Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Breitbart is trying to open a second front in the newly nationalized wingnut war against the Bureau of Land Management with this story:

After the recent Bundy Ranch episode by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Texans are becoming more concerned about the BLM’s focus on 90,000 acres along a 116 mile stretch of the Texas/Oklahoma boundary. The BLM is reviewing the possible federal takeover and ownership of privately-held lands which have been deeded property for generations of Texas landowners.
Breitbart has posted follow-up stories, one featuring state attorney general (and gubernatorial front-runner) Greg Abbott daring the BLM to "come and take it!" Fox News, naturally, is also on the case.

Abbott is talking tough:
"I am about ready," General Abbott told Breitbart Texas, "to go to the Red River and raise a 'Come and Take It' flag to tell the feds to stay out of Texas." ...

As to the timeline of how this matter moves forward Abbott explained that it is hard to tell how quickly or slowly the BLM might move on this matter. "One of the problems is, we can't tell what they're doing other than trying to operate in very suspicious ways. We want to make sure they are going to be open and transparent about what they are doing and that constitutional due process rights are going to be protected."
But BLM is being open and transparent. Nearly a year ago, it issued a Notice of Intent regarding its revision of the resource management plan for Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. It's been holding public hearings on this issue. Yes, a Republican congressman from Texas, Mac Throneberry, has complained that the one in Wichita Falls "was poorly advertised" -- but, really, you can't have it both ways, can you? If land management issues are worth having a Second American Revolution over, and the BLM is the new King George, then shouldn't the True Patriots be paying attention to what the tyrant is up to? Especially when the tyrant actually invites the public to weigh in?

This is a crazy situation, and has been for a long, long time. Attorney General Abbott's ranting and raving suggests that President Obama is causing all the trouble, but that's nonsense:
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas, General Abbott said, "This is the latest line of attack by the Obama Administration where it seems like they have a complete disregard for the rule of law in this country ..."

... "What Barack Obama's BLM is doing," Abbott continued, "is so out of bounds and so offensive that we should have quick and successful legal action if they dare attempt to tread on Texas land and take it from private property owners in this state."
But this dispute goes back long before Barack Obama was born:
The border between Texas and Oklahoma meanders peacefully along 540 miles of twists and bends of the storied Red River. Peacefully, that is, except for an area within Lake Texoma, about 60 miles north of Dallas, that has been in hot dispute between the two states for almost 200 years....

For years, both states have agreed that the border would run along the south bank (Texas side) of the Red River. But, the exact location of the river's south bank within Lake Texoma has never been determined.

The lack of a clearly defined border through the lake has resulted in years of disputes over property taxes, water and mineral rights, court jurisdictions, and hunting and fishing licenses....

The original Texas-Oklahoma border was based on an 1821 treaty between Spain and the United State which was upheld in 1896 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1923 (Okalahoma v. Texas), the Supreme Court attempted to settle the dispute by ruling that the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas be identified by wooden stakes set on the river bank. But, any surveyor will tell you that wooden stakes are easy to move and don't last very long at all -- especially along a river....
It once led to armed conflict:
... nearly two centuries of squabbling [have] fueled two U.S. Supreme Court cases and spurred a revolver-toting Oklahoma governor to declare martial law and "invade," as 1930s newspapers put it, a narrow strip of disputed territory. (No shots were fired.)
Texas passed a law in 2013 establishing a boundary commission to settle this question -- but Governor Rick Perry dawdled before finally naming members to this commission in December. Any resolution of the border dispute has to be approved by Texas, Oklahoma, and the U.S. Congress.

In the meantime, the BLM is working from current law, including Supreme Court rulings that are still in effect. Yes, it's true that that may result in 90,000 acres of land being declared federal property -- but that's based on current law (and Texas's interpretation of where the border is is disputred not just by the feds but by Oklahoma).

What's going on is proceeding very slowly. BLM says any changes would require new surveys -- which BLM isn't planning, and wouldn't take place without prior notification.

Oh, and President Obama? This is a peripheral issue, but he actually signed legislation that exempted Texans from provisions of a 2008 amendment to the 1900 Lacey Act that would have prohibited certain water use practices because of the presence of an invasive species in water on the border.

Meanwhile, do you know when the best-known martyr in this story was martyred? During the presidency of St. Reagan:
Sid Miller, former Texas State Representative and Republican candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, has ... made the matter a campaign issue to Breitbart Texas.

"In Texas," Miller says, "“the BLM is attempting a repeat of an action taken over 30 years ago along the Red River when Tommy Henderson lost a federal lawsuit. The Bureau of Land Management took 140 acres of his property and didn’t pay him one cent."

Miller referred to a 1986 case where the BLM attempted to seize some of Henderson's land. Henderson sued the BLM and lost 140 acres that had been in his family for generations.
Goodness -- why didn't the Greatest American of All Time mount his steed and ride to Henderson's rescue back in 1986, at the head of an armed posse of True Patriots? It's a mystery.

This is a border issue that mature people would solve in a mature way. But it's in Texas and Oklahoma, where lots of people daydream that they're living in a Louis L'Amour novel. So I guess that's not possible.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Here's Alex Roarty, writing at The Atlantic:
It took David Perdue about 20 seconds of speechifying to expose a tension roiling the Republican Party. Speaking in January, the former business executive turned Georgia candidate for U.S. Senate asked a group of local Republicans to parse the resumes of his primary foes.

"There's a high-school graduate in this race, okay?" said Perdue, referring to his opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. "I'm sorry, these issues are so much broader, so complex. There's only one candidate in this race who's ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free-enterprise system and what it takes to compete in the global economy?"

The two-pronged swipe elicited cries of condescension and elitism that eventually forced Perdue to apologize. And it revealed a vital reality about the state of the Republican Party as its members prepare to select a standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential primary: The GOP has long ago shed its stereotype of being the party catering to the wealthy.
Yes, Roarty actually wrote that: The GOP has long ago shed its stereotype of being the party catering to the wealthy.

Maybe it's shed its stereotype of being the only party catering to the wealthy -- Democrats do a pretty good job of that too, though they still have a lot of catching up to do -- but on my planet, Republicans still do a damn fine job of constituent service for the 1% (and the 0.1%, and the 0.01%).

More from Roarty:
These days, the GOP tone and agenda are set by a voting bloc of mostly white, blue-collar workers whose sensibilities skew more toward NASCAR than golf.... In 2008, according to a tabulation of exit-poll data acquired by the National Journal, blue-collar workers made up 51 percent of all GOP primary voters.
Actually, the poll he's quoting doesn't say "blue-collar workers" made up 51% of the GOP primary electorate -- it says that "voters without a four-year college degree made up a 51 percent majority of the total vote." Not the same thing. And lacking a sheepskin doesn't automatically mean identifying with the have-nots: quite a few of these voters could have quite comfortable middle-class lives (they could have been successful farmers, ranchers, career military, or even, in the North, unionized workers, especially the many retirees among them; some might even have been white-collar workers from the days when college degrees weren't required). Roarty's jumping to a conclusion if he assumes that they consider themselves class warriors. (Why do they enjoy watching Donald Trump so much on Fox News? For that matter, why did a 2010 New York Times CBS poll find that tea party members were wealthier and more educxated than the general public?)

Roarty continues:
It's why Perdue's remark was so costly. He wasn't just mocking Handel; he was mocking many of the very voters whose support he wants during the May primary. Sarah Palin, whose anti-elitist message best personifies the party's working-class turn, summed up the feelings of many Republican voters when she campaigned for Handel last month: "There are a lot of good, hard-working Americans who have more common sense in their pinky finger than a lot of those Ivy League pieces of paper up on a wall."
Yeah -- Perdue's remark was so costly that he's moved into the lead in that race ever since he made that remark, while the candidate he insulted -- Palin's preferred candidate -- is mired in fifth place:

What's happening in the GOP now is that fat-cat donors are choosing their candidates more carefully, while the establishment/elitist candidates those fat cats are backing are moving far enough to the right not to alienate the crazies. Result: conflict averted.

Roarty writes:
The two political parties have essentially traded places over the last few decades. Democrats, who once depended heavily on blue-collar workers, have become increasingly the party of white-collar workers, at least among whites. And as downscale whites leave the Democratic Party, they've joined the GOP, whose cultural values often align with their own.
Yeah, maybe -- but one of those "cultural values" is a worship of capitalism and its heroic "makers." There's class anger, but it's against the cultural elites on the coasts, who are presumed to be simpering metrosexual Democrats (Trump and various Wall Street wolves excepted).

There is no culture war in the GOP, Alex -- that's so last election cycle.

In response to news that President Obama is offering clemency to hundreds of non-violent drug offenders, John Cole writes:
... if you think this is unrelated to the actions in states that have moved to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, you are being foolish. As attitudes change and things happen at the state level, the executive branch is able to move on issues like this. See the recent moves by the DOJ to allow growers in Colorado to have access to banking, etc. In other words, this is great news, and long overdue, but the only reason it is happening is because of local activists on the ground who changed the laws in their states.
I agree. And do you notice what opponents of the War of Drugs haven't done, for the most part? They haven't pursued a strategy of "THE DEMOCRAT IN THIS ELECTION IS NO MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN THE REPUBLICAN ON THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE SO THE NUMBER-ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR ALL PROGRESSIVES TO FOCUS ON IS PUNISHING THIS DEMOCRAT AT THE POLLS NEXT NOVEMBER!!!!1!1!1!!!!!" People who've been concerned with drug policy have mostly been concerned with the issue itself -- they've concentrated on changing specific laws, not on punishing unsympathetic politicians.

That's what works for lefties. That's also what's worked over the years for the gay rights movement. It's not that you don't vote for the more sympathetic candidate, but you recognize that you're further along than both parties, and it's your job to pull the public and politicians to the left.

Obama's clemency decisions affects a lot of people who were sentenced under mandatory minimums. He seems to be responding to an evolution in public opinion. That's true, but please note that right-wingers -- the Koch brothers in particular -- have changed their position on mandatory minimums, which means there's no longer fat-cat pressure on lawmakers to support mandatory-minimum laws. ALEC used to be a big backer of mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws, quite possibly as a way of looking out for the interests of the for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) -- but now ALEC supports sentencing reform. (CCA quit ALEC in 2010. Coincidence?)

Threatening to punish officeholders doesn't really work for the left, but it does work for the right. This is because many of the GOP's big donors are ideological purists, and because a greater percentage of the party's voters are ideological zealots who'll rally to any Two Minutes' Hate, thanks to Fox News and talk radio. There are levers they can work and we really can't. So we need to proceed accordingly.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Spotted this on Twitter a little while ago:

Oh, crap -- what's got the righties riled up now?

Drudge's link goes to The Weekly Standard. The source for the Standrd's post is, I assume, a White House press pool report on today's Easter egg roll:
President Obama declared everyone "a winnner" at the White House Easter Egg Roll:
... "Happy Easter! This is the biggest event we have at the White House all year long," Obama said....

"Everybody is a winner!" He yelled at the end before pulling in about 25 kids for photos and high fives.
So why is the Standard quoting this?

Well, if the president said, "Everybody is a winner!," he embodied one right-centrist stereotype of liberalism and one wingnut stereotype. The right-centrist stereotype: that liberal culture is built on an aversion to competition and a preference for "Everybody Gets a Prize" days at school. (Snark in response to today's story at Weasel Zippers: "Yay! Participation trophies!") This, we're told, turns our children into soft, weak, flabby individuals and, for good measure, is part of an ongoing war on masculinity.

The wingnut stereotype? Well, here's the first tweet posted in response to Drudge:

Communists? You mean like Laura Bush?
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," March 24, 2008....

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Just a few hours ago we were at the White House for their annual Easter egg roll, a tradition dating back to 1878. The First Lady Laura Bush was a gracious host to thousands of children and, yes, the parents....

Explain the Easter egg roll to me.

BUSH: The Easter egg roll -- you use a spoon, and these are hard-boiled eggs, and the White House chefs spend all of the weekend hard boiling eggs and dying them.

So the idea is you're down close to the ground with your spoon and you're moving the Easter egg all the way down to the finish line. And, of course, everyone is a winner at the Easter egg roll.
(Emphasis added.)

Oh, and this is from a 2007 book titled The President's House: 1800 to the Present: The Secrets and History of the World's Most Famous Home:

That book was written by Margaret Truman -- Harry Truman's daughter. I guess she's a castrating commie hippie, too, just like Laura Bush.

What's got the wingers shaking their fists about today? Well, they're not just upset about the fact that President Obama has postponed his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline -- John Hinderaker at Power Line is arguing that opposition to the pipeline among Democrats can be blamed on Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund billionaire and Democratic donor who used to invest a lot in non-green energy until he became "a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal," a stance that -- how sinister! -- "fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects."

Over at Fox Nation earlier this morning, the lead item was an epic bit of stupid from James Pinkerton at Breitbart, which envisions, from the perspective of the year 2064, an American "Abundance Revolution" resulting from some sort of revolution launched as backlash to (among other things) the Keystone decision and the Bundy Ranch standoff. On the Bundy situation, according to Pinkerton, the enemy couldn't be clearer:
The first triggering event, now the stuff of lore and legend, was the incident in Bunkerville, Nevada, in which Cliven Bundy, then an anonymous citizen, joined by several hundred supporters, faced down a federal army led by an ally of then-Sen. Harry Reid....

What highlighted the incident further were the comments of Sen. Reid, who referred to Bundy and his allies as "terrorists." That seemed such an excessive reaction that observers grew curious as to why Reid felt so strongly.

Some clues as to the government's behavior were found in an opinion piece on Fox News by Wayne Allyn Root, the future national leader, in which Root asked, "Why is US Senator Harry Reid so concerned with a local Nevada rancher?" Presciently, Root noted that Reid allies were involved in "green energy"" efforts, which required vast tracts of land for solar facilities....

Root’s suspicions were vindicated, as we know, in surprising ways that made Root famous and left Reid's career and reputation in ruins.
And then there's Sharyl Atkisson:
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson is augmenting her campaign to paint herself as a victim of liberal media bias with conspiratorial and false attacks on Media Matters....

Attkisson [leveled the charge] during an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. After Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," host Brian Stelter asked, "Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you've been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they're doing? They're just trying to controversialize the issue?" Attkisson responded that she had been "targeted" by Media Matters and hinted at a motive, saying, "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After Stelter asked her whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, she responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."
What's the common thread here? It's that right-wingers are working rto Alinskyize the stories.

Do you know Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals"? You probably don't; I didn't, either, until the rules started to pop up all over the right. Most lefties don't read Alinsky anymore, while the right is obsessed with him. (When I Google "alinsky rules," the first page of results includes pages from,, Matthew Vadum's blog, FrontPage Magazine, and Right Wing News -- and no links from any American lefty group.) One of Alinsky's rules is this:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
That's what's going on in every story I've cited -- an attempt to personalize the stories.

On Keystone, the enemy isn't environmentalism -- it's Tom Steyer. In the Bundy situation, it isn't the federal government or Bureau of Land Management -- it's Harry Reid. Atkisson's enemy? Media Matters, embodied in (presumably) either David Brock or George Soros, who gave a lot of money to Media Matters in 2010.

Nothing I'm describing is new for the right, of course, but I think it's worth pointing out. Do Alinsky's tactics work? The right sure thinks so -- and maybe they do when the radical message is backed by unlimited funding and is transmitted through a propaganda operation with strong connections to the mainstream press.

It's hard for me to get upset about the article in which a marketing expert, a brand consultant, and others are asked about the feasibility of a Ku Klux Klan rebranding. The piece is just too ridiculous to be toxic. It seems like a gift to Jon Stewart's writers.
...[Klan Imperial Wizard Frank] Ancona, who lives in Missouri, insists there's a new Klan for modern times -- a Klan that's "about educating people to our ideas and getting people to see our point of view to ... help change things."

He said he and those like him can spread that message without violence -- a sort of rebranding of the Klan.

The idea may sound absurd, but is it conceivable?

No, say top marketing experts, brand gurus and historians -- and for many reasons....

Without a clear leader, marketing experts said, crafting and conveying a spin-friendly message is impossible....
Why would a professional journalist write this? Why would it even be assigned? Why would it be published after it was written?

For years, press critic Jay Rosen has railed against journalism written with what he calls a "view from nowhere." Journalists who write with a "view from nowhere" claim to be above all of your petty partisanship; the problem is, this perspective leads them to write, or try to write, without any internal moral compass. They seem to think they shouldn't bring any sense of right or wrong to their journalism, the result being that they see the truth as residing midway between two political poles at all times. They're unable to say that a high official is simply wrong, even when that's the case. (Elias Isquith believes this tendency infests recent work by Ezra Klein, Nate Silver, and Jonathan Chait.)

I think CNN's Klan-rebranding article is the result of a version on this worldview. Fox News is seen (accurately) as the 24-hour partisan news channel of the right, and MSNBC is seen (inaccurately) at the 24-hour partisan news channel of the left -- so CNN is trying to be the channel for which news isn't about politics at all. If MSNBC is Bridgegate and Fox is the Bundy Ranch, CNN is the Malaysian jetliner.

Which is fine, I guess, if your key story is the Malaysian jetliner. But CNN apparently wants to reduce everything to Malaysian-jetliner status. CNN wants everything to be down the middle and beyond politics.

And so you get a story like this.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Ross Douthat, unsurprisingly, doesn't share the perspective on capitalism expressed in Thomas Piketty's book Capitalism in the Twenty-first Century. The way Douthat sees it -- if I correctly understand a Scott Winship post he cites approvingly -- people are getting way too much in Social Security and Medicare and employer-provided health care to be suffering from any sort of real increase in equality. Douthat writes:
Even if the income and wealth distributions look more Victorian, ... the 99 percent may still be doing well enough to be wary of any political movement that seems too radical, too utopian, too inclined to rock the boat.
And yet, around the world, the 99 percent seem rather cranky these days. Why on earth would that be if (according to Douthat) economic explanations are completely off the table? Well, Douthat being Douthat, you can imagine what he thinks the real explanation is:
... what's felt to be evaporating could turn out to be cultural identity -- family and faith, sovereignty and community -- much more than economic security.
Yes! Of course! We need a whole lot more of Jesus and a lot less rock 'n' ro-- er, progressive taxation. And where are people turning for this spiritual nourishment, according to Douthat?
This possibility might help explain why the far left remains, for now, politically weak even as it enjoys a miniature intellectual renaissance. And it might hint at a reason that so much populist energy, in both the United States and Europe, has come from the right instead -- from movements like the Tea Party, Britain's UKIP, France's National Front and others that incorporate some Piketty-esque arguments (attacks on crony capitalism; critiques of globalization) but foreground cultural anxieties instead.
Do you see what Douthat is doing here? He's burying the loaded word "sovereignty" in among innocuous words ("family and faith ... community"), lumping them all together as "cultural anxieties" and fears about "cultural identity" He's making it seem as if people just want a simple Norman Rockwell life, or whatever the equivalent of that would be in various European countries.

But, um, "sovereignty" is really a big deal to these movements, as a look at this "What We Stand For" page on the website of Britain's UKIP makes clear:
... Another wave of uncontrolled immigration comes from the EU (this time Bulgaria and Romania). Yet the political class tells us the EU is good for the UK.....

• Regain control of our borders and of immigration - only possible by leaving the EU....

• Proof of private health insurance must be a precondition for immigrants and tourists to enter the UK....

• Prioritise social housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born locally....

• Make welfare a safety net for the needy, not a bed for the lazy. Benefits only available to those who have lived here for over 5 years....
Oh, and:
Ukip is part of the group Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD). The group includes representatives of the Danish People’s Party, the True Finns Party, the Dutch SGP and the infamous Italian Lega Nord – all of them far-right. [UKIP leader] Nigel Farage is co-President of the group along with Lega Nord's Francesco Speroni, who described multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose "ideas are in defence of western civilisation."
And yet UKIP's Farage won't ally with Marine Le Pen and her National Front in France because Farage thinks Le Pen is too anti-Semitic. Le Pen has allied her party with with Dutch Muslim-basher Geert Wilders; she's compared the presence of Muslims praying in France's streets to living under Nazi occupation; she's said that if Muslim veils are banned, the Jewish skullcap should also be banned.

This is about a wee bit more than family, faith, and community.

I look at the rise of these parties and see fascism, though possibly dialed down a bit for maximum electoral appeal. (The National Front was far more overtly racist years ago, under Le Pen's father; UKIP is less overtly racist than the party it has effectively superseded, the British National Party. This has done wonders for the poll numbers of the UKIP and the new National Front.) Douthat? He sees nothing but sunshine:
And somewhere in this pattern, perhaps, lies the beginnings of a more ideologically complicated critique of modern capitalism -- one that draws on cultural critics like Daniel Bell and Christopher Lasch rather than just looking to material concerns, and considers the possibility that our system's greatest problem might not be the fact that it lets the rich claim more money than everyone else. Rather, it might be that both capitalism and the welfare state tend to weaken forms of solidarity that give meaning to life for many people, while offering nothing but money in their place.
That's the lesson Ross Douthat derives from the rise of neo-fascism in Europe. The mind reels.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Michelle Obama is scheduled to give a commencement address at a combined graduation ceremony for five high schools in Topeka, Kansas, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which concerned Topeka's school system. Some of the people involved in the graduation are upset:
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day.

... Taylor Gifford, 18, ... started an online petition Thursday evening to urge the district to reconsider its plans. She and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Obama's visit would limit the seating options for family and friends.

"I really would like it to have a peaceful solution, but there is so much misinformation going on," Gifford said.
Lefties who are reading this are accusing Topeka of being just as racist as it was sixty years ago, while wingnuts are expressing schadenfreude. But have you read Taylor Gifford's petition? I really believe she doesn't mean any disrespect to the First Lady at all:
We are honored to have the First Lady speak at commencement and the student body was literally crying and jumping for joy when the news was announced and we are in no way shape or form ungrateful for what the Board has done for us.

There are problems that come with the combining of the commencements. First of all, for most families in [Unified School District] 501, money is short and we have spent hundreds of dollars buying graduation announcements that are now incorrect. The district has stated they will not refund this. Topeka High School's graduation on its own takes approximately two and a half hours. The combining of five high schools will increase that to about six hours. With increased security the total time will be brought up to eight hours. Secondly, families have many people coming from states away taking sick leave to see the graduation. They will come to Topeka, only to find that they cannot be involved. Those with divorced families have to choose which side of the family they want to invite, this doesn't even include siblings.

This petition will go to the Board to keep graduation times the same and find a way for the speech to be given at all commencements, whether the First Lady is there in person or she has her speech recorded and replayed.
It seems as if these kids are deeply invested in the ceremony (in a way that I, as a cynical 1970s high school graduate, can't quite imagine), and that they've made complicated arrangements for this event that are now in doubt, which upsets them even though they were thrilled when the First Lady chose to speak to them. It seems as if they're really trying to avoid difficulties for their families. Believe me, a hater wouldn't have bothered to put that bit about "jumping for joy" into her petition -- nobody in modern America who truly hates the Obamas even tries anymore to show minimal respect.

Another kid quoted in the story has the same complaints (and proposed solution but calls herself a "die-hard Democrat." Why would she bother to say that, in a deeply Republican state, if she were a hater?

I don't know about the parents. I don't know about the other kids. But these two don't seem motivated by hate.


No, Republicans aren't going to move on, obviously:
When President Obama announced on Thursday that eight million Americans have now enrolled for insurance under the health-care law's exchanges, he delivered this message to Republicans: It's time to move on from the five-year Health Care War. And Republicans immediately responded with their own message -- no. "The president says that Republicans have not accepted Obamacare as settled law. He is right. Republicans cannot and will not accept this law," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a statement.
So anti-Obamacare absolutism is still the GOP electoral strategy. A couple of days ago, Brian York wrote that voters in this year's midterms will pass judgment on Obamacare based on whether they're benefiting from it or not:
When it comes to the politics of Obamacare, there's really only one question that matters: How many Americans are benefiting from the new health care system, and how many are hurting?

... So who has, in fact, been harmed by Obamacare? The first question, of course, is what "harmed" means. But let's define it as anyone who faces higher premiums, or higher deductibles -- adding up to a total higher cost — and/or a narrower choice of hospitals, doctors and prescription drugs than they had before. For them, health care is a more expensive and troublesome proposition than it was before Obamacare....

We know more about Obamacare's beneficiaries. First there are the three million or four million low-income people added to the Medicaid rolls....

Then there are the people who receive federal subsidies to buy health coverage through Obamacare's exchanges....

Add to that young people who are now remaining on their parents' coverage until age 26, the ... people who were in the past denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and others who in some way have a better deal under the new system, and you have the universe of Obamacare's beneficiaries.

How does that compare to the number of people who have gotten a bad deal from Obamacare? It's impossible to know right now, and that makes it impossible to make much of a political calculation.

... Will people who pay more, or who get less, or both, take their Obamacare unhappiness out against Democrats this November? Some surely will. But how many, and how strongly motivated they will be, will probably remain unknown until after the polls have closed....
But I don't believe that Republicans are trying to marshal an army of people genuinely or seemingly harmed by Obamacare to win the midterms and the 2016 elections. I think they're doing what they usually do, which is to rally a white, economically comfortable, suburban/exurban voter base against supposed outrages from which they aren't personally suffering.

The GOP standard operating procedure is to get people in zero-crime suburbs worked up about urban gangbangers, to get people in 99% white Christian neighborhoods infuriated about imminent sharia law or the War on Christmas, to get people who live under all-GOP governments angry about ACORN and Democratic voter fraud. The outrages don't have to be happening at all, or may be happening in highly isolated locations or even in other countries (Free Republic is full of stories about "creeping sharia" that inevitably turn out to be from the U.K. or Continental Europe). The fact that the angry base can't actually reality-test the stories actually works to the GOP's advantage -- the base trusts the right-wing media so much that any story demonizing liberals and Democrats is automatically assumed to be true, especially when the truth of the story is unknowable.

So tossed-off allegations like this are assumed to be true:
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law.

"It's hard to get accurate numbers on anything," Huelskamp told his constituents at a town hall in Salina, Kan....
Hell, why not say that? It fits with the GOP's general "cooking the books" meme on Obamacare enrollment numbers.

Meanwhile, Joan Walsh notes that House majority whip Kevin McCarthy has introduced a nasty new yardstick for measuring the success of the health care law:
McCarthy ... lists five new metrics for measuring success, including how many enrollees have actually paid, and how many didn't have insurance before. Those are old talking points, but ... McCarthy also tacks on an ugly parenthetical, asking "how many received a subsidy (raising concerns about fraud)." Brian Beutler at the New Republic calls this an effort to "welfarize Obamacare," to stigmatize it and also make it subject to the same hysteria about "fraud" that conservatives use to smear other social programs.
See? There doesn't actually have to be any fraud. The base will just be outraged at the fraud that surely must be happening!

So, yeah, Republicans are going to keep fighting the evils of Obamacare -- regardless of whether those evils exist. For the party's base, they're just going to continue to create a reality.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Supposedly intelligent people believe that Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy is a game-changer for her mother in 2016. Hillary can't lose now! Right?

If you want to know whether being associated with an appealing, sympathetic, very young child automatically guarantees you an election victory, you might want to ask Rick Santorum. In the campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, he spent a great deal of time talking about his youngest daughter, Bella, who was three years old at the time and who has a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy 18:
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.
He made Bella the centerpiece of an online campaign ad:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family -- his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child....

"During the last debate I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red-eye home to see my three year old daughter Bella, who had surgery earlier that day," the Republican presidential candidate said. "Following that debate, Karen and I got numerous emails and calls from supporters asking how she was doing. We were so touched by the tremendous outpouring of support, the thoughts and the prayers we received for our sweet Bella."

"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia near the end of January 2012, shortly before the Florida and Nevada primaries. All of this seemed to endear Santorum to quite a few voters; The New York Times reported that it was part of Santorum's appeal to socially conservative women:
But more than his energy proposals, or his stance on immigration or foreign policy, it is Mr. Santorum's personal biography that women say moves them the most. And he has not been shy about sharing the facts of his life, and most poignantly, the story of his youngest child, known as Bella, who was born with trisomy 18, a fatal disorder....

Bella, and Mr. Santorum's staunch anti-abortion stance, are among the reasons Carol Klotz, a retired antiques dealer in Metairie, La., prays for him every morning at Catholic Mass. She also started a rosary group that prays for the country and Mr. Santorum.
But Rick Santorum didn't win the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney did. Santorum won a number of states, but he lost the primaries. And, really, the race wasn't all that close.

Sympathetic biographical information will get you only so far. The war records of George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bob Dole in 1996, John Kerry in 2004, and John McCain in 2008 didn't get them elected. Sarah Palin's baby didn't elect her ticket in '08. Sure, plenty of people will coo over Chelsea's daughter in 2016. But Chelsea's pregnancy is not a 2016 game-changer.

I appreciate the unqualified contempt Timothy Egan expresses in this New York Times op-ed about the Bundy Ranch standoff -- but I think the analogy with which he opens the piece is a bit off base:
Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn't paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What's more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital.

Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not.

So what's the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.
That last line is pretty much dead-on. (I might qualify it and say that the Midwesterner-turned-Easterner who runs Fox News assumes, probably correctly, that his exurban audience has a soft spot -- or maybe "collective mancrush" would be closer to the mark -- for those Stetson-wearing bad boys.) But I think Egan is too quick to assume that there'd never be a posse of armed defenders for a National Mall vendor.

The vendor would have to be the right kind of Real American -- maybe a "Hanoi Jane"-hating 'Nam vet who doesn't believe Obama's birth certificate and who thinks Allen West and Donald Trump would make a hell of a 2016 ticket. Maybe he'd claim to have gotten on the wrong side of some real or imagined quota system (he'd have to be white, of course), or maybe he'd just claim that Evil Obama and Holder were trying to shut him down because of all the "pro-freedom" bumper stickers on his pushcart. Could I imagine Fox News doing a hundred segments on this guy? Could I imagine a crew of belligerent malcontents daring the cops to remove his cart from the Mall, even though he wasn't fulfilling the requirements for a vendor? Sure I could.

We know that Fox doesn't care about the letter of the law if someone's case for special treatment seems emotionally correct to the Fox audience. Recall the 11-year-old girl who was initially denied the right to sell mistletoe at a Portland mall last Christmas. It didn't matter that other vendors there had gone through an application process for the limited vendor spots -- this girl was selling mistletoe, for heaven's sake (War on Christmas!), and she had a Fox-worthy story about how she wanted to work rather than beg, so Megyn Kelly, among others in the right-wing media, made her a victim. In the end, she got special dispensation to sell her mistletoe.

To the right, the law doesn't determine who's allowed to do what. The deserving are the people right-wingers feel are the deserving. There's a higher law, and only True Patriota know what it is.

I think Digby is far too quick to dismiss Dick Morris's latest column:
Morris is best understood as the top pundit in ... DC Comics' Bizarro World of Htrae, a cube-shaped planet in which everything is opposite of what we know as reality here on Earth. (Opposite of Htrae, get it?) Take his latest offering in upside-downism: He claims that in their latest nefarious vote fraud scheme, George Soros and his Democratic minions are preparing to steal elections from Republicans by having states adopt the national popular vote to determine electors in the Electoral College.

Yes, you read that right. Using the national popular vote to determine who wins the presidency would be stealing elections. Let that sink in for a minute.
Hendrik Hertzberg explains what's got Morris so upset:
Suppose you could get a bunch of states to pledge that once there are enough of them to possess at least two hundred and seventy electoral votes -- a majority of the Electoral College -- they will thenceforth cast all their electoral votes for whatever candidate gets the most popular votes in the entire country. As soon as that happens, presto change-o: the next time you go to the polls, you'll be voting in a true national election. No more ten or so battleground states, no more forty or so spectator states, just the United States -- all of them, and all of the voters who live in them.

Unless you've been following this pretty closely, it will surprise you to learn that, before this week, ten states (counting D.C.) had already signed on. Now [with New York] it's eleven, and between them they have a hundred and sixty-five electoral votes -- sixty-one per cent of the total needed to bring the compact into effect.
The plan seems quite straightforward -- an exercise in pure democracy, and perfectly constitutional, because, according to the Constitution, states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they see fit.

So why should we take Morris's denunciation of the plan seriously? Because he's road-testing arguments that, if the plan takes off, will almost certainly be used by other right-wingers to disenfranchise Democratic voters and delegitimize elections that Democrats win:
Why are Democrats pushing this plan?

Democrats usually see a smaller percentage of their people go to the polls than Republicans do.

Under the electoral vote system, they figure why beat the drums to get a high turnout in New York City when the state will go Democratic anyway? But if it’s the popular vote that matters, the big-city machines can do their thing -- with devastating impact.

And think of the chances for voter fraud! Right now, the biggest cities, the ones most firmly in Democratic control -- Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco -- are all solidly in blue states. Not only does this make it unnecessary to maximize turnouts there, but it also makes it unnecessary to promote double voting, fraudulent voting, and all the other tricks of the trade at which Democrats excel.

If the popular vote determines who will be the next president, we can bet that the machines will be out in force lining up voters, real and phony, to pad their statistics.
I'll briefly note that Morris is wrong about which are "the biggest cities" in America -- Washington is actually #24, San Francisco is #14, and Detroit is #18, while three of the top 10 (Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas) are in decidedly non-blue Texas.

But never mind that. In a country where voter ID laws are (alas) regarded as a very worthy idea by large majorities, this kind of talk doesn't sound crazy.

As soon as we approach the moment when states intend to put this into effect, I expect the entire right to argue along these lines -- and claim that what we need is a national set of vote-suppression laws, because now that nasty voter fraud by Those People really might have implications for the whole country.

At the very least, this line of argument could help delegitimize any Democratic president elected after the plan takes effect. (I know, I know -- that will happen anyway.)

Republicans are going to use this as yet another excuse to rally their base around hatred and suspicion of the rest of us. They're going to make this seem like a sneaky, devious, anti-democratic move intended to encourage fraud. They're going to pit us against one another again.

Remember Lani Guinier? President Clinton nominated her to be an assistant attorney general for civil rights. Then it was revealed that she'd written favorably about alternate ways of allocating votes in elections as ways of empowering minority groups -- for instance, in an election for a five-member city council, each person would get five votes, which could all be allocated to one candidate if the voter chose.

"Proportional representation" voting would be available to every voter -- but it was caricatured as a devious scheme, and Guinier was called a "quota queen." She didn't get the job.

We could have a fight like this again, and a lot of right-wingers who are less buffoonish than Dick Morris will be saying what he's saying now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Here's a story from The Washington Post:
Dartmouth College's president lamented Wednesday that the Ivy League school's promising future "is being hijacked by extreme behavior," including sex assaults, parties with "racist and sexist undertones," and a campus culture in which "dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception."

Philip J. Hanlon, a Dartmouth alumnus who took office in June, said such problems were taking a toll on the image of the 245-year-old college in Hanover, N.H....
The reaction to this from Power Line's Steven Hayward is that the problem is all a figment of lying liberals' imagination -- or is it that the problem is real, but is all liberals' fault? Hey, it's his blog -- why does he have to choose? Both answers are true!

First: it's all a myth spread by lying liberals.
Hanlon is implicitly siding with the current rage about "rape culture" on campus. Some conservatives have questioned the general statistic that even President Obama has cited that one out of five women experiences rape in their college years.
And if Obama says it, you know it's a lie!

Then comes the 180: What Hanlon says isn't a lie after all, but everything he's citing is liberals' fault:
Leaving aside this quarrel, allow me to suggest that Hanlon and the feminists are actually right about a larger point: college campuses currently tolerate -- indeed actually encourage -- a predatory climate toward women in which there is enormous social pressure to have sex, and are permissive about massive alcohol use by undergraduates whose chief purpose is to undermine inhibitions.
I love the notion that colleges currently "are permissive about massive alcohol use by undergraduates." You mean currently as in for about a century?

But there's more. Did you know that rape only happens in climates of liberalism?
Step back and note something obviously out of whack with this whole controversy. It is said that college campuses are the prime venue of "rape culture." But most college campuses are run by liberals, and liberalism and its correlates -- maximum individual liberation in all things sexual -- is the dominant orthodoxy.
Um, you know where else there's a rape crisis? In the military. Is the military "run by liberals"? Is it a culture that encourages "maximum individual liberation"?

Why is this problem ostensibly most severe where liberalism reigns? Perhaps for the same reason that poverty and social dysfunction are worst where liberalism reigns supreme (Detroit). Hanlon notes a rising number of reported rapes at Dartmouth. He should be embarrassed by this. But he ought to ponder this question: is sexual assault a problem at conservative colleges like Hillsdale, Patrick Henry, Liberty University, or Regent University?
Actually, it is a problem at Patrick Henry, as this recent New Republic story makes abundantly clear. Would we know if it were a problem at the other schools? I'm sure we wouldn't. I'm sure the culture at those schools is a culture that covers up the truth about sexual assault and encourages the women who are attacked to blame themselves -- after all, that's the pattern seen at Patrick Henry. (That may also be true to a disturbing extent at secular schools, but those who are assaulted are much more likely to be exposed to the notion that blaming victims of sexual violence is an outrage.)

So there you have it, according to Power Line. Liberals invented drinking to excess on campus. Rape culture is liberal -- and the belief that rape culture exists (which it doesn't) is also liberal. Got it?


I don't know what the truth is regarding the most unnerving story of the day:
Fliers call on Ukrainian Jews to register with pro-Russian separatists

Pro-Russian separatists from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine denied any involvement in the circulation of fliers calling on Jews to register with separatists and pay special taxes.

The fliers were distributed earlier this week in the city, where pro-Russian separatists led by Denis Pushilin this month took over several government buildings and declared their secession from Ukraine as the Donetsk Republic amid a standoff with authorities.

The fliers were official-looking documents that carried what was presented as Pushilin's signature...
Pushilin has denied any connection to the fliers, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League says the ADL is "skeptical about the flier’s authenticity," (UPDATE: The New Republic's Julia Ioffe is certain the fliers are fake), but the story is disturbing nonetheless -- as were several aspects of Vladimir Putin's annual televised Q&A session today: his assertion of Russia's right to use force in eastern Ukraine, his reference to the region as "New Russia," and his use of Edward Snowden as a pawn (Snowden fed Putin a question, apparently pre-recorded, regarding mass surveillance; Putin swore his government wouldn't dream of engaging in any such thing).

But this is not excellent news for Rand Paul.

Now, I don't agree with Brent Budowsky that Paul's wobbly foreign policy could lead to something approaching a fifty-state landslide for Hillary Clinton if he ran against her -- mostly because I think Paul can't possibly get as far as the general election. His father had an approach to foreign policy that seemed suited to the when-the-hell-will-we-leave-Iraq? moment. But Putin is really going to keep up the provocations for the foreseeable future; for that and other reasons, it's not going to seem like 2008 in 2016. Because of Putin, Syria, Iran, the not-entirely-dead Al Qaeda, and (God help us) Benghazi, it's going to be far too tempting for Republican voters to rally around an Obama-weakened-America message -- and not around Paul's, which, as Budowsky says, is not isolationist so much as incoherent:
One moment Paul says he might support a military attack against Iran. Then he implies he might accept a nuclear-armed Iran and follow a policy of containment. Then he says he won’t tell us what policy he prefers, comparing himself to Ronald Reagan.

First Paul charged that Dick Cheney championed the Iraq war to make money from Halliburton. Then he retreated. Maybe Cheney's motive for the Iraq war was not money, he flipped, but then maybe it was, he flopped.

In his self-appointed national address answering President Obama about Syria, Paul claimed that Obama would ally with al Qaeda, which was a lie. He then opposed any effective U.S. response to Assad's mass murder in Syria, for which Assad would be grateful.

Then Paul opposed American economic aid to Ukraine, claiming this aid would help Russia, when the aid was designed to help stabilize Ukraine against Russia.
There's obviously a huge effort under way on the right to stop Paul (with possibly a little non-righty help). BooMan noticed an awful lot of anti-Rand writing all at once a couple of days ago:
It must be Bash Rand Paul Day because Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal and Jennifer Rubin and Richard Cohen in the Washington Post all have pieces lambasting Sen. Paul for a variety of sins and apostasies.
Also running at the same time: Paul-bashing pieces from Rich Lowry and Steven Hayward of Power Line. All five pieces ran on April 14 or 15 -- gosh, you'd almost think there was a coordinated effort to take some of the luster off Rand Paul on Tax Day, when it might have been feared that the libertarian hero would be looking especially heroic to his fans.

Want more evidence that an effort is under way to make sure that Paul-style isolationism never gains purchase in the GOP? Well, obviously, there was the recent gathering at which several presidential aspirants lined up to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring; beyond that, though, there's this National Review story (also from April 15):
John Bolton's political-action committees are pulling in big bucks. Together, the former United Nations ambassador's groups, a PAC and a super PAC that will back candidates who share Bolton's belief in a muscular foreign policy, raised nearly $2 million since their launch in November, sources say. They will file a report with the Federal Election Commission later today.

The haul includes an impressive $1.1 million raised in the first quarter of 2014. As of Tuesday, the PAC had $318,000 cash on hand and the super PAC had over $1.1 million cash on hand. Though a good portion of the money came from top-dollar donors -- Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus and conservative philanthropist Roger Hertog among them -- over 7,000 small-dollar donors also contributed online and via direct mail. The group also boasts backers in all 50 states.
But wait, there's more -- this happened yesterday:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence jumped into the debate over foreign policy Wednesday during a trade mission to Germany, saying the Obama administration's policy of "conciliatory diplomacy" toward Russia has failed.

It's the clearest sign so far that Pence, who flirted with a run in 2008 while leader of the Republican Study Committee in the House, is considering a bid for president in 2016.

His speech in Berlin, while focused on trade relations between Indiana and Germany, took direct aim at the administration's "reset" with Russia. That was one of the major initiatives of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's already being widely considered as the likely Democratic nominee if she chooses to run....
Would Pence enter the race in 2016, obviously as an extreme longshot, but possibly funded by Adelson or other deep-pocketed hawks, perhaps not so much to win as to be a foil for Rand Paul in the debates? And given the lack of foreign policy experience among the top-tier candidates, doesn't Pence (who spent a decade on the House Foreign Affairs Committee) have a pretty good shot at the #2 slot?

It's really Paul vs. the vast majority of the right on foreign policy. I don't think they'll let him win.

We've been hearing lately that the tea party is losing its battle with the Republican establishment. Establishment candidates are swatting back tea party primary challenges. Fat-cat Republican donors are withholding money from candidates who might shut down the government or press for a U.S. debt default. The old guard is winning. Crazy radicalism is being contained.

But then there's Fox News, with its wall-to-wall coverage of Cliven Bundy's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.

The GOP is trying to look responsible, but its Ministry of Information is cheerleading anarchy and violent insurrection. (It's not just Fox, of course. Here's National Review, reputedly part of the thoughtful wing of conservatism, giving Bundy a thumbs-up.)

But do you notice what's not happening? Insurgent GOP candidates aren't demanding that incumbent Republicans take sides on the Bundy Ranch. They're not digging up old, seemingly innocuous votes to fund the Bureau of Land Management and portraying them as evidence that veteran GOP officeholders are freedom-hating enablers of big-government totalitarianism. This doesn't appear to be an issue in Republican primaries at all. It's just a media event.

This tells me that the so-called GOP civil war has evolved into a sort of gang truce -- or, to mix the metaphor a little more, it's turned it into a good cop/bad cop act. Establishment Republicans (after moving further rightward, though not all the way into Ted Cruz territory) are now winning the elections -- but the read-meat-craving teabagger base is getting its jollies from a battle far outside the electoral sphere. Hold your nose and vote for Lindsey Graham, then turn on Fox and cheer on a bunch of revolutionaries in Nevada. Barcalounger radicals get their vicarious 1776, the Chamber of Commerce gets its stable corpocracy. Everybody wins!

Um, everybody wins except for America's non-conservative citizens. And that's the problem: this is a nice equilibrium point for the GOP. The party looks less crazy and more electable. The wacko-bird base doesn't alienate America's middle. The crazies have their fun, and the Lindsey Grahams and John Cornyns just keep winning.