Saturday, August 31, 2013


President Obama is now asking Congress for approval before taking military action in Syria. I like Kalli Joy Gray's response to Josh Greenman's tweet:

She's right -- it won't.

I hope somebody does a word cloud of the debate, especially in the House, and I hope it's broken down by party. I'm betting that, among House members, and among Republicans in both houses, "Benghazi" will be uttered more frequently than "Assad." Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if "Obamacare" is uttered more frequently than "Assad." (Ted Cruz has already told us that Obamacare and Syria are "tied together by an arrogance of this administration." In fact, "arrogance" will probably be a big, bold word in that word cloud.)

A few folks are going to make serious points. A lot more are just going to segue from Syria into every grievance against Obama they've saved up for four-plus years.

No, it is not going to be an ennobling debate for the nation. It should be, but it won't. It may sound highfalutin -- Republicans will, after all, use the word "Constitution" a lot. But they don't actually give a crap about the Constitution, and it will show. They just think it's a good stick to beat Obama with. They won't reveal any particular insight into the Constitution. They'll just yammer about it a lot.

Do I think Obama will win the vote? In the Senate, probably, with a few liberal Democrats and many but not all Republicans voting against him. (Lindsay and Johnny Mac will have his back, in Lindsay's case to the detriment of his reelection chances. Mitch will vote no.)

In the House, I'm guessing Obama will lose, or win a squeaker -- the Republicans want to hurt Obama, and they'll all be facing reelection next year. Boehner will probably vote yes, but he won't carry very many of his fellow Republicans with him. I think a few white progressive Democrats will vote against Obama, but I'm guessing the Black Caucus will close ranks and have his back (I don't see any of the Caucus's members among the Democratic signers of Congressman Scott Rigell's letter demanding a congressional vote).

If Obama loses in the House and bombs Syria anyway, I wonder if that will set off the impeachment. Hey, something's got to, right? Imagine Obama being impeached on foreign policy grounds after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush weren't. That would be crazy -- and yeah, I could imagine it.

If you believe that the scenario laid out in this story from The Hill is plausible, you're living in a dream world:
U.S. military action in Syria could give the White House an advantage in the looming fiscal showdown with congressional Republicans, according to defense and budget experts.

They said the Syria crisis could boost calls by President Obama and defense hawks to reverse the automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon known as sequestration.

Steve Bell, a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said if the U.S. moves forward with military action, it will underline the arguments of those who say keeping the sequester in place impairs U.S. military readiness.

"I think it has the possibility of advancing fiscal talks, I really do," he said.

He argued that if strikes against Syria are launched, it will be "very, very difficult to insist" on the defense sequester.

"Under those circumstances, I can see a [2014 continuing resolution] that would contain full funding for defense," he said.
And here's how the fantasy scenario would play out:
The White House has been banking on defense hawks within the GOP breaking ranks with Tea Party conservatives and embracing a debt deal that includes some higher taxes and reverses cuts to domestic programs.

Their hope is that the cuts to the Pentagon will grow so painful, some defense-minded lawmakers will accept more tax revenue as part of a deal to end the defense cuts.
But please note that the president's plan isn't "full funding for defense" -- in fact, in includes cuts evenly split between defense and domestic programs, plus tax increases and new infrastructure spending.

Now, how do I say this in a way that will get through to people who still think we have a functioning government? The Republican Party does not have any intention of making any deals. Yes, a deal may have to be cut if a government shutdown or a default drives the GOP's poll numbers down (though it should be noted that a shutdown or default will push the GOP's approval up among the crazy-base voters, which helps both teabag members of Congress and non-teabaggers who'll be facing primaries in 2014). But if Obama holds even somewhat firm -- and he hasn't given nearly as much ground as he could have in past budget showdowns -- he won't capitulate to the GOP plan, which is full funding for the Pentagon and even more domestic cuts.

But the truly insane part of the scenario in the Hill story is the notion that a Syria attack will bring Republicans around. This overlooks the fact that the GOP base hates this attack plan -- the base thinks the Obama administration's entire approach to Syria is wrongheaded. This isn't the result of Paulite isolationism making a comeback in the GOP -- it has much more to do with the belief that (a) everything Obama does is wrong and (b) Obama is actually aiding Al Qaeda if he attacks Assad, or at the very least is attacking one side in a fight in which the U.S. should oppose both sides.

Brilliantly geostrategic thinkers on the right such as Ralph Peters and Sarah Palin have given the base some talking points: Peters:
"While I'm concerned about the humanitarian situation, I look at this and in the cold light of realpolitik, I have to ask myself at this point: what is so bad about Assad's thugs and jihadi thugs killing each other?"
"I say until we know what we're doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he's doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren't even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, 'Allah Akbar,' I say until we have someone who knows what they're doing, I say let Allah sort it out."
(In other words: not only is the slaughter of brown people by other brown people not our problem to solve, it's not even a tragedy.)

Republicans voters respond more to people like Palin and Peters than they do to their own elected representatives. Base voters are not going to see bombs dropping on Syria, feel compelled by patriotism to rally 'round the flag and the military and the president, and decide from there that it's a dangerous world and more military spending is needed and it's vitally necessary to reach a compromise with the president they despise whose decision to drop bombs they abhor. If anything, it's more likely that there'd be calls to defund any military operation launched by this administration without congressional approval.

So, no, don't believe this defense contractor's pipe dream.

Friday, August 30, 2013


President Barack Obama had hoped for a quick, convincing strike on Syria, but growing opposition and Great Britain’s stunning rejection of the attack has thrust him into the uncomfortable position of go-it-alone hawk.

Just how Obama, whose career sprung from the ashes of George W. Bush's Iraq policy, got to this extraordinary moment in his presidency is a tale of good intentions, seat-of-the-pants planning and, above all, how a cautious commander-in-chief became imprisoned by a promise.


Andrew Sullivan used to say that we needed to elect Barack Obama because he was the guy who was going to save us from the Clintons and their generational peers, all of whom were still endlessly re-fighting the Vietnam War decades later. But more and more, it's starting to look as if the generational cohort we need to rid ourselves of is one that includes both Obama and the Clintons. It's the cohort that came of age in national politics in the past thirty years.

The Republicans in this cohort are crazy, of course. But the Democrats are problematic: stung by the success of Reaganism, they're in a defensive crouch, desperate to prove that they're post-liberal, at least on the biggest issues. They don't want to frighten bankers or Joe Scarborough's pals. They especially don't want to frighten heartland white people, who, they assume, are all still Reaganites -- obsessed with government spending and determined to be muscular in foreign policy.

I supported Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008 because I thought Hillary, like her husband, would tend toward precisely this sort of don't-frighten-the-centrists timidity. It wasn't just that she initially backed the Iraq War -- it's that she tended toward panders like her support for a ban on flag-burning. I feared she'd frequently tack right as president, under the slightest pressure. I thought Obama might do so less often -- I thought preemptive surrender to right-wing demagoguery was a Clinton family tic.

Alas, it seems to be a tic common to virtually every big-league Democrat who lived through the Reagan years (and, for that matter, the Dukakis campaign).

And so we get Obama's craving for an economic "grand bargain" (although he at least insists on a quid pro quo, which means he'll never get a deal, because Republicans don't compromise). We get Obama's surveillance regime and drone policy and, now, an impending go-it-alone war. It's because no Democrat his age or older with national ambitions would ever dare to venture left of Reagan Lite.

Now, I still support Obama, and I'll support Hillary in 2016 if she's the nominee because, well, consider the alternatives -- Republicans are crazy on everything, except Rand Paul, who's crazy on everything except militarism. But I'm wondering when, if ever, we'll see an A-list Democrat who's not terrified of deviating from centrism on defense or economics.

I say this because I'm in New York and I'm watching Bill de Blasio break away from the pack in the mayoral primary -- two new polls this week show him with a double-digit lead -- based on an expressly progressive campaign focused on reducing economic inequality and dialing back stop-and-frisk (crime-fighting being the city's version of foreign policy).

It was assumed that de Blasio wouldn't do very well, that a city where Rudy Giuliani won twice and Mike Bloomberg won three times would go for a moderate Democrat pledging a significant level of continuity with Bloomberg, someone like Christine Quinn or Bill Thompson. But talking about inequality and hyperaggressive police tactics is actually striking a chord here. It's not because de Blasio comes off as a bomb-thrower a la Alan Grayson (or even Anthony Weiner in his congressional days) -- it's because he seems like a steady guy who's also progressive.

I know, I know -- that's how Obama has campaigned, twice. And yes, he's given us a health care law of some progressivity and some significant breakthroughs on social issues. And he did raise taxes on the wealthy. And he's certainly saved us from the right's worst excesses.

But de Blasio, in attacking stop-and-frisk in particular, is veering toward the very shoals where Democrats have foundered in this city. The last Democratic mayor (David Dinkins, for whom de Blasio worked) lost reelection because it was widely believed that he was a squishy liberal who'd failed on crime. The rap on Democrats here has long been that they're soft on crime the way Democrats nationally are said to be soft on defense. Obama never stops overcorrecting to rebut the latter belief. De Blasio doesn't seem to care about the former. And it's working for him.

I don't see any Democrat on the horizon willing to test the premise that being skeptical about militarism and being in favor of economic progressivity could actually be acceptable to heartland voters -- or even quite appealing. So I'll settle for the Dems we've got. But I wish we could do better.

Michael Hastings was reportedly working on a story about CIA director John Brennan at the time of his death in a car crash. Now, if you're conspiracy-minded, that would be enough to make you wonder what world-shaking secrets Hastings might have been pursuing. If you think powerful, sinister forces arranged Hastings's fatal accident, you'd assume it was because he was seeking information that could literally change history once it was revealed.

On the other hand, if you're Jerome Corsi of World Net Daily, you'd conclude that Hastings died because he was going to ... confirm some of the main tenets of birtherism.

Yes, that's what Corsi suggests that the death was all about: the contents of Barack Obama's passport file:
Before his death in a fiery car crash, Michael Hastings was preparing to publish a major investigative piece tied to the undercover agent who is suspected of sanitizing President Obama’s passport records prior to the 2008 presidential election....

On Aug. 12, Kimberly Dvorak reported for San Diego 6 News that Hastings at the time of his death was working on an exposé on CIA director John Brennan....

WND has previously reported that Brennan played a controversial role in what many suspect was an effort to sanitize Obama's passport records prior to the 2008 presidential election.
Now, hang on -- this gets convoluted:
On March 21, 2008, during the 2008 presidential campaign, two unnamed contract employees for the State Department were fired and a third unnamed State Department contract employee was disciplined for breaching the passport file of Democratic presidential candidate and then-senator Barack Obama....

The New York Times reported March 21, 2008, that the security breach had involved unauthorized searches of the passport records not just of Obama, but also of then-presidential contenders Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

... the New York Times attributed the breaches to "garden-variety snooping by idle employees" that was "not politically motivated." ...
However -- and I hope you're sitting down for this:
The New York Times noted that the files examined were likely to contain sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses and dates of birth as well as passport applications and other biographical information that would pertain to U.S. citizenship.
OMIGOD! Social Security numbers! Birth addresses! Other biographical information that would pertain to U.S. citizenship!

And now for "The Brennan connection":
The New York Times noted the two offending State Department contract employees who were fired had worked for Stanley Inc., a company based in Arlington, Va., while the reprimanded worker continued to be employed by the Analysis Corporation of McLean, Va....

At that time, Stanley Inc. was a 3,500-person technology firm that had just won a $570 million contract to provide computer-related passport services to the State Department, headed by Brennan, who then serving as an adviser on intelligence and foreign policy to Obama's presidential campaign.
So the people involved worked for Brennan! Excuse, um, not all of them!

And the real story here, Jerome?
One investigative reporter, Kenneth Timmerman, said a well-placed but unnamed source told him that the real point of the passport breaches was to cauterize the Obama file, removing from it any information that could prove damaging to his presidential eligibility.

According to this theory, the breaches of McCain's and Clinton's files were done for misdirection purposes, to create confusion and to suggest the motives of the perpetrators were attributable entirely to innocent curiosity.
And, we're led to assume, Michael Hastings was on the brink of discovering all this about Obama's birth and travels and, presumably, multiple fraudulent Social Security numbers -- and for that HASTINGS HAD TO DIE.

Good grief.

Look, I'm not a Hastings conspiratorialist -- but if you're one, think big, fer crissakes. Don't tell me John Brennan would have Hastings killed for ... this.

Corsi does wrap this up with a ridiculous coda titled "Brennan tilts toward Islam." (Sample of evidence: "In his speech to the New York University law school students posted on YouTube by the White House, Brennan included a lengthy statement in Arabic that he did not translate for his English-speaking audience.") So I guess the plot to "cauterize" Obama's passport file was all part of a massive conspiracy to make the U.S. part of the global caliphate, spearheaded by that noted crypto-Islamist John Brennan.

I really wish I believed in a God and an afterlife, because I'd love to believe that Jerome Corsi would someday stand in judgment before the Pearly Gates, and, when asked to give an account of what he did with his life, he could only say, "I spent all my waking hours making people stupider."

Thursday, August 29, 2013


The latest missive from Bill Donohue:

... Last Sunday, at the MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus simulated masturbation with a giant foam finger, grabbed her crotch, rubbed herself against a man old enough to be her father, pretended the man was performing anal sex on her, and walked around in a nude latex bikini. Her mother loved it. So did her manager. Millions of young girls and guys loved it as well.

Next month, the Miss World pageant will be held in Indonesia. Some Muslims are urging the government to cancel the event. According to the leader, Riziek Shihab, "The Miss World pageant is only an excuse to exhibit women's body parts."

Who are the real feminists? Miley's fans? Or the Muslims? If debasing women is the yardstick, the Muslims win.
Here's the illustration that accompanies this:

I guess Bill is telling us that if he had to make a choice, he'd side with the society that dresses women the way the woman on the right is dressed, rather than with our society.

Noted, Bill.

Donohue goes on to write:
In this regard, the Catholic position is instructive.

Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, was a clarion call to men and women: today's culture allows men to sexually exploit women, cheapening relations between them. Pope John Paul II spoke eloquently about the commodification of sexuality, offering us a "Theology of the Body."
Right -- because there was no sexual exploitation of women pre-Elvis. There was no rape, no molestation of the underage. All that was invented by rockers and R&B musicians. Oh, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

(And I guess there was no non-sexual exploitation of women prior to "today's culture." You may think the Irish slave-labor camps known as the Magdalene Laundries brutally exploited young girls at least as far back as 1922, and the Irish government may agree -- in June it agreed to pay up to 58 million euros in compensation to survivors of the Laundries -- but Donohue has said that the horror stories are "all a lie.")


Look, the Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs wasn't to my taste, but she's gotten a bad rap for doing something that would have generated a hundred gushing Cultural Studies papers if it had been done by Madonna or Lady Gaga. I've read that Cyrus is guilty of racist "cultural appropriation" -- what, you mean like every white popular musician since Bill Haley and the Comets? Like Madonna making goo-goo eyes at a black Jesus in the "Like a Prayer" video, or vogueing a few years later as if vogueing were something she was teaching black gay men to do, rather than the other way around? I've read that Cyrus was way too young to get all sexy with that Robin Thicke guy (she's 20 years old, and two of the models who are actually topless in his "Blurred Lines" video are 21 and 23). Oh, and doesn't stealing the entire rhythm track for that song from Marvin Gaye qualify as a wee bit of "cultural appropriation" on Thicke's part?

I think cultural commentators aren't cutting Cyrus any slack because she doesn't seem to give a crap about winning their respect, the way Madonna and Gaga and Justin Timberlake do. She's not serious. (Jesus, that endless Timberlake medley was so joylessly precise it was almost Prussian. But most ultra-choreographed Big Pop has looked that way to me in the post-Michael Jackson era.) She's a spoiled brat and she's having fun. All that sex stuff wasn't a critique of the cis-hegemonic gender performativity or whatever-the-hell -- it was a big, stupid joke that didn't really work. Fine. If this were politics, we'd say it clearly wasn't focus-grouped. There are worse things.

(Also see Tamara Shayne Kagel, who makes the point that Cyrus seemed to be in charge of the sexy bits while performing her own song and Thicke's, while the topless women in Thicke's video are just meant to be eye candy. To get back to a word Bill Donohue used, which comes closer to "exploitation"?)

This is just insane revanchism:
Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.

The law amounts to the most far-reaching states' rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as "nullification" in which a state defies federal power....

The measure was vetoed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, as unconstitutional. But when the legislature gathers again on Sept. 11, it will seek to override his veto, even though most experts say the courts will strike down the measure. Nearly every Republican and a dozen Democrats appear likely to vote for the override....
Will the courts strike down the override? If the nullification craze picks up steam, and becomes respectable and somewhat within-the-pale, is it so crazy to think that the Roberts Court might someday agree, perhaps in an Obamacare-nullification case, if not in a gun case? (I'm operating on the assumption that no Democratic president -- not Obama, not Hillary -- will ever get another justice on the Supreme Court until the number of Republicans in the Senate drops below 40.)

What else could Republicans seek to nullify? Could they conclude that the federal government has no right to prevent them from limiting voting rights to property owners, thus excluding the majority of students and poor people? Could they decide that the Constitution's Commerce Clause doesn't extend to the in-state housing market, and therefore it's lawful to refuse to sell or rent a house or apartment to someone on the basis of race or national origin? Wouldn't laws of this kind be electorally useful in a state that's either purple or trending purple because of changing demographics -- Texas, say, or Georgia, or North Carolina?

What's the limit here? How far could the right go with this? Why should we suppose it will stop with guns and Obamacare? Why should we assume that the courts will always rebuff such efforts?

Get stopped and frisked? It's your fault:
... the leading Republican candidates on Wednesday said they would not mind if their own son or daughter were stopped and frisked by the police.

In a live televised debate, John A. Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain, described the stops as a "temporary thing," until technology allowed officers to detect guns from afar. And while he said rookie officers should receive additional training, he shrugged off the prospect of his son being stopped.

"I would say to him, 'Well, what did you do to provoke it?'" he said. "I would say to him, 'Were you dressed funny? Were you walking funny? Did you look funny?'" He added of the policing tactic, "I would sit down, have a father-to-son talk with him and say to him that we need it."
His rivals were equally dismissive:
Joe Lhota said he would give his daughter a copy of Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court case outlining reasonable stops, and, if the protocols weren't followed, "then I would actually say that we have a situation here."

"But the reality is that 90 percent of the millions of stops that have happened in the city of New York have happened in compliance with the constitutional rights that have been put forward by the Supreme Court," Lhota said.

"My son John isn't going to get stopped," said George McDonald, the founder of the Doe Fund. "That's the whole point."
Well, you're right about that, white man. (Though you'd think there'd be more sympathy on this from the founder of the Doe Fund, which gives training and jobs, many of them menial, to ex-prisoners and homeless people, many of them people of color. Then again, McDonald is a Republican, so I guess we can't assume that he's actually asked any of his group's beneficiaries about this.)

It matters what these men think, because "deep-blue" New York hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since 1989, and there really is no guarantee that the streak will be broken this year. McDonald is unlikely to win the primary, and Giuliani pal Lhota has consistently led in the polls, but supermarket mogul Catsimatidis -- the guy who thinks stop-and-frisk would be a swell teachable moment for his son -- is within striking distance. (What about being stopped over and over again, as most young black males are in this city in their teens and twenties? In 2011, there were more stops of young black men in the city than there are young black men.)

And with the most progressive Democrat in the race, Bill de Blasio, now holding a significant lead in his party's race, I predict that much of the establishment in the city will back Lhota or Catsimatidis in the general election. We know the New York Post will, but so will the Daily News, I assume (it blasted the recent judicial ruling that put curbs on stop-and-frisk).

I suppose the Times will endorse de Blasio, but I bet it will be with so many qualifications and "however"s that the endorsement will be read as just the opposite. (Did I mention the fact that de Blasio would like to raise taxes on the rich? Even though the state government would probably block a city tax increase, the movers and shakers don't like people who make proposals like that.)

New York could elect another Republican mayor. Don't rule it out.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013



Charlie Pierce makes an importannt point about Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech:
As the president mounts the podium at the Lincoln Memorial today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's speech, we are reminded (ceaselessly) about one thing that Dr. King said in his address:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
There it is. That's the great loophole. It is an otherwise unremarkable sentiment given the context of the entire address, but, for the people who almost certainly would have lined up on the other side of the movement in 1963, it subsequently has been used as an opening through which all manner of historically backsliding mischief has come a'wandering in, from "reverse discrimination" to Allan Bakke, to what is going on today with the franchise in too many places, to the reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Modern conservatives have used that line to conscript Dr. King into their ideology, now that he's dead and unable to speak for himself. It's the only line in the speech that they remember.
It really is the only King line right-wingers remember, though they portray themselves as King's true heirs, while braying that his actual heirs and admirers are the betrayers of his vision.

Curiously, Jonah Goldberg didn't get the memo about King being a secret right-winger. Over at the L.A. Times, he acknowledges that King said other thing and believed other things. What's more, he's willing to admit that he and his fellow conservatives don't like the other things King believed:
Amid the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom, there was a recurring complaint: What about economic justice?

It is a source of enormous frustration among many on the left that Martin Luther King Jr.'s deservedly iconic status doesn't lend more support and credence to his economic ideas.

... Even after the march, A. Philip Randolph, its director and opening speaker received more coverage than King. Randolph spoke of civil rights, but he also emphasized more typical left-wing economic fare: "It falls to us to demand new forms of social planning, to create full employment and to put automation at the service of human needs, not at the service of profits."

... Many on the left have felt frustrated that this agenda, subscribed to wholeheartedly by King, doesn't share the same moral and political stature as King's dream of a colorblind society.

The frustration is understandable, but it stems from a fundamental confusion. As many have long noted, the genius of King's appeal to an ideal of colorblindness was deeply patriotic, rooted in the foundational principles of the republic....

But in America at least, appeals to social planning and guaranteed economic rights are not universal. They are, deservedly, controversial and contestable....

Today, conservatives, who were too often on the wrong side of civil rights in 1963, are champions of race neutrality, while King's self-appointed heirs are more inclined to champion the ideas that never spoke to the hearts of all Americans.
Give Goldberg credit for candor. Give him credit for being an honest enough conservative not to wrap himself in King's mantle -- on the fiftieth anniversary of the March -- and not to pretend that King was really just the first teabagger.

Goldberg thinks America shares his distaste for King's economic message -- and, alas, he may have a point (there certainly isn't much anger in this country about the increasing gap between haves and have-nots, even among the have-nots). But that's not something America should be proud of.

On the whole, Martin Luther King was on one side and conservatives -- then and (especially) now -- were on the other. At least Jonah Goldberg doesn't pretend otherwise.

A lot of people are seeing the impending U.S. military action against Syria as the second coming of George W. Bush's Iraq War, especially now that there's an open letter from a Bill Kristol-led group of neocons endorsing the military option (yes, there's a significant overlap between the signers of this letter and those who signed the 2001 PNAC letter urging an attack on Iraq).

But back then, the entire Republican Party was on board, with the exception of a handful of paleoconservatives and libertarians (Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul). The right-wing base was absolutely on board -- rabid, in fact. Establishment Democrats largely came on board, although activist lefties in the general population were obviously opposed.

This time, the most politically engaged rank-and-file members of both the left and the right are deeply skeptical. I'm not saying that's going to matter much, but it's a change from 2002-03.

Rank-and-file righties hate both sides in Syria, and believe Obama is siding with Al Qaeda. Sample opinions from a Free Republic thread, in response to an article about support for military action from the likes of McCain, Graham, Rove, and Corker:
... I despise these people! This is truly unforgivable! We have no business going into Syria! Not at this late date when the only outcome will be AQ/Islamist control! Insanity!


These guys are on the same team as the Saudis. I would look for a connection in that direction. Probably not hard to find.


All the big-government globalists end up on the same side, don't they?


I don't know why it's surprising. I don't know about Corker, but the rest are RINOs and follow King Zero around they're his puppies.


I can't name a single rat in the senate actively pushing for war... just RINOS.
Yup -- to the base, you're now a RINO if you support military action, at least in this case. What a change from a decade ago. Maybe you're not surprised, but I thought the idea of killing Muslims was so satisfying to the rank-and-file right that they'd reluctantly back war even from the hated Obama. But Paulism has started to insinuate itself into the angry-right worldview -- these folks still hate Muslims, and would still like to express that hatred violently, but they don't automatically assume that war is the answer anymore.

I know, I know -- they'll all rally uncritically around any war President Christie sells them. But for now, they actually see the kind of muddle they couldn't see in the Bush years. And activist lefties are just as skeptical as they were in the Bush years -- we don't seem to be rallying around the president on this, the way some of us have rallied around him on the NSA -- so there's a higher overall level of skepticism in the general public.

Not that it will make much difference. Morning Joe greenroom types will be on board, and that's all that will matter.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Recent Fox News hire Howard Kurtz is getting a lot of (well-deserved) flak for a post he wrote for the Fox site about Facebook photos of Ben Bradlee's daughter-in-law:
Ben Bradlee, one of the great men of American journalism, celebrated his 92nd birthday yesterday, and his daughter-in-law paid tribute by posting a photo of them and saying "it is a dream to be part of his family."

That, however, is only one of the photos that Pari Bradlee has been putting on Facebook.

Her new profile picture, in a Swiss-cheese bra that leaves little to the imagination and long black leather sleeves and briefs, is so revealing that it drew a torrent of breathless comments. In another just-posted photo she is nude, shot from the back, twisting one arm behind her.

Pari Bradlee is a personal trainer and yoga instructor who gives private lessons and whose clients include many Washington A-listers. And she is marketing herself with a combination of Facebook's share-everything ethos and her famous last name.

Do the pictures go too far?
Gawker's response to this is typical -- "Welcome to Howie Kurtz’s Mid-Life Crisis." But I wonder if this was all Kurtz's idea.

I have a hunch that this was an assignment. Remember, Rupert Murdoch is the guy who's brought Page 3 girls to British readers for more than forty years. He and Roger Ailes have made pretty, Botoxed, nipped-and-tucked female newsreaders into a key feature of Fox News, one that's inspired fan sites and even a terrible country song.

And both Murdoch likes a good old-fashioned media war -- think the New York Post vs. the Daily News -- while various parts of Fox, under Ailes, love to take cheap shots at NBC, CNN, The New York Times, and Politico.

Kurtz's Fox TV show debuts in twelve days, and I think he was asked for something that would make a splash, something that would flip the bird to the hated media establishment, and something with, y'know, a little sex in it. That's what Ailes would want, isn't it? And Murdoch?

Done, done, and done.

Even if this was what Kurtz was asked to do rather than something he cooked up on his own, he's a sleazy SOB for doing it. If it wasn't done on his initiative, he still deserves all the scorn heaped on him, and more. But I think others may also be to blame.

This is the sort of privilege that upsets Glenn Reynolds, according to his latest USA Today column:
All over America, government officials enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don't. Sometimes it involves bearing arms, with special rules favoring police, politicians and even retired government employees. Sometimes it involves freedom from traffic and parking tickets, like the special non-traceable license plates enjoyed by tens of thousands of California state employees or similar immunities for Colorado legislators. Often it involves immunity from legal challenges, like the "qualified" immunity to lawsuits enjoyed by most government officials, or the even-better "absolute immunity" enjoyed by judges and prosecutors. (Both immunities -- including, suspiciously, the one for judges -- are creations of judicial action, not legislation).

Lately it seems as if these kinds of special privileges are proliferating. And it also seems to me that special privileges for "public servants" that have the effect of making them look more like, well, "public masters," are kind of un-American....
Reynolds go on to complain about "the creation of two kinds of citizens" -- privileged people and the rest of us.

You know what comes to my mind when someone talks about "the creation of two kinds of citizens"? This:
... "We're as busy as we’ve ever been," said Joe Farrell, the president of Farrell Building, during a recent interview and tour of his $43 million, 17,000-square-foot home [in the Hamptons]. The estate, called the Sandcastle, features two bowling lanes, a skate ramp, onyx window frames and, just for fun, an A.T.M. regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills.

To spend a day with Mr. Farrell ... is to see just how fully the Hamptons have rebounded, along with the confidence, and the bonuses, of their wealthier summer visitors.

With a customer base composed largely of Wall Street financiers, Mr. Farrell has more than 20 new homes under construction, or slated for construction....

He ... helped arrange a $900,000 summer rental for the hedge fund manager Marc Leder, who has since drawn scrutiny from Southampton authorities -- and gossip writers -- for boisterous parties that draw an endless stream of black S.U.V.'s.

... local Porsche and yacht sales are climbing once again, and [the club] Pink Elephant reopened this summer in East Hampton offering Methuselah (six-liter) bottles of Dom Perignon for $30,000. It is not just a novelty; the club's co-owner David Sarner said Pink Elephant had sold "a few" this season, and many more "trains" of smaller Dom Perignon bottles for as much as $8,000....
When Glibertarian Glenn talks about "privilege," he wants you not to think about this. When he talks about a society with two kinds of citizens, he wants this sort of high living not to cross your mind.

This is a longstanding right-wing project -- to make sure Americans never get angry at the country's real parasites, the financiers who contribute nothing of value, while demanding every cent they can get their grubby hands on. Right-wingers have been very successful in this project -- they have most of Heartland America convinced that the real parasitic "elites" are college professors and Prius drivers and unionized teachers and other folks who work for the damn gummint.

Meanwhile, Hamptons developer Joe Farrell has a theory about why the good times are back in his neck of the woods:
But most of all, he credits the Federal Reserve for the economic stimulus, which he said has helped the wealthy most of all. "The stock market's flying through the roof and who's that helping, the middle class? No, I mean that's the reality," he said. "Out here, life goes on."
To a large extent, that's Obama's fault -- and yet he would have gone for a second stimulus, and he's called for more investment in public works projects, and, of course, none of this is allowable because Republicans won't hear of it. The only stimulus we can have is the one that helps the most privileged.

And yes, maybe Glibertarian Glenn has a point about public officials getting too comfy because they get perks the rest of us don't. But he stops there. To me, that means they identify more with their billionaire contributors than with the rest of us. To Glibertarian Glenn, identifying with the rich is a good thing -- but if you're in government, you'd better make sure the rich get all the privileges, and not dare to take any for yourself, because government is evil, while rich people in the private sector are sacrosanct.


I saw that Newsmax was pushing this ridiculous story and wasn't sure it was worth a post, but now I see it's a front-page story at Fox Nation, so here's the ridiculousness:
'Butler' Box Office Sales Plummet by One-Third

The movie "Lee Daniels' The Butler" saw its weekend box office receipts plummet by nearly a third, from $24.6 million in its opening week to $17 million last week, after a storm of protests from Republican and veterans groups.

The film depicts a White House butler who served eight presidents, and has come under fire for its portrayal of former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy as being racially insensitive and for casting Jane Fonda as the first lady.

Supporters of President Reagan and veterans groups especially have criticized the film, with some calling for boycotts....
Oh, its box office plummeted? By nearly a third? And it's all because of boycotts by Reagan lovers and Jane Fonda haters? (Or, as the Fox Nation headline implies, because America has suddenly become tired of Oprah Winfrey?)

Nonsense. Every movie that reaches #1 at the weekend box office "plummets" the next week. Boycotts aren't necessary -- moviegoers just move on.

Yes, The Butler's box office dropped 33.0% in its second weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. But the previous #1, Elysium, suffered a 54.1% drop in its second week. Before that was 2 Guns: a 58.4% drop. Before that was The Wolverine: a 59.9% drop. Before that was The Conjuring: a 46.9% drop.

Do I need to go on? In fact, The Butler had the smallest second-week drop for a #1 movie since Identity Thief back in March.

This story is up at Fox Nation even though Rupert Murdoch runs a movie studio. It's not as if the moviegoing habits of Americans are unknowable to the Fox media empire.

But this is what I call the right-wing media's "ignorance arbitrage." The conservative purveyors of this nonsense know it's nonsense. But they know they can sell it to people who don't. And that's what they do.

Monday, August 26, 2013


After reading (among other things) this New York Times story by Kim Severson about challengers lining up to primary Lindsay Graham in South Carolina in 2014, Alex Seitz-Wald declares that he's unimpressed:
... tea party groups [in South Carolina] have taken to calling [Graham] "a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood." But despite their common antipathy for Graham, the 40-plus tea party and libertarian-leaning groups in the state must first hash out "a civil war of their own," Severson reports, as they can't decide on a common candidate.

The most promising choice is Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, but GOP strategists say the marketing executive, who has never run for office, "might not be ready for primetime." Indeed, running against a well-funded and high-profile incumbent like Graham will be no easy task. He's faced the tea party's ire since its inception -- it flushed him down a toilet in 2009, at least in effigy -- but so far remains largely unscathed.
Yeah, but there are several issues. First off, wingnuts are really frustrated now -- much more than in 2009, because they failed to prevent Obama from getting reelected and failed to prevent Obamacare from passing, and now the Republicans they've elected may fail to block Obamacare and fail to shut down the government and fail to push the country into default. To wingnuts, that would really suck! The frustration level would be tremendous.

Also, wingnuts don't really have to settle on a candidate in South Carolina -- all they have to do is keep Graham under 50% in the primary, thus forcing a runoff -- which could be more likely with multiple anti-Graham candidates. Then the top two would go to a runoff (presumably Graham and one anti-Graham), and at that point Graham is at serious risk.

And finally, I'd say the anti-Grahams, especially Nancy Mace, are hitting all the wingnut pleasure centers. Here she is saying all the right things, in exactly the right media venue:
Nancy Mace, who is the first female graduate of The Citadel, appeared on Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot channel 125...

"Amnesty does not sell down here," Mace said. "People are very upset with it."

... Mace said the Gang of Eight in the Senate claimed the immigration bill would be deficit neutral when hardly anything in Washington is revenue neutral.

"When was the last time government gave us a number that was actually accurate?" she said....
Breitbart! Amnesty! Government-bashing! Starbursts are being seen in Wingnuttia already.

Want to see Mace's signed Obamacare Repeal Pledge? It's right here, on her Facebook page. And she's not just an Obamacare foe -- she's also a (would-be) defunder:

Richard Cash, the Times story tells us, "is staking out a position as the most anti-abortion, Christian constitutionalist in the race.... In meetings with Tea Party groups, Mr. Cash repeats a carefully honed slogan about his candidacy, which he says is built on three C's: capitalism, Christianity and the Constitution."

And as for Lee Bright, Think Progress says that some of his positions on the issues include the following:
Anyone enforcing federal health care law should get a year in jail....

Pushing for South Carolina to adopt its own currency. Claiming that the state needs "some kind of backup" in case the population should "lose faith in the dollar," Bright filed a bill calling for a study on the creation of a South Carolina state currency based on "gold or silver, or both."...
Supporting secession. Bright sponsored a resolution to affirm South Carolina's sovereignty, asserting state's rights. "If at first you don’t secede, try again," he joked....

Opposing "Sharia law." Bright co-sponsored an Islamophobic bill to ban the use of Islamic law in South Carolina courts....
One of these people could easily break from the pack before Primary Day -- probably whoever gets what seems to be the most valuable currency in a GOP primary, namely an endorsement by Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz. My bet is that the Palin endorsement will go to Nancy Mace -- she's ex-military from a military family, she's a mother (a potential Mama Grizzly!), she's a small businesswomen, she's never run for office before, and she's a former board member of a Christian medical charity (if you were going to create a candidate in a lab guaranteed to get Palin's endorsement, Mace is what you'd cook up).

Sorry, Lindsey -- reflexive pro-militarism isn't going to help you this go-round, not when that sometimes puts you on the same side as Obama. I think South Carolina voters want blood this time. I think they'll get it.

Via Mediaite, I see that right-wingers are freaking at the fact that someone at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday waved an Obama flag at the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington.

Twitchy collects angry tweets -- one right-wight tweeter calls this "Ugly & Scary." Elsewhere, talk of flag respect is in the air. Scared Monkeys (emphasis in original):
STOP DESECRATING THE AMERICAN FLAG!!! Could the LEFT be more offensive?
This righty blogger writes, "Where do you draw the line on flag desecration?" And so on and so on.

Now, as we all know, the 1963 March took place at the Lincoln Memorial -- and one thing is for sure, Abraham Lincoln sure as heck would have been appalled at this sort of flag desecration! Right?

Well, actually, no:

No, I don't think so:

At one time it was very common for presidential campaigns to make parade flags on which the stars were replaced by an image of the candidate (or ticket). It wasn't just Lincoln: here's a Grant/Colfax flag; here are McKinley/Roosevelt and Bryan/Stevenson flags.

The laws may have changed since then -- legal efforts to turn the flag into a sacred object seem to date to the early twentieth century -- but this sort of thing used to be very common in America.

And even under current laws, I don't seem to recall any right-wingers yelling "Desecration!" at this:

Or this "Second American Revolution" flag, which is very popular:

Where's the outrage, right-wing flag lovers?

Sunday, August 25, 2013


This doesn't surprise me:
Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll says.

About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act....

The Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it. That represented a decline in backing for U.S. action since August 13, when Reuters/Ipsos tracking polls found that 30.2 percent of Americans supported intervention in Syria if chemicals had been used, while 41.6 percent did not....
Republicans are much better at generating support for their wars, because they present them as titanic struggles against pure evil -- evil that encompasses not only the actual enemy but the weak-kneed quislings in the other party who oppose the use of force. So Republicans wars are always popular, at least at first -- Grenada was a hit for Reagan (though not as big a hit as some subsequent wars, because Reagan didn't have a chance to pound the war drums for months before invading). The Panama invasion was massively popular for Poppy Bush, and the Iraq wars, of course, caused both Bushes' poll ratings to skyrocket, at least for a while. Ditto for Bush the Younger and Afghanistan.

Intervention in the Balkans was actually fairly popular in 1999 for Bill Clinton (52%-36% approval, according to a New York Times/CBS poll). It might have been more popular if Clinton had pushed the "worse than Hitler" message as relentlessly as every Republican president since 1980 has, or could have played the "evildoer menace may reach our shores any day now" card, as the Republicans have also done. However, Clinton did have plenty of Republican opposition to deal with -- go here to read what the sandal-wearing hippies of the Republican Party were saying back then about how war isn't good for children and other living things.

Obama's decision to intervene in Libya? Not popular. And that's no surprise -- Obama didn't rhetorically attempt to turn anyone into Hitler, and opposition-party opinion was a muddle. (At least one individual opposition-party member, Newt Gingrich, couldn't decide whether he was pro- or anti-intervention, but he was sure of one thing: Obama sucks.)

And now we have Syria. Some Republicans and some Democrats want in; some Republicans and some Democrats want to stay out. Assad looks like a bad guy, but there's no focused worse-than-Hitler propaganda campaign against him, and no propaganda campaign to highlight one particular plucky band of opposition forces. (Remember the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan? Whatever happened to those guys?)

So anything the Obama administration does is bound to be unpopular. Pro-war propaganda just isn't Democrats' long suit.

There are a lot of impeachment petitions floating around online. Most of them are the work of opportunists trying to build up e-mail lists, and this one, from a new Fox Nation/Blaze-wannabe sight called Capitol Hill Daily, is no exception. What sets it apart is the imaginative impeachment scenario:
By signing this petition, you're demanding, alongside us here at Capitol Hill Daily, that Congress place President Obama's powers under immediate suspension, that they conduct a thorough investigation of every scandal his administration has faced, and that his high crimes be judged before a court of law.
Yes, they're telling the rubes -- you know, those rubes in the tricorn hats who tell us that the main thing we need to do is go back to the strict principles of the Constitution -- that this is how impeachment works:

Ummm, folks? That's not how impeachment works. Go read Article I, Section 3, and Article II, Section 4, of your beloved Constitution. No one gets to put the president's "powers under immediate suspension." And there's no trial "before a court of law" because the trial takes place in the Senate. That part is the trial. Was 1998 that long ago?

According to Right Wing Watch, Capitol Hill Daily comes to us from Charisma Media, a Pentecostal publisher best known for a Christian periodical called Charisma Magazine. Charisma Media recently began moving into secular politics with a e-mail asserting, with no actual evidence, that "Obamacare Just Killed its Millionth Person." An anti-Obamacare petition, naturally, was attached -- gotta collect those e-mail addresses!

The "chief political analyst" of Capitol Hill Daily is Floyd Brown, the co-founder of Citizens United, who's best known for his Willie Horton ads against Mike Dukakis in 1988, and for years of anti-Clinton work in the 1990s. I don't know if Brown is involved in the ad, but hell, you'd think he'd know how impeachment works.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


The New York Times has a story today about the "sovereign citizens" movement and its adherents' nasty habit of filing huge liens against people they've targeted:
MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the first inklings Sheriff Richard Stanek had that something was wrong came with a call from the mortgage company handling his refinancing.

"It must be a mistake," he said, when the loan officer told him that someone had placed liens totaling more than $25 million on his house and on other properties he owned.

But as Sheriff Stanek soon learned, the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper ... a tactic that, with the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is being employed more frequently as a way to retaliate against perceived injustices.

Over the next three years, [a] couple, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson, filed more than $250 billion in liens, demands for compensatory damages and other claims against more than a dozen people, including the sheriff, county attorneys, the Hennepin County registrar of titles and other court officials.

"It affects your credit rating, it affected my wife, it affected my children,” Sheriff Stanek said of the liens. “We spent countless hours trying to undo it." ...
Scammers sell con artists and poorly informed people on the notion that this is an effective way to make money and/or protest alleged sins of the government -- the existence of the income tax, for instance. I generally have no sympathy for people who fall for this cockamamie notion, and I really have no sympathy for the snake-oil peddlers who recommend this course of action. The ideas are idiotic and the punishments are deserved:
Sovereign citizens believe that in the 1800s, the federal government was gradually subverted and replaced by an illegitimate government. They create their own driver's licenses and include their thumbprints on documents to distinguish their flesh and blood person from a "straw man" persona that they say has been created by the false government. When writing their names, they often add punctuation marks like colons or hyphens.

Adherents to the movement have been involved in a host of debt evasion schemes and mortgage and tax frauds. Two were convicted in Cleveland recently for collecting $8 million in fraudulent tax refunds from the I.R.S. And in March, Tim Turner, the leader of one large group, the Republic for the united States of America, was sentenced in Alabama to 18 years in federal prison. (His group does not capitalize the first letter in united.)
However, in the case of Thomas and Lisa Eilertson, I have a slight bit of sympathy:
Mr. Eilertson, interviewed at the state prison in Bayport, Minn., denied being anti-government or belonging to any movement....

Mr. Eilertson, who had no previous criminal record, said his actions were an effort to fight back against corrupt banks that had handed off the couple's mortgage time after time and whose top executives never faced consequences for their actions.

"It seemed like we were being attacked every day," he said. "We needed some way to stop the foreclosure.

"We tried to do our part with as much information as we had available," he said, though he conceded that "it kind of got out of control eventually."
Now, I don't know if the Eilertsons were the sort of horrible parasites who, according to both Rick Santelli and a wide variety of mainstream pundits, are just as responsible for crashing the economy as any banker, because they recklessly took on a mortgage they couldn't afford. (Their foreclosure was in 2009, the year in the Great Recession when we reached peak unemployment.)

Well, I'm sorry, but even if they were utterly irresponsible, I don't hold them as accountable as I do the banks. The Eilertsons may have gotten hooked on a form of economic crystal meth, but the banks were economic-crystal-meth dealers, and the mortgage system was, ultimately, an economic-crystal-meth cartel, selling serious weight. The product was highly toxic and the bankers knew it. They crashed the economy and got away unscathed.

OK, maybe I'm naive to think that the Eilertsons aren't pure evil. (I may not be alone in that -- this story says that their actual time in prison will be 120 days if they have no other felony convictions, and that the charges will be reduced to misdemeanors if they pay restitution and have no parole violations for five years.)

But here's the thing: people who got into mortgage trouble had hardly anywhere to turn. The financial system failed them. Politicians failed them -- very much including the Obama administration. (NSA abuses and drone strikes may top your list of Obama's failings, but at the top of my list is his utter failure to get real mortgage relief to people who needed it.)

So what do you in that case? The Eilertsons, unable to hold the responsible parties to account, kicked the dog, in a very nasty way. Attorneys and local officials saw their credit ratings damaged. Bankers seemed unreachable.

I wish there were some progressive force, in or out of government, that might have helped the Eilertsons. But inside government, all we have are moderate-conservative corporatists and extremely conservative corporatists. The teabaggers and Paulites don't give a crap about the victims of the Great Recession. And the left is weak and ineffectual and apparently unwilling or unable to rally heartlanders on aeconomic matters.

So the dog gets kicked.

Bob Filner has finally resigned as mayor of San Diego -- but they're not happy over at Free Republic, because the president of the city council will become the interim mayor, and he's gay:
... {Filner's] replacement will be a gay man, making San Diego the nation's second-largest city to be led by an openly gay person....

According to the City Charter rules, City Council President Todd Gloria will become acting mayor when Filner, the city's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, leaves office Friday....
There doesn't seem to be much concern about this in San Diego:
Including Gloria, at least four of the potential candidates lining up to replace Filner are gay, including one Republican....

The reaction to these milestones in San Diego, where former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson was once mayor: meh. It's not even the first time it's happened in San Diego. The city briefly had an interim mayor who was gay in 2005 after then-Mayor Dick Murphy resigned in the middle of a financial crisis.
But at Free Republic, the conclusion is that one sexual deviant has been replaced by another:
I feel sorry for the children in this city who will probably become prey soon enough.




From pervert to pervert.


Because perverted sexual behavior is so important to San Diego politics that they'll elect a Sodomite.
They're trading a creep for a freak.


San Digaygo. Let’s play Musical Pervs.


You stay classy, San Diego.


When Princess Hillary or another lib woman becomes president, gay men will be labeled the ideal male. We will even have a cabinet full of them.


what makes ya think the cabinet ain't full of them now? we've got more dykes in obama's cabinet now than the netherlands.


'Gay' is such a forlorn misnomer. This is a life of utter misery with an isolated thrill or two in it.


so this is the reason for the stink

they wanted to get a fag into position
In answer to that last Freeper: Yeah, right -- this whole scandal was ginned up just so San Diego could have a gay mayor. No one cared at all about multiple acts of sexual harassment. It was just a big gay plot by the big gay mafia.


OH, AND: Wikipedia notes that Todd Gloria has described himself as
Basically half Native American (Tlight-Haida, an Alaskan tribe), a quarter Filipino and then a little bit of Dutch and Puerto Rican.
There's the new America, Freepers. Make yourselves at home.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I don't mean to belabor this subject, but I want to address some things Brian Beutler of Salon says in this post about what he calls "the right's black crime obsession":
... it's intensified noticeably in the past year for at least two reasons. Conservatives, particularly white conservatives, feel a burning urgency to find a racial counterweight to the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's shooting (including President Obama's public comments about the incident), a logical response to the argument that things like background checks and an assault weapons ban are appropriate ways to reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook-style massacre, and anecdotal justifications for indiscriminate policing of dangerous neighborhoods.
I don't think the right has any interest in finding a counterweight to anger about the Trayvon Martin shooting verdict, or a counterweight to pro-gun control arguments -- at the federal level and in nearly every state, the right won the post-Newtown gun-control debate by brute force, and the right won the Zimmerman case in court. Stand Your Ground polls well, thanks to overwhelming white support. And the country is still split on whether gun laws should be stricter or not. The right doesn't seem to care about rebutting the left and center on these issues -- it's got the white base on its side, and that's all that matters.

"Anecdotal justifications for indiscriminate policing of dangerous neighborhoods"? There I think Beutler comes a lot closer to what the right really wants. Though I don't think it's about policy exactly, so much as it's about persuading the rubes that there's a Democratic/liberal conspiracy to unleash out-of-control negritude on poor, innocent whites. Harping on the real or alleged sins of blacks is about keeping whites loyal to the right and to the GOP, and keeping them worked up. It's always about that.

Beutler writes about the conservative obsession with comparing the Christopher Lane case to the Martin case, but I think he's misreading the right's mindset here, too:
... it turns out these stories aren't counter-parallel at all. And more to the point, the events don't even anecdotally augur for policies the right supports. The kids in Oklahoma weren't "standing their ground," and a "stand your ground" law wouldn't have saved Chris Lane. Neither would a stop-and-frisk regime -- the killers were trailing him in a car. By contrast, a "stand your ground" environment and a stop-and-frisk mentality were instrumental in Trayvon Martin's death. Take either away, and there's a good chance he'd be alive today.
Beutler is overlooking the fact that the angry right approves of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The angry right doesn't wish Martin were alive today. We know angry right-wingers don't think it was an outrage, but they don't think it was a horrible misunderstanding that led to tragedy, either. They interpret everything piece of evidence about Martin in the worst possible light, to portray him as a thug-in-development. They absolutely believe he was on the verge of killing George Zimmerman before Zimmerman killed him.

The Jack Cashill article I cited in my last post describes Martin as barely distinguishable from Christopher Lane's killers -- the only difference between Martin and Lane murder suspect James Edwards is that Edwards "was on a slightly faster track than Martin." Cashill's evidence? The fact that, according to messages found on Martin's cellphone, he was interested in guns and mixed martial arts fighting. (You mean ... just like George Zimmerman?)

Few right-wingers will say it outright, but the angry-right-wing message on race seems to be that black people are incorrigible -- shiftless, dependent, and violence-prone. The exceptions to this are the ones who've gone Republican; the rest can't be salvaged. It's basically the angry right's message about Muslims. It's an ugly message, but if it rallies the troops, it's the message the right is going to go ith.

At Fox Nation earlier this morning, this was the lead item:

The link goes to an American Thinker piece by an African-American right-winger named Taleeb Starkes. It begins:
Imagine the Left's reaction if the shocking, inter-racial murder of Christopher Lane had occurred when G.W Bush was president and he had stated, "If I had a son, he'd look like Christopher," or "Christopher Lane could've been me 35 years ago." Undoubtedly, the race-peddlers and entire grievance industry would've interpreted his comments as a subtle war declaration against Black America. Yet, when President Obama made these statements about Trayvon Martin, the Lefties claimed that he wasn't being divisive, he was simply "keepin' it real."
I don't think there would have been the slightest negative reaction to the latter comment. The former, I think, would have just been read as a reference to a resemblance, not to an issue of race. (We'd probably connect it to their shared love of baseball.) It's a potentially touchy subject, because there is an interracial element to this killing. On the other hand, no decent person of any race has any doubt that it's a horrible and utterly unjustifiable act of violence.

But Fox presumably wants you to read the rest of the article, which argues that this is part of an epidemic of black-on-white violence for kicks:
America had better realize that this cavalier behavior isn't an anomaly. These sociopathic tendencies are religiously embraced by a criminal subculture within the Black community whose idea of recreation is to wreck-creation. Sadistic activities such as "Knock-out King," "Polar Bear Hunting," "Apple Picking" etc. are favorite pastimes in urban America....

If society doesn't deal harshly with this anti-social, Black subculture that's empowered by liberal policies and excused by liberal sympathizers, we will see a significant increase of deaths and/or injuries stemming from "boredom." Advisedly, with Obama at the helm for the next few years, George Bush's sons may want to keep an eye out for Obama sons.
In the angry-wingnut subculture, those colorful names for "sadistic activities" are quite familiar, because of the sub rosa popularity of a book by Colin Flaherty called "White Girl Bleed a Lot": The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It. Flaherty explained a couple of the terms in this 2012 World Net Daily story:
DeAndre Felton and his crew had a problem: The mall was closed. The curfew in effect. But they were still high on drugs and wanted to have more fun. So they decided to beat someone up....

They had just come from a local park where DeAndre and 15 others beat up two girls, sending one to the hospital with a broken arm.

So DeAndre came up with an increasingly popular idea: In St. Louis they call it the Knockout Game. In Illinois, Polar Bear Hunting.

Regardless of what DeAndre in Meriden, Conn., called it, the rules are the same all over: Find a person who looks defenseless. Then punch him. Or kick him until you get tired or he is knocked out. Or worse. Game over....
Oh, and "Apple Picking"? Flahery explains elsewhere that this is "when (usually) a crowd of people steal an Iphone. Sometimes violently. Almost always black mob violence. It is at epidemic levels."

Is it? Violent crime in America has been trending downward for twenty years.

And while some on the right are linking the Christopher Lane killing to violent rap lyrics, it should be noted that this drop in crime began a couple of years after gangsta rap first gained widespread attention.

Meanwhile, also at the American Thinker, Jack Cashill -- yes, the guy who's obsessed with the notion that Bill Ayers wrote Barack Obama's first book -- has written a truly vile piece called "How Responsible Is Obama for the Oklahoma Killing?"
... If Obama's son would have looked like Trayvon, he would have also looked like James Edwards and Chancey Luna, both charged with first-degree murder in Lane's death. Although south central Oklahoma would seem to be a long way from south central LA, the national media have created a dysfunctional culture accessible to all disaffected youths everywhere, even the occasional white kid like getaway driver Michael Jones.

These young thugs apparently pulled their language, their vices, their aspirations, and their prejudices-- "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM"-from what was broadcast their way. That same media told them what to think about the "Zimmerman court," and Obama refused to tell them otherwise.

... Edwards had a lot in common with brother Trayvon. He too boasted of his drug use, his affection for violence, his disdain for bitches. He too even took a photo of his hand on a pistol. Though only fifteen, Edwards was on a slightly faster track than Martin. "With my niggas when it's time to start taken life's," he tweeted three days before the shooting....

The president let the idea stand that Martin was one of the victims of violence, but not one of the perpetrators. If Obama had called attention to the fractures in Martin's domestic life, his suppressed criminal record, his all but unseen descent into drugs and violence, and especially his reckless attack on Zimmerman, he might have lent a dollop of moral seriousness to his remarks.

But he did not. Instead, he tacitly encouraged his audience to project their anger and anxiety on to racial scapegoat, George Zimmerman and, indirectly at least, on to other [whites] like Chris Lane....
So Obama didn't write his own memoir, but he did effectively kill Chris Lane.


Here's the thing: Nobody approves of crimes like this. If there's any sort of fad or wave of this kind of crime, everyone can agree that efforts should be made to stop it.

But right-wingers don't want across-the-board agreement on that point. Right-wingers' sole reason for harping on this subject is a desire to stoke white resentment -- resentment of non-whites and (maybe primarily) of liberals and Democrats. It's all part of the great game of crushing the enemy and ushering in the Republican/Randian paradise. If race war is a means to that end, well, they're going to go for it.


AND: Just to restate the obvious, there is no controversy about arresting the perpetrators of acts like these. There were arrests immediately in the Lane case. There's been an arrest, leading to murder charges, in the beating of a World War II veteran on Wednesday in Spokane. But Todd Starnes of Fox News gets to the point for the right with this headline: "World War II Vet Beaten to Death by Black Teens." No update mentioning an arrest, naturally. And check out the "Related Posts":

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Right-wingers -- for instance, the folks at the Wall Street Journal editorial page -- are looking at the shooting of a young Australian named Christopher Lane, allegedly by three teenagers who didn't know him, and are asking why the people who were outraged at the Trayvon Martin case aren't equally outraged now. Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald and Gawker's Tom Scocca make the obvious point: the cops made arrests in the killing of Lane, and there's no controversy about that. Scocca writes:
Here's what happened in Oklahoma: a young man was shot to death. The police investigated it as a crime, arrested suspects, and charged them with murder.

No one is on the other side of this case. No one is disputing the principle that people who murder other people should be arrested and tried for it.... everyone agrees that the killing of Christopher Lane was a terrible crime and that the perpetrators should be punished.

The reason the killing of Trayvon Martin became a national scandal was that even though an unarmed young man was shot to death, the local authorities decided not to treat it as a crime. That was why it was a major news story. It was not the fact that a person of one particular race killed a person of another particular race; it was how the police and the justice system decided to handle that killing after it happened.
I want to make an additional point here. It wasn't merely that George Zimmerman wasn't arrested at the scene -- it was that the decision not to arrest him was an implicit endorsement of what he did that night, a way of arguing that he'd been deputized by society to do what he did. It said that we have no problem with regarding a self-appointed para-cop as a person entitled to make life-or-death decisions -- or at least we don't have a problem if he shoots someone in a certain category of persons. And, of course, "stand your ground" laws exist precisely to deputize, as momentary citizen cops, large swaths of the population.

Not everyone, of course -- there's a significant racial disparity in the treatment of white-on-black and black-on-white shootings in "stand your ground" states:
{According to] a study by John Roman of the Urban Institute ... [i]n states with stand-your-ground laws, the shooting of a black person by a white person is found justifiable 17 percent of the time, while the shooting of a white person by a black person is deemed justifiable just over 1 percent of the time....
The initial refusal to arrest Zimmerman, and his ultimate acquittal, were endorsements of his self-appointment as an officer of the law. By contrast, no one is treating the young men chaged with Christopher Lane's death as pseudo-cops. If we get to the point where elected or appointed authorities are arguing that white people should be shot under circumstances like this, for the good of society, then we'll have a comparable situation to the Trayvon Martin case. But nothing even remotely like that is happening in this case. Everyone -- everyone -- accepts that this was an awful crime.

Republicans are at it again: an ambitious member of their party has them seeing starbursts, primarily because they think this particular Republican terrifies and infuriates us.

I'm referring, of course, to Ted Cruz. Here's Rich Lowry, writing at Politico:
Henry Adams said that politics is the systematic organization of hatreds. For the left, over the past year it has seemed at times to be the systematic organization of hatred of Ted Cruz....

Cruz is ... a Princeton and Harvard man who not only matriculated at those fine institutions but excelled at them. Champion debater at Princeton. Magna cum laude graduate at Harvard. Supreme Court clerkship, on the way to Texas solicitor general and dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class....

Democrats and liberal pundits would surely dislike Cruz no matter where he went to school, but his pedigree adds an extra element of shocked disbelief to the disdain....

One of the left's deepest prejudices is that its opponents are stupid, and Cruz tramples on it. Chris Hayes of MSNBC actually says he fears Cruz's brilliance.
(Try to follow the logic of that last bit: People on the left think all conservatives are stupid, as evidenced by ... a prominent left-leaning commentator saying that Cruz is actually very smart. Yup, makes sense to me.)

National Review's Michael Walsh goes even further, in a masterpiece of projection titled "Keep Punching":
In the contest between Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, I have no idea who will win the battle for conservative hearts and minds, but I do know this: It's about time somebody in the GOP started acting like Democrats. By which I mean, both Cruz and Paul realize that Campaign '16 has already started, and unlike the clueless Mitt Romney, you don't wait until you’ve secured the nomination to turn your attention to the foe. Instead, you prep the battlefield by pounding him relentlessly, all day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, well in advance of the actual election. Like the Left, you should never stop, never sleep, never quit....

Why? Because that's the way they play the game -- not just the party operatives, but their legions of media hacks in control of the Narrative, and their allies in academe who represent the indoctrination wing of la Causa....

Still, as the great philosopher Mike Tyson famously observed, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." The counter-punching from Cruz and Rand has already thrown the Left off its game, which is why it's reacted to Cruz like screeching vampires suddenly confronting a crucifix. They want to turn him into the male Sarah Palin, but there’s those pesky little details like his Senate seat and his Harvard pedigree....
No, we don't want to turn Ted Cruz into the male Sarah Palin, because we didn't turn Sarah Palin into the female Sarah Palin -- she did that to herself, which is more or less what we expect Ted Cruz to do. We didn't fear Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency because we thought she would be a devastatingly effective officeholder who would expertly skewer our sacred cows -- if we feared her, it was because she's extreme and ignorant and about as emotionally stable as Anthony Weiner having a Cialis overdose. But starting in about late September 2008, we stopped fearing Palin at all. She'd beclowned herself.

Cruz is smarter than Palin -- a low bar to clear -- but he's naive if he thinks the road to the White House passes through the Valley of World Net Daily Talking Points. That may be the road to the Republican nomination this time around, but it's not going to win him the presidency, any more than being a guy who seems to take no pleasure in anything apart from contempt for liberalism is going to win him the presidency. (Chris Christie loves to bash liberals, too, but he seems to have a human side apart from that, which is what makes him a legitimate threat.)

But what is it with Republicans and their obsessive quest for the ultimate Dem-destroying nominee? Dave Weigel alluded to this during the 2012 primaries, back when Newt Gingrich was temporarily riding high:
When he talks to Republicans, especially to Republican voters who may not be inclined to back him, Newt Gingrich wins them over with a promise. He will outsmart Barack Obama. He will challenge him to "seven Lincoln-Douglas-style debates," as he said last week at the Republican Jewish Coalition's confab. The president can even "use a teleprompter," jokes Gingrich. It's one of the tightest punchlines in conservative politics.

... [Republicans have] started to imagine him facing off against Barack Obama, the president they consider a pure media creation who can't put two words together unless they're in blue type on a screen in front of him....
Then again, before that, the same voters felt that way about Herman Cain. And, before that, about Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. And many of them hope that Trump or Ben Carson or Allen West or Cruz will be the nominee, just because they talk a lot of trash about Democrats and liberals.

Now, granted, the people who embody these wingnut hopes haven't actually won the Republican nomination. But they drive the eventual winner very, very far to the right, and quite possibly (in 2008 and 2012) to defeat.

Democrats don't do any of this. Even Democrats who hope a progressive champion will fight for the nomination primarily want someone who'll embody progressive values, not bash our enemies. If we wanted an enemy-basher, there'd be an Alan Grayson for president movement as large as the Cruz cult.

Who's the dream candidate of progressives? Elizabeth Warren, who's unfailingly polite. Warren doesn't shy from a fight, but she doesn't seem to take pleasure in the act of fighting. I can't remember the last Republican cult hero you could say that about.