Saturday, March 28, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

And the second book? ...

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

* * * *

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

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

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


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

Hewitt: Right.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

(Hat tip: nancydrewed.)


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

* Funny, Jake Tapper Used to Want Berghdahl Freed

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

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

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

And, from Gawker:

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

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

But I'm stating the obvious, right?


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

Oh, wait:
Netanyahu Told to Mend Ties With Washington

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writing for GQ, Jason Zengerle accompanies Ben Carson on a trip to Israel and finds that Carson's foreign policy education is proceeding a tad slowly:
Carson was in the first-class lounge at the Newark airport, waiting for a flight to Tel Aviv. He'd never been to Israel before, but a trip to the Holy Land has become, in recent years, a prerequisite for presidential aspirants.... Now, as Carson sat across from the young Israeli woman who'd be his guide, he was getting a head start on what he called his own "fact-finding mission." The more basic the facts, the better.

The woman answered Carson's question about political parties, telling him that there were Labor and Likud and a host of other factions in the Knesset. "And what is the role of the Knesset?" he interjected. This prompted a tutorial on Israel's legislature. Carson is a tall, dignified-looking man with a placid, almost sleepy face. As he tried to concentrate on his Hebrew Schoolhouse Rock primer, he seemed even more fatigued. "It sounds complex," he finally said. "Why don't they just adopt the system we have?"
This happened, we're told, "about a month before the president's [2015] State of the Union speech" -- which took place on January 20. That means Carson had this conversation more than a year after his pals started raising large amounts of money for his presidential run, and three or four months after Carson's first visit to Iowa. Carson has been seriously running for president for a while -- and he's just now getting around to nailing basic facts like these? (Zengerle's article bears an appropriate title: "What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?")

I blame Carson for not doing his homework, just as I've always blamed Palin for not doing hers -- but, really, belief in the potential political greatness of holy innocents is disturbingly common among Republicans. I guess it dates back to Reagan, but he seems like a scholar of American governance compared to right-wing wannabes such as Carson, Palin, Herman Cain, and Donald Trump. In Carson's case, it was the mainstream conservative media that concluded he was presidential material after his anti-Obama National Prayer Breakfast speech:
Hours after the speech, Rush Limbaugh was playing excerpts on his show and telling listeners, "I love this guy!" That week The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled "Ben Carson for President." ... "Would you ever run for president, sir?" Sean Hannity asked Carson during what would become one of his countless Fox News interviews. "I'd vote for you in a heartbeat."
On The Dem/lefty side, I could see an utter neophyte inspiring " ______ for President" gush after a provocative public statement or two, but I can't imagine that it would be sustained, particularly by well-established media figures or huge numbers of donors. Yes, over the Bush years there might have been occasional cries of "Dixie Chicks for President" or "Cindy Sheehan for President," but these were isolated outbursts. Roseanne Barr did run for president in 2012 with Sheehan as her running mate, but they got only 0.05% of the popular vote. Carson, by contrast, is at 10.6% in national polls of Republicans. And his PAC, as Zengerle notes, "has raised more than $13 million from over 150,000 donors." (That's more than twice as many people as voted for Barr, and the Iowa caucuses are still ten months away.)

But, of course, Republicans don't believe in expert knowledge and don't believe in government. So why not hand the nuclear launch codes to someone who's made little effort to learn the basic facts about governing?


UPDATE: M. Bouffant has more.


National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke agrees "wholeheartedly" with Ted Cruz on a wide variety of issues. He thinks Cruz is extremely intelligent -- "very often the smartest man in the room." And yet -- as he wrote yesterday after watching Cruz announce that he's a candidate for the presidency -- Cooke can't stand listen to Cruz speak:
... for all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little. Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center....

Britain’s Queen Victoria, The Atlantic records, once complained that William Gladstone “addresses me as if I were a public meeting.” Watching Cruz this morning, one understands how she must have felt. Sure, the man is probably sincere. Certainly, he is one smart cookie. But to my skeptical ears, there is always a touch of condescension in the pitch -- a small whiff of superciliousness that gives one the unlovely impression that Ted Cruz believes his listeners to be a little bit dim.
That's true -- and it's a major reason why Cruz isn't going to be the Republican nominee, much less president.

Cooke recalls an event last year at which both Rubio and Cruz spoke. Going in, the audience was skeptical about Rubio, though not about Cruz.
At the drinks reception afterwards, however, a good number of minds seemed to have been changed. “Rubio talks to you,” one attendee explained; “Cruz seemed to lecture.” This is an anecdote, I will grant. But it reminded me of the age-old observation that it is one thing to be the smartest man in the room, but that it is quite another to behave as if you know it.
And this isn't just Cruz's rhetorical style -- it's his approach to the work of politics. As Jonathan Chait writes -- in a post titled "Why Ted Cruz Wants Republicans to Hate Him" -- Cruz thinks he's battling moderates in his party the way Barry Goldwater did half a century ago. But moderates really were very powerful within the GOP in the 1960s. Goldwater conservatives had to wage war on the Establishment if they wanted an unyieldingly conservative party. Cruz, by contrast, is fighting exclusively on matters of style. His side has already won the ideological battle:
... there is very little in [Cruz's] platform to distinguish him from the rest of the party. In his announcement speech, Cruz ticked through his plans for America: repealing Obamacare, a flat tax, securing the border, banning abortion, preserving traditional marriage, opposing Common Core, and unyielding support for Israel and opposition to terrorism. Cruz’s style is uniquely terrifying to his critics (or thrilling to his supporters), but the substance is unremarkable standard-issue Republicanism....

Because he agrees with the policy goals of figures like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, all he can do to distinguish himself from them is stoke the suspicions of the base that those goals have been undermined from within. His shutdowns, his filibusters, his wild personal attacks -- they all reinforce Cruz’s story. He is the one Republican too brave and pure to submit to the Obama agenda. If his tactics fall short, it merely serves to dramatize his colleague’s fecklessness.

All this is why so many Republicans despise Cruz, and it will make it difficult for him to win the nomination. But the loathing between Cruz and his party is not some failing of etiquette. It is his entire plan.
Iif you want to understand Cruz, is it even appropriate to focus on the battle for conservatism's soul? I suspect the battle matters to the self-absorbed Cruz only because it provides an arena where he can act out, and it's his self-absorption that you need to look at it if you want to understand him.

In The New York Times, Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman tell us that in 2000 Cruz, then a 29-year-old former law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, scored a coveted ticket to oral arguments in Bush v. Gore.
But when his superiors asked Mr. Cruz to give up his spot to Donald Evans, a close friend of Mr. Bush’s and the campaign’s chairman, Mr. Cruz initially balked, refusing to hand over his ticket.

He backed down only after an angry phone call from a senior staff member. But the incident, which a Cruz adviser declined to discuss, has become lore.

To those who knew him as a young domestic policy adviser in Mr. Bush’s headquarters in Austin, Tex., the moment was classic Cruz -- reflecting a brilliant and unusually ambitious upstart who chafed at orders from superiors and often rubbed people the wrong way but always saw himself destined for a lofty place in history.
Right -- it's all about him.

The Times story, bafflingly, goes on to call him "savvy in his tactics." Savvy? Seriously? Well, maybe on some level -- he's 44 now and we're all taking him very seriously as a presidential candidate. But he seems to have alienated everyone he works with now. He was savvy about promoting himself -- up to a point -- but that's all he's ever been savvy about. Now he's being judged on what he can actually get accomplished, and he's failing at that. He thinks his innate brilliance should carry the day, and if it doesn't, it's everyone else's fault. That kind of self-regard will get you only so far. He's reached his limit.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Hey, Republican establishment: Do you want your party united around an electable presidential nominee? Then you might want to ask yourself whether these guys are good for you:

That's the lead story at Fox Nation right now. It's a video commentary by Todd Starnes in which the establishment is slammed -- including Starnes's Fox colleague Karl Rove, by name.

STARNES: ... By all accounts, the senator has a strong résumé -- degrees from Princeton and Harvard. He's a devout believer in our Lord, and he's a defender of the United States Constitution and the nation of Israel.

Ted Cruz loves America, and he believes in American exceptionalism, and a lot of folks are ready for that kind of president. Ted Cruz wants to be our next president. More than 54,000 of you weighed in on my Facebook page -- a majority believe Ted's the man.

But I believe the senator's biggest opposition will come not from Democrats, but from establishment Republicans. I'm talking about you, Karl Rove and John McCain, calling us wacko birds!

Establishment Republicans loathe evangelical Christians. That's the cold, hard truth. They want our votes, not our values, and they sure as heck don't want their nominee to be a gun-totin' Baptist Bible-clinger.

But there's another cold, hard truth for Karl Rove and John McCain to consider: They may not like us, but they can't win the White House without us.
Hey, we Democrats and liberals don't have to divide the GOP -- Fox will do it for us.

We'll see if Cruz himself talks this way tonight when Sean Hannity has him on for the full hour. Yes, keep promoting guys like this, Fox. Pull the voters rightward. Pull your inevitably more moderate nominee rightward. It worked so well for you in the last couple of presidential cycles, didn't it?


Ted Cruz announced today that he's a candidate for president -- and because (according to a campaign spokesperson) he spoke without reading from a prepared text, "Teleprompter" is now trending on Twitter.

It seems appropriate that Crowley would praise Cruz for this because her old boss Richard Nixon is the only president since Eisenhower not to use a Teleprompter. Crowley may think it's a good thing that Cruz is Nixonesque, but I'm not sure the rest of us would agree that that's good company to be in.

And yes, Saint Reagan was among the users:

That's a photo from a speech Reagan gave to Britain's Parliament in 1982. The Financial Times responded with an article titled "Reagan's Dazzling Teleprompter" (scroll down here):
At no point did he consult any notes, or give any sign of reading a speech, and at the end MPs were astonished by the apparent powers of retention of the septuagenarian president. Perhaps, they were saying, acting was a good training for politics after all.

The truth, as MPs discovered later, was that Mr Reagan was reading from a particularly cunning form of teleprompter. Projectors, hidden in the rostrum projected his script on to two lecterns, otherwise assumed to be bullet-proof screens on either side of him.

From the audience, the screens looked transparent. It therefore looked as if the President was merely glancing left to right to embrace different parts of the audience. From his side, however, the words were written clear and large as on any ordinary teleprompter.

The only possible flaw in an otherwise immaculate performance, was that Mr Reagan failed to look down and pretend to read notes when quoting from Winston Churchill.

Afterwards, MPs were intrigued and clearly envious. Indeed, immediately after he sat down, there was almost as much interest in the method of delivery as in the contents of his speech.
Why do Ted Cruz fans hate Ronald Reagan?


I knew that Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, was born and raised in Mexico, but until I read this Washington Post story over the weekend, I didn't realize that her father was an undocumented worker in America for a while, and later became a legal worker under a program that I'm sure would be described by right-wingers as "amnesty":
Jose Maria Garnica Rodriguez, who died at 88 in 2013, grew up in Arperos....

After World War II, it was common to cross the border without proper papers, said Columba’s uncle, Antonio Garnica Rodriguez, who made the trek, too. “We just went across the border, worked, stayed there for a while and came back.”

He said his brother later joined the “bracero” program, which allowed manual laborers temporary legal entry to the United States. Jose Maria got his “resident alien” card on Feb. 4, 1960.
Are GOP primary primary voters going to be cool with that?

There's also some mystery surrounding Columba's legal status in the years before her 1974 marriage to Jeb, according to the Post:
Columba’s father provided financial support and arranged for his daughter to obtain the legal documents she needed to settle in the United States, several relatives said.

Records indicate that Columba was issued a Social Security card in California in 1966. But it is not clear when she obtained a green card, and the Bushes declined to provide the date.
Columba may have been a migrant worker herself:
Members of her father’s family in Mexico -- a half-dozen of whom were interviewed by The Washington Post -- insist that he was very much a part of Columba’s life when she was growing up. They say she visited him more than once in La Puente, Calif., outside Los Angeles, and even lived with him for a while in her late teens, as her romance with Jeb was blooming.

A cousin, Abdon Garnica Yebra, recalls picking almonds with her one weekend, when she visited California for the summer.
According to a biography of Columba Bush, her father was physically abusive:
In the slender volume, Columba, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is quoted as saying that her father “caused the most painful memories of my life and made the life of my mother hell.” She said he often beat her mother, once breaking her fingers with a belt buckle.

A source who has spoken with the Bushes, but who declined to be identified, confirmed that Columba did speak to the author about her childhood but said she did not authorize publication of the book.
The biography says that a few months before Columba married Jeb, she was living with her father in California and he assaulted her:
The version in Parga’s book goes like this: He came home from work, saw that Columba had been smoking a cigarette -- which he forbade -- and was so angry at her that he took off his belt and came after her. She said she locked herself in the bathroom until he left the house, then went to the bus station and began the long journey back to her home town in Mexico.

His relatives tell a different story: That she told Jose Maria she was going out to get the mail -- and never came back. They assume that Columba left for Jeb, who they said had been calling while she lived in California.
The abuse stories have the ring of truth. Columba, by all accounts, broke off contact with her father and didn't speak to him for the rest of his life. It's telling that, during her time as Florida's first lady, she focused on the issue of domestic abuse.

To me, that's the story -- Garnica Rodriguez was an individual who was violent toward members of his family. It makes me more sympathetic to Columba Bush as a person, even though I'll never vote for her husband.

But right-wingers are obsessed with stories of criminality among undocunented immigrants, as you know if you regularly read Free Republic or the Drudge Report. Domestic abuse, drunk-driving accidents, murder -- you and I know that all sorts of people are guilty of these things, but on the right it's widely believed that the undocumented have a special predilection for such behavior. So how will right-wingers respond as stories like this about Columba's father become better known? Especially given the fact that Jeb has cited his marriage into this family as a major reason he's not an immigration hard-liner?

A Politico story on Columba Bush tht was published last week notes that her father "moved back to Mexico from La Puente when he retired, living off a Social Security check and a pension he earned working in the United States." He was a legal worker in America, and he earned these things through his labor -- but will his receipt of Social Security benefits make Republican voters' blood boil?

And how will they feel about Columba Bush's biculturalism? As the Politico story notes:
Over the past almost three decades, in brief interviews, the publicity-shy Columba Bush has told reporters that she likes watching Mexican soap operas and listening to Mexican music and eating Mexican food and that her eyes get wet when she hears the Mexican national anthem.
Sorry -- I just can't imagine Republican voters nominating a man for president whose wife tears up at the national anthem of Mexico. And if it happens, I expect a lot of them just won't turn out for him in November.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


This is an awful story:
Seven siblings in an Orthodox Jewish family died in an overnight fire Saturday in Brooklyn that authorities said was caused by a hot plate left on because of prohibitions against cooking and operating electrical appliances during the Sabbath....

Fire officials said a preliminary investigation found that a pot that had been left on a hot plate overnight had overheated, setting off the blaze. Orthodox customs prohibit turning electrical appliances on or off, or lighting flames, during the Sabbath.
It's awful, but I notice I don't hear our right-wing friends triumphantly proclaiming that the family got what they deserved because of their religious practices.

Imagine if a family of Muslims in America suffered a similar fire because observing proper fire safety conflicted with their interpretation of Islam. You'd be able to hear the howls of outrage from Pam Geller and other Islamophobes from hundreds of miles away. But when this happens? Crickets. (Even though fires of this kind happen fairly often.)

I don't love the practice, though I understand its importance to Orthodox Jews. The risk was compounded in this case:
On Saturday, investigators found a smoke detector in the basement of the home at 3371 Bedford Avenue, near Avenue L, but had not found any on the first floor, where the fire started, or the second, where the family slept. They were still searching the debris.
Whatever you think about this practice, you won't hear a word of complaint about it from conservatives. Orthodox Jews' determination to sustain the practice won't be denounced. They're not Muslims, you see, so it's different, because, well, it just is.


Mystery solved:
An Austin lawyer is claiming responsibility for several stickers placed on East Austin businesses that claimed they were “exclusively for white people.”

Adam Reposa posted the video on YouTube and made a statement on Facebook saying he was trying promote the issue of gentrification in East Austin....
I think what the story means is that Reposa was trying to protest gentrification in East Austin. But stickering businesses with this message was an obnoxious way of going about it:

In the video, Reposa says:
I knew that I could just bait all of y'all into just being as stupid as you are, just allowing the issue to be framed in the most simple way: "Oh, he said an offensive term!" Let's not worry about the actual condition of the way things are.
As Reposa says this, by the way, he's shirtless:

Which is the kind of guy he is -- an adolescent, showoffy provocateur. A right-wing blog describes him as a "liberal social justice warrior," but that's like calling G.G. Allin a "protest singer."

The URL of Reposa's website calls him "DWI Badass." He prides himself on taking a lot of cases to trial and making life difficult for others in court. Here's a testimonial (from himself) on the site:
Litigating a case against me should be agonizing and tedious.
"Lawyers on the other side should NOT think this is ‘fun’.
I try to be difficult to beat, take up time, and make demands that others view as unreasonable." -Adam Reposa
As a 2012 Vice story explained, Reposa worked for a while with Bob Ray, a filmmaker who'd done a documentary called Total Badass about Chad Holt, a frequently arrested cokehead and guinea-pig trainer. (Reposa hired Holt as his legal assistant.) At this time, Ray made a couple of ads for Reposa's law practice that were never allowed on the air by Texas authorities, but went viral online anyway. Here's the best-known one, in all its amateurishly edited, car-crashing glory:

And I don't know who the auteur of this one is, but it's eleven minutes long, it's cheesily edited for maximum "trippiness," and it focuses on Reposa in underwear getting a hot oil massage. After watching even a small portion of it, you may feel the need for decontamination:

So, no, this guy is not a run-of-the-mill liberal. He's an attention junkie first and foremost, and he's a libertarian more than anything. Did I mention the ad in which he (somewhat obliquely) attacks then-New York mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal for a ban on large sodas, shouting "I'M A LAWYER! I AM FREEDOM!"?

Don't hang this guy around lefties' necks. He's in his own category.