Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Let's compare and contrast. Wilson, after what he describes as a physical fight with Michael Brown:

George W. Bush, after collapsing while choking on a pretzel in 2002:

Outgoing secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, after colliding with a cabinet door in his kitchen earlier this month:

If Wilson was ustified in using lethal force, then I think Hagel had every right to murder his kitchen cabinet in cold blood, while Bush should have launched an war to overthrow the pretzel manufacturer. Don't you think?

Monday, November 24, 2014


Chuck Hagel is resigning as defense secretary under pressure from the White House. As Dave Weigel notes, John McCain is vigorously defending Hagel:
In a morning interview with NewsTalk 550, McCain struck back at the idea that Hagel was incompetent, or that he was the problem with the administration.

"I just talked to him," said McCain. "They're gonna say, well, it was time for a change. Well, let me tell you. He was in my office last week. He was very frustrated. We have no strategy."

... "Believe me," said McCain, "he was up to the job."
This is not how McCain was talking about Hagel when Hagel was seeking confirmation in the Senate:
... Anyone who watched Hagel's confirmation hearings last January might be surprised to hear this. When Hagel was in his final term as a Nebraska senator, he vehemently opposed the Bush administration's Iraq strategy. He opposed McCain when the Arizonan argued, successfully, for a troop surge in Iraq. At the 2013 hearings, McCain lit into Hagel. "Were you correct or incorrect when he said the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam?" asked McCain, as Hagel sputtered.
But I think Weigel is overthinking this, seeing it as a strategic tack Republicans didn't want to take at the time of Hagel's confirmation:
Now, McCain was separating Hagel from the Obama administration. You can see why. At the start of 2013, when Hagel was confirmed, Gallup could credibly run a story titled "Obama Rated Highest on Foreign Affairs, Lowest on Deficit." ...

In 2013 and 2014, public approval of the Obama administration's foreign policy tumbled and never recovered. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll it sunk under 50 percent in August 2013, and never recovered; it's currently at 38 percent....

So why would those Republicans let Obama turn Chuck Hagel into a fall guy?
So McCain is "separating Hagel from the Obama administration" now, after not doing so in 2013, because Obama now has low foreign policy ratings?

Nahhh. McCain hates everything Obama does. When Obama appointed Hagel, it was bad, and now that Obama has effectively canned Hagel, that's bad. Obama could have just killed the head of ISIS with his bare hands and McCain would still denounce him on foreign policy. (He and other Republicans certainly didn't defer to public approval of Obama on foreign policy in early 2013 -- only four Senate Republicans voted to confirm Hagel.)

To McCain, the enemy is not overseas. Obama is the enemy. Critics of Republican policy are the enemy. Obama could do everything McCain recommends, and he'd still be the enemy, because, well, he's the enemy.

The president thinks "everybody" understands the reasonableness of his decision to adjust America's immigration prosecution priorities:
President Barack Obama brushed off complaints levied by the GOP that his immigration actions are illegal in an ABC News interview that aired today, saying that the U.S. has 'limited resources' and it only makes sense for the government to prioritize the removal of 'felons, criminals and recent arrivals' over longtime residents and families.

'Everybody knows, including Republicans, that we're not going to deport 11 million people,' Obama told George Stephanopolous during a Friday interview for his Sunday morning program This Week.

'The reason that we have to do prosecutorial discretion in immigration is that we know that we are not even close to being able to deal with the folks who have been here a long time,' he said....
See, I don't believe this. It seems to me that Americans can never decide whether their government is maximally incompetent or, at least in theory, maximally supercompetent -- they think government screws everything up, but they also think government ought to be able to kill all the terrorists, stop all the illegal border-crossers, seal off the country to Ebola and other diseases (and, when they're in a benign mood, ensure that everyone has a job and no one goes without health care) -- all without raising taxes or altering arrangements people are currently comfortable with (every health plan remains as is, no one ever has to remove shoes at the airport). So, yes, I think a lot of American believe we absolutely could deport all the undocumented residents and hermetically seal the borders, and we haven't done so out of a failure of will.

Americans don't understand how expensive it would be to deport every undocumented person in America:
In 2010, researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) calculated the total costs of such a program by breaking down the deportation process into four parts: Apprehension, detention, legal proceedings and transportation....

After running the numbers, CAP estimated the cost for deporting 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in America would be $200 billion over five years. DHS would also need $17 billion each year thereafter for continued enforcement. But there are more undocumented immigrants currently in the United States than when CAP produced its report. The DHS’s most recent report, from January 2012, estimates there are 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Adjusting for that increases the costs to $216 billion.

Yet even that understates the cost, because those numbers are not adjusted for inflation. Doing so brings the five-year cost of a mass deportations program to $239 billion, before factoring in the money for sustained enforcement to ensure a new wave of undocumented immigrants does not enter the United States. To put that in perspective, the federal government spent $265 billion on Medicaid in 2013. The Department of Homeland Security’s annual budget is only around $60 billion. A mass deportations program would require a massive increase in funding.
And while we're on the subject, let's talk about the cost of building a border fence, as reported in 2007:
The cost of building and maintaining a double set of steel fences along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border could be five to 25 times greater than congressional leaders forecast last year, or as much as $49 billion over the expected 25-year life span of the fence, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

A little-noticed study the research service released in December notes that even the $49 billion does not include the expense of acquiring private land along hundreds of miles of border or the cost of labor if the job is done by private contractors -- both of which could drive the price billions of dollars higher.
But I don't even think this would get through to the many Americans who just want the government to seal the borders and deport 'em all. Americans really don't process budget numbers in a rational way. If they don't like the sound of a program, they'll deem it highway robbery and a willful effort to send them to the poorhouse, even if it's a relatively tiny expenditure (say, a $100,000 study of methane emissions from cow flatulence -- it will never occur to them that their share of that $100,000, as one of 300 million U.S. citizens, is much less than a penny). On the other hand, if they're in favor of a program -- say, a war against swarthy Muslim evildoers -- then money is no object.

But the president could at least try to get some of this across. He shouldn't just airily say that we all know these numbers -- we don't. I think he often fails at communicating ideas like this because he lives in a world of government officials and experts who actually do know this stuff. Ordinary Americans don't.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


In a New York Times story about the Republican presidential field, there's this:
To date, Mrs. Clinton, 67, has been the target of the age-oriented attacks by the younger Republicans. But some of that fire is now from within, albeit subtly. After Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, 62, mentioned 1980s-era congressional doings, when he was in the House, at a news conference here, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 47, shot back: "John talked about '86? That’s when I was in high school."
Walker has mocked Hillary Clinton's age on more than one occasion. He did so a couple of weeks ago:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, raised the subject of Hillary Clinton's age when discussing when he might run for president.

"Whether it’s two years, six years, 20 years from now, because at 47, I mean I think about Hillary Clinton, I could run 20 years from now for president and still be about the same age as the former secretary of State is right now," Walker said in an interview with the local Fox affiliate....
And shortly before that:
This is not the first time the potential 2016 candidate has taken a dig at Clinton's age. Shortly after the latest midterm elections, Walker told Fox News that Clinton, who recently turned 67, embodies "old" politics.

"I think the biggest loser (in the midterms) was Hillary Clinton," Walker said. "She embodies Washington. She embodies that old, tired top-down approach from the government. I think in the states as governors, we offer a much better alternative, and I think there's a number of us who would be good prospects out there."
Why is this especially creepy coming from the 47-year-old Walker? Because his wife, Tonette, is 59:
Tonette Marie Tarantino was born on October 19, 1955....

She married her first husband when she was 23, but he died of kidney disease by the time she was 30. Five years after her first husband's death, she was at a karaoke night at a barbecue restaurant when she first met Walker, 12 years her junior.... She and Walker wed in 1993....
Tonette Walker is eight years younger than Hillary Clinton -- but that means she's closer to Hillary's age than to her husband's. And Tonette Walker is only three years younger than John Kasich. (Scott Walker may have been in high school in 1986, but his wife was a 31-year-old widow.)

If Scott Walker is a 47-year-old man who mocks other people for being older when his own wife is twelve years older, how much respect can he possibly have for her?

Well, I told you Republicans weren't going to give up on Benghazi:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday blasted a House GOP-led investigation that recently debunked myths about the 2012 Benghazi attack.

"I think the report is full of crap," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union."

... Graham didn't clearly pinpoint why he dismissed the report's findings, but suggested its information was provided by people in the intelligence community who had previously lied to Congress about the attack.

... Host Gloria Borger said the report found no one lied.

"That's a bunch of garbage," Graham replied....
A leading Republican wants to expand the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack by adding a Senate probe....

Referring to the House Select committee Chairman, and the Democratic ranking member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said the current House investigation should be expanded.

"(Republican) Trey Gowdy and (Democrat) Elijah Cummings have done a good job," he said. "I can't imagine the U.S. Senate not wanting to be a part of a joint select committee. We'll bootstrap to what you've done, but we want to be part of discussion," Graham told Fox News. "What I would suggest to (incoming Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell is to call up Speaker Boehner and say 'Listen, we want to be part of this'."
The preferred Beltway narrative is that responsible establishment Republicans make up the majority of the party, and all they really want to do is "show they can govern," but they have to keep fending off a few pesky extremists, and they occasionally have to make extremist noises themselves to fend off primary challenges from the right.

Oh, please. Lindsey Graham just got reelected; he's not going to have to worry about a primary challenge from the right for another six years. I know he's made noises about running for president, but he knows he's not going to get the nomination.

The reality is that the entire Republican Party is crazy -- the differences are just in degree. People like Lindsey Graham will support immigration reform (at least in theory) and might vote not to shut down the government or put the entire country into default, but that doesn't mean they aren't crazy about other things.

As the second story I quoted (from Fox News) makes clear, the crazies in this case are three of the most prominent establishmentarians in the Senate:
Graham, along with his two Republican colleagues, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, have been outspoken advocates of a special investigation, because they say then-acting director of the CIA Mike Morell misled them about his role in crafting the so-called media talking points that blamed an opportunistic protest gone awry for the assault....

The Obama White House did not move away from the protest explanation for the attack that killed four Americans - Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals and CIA contractors Ty Woods and Glenn Doherty - until September 20....
Just a reminder: the attack happened on September 11, 2012, and we've spent more than two years fixating on talking points that the administration stuck with for nine days. And three of the major poohbahs of the establishment want us to keep fixating on these talking points until...

... oh, November 2016, I imagine:
... When Morell retired from the CIA last year, he told The Wall Street Journal he hoped to advise a presidential campaign, with anonymous sources telling the paper Morell was close to Hillary Clinton. Morell now works as a counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington D.C. firm closely aligned with the former secretary of State.
And then there's this:
... The report also shed new light on the CIA operation in Benghazi. Morell said the CIA annex was in eastern Libya "collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi Annex was not itself collecting weapons."

Newly declassified testimony before the House Intelligence Committee attached to the House report from the Director of National intelligence, James Clapper, as well as Morell, confirmed to lawmakers that the weapons shipments were known at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Rep. Devin Nunes: Are we aware of any arms that are leaving that area and going into Syria?

Mr. Morell: Yes, sir.

General Clapper: Yes

Nunes: And who was coordinating that?

Mr. Morell: I believe the (redacted) are coordinating that.

Nunes: And were the CIA folks that were there, were they helping to coordinate that, or were they watching it, were they gathering information about it?

Mr. Morell: Sir, the focus of my officers in Benghazi was (redacted) to try to penetrate terrorist groups that were there so we could learn their plans, intentions and capabilities (redacted.)

The discussion is cut short by Rogers, who says not all members present have sufficient security clearances to hear further details. Fox News was first to question in October 2012 the significance of weapons shipments from Libya to Syria via Turkey, and who in the administration was read in on the program.
So McCain, Graham, and Ayotte are angry about this report, which refrains from accusing Morell of slipping arms to Syrian rebels in 2012. What's odd about this is that McCain and Graham told us in 2012 that they wanted Syrian rebels armed. So they wanted arms to go to the rebels and they're angry about a report that fails to accuse Morell of sending arms to the rebels? Or are they just angry about the talking points while the right-wingers who regard McCain, Graham, and Ayotte as evil neocons are angry about the arms? And Benghazi has them locked in a rage-disorder marriage of convenience?

Well, that's the modern GOP for you. All that matters is that you arrive at the conclusion that Democrats are traitors who must be crushed. Conclusion: no, Benghazi isn't going away.

(Links via Crooks & Liars and Politicus USA.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014


The House Intelligence Committee has issued a report on Benghazi that rejects much of what the right-wing base believes about the incident. Shortly after I wrote about this, I found an old post of mine being linked in a right-winger's tweet:

That's going to be the reason that at least some righties dismiss this report: they don't trust Mike Rogers, the outgoing chair of the Intelligence Committee. He's made the list of "top ten RINOs" in the House, based on ratings from the American Conservative Union. He's specifically loathed by many on the right for past votes to raise the debt ceiling, and to renew the Patriot Act. The latter sticks in the craw of those conservatives who use "neocon" as a pejorative; the tweeter quoted above is one of those:

The old post of mine that this guy linked was from March of this year; in it I noted that Rogers was very much against Rand Paul's drone filibuster. I also noted that he was getting criticism for his work with regard to Benghazi -- a Free Republic thread at the time was titled "Joe diGenova tells WMAL GOP Congressman Mike Rogers (MI-8) is trying to kill Benghazi Investigation." And I quoted an interview Rogers gave to The Washington Post, in which he responded to criticism of his committee's work by saying,
Part of the problem has been that there are conspiracy theorists who wanted us to find conspiracy A, B, and C, and I ran a very aggressive fact-based investigation. I didn't go into it -- as an old FBI agent you don’t get into it with a conclusion, but a premise.
As I wrote,
If he's actually bragging about not working backward from the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is an anti-American Antichrist, no wonder the base hates him.
So now we have his report, and we can go to The Conservative Treehouse to get a sense of what has some right-wingers ticked off:
• Both Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger are members of the Congressional Gang of Eight....

• Both Rogers and Ruppersberger would have been briefed on the CIA operations in Benghazi during 2011/2012 as the covert operation began....

• Rogers, Ruppersberger along with Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss and Diane Feinstein would have been notified of the presidential authorization. In 2011 they were the congressional Gang of Eight. Their lack of oversight reflected a willful blindness to the operation....
..."The committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi"...
...The word emphasized is "unauthorized", meaning all of the activity was known, active, and authorized....
The belief is that there's a cover-up of covert arms shipment from Libya to Syria, a cover-up of which Rogers is a part. He has been an advocate of arming Syrian rebels, for which some on the right despise him.

I'm just scratching the surface of anti-Rogers anger on the right. Some think he actually has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, citing the fact that he spoke at a dinner honoring Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who tried to establish the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" and who's believed on the Pam Geller right to be dangerously close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

So, long story short, some wingers aren't going to buy this report. For them, Benghazi will never truly die.

You'd think this would be the end of Benghazi, but don't count on it:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

But as a couple of us noticed last night, at least one prominent right-winger isn't giving up the fight:

You remember Stephen Hayes, right? A longtime advocate for the belief that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda? And, not incidentally, the author of a Dick Cheney biography written with Cheney's extensive cooperation, after Cheney praised Hayes's work on the alleged Saddam/Al Qaeda connection?

Admittedly, the rest of the right is barely acknowledging the existence of this report. As I type this, there are 66 linked items at the Drudge Report, but nothing on Benghazi. There's nothing about Benghazi on the front page of Fox Nation (Lois Lerner is front an center), and there's just a terse item acknowledging the facts of the report at National Review's Corner.

Well, of course. They won't talk about it for the same reason they won't talk about the fact that America is now Ebola-free -- because it would require them to admit error. It would require them to tell people they've worked up into a frenzy that the frenzy was uncalled for. That would make their audiences angry at them. The audiences know Democrats are engaged in every possible variety of unspeakable evil, and are all-powerful in their wickedness. They won't stand for being told otherwise.

But the silence doesn't mean that prominent right-wingers now realize Benghazi mania is pointless. It means they'll return to the subject when they think it suits them. Trey Gowdy's House Select Committee on Benghazi is still at work, after all. And as Politico notes, the just-released report does give Republican haters something to work with:
The report is likely to spur criticism against the State Department over the shape of its security protocols as the agency knew it was unprepared to defend the outpost in case of a well-organized and heavily armed attack -- a high probability in highly volatile region.

The report said State Department agents felt "ill-equipped and ill-trained to contend with the threat environment in Benghazi.”
I know -- that's nothing new. But it mean that Benghazi crazies can focus less attention on Susan Rice and more on Hillary Clinton. Don't worry, folks, we haven't seen the last of breathless Fox Benghazi stories with Hillary's "What difference does it make?" clip on auto-repeat.

Friday, November 21, 2014


I think my favorite gloss on the Bill Cosby story comes from Steven Hayward at Power Line:
I'm skeptical this came out of nowhere, and it would be interesting to find out with whom Burress discussed this subject prior to including it in his act.
Right. I'm sure Buress put the bit into his act after lengthy discussions with ... um, George Soros? Valerie Jarrett? Yeah, must be Jarrett. I'm sure she personally wrote the bit, and she was probably the one sitting in the back of that comedy club in Philadelphia illegally taping Buress, because now was the time to deploy the bit (which Buress says he's been doing on and off for six months) in order to distract us all from ... what? Democratic losses in the midterms? Jonathan Gruber? Benghazi?

Hayward continues:
Writing in The New Republic yesterday, Rebecca Traister says the charges against Cosby, though previously reported, were willfully disregarded because Cosby made white people feel just too good about themselves:
One reason that we have collectively plugged our ears against a decade of dismal revelations about Bill Cosby is that he made lots of Americans feel good about two things we rarely have reason to feel good about: race and gender...

White people loved "The Cosby Show," especially liberal white people... Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves or confront any hard questions about how they had benefitted from American systems from which black Americans had not benefitted..

But when Cosby began to do his moralizing on race and responsibility, some of the cracks in the show's gender politics were exposed. It became clear that he placed a lot of blame for racial inequality not just on black people, but on black women who were not like Clair Huxtable... This was a brutal language of misogyny, blaming women—women unattached to men—for the social disintegration of the family.
Message received and understood: depart from the liberal party line at your peril.
Um, let's ignore the fact that Traister is saying that liberals watched Cosby and got the false impression that racism was no longer a problem. She's criticizing liberals.

And then consider the timeline she lays out. Hayward wants you to think that Cosby deviated from the party line and then had to be made an unperson by the liberal-fascist Politburo. But when does Traister say Cosby began blaming blacks (and black women in particular) for problems in the black community?
Cosby's infamous "pound cake" speech, delivered in 2004 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, was about what he saw as the role of parental inattention in landing so many black young men in jail. He was officially addressing both mothers and fathers, but his gendered judgments got clearer as he demanded, "Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is his father? And why don't you know where he is?" In the same speech, Cosby lamented, "No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband," and chided, "Five or six different children, same woman, eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you're going to have to have DNA cards so you can tell who you're making love to." This was a brutal language of misogyny, blaming women -- women unattached to men -- for the social disintegration of the family.
And for this heresy, the left-fascist goon squad cracked down on him ... er, a decade later?

Because the jackbooted thugs of the lefty secret police had a chance to deal with him sooner:
Over the course of the past decade, charges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted more than a dozen women have been reported in plenty of splashy venues: in Newsweek and Gawker, on-camera on "The Today Show" in 2005; in People magazine in 2006.
So: 2004, he sharply criticizes blacks, and black women in particular; 2005 and 2006, allegations of rape arise. Did we disappear him then?
Yet much of this stuff has remained unacknowledged in the context of Cosby celebration. He's received an NAACP Image Award and the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Award; a year ago, Jon Stewart concluded an interview with Cosby by noting "This man is the best," and this year, upon presenting him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Chris Rock called him "the greatest comedian to ever live."
Gee, I guess not.

I guess we responded to those attacks on Correct Thinking about race by letting him bask in adulation for another ten years, then bringing the hammer down. Because we're fascists, but we're slow fascists. Soros and Jarrett took a while to give us the go-ahead.


In her latest cry of despair at the supposed horrors of the Obama presidency -- this one's titled "The Nihilist in the White House" -- Peggy Noonan explains the real meaning of Keystone:
And there is the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration's apparent intent to veto a bill that allows it. There the issue is not only the jobs the pipeline would create, and not only the infrastructure element. It is something more. If it is done right, the people who build the pipeline could be pressed to take on young men -- skill-less, aimless -- and get them learning, as part of a crew, how things are built and what it is to be a man who builds them.

On top of that, the building of the pipeline would show the world that America is capable of coming back, that we’re not only aware of our good fortune and engineering genius, we are pushing it hard into the future. America's got her hard-hat on again. America is dynamic. "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Not just this endless talk of limits, restrictions, fears and "Oh, we're all going to melt in the warm global future!"

Which is sort of the spirit of this White House.
Where to begin? Well, I'm trying to be high-minded here so, in response to the notion of Keystone allowing laborers to "take on young men," I'll resist the temptation to post sexualized totalitarian shirtless-laborer propaganda. Instead, I'll say: We need to build this specific pipeline in order for laborers to be able to mentor other laborers? Hey, how 'bout we ask the American Society of Civil Engineers whether there are any other projects that need doing?

Are you telling me, Peggy, that you don't see anything we could build on this list that would show the world that "America's got her hard-hat on again"? It has to be Keystone?

And if you're looking for some sort of engineering marvel, well, is Keystone even what you're looking for? Isn't it just another pipeline, apart from the fraught nature of what it's supposed to carry?

Ahhh, but I guess that's the point -- it carries a payload that's utterly masculine in its viscous dangerousness. Build it and you're the boss of the beach, able to kick sand in the face of our 98-pound weakling of a president and his effeminate whining about climate change.

That's the message of the last bit I quoted, of course: that Barack Obama is a big girl because he worries about greenhouses gases, and because the thought of fossil fuels doesn't make his sap rise. Of course, when he tried to fund some actual cutting-edge manufacturing technology, in the alternative-fuels area, the program was vilified by the right, including Noonan herself, even though the overall program turned a profit for the U.S., and even though the world would probably be much more impressed by U.S. breakthroughs in alternative energy than by one more pipeline meant as a conduit for unusually dirty oil. But that wouldn't have the intended effect on Noonan, would it?


Many of us warned that it would be dangerous to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. We were assured, however, that Republicans are perfectly safe and harmless as long as you don't (1) expose them to bright light, (2) get them wet, or (3) feed them after midnight -- especially the last one because they undergo metamorphosis from the gee-whiz aw-shucks Norman Rockwell patriots they were all through the 2014 campaign into grotesque, uncontrollably destructive gremlins.

Well, apparently that's happened now:
Rising Republican hostility toward President Obama's impending immigration plan is as intense as has ever existed between the White House and the GOP.

... But the strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes....

To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.

Another government shutdown is not what McConnell and Boehner had in mind when their party won control of Congress this month....
The debate is also a test of whether the party can contain the controversial and sometimes offensive comments that have often hindered attempts to bolster support for Republicans among Hispanics. After tea party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on Wednesday that protected immigrants would become "illiterate" voters, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) winced.

"Unfortunate, unfair, unnecessary, unwise," said Graham, who is close to party leaders.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate from the Philadelphia exurbs, said the leadership is asking his colleagues to "not play into the president’s hands."

"The president wants to see an angry and intemperate response, thinking the Republicans will do something that leads to a shutdown," Dent said. "Don't take the bait, and don't have a hysterical reaction. We can be strong, rational and measured."

... Many conservative lawmakers, however, are shrugging off pleas from leadership.... Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday that Obama's executive action should be met with a refusal to vote on any more of his nominees....

And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- one of the loudest voices on the right — has hinted at bringing up impeachment measures....

Amid the chatter over strategy, it is the tone of outraged rank-and-file members that most worries GOP elders. Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, they do not want to see Republicans tagged by Democrats as hostile toward Latinos and other minorities.

"It only takes a couple" of comments for an unflattering narrative to build about the Republican response, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "That's the trouble with having some of these new, young punks around here. They ought to listen to us old geezers."
Obama, the leaders say, fed them after midnight, and now they're going nuts, so it's all Obama's fault. Never mind the fact that a lot of us said it wasn't a good idea to let these creatures into our house in the first place, just because the looked so cute in their ads.

Oh, well -- this is what we're dealing with now:

Thursday, November 20, 2014


This relates to what I was talking about this morning:
Majority Say Not Gov't Duty to Provide Healthcare for All

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government's responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama's presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.

As I said this morning with regard to immigration, Americans want problems solved ... until they start being solved. Then they say, "What? This is part of the solution? And this? We don't want any of this!"

In the case of health care, Americans wanted it universal, government-guaranteed, unrestricted, inexpensive, tax-free, and free of other new costs. I think they'd have gotten a better deal with single payer, but that was off the table, and if Americans want it, they haven't made themselves aware of why it's off the table, i.e., which vested interests don't want it. (Americans won't confront vested interests -- that's so last century.) Then again, Americans probably would feel betrayed by single payer (omigod higher taxes!), and yet they don't understand that the politically feasible alternatives necessarily involve compromises and require deals to be cut. So they no longer want what they wanted.

Repeat across every other controversial issue, ad infinitum.

Here's the header for Joseph Curl's opinion column in the October 12 Washington Times:

An excerpt from the column:
On Sunday, President Obama suited up for work.

He put on his pants (most likely one leg at a time, but perhaps not), then slipped on his black windbreaker, the one with the presidential seal on one side, his name on the other (in case he forgets who he is). He put on some comfy sports socks, laced up his shoes real tight -- it would be a long, hard day.

Then he grabbed his leather bag of tools, which also bears the presidential seal and the number "44" (in case he forgets which number president he is). He stomped out of the White House and boarded his presidential motorcade just before a pool of traveling reporters was ushered out (he would, again, go unseen for the day, not unlike Kim Jong-un of late).

That was at noon. And yes, you guessed it, the president was not off to "work," but to play golf -- and set a milestone in the doing. Mr. Obama was heading out for his 200th round since taking office. Two hundredth! Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous professional golfer in the world, has played just 269 rounds since Jan. 20, 2009 -- and that's his day job. Go figure....

And now here's the header for today's column:

An excerpt:
... Despite his vow to work with Republicans, he will shove his executive order down their throats, intent on bringing conflict with the soon-to-be ruling party.

... But like the Joker, the president is intent on bringing chaos to America. In that "Dark Knight" scene, Alfred explains the Joker's true goal: "Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Mr. Obama will say otherwise in his address Thursday night, but this is who he really is. And like the Joker, he is to be truly feared.
We know that the frothing lunatics of the right harbor two views of the president that are utterly in conflict -- he's a stumblebum affirmative-action underachiever and he's a tireless tyrant who uses his unlimited power to crush his enemies without mercy -- but it's just delightful to see this self-contradictory worldview presented so baldly by one person over the course of a little more than a month.

Bonus Curl excerpt from October 12:
Of course, the president couldn't just rush off to the course minutes after taking [an] important phone call [about a U.S. Ebola case] (unlike the time he delivered a statement about an American beheaded by terrorists and then left immediately to play golf on Martha's Vineyard). No, Mr. Obama dickered about a bit in the White House, heading to Fort Belvoir just before 1 p.m.

So, the president spent a few minutes on the phone, then five hours on the golf course. But then, that makes perfect sense: In the 40-second pool spray, shot from the walkway outside the Oval Office, one thing was glaring -- there wasn’t a single thing on the president's desk. Not a piece of paper, a folder, even a Post-it note.
I bet the Joker has a neat desk, too, because who needs paperwork when you're PLOTTING TO BURN DOWN THE WORLD?????


The Washington Post's Aaron Blake spots a paradox in immigration polling:
Breaking: Americans support a path to citizenship.

About six in 10 support a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a new poll from NBC News and Wall Street Journal. And that number jumps to a whopping 74 percent if you qualify that the undocumented immigrants must take steps like paying back taxes.

The very same poll, though, also asked people whether they support legal status -- shy of citizenship -- for illegal immigrants. Support for this, somewhat amazingly, is just 39 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

In other words, huge majorities support a path to citizenship. But on a path to legal status, it's reversed.

Blake has a couple of theories:
Why the support for citizenship but not legal status? Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe people don't like the idea of two classes of Americans. Maybe they think of citizenship as something that is earned, and legal status as something that is bestowed without cost to the beneficiary.
I think it might have to do with the wording of the questions, and with what Americans want from government. In the NBC/Journal poll (PDF), the questions about the path to citizenship describe what seems to be a long process. The main question contains the word "eventually." The follow-up describes a lot of hoops for immigrants to jump through:
Q23 Now, as you may know, there is a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship that would allow foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens. Do you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

And, thinking some more about this...

Q24 If a proposed pathway to citizenship allowed foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens if they pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps, would you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?
Those are the proposals favored by, respectively, 57% and 74% of poll respondents. They describe gradual processes.

Now compare this:
Q21 Next, I'm going to read you several actions the next Congress could take. For each one, please tell me whether you would strongly support this action, mildly support this action, feel neutral about it, mildly oppose it, or strongly oppose this action....

Creating legal status for some immigrants who are here illegally
This has 39% approval, 48% disapproval.

The key word here, I think, is "creating." Americans don't want us to just give undocumented immigrants stuff. We want to watch them earn it. And we don't want anything to happen rapidly -- it upsets us. We have all kinds of problems in this country, and we're furious at the government for failing to address them, but then we seem to get upset at most proposals that actually do address our problems, because they disrupt the status quo, partly in ways that make us uncomfortable. So we get as angry when solutions seem to be imminent as we are when no solutions seem to be imminent.

I'd also point out that in a September Washington Post/ABC poll, the following question was asked:
Q: If Congress does not act to address the immigration issue, do you think Obama should or should not take action on his own through executive orders?
In that poll two months ago, 52% of respondents said the president should act, and 44% said he shouldn't. But in the NBC/Journal poll -- now that we know executive action is imminent -- 38% approve it and 48% disapprove it. It's as if, as action gets closer, suddenly we don't want action. We want the problems solved, but solutions, or partial solutions, upset us.

Is that it? Well, it's a theory. Your guess is as good as mine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman notes that Republicans increasingly believe they'll pay no price with voters if they shut down the government in response to President Obama's executive action on immigration. Here's recent history as Waldman recalls it:
Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn't stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that "Washington" is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren't in the president's party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters.
That's not quite the whole story, of course. It's too simple to say that after Republicans crash the system, "large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that 'Washington' is broken." Voters don't just, on their own initiative, conclude this -- they're told this, over and over and over again, by the self-righteous mandarins of the Beltway press corps. And Democrats never try to identify for the voters precisely who "the people who broke" Washington are -- even Democrats blame "gridlock," or 'Washington," rather than the GOP.

So of course voters fail to assess the blame correctly.

Waldman adds:
The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.
Well, it's no surprise that we had low turnout with a Republican skew. Every day, all day, Republicans are told by their favorite media outlets that everything wrong in America is the fault of the Democrats, and thus they arrive at Election Day hell-bent on driving those Democrats out of office. A tiny minority of Democratic voters who are consumers of the left-wing media are regularly reminded who's to blame, but most Democratic voters are moderates who give the lefty media a miss; they're told by the mainstream media that the whole system is an unfixable mess because everyone's at fault. So of course they gave in to despair this year and stayed home.

And all this will probably happen again over the next two years. So Republicans may as well shut down the government again. After all, the vast majority of voters will never hear them blamed for doing so.

The Daily Caller reports:
Prominent Protestant Pastors Vow To No Longer Perform Government Marriages

Two Protestant pastors, concerned about rapidly-changing government definitions of marriage, have started a movement encouraging priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages.

Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner, Episcopal and Anglican pastors respectively, launched "The Marriage Pledge" at the conservative religious journal First Things on Tuesday....
Here's part of what Seitz and Radner write:
In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.

As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends....

To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage....
So here's their pledge, which they're inviting other members of the clergy to sign:
We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church's life.
I was struck by the phrase "government marriage," which Seitz and Radner use, and which also appears in the Caller headline. On the right, could this phrase actually catch on? Could wingers decide that marriage is evil and awful if it's linked to the (yecch!) government?

I'm not sure. I've seen the phrase "government marriage" just one other place: in a post at Reason's Hit & Run blog titled "The Problems with Government Marriage." (According to the post, the problem with "government marriage" include state bans on same-sex marriage, which, of course, Seitz and Radner favor.)

In 2011, while running for president, Rick Santorum tried to make state-run education seem sinister, using similar wording:
... Santorum took a swipe at public schools. "Just call them what they are. Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools," he said.
The phrasing never quite caught on. However, the idea that government-run schools are evil is quite common on the right.

Could that happen with marriage? Could it become a point of pride for right-wingers to refuse to register their nuptials with the state, and for ministers to refuse to legitimize marriage in the eyes of the state?

I could see there being a small refusenik niche among young heterosexual right-wingers in love -- some might choose to marry at churches that reject a state marriage system open to those filthy sodomites. But I think even most right-wingers want the marriage benefits, not to mention the big ceremonies, and they won't want to be forced to schedule a religious(-right) ceremony and a civil ceremony in order to have both. Besides, having the latter ceremony would defeat the purpose of the former, wouldn't it?

And besides, even in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, no church has been forced to alter its rules about which couples it considers eligible for marriage. To me, that's as it should be: we don't complain about the fact that divorced Catholics are prevented from remarrying in the church, even though divorce is legal under secular law. If some churches won't marry gay couples, I think that's the same thing. It's their choice.

I suppose if the law changes we'll see an increase in rejection of state-sanctioned marriage by conservatives. But if that never happens, this seems like an idea that's too radical even for the radical right.

After yesterday's Jerusalem synagogue attack, President Obama made the following statement (emphasis added):
We know that two attackers senselessly and brutally attacked innocent worshippers in a synagogue during their morning prayers. Obviously, we condemn in the strongest terms these attacks. A number of people were wounded, and four people were killed, including three American citizens. So this is a tragedy for both nations, Israel as well as the United States. And our hearts go out to the families who obviously are undergoing enormous grief right now.

Secretary Kerry has spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas has strongly condemned the attacks. Tragically, this is not the first loss of life that we have seen in recent months. Too many Israelis have died. Too many Palestinians have died. And at this difficult time, I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and to reject violence.

The murderers for today's outrageous acts represent the kind of extremism that threatens to bring all of the Middle East into the kind of spiral from which it’s very difficult to emerge. And we know how this violence can get worse over time. But we have to remind ourselves that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace and to be able to raise their families knowing they're safe and secure. The United States wants to work with all parties involved to make that a reality, and to isolate the kind of extremists that are bringing about this terrible carnage.
How is Breitbart covering this?

President Obama has responded to today's terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four Israeli Jews attending morning prayers condemning the attack, and stating that "the majority of Palestinians" want peace.

In a statement delivered to the White House press pool, President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that "too many Palestinians have died," as well as Israelis, in the struggle between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas and its affiliates, including the internationally active Muslim Brotherhood. "At this difficult time," the President told reports, "I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence." ...
I love the fact that under the screaming, one-sided headline there's this grudging acknowledgment of the president's paired sentences: "President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that 'too many Palestinians have died,' as well as Israelis." Oh, and a misquote of another part of the president's statement is also worth savoring -- according to the Breitbart story, the president asserted that "'the majority of Palestinians' want peace," when Obama actually said, "the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace." (The Breitbart story, needless to say, provides no link to the complete statement, available at the White House website in text and video form, because God forbid any of Breitbart's readers be exposed to the president's words in context.)

And these are the people who say Jonathan Gruber's Obamacare videos prove that the administration deliberately deceives people by massaging the facts?