Friday, July 31, 2015


Mike Huckabee has said a lot of extreme things recently, in what seems like an attempt to change his nice-guy image, but this is really just the old Huckabee:
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee indicated Thursday that if elected, he wouldn’t rule out employing federal troops or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion from taking place in the United States....

The comments came at two public speaking stops on a tour of Iowa.

In response to a question from the audience at the Pizza Ranch in Jefferson, Iowa, Huckabee said he would “invoke the 5th and 14th amendments for the protection of every human being.” ...

“Would that be a huge controversy?” the former Arkansas governor asked. “Yes.” ...

At his next stop, in Rockwell City, Huckabee answered follow-up questions from the correspondent, saying: “All American citizens should be protected.”

Asked by another reporter how he would stop abortion, and whether this would mean using the FBI or federal forces to accomplish this, Huckabee replied: “We’ll see if I get to be president.”
Let's not forget that in 1996, early in his tenure as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee defied federal law to block a Medicare payment for a teenage incest victim's abortion:
Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas today refused to authorize a Medicaid payment for an abortion for a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather has been charged with incest, despite a Federal judge's order that such payments were required by Federal law.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Huckabee said his first obligation was to obey the Arkansas State Constitution, rather than Federal law. The State Constitution includes an amendment banning the use of public money for abortion except when a mother's life is endangered; the Federal statute requires that Medicaid pay for abortions that are performed on poor women in cases of rape or incest or a threat to the mother's life.
The girl, by the way, was reported to be mentally retarded.

In 2007, when he was first running for president, Huckabee packed an offensive reference to the Holocaust and a bizarre reference to immigration into a a two-sentence comment on abortion:
Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people in our workforce. It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.
That's the old Huckabee -- the one David Brooks described in 2007 as "the most normal person running for president" and "too neighborly to seem presidential." He's not suddenly becoming nastier -- even though people like Brooks never noticed, he always was this nasty.


This story (from the anti-abortion LifeSiteNews) is getting a lot of attention on the right:
Until the eve of his presidential campaign, Jeb Bush was director of a philanthropy that gave tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood and financed its advocacy of "unrestricted access to abortion" around the world. The charity also approved money to global abortion providers while he sat on its board.

In 2010, Jeb was named one of the founding directors of the Bloomberg Family Foundation, established as a tax-exempt foundation to advance the vision of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He resigned from the board at the end of 2014 to prepare his presidential campaign.

While a Bush spokesman has responded to concerns by saying that Bush would not have voted on every initiative of the foundation, a pro-life leader told LifeSiteNews it "stretches credibility" that Bush was unaware of the foundation's pro-abortion work, given the centrality of such work to the foundation's mission, and its scope....

In March of 2014, the Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million undertaking to expand "reproductive health," including lobbying foreign nations to loosen restrictions on abortion....

Bloomberg clarified how the partnership would work while receiving Planned Parenthood's Global Citizen Award at its annual gala last March 27.

"I am happy to say our major partner in this project will be Planned Parenthood - Global," Bloomberg said. "In some countries, our funding will help advocates work towards better sexual health policies for teens and better access to contraceptives. In others, we'll help push for less restrictive abortion laws and more government funding for high-quality, accessible services." ...
I don't know if this is going to damage Bush's status as a GOP front-runner -- I think he's appealing to the non-zealots in the GOP electorate, who might find this a deviation from their principles but who'll probably take him at his word when he says he'll be fervently anti-abortion if he becomes president.

I take him at his word on that, too, because he's always made that part of his political brand:
... Jeb ... declared in 2003 that he was "probably the most pro-life governor in modern times." As governor, Bush signed a law to create "Choose Life" license plates in Florida, the proceeds from which flow to anti-abortion advocacy organizations. He also aggressively intervened in two high-profile cases to prevent a mentally disabled rape victim and a 13-year-old girl from being able to have abortions.

In the former case, involving a 22-year-old rape victim who was both pregnant and developmentally disabled, Bush asked a court to appoint a guardian to represent the woman's fetus. The woman had been raped while living in state-supervised facilities, but did not have the mental capacity to identify her attacker....

In 2005, Bush fought to prevent a pregnant 13-year-old girl, who was a ward of the state, from having an abortion. He was overruled by a judge, and CNN later reported that Bush's "abortion activism shocked some state officials who believed he was reaching beyond the powers of his office."

... The former governor recently embraced a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy....
He'll undoubtedly pursue similar policies if he's president. He'll pick a fervently anti-abortion running mate. He'll make opposition to abortion a Supreme Court litmus test.

And yet he signed on to be part of a Bloomberg initiative that he knew was pursuing reproductive rights. Why? Because, really, he doesn't particularly care about abortion. Being anti-abortion is just obvious positioning if you're an ambitious Republican. Never mind the fact that this positioning has real-life consequences for real people -- he did it because that's what he assumed his voters wanted, and what the voters he's hoping to attract want.

Apart from (perhaps) Rick Santorum, I don't know if any of the eight thousand Republican presidential candidates really care about abortion deep down. And yet I think every one of them would, if elected, pack the Supreme Court with the judges who'll overturn Roe v. Wade.

Hey, it's just politics, right?


In The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Nick Carasaniti write about Donald Trump and the upcoming Fox News debate -- and give us what might be the stupidest paragraph of the week:
Mr. Trump could come away a winner if he makes cogent points without sounding too hostile, presenting himself as more of a serious-minded, anti-establishment voice in a primary crowded with career Republican politicians. But there are risks for him if he turns the debate stage in Cleveland into another episode of the reality show his campaign has sometimes resembled.
That couldn't possibly be more wrong.

In reality, how is Trump going to "come away a winner"? Precisely by "sounding too hostile," and by not seeming "serious-minded" as political insiders define that term. Trump's fans like him because he's not Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, because he doesn't come off as a grind with his nose in a briefing book on Saturday night. If Trump "turns the debate stage in Cleveland into another episode of the reality show his campaign has sometimes resembled," what are the "risks for him"? That he'll go to 35% in the polls?

Oh, I guess these are the risks:
“He’s gotten away with just blustery criticisms and sweeping generalizations until now,” Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who advised Mitt Romney in 2012, said in an email. “It will be interesting to see if the Fox moderators, who are trusted validators among Republican primary voters, force him to provide more specifics on important policy issues.”

“He can’t just complain about the media to a Republican audience when it’s Bret Baier asking the question,” he said, referring to a Fox News anchor.
He can't? Sure he can. Yes, the right-wing base loves Fox, but the base is more than willing to denounce Fox in the rare moments when Fox deviates from wingnut orthodoxy. Spotted at Free Republic when Fox's Martha McCallum asked Ted Cruz a few months ago if he was too conservative to win independent voters:

See also "Is Fox News Also a Leftist Propaganda Outlet?" (posted after Carl Cameron said Obama's birth certificate was legitimate) and "FOX NEWS Officially RINO Liberal Central" (posted after Glenn Beck left Fox). Trust me: If it's a battle between a Fox moderator and Trump, unless Trump seems on the defensive, the crazies are going to side with Trump.

But here's where I think we see what's really going on in the Times article:
It is possible, of course, that Mr. Trump could choose to disarm his opponents not by finding new ways to humiliate them but by being statesmanlike and courteous.
Well, actually, no, it isn't possible. But go on.
“If we live in a world where he is a serious candidate and intends to prove that he’s a serious candidate, then it is a real opportunity,” said Stuart Stevens, another former Romney adviser. “I think for Donald Trump, a boring debate would probably help.”
Ahh, there we go. What these people are rooting for is a Trump who makes nice. Why? Because that would quell their anxieties about Trump's rise and what it says regarding American politics. If Trump becomes just another politician, then we no longer have to worry that a significant percentage of the public wants a racist know-nothing demagogue as president. If Trump were to do what Stevens prays for, the Beltway insiders could say, "See? The kids are all right. They just like this harmless eccentric. We no longer have to worry that years of escalating extremist rhetoric from the GOP and the right-wing media have primed a third of the electorate to want the country run by an ignorant tyrant on a balcony. Phew!"


A different version of the "Trump's all right, really" worldview comes today from Peggy Noonan, who turns his rise into a sort of Song of America:
He was born to wealth and went to Wharton, yet gives off a working-class vibe his supporters admire. He’s like Broderick Crawford in “Born Yesterday”: He comes across as self-made. In spite of his wealth he never made himself smooth, polite. He’s like someone you know. This is part of his power....

He never served in the military yet connects with grunts. He has lived a life of the most rarefied material splendor -- gold gilt, penthouse suites -- and made the high life part of his brand. Yet he doesn’t come across as snooty or fancy -- he’s a regular guy. A glitzy Manhattan billionaire is doing well with Evangelicals. That’s a first.

His rise is not due to his supporters’ anger at government. It is a gesture of contempt for government, for the men and women in Congress, the White House, the agencies. It is precisely because people have lost their awe for the presidency that they imagine Mr. Trump as a viable president....

Mr. Trump’s supporters like that he doesn’t in the least fear the press, doesn’t get the dart-eyed, anxious look candidates get. He treats reporters with courtesy until he feels they’re out of line, at which point he calls them stupid. They think he’ll do that with Putin. His insult of John McCain didn’t hurt him, and not because his supporters have any animus for Mr. McCain. They just saw it as more proof Mr. Trump will take the bark off anyone.

They’re not nihilists, they’re patriots, and don’t experience themselves as off on a toot but pragmatic in a way the establishment is not. The country is in crisis, we can’t keep doing more of the same. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” We have to do something different. He’s different. If it doesn’t work we’ll fire him.
Of course, we wouldn't be able to just "fire him." I'm not even sure we could impeach and convict him if it came to that -- he'd probably sue. (And by the way, Peggy, Trump's followers have plenty of "animus for John McCain.")

One way or another, we can remain in denial that Trump's rise says something bad about the country. Either Trump will get himself under control because he's really not a bad guy or America is egging him out of the best possible motivations. But relax, folks: America is just fine. Nothing to see here. Move along.


UPDATE: I should note that Matt Bai of Yahoo Politics is an exception to this -- he thinks Trump's rise shows that we have a dangerous tendency to "amuse ourselves to death." Bai doesn't worry that Trump will win, but he does worry that someone more dangerous will learn the formula from Trump:
Somewhere out there right now is some business magnate or TV celebrity, someone whose resources and audacity may vastly exceed his intellect or compassion, whose ambition may be more of the Napoleonic variety than the P.T. Barnum kind, who’s better skilled than Trump at making demagoguery look like a half-palatable governing vision.

And that person is probably sitting by a pool ringed with limestone goddesses, watching all this unfold and asking the question any of us might reasonably ask in that situation.

“Hey, why not me?”
And then we're sunk.

What Bai ignores, however, is the specific content of Trump's demagoguery. I say in the headline to this post that America has a Trump problem. I should be more specific: Right-wing america has a Trump problem, in that vast numbers of right-wingers are primed to fall for an ignoramus like him. The rest of America has a problem with those right-wingers. Bai misses that.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


At Vox, David Roberts writes about a just-published report on the extremism of right-wing media and the political harm it does. The message of the report -- which was written by Jackie Calmes of The New York Times and grew out of her recent fellowship at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government -- is summed up in its title: "'They Don’t Give a Damn About Governing': Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party."

Calmes, Roberts tells us, discusses the report in a podcast, in which she admits that she didn't know much about the right-wing media before beginning her research:
The first thing she says is that before launching her research project, she wasn't really aware of right-wing media beyond Limbaugh and National Review and was surprised at the size and radicalism of the right-wing media/activist network.
Well, Roberts says, at least she gets it now. And then he says that it's getting harder and harder for journalists and others to remain ignorant of right-wing extremism:
One of the longstanding critiques of mainstream media on the left, from the very beginning of the blogosphere, was that reporters in the Beltway "Village" failed to grasp modern conservatism and wrote about it in such a way as to sand down and mute its extremity. Their attachment to a certain mental model of politics -- "both sides" with their mirror-image extremes and centers -- made them blind to "asymmetrical polarization." In fact, people are still making that critique; here's Paul Krugman from just a few days ago.

... there are still plenty of mainstream political reporters who cling to the both-sides illusion to this day, imagining politics as a sober business conducted by Very Serious People in suits, premised on a shared set of facts and assumptions. But as the far right sends the Republican Party through an ever-more-absurd series of showdowns and tantrums, the illusion is fading. Now lots of established journalists seem to have moved on to the bargaining stage of grief, holding out hope that the Adults will once again take charge.
But is that really what the typical mainstream journalist believes -- that, yes, the right is crazy now, but cooler heads ought to prevail any minute now?

I think it's worse than that. I think every flare-up of extremism that's the Village can't simply ignore is treated as an isolated incident, the work of an unrepresentative "lone nut" or collection of lone nuts. It certainly never reflects the nature of the party as a whole! The demonization of Sandra Fluke? That was just that awful Rush Limbaugh! "Legitimate rape"? Todd Akin, speaking solely for himself, and not in any way expressing a widely shared belief on the right! The government shutdown in 2013? Blame Ted Cruz, and only Ted Cruz (or maybe a tiny band of Tea Party legislators who are very, very different from the vast majority of Republicans)! The Trump phenomenon? It's just Trump! As soon as he fades, Republican voters will be delightedly embracing their true heroes, folks like Jeb Bush and John Kasich!

The Villagers never think "the Adults will once again take charge" because they never truly believe that the crazies are in charge. Every extremist flare-up is a fluke. And that's what they're going to believe when the Trump phenomenon ends, even though the crazies will be clamoring for Jeb (or Scott or whoever) to be as extreme as Trump. That thirst for the crazy is unslakable -- but to the Village, most of the time, it's invisible.


I'd love to believe this, though I'm skeptical:
Shock poll: Donald Trump leads Jeb Bush 26-20 percent … in Florida

For the first time this year, Donald Trump tops a state poll of GOP presidential candidates in Florida.

A St. Pete Polls survey released on Wednesday shows the New York businessman with 26 percent support, with Jeb Bush in second place with 20 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is in third place with 12 percent, and Marco Rubio is in fourth place with 10 percent. He’s followed by Dr. Ben Carson at 5 percent, Ted Cruz and John Kasich at 4 percent, and Rand Paul at 3 percent....
There are reasons for skepticism. Last year, Daily Kos's David Nir criticized the track record and methodology of St. Pete Polls :

Nir specifically criticized St. Pete for having a pro-Republican lean and for conducting one-day robocall surveys. But a pro-GOP bias wouldn't matter in this case because it's just a poll of Republicans, and the pollster tells us this survey was conducted over the course of eleven days, not one.

But that's the only criticism of the pollster. When this story broke yesterday, Dave Weigel tweeted a link, and some of his readers picked apart the numbers:

Does it make sense in Florida that the 92% of the Republicans surveyed were white, or that (to be specific) 79.9% were 50 or over, and 32.5% were 70 and over?

Well, maybe it does make sense. The respected Edison Research exit-polled the 2012 Florida Republican primary, and 78% of its respondents were 45 or older, while 36% were 65 and older. Also, 83% were white (1% each were black, Asian, and "other," while 14% were Hispanic, of whom 8% were Cuban). So the St. Pete numbers aren't that far off.

The St. Pete gender skew is weird, however -- 61.9% male? Really? (Edison's 2012 exit-poll respondent poll was 51% male.) However, in the St. Pete poll, Trump wins among women as well as men, though men like Trump more (men: 28.2% Trump, 20.3% Bush; women: 23.2% Trump, 19.6% Bush).

So, yes, Trump may really be leading in Florida.


A temporary restraining order issued in Los Angeles Superior Court now prevents the shady anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing any additional secret videos concerning StemExpress, which works with Planned Parenthood affiliates in California to provide fetal tissue to researchers.

I doubt this will slow CMP's video release plans for very long. CMP has released three videos so far; the group's David Dalieden says there'll be a total of twelve. I'm sure the restraining order won't hold for very long -- this court will lift the ban, or another court will, or videos that don't involve StemExpress will move up in the release schedule. (UPDATE: A fourth video was just released, not involving StemExpress.)

CMP has released videos at the rate of one a week, so the plan has been to release them into the fall. I'm struck by the timing: carefully planned to coincide with the months when the presidential campaign is heating up, but distant enough from the election that the whole stunt could be flushed down the memory hole if public reaction turned out to be as negative as the reaction to Todd Akin's rape remarks or Rush Limbaugh's smearing of Sandra Fluke.

As it happens, CMP has somewhat of a hit on its hands: Right-wingers are complaining about what they see as inadequate coverage in the mainstream media, but the story is firing up the right -- at a time when, Donald Trump notwithstanding, the still-likely GOP nominee is the extremely uninspiring Jeb Bush, who'll need something to goose base voters if he's to have any hope of winning the presidency.

And the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has been defensive about the videos, even as she sticks up for Planned Parenthood as an organization. The organizers of this campaign knew years ago -- we all did -- that Clinton was the likely 2016 Democratic nominee, and that she's linked in most Americans' minds to feminism, and thus to reproductive rights. Getting her into a defensive crouch on this ("The videos coming out about Planned Parenthood are deeply troubling to say the least") is a pretty big win.

And the right is clearly going to build on all this, not just in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, but in the states. (Here's Florida governor Rick Scott ordering inspections of Planned Parenthood facilities in his state.) That kind of thing is likely to keep happening in Republican-run states (especially if they're presidential swing states). So this story might have legs.

Was this the plan all along -- to target the presidential election? I'm struck not just by the timing of the video releases, but by the history of CMP, which has links to Operation Rescue and Live Action but is a relatively new group.

The first CMP video was released a couple of weeks ago -- and when it came out, we were told that the release was part of "a 30-month-long investigative journalism study." Count back thirty months from July 2015. You end up at January 2013 -- just about the time when conservative activists stung by their failure to unseat Barack Obama in the 2012 election might have finished licking their wounds and decided they were ready to start planning for another election cycle.

You can snicker all you want at Trump and the GOP candidate "clown car," but the right is very good at forcing what seems to be a minor issue, or even an irrelevancy, into the national debate -- remember ACORN and the Swiftboated John Kerry. I think this was intended as a hit on Hillary. And I think it might be working.


UPDATE, SATURDAY, 8/: Tying into this is Karoli Kuns's article about Groundswell, the secretive right-wing group formed -- yes -- in early 2013, with founders including Clarence Thomas's wife and Ted Cruz's chief of staff. Go read what Kuns writes about how Groundswell's work syncs up with CMP's. This is just one of Groundswell's interest areas. But, yes, this is an election-season hit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The Republican Party is fretting over Donald Trump's appearance in the upcoming presidential debates on Fox and CNN -- but there'll be another candidate forum soon, and Trump is insisting he won't appear in that one:
Trump tells Union Leader: No endorsement, no show

Donald Trump is still not participating in next Monday’s Voters First Presidential Forum in New Hampshire, but now he says it is because he thinks he is unlikely to get the New Hampshire Union Leader’s endorsement and, besides, he thinks there are too many candidates for one event.

Given a deadline of last Friday, Trump’s office had said he would not participate because of a Union Leader editorial critical of him for questioning U.S. Sen. John McCain’s Vietnam war record....

But Tuesday, in a letter to Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid, Trump wrote: “...knowing you as I do, I feel it is unlikely I will be getting the endorsement from you and the Union Leader. I have made a great fortune based on instinct and that, unfortunately, is my view. Therefore, and for other reasons including the fact that I feel there are too many people onstage to have a proper forum, I will not be attending.”

There will be 14 Republican presidential candidates at the forum, which is being co-sponsored by news media in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, home of the first three GOP primaries and caucuses.
Trump's saying he won't appear in the forum because he intuits that the Union Leader won't endorse him, but his original reason was that a Union Leader editorial attacked him -- which, GOP, suggests how you might keep him out of future debates, if you're smart.

You know all that Trump opposition research you and the candidates are sitting on? All the sleazy, scurrilous stories? Just start leaking them to any news organization planning to sponsor an upcoming debate. Obviously you won't get very far with Fox News, which loves Trump, but maybe you can leak something to CNN before the September 16 debate. Make it nasty and juicy. If Trump gets angry enough, maybe he'll refuse to do the CNN debate. Then move on to the sponsors of subsequent debates.

The guy doesn't like to be attacked, and he enjoys acting as if he can exact vengeance on anyone he thinks is attacking him. So take advantage of that. Hey, it might work.


Deadly police misconduct is a tremendous problem in America right now, but here's a case of a public servant who isn't on a police force deciding that his right not to be "disrespected" outweighs another human being's life. To me, this reaction derives from the same mindset as "contempt of cop" brutality:
An Albuquerque Fire Department dispatcher has been reassigned after he allegedly refused to help a distraught woman asking for assistance on a 911 call as her friend was dying after being shot, fire officials said.

In audio released Tuesday, a dispatcher identified as Matthew Sanchez appears to get frustrated by a woman tending to Jaydon Chavez-Silver, a 17-year-old who was shot by a gunman who opened fire into a house where a party was being held at around 10 p.m. on June 26, authorities said.

Chavez-Silver was pronounced dead at a hospital, and there have been no arrests, Albuquerque police said Tuesday.

Sanchez asks several times whether the victim is breathing, and the caller says, "He's barely breathing. How many times do I have to f---ing tell you?"

Sanchez is heard responding, "OK, you know what, ma'am? You can deal with yourself, I'm not going to deal with this, OK?" The caller pleads, "No, my friend is dying! I …" and the line disconnects.
Here's a partial transcript:
Caller: I’m keeping him alive…

Dispatcher: Is he not breathing?

Caller: Barely. Take one more breath -- there you go, Jaydon. … Stay with me, stay with me, ok. Good job, Jaydon.

Dispatcher: Is he breathing?

Caller: He is barely breathing. How may times do I have to f**king tell you?

Dispatcher: Ok, you know what ma’am? You can deal with it yourself. I’m not going to deal with this, ok.

Caller: No! My friend is dying! …
And here's the audio:

I don't want to suggest that I see this as more important than the many cases of appalling behavior by "respect"-obsessed cops. The police cases are worse because cops always have the power of life and death over the people they detain.

But cops defend themselves by saying that they have to seize control of every situation in order not to be victims of violence themselves. Yes, that's a consideration in some cases of violent misconduct. In many cases, though, there's no obvious threat (an unarmed fleeing suspect shot in the back, a clearly unarmed teenage girl in a bikini slammed to the ground), and still they do it.

And now here's a 911 dispatcher who lashed out at a citizen even though he had no reason whatsoever to feel that he was experiencing any threat, expect to his precious dignity. Don't tell me that this isn't happening to cops. Don't tell me that every outrageously disproportionate reaction is the result of fear. Sorry, guys -- you serve the public. It's about service. It's not about your manhood.




I assume that most of us believe we're seeing a Donald Trump opposition-research dump -- either the Republican National Committee is passing Trump stories along to the media or the campaign of one of his opponents, probably Jeb Bush, is doing it. But the stories aren't having the intended effect -- yesterday's Daily Beast rape story failed to harm Trump, because the claim that Trump raped his then-wife Ivana was denied a couple of years after the fact by Ivana herself, and was denied by Ivana again after the story broke. Trump fans saw the publication of the story as a nefarious plot to destroy their hero, and they rallied around him even more.

And now there's this, in The New York Times:
Donald J. Trump seemed irritated. He had been grilled for two hours in a lawsuit over a failed Florida real estate project, and he told the lawyer that her questions were “very stupid.”

When the lawyer, Elizabeth Beck, asked for a medical break, Mr. Trump and his lawyers objected, demanding that the deposition continue. Ms. Beck said it was urgent -- she needed to pump breast milk for her 3-month-old daughter, and she took the pump out to make her point.

Mr. Trump erupted.

“You’re disgusting,” he told Ms. Beck, in a remark that is not disputed by either side. He then walked out of the room, ending the testimony for the day....
Seriously, Jeb (or Reince)? That's supposed to be disillusioning to Trump's supporters? That he didn't want a deposition interrupted while the lawyer pumped breast milk?

I went to my usual barometer for this --- a Free Republic thread linking the New York Daily News version of this story. I see that some of the Freepers are actually modern enough to accept (discreet) public breastfeeding. Milk-pumping is another matter. From a commenter named biff:
Mrs. Biff nursed all three of my boys. Real subtle she was and when flying and kiddos ears would bother them she could breastfeed on the plane with a light blanket over babies head and nobody even knew. Baby ears cleared, baby with happy stomach, everybody on plane happy with no screaming kid.

On the other hand, breast pumping during a deposition is a little slovenly.
Not breastfeeding...pumping milk...DURING a deposition. That is weird.


It is weird, but I wouldn’t call it disgusting. “Inappropriate” is what I would call it; Not the act itself, but the setting in which she chose to do it.


breastfeeding is a lot different than pumping milk with from ones breast. One is natural but not appropriate in a deposition the other is inappropriate anywhere but in a private room.
For others, as you'd imagine, it's all too much:
I like scratching my butt, but not in public....


The culture and liberals over the last 50 years have wanted the “ In your face “ approach of pushing the envelope as far as they can take it to see what they can get away with.

Society once knew a word, it’s called decentcy.


The woman is disgusting--pumping as if she were a cow--instead of at home caring for the needs of her child which includes true breastfeeding and intimacy. That event is for the mother/child “trust” bonding--not some plastic, artificial container held by anyone and no skin on skin contact, which actually reduces the mother to a cow without a calf.

This “Marxist” removal of a mother--having her “pumped” is disgusting. Such a sad dehumanizing culture for babies now--left to strangers since “work” is more important than shaping and caring for the next generation which is the true “work” of mothers with young children.


... Trump could have gotten the upper hand had he just said, “Sure. Have at it.” and taken out a penis pump.
All in all, this falls under the heading of "You come at the king, you'd best not miss." The Freepers are just enraged by this -- even the Trump skeptics. Trump is becoming what they love most: a defiant victim of liberal evil. He's the new Sarah Palin! Oh, and ... and ... Planned Parenthood!
Obama voted for infanticide as a state senator.



How long has it been since lefties have tried the “Throw EVERYTHING at it” approach?


Last time Palin drew breath.


I betcha all these people looking for dirt on Trump are great with those metal detectors looking for a rusty St Christopher Metal at some park somewhere.


The news media is out to destroy Donald Trump. The liberal mainstream media fears that Trump will ruin their dreams of a socialist paradise (really hell hole)


... The left supports the killing and dismembering of babies and the selling of their body parts. I hardly think Trump’s reaction to the possibility that the woman was getting ready to pump breast milk right there (or even that she pulled out the pump and showed them) is a anything at all.

If that’s the best they can do they’ve got nothing.


... When you receive maximum flak, you are over the target!


but selling baby parts isn’t even news.
If it were possible to imagine him playing 11-dimensional chess, it might almost seem plausible that Trump himself was leaking these stories, just to induce a backlash (and keep his name in the press). But that's really not his style. So I blame whichever Republican is stupid enough to think these leaks will do Trump harm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I don't really want to criticize Bruce Bartlett when he's using this Politico column to make good points about the extremism of the modern Republican Party -- but if he thinks a Donald Trump general-election loss would discredit the GOP's extremist wing, he's sadly mistaken:
As a moderate Republican who voted for Obama, I should be Donald Trump’s natural enemy. Instead, I’m rooting for him.

The Republican establishment foresees a defeat of Barry Goldwater proportions in the unlikely event Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination. As Trump’s lead in the polls grows, so too does their panic. Yet, for moderate Republicans, a Trump nomination is not something to be feared but welcomed. It is only after a landslide loss by Trump that the GOP can win the White House again.

Trump’s nomination would give what’s left of the sane wing of the GOP a chance to reassert control in the wake of his inevitable defeat, because it would prove beyond doubt that the existing conservative coalition cannot win the presidency. A historic thrashing of the know-nothings would verify that compromise and reform are essential to recapture the White House and attract new voters, such as Latinos, who are now alienated from the Republican Party.

A best-case scenario would see the nation souring on the Democrats after three victories in a row, the most either party has achieved in the post-war era, and the election of a pragmatic Republican in 2020, unencumbered by the right-wing baggage essential for winning the nomination that dragged down John McCain and Mitt Romney....
If you nodded in agreement at that reference to "the right-wing baggage essential for winning the nomination that dragged down John McCain and Mitt Romney," congratulations: you're not a wingnut. You know that Mitt Romney talked about "self-deportation," denounced Obamacare the way Ahab denounced the whale, and picked granny-starving Paul Ryan as his running mate; you also know that John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate and said it would be just ducky if U.S. troops were in Iraq for a thousand years.

But to wingnuts, these guys were liberals -- or RINOs, which, to the right, is exactly the same thing. Every wingnut "knows" why Romney and McCain lost: because they weren't conservative enough! If Trump were somehow to win the nomination and he went on to lose the presidency in a landslide, even with someone like Ted Cruz (or, God help us, Palin) as his running mate, these same wingnuts -- the ones thrilling to his every word right now -- would say he lost because he was too liberal.

Hell, it would easier to make that case with Trump -- he's given money to Democrats and praised single-payer healthcare, and he occasionally says conservatively incorrect things even about immigration. So we'd be back at square one: Next time, if we want to win, we have to run a conservative! And if no Republican wins the presidency for a generation, it will be because none of them actually were conservatives. Because, to the wingnuts, conservatism can never fail -- it can only be failed.


A Free Republic thread directs me to a post at the Young Conservatives site with the headline "This Sign Delivers Epic Burn to Liberals Who Support Iran Deal."

"Epic burn" -- really? Wow, what the heck does the sign say? Unless the headline is exaggerating, it must say something amazing!

Um, here it is:

This isn't an "epic burn." It doesn't even make sense. It just takes one momentary right-wing obsession and turns it into a metaphor for another momentary right-wing obsession, in a way that's utterly illogical. This sign exists solely to give other right-wingers the thrill of having two hate-erogenous zones massaged simultaneously. That's the principal thing right-wingers want, all the time -- to have their anger stoked and their sense of moral superiority affirmed.

The pleasure this sign brings is the pleasure of Trump trash talk. It doesn't have to be coherent. It doesn't have to offer solutions. It just has to affirm the goodness of us and the across-the-board evil of the liberal them.


First, regarding the old news in the Daily Beast's Trump rape story: If this were going to hurt Trump's reputation, it would have done so long ago. The story's been out there forever, and the accuser, for better or worse, walked it back. It's not a Bill Cosby situation -- there aren't dozens of other women making similar accusations. So I suspect the old report will do no damage:
... [Donald Trump's] ex-wife Ivana Trump once used “rape” to describe an incident between them in 1989. She later said she felt “violated” by the experience.

... Ivana Trump’s assertion of “rape” came in a deposition -- part of the early ’90s divorce case between the Trumps, and revealed in the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.
Go to the link for a description of violent marital sex -- which I'd certainly consider rape. (More on that below.) But Ivana qualified her accusation at the time the book was published:
When Lost Tycoon was about to be printed, Donald Trump and his lawyers provided a statement from Ivana, which was posted on the first page of the book. In it, Ivana confirms that she had “felt violated” and that she had stated that her husband had raped her during a divorce deposition. But Ivana sought to soften her earlier statement.

“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” the Ivana Trump statement said. “[O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense."
Yes, right now that brings to mind the settlements and confidentiality agreements that have kept Bill Cosby out of prison. But unless other women come forward with similar accusations against Trump, his fans will believe what they want to believe.

Especially because they're going to regard the dredging up of this story as a plot against their hero by the liberal media -- or the Republican establishment. Also: What about Bill Clinton?!?!

Thus, we have Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:
The liberal media and GOP elites couldn’t take down Trump with their nonstop attacks.
Trump is up in the polls.

Now this...

So Clinton screwed anything that moved and now they’re making an issue out of a nasty divorce.
They have no shame....

So, who fed this to the Daily Beast, the Bushes or the Clintons?
Also see Robert Stacy McCain -- who, unlike Hoft, hasn't been rooting for Trump:
So what? When a rich man’s wife divorces him, she always accuses him of awful things. It’s a shakedown: “Give me the money I want or I’ll drag your name through the mud and make an ugly spectacle of it.”

Who knows if it’s true? And who cares? Ivana got her money and Trump moved on with his life. It’s over. Ancient history.
I think these arguments are going to be persuasive to the Trumpites.

And now to the aspect of this story that's attracting much of the
media attention:
Michael Cohen, special counsel at The Trump Organization, defended his boss, saying, “You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”

“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

... That is not true. In New York, there used to be a so-called marital rape exemption to the law. It was struck down in 1984.
The fact that Trump's lawyer doesn't know the law in his own state will be treated as yet another a sign that Trump lacks the judgment to be president. But do you think his fans will care that the lawyer is ignorant? I've watched these folks for years. I think they hate genuinely smart, sophisticated lawyers. I think they very much agree with Antonin Scalia's critique of the federal judiciary (and, implicitly, the entire universe of elite lawyers) in his same-sex marriage dissent:
... the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
And I think Trump fans will savor the fact that Michael Cohen is the most Trump-esque lawyer ever:
Trump’s lawyer then changed tactics, lobbing insults and threatening a lawsuit if a story was published.

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up...for as long as you’re on this frickin’’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
There'll have to be more incidents of this kind for this story to leave a mark on Trump. Meanwhile, I'm just savoring the detail that Trump was said to be angry at Ivana because he felt mistreated by a plastic surgeon she'd recommended -- for an operation described in the Daily Beast story as "painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot." Yes, Trump was going bald, and instead of getting hair plugs or trying the then-new drug Rogaine, he had his scalp surgically shrunk. The rich really are very different from you and me.


And if you're thinking what this tweeter is thinking about the first GOP debate...

Don't forget how a question to Newt Gingrich about his marital troubles backfired on CNN's John King in 2012. I don't think I'd go there. (And do you think Reince Priebus wants that question asked in a GOP debate in the Todd Akin era, even if it's asked of Trump?)


UPDATE: In a new interview, Ivana disavows the rape allegation and says Trump "would make an incredible president." End of story.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Nate Cohn of The New York Times says that we shouldn't assume Donald Trump is undamaged by his John McCain remarks just because polls still show him riding high -- these things take time, Cohn says:
... it is not at all clear that we should expect Mr. Trump to suffer discernible losses in the near future. Take Herman Cain, who faced reports that he was accused of sexual harassment in late October 2011. These reports were surely more problematic for his candidacy than Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. McCain, and yet the early polls conducted after the allegations did not show much evidence that they had any effect on his standing. One month later, Mr. Cain was out of the race.

If sexual harassment allegations didn’t immediately bring Mr. Cain down, there’s not much reason to think Mr. Trump’s ratings should crash either. It will take time for the effects of the scrutiny brought by Mr. Trump’s comments to take their toll. Maybe even a long time. What’s important is that the process of scrutiny, from party leaders and journalists, is now underway.
But here's the difference.

The initial big Cain scandal story, "Herman Cain Accused by Two Women of Inappropriate Behavior," appeared at Politico on October 31, 2011. Immediately, Cain went into a damage-control mode, claiming on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News program that he just made an innocent gesture in one accuser's presence, but conceding that the woman was paid a dollar amount "in the five-figure range." By November 2, we had a Rick Perry pollster claiming he'd personally seen Cain sexually harass a woman. We had a third woman claiming harassment. We had Cain calling the story a Perry hit job and then, a day latter, walking back that accusation. By November 7, USA Today was reporting on yet another woman's claim of harassment, under the headline "Woman Says Cain Put Hand Up Her Skirt." This accuser was represented by publicity-magnet attorney Gloria Allred. And then one of the original accusers went public with her account of harassment the next day. And on and on.

Does this remind you in any way of the Trump/McCain story? Let's compare: Trump said a controversial thing. Horrified political observers and fellow Republicans told us that what Trump said was awful. Trump walked it back slightly -- then moved on as if nothing terrible had happened. There have been no new Trump/McCain revelations, no secrets, no real or alleged skeletons in closets -- yeah, we were told that Trump had a cushy life as a draft-avoider while McCain was being tortured in a POW camp, but Trump didn't care. He has no sense of guilt about any of this. He's continued to be his usual cocky self. He hasn't been scrambling to do damage control. His wife hasn't been promising to go on Fox to defend him, then backing off. He's clearly never believed he needed to go into a defensive crouch -- and, because he acts as he's above it all, his fans agree. Dave Weigel saw this over the weekend when he hung out with some Iowa Trumpites:
Trump survived his McCain spat. Lots of people gasped at Trump’s “war hero” snark against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Not many of them will participate in the Iowa caucuses. According to CNN’s polling, Trump actually ticked up marginally in the Hawkeye state after the McCain joke. That may not last -- indeed, other polls in other states suggested that the joke backfired. But the sort of voter inclined to back Trump is not a fan of McCain.

“He had the nerve to put McCain in his place,” said Angie Binns, 59.

“I’ve been thinking that for years myself,” said Don James, a 62-year old immigration control activist who brought a “Deport Illegals” banner to the rally. ”No more walking on eggshells, no more political correctness.”

Another voter, who declined to state his name, reacted to the mention of McCain’s name by referring to (false) rumors that he had collaborated with Communists. Yes, McCain’s heroism powered him to many primary victories with Republican voters. But it’s 2015, and to many conservatives, McCain’s claim that Trump would “rile up the crazies” on immigration reform was more offensive than what Trump said.
Trump might fall -- but not because of the McCain incident. He's just acted as if he's above it all since he criticized McCain. He obviously doesn't feel he's guilty of anything, or even that anyone who matters might think he's guilty of anything and need to be persuaded otherwise. So he's just moving on.


So I'm reading this:
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called the Iran deal "idiotic," and likened it to events of the Holocaust, saying that President Barack Obama will ultimately "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
And I'm thinking back to 2012:
As of this week, the former Arkansas governor has a new job: national radio talk show host.

The Mike Huckabee Show started Monday with an anticipatory flourish.

"Welcome to the community of conversation. You've just made a right turn, and you've arrived at the corner of conservatism and common sense," he said. "In this show, we're going to be confronting the issues -- not the listeners."

... "One of the trademarks that we are putting on this show is that it's going to be more conversation and less confrontation," he says. "If anyone has watched my television show, they know that I don't bring people on the set to see if I can yell at them and push their buttons and raise everybody's blood pressure. I have people on my show that are as polar opposite of me philosophically as someone can be, but I'm always going to treat them with respect."
The show didn't work for him and went off the air a year and a half later. But niceness was always part of Huckabee's brand, as the Daily Beast's David Freedlander noted last year:
Frank Rich, in The New York Times, wrote [in 2007] that Huckabee was the Republican Obama. Rich attributed Huckabee’s rise in the polls to “his message,” which “is simply more uplifting -- and, in the ethical rather than theological sense, more Christian -- than that of rivals, whose main calling cards of fear, torture and nativism have become more strident with every debate. The fresh-faced politics of joy may be trumping the five-o’clock-shadow of Nixonian gloom and paranoia.”

It was an idea that ricocheted around liberal blogs and talk radio outlets. Sure, Huckabee’s views on social issues were a bit out of right field, but they weren’t appreciably different from those of the rest of the GOP field. And the rest of his policy ideas, even when right-leaning, were bathed in a soft, summer camp biblical glow. People of faith, he said in one memorable speech, need to show that they “are not just angry folks mad about some things we don’t like, but people who have joy in our hearts. People who want to help those without housing to find it, those without drinking water to drink it, to help people who are hungry at night to know what it is to have food.”
But more recently he's just become nasty -- "Mean Mike," as Ed Kilgore calls him. Here's a passage from Huckabee's most recent book:
For those of us from the land of God, guns, grits, and gravy, being told we need to ride a bicycle and live in a tree stump by an environmental lobbyist in a Gucci suit or an aging hippie who hasn’t been outside the San Francisco city limits since Jerry Garcia died goes over about as well as Pee-wee Herman lecturing George Foreman on how to throw a punch.
And, of course, now he's comparing the Iran deal to the Holocaust, but last year he compared abortion to the Holocaust.

So which was that the real Huckabee? One Arkansan who knew Huckabee back when suggested to the Daily Beast's Freedlander that both Huckabee personas are phony, though the nasty one is more genuine:
“He might have been a Baptist preacher, but he had a mean streak a mile wide,” said Jimmy Jeffress, a former Arkansas lawmaker who served in the statehouse during Huckabee’s tenure. Although the two battled bitterly in Little Rock, Jeffress said that since the governor [left] the statehouse, “He has just become a complete opportunist. He says these things to reach out to the hearts of Republican voters. I don’t think that is what he feels, but he wants to get more support and he doesn’t want to just go home to his multimillion-dollar mansion on the Florida coast...and put his feet in the water.”
He had the talent to sell the nice-guy act to Arkansas voters in two gubernatorial elections; he then sold it to quite a few primary voters in 2008 -- but not enough. This year, the nasty act isn't working for him -- he's far back in the polls, and Iowa evangelical Republicans are abandoning him for Scott Walker (or Donald Trump).

Would Huckabee be doing better this year if his shift in persona didn't seem opportunistic -- even though it may more accurately reflect his actual personality? Hard to say. A further complicating factor is that while GOP voters clearly like self-righteous anger, they're not responding well to some of the angrier, snarlier candidates. Cruz, Jindal, Christie -- they're all struggling.

The exception is Trump. And maybe the reason is that he's the only one who really seems to enjoy being nasty. Jindal never seems to enjoy anything. Cruz often seems smug, but never joyful. Christie used to enjoy his own nastiness, but not anymore.

Huckabee seems joyless, too. In nasty mode, he just seems grim and bitter. He should probably pick one persona, stick with it -- and savor it.


.ALSO: Please note that Huckabee was for Iran negotiations before he was against them:
[President obama] pursued basically the same path that Huckabee outlined in the pages of Foreign Affairs magazine’s January/February 2008 edition.
We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son's or daughter's life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran.
--Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 2008


Via today, I see that some on the right are pointing out that Donald Trump isn't as much of an immigration hard-liner as he seems to be. This is from Power Line:

... Trump himself is beginning to seem soft illegal immigrants. The Daily Caller notes that during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday, the tycoon appeared to back amnesty for some illegal immigrants.
Joe Scarborough asked Trump what he would do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country once America secured its southern border. After arguing the real number of illegal immigrants is much higher and saying the first thing America needs to do is “take the bad” illegal immigrants and “get them the hell out,” Trump sounded like he was open to providing some type of pathway to legalization for the remainder.

“And then the other ones -- and I’m a very big believer in merit system, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “Because some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job, you know, in some cases sadly they’ve been living under the shadows.”

“We have to do something,” he continued. “So whether it’s merit or whether it’s whatever, but I’m a believer in the merit system. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”
... According to CNN’s Chris Moody, when asked [in June] what he would do about the illegal immigrants already residing in the country once the border was secured, Trump replied, “give them a path.” A path to what? Trump didn’t say.
So will this be what ultimately topples Trump -- the fact that he'd actually like to find a way to keep some undocumented immigrants in the country?

Well, these quotes are already out there and they're doing no harm to Trump. And that's bizarre. It's one thing to say that Trump used to have moderate or liberal positions on a number of issues and used to give money to Democrats. (I see that yesterday Timothy Noah gathered up all that information about Trump's onetime non-conservative policy positions for Politico, in the hope, once again, that it will upset Trump's fan base. I trust that a check from Reince Priebus to Noah is in the mail.)

Trump fans say all that is in the past. But this immigration stuff is current. And it concerns what's become his signature issue.

Can it be that Trump's fans don't really care whether he's an actual immigration hard-liner, just so long as he says racist things about Mexicans and threatens to make the Mexican government pay for a border fence? Do the Trumpites care less about implementing hard-line immigration policies than they do about hating brown people?

I think Trump could possibly be damaged if someone in the first debate goes after him from the right on immigration, throwing these statements back in his face. But it might not matter. Trump might just start trash-talking Mexico again, and the Trump believers will respond more to the nastiness than to the actual policy.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


The op-ed page of The New York Times now occasionally features commentary from Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. His latest column tells us that American politicians aren't optimistic enough these days, to the detriment of the Republic. While I'd like to believe that Brooks is genuinely concerned about the nation's health and welfare, it seems far more likely that he's just looking for some sort of secret sauce that can be added to Republicanism to put it over the top in the next presidential election, so that the GOP victor can resume the all-important work of slashing entitlements and cutting the taxes on the rich.

(Elsewhere, Brooks's search for a special ingredient that will get a Republican elected president led him to write a book called The Conservative Heart, which purports to offer "a set of practical policies firmly grounded in the four 'institutions of meaning' -- family, faith, community, and meaningful work" that supposedly adds up to "a bold new vision for conservatism as a movement for happiness, unity, and social justice" -- in other words, the appearance of government compassion with as little actual government spending as possible. Yeah, maybe that'll gull the rubes.)

In the current column, Brooks makes the case for the value of optimism, but he can be a tad selective in his presentation of the facts; he writes this, for instance:
... recently, social science has shown a big advantage for optimistic leaders. In 2013, for example, Dutch researchers published a study in The Leadership Quarterly showing that a positive, happy leader is judged to be 132 percent more effective than a dour, negative one.
That would be this paper by Victoria Visser of Erasmus University in Rotterdam and her colleagues, part of a longer work you can download at the first link here. In fact, Visser et al. say that happy leaders are perceived as more effective, but actually aren't more effective:
The results confirmed our prediction that a leader's happy displays enhance followers' creative performance compared to their analytical performance, while a leader's sad displays enhance followers' analytical performance compared to their creative performance. Thus, both leader happy and sad displays can benefit follower performance, depending on the type of task that needs to be performed. Moreover, our prediction that followers perceive a leader displaying happiness as more effective than a leader displaying sadness was confirmed. This indicates that objective (i.e., performance) and subjective (i.e., ratings) measures of leadership effectiveness do not refer to the same construct.
People who work under happy leaders do better creative work, but people who work under sad leaders do better analytic work -- and even though people think happy leaders are better leaders, they're not.

Brooks also sneers at those arrogant Europeans for daring to question good old Yankee optimism:
The American attitude that all will be well often amazes our European friends -- and not always in a positive way. In The New York Times in 2003, a former adviser to the president of France derisively declared that, “The United States compensates for its shortsightedness, its tendency to improvise, with an altogether biblical self-assurance in its transcendent destiny.”
Gosh, what brought that on? Well, the date should be a giveaway --the op-ed (by Regis DeBray) appeared on February 23, 2003, less than a month before the U.S. began bombing Iraq. You think maybe DeBray had a good reason to denounce America's "almost biblical self-assurance" at that moment? DeBray went on to say that "Puritan America ... regards itself as the predestined repository of Good, with a mission to strike down Evil." Yup -- and I think we know how that turned out.

This Arthur Brooks column isn't as hinky as, say, the last Times column by that other Brooks guy. (Go here for Yastreblyansky's fine debunking of Friday's David Brooks column.) But what is the Times's bizarre attraction to truth-massaging conservatives in moderates' clothing with this particular surname?


In his latest New York Times op-ed, Timothy Egan notes that Donald Trump's rhetorical style is nothing new in the Republican Party. I'm happy that Egan is making this point -- but see if you can spot the point where Egan succumbs to amnesia about recent history:
The adults patrolling the playpen of Republican politics are appalled that we’ve become a society where it’s O.K. to make fun of veterans, to call anyone who isn’t rich a loser, to cast an entire group of newly arrived strivers as rapists and shiftless criminals.

Somewhere, we crossed a line -- from our mothers’ modesty to strutting braggadocio, from dutiful decorum to smashing all the china in the room, from respecting a base set of facts to a trumpeting of willful ignorance.

Yes, how did we get to a point where up to one-fourth of the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan now aligns itself with Donald Trump?
Reagan? He's on Egan's list of Republicans who understood the need for "dutiful decorum"? Reagan -- the guy who, as governor of California, said, "It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas"? And said of student demonstrations at Berkeley, "If it's to be a bloodbath, let it be now. Appeasement is not the answer"? The guy who also said this as governor?
We have some hippies in California. For those of you who don't know what a hippie is, he's a fellow who dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smalls like Cheetah.
Reagan, the guy who -- and I know I've run down this litany before -- demonstrated "dutiful decorum" by doing this in 1983 as president of the United States?

During a speech to the White House News Photographers dinner, President Reagan sticks his thumbs in his ears and wiggles his fingers. Says the leader of the free world, "I've been waiting years to do this."
Reagan's wisecracks were crafted like Bob Hope jokes -- they weren't off-the-cuff Trumpian trash talk. But let's not pretend that Reagan was a man of undeviating gravitas. Let's remember that he said this:
You know, when it comes to this yearly budget process, I keep thinking of that current movie hit, "The Little Shop of Horrors." [Laughter] Now, the budget isn't exactly like the man-eating plant in that movie. It isn't mean, and it isn't green. It doesn't come from outer space. But it does only say one thing: "Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!" [Laughter]
Or this:
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."
Or this:
...we were being led by a team with good intentions and bad ideas -- people with all the common sense of Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
You know, when we got to Washington, this country was in the fast lane headed toward economic oblivion. The folks who'd been at the wheel were more reckless than the Dukes of Hazzard....
And Reagan bequeathed this rhetorical style to George W. H.W. Bush, who gave it a nastier edge (in 1992, about Bill Clinton and Al Gore: "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos"). But the man who really picked up the torch was the next Republican hero, Newt Gingrich:
The left-wing Democrats will represent the party of total hedonism, total exhibitionism, total bizarreness, total weirdness, and the total right to cripple innocent people in the name of letting hooligans loose.
"Woody Allen is not having incest with his non-daughter for whom he has been a non-father because they have a non-family," Gingrich said. "It's a weird situation and it fits the Democrat Party platform perfectly."
"I think the mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick society is getting and how much we have to have change," [Gingrich] said [in 1994]. "I think people want to change, and the only way you can get change is to vote Republican."
Egan is right to say that "the crazies have long flourished in the Republican media wing, where any amount of gaseous buffoonery goes unchallenged" -- many Republican politicians have chose to outsource such nastiness and intemperateness to radio and TV hosts.

But Egan is wrong to say that "Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so." It's been a lot longer than a decade. I didn't even mention Spiro Agnew or Dick Cheney. Egan invokes Joe Wilson shout of "You lie!" during President Obama's September 2009 address to Congress, but he neglects Jesse Helms in 1994:
Republican Sen. Jesse Helms says President Clinton is so unpopular on military bases in North Carolina that he "better have a bodyguard" if he visits the state.

"Mr. Clinton better watch out if comes down here," Helms, the incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, told the News & Observer of Raleigh on Monday.
This disease has been incubating for a long time. It's only now that the symptoms are obvious to some people.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Oliver Willis:

Which, of course, is working brilliantly for Trump. The John McCain insult? Remember when that was supposed to bring Trump's campaign to a screeching halt? Nahhh -- the new (post-McCain) YouGov poll has Trump at 28% and Jeb Bush in second place at 14%.

Which brings me to new Gallup polling on Hillary Clinton:
Hillary Clinton's [favorable] rating has slipped to 43% from 48% in April. At the same time, Clinton's unfavorable rating increased to 46%, tilting her image negative and producing her worst net favorable score since December 2007.

You know when she was riding high? When she wasn't having kaffeeklatsches with ordinary voters and ordering Chipotle burrito bowls on bus-tour dinner breaks. She was riding high around the time Texts from Hillary went viral:

We liked her in 2012, when we thought she had swagger. The phone obviously has a bad connotation now, but she could benefit from getting some of that swagger back.

I think everybody learned the wrong lesson from 2012. It wasn't that a presidential candidate has to seem "regular" and "relatable" to win in 2016. Voters in 2012 weren't rejecting a rich guy; they were rejecting a rich guy who seemed as if he'd love to fire them. And who barely seemed to have human feelings.

Hillary is political royalty. She might get her groove back if she acts as if she is, and as if she kind of enjoys her power, and knows how to leverage it. And I don't mean by being rude to the press -- ordinary (non-Republican) voters don't care about that. I mean by seeming larger than life, and thus seeming like a big enough force to tackle America's problems.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama can seem elite while also seeming like champions of the people. Hillary has pulled that combination off in the past. She needs to get back to that.


On the subject of the Louisiana theater shooting, I think Garance Franke-Ruta is making an important point:

David Futrelle of the anti-misogyny blog We Hunted the Mammoth addresses this:
Angry misogynist murders women at showing of film by feminist comedian; police worry “we may not find a motive.”

Police in Lafayette, Louisiana are evidently struggling to understand why the outspokenly misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic John Russell “Rusty” Houser murdered two women and wounded 9 other moviegoers at a showing of “Trainwreck,” a film written by and starring Amy Schumer, a feminist comedian with a Jewish father, known for joking frankly about sex....

It seems to me that Houser’s likely motive is staring them in the face.

Because it turns out that Houser was pretty well-known, at least to regular viewers of one local TV talk show in Columbus, GA, as an angry right-wing fanatic who hated women.

... [He left] a long trail of hateful comments on assorted websites, many of them openly praising Hitler and talking ominously about the future of what he saw as a deeply “immoral” culture.”

... In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays a New York journalist “riding the cock carousel” -- as the odious men I regularly write about on this website like to put it -- who eventually falls in love.

It seems highly unlikely that Houser was someone “who just happened to be in this theater,” as the police superintendent put it.

It seems highly likely that a woman-hating neo-Nazi ended up in a theater showing Trainwreck on purpose.
Houser was obsessed with "morality." It's one of the things he thought was admirable about Iran:

Here's one particular way he expressed the opinion his distaste for "women having a say in anything:
The last thing someone posting as Rusty Houser posted on Facebook was in 2013, when he linked to an article called "A woman's place in the church and the weak church elder."
That would be this essay:
... This compromise in the church had come about mainly because the messenger had permitted a woman (symbolically called “Jezebel”) to influence the church in an evil, worldly way (v.20).

... The Lord never appointed a woman to be a prophetess. under the new covenant - the reason being that God never intended a woman to have authority over men.

... Paul gives us two reasons why God does not allow a woman to exercise any authority over men in the church: (i) She was created after man - to be his helper; (ii) She was deceived by Satan first (1 Tim.2:12-14).

A woman is more prone to deception by Satan than a man is....

In a home, if the man who should be the head of the house, is weak and effeminate, his wife will take over the leadership of the home. This will be true in a church too. When powerful women see that the elders in a church are weak, they will begin to assert themselves in the church.

God’s Word exhorts us to “act like MEN” (1 Cor.16:13). There is a great need for that exhortation, for many elders today have just about as much backbone as a jellyfish, when it comes to silencing powerful women!
They are like King Ahab who was so scared of his wife Jezebel, that he allowed her to do whatever she liked in his kingdom...
(Emphasis in the original.)

I don't know how much Houser knew about Amy Schumer. I don't know if he knew that her father is Jewish. I don't know if he'd watched her on TV, or read much about her comedy.

Maybe he'd just seen the image used to advertise the movie. I say this because every day I see it on the way to work, and I think it's a great ad -- I admire the way it instantly gets across the nature of the character Schumer plays:

If you can imagine rooting for Schumer as she parties hard and screws up her life, then you know at a glance that this would be a great night at the movies. If, on the other hand, you think America has lost its moral way and its women have turned into Jezebels -- well, you might decide, especially if you're already estranged from your wife and daughter after subjecting them to domestic violence, that it's time to grab a gun and take a stand for morality.

I disagree somewhat with Franke-Ruta's tweet. My guess is that Houser wasn't angry merely because this was a "chick flick." I don't think a typical rom-com would have set him off. Instead we have a rare Hollywood movie with an assertive woman as the star. The ad image is Schumer chugging a brew while flashing a bit of cleavage. To Houser, I think that was a harbinger of the Apocalypse.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Is there any combination of criminal activity, mental illness, and political extremism that can motivate authorities to significantly restrict a white male's access to guns? John Russell Houser, the Louisiana movie theater shooter, had a criminal record and 57 varieties of dysfunction -- yet he was packing heat last night in Lafayette. The authorities knew he was a threat to his family:
He was treated in 2008 and 2009 for mental health problems after his wife and other family members took out a temporary protective order against him for extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements.”

The filing shows Kellie Houser was so fearful of her husband, who “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” that she removed all the guns from their home.

The order was granted, according to court records, and she filed for divorce in March 2015.
And recently:
Houser was evicted last year from a rental property on 32nd Street, where his estranged wife owns a home.... It’s not clear whether he lived at the home when the photo was taken.

A criminal mischief complaint was filed against him after he destroyed some property at the home, but the Russell County sheriff said he was not sure whether an arrest warrant was issued.
Prior to that:
Lafayette Mayor Lester Joseph Durel, Jr., said Houser's prior arrests were for arson and a misdemeanor for selling alcohol to a minor, but that he had no arrest record in 10-15 years. "There is nothing else on him," Durel said.
The domestic troubles sound frightening:
Houser “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” according to a request for a temporary protective order filed against him in 2008 by his wife and daughter, as well as his daughter’s then-fiance and the fiance’s parents.

The family said that even though he lived in Phenix City, Alabama, he had come to their home in Carroll County, Georgia, and “perpetrated various acts of family violence.”

His daughter, Kirbey Ellen Houser, was engaged to be married to Andrew Michael Broome at the time, and Houser was vehemently opposed, the court papers said. “He has exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements” that their marriage would not occur, the filing says.
He was turned down for a concealed carry permit in 2006, and his wife removed guns from their house. But obviously this didn't prevent him from obtaining the gun he used in the theater. I'll just remind you that the state of Georgia doesn't believe domestic violence is much of a reason to restrict access to guns:
Georgia has few laws to prevent abusers from having easy access to guns.

• Georgia has no law prohibiting domestic violence misdemeanants or defendants subject to domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing firearms, unlike federal law. As a result, people convicted of abusing non-cohabitating dating partners and family members, such as siblings, can legally own guns.

• Georgia does not require the surrender of firearms owned by a person who has become prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law.

• State law also does not bar stalking misdemeanants from purchasing or possessing firearms.

• Georgia does not require a background check for all gun buyers, including those shopping at gun shows or over the Internet.
Houser was also a broad-spectrum hatemonger. Yes, it's a free country, but if he were Muslim and expressed this much politicized hate, the government would want to know all about it. A few items from the Southern Poverty Law Center's roundup of Houser's Internet postings:

He was also a fan of the Greek fascist group Golden Dawn.

But you get the feeling from reading his postings that he both feared and craved the Apocalypse, and he shot up the theater because it wasn't coming fast enough. This is from a manifesto he posted in 2013:
1 Recognize a lost cause.It is too late.The US is oozing the puss of foolishness and perversion.

... Truth and death always go hand in hand, and in our brave moments we can laugh. Whatever truth requires, I will accept.

... 4 For the few who will understand this, it is my hope that you will see to one preparation for the coming downfall, which will be worse than a Mad Max scenario. That preparation is not storing up canned goods, munitions,etc, but to gather what will be necessary to put in your families food to insure a painless and certain death should the need arise.,if there are no cell phones,no TV,no power,gas,no stores,no police,etc.

5 If you are male, fight until the end, and enjoy it.People are good at what they enjoy, and your Maker would want it that way.
We stop and frisk black males on scant pretext, and "law and order" types howl when we put any curbs whatsoever on the practice. We scrutinize the beliefs and activities of Muslims. But this guy pretty much does what he wants, and hardly anyone in authority cares, until it's too late.


UPDATE: And on the subject of the government putting roadblocks in the way of gun access for Houser, please note this:
[In 2006], Houser applied for a concealed carry permit but was denied based on a previous arson charge and his wife’s allegations. He was then committed to a mental hospital in Columbus in 2008....

The sheriff said it’s now tougher to deny gun permits than in 2006, when authorities were able to keep Houser from legally carrying a concealed weapon.

“Today, it would be extremely difficult to potentially deny that very case,” Taylor said.
Unbelievable. And, from the same story, we learn this about Houser's activities last year:
When John Russell “Rusty” Houser was evicted from [his] quiet corner house in March 2014, sheriffs said, he trashed the place, dousing it in paint and gasoline and stuffing concrete down its pipes.

When the new home-owners decided to renovate, they had to call the fire department twice in one day after booby-trapped doors burst into flames.

“There was some tampering with the gas line that ran into the fireplaces,” said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor. Tracie Chancey, who has lived on 32nd Street with her husband and children since 2007, feared that the arson could have been much worse. “It shook us up when we found out what he did to that home.”
And even after that he was walking around free and with access to guns. What a country.