Wednesday, August 20, 2014

REBUTTING JOE THE PLUMBER'S RACISM

Talking Points Memo reports that Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher has weighed in on Ferguson. From his Facebook page:



Another (poorly punctuated) Facebook post says, "It's interesting that one of the items NOT being looted in Ferguson is work boots?"

Um, Joe? Here's a photo from a St. Louis job fair that was held in June:



Headline of the story from the local CBS affiliate, KMOX: "Thousands Turn Out for Annual Job Fair."

So shut the hell up with your "All ni... um, liberal Democrats want to stay dependent on government" line of argument, And by the way, Joe: What exactly do you do for a living?
MITCH McCONNELL'S SHUTDOWN BRINKMANSHIP IS MUCH LOWER-RISK THAN IT SEEMS

In a Politico interview, Mitch McConnell has announced that a GOP majority in the Senate next year could mean another government shutdown:
"We're going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy," McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. "That's something he won't like, but that will be done. I guarantee it."

... McConnell risks overreaching if he follows through with his pledge to attach policy riders to spending bills. If Obama refuses to accept such measures, a government shutdown could ensue.
At The Atlantic's Wire blog, we're being told that Democrats are thrilled:
The only thing that would make congressional Democrats happier than a Republican attempt to impeach President Obama is if Republicans force another government shutdown.

So when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised the specter of a government shutdown fight if Republicans retake the Senate in November, Democrats rejoiced.

And by rejoiced, we mean they feigned outrage.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, rapidly released a statement accusing McConnell of "reckless gamesmanship."

... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's chief spokesman, Adam Jentleson, chimed in on Twitter.
But why shouldn't McConnell threaten a shutdown? Democrats are hoping that the threat will infuriate liberal and moderate voters and drive them to the polls to vote Democratic -- but what might do that is an actual government shutdown, not the threat of one. There's no reason to believe that a threat articulated in late August on a website for political pros and junkies is going to drive voters to the polls two and a half months from now, especially when those voters are actual or potential Democratic voters, who are notoriously hard to motivate. Hell, even the public-opinion impact of the government shutdown we experienced last year was evanescent -- as soon as the shutdown was over, the Democrats' advantage over Republicans on generic-ballot poll questions began to shrink (and eventually reverse), and it took a lot less than two and a half months. The blue hump in the middle is the fleeting moment when Democrats had the greatest advantage over Republicans; that moment ended almost immediately after the shutdown did.



The fact that voters don't remember government shutdowns helps explain why McConnell's threat might be serious. If you were a Republican and you were looking at this chart, and at other 2014 polls, you'd think: Why shouldn't we shut down the government again, just as long as we don't do it a week or two before Election Day 2016? Voters won't remember. They sure don't remember the last shutdown, otherwise they wouldn't be on the verge of reelecting a GOP House and (probably) a GOP Senate.

And, of course, Very Serious People still think a GOP sweep in November could conceivably lead to a more responsible Republican Party. Here's John Harwood of The New York Times:
With control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans might feel a greater responsibility to join Mr. Obama in governance by striking politically appealing compromises.
STOP. Please stop saying this, everyone in the mainstream media.

I should acknowledge that Harwood offers this as a possibility, while saying that the more likely path is confrontation and gridlock. But why throw this in at all? It's not going to happen. Yet voters still think it might, because, outside the small subset of us angry lefties, most of America still hasn't come to terms with how deeply sociopathic the Republican Party is. Even the main premise of Harwood's piece underestimates the GOP's sociopathy: Harwood writes that if Republicans win the Senate, they might extend Washington's period of "dysfunction," which could give Hillary Clinton a chance to run against Washington in 2016. Yeah, John, and you think they aren't going to extend the period of dysfunction if they lose the Senate? Of course they are.

But they might as well, because they won't be held accountable by voters -- they have trouble winning presidential elections, but they never seem to have trouble winning anything else. So if McConnell needs to send a signal like this to curry favor with the far right in his reelection bid, he should go for it -- the GOP won't suffer any consequences.
PODUNK COPS CAN'T POLICE, BUT THEY'RE WORKING THE MEDIA LIKE SEASONED GOP OPERATIVES

Keeping the peace in a moment of great unrest is clearly a job skill the local cops in Ferguson, Missouri, lack, but someone in the pro-cop community in or around Ferguson clearly has rather sophisticated wingnuttish propaganda skills. We know this in part because someone knew enough to spoon-fed this story to Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft, who's called the Stupidest Man on the Internet by everyone on the left even though he's made his blog into a widely read conduit for questionable stories the "respectable" right-wing press doesn't want to report but is all too happy to retransmit:
BREAKING REPORT: Officer Darren Wilson Suffered "Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket" During Mike Brown Attack

The Gateway Pundit can now confirm from two local St. Louis sources that police Officer Darren Wilson suffered facial fractures during his confrontation with deceased 18 year-old Michael Brown....

Local St. Louis sources said Wilson suffered an "orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket." This comes from a source within the Prosecuting Attorney's office and confirmed by the St. Louis County Police....
As Charles Johnson notes at Little Green Footballs, Wilson is seen in a witness's post-shooting video displaying none of the likely symptoms of this kind of injury, and he didn't leave the scene to get medical attention. Johnson also notes that Hoft illustrates his post with an X-ray of this kind of injury on which the label "UNIV OF IOWA ETC-CT" has been crudely obscured -- no, it's not an X-ray of Wilson, but you're clearly supposed to think it is.

Prior to this, another dubious story mde its way up the media food chain:
Yesterday [Monday], the controversy surrounding the conflicting stories of Michael Brown's death grew hotter, when Christine Byers, a police reporter with the St. Louis Dispatch tweeted the following information about officer Darren Wilson:

But she backtracked, tweeting this semi-retraction hours later:
Yeah, she was spreading this tale even though she's not reporting this story, or any other story -- she's taking a Family and Medical Leave Act leave from her job. But her rumormongering also spread like wildfire -- thanks to sites like The Blaze and (again) Gateway Pundit.

Is local law enforcement just tilting the story the way law enforcement always does with local media, but the result this time is that right-wing propagandists with a national base are listening? Or does someone in this process actually grasp how the right-wing puke funnel works? It's probably the former, but the result is the same either way: rumors and disinformation, once they're out there, get enshrined as fact on the right, and that colors the story for all of Heartland America -- and, by the way, for any potential Darren Wilson jurors. Whatever's going on, it's clear that the other side always work the media more skillfully.

****

UPDATE: More here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TONIGHT THEY'RE GONNA PONTIFICATE LIKE IT'S 1989

Over at Buzzfeed, Evan McMorris-Santoro published a truly naive story titled "Ferguson Is the Beginning of the End for Conservatives' 'War on Crime.'" I was going to write about it, but Roy Edroso said everything I wanted to say, and more:
... I fear the moment is passing. As I said yesterday, take a look at National Review to see which way the stagnant wind blows. Charles C.W. Cooke, who has been among NR's stronger civil-libertarian voices on this subject, has retreated to his comfort zone -- i.e., nuh-uh-you-stupid-liberals, America still rules -- as his colleagues go full lawn-order all around him.
Edroso goes on to quote a Victor Davis Hanson column that lingers on the fact that Malik Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party, has traveled to Ferguson and claims to have been part of a group responsible for calming the streets on Thursday night. Hanson, linking to an earlier National Review post, declares that we're in a moment of lawless post-modernism because Captain Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol did not immediately clap Shabazz in irons when they appeared together at a community gathering. To Hanson's horror, Johnson said that he was grateful to whoever helped keep the streets calm. Anarchy!

But this is why McMorris-Santoro is being extraordinarily naive: It doesn't matter now what Rand Paul or Grover Norquist may have said about incarceration rates, because we're entering a dangerous moment -- the first moment in a generation in which, at times, the world actually looks like right-wing nightmares of domestic unrest. Think about it: Over the past twenty years or so, Fox News, the Drudge Report, talk radio, and other right-wing media outlets have peddled booga-booga fantasies of urban lawlessness and black rage while crime nationwide has actually plummeted (and stayed low). Now they've got something real, if isolated, to grab onto -- rioting and looting in a majority-black town! A New Black Panther actually doing something newsworthy! The return of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to relevance!

And this coincides with an uptick in shootings in New York City under a hated liberal mayor who's denounced stop-and-frisk -- never mind the fact that homicides are still down here. The schedenfreude on this subject was evident when National Review (yes, again) told us yesterday that fourteen people had been wounded and two killed in shootings in "De Blasio's NYC" over the weekend. The shooting number is high, but as for the fatalaties, hmmm, let's see: two murdered over the weekend in De Blasio's urban hellhole amounts to one a day; by contrast, under the benevolent reign of Mike Bloomberg, New York had a strikingly low 333 homicides last year, which comes out to about ... um, one a day. Barbarians: not exactly at the gate.

But the right can't resist invoking any evidence of the return in real life of anything matching its most fevered fantasies of the breakdown of civilization. Even the rhetoric has a nostalgic tone. In recent days we've had Fox's Todd Starnes referring to Al Sharpton as a "race hustler" -- a much-beloved Giuliani-era slur. And what drug did Fox's Jim Pinkerton suggest might have been in Michael Brown's system when he was shot? PCP -- y'know, just like in the 1980s.

Right-wingers have been warning one another about the swarthy hordes for years; now they think their nightmares are real again. Nothing Rand Paul and Grover Norquist have to say can compete with any of this.
I THINK MICHAEL LIND IS OVERTHINKING THIS

Michael Lind is a Texan and a very smart political observer, but I think he's wrong about the likely consequences of the Rick Perry indictment:
Chris Christie is perhaps the biggest winner from the Perry indictment. Bridgegate was an enormous blow to Christie, for two reasons. First, it destroyed his carefully crafted image as a nonpartisan nice guy instead of a stereotypically sleazy New Jersey pol. Second, forcing commuters to be stranded in traffic during rush hour to punish a political enemy is the kind of abuse of power that is easy to understand -- unlike using a line item veto to cut one of a couple of sources of funding for the office of a county lawyer who pleaded guilty to drunk driving..

Now the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry allows Republicans to change the narrative, from "Who knew that Chris Christie was such a bully!" to "Look how liberal prosecutors are trying to bring down every Republican governor who is a potential president!"

[The] indictment of Perry, then, will probably help the more electable Christie or [Scott] Walker, whom Democrats should fear, while hurting, to some degree, the unelectable Perry, whom Democrats should prefer as the Republican presidential nominee.
Wait -- Chris Christie's image used to be "as a nonpartisan nice guy"? No, that's just plain wrong. Nobody looked at Bridgegate and said, "Who knew that Chris Christie was such a bully!" People already knew he was a bully. Being a bully wasn't a bug for him -- it was a feature. That's what people liked about him -- including, alas, many Democratic voters. Unfortunately, they like a bit of rough, too -- just as liberal New York City elected Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s to crack down on squeegee men, blue New Jersey voted for Christie twice in part to crack down on History's Greatest Monsters, teachers with union benefits.

It's true that a lot of voters thought Christie was a nice guy otherwise -- a big, emotional lug who tears up at the site of Sandy storm damage, then brings the hammer down on government employees who want pension benefits to which they're contractually entitled, all because he loves the people of New Jersey. Bridgegate didn't persuade people that Christie is a bully so much as change the notion of precisely which New Jersey residents he might go medieval on. That's not helpful to him.

But I don't see how Christie is helped by Perry's indictment. General-election voters aren't suddenly dismissing the allegations against Christie (or Walker) because they're thinking, "Look how liberal prosecutors are trying to bring down every Republican governor who is a potential president!" Ordinary Americans simply don't pay that much attention to politics this many years before a presidential election. The only people who are thinking that way are permanently enraged Fox viewers and talk radio listeners. They all vote Republican.

Within that voting bloc, who comes out the best? Perry, because he's denounced the charges against him the most strenuously. He keeps telling us that the indictment is outrageous and has no validity whatsoever. That's got to get wingnut blood pumping! Christie, by contrast, foolishly argued that Bridgegate was a bad thing, just not a bad thing that was his fault personally. He said it went on under his own nose and he was shocked, shocked, to discover it had happened. This was Christie forgetting to do any of the things his fans like about him. He should have lashed out at his accusers. He should have pounded lecterns and damned the whole thing as a Democrat/liberal witch hunt. He should, in short, have done exactly what Perry's doing now.

Jonathan Bernstein makes a better point: that the indictment hurts Perry with "Republican party actors." I'd say the legal woes of all three of these guys help Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and so on. But Perry's indictment doesn't help Christie or Walker.

Bernstein adds:
It's certainly true that resentment sells better than anything else in Republican contests....

Basically, if Perry can get this thing behind him quickly, it becomes a somewhat useful talking point for him on the campaign trail. If not, it really could be a severe problem.
I'd say that if Perry "can get this thing behind him quickly" it becomes a hugely useful talking point for him on the primary campaign trail -- a bloody shirt he can continually wave. Walker and Christie don't seem nearly as inclined to defy the investigators. That may hurt them in early 2016.

IS MONEY THE REASON WE CAN'T TRANSCEND RACE?

Charlie Pierce believes America can never fully overcome its racial animosities:
The honest conclusion to be drawn from what is going on in Missouri now is that we may have reached the limits of the American idea, of the American dream, of the American experiment. This country, it is fair to conclude, cannot exist without some manifestation of its fundamental racial divide. Slavery, followed by Reconstruction, followed by American apartheid, followed by the Civil Rights movement, followed by Wallace and white backlash, followed by the election of Barack Obama followed by the shooting of Trayvon Martin, followed by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, followed by the strangulation of Eric Garner -- where'd he go, by the way? -- and the shooting of Michael Brown. Maybe we should admit it to ourselves, we of the dwindling white majority, that the racial divide is something essential to holding our idea of the country together. It may be that we cannot unify ourselves without fashioning every 50 years or so, a new suit of clothes for old Jim Crow. White people will be a minority in this country, and very soon. Maybe the racial divide is all we have left.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinks the real problem is class:
This fist-shaking of everyone's racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.

And that's how the status quo wants it.

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it's crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.
I see an interaction between race and class. My Italian ancestors, and Charlie Pierce's Irish ancestors, were despised in this country, too, but the majority culture eventually embraced us. I think in large part it's because white ethnics reached for a piece of the pie at a time when America was making more pies, and sharing them broadly. White skin helped, too, obviously -- but we benefited from some decades of economic expansion before the Depression hit.

By contrast, blacks were excluded from full participation in the larger economy for a century after the Civil War. When did the door opened a crack? Just before the economic turmoil of the 1970s -- which was the beginning of a period when overall inequality began to increase. The wealth of the middle class hasn't expanded much since the Nixon years, so white America feels it has no extra pie to go around. The rich, as Abdul-Jabbar says, just keep baking more and more pie. But they're not sharing -- and they're taking more and more pie from middle-class whites. Therefore, middle-class whites resent demands for pie from anyone else.

It's probably more than that. We may never be capable of color-blindness, as Pierce says. But it would be nice to have an economy that's expanding for everyone, in order to know for sure. Or just for its own sake.

Monday, August 18, 2014

NO, IT'S NOT INEPTITUDE IN FERGUSON

Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker:
From the outset, the overlapping bureaucracies in Ferguson handled the case in ways that suggested ineptitude. Yet subsequent developments -- the stonewalling followed by contradictory statements, the detention of reporters, the clumsy deployment of sophisticated military equipment -- all point not to a department too inept to handle this investigation objectively but one too inept to cloak the fact that they never intended to do so. One protestor held a sign that said, "Ferguson Police Need Better Scriptwriters."
I don't think the local authorities really care whether they conduct a responsible investigation, or whether they help Ferguson to heal and come to terms with what happened. It's not just that they're closing ranks around one of their own. It's not merely that they obviously believe Mike Brown was a worthless thug whose death should go unmourned. It's not only that they don't regard the people of Ferguson as fully human. It's that they don't care if you know all that about them. They're not trying to conceal it. They're not "too inept to cloak the fact" that they don't care. They don't give a damn what you think if you're the kind of person they don't like.

From the beginning, they've known instinctively what polls are now showing us: that white people don't understand the racial pain behind the protests, or don't care, that whites always give cops the benefit of the doubt in matters like this, and that this is especially true of the Republicans who dominate America's heartland. They understood this, I assume, because they're the sort of whites who would feel his way even if law enforcement weren't their business. They have, as the kids say, no fucks to give about people who aren't like them, and they know the majority of Americans feel the same way. So they don't care if Ferguson burns. They're going to keep doing what they're doing. They don't care if it's appropriate. It's what they want to do. They don't care what you and I think, and they don't need to.
DON'T ASSUME THE GUN LOBBY WILL LIFT A FINGER TO HELP DEMILITARIZE COPS

Salon's Jim Newell, citing a report from The Hill, is breathlessly reporting that a bill to curb a program funneling Pentagon weapons to police forces is being backed by a gun rights group:
Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, has been working on a bill to demilitarize the police for sometime, his office said....

What's most interesting about Johnson's proposal, at the moment, is the odd left-right political coalition of outside groups that's organizing around it. The ACLU supports it, as does Gun Owners of America. Wait a second? Did we just say "Gun Owners of America," a crazy group to the right of the NRA, supports it? Apparently so:
According to the Defense Logistics Agency, more than $4 billion in discounted military equipment has been sold to local police departments since the 1990s.

"Why are those guns available to the police?" asked Erich Pratt, spokesman for the conservative Gun Owners of America. "We don't technically have the military operating within our borders, but they're being given the gear to basically operate in that capacity."

Gun Owners of America and the ACLU are both backing a forthcoming bill from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that would curtail the sale of DOD weapons to local police departments.
The support of a group like GOA could provide cover to Republicans and conservative Democrats looking to support a police demilitarization bill.
But how much of a priority is this bill for Gun Owners of America? I'm looking at GOA's website: there's nothing about this bill whatsoever. GOA's Twitter feed? Nothing. Facebook? Nothing. What are GOA's priorities? Defending the legality of AR-15s. Telling President Obama that the Second Amendment doesn't give citizens the right to bear arms. (Silly liberal -- the right to bear arms was personally bestowed by God.) Reminding members that Colorado's new gun laws are still being challenged in court. Oh, and approvingly citing a story about the current spike in gun sales in the St. Louis area.

Meanwhile, no one's reporting that the NRA has said anything about this bill one way or another. There's no mention of it at NRA.org, at the website of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, at the Twitter feed of the NRA or NRA News or NRA-ILA, or at the Facebook pages of the NRA or NRA News or NRA-ILA. (There isn't even a word at NRA-ILA Missouri's website or Facebook page.)

The gunners don't really care about this. GOA does seem to be aligning itself with Rand Paul (the group has worked with Paul in the past, and a banner on the group's Twitter page quotes him praising the group), but the issue is not going to be a priority. At the end of the day, this will be liberals and maybe Paul and a handful of libertarians vs. both the military and the law-and-order establishment, including nearly all Republicans.

And if you doubt that Republicans are going to get back in line, see what Fox News has been airing:
An all-white male panel of Fox News experts defended the militarization of police in Ferguson, Missouri and the actions of police officer Darren Wilson, arguing that local police districts need to use tear gas, rubber bullets, and armored vehicles to defend the country from Islamic terrorists....

"The response last night is what needs to happen," retired NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik told Fox News on Monday morning.

Bo Dietl, a Fox News contributor and former NYPD detective, went even further. He argued that authorities in Ferguson must "take charge" and defended arming local precincts with unused military equipment from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars by invoking the threat of global terrorism....

"They're coming back, they're coming back these extremist Muslims are coming back and they're going to do something in the United States and you can't fight them with pea shooters," Dietl said....
That's Fox issuing marching orders. Republicans will march.
HILLARY'S CORONATION IS OVER -- IF YOU WANT IT

The Hill publishes a piece titled "Five Figures on the Left Who Could Challenge Hillary Clinton," and Martin Longman (aka BooMan) is skeptical:
Yes, it would be kind of interesting if Russ Feingold came out of retirement to vie for the nomination, but is there even a hint of evidence that he is contemplating such a move, much less that he might be successful? Bernie Sanders has made rumblings, but just his age alone precludes him from being a strong challenger. Al Gore is the only Democrat with the stature, donor base, and experience to really challenge Hillary Clinton, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a challenge from her left....

But Gore isn't running. Biden doesn't have a chance. Martin O'Malley is running out of time to catch fire with the grassroots base and build an organization. Elizabeth Warren has officially "encouraged" Hillary to run.

Is the left even in the mood to have an ideological battle in 2016? Perhaps there is some appetite for it, but I haven't seen it reflected in our elected leaders....

Personally, I'd be up for an ideological battle, but I am not going to lie to you and say that I see many people by my side.
Me either. Barbara O'Brien writes,
I don't want Hillary Clinton. I rarely hear from anyone who does.Yet I keep hearing she is popular! But with who, I wonder?
Well, she's popular with the Democratic base -- the real Democratic base, which consists not of solidly progressive politics junkies, but of people who are vaguely liberal and tune politics out more than they tune it in. (They tune in primarily in presidential election years.)

The Democratic base doesn't vote in state and local elections and doesn't vote in midterms. These are the people we're supposed to count on to focus on a hero of lefty politics mavens? Yes, a Hillary-toppling insurgency happened in 2008, but elements were in place that aren't in place now: one burning issue (the Iraq War) and a series of secondary issues (Katrina, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo) that made a broad range of Democratic voters pay attention to politics between presidential years, plus an unusually charismatic insurgent with a really strong political operation who actually wanted the nomination badly. We don't have any of that right now.

We need a large, angry, informed, mobilized progressive movement -- not just to win elections for progressives, but to fight outside the realm of electoral politics on issues that find both parties to the right of what's in the people's interest. But the fizzling out of the Occupy movement shows that we're still waiting for a movement of that kind.

We don't even have the level of free-floating anger the right has. Of course the right will embrace ideological warriors in the campaign for the 2016 nomination, probably not enough to nominate one, but enough to push whoever is nominated far to the right. That's how conservative voters are -- they'll be ideologically fired up then, because they're ideologically fired up now. They're always ideologically fired up. They're fired up enough to possibly reelect Scott Walker and Rick Scott and Rick Snyder in states Barack Obama handily won twice. They might beat Dannel Malloy in Connecticut and John Hickenlooper in Colorado because they're always extremely fired up on guns.

Right-wing voters are crazy, but we should a little crazy. We should at least be in a fever to vote every time there's an election, and we're not. So where's the base for an insurgent Democratic presidential candidate when no candidate seems to have the fever, either?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

WHY DO AMERICAN MOVIEGOERS HATE AMERICA?

So I see that The Giver finished fifth at the box office this weekend:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Guardians of the Galaxy held on to the top two spots at the box office this weekend....

In a surprising development, The Expendables 3 wasn't the highest-grossing newcomer of the weekend. That honor went to Let's Be Cops, which took third place....

Playing at 3,003 theaters, The Giver opened in fifth place with an estimated $12.8 million. While it came in on the high end of these comparisons, The Giver still essentially wound up in the same realm as recent young-adult flops The Host, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Beautiful Creatures....
If The Giver flopped, you know what that means, don't you? It means that America's moviegoing public hates freedom. Just ask FreedomWorks blogger Logan Albright, who told us a few days ago that The Giver "brings new life to themes of liberty":
The Giver is that rare film that successfully merges conservative and libertarian themes with superior craftsmanship and genuine entertainment. The celebration of individual differences, of emotion, of life, of freedom, and of the general messiness that is the human condition strikes deep, as we instinctively reject the placid, yet soulless, sameness of a society controlled from the top down....

Following in the grand tradition of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Ayn Rand's Anthem, the Giver reminds us all of the dangers of a too-powerful state. Regardless of how well-meaning such a society's architects may be, the rigid control of every citizen's life in order to preserve "the greater good" is chilling. It also rings increasingly true in today's world of government spying, compulsory health insurance, and a culture of political correctness gone mad.
Naturally, "compulsory health insurance" is totalitarian, and obviously the first step toward a society in which no one ever sees color or feels unbridled joy because an all -powerful central government won't allow it.

It's not just FreedomWorks. Sarah Palin lavished praise on the movie in a review on her new TV channel, frequently invoking Ronald Reagan, and describing the movie's tyrannical government as basically just like ours:
"'The Giver' depicts a society where the government has grown well beyond an anti-state," Palin says. "The government in the movie limits every aspect of life -- where to live, what to wear, what to eat, who to marry -- to make a society that doesn't have pain or risk, supposedly, to create some kind of utopia. Sound familiar?"
If your response to "Sound familiar?" is "No, not really," you must be a dirty, stinking liberal. As Kira Davis at Independent Journal Review tells us,
However futuristic The Giver is meant to be, it is an absolute reflection of what we see happening in modern American society. A few people are deciding for the majority of us what is right and what is wrong when it comes to our own lives. The Community, like too many leaders these days, thinks that freedom means "freedom from" -- freedom from violence, danger, religions -- or inflaming passions such as free speech and even love.
I guess two of FDR's "Four Freedoms" were totalitarian, too, because they're "freedom from" -- freedom from want and freedom from fear. (And you were a fascist, Norman Rockwell, for painting all four of them!)

Ahh, but America rejected "the most pro-American movie of 2014" (Townhall.com). So we're doomed. Enjoy love and color while you can, sheeple.
CONSERVATIVES ARE STARTING TO FRAME THE DEBATE ON POLICING, AND RACISM IS BEING DEEMED IRRELEVANT

Want to know where the discussion set off by the events in Ferguson is going to end up? Look at this Twitter exchange between right-wing radio host Michael Medved and right-wing Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby:



Also see Ross Douthat's latest column, "Playing Soldier in the Suburbs," which takes exactly the same tack as Jacoby's tweet -- yes, heavy-metal policing is bad...
In an era of riots and hijackings, the SWAT model understandably spread nationwide. But as the riots died away and the threat of domestic terror receded, SWAT tactics -- helicopters, heavy weaponry, the works -- became increasingly integrated into normal crime-fighting, and especially into the war on drugs.

... It's our antiterror policies made manifest, our tax dollars at work.

And it's a path to potential disaster, for cops and citizens alike.... Militarized tactics that are potentially useful in specialized circumstances -- like firefights with suicidal terrorist groups -- can be counterproductive when employed for crowd-control purposes by rank-and-file cops.
... but hey, we don't want to be too hasty in condemning other aspects of criminal-justice heavy-handedness:
To many critics of police militarization, of course, the helmets and heavy weaponry are just symptoms. The disease is the entire range of aggressive police tactics (from no-knock raids to stop-and-frisk), the racial disparities they help perpetuate and our society’s drug laws and extraordinary incarceration rate....

The argument for broad reform is appealing; it might also be overly optimistic. To be clear: I cheered [Rand] Paul's comments, I support most of the reforms under consideration, I want lower incarceration rates and fewer people dying when a no-knock raid goes wrong. But there may be trade-offs here: In an era of atomization, distrust and economic stress, our punitive system may be a big part of what's keeping crime rates as low as they are now, making criminal justice reform more complicated than a simple pro-liberty free lunch....
In America, right-wingers always get to position the Overton window, on every subject of debate. Right now, they're positioning it between Douthat/Jacoby and Medved. The "left" and "right" in this debate will be: do we get rid of the MRAPs and BearCats and keep the rest of our usual tactics? Or do we keep it all?

It would be lovely to think that Rand Paul, by joining liberals in condemning the racial inequities of our justice system, has helped move the discussion to the left. But as I told you on Thursday, even Paul stressed the military hardware rather than the racism in his Time op-ed. And now those of his conservative brethren who are willing to acknowledge any problems whatsoever in how we deal out criminal justice are going to limit themselves to talking about tanks. So, outside MSNBC, that's all we're going to talk about.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

SO IS RICK PERRY NOW THE 2016 GOP FRONT-RUNNER?

Oddly, just before Rick Perry was indicted, I was mentally sketching out a post arguing that Perry could be the GOP's 2016 presidential front-runner, in theory, if he continued to pursue the nomination the way he's been doing it recently. I didn't imagine that Perry could do this without screwing up -- I wasn't thinking about his legal woes, which weren't on my radar, but rather about his gaffe-filled 2012 campaign -- but I thought that he'd spent this year doing a much better job of running a pre-campaign than a lot of Republican A-listers.

Specifically, Perry's been stroking wingnut pleasure centers at a time when Ryan, Paul, and Rubio have been trying to feign moderation, Christie has been trying to downplay legal troubles and past acts of RINOism, and Jeb Bush has been trying to live down his support for immigration reform and Common Core. Perry hits the pro-capitalist pleasure button every time he trolls a blue state and offers to relieve it of a few big employers. His macho-man appearance on the border with Sean Hannity and the Texas Highway Patrol was top-shelf wingnut gun/xenophobia porn. And on the subject of immigration, there was this just a couple of days ago:



Pure winger pleasure. Ahhh, but that's all moot now, right? Perry's under indictment, so we can stop talking about him for 2016 -- right?

I don't know. All the right people (and I do mean all the right people) are rallying around him:







(That last one is George Zimmerman's brother.)

At the moment I think, within his party, Perry could become what Bill Clinton was to Democrats in the Gingrich/Ken Starr years, minus the mixed feelings Democrats had (i.e., that adultery, if not impeachable, is still a bad thing) -- Perry was going after Democrats, so I don't think Republicans are going to think he did anything bad.

I once wrote that Chris Christie was going about it all wrong if he wanted to remain a 2016 contender: he should have lashed out and said Bridgegate was nothing but a witch hunt, because that's what GOP primary voters want to hear. Well, that's exactly what Perry is doing now. Yeah, he may go to jail, but if he doesn't, he may emerge a huge crazy-base hero.

Last night, after the indictment came down, someone on Twitter snarkily posted a link to a July post at The Fix titled "Rick Perry. So Hot Right Now." Yes, laugh now, but Perry was getting traction -- see, for instance, these Gallup numbers:



Incessantly trolling liberals was working for him. Tacking hard to the right on immigration was working for him. Being a martyr to evil liberalism might work for him, too.
RICK PERRY INDICTMENT MAKES ME WISH I LIVED IN A FIRST-WORLD COUNTRY

Rick Perry has been indicted:
A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts on Friday, charging that he abused his power last year when he tried to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to her office....

The long-simmering case has centered on Mr. Perry's veto power as governor. His critics asserted that he used that power as leverage to try to get an elected official -- Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney in Travis County -- to step down after her arrest on a drunken-driving charge last year.
Lehmberg is a Democrat; because her office is in Austin, the state capital, it oversees public corruption cases, which means, in a Republican state, it's a thorn in the side of Republicans:
As the Texas Tribune notes, "Dismantling the unit is a perennial platform plank of the Texas Republican Party." The unit dates back to the 1980s and watches state politicians to make sure they don't violate election and anti-corruption laws. One of the highest-profile investigations by the unit is the ongoing criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay, who has been accused of money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. "Given that most public officials in Texas are Republicans," Texas Monthly's Dan Solomon writes, "that means that the unit frequently investigates Republican officeholders -- and some say the fact that the people responsible for the unit are elected by voters in the Democratic stronghold of Austin makes it unpopular with Republicans." If Perry had been successful in strong-arming Lehmberg out of the job, he would have been able to name her replacement to serve through the next election.
And yet the counterargument is that Perry has the authority to use the veto in the way he did -- a point even many liberals concede. Here's Ian Millhiser of Think Progress:
In a statement released Friday evening, Perry's attorney claims that "[t]he veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution." She may have a point.

The Texas Constitution gives the governor discretion to decide when to sign and when to veto a bill, as well as discretion to veto individual line-items in an appropriation bill. Though the state legislature probably could limit this veto power in extreme cases -- if a state governor literally sold his veto to wealthy interest groups, for example, the legislature could almost certainly make that a crime -- a law that cuts too deep into the governor's veto power raises serious separation of powers concerns. Imagine that the legislature passed a law prohibiting Democratic governors from vetoing restrictions on abortion, or prohibiting Republican governors from vetoing funding for Planned Parenthood. Such laws would rework the balance of power between the executive and the legislature established by the state constitution, and they would almost certainly be unconstitutional.
As Colin Campbell of Business Insider notes, there's skepticism about this indictment among some liberals. (Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns & Money: "I'm as contemptuous of Perry as anyone, but this seems really thin." Jonathan Chait: "I don't understand what law he broke.")

As for me, I'd take this a step back and ask why we live in a country where a governor can veto the funding for a legally constituted office, as Perry has tried to do here, or the legislative branch of the federal government can threaten to defund programs it doesn't like (e.g., Obamacare), or can routinely refuse to allow parts of the government it doesn't like to be fully staffed (not just executive-branch agencies but the federal courts). It's not the way a First World country ought to operate. It may be the way the absurdist Texas described by Molly Ivins has always operated, but government here is a joke if, more and more, at every level it's like Ivins's Texas Lege and partisan impasses can never be resolved.

I'm not sure I'll live to see this situation get better, unless the whole damn country is partitioned, and I don't know how we'd even do that geographically. I'm feeling as if we live in the country described in Max Fisher's brilliant Vox parody "How We'd Cover Ferguson If It Happened in Another Country":
... Missouri, far-removed from the glistening capital city of Washington, is ostensibly ruled by a charismatic but troubled official named Jay Nixon, who has appeared unable to successfully intervene and has resisted efforts at mediation from central government officials. Complicating matters, President Obama is himself a member of the minority sect protesting in Ferguson, which is ruled overwhelmingly by members of America's majority "white people" sect....
That's who we are now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

RAND PAUL OBVIOUSLY DENOUNCED POLICE MILITARIZATION WITHOUT ASKING ROGER AILES "MAY I?"

Rand Paul, you are officially a RINO now:
On "The Five" today [on Fox News], Greg Gutfeld talked about police in the U.S. becoming more militarized and the outrage that has sparked among some citizens.

Looking at the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Gutfeld said, yes, sniper riles and camouflage gear seem over-the-top, but where there are riots, riot gear will be needed.

"You can't stop anarchy with a stern look," he stated.

He likened police forces using body armor to Israel's "Iron Dome" rocket defense, both necessary to maintain safety in dangerous situations....

He added people don't need sniper rifles or riot gear to maim or kill and share disturbing footage of several brutal attacks from "the knockout game." ...
That's right -- if teenagers are cold-cocking strangers in the street, the best way for the police to response is with snipers and an MRAP. Oh, and if you don't like police militarization, you hate Jews.

Buh-bye, Rand. I really thought you had a shot at the nomination, but you're toast. And if you don't believe me, wait till Monday when Pope Limbaugh excommunicates you from conservatism for that Time op-ed.
THE RINO-IZATION OF RAND PAUL

Even before today's events in Ferguson, Missouri, Rand Paul was getting hate from the right for daring to deviate from conservative correctness. Here's Power Line's Paul Mirengoff writing like a New York Post editorialist circa 1990:
Add Rand Paul's name to the list of opportunists seeking to exploit for political purposes the tragic shooting of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The race-hustlers populate the list, of course....

Writing in Time Magazine, Paul sees the opportunity to score libertarian points while showing sympathy for the black community, to which he has been pandering for some time....

If a pattern of government targeting blacks is relevant to this episode, then we would expect to find frequent instances of what happened to Brown. We don't. Paul is just blowing smoke....
Betty Cracker is right about what this means for Paul's inevitable presidential run:
Will tribble-topped presidential aspirant Rand Paul be able to use libertarian themes like police demilitarization at home and a non-interference policy abroad to attract minority voters and liberals who are sick of an AIPAC-driven approach to foreign affairs? Nope.

To pull off that sort of political ju-jitsu, Paul would have to be able to count on the GOP base to refrain from screeching like a scalded stoat when he makes appeals outside the tent, and he can't....

Like clocks gone Galt, libertarians are occasionally right on two issues: 1) the balance of government power and individual liberty, and 2) empire-building is a con job. Unfortunately for them, the party with which they're most closely associated comprises scads of avid fascists who are eager to break heads at home and bounce rubble abroad. They’ll kneecap Paul without our help.
Absolutely -- a Republican can't appeal to presidential primary voters while attempting to make the Republican tent bigger, because what appeals to those voters is the smallness of the tent. They're Republicans because they despise the people beyond the tent flaps.

And they certainly don't want a candidate who appeals to the "liberal media" -- and, right now, that's what Paul is doing. First he got his face on the cover of The New York Times Magazine as the poster child for the "libertarian moment," now he's getting praise as the Republican who cares about a racially bifurcated system of justice and the militarization of police forces. What a RINO! (Paul Mirengoff on the arming of cops: "If [Rand] Paul believes the police should not have more available force than the citizenry, he should say so.")

And please note that Mirengoff slipped the shiv into Paul before news emerged that Michael Brown was suspected of shoplifting on the day he was shot. (The lawyer for Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time of the shooting, has reportedly confirmed the shoplifting of some cigars.) To you and me, that's still no excuse for Brown to be gunned down while unarmed. But I'm sure there was high-fiving at Fox News when word of this broke. The right still thinks Trayvon Martin was an out-of-control psychopath who got what was coming to him. The right is going to put Brown in that category as well.

Senator Paul is now well on his way to being the 2016 equivalent of 2012 Jon Huntsman or 2008 Rudy Giuliani. This moment will fade, but the right is going to demonize more blacks between now and the primaries, just as it's going to find new reasons to call Democrats (and, by extension, sometime war skeptics like Paul) weak on defense between now and the primaries. Under those circumstances, Paul has three choices: tack right, duck the contest, or be humiliated.
THE NEW COLD WAR, STRAIGHT INTO COMPTON

When I look at the chronology of the program that provides military weapons to police forces, I understand the collective national freakout that inspired it:
Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to "transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is-- (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense." It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.
The now-notorious 1033 program started in the mid-1990s, but its precursor program started -- as a means of fighting the War on Drugs -- in 1990.

As a New Yorker, I remember 1990. It was (and remains) our worst year for murder since modern record-keeping began -- we'd had 2,246 murders in 1989, then had 2,605 in 1990, which happened to be the first year in the term of our one and only African-American mayor, David Dinkins, who would go on to lose a reelection bid (to tough-talking Rudy Giuliani) despite presiding over declines in crime in the subsequent years of his term. The trials of the Central Park Five -- young men wrongly charged with raping a jogger and beating her nearly to death -- also took place in 1990.

The violent crime rate hit all-time records in the U.S. and in Washington, D.C., in 1990, although crime wouldn't peak nationwide until the following year (in the capital, crime peaked in 1993).

President George H.W. Bush launched the invasion of Panama in December 1989; Noriega was seized in January 1990, then brought to America to face charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. A couple of months before the invasion, in September 1989, Bush waved a bag of drugs at a national TV auhdience during a speech:
"This is crack cocaine," Bush solemnly announced, holding up a plastic bag filled with a white chunky substance in his Sept. 5 speech on drug policy. It was "seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House.... It could easily have been heroin or PCP."
Heartland America saw it as one big overwhelming problem: crime, drugs, black criminals. Pop culture didn't do much to soothe the heartland -- N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton had been released in 1988, and while that wasn't exactly Top 40 material, a sanitized version of rap music topped the charts in 1990, in the form of M.C. Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." That was the first time a black rapper -- not the Beastie Boys, not Blondie -- had gone pop in such a big way. (It's hard to believe that innocuous song could strike fear into anyone, but I remember that a lot of white people hated rap, and hated that song in particular, feeling that rap was the death of music and it was all the fault of ignorant, talentless urban blacks. Rap was clearly the biggest threat to the hegemony of rock since the disco era; a lot of whites had really come to believe that the permanent enshrinement of rock as America's dominant form of music was part of the natural order of things.)

Maybe it's a step too far to bring Hammer into this. But in any case, scary black males were what haunted the heartland's dreams the year after the Berlin Wall fell. So it's not surprising that the weapons of the Cold War were brought home.

(First link via Balloon Juice.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

RAND PAUL BLAMES TECHNOLOGY FIRST AND RACISM LAST

I've given Rand Paul a hard time for not responding to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, but now he's out with a Time op-ed on the subject -- and it clarifies for me why I've been uncomfortable with some of the other reactions to the events, including reactions of people I normally agree with.

Paul starts by describing the killing of Michael Brown as "an awful tragedy." He says he can imagine "smart[ing] off" to a cop if he'd been told to get on the sidewalk as a young man. "But, I wouldn't have expected to be shot."

So far, so good. But what follows -- and takes up the bulk of the op-ed -- is a discussion of the hardware being used in Ferguson now, not the people ordering it onto the streets or wielding it. Paul quotes a 2009 Popular Mechanics article by Glenn Reynolds on the militarization of the police. He quotes a recent blog post by the Cato Institute's Walter Olson on the same subject as it's playing out in Ferguson. He quotes a 2013 Heritage Foundation report on the equipping of police with military hardware. Ultimately, he blames "big government." His main concern seems to be scoring points for the conservative/libertarian side -- see, we've been warning you about this all along (and trying to link it in your minds with everything else we denounce as "big government").

Only at the end of the op-ed does he make overt references to race. They're forthright references, and I give him credit for them. But they're secondary to his main point. The word "militarization" appears in the op-ed five times, and "military" three times. "Government/governments" appears five times. "Black" and "race" appear once each.

Paul isn't alone in focusing primarily on the excessive use of hardware -- John Cole and the rest of the Balloon Juice crew have been particularly passionate about this, as have a lot of the people I follow on Twitter.

But I live in a city where the cops tried to destroy a black man's life by sodomizing him with a broom handle. The most notorious recent death here at the hands of the cops was, literally, at the hands of the cops -- no high-tech heavy-metal gadgetry involved:



And, on the other coast a generation ago, there was this, of course, involving plain old nightsticks:



Military weaponry makes a bad situation much worse, but the core problem is still police forces that have nothing but contempt for the populations they're supposed to "protect and serve." By all means criticize the hardware -- but the real problem isn't going to go away if the use of that hardware is dialed back, because cops will treat civilians they despise with contempt using whatever's at hand. And if Paul's fellow libertarians get us talking almost exclusively about gear and government, then they'll have successfully diverted the discussion onto their turf, for their ends. We mustn't let that happen.
THE TOTAL RESPONSE TO FERGUSON BY LIBERTARIAN-LEANING POLITICIANS IS APPARENTLY ONE TWEET*

*UPDATE: This is no longer true -- Rand Paul has responded in a Time op-ed, which I'll comment on shortly.

Yesterday, at The Washington Post, Paul Waldman wrote that libertarians have been largely absent from the discussion of events in Ferguson, Missouri. Waldman got a lot of pushback for that. Some of it is justified -- yes, as, Ed Krayewski writes, he and his colleagues at Reason have written quite a bit about the Michael Brown shooting. But the most common response with regard to libertarian politicians has been "I'm rubber, you're glue." Krayewski:
... prominent liberal Democrats haven't said much either. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has made no statement about Ferguson, Missouri. I contacted her DC office but there did not appear to be anyone there to take phone calls.
National Review's Greg Pollowitz:
It's not just the president who has been silent on the events in Ferguson, Mo.

Nancy Pelosi hasn't said anything, but did find time to comment [on Twitter] on her love of dark chocolate...

Harry Reid hasn't said anything, but did find time to congratulate a local Little League team...
Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy echoed these complaints.

The president, of course, did call for peace in a statement on Ferguson. But as for Warren, Reid, and Pelosi, please remember that they haven't strutted around as constitutional superheroes, sworn to rescue our founding documents and the liberties they enshrine from the grasp of evildoers. They don't inject the words "constitutional" and "liberty" into every second sentence they utter, as a way of marketing themselves to voters. They don't act as if they're entitled to co-brand with the Constitution, as libertarian-leaning congressman Justin Amash does:



See also Rand Paul's Twitter page:



"Individual liberty and the freedoms that make this country great"? That was apparently relevant when Rand Paul was defending Cliven Bundy ("... the federal government shouldn’t violate the law. Nor should we have 48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams") -- defenders of libertarianism say that Ferguson iasn't taking place in Senator Paul's state or Congressman Amash's district, but the Bundy ranch isn't in Kentucky last time I checked.

Oh, and don't forget that Rand Paul is running for president on speeches like this:
Our nation has come a long way since the Civil Rights Movement. But we must realize that race still plays a role in the enforcement of the law.

Just ask Raliek, Daequon, and Wan'Tauhjs, who were just standing on a street corner when a policeman arrived and told them to move on or be arrested.

What was their crime?

I guess it was: "Waiting While Black"

The boys explained that they were waiting for a school bus to take them to their game. They were handcuffed and taken to jail.

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice is just not paying close enough attention.

Whether you are a minority because of the color of your skin or by virtue of your political or religious persuasion, it is imperative to restrain the power of the majority, to restrain the power of government.

Patrick Henry understood this when he wrote that the Constitution was intended to restrain the government, not the people. (Excerpted from Sen. Rand Paul's address to the Urban League on July 25, 2014)
Incidents like this make fine anecdotes for Paul's campaign orations, as a means to try to win non-white (or, more likely, white moderate) votes, but I guess he can't be bothered to speak up in real time, when violations of black people's constitutional rights are actually taking place.

This appears to be the only response to Ferguson so far from any libertarian/"constitutional conservative" politician:



One tweet. That's it.

*****

UPDATE: Here's Elizabeth Warren's response: