaign might be a hell of a lot more like what Packer actually lived through starting in '68 than he imagines. But much of what he lived through was bad for the country, and for most of its citizens, just the way the future he dreads will probably be.

So enjoy the ride, George. You've been on it before.