Monday, May 25, 2015

MILITARY VETERANS IN THE RIGHT-WING COMMENTARIAT BASICALLY HATE CIVILIANS

The L.A. Times is concerned about the relationship between civilians and the military community in America today:
Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve [in the U.S. military] come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation -- behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them....

As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant....

Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors....

"We've disconnected the consequences of war from the American public. As a result, that young man or woman putting on the uniform is much less likely to be your son or daughter, or even your neighbor or classmate," said Mike Haynie, director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in upstate New York. "That is a dangerous place to be."
Some would say that what we need is universal conscription, or at least a universal national service requirement -- but it's hard to imagine such a policy being implemented in contemporary America without the rich and powerful finding a way to evade service, or at least locking up the cushiest positions.

Meanwhile, I see that two right-wing commentators, both military veterans, want us to know that they basically despise civilians. Here's RedState diarist streiff with a response to the L.A. Times story:
I served a couple of decades in uniform. I didn’t hold civilians in high regard, I didn’t know anyone who did (as we said, “I’m ashamed my mother was a f***ing civilian). I don’t suspect we were much different than the men at Fort Detroit in 1812 or Fort Kearney in 1850. If you want men who are willing to get killed on your behalf, not necessarily because you are in imminent danger but because the men and women you elect tell them to, then you are going to have men set apart, and men who don’t take you all that seriously. That will be unsettling to some. If that rejection of your seriousness comes hand-in-glove with a rejection of your view of society then you are going to hate the institution that rejects you and do your damnedest to change it. That is what’s behind this incessant caterwauling over the civil-military divide.

The military is open to anyone who wants to enlist... assuming they can meet the standards which, sadly, about 70% of American kids can’t... if they want to become more familiar with the military and increase its attachment to the civilian population. If not, then they should spend more time combing the quinoa out of their hipster beards and let the declining number of men in this nation get on with business.
So there you have it: According to streiff, everyone who hasn't served in the military is essentially a hipster with ancient grains in his beard who doesn't deserve the service the troops perform for the country.

The Times story suggests that the problem for a country where the military burden isn't widely shared is that civilians don't understand what servicemembers and veterans are going through. I think an equal problem is that servicemembers and veterans become like streiff and develop contempt for civilians -- which means contempt for the very country they're serving, because, after all, we non-warriors are a majority of the citizens.

A FoxNews.com commentator, Steve Yen, an Army veteran, is, if anything, more contemptuous of the civilian population than streiff. According to Yen, he and his generation of servicemembers basically won both of George Bush's wars, but had victory stolen from them by ... well, it's not clear whether it was evil civilian liberals or Bush administration officials. Yeh blames liberals (and other assorted soft-bellied civilians), though the timeline would suggest that it was the Bushies who were largely at fault:
In a time where victimhood is celebrated, where discourse is dominated by ineffectual and verbose liberal academics, and society led by inept deceivers -- we alone showed the world for the seven years after 9/11/01 that America was the indisputable world super power and that darkness could never put out the light. To the contrary, the light would come with insurmountable power to punish its enemies. We are the brave few volunteers upon whom the existence of the entire free world relies.

We are the lionhearted difference‐makers who -- in the flower of our youth -- cast off the mental shackles of our society’s historic entitlement, weakness, and cowardice to serve and to take the greatest of the world’s challenges head on....

We showed the world that, despite our society’s cowardly quibbling, America’s volunteer military was --incomparably -- the most powerful and professional in the world, and that we would defend our nation fearlessly when attacked. While civilians who risked nothing and sacrificed nothing trembled and called for surrender, we warriors roared undaunted toward imminent danger.

Those few of us who were there know the ferocity we brought to bear upon our enemies’ heads -- day in, day out, 24/7 -- despite being sent to war without the manpower mandated by our own doctrine and with a fundamental lack of the resources needed to employ our own best tactics.
(Um, who deprived you of sufficient manpower and resources? It wasn't anyone with a beard full of quinoa. Donald Rumsfeld is clean-shaven.)
... one of the greatest stories never told was our victory in Iraq. On its heels, however, was the greatest of betrayals: a deliberate surrender of the already won victory in Iraq to serve anti-American political objectives. We still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea -- yet we pull out of Iraq while the ground is still wet with the blood of the best and brightest of our young generation.

Afghanistan was won in 2002 and also would have been secured long ago if not for a total lack of national commitment over the entirety of the war’s now nearly 15-year history. Instead, that war has been allowed to persist in an inexcusable state –- ultimately becoming a telling dichotomy as America’s longest war and America’s first war to be forgotten while it was still being fought.

Our country completely and unapologetically failed us, yet we never once quit on our country.
I guess, to Yen, we pulled out of Iraq because quisling liberals were anti-victory (you remember that great victory we'd clearly won in Iraq right before January 20, 2009, right?) -- but he also seems to think that backing was withdrawn for the war in Afghanistan by the same people for the same reason, in 2002. If there's a civilian/military split here, maybe it's that the troops who actually fought the wars have no understanding of the politics surrounding them.

In any case, it's unsettling to realize that people like Yen and streiff believe that they gave us service we didn't deserve. To me, this contempt is reminiscent of the contempt city cops have for the communities where they serve. It's as if the taking up of arms becomes an end in itself, and the purpose -- securing the peace for the civilian population -- becomes secondary, and then not even relevant at all, because the people with the guns don't respect the people they're sworn to serve and don't think those people deserve protection. That's not a healthy state of affairs

YES, JACK SHAFER, THERE IS A FOX EFFECT

I criticized Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan and Poppy Bush staffer, when he argued that Fox News is hurting the Republican Party -- I agree that Fox is making it harder for the GOP to get a presidential candidate elected, but the party's voters are motivated by the right-wing media to turn out in great numbers for non-presidential elections, which is the reason Republicans now dominate Congress and state governments. Fox can take a lot of credit for that.

But now along comes Jack Shafer, at Politico, to argue that Bartlett is mistaken because Fox is merely a profit-seeking enterprise that has no effect on our politics. That's ridiculous as well.

Shafer argues that, because Fox can't win the GOP presidential nomination for its own employees (Palin, Gingich, Santorum, Huckabee), or for Roger Ailes's dream candidates (Chris Christie, David Petraeus), and because the GOP keeps losing presidential elections, the channel can't possibly have any influence whatsoever on any level. I'd like to ask Shafer why he thinks Gingrich and Santorum, two clownish has-beens, punched way above their weight in 2012, and why frequent Fox guest Donald Trump was able to succeed in any polling at all in the 2012 race (and might be doing well enough to get a debate slot this year). Yes, all these guys lost to Mitt Romney -- but the Fox Effect at the presidential level is not in the GOP nominee's identity as much as it's in the rightward drift of the nominee's positions. Why did the architect of Romneycare have to identify himself as a sworn enemy of Obamacare? Why did he advocate "self-deportation"? Why, along with all of his fellow Republican candidates, did he find it necessary to reject even a ten-to-one ratio of budget cuts to tax increases?

Shafer writes,
The Republican Party had been fielding “Foxy” presidential candidates for decades before the network’s 1996 launch, such as Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968 (Ailes, by the way, was his media consultant), which suggests that the network isn’t leading the right-wing parade but has only positioned itself at the front of the procession.... After wounding Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential campaign, Reagan completed the reset of the GOP as an ideologically driven conservative party in 1980, and there it has largely remained.
But why has the party "largely remained" the Party of Reagan for 35 years since his first election? Why, in fact, is it now to the right of Reagan on immigration, tax increases (Reagan didn't reject them absolutely), and negotiating with enemies? For that matter, why couldn't the social-moderate wing exercise any influence over the national party in that time? That wing included quite a few stars: Colin Powell, Christie Whitman, William Weld, Condoleezza Rice, Rudy Giuliani -- and, for that matter, Mitt Romney when he was a governor. Why, in recent decades, have the only options for ambitious social moderates in the GOP been recantation or banishment?

Shafer also writes:
Another Foxy candidate on the 1968 general election ballot was George Wallace, who collected 13.5 percent of the presidential vote as a third-party candidate. Wallace traversed the sort of outrĂ© political frontiers that have become Fox territory. His politics make the Tea Party’s look like a very weak brew.
But Wallace in 1968 wasn't an across-the-board litmus-test wingnut. (Neither, of course, was Nixon, who gave us the opening to China, the EPA, the eighteen-year-old vote, and wage and price controls.) On economic issues, Wallace could sound at times like the New Deal Democrat he was. Here's some copy from a 1968 Wallace for President campaign leaflet:
ACCOMPLISHMENTS

EDUCATION...established a new university, 14 junior colleges, 15 trade schools and raised teachers' salaries....

ROADBUILDING...invested over $549 million in the greatest 4 year roadbuilding performance in Alabama's history -- without any hint of graft corruption or swindles.

WELFARE...record high help to the aged, the handicapped, mentally and physically ill. Old age pensions at highest level in Alabama history....

His Views...

AS EXPRESSED IN HIS OWN PUBLIC STATEMENTS

ON LABOR

Issued executive order incorporating minimum union wage rates in all state contracts. Increased Workmen's and Unemployment Compensation benefits 37%. Promoted and passed legislation that reduced firemen's work week from 72 to 56 hours and substantially increased retirement pensions.
And from the platform of Wallace's American Independent Party:
We pledge to restore the Social Security Trust Fund to a sound financial basis and by responsible fiscal policies to insure the following:

1. An immediate increase in Social Security payments with a goal of a 60% increase in benefits.

2. An increase in the minimum payment to $100, with annual cost of living increases.

3. Restoration of the 100% income tax deduction for drugs and medical expenses paid out by people 65 and over....

Medicare should be improved. It should be strengthened in conjunction with medical care provided at state and local governmental levels and by private insurance. Through sound fiscal management we set as a goal the following improvements in Medicare:

1. Relief to persons unable to pay deductible charges under Medicare.

2. Relief to persons unable to have deducted from their Social Security checks the monthly fee for physician service coverage under Medicare.

3. Providing for uninterrupted nursing home care for those with chronic illness who require such care.

4. We will encourage low-cost insurance programs for the elderly and will assist the states and local communities in building hospitals, nursing homes, clinics as well as medical and nursing schools.

In this land of plenty, no one should be denied adequate medical care because of his financial condition....

The concern of this Party is that the gains which labor struggled so long to obtain not be lost to them either through inaction or subservience to illogical domestic policies of our other national parties.

We propose and pledge:

To guarantee and protect labor in its right of collective bargaining;

To assert leadership at the federal level toward assuring labor its rightful reward for its contribution to the productivity of America;

To propose and support programs designed to improve living and employment conditions of our working men and women....

To support programs and legislation designed to afford an equitable minimum wage, desirable working hours and conditions of employment, and protection in the event of adversity or unemployment....
And regarding the Vietnam War, Wallace sounds a lot more moderate in the following ad than Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham sound now:



I'm cherry-picking the aspects of Wallace's rhetoric that weren't crazy -- but the point is that he would have been deemed too much of an economic moderate (or liberal!) for the contemporary conservative movement. The same is true for Nixon.

You can argue about the degree to which the right-wing media is to blame for the across-the-board extremism of current Republicans, but the extremism wasn't across the board even in the days of Nixon, Wallace, and Reagan, and it's not a law of nature now. It could be reversed. But Fox is at least one major impediment to that.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

DO THE GISH GALLOP WITH GREG GUTFELD AND THE FIVE

At NewsHounds and Crooks & Liars, Ellen Brodsky finds Fox's Greg Gutfeld using the arrest of Daron Wint in a high-profile D.C. murder case as an excuse to launch an attack on multiple enemies of the right. Here's her transcript (emphasis hers):
The quadruple murder suspect has been caught. Quickly. But by whom? Al Sharpton? Michael Moore? Bill de Blasio? No, the cops. Yep, another innocent victim of an unjust society backed by evil law enforcement. I’m sorry, I’m just helping craft the story for the left, BBC and those well-paid Ferguson protesters. After all, we know he’s as innocent as the driven snow. I’m sorry, snow is white and that’s a racist microaggression.

... So how did the cops find this creep? Phone records! Now, did we violate his rights there? And did we violate everyone’s rights by violating his? After all, that’s how we applied the logic to surveilling terrorists. Heck, if we treated this thug like a terrorist, he’d still be out ordering Domino’s.

Look, I get it, this was a specific search, not a mass data grab but why shame a program that provides fruitful benefits like catching killers before they can kill again? Besides, quickly gathered phone records are the least of our worries. Consider the Ferguson protesters that were hired -- yes, hired -- by the ACORN successor group to protest. They staged a sit-in after they stopped getting paid, allegedly. The group, known aptly as MORE, forked out five grand a month to protesters to demonstrate there. So what does it tell you when agitators pay protesters to stir up trouble? That while black lives matter, so does cold, hard cash.
You read this and think, "Jesus, where to start?" And that's the point. This is a classic Gish Gallop. RationalWiki explains that term:
The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that their opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time. More often than not, these myriad arguments are full of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments -- the only condition is that there be many of them, not that they be particularly compelling on their own. They may be escape hatches or "gotcha" arguments that are specifically designed to be brief, but take a long time to unravel....

The term was coined by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, named after creationist Duane Gish.... Sam Harris describes the technique as "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes."
Is it even worth trying to put out any of these fires? I'll try. Here's Gutfeld:
So how did the cops find this creep? Phone records! Now, did we violate his rights there? And did we violate everyone’s rights by violating his? After all, that’s how we applied the logic to surveilling terrorists. Heck, if we treated this thug like a terrorist, he’d still be out ordering Domino’s.
Even Gutfeld admits that there's a difference between obtaining a warrant to conduct surveillance on a specific individual and just hoovering up metadata on every phone call made in America. But the analogy to NSA surveillance is even less apt than Gutfeld acknowledges. Here's how the cops actually obtained the phone data in this case:
A law enforcement official told NBC 4 New York's Jonathan Dienst that they tracked Wint to Brooklyn in part through his phone, which his girlfriend had when they interviewed her Thursday.

Wint's girlfriend, a Brooklyn resident, talked to NYPD officers at the 69th Precinct in Brooklyn for hours after being picked up at her apartment Thursday. She told police Wint was going back to D.C., possibly to surrender. She is not under arrest, NBC 4 New York reports.
So the cops got the information from a phone that was surrendered to them. (Yes, it was probably surrendered to them in return for the cops not charging the girlfriend with harboring a fugitive from justice -- but does anyone see that as a problem?)

Ellen goes on to note that "the rest of the Five crew go along with" Gutfeld's line of argument. Here's the clip:



Wint, we're told, was arrested at a traffic stop. At 2:16, watch Kimberly Guilfoyle (a former assistant district ttorney) conflate the arrest of Wint and stop-and-frisk:
Traffic stops, stop-and-frisk -- all these things are very important for getting dangerous criminals, and, in this case, what allegedly looks like to be someone who committed, you know, multiple heinous homicides.
Stop-and-frisk is generally directed against "suspects" on the scantiest of pretexts. Here's what actully happened in this case:
Wint was tracked to the Howard Johnson Express Inn in College Park, Maryland, on Thursday, and when officers approached, they discovered Wint in a Chevrolet Cruze in the parking lot, Fernandez said. They tailed the car, which was following a box truck, to northeast Washington, where Wint and several others were taken into custody during a traffic stop, he said.
So this was in no way comparable to the random detainment of young black males on the street for no reason.

I can debunk these arguments. I can ask what possible relevance the payment of Ferguson protesters has to this story (and also ask whether massive funding of the Tea Party movement by deep-pocketed conservatives ever upset any Fox commentators). I can point out that Guilfoyle (at 3:56) praises Maryland for obtaining and keeping DNA samples from those arrested for violent crimes, a practice that helped the police ID the suspect -- and then note that, a few weeks ago, the right was calling Maryland a cesspool because it's been controlled by Democrats for decades. I an ask whether the authorities would have done the first-rate job they did in this case if the victims weren't rich white people.

But what's the point? There's just too much here to debunk. You can't out-gallop seasoned Gish Gallopers like these folks.

Debunk ten of today's specious arguments and there'll still be some left over -- and tomorrow there'll be a dozen more, and more the next day, and so on into infinity. Ultimately, the rhetoric of Fox and the rest of the right-wing media is one long, rolling Gish Gallop. That's why it's so dangerous, and so effective.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

THE BUSHIES: OUT OF OFFICE SIX YEARS AND STILL WORKING THE REFS

Dana Perino has a memoir out that's currently at #2 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list -- but the success of the book and the fact that her ex-boss has been out of office for more than six years aren't stopping her from working the refs to get him better media coverage, as NewsBusters reports:
Former White House press secretary and Fox News host Dana Perino appeared on The Kelly File on Friday night to lament that she shared a touching story about President Bush visiting wounded soldiers in Washington with National Public Radio, but they edited out a family who was overjoyed to see the president, choosing to focus just on an angry mother who was mad at Bush.
Here's the story NPR cut, as Perino reconted it to Kelly:
Perino said that Bush visited a wounded Marine who had not opened his eyes since his Humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq.
PERINO: His mother and dad were there, his wife, his daughter and son were there, and the President is there. The family was overjoyed to see them. And that was interesting to me. I hadn't seen that before. It was my first visit with him to see wounded warriors. And as he asked the military aide to read the Purple Heart [commendation], we all stood attention and at the end of it, the little boy grabbed the President's jacket and he said, "what's the Purple Heart?"

And the President got down on his knee and said, "well, the Purple Heart is for your dad because he is brave and courageous and he loves you and he loves you and he loves his the country and I hope you always remember that."
Yes, NPR cut that story. However -- as NewsBusters notes -- the NPR interview included Perino's assertion that most wounded veterans and their families were happy to see Bush:
PERINO: Most every family was just delighted that the president was there and so honored that the commander in chief would stop by. And I wasn't sure what it would be like. And on my first trip there, I witnessed that for about the first 25 people he visited.
And Perino used the other story, about a mother who chastised the president, as an example of Bush's empathy and compassion:
And then she yelled, you know, why are your children OK, but my son is here?

And the president stopped trying to comfort her because she was inconsolable. But he didn't leave. He stood there almost as if he needed to absorb it and to understand it. Commanders in chief make really tough decisions. And we went on to the next rooms, and I remember those being experiences where the families were very happy to see him.

But when we got on Marine One to fly back to the White House, the president was looking out the window. And then he looked at me. And he said, that mama sure was mad at me. And then he looked out the window and he said, and I don't blame her a bit. And a tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn't wipe it away. And then we flew back to the White House.
In fact, when Perino's book was first published, an excerpt appeared at the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal site -- and while it included both anecdotes, the headline of the piece was "Why George W. Bush Let a Soldier’s Mom Yell at Him." The story then went on to be the focus of items at other conservative sites: IJReview ("George W. Bush Once Let a Marine’s Mom Yell at Him. The Reason Why is Heartbreaking and Revealing."), Conservative Tribune ("Dying Soldier’s Mom Yells at George W. Bush ... He Responds with 7 Surprising Words"), and youngcons.com ("Soldier’s Mother Yells at President Bush, His Response is What You Would Expect").

So when right-wing sites focused on this anecdote, Perino was fine with that. But when NPR focuses on it, that's liberal media bias!

But I suppose it was unfair of NPR's interviewer, David Greene, to be interested in more than what an empathetic fellow Bush could be:
GREENE: I mean, I'm interested in moments like that because, I mean, the president was leading a war in Iraq that was, you know, incredibly controversial in this country.

PERINO: Yes.

GREENE: Is that one reason he felt like he had to absorb something like that from...

PERINO: Well, I think any commander in chief that asks his men and women in uniform to go on a mission and then that individual is harmed because of a decision that you have made - yes, of course.
Instead, he should have just said, "What a truly compassionate president we had before Barack Obama came along and sullied the Oval Office!" Right?

But not to worry. Yesterday, FoxNews.com posted the same excerpt from Perino's book that was previously published by the Daily Signal -- but this time, no chances were taken with the headline. Fox's headline focuses on the anecdote NPR didn't include:
The day President Bush's tears spilled onto a Marine's face at Walter Reed
Here's the anecdote in full -- and let me warn you that it's even more offensively manipulative than it was in the telling on Megyn Kelly's show.
We started in the intensive care unit. The chief of naval operations (CNO) briefed the president on our way into the hospital about the first patient we’d see. He was a young Marine who had been injured when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. After his rescue, he was flown to Landstuhl U.S. Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. At his bedside were his parents, wife, and five-year-old son.

“What’s his prognosis?” the president asked.

“Well, we don’t know sir, because he’s not opened his eyes since he arrived, so we haven’t been able to communicate with him. But no matter what, Mr. President, he has a long road ahead of him,” said the CNO.

We had to wear masks because of the risk of infection to the patient. I watched carefully to see how the family would react to President Bush, and I was worried that they might be mad at him and blame him for their loved one’s situation. But I was wrong.

The family was so excited the president had come. They gave him big hugs and thanked him over and over. Then they wanted to get a photo. So he gathered them all in front of Eric Draper, the White House photographer.

President Bush asked, “Is everybody smiling?” But they all had ICU masks on. A light chuckle ran through the room as everyone got the joke.

The Marine was intubated. The president talked quietly with the family at the foot of the patient’s bed. I looked up at the ceiling so that I could hold back tears.

After he visited with them for a bit, the president turned to the military aide and said, “Okay, let’s do the presentation.” The wounded warrior was being awarded the Purple Heart, given to troops that suffer wounds in combat.

Everyone stood silently while the military aide in a low and steady voice presented the award. At the end of it, the Marine’s young child tugged on the president’s jacket and asked, “What’s a Purple Heart?”

The president got down on one knee and pulled the little boy closer to him. He said, “It’s an award for your dad, because he is very brave and courageous, and because he loves his country so much. And I hope you know how much he loves you and your mom, too.”

As they hugged, there was a commotion from the medical staff as they moved toward the bed.

The Marine had just opened his eyes. I could see him from where I stood.

The CNO held the medical team back and said, “Hold on, guys. I think he wants the president.”

The president jumped up and rushed over to the side of the bed. He cupped the Marine’s face in his hands. They locked eyes, and after a couple of moments the president, without breaking eye contact, said to the military aide, “Read it again.”

So we stood silently as the military aide presented the Marine with the award for a second time. The president had tears dripping from his eyes onto the Marine’s face. As the presentation ended, the president rested his forehead on the wounded warrior's for a moment.

Now everyone was crying, and for so many reasons: the sacrifice; the pain and suffering; the love of country; the belief in the mission; and the witnessing of a relationship between a soldier and his Commander in Chief that the rest of us could never fully grasp. (In writing this book, I contacted several military aides who helped me track down the name of the Marine. I hoped for news that he had survived. He did not. He died during surgery six days after the president’s visit. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery and is survived by his wife and their three children.
If, knowing how horribly Bush mismanaged two wars, you can read that story about "tears dripping from [Bush's] eyes" onto the face of a dying Marine without revulsion, you're made of stronger stuff than I am.

$30 HOT DOG GUY IS A RIGHT-WING HERO

Ahmed Mohammed became momentarily famous this week:
Meet Ahmed Mohammed. He might be the most expensive hot dog vendor in New York, especially if he thinks you're a tourist.

NBC 4 New York cameras recently captured him trying to charge a man named David $15 for a hot dog and a pretzel near the World Trade Center.

"I said, 'What are you, a crook?'" David later told NBC 4 New York. "I'm not a tourist, so I know the price in New York."

Customer after customer recounted how the vendor tried to charge them $20 to $30 for a hot dog.

"I just felt like I was getting ripped off, and it's just making the 9/11 grounds like a big tourist trap," one woman said.
The story went national, and much of America regarded Mohammed as a crook. Not Kyle Smith of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. To him, Mohammed was a hero:
Hot-dog guy Ahmed Mohammed -- let’s be accurate and call him Hot Dog Hero -- was simply exercising his right to sell stuff in the marketplace for whatever he can get for it. Why begrudge him a large markup if he took advantage of the fact that some people are stupid? Taking advantage of stupidity is an important driver of the economic engine....

All of these stupid people are exactly what Hot Dog Hero’s “victims” were — willing customers. There was no coercion. No one was being lied to.
Well, in fact:
Several customers also accused him of short-changing them after overcharging them. One woman pointed out that he had only given her $5 in change when he was supposed to hand her $8; another woman said he didn't even give her change at all.

One woman named Ruth said, "He gave me $5 back, and I thought, '$15 for a pretzel and a water?'"

When a self-identified NBC 4 New York reporter asked the price of a hot dog, Mohammed said $3. When asked why the price changes, he claimed not to speak English -- even though cameras had captured him speaking English earlier, asking customers: "Yes, guys. Yes, sir, you need anything to eat or drink? Have a good day, guys."
To the Post's Smith, all the onus for dealing with this is on the customer:
Anyone who didn’t like Hot Dog Hero’s price could have said, “Get the frank out of here” and handed over $3 -- or handed back the wiener and walked away.
But that's what sometimes happened, and it didn't stop him:
Ben from New Jersey left his bitten hot dog behind when he was told the price.

"He was like, 'Fifteen, maybe 10,'" he said. "And I left my bitten hot dog there. That was it."
NewsBusters also cheered when a NBC host came to Mohammed's defense (emphasis in original):
On Wednesday’s NBC Today, co-host Tamron Hall stumbled upon conservative economic philosophy as she defended a hot dog vendor’s right to charge customers whatever he wanted, even if it was overpriced: “But why can’t he set his own prices? I mean, if a restaurant sells their hot dog, steak, or whatever for the price they want, why is his price regulated?”
You know who doesn't like this? An organization focused on aiding businesses in downtown Manhattan:
Jessica Lappin of the Alliance for Downtown New York said "it gives New York a bad name."

"To rip-off somebody, to charge them $35 for a hot dog and a pretzel, that leaves a terrible impression," she said.
Yup -- it sends the tourist back home with a bad impression of the city. Maybe the tourist will never come back. Maybe the tourist will encourage friends not to visit. That's bad for business.

Mohammed has now been fired -- and not just for his prices:
Ahmed Mohammed... was also fleecing owners of the food cart....

“I fired him over it yesterday after I watched the news,” said [Abdelalim] Abdelbaky, whose father owns the food cart and vending license.

“He told me he charged the people $2 a hot dog. He lied to me.”

Abdelbaky said the vendor pocketed the extra dough -- and left his family with hundreds of dollars in fines to pay off....

He was ticketed for being too close to a crosswalk, having items outside of his cart and failure to list prices -- which is how he got away with the outrageously high prices in the first place, police sources said.

The fines could total up to $1,500 -- a bill the owners of the cart must foot, Abdelbaky said.
Mohammed cheated a business owner. This vending business -- Abdelbaky built that! Still not upset, righties? Or is anything fair in capitalism if you can get away with it?

Friday, May 22, 2015

THE DEFENSE OF JOSH DUGGAR REMINDS ME OF CATHOLICISM'S REACTION TO PEDOPHILE PRIESTS

Mike Huckabee's defense of Josh Duggar has a familiar ring to me:
Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' ... Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.... he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life.... It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness.
If you believe that the desire to commit any sin at all can be prayed away, then you don't treat pedophiles as people who are always a danger. You tell yourself that they can purge their inappropriate desires if they seek God's help, and you leave it at that. That's why so many Catholic priests just got ineffectual counseling, or merely a stern talking-to. That's all the backers of Josh Duggar think he needed to transcend this.

Another aspect of social conservatives' worldview is that they utterly reject the notion that it's hypocritical for Duggar and his family to have engaged in anti-gay moralizing. To social conservatives, gay sex is sinful, and people who continue to engage in gay sex are sinning on an ongoing basis and not repent and asking forgiveness. To them Josh Duggar sinned and asked forgiveness. So, to social cons, Josh Duggar is unquestionably a better, less sinful person.

****

And now for the next phase of this story. It will include a lot of pundit pronouncements that include the words "liberal hypocrisy" and "Lewinsky." That's already starting in right-wing comments sections:



I will note, however, that even some conservatives aren't buying that line of argument. Here are the responses to that comment (from a thread at Glenn Beck's Blaze):



So if you're wondering whether Huckabee's rush to back Duggar will actually help him in the presidential race, my response would be: with some people it will help, but with others, including people who might have been backers, it will seriously tarnish him.

WASHINGTON POST GOSSIP COLUMN KEPT NUDGING JOSH DUGGAR TO RUN FOR OFFICE

I haven't got much to add to what's already been said about Josh Duggar, the 19 Kids and Counting star who became an anti-gay, anti-abortion lobbyist for the Family Research Council (as well as a friend to many right-wing politicians), and who's now been revealed to have fondled several young girls when he was in his teens. I will note, however, that the Reliable Sources column at The Washington Post has giddily hinted on more than one occasion that Duggar had a bright future in electoral politics -- an idea Duggar didn't reject outright.

Here's Reliable Sources on October 8, 2013:
The new, young political operative in town hasn’t decided whether he’ll ever run for office. It’s a tough job, Josh Duggar knows.

“I admire these people who are willing to put themselves out there,” he told us, “and live in a glass box and be subjected to the media and all those pressures.”

Aw, Josh, you can deal with that! ...

Tasked with grassroots outreach for FRC, Duggar emphasizes that politics is nothing new -- his dad served in the state legislature; he attended Mike Huckabee prayer breakfasts as a kid; and he campaigned for Rick Santorum. As a used-car dealer, “I learned how you make a payroll and treat people right,” he said. “We could use quite a bit of that in politics.”
An here's a Reliable Sources follow-up on December 4, 2014:
As for running for office himself, Duggar said he’s happy to stick to playing a supporting role. “Politics is quite a game -- it puts things in perspective... I’m not planning to run anytime soon,” he said. “My focus is supporting those people who are doing the right thing.”
Hmmm -- he wasn't planning to run "anytime soon"? I can't tell if he was letting the Post interviewer down easy or acknowledging that this was a possible long-term plan for him. But it seems as if it could have happened, to the delight of at least one corner of The Washington Post.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

THE EXPLOSION OF ANTI-CLINTON ART THAT ISN'T ACTUALLY HAPPENING

The Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway tweeted this this morning:



Twitchy picked up on it, and the righties had a hearty chuckle. Then, by early afternoon, the Washington Free Beacon was claiming that these posters were being spotted all around ABC headquarters on the West Side of Manhattan. Glenn Beck's Blaze picked up the story a couple of hours later.

Here are some of the additional photos the Free Beacon posted:





Um, I'm not clear how that first one is managing to float in air. Is it attached to anything? The second one looks a bit hinky too. Are they real or are they Photoshop?

Here's the thing: I walk by this area twice a day on my way to and from work. I didn't see these in the morning. Now, maybe I missed them -- I hadn't seen any of the right-wing items I've linked, so I wasn't really looking for anti-Clinton propaganda.

But on the way home, I did look -- and I didn't see anything. I tried to photograph the area, but the light was fading and my phone's battery was dying and I took the pictures without looking at them, so they're absurdly blurry. Still: nothing. No Hillary and George anywhere.







Every so often, there's something like this on right-wing sites and social media -- someone does a poster like this denouncing Hillary or the president or some other Democrat, claims the posters are all over New York or L.A., and Wingnuttia expresses delight. (Example here.) But if the current posters ever actually were on display, I'm pretty sure they were on display just long enough to be photographed. (C'mon, folks -- wheat-paste your work if you're so proud of it.)

Righties, for some reason, are envious of Robbie Conal, who's been posting political art for years. The righty art even looks like Conal's, though Conal's work is much more visually powerful:





Here's the thing, though: this doesn't accomplish much. Conal's work in the Reagan years won him a lot of fans -- but it didn't really slow Reagan down. What the righties are doing now is just as unlikely to change the course of history. Or I should say it's even less likely, because they don't even seem to have the cojones to put their work up and leave it up.

BENGHAZI TIMELINE OBSESSION: NO, REALLY, CONSERVATIVES, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

There's more in The New York Times today about Hillary Clinton's emails, specifically about communications she had with Sidney Blumenthal around the time of the Benghazi attack.

Now, there are a couple of reasons this might be of interest to the public. I think it's valid to ask whether it was wise for Mrs. Clinton to put so much stock in emails from Blumenthal, a Libya neophyte, and to pass them on to State Department personnel as serious intel.

But that doesn't seem to be what fascinates right-wingers about today's stories. What concerns conservatives? As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey explains, what concerns them is exactly what they've been obsessed with for years, to the utter exasperation of the rest of America:
... the e-mails ... show why the Benghazi Select Committee went to the trouble of subpoenaing Sidney Blumenthal. On the day after the attack, Blumenthal chalked it up to the same cause that the White House pushed for at least two weeks, a demonstration over a YouTube video that spiraled out of control. The very next day, however, Blumenthal had changed his tune, emphasis mine:
The next day [September 13], Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a more thorough account of what had occurred. Citing “sensitive sources” in Libya, the memo provided extensive detail about the episode, saying that the siege had been set off by members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan terrorist group. Those militants had ties to Al Qaeda, had planned the attacks for a month and had used a nearby protest as cover for the siege, the memo said. “We should get this around asap” Mrs. Clinton said in an email to Mr. Sullivan. “Will do,” he responded....
This email shows that Hillary Clinton was made aware by her close friend that the YouTube/spontaneous demonstration narrative was nonsense two days after the attack. She even forwarded that knowledge to other administration officials, underscoring its importance. Yet four days later, Susan Rice repeated the nonsensical talking points on five Sunday talk shows, and Hillary herself told families of the victims the same false narrative later....

Now, one could say that Hillary didn’t consider Blumenthal a reliable source. If so, though, why tell Sullivan to “get this around asap”? Why continue to tell the “spontaneous demonstration” story even while the DIA had circulated a memo on September 16th that corroborated what Blumenthal had told her personally?
The charitable explanation is that the administration went with one story while exercise an overabundance of caution before switching to the other story. The less charitable explanation, obviously, is that the administration was shielding the president from possible political fallout during campaign season.

But, ultimately -- to use a phrase with which the right is obsessed -- what difference does it make? The administration abandoned the video story within a couple of weeks, and did so well before Election Day. If there was a coverup, it broke down almost immediately. And if there was a coverup, who is dead now who'd be alive in the absence of that coverup? What perpetrator of the attack is at large who wouldn't be at large?

What's the remedy conservatives seek? As far as I can tell, the only appropriate remedy for them would be a rerun of the 2012 election, which they regard as stolen. But it's absurd that they consider it stolen. Democrats as well as Republicans may have believed that Benghazi was radioactive for Obama in 2012, but Americans are used to reelecting presidents despite foreign policy failures -- George W. Bush won in 2004 despite Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, and a general atmosphere of failure in Iraq. Ronald Reagan won in a landslide in 1984 despite three fatal embassy attacks in Lebanon from 1983 to the fall of 1984.

Of course, they'll take a win in the 2016 election as a substitute for 2012.

But the remedy they seek isn't one that has anything to do with the attack, or with pursuing those responsible for it. It's all about domestic politics. Maybe the American public would respond favorably to right-wingers' Benghazi crusade if we had any sense that they care about the actual attack, rather than the culpability of Clinton and Obama. Right-wingers cry great rivers of crocodile tears for the Benghazi dead, but they don't give a damn about the four victims, except as bloody shirts to wave.

CONSERVATIVE HERO BEN CARSON DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO INVADE AFGHANISTAN

The Hill reports this today:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told The Hill on Wednesday that it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq, arguing that the nation should have found a different way to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

“I’ve said definitively that I was never in favor of going into Iraq,” Carson told The Hill in a phone interview, noting that he has previously addressed the matter in some of his books....
Though don't get the idea that he's a pacifist:
“I would have gotten rid of the problem of Saddam Hussein some other way,” he continued. “When you go into a situation with so many factions and such a complex history, unless you know what you’re doing or have a long-term strategy, it just creates more problems.”

When pressed on how the U.S. should have toppled Hussein without sending troops into the country, Carson said that “there are a lot of ways to get rid of people.”
Y'know, we have ... ways.

I don't know what he thinks we could have done. But it's true -- he's been saying this sort of thing for a while. In fact, as the Daily Caller noted in 2013, he was against invading Afghanistan after 9/11. He had a simple alternative to that war as well:
“I actually wrote President Bush a letter before the war started and I said, you know, what I would do is I would use the bully pulpit at this moment of great national unity and, very much in a Kennedy-esque type fashion, say within 10 years we’re going to become petroleum independent,” Carson told TheDC.

“And that would’ve been much more effective than going to war because, first of all, the moderate Arab states would’ve been terrified. And they would’ve handed over Osama Bin Laden and anybody else we wanted on a silver platter to keep us from doing that.”
Simple!

And yes, all this was spelled out in his 2012 book, America the Beautiful:
After the 9/11 crisis almost everyone united behind President George W. Bush for a reason. Whether America's ensuing steps into war in Afghanistan and Iraq will be seen as positive remains to be seen, but I can't help thinking there may have been a better way to react that would not have cost us so many lives and financial capital. I believe that if the president had seized the moment and declared that we would become petroleum independent within the next 10 years as part of our efforts to strip terrorism of its resources, that business, industry, academia, and everyone else would have been foursquare behind him, and we would have been much further ahead in the fight against terrorism than we are today.

Oil prices would have fallen dramatically in an attempt to soften our resolve, but good leadership would hopefully have recognized and compensated for such a ploy. The point, of course, is that in some cases, clever tactics can be employed outside of military action to respond to hostile actions
I don't know how this is going to go over when Carson is participating in the presidential debates. (And yes, right now it looks as if he's going to make the cut.) But it's going to be entertaining. I hope someone asks him about Vietnam, and he tries to tell a rock-ribbed Republican audience what he told us in America the Beautiful:
In the case of Vietnam, we were trying to stop the spread of communism, which seems like a noble cause to those who hate communism. However, many people love communism, and certainly everyone should have the right to live under the system of their choosing.
Yeah, that should go over well in front of an audience of Iowa Republicans.

Conservatives who made Carson a hero bought huge quantities of his books. Did they ever actually read them?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WHAT YOUR RIGHT-WING UNCLE BELIEVES ABOUT BIN LADEN'S BOOKSHELF, AND A MORE LIKELY THEORY

We should have known that Rush Limbaugh would say something like this about the newly revealed Osama bin Laden reading list:
RUSH: Well, look at this. So they declassified the documents found in bin Laden's compound when we went in there and killed him....

The National Intelligence Director has declassified some of these documents, and there are books by well known leftists, like Noam Chomsky. Bin Laden was reading books with titles like Wage Inequality in France. He was a leftist. Is it any shock that Osama Bin Laden was a leftist? In fact, as I understand this, there is even an outtake on video of bin Laden either giving or rehearsing a speech on class warfare and the despotism of big money. He goes on for about 40 seconds and starts stumbling and losing his place, and he gives up. But the guy was a redistributionist. He was a typical leftist.
This will probably become conventional wisdom on the right. Philip Bump of The Washington Post has a different assessment:
Bin Laden's library was the equivalent of an Internet conspiracy theorist's browser history. There was a print out of a weird article about a card game that was said to have predicted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He had an e-book about voter fraud conspiracies from BlackBoxVoting.org. He had books documenting the fringes of American politics. He had a 1928 book called "The Secret Teaching of All Ages" that details various aspects of forgotten religions and the occult; he had a book unveiling "The Secrets of the Federal Reserve."
Regarding that last one: Oliver Willis noted in 2010 that it was on Glenn Beck's bookshelf:
Beck promoted the work of an anti-Semitic 9-11 truther

...On the September 22 [2010] edition of his Fox News program, Beck attacked early 20th century diplomat Edward House for saying of the Federal Reserve, "I am suggesting that the Central Board be increased from four members to five and their terms lengthened from eight to ten years. This would give stability and would take away the power of a President to change the personnel of the board during a single term of office." While Beck spoke, on-screen text indicated that the House comment was "Quoted In 'Secrets of the Federal Reserve,'" which was authored by Eustace Mullins....

In their profile, the ADL said Mullins was "an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist for over half a century." They further wrote: "Throughout his life, Mullins produced numerous books, essays and articles and delivered scores of speeches and lectures with a common bigoted theme: that Jews are allegedly responsible for many of the problems and evils that have confronted the modern world." ...

Mullins is the author of "Adolph Hitler: An Appreciation." ...

Mullins reportedly spoke at [a] 9-11 conspiracy conference, blamed [the] attacks on the Israeli Mossad....
Another book on the list is Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael Ruppert. Here's a description:
... its core premise is fairly straightforward: the amount of oil available for human consumption peaked in the mid-’60s and has been quickly declining ever since (a concept known as "peak oil"). In order to reach the world’s precious remaining reserves, the US government was willing to perpetrate unthinkable acts.

According to Ruppert, then-Vice President Dick Cheney ignored warnings that hijacked planes might be used for terrorism in the US’ northeast corridor in the months leading up to September 11th. In May of that year, Cheney sent fighter planes from military bases in the northeastern US to Alaska. Ruppert concluded that the move was a calculated effort to leave the northeastern US vulnerable. Then, "the US government had deliberately leaked the information to the al-Qaeda ‘hijackers’ so that the attacks could be carried out effectively," Ruppert wrote. The ultimate goal: to start a war and secure unfettered access to Middle East oil.
So bin Laden was reading conspiracy material about his own organization. He also read a 2005 L.A. Times opinion piece that suggested that Al Qaeda didn't really exist. You get the feeling that he really would have been eager to read Seymour Hersh's theories about his own assassination. I'd say it was an effort to assess Americans' beliefs about his group, but he also read general-interest craziness like Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier. Was he a conspiracy nut, or did he think most Americans are?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: YES, HE COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER

Josh Marshall thinks Chris Christie's presidential dreams were unrealistic from the start, long before Bridgegate or the Sandy moment with President Obama:
Christie comes from a pretty blue state. He is characterologically very much a product of the tri-state area, where a very brash and aggressive personal style is de rigueur, especially for Republican politicians. By national standards he is only just on the cusp of RINO status. To many, indeed, he's the ultimate RINO.

It's true that one could say some of these things about Mitt Romney, though that isn't exactly a major selling point after the 2012 election. But Christie is quite simply a creature of New Jersey and tri-state politics who both by his manner and his policies would be a tough sell - certainly a tough primary campaign sell - in the red states where presidential candidates are chosen.
But why? As Marshall says, Romney was nominated by the mostly non-coastal, Southern-based GOP -- and while Christie doesn't have Romney-style money in his own bank account, he sure is chummy with a lot of people who do. So with a few strategic position adjustments -- like the ones I see Scott Walker and Marco Rubio making now on immigration -- why couldn't he have de-RINO'd himself enough to contend? I still say that if not for the Sandy moment and the humiliation of Bridgegate -- yes, I know those are big ifs -- Christie could have been a first-tier presidential candidate.

Marshall thinks it's a culture clash that never could have worked out in Christie's favor. He blames the media:
But the real issue here, I think, is the extremely distorting lens of the New York media world and the very particular breed of people who make up tri-state Republicanism, particularly how the two interweave with each other. Media-prominent, big time New York and New Jersey Republicans tend to be very well-off and very conservative. But they are usually not terribly focused on the evangelicalism-tinged social issues that drive Republican party identification in its heartlands....

Remember, Fox is based out of New York City. Limbaugh originally broadcast out of New York City when he first went national and the show's staff is still based there. The New York Post, which is a major driver of national media coverage, is in New York City. The National Review is based in New York City. And let's not forget that a huge, huge amount of the money that drives Republican politics (similar but not quite the same with Dems) comes out of New York City.

It's just not where the voters come from.
But then why do all those heartlanders watch Fox? Why isn't there a culture clash between Fox and its viewers? Why do they love Long Island's Bill O'Reilly and Long Island's Sean Hannity and New York-born, Connecticut-bred Ann Coulter? Yes, they're extremely fond of Fox's blondes, but why aren't they completely turned off by mouthy, dark-haired Jeannie Pirro of Westchester County? If these personalities go over big in Red America, why not Christie?

And sorry, but Marshall's Rudy Giuliani comparison doesn't stand up to scrutiny:
What [New York-area] Republicans prize is law and order politics and politicians who can stand up to and knock around the entrenched Democrats and liberal political norms they see all around them. When I say law and order, I mean not just tough policing and long jail terms but the general no nonsense, not putting up with pussy-footing and complaining and indulgent labor contracts and all the rest. That applies to law and order and cracking down on the thugs, teachers unions and Islamofascist bad guys abroad - all of whom they tend to see in a somewhat similar light. They are much more anti-liberal - in the sense of big city urban liberal politics writ large - than conservative, per se. And this all explains why Rudy Giuliani - dubbed "America's Mayor" by a handful of media yakkers and Republican backers in New York City - was the ultimate avatar of this particular tri-state, not-gonna-take-any-more-BS breed of Republicanism.

And how did he do when he ran for President? Of course, he comically crashed and burned and barely made it to the first primary. Not that he wasn't popular in a way with national Republicans - but as a general symbol of butt-kicking and a conservative - of a sort - who could clean up New York City. He was very popular. And so was Christie as the guy who ended up in viral videos yelling at whiny teachers or other liberal complainers. That behavior applies to something deep in the base conservative Id. But it's not enough to actually garner sustained electoral support, which inevitably comes back to policies. With Rudy, when it came to actually making the grade as a conservative in a GOP primary, he couldn't even get off the ground.
But Rudy was pro-choice on abortion -- an absolutely inviolate litmus test in the GOP, then and now. Rudy was pro-gay rights (and had lived with two gay men for a time, not to mention his onstage cross-dressing). Christie has never supported abortion rights, and doesn't support gay marriage. The religious right mounted a concerted effort to ensure that Giuliani did not become the nominee. There's no evidence that the same would have happened to Christie if he'd been a serious contender.

Christie isn't pure enough on some issues, but he could have been forgiven if he'd tweaked those positions, avoided the Sandy and Bridgegate errors, and \ continued bashing the Fox audience's enemies in the past year or so (a year he spent collecting chits as head of the Republican Governors Association). He's a rude, secular East Coast jerk, but so is much of the Fox prime-time lineup. Yes, he could have been a contender in the modern GOP.

FORGET JEB -- HERE'S HOW THE IRAQ WAR DEBATE IS BEING PUSHED RIGHTWARD, BY THE "LIBERAL MEDIA"

I suppose I'm somewhat pleased that, thanks to Jeb Bush, Republican presidential candidates are finding it necessary to repudiate the Iraq War, at least up to a point -- they still generally think overthrowing Saddam was a swell idea, and they're still insisting that we went to war because of an intelligence failure, rather than a deceitful White House propaganda campaign.

But while we've been experiencing schadenfreude watching Jeb, Marco Rubio, and other Republicans squirm, we're running the risk of turning the Iraq War into our Benghazi -- a past foreign policy blunder we're sure will decide future elections if we just keep talking about it. It's not going to work that way. Benghazi is not going to win the 2016 election for the Republicans and the Iraq War is not going to win the 2016 election for the Democrats.

And besides, while we're enjoying the GOP candidates' momentary discomfort, a different narrative is emerging on the Iraq War -- courtesy of the "liberal nedia."



Yes, I know: That's from Fox Nation, not the "liberal media." But Fox Nation linked that story from the Daily Beast:



And now here's NBC's Richard Engel with the same narrative:



ENGEL: For the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops who fought in the Iraq War, the loss of Ramadi is painful and personal.... Back in 2004, Brian Iglesias was one of many Marines who made ridding Ramadi of Islamic radicals his life, his mission, risking everything, and losing friends to do it. We were there with him.... Back then, it worked. Ramadi was hard fought, and won. But today the city is in ISIS hands, and Iglesias, now a businessman in New York, is heartbroken....
Look, I'm sorry it worked out this way for everyone who fought there. But I'm not sorry we withdrew -- I'm sorry we sent these troops to a war we never should have asked them to fight. It's a harsh truth, but yes, their sacrifice was for nothing. That's our fault. They did what we asked them to do. We deserve to burn in hell for asking them to do it.

But this is the new narrative: Bush-level war forever, or you hate the troops.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IF DAVID BROOKS WERE A LIBERAL, WOULD HIS JOB BE ON THE LINE NOW?

I know this was the ridiculous part of the latest David Books column, the part Scott Lemieux called "stoned-dorm-room stuff," rather than the truly meretricious part, which rewrote of the history of the Iraq War, but I think Brooks is lucky he can get away with it, because I don't think a liberal would:
If you could go back to 1889 and strangle Adolf Hitler in his crib, would you do it? At one level, the answer is obvious. Of course, you should. If there had been no Hitler, presumably the Nazi Party would have lacked the charismatic leader it needed to rise to power. Presumably, there would have been no World War II, no Holocaust, no millions dead on the Eastern and Western fronts.

But, on the other hand, if there were no World War II, you wouldn’t have had the infusion of women into the work force. You wouldn’t have had the G.I. Bill and the rapid expansion of higher education. You wouldn’t have had the pacification of Europe, Pax-Americana, which led to decades of peace and prosperity, or the end of the British and other empires.

History is an infinitely complex web of causations. To erase mistakes from the past is to obliterate your world now. You can’t go back and know then what you know now. You can’t step in the same river twice.

So it’s really hard to give simple sound-bite answers about past mistakes.
Do you think a liberal on a major newspaper's op-ed page could get away with saying that maybe Hitler's rule had a silver lining? If a liberal columnist wrote this in order to set up the argument that one should be careful before rethinking a major policy blunder by a Democratic president, how long would it be before Drudge or Breitbart or Gateway Pundit or Twitchy had the screaming headline "LIB NY TIMES COLUMNIST SAYS FEMINISM, SOCIALISM JUSTIFY HOLOCAUST"? How long would it be before aging survivors of the camps or World War II combat were appearing on Fox to say that the columnist desecrated the memory of the six million of the men who died on Normandy Beach? (And no, I don't think it would be any help if the columnist, like Brooks, happened to be Jewish, if this argument was made in defense of a Democratic president or a liberal policy.)

I realize that True Conservatives don't consider Brooks one of their own, and I know that Brooks says some negative things about the war in this column (though not nearly enough). But the Hitler bit is meant to defend the war, its architects in the Bush administration, and its onetime cheerleaders, Brooks included. So he's doing the right's bidding. That means this is non-controversial, in a way it wouldn't be coming from a liberal.

****

For an excellent parody of this column, go read Yastreblyanky.

OLD PEOPLE LIKE MARCO RUBIO

Well, old Republicans like Marco Rubio, at least, according to Pew:


Maybe you were thinking Mike Huckabee had the highest rating among elderly Republicans? Nahhh -- he doesn't even do as well among seniors as he does among the middle-aged. Scott Walker does well with the elders, as does Jeb -- but Marco Rubio kills it with older Republicans. Meanwhile, he has terrible numbers among younger voters, even though he's the youngest candidate in the race.

Why? Is he the son (or grandson!) every Republican would like to have? The boyish, smooth-cheeked, commie-averse offspring older Republicans wish were their own? And are young Republicans lukewarm toward him because he seems like the kid in sixth grade who wore a suit to school every day?

I've noted this before, but years ago Michael Kinsley described Al Gore as "an old person's idea of a young person." For Republicans now, as I've said before, that's true of Marco Rubio.

So will we have a race in 2016 in which Hillary Clinton wins the youth vote and Marco Rubio wins the elderly? We'll see.

Bonus observation: In which group of Republicans does Rand Paul do best? Please note: It's the middle-aged, not the young. Discuss.

RICH GUY WITH SOFT JOB MOCKS RICHER GUY WITH SOFT JOB

So I guess we're all supposed to be shocked to learn that people on high-profit network TV make money:
ABC has plenty of reasons to be freaking out over the George Stephanopoulos scandal -- 105 million, to be exact.

The “Good Morning America” and “This Week” anchor renewed his contract last year for $105 million, TV industry sources told The Post Monday.

The seven-year deal ... was supposed to keep Stephanopoulos in front of ABC’s cameras through 2021.
That's from Page Six at the New York Post. Stephanopoulos's earnings apparently shocked Joe Scarborough:
After holding up the Post’s Tuesday cover, Scarborough and the panel couldn’t help but express their surprise and amazement at the figure.

“By the way, a lot of people are wondering why ABC is, you know -- kind of jumped out front, as quickly as they did on the whole Stephanopoulos thing. The New York Post provides some insight this morning,” Scarborough said. “Wow.”

“Which puts the donation in a whole different perspective,” panelist Dorian Warren added....

“If you want to know why he lost count, he didn’t know what the $75,000 -- ‘gee, did I give them $75,000 or not?’ Maybe that’s why. $105 million,” Scarborough said.

“That’s his salary?!” asked guest Mike Barnicle.

“That’s his salary.” Scarborough responded while laughing hysterically. “That’s his salary! ABC has put all of their money on -- yeah. I wouldn’t let him go scuba diving, I mean, holy cow.”
OK, let's see: Stephanopoulos has seven-year, $105 million deal. What is that a year? $15 million.

How much does Scarborough make? Well, here's what TMZ told us in 2013:



To be specific, $99,038 a week. That's $5,149,976 a year.

So a guy making $5 mill a year for sitting on his ass and talking is bitching about a guy who does the same thing and makes $15 mil a year.

Joe? I make less in a year than you do in a week. So shut the hell up.

THE GANG THAT COULDN'T INFLUENCE-PEDDLE STRAIGHT

I read that damn New York Times story, and while it gives me pause to learn that Sidney Blumenthal was sending Hillary Clinton emails on Libya, based on his experience as a neophyte in the country trying to get various businesses started up, it doesn't look as if his "intel" was taken very seriously:
Not infrequently, Mrs. Clinton’s subordinates replied to the memos with polite skepticism.

In April 2012, [Ambassador Chris] Stevens took issue with a Blumenthal memo raising the prospect that the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was poised to make gains in the coming parliamentary elections. The Brotherhood fared poorly in the voting.

Another American diplomat read the memo, noting that Mrs. Clinton’s source appeared to have confused Libyan politicians with the same surname.

Mrs. Clinton herself sometimes seemed skeptical. After reading a March 2012 memo from Mr. Blumenthal, describing a plan by French and British intelligence officials to encourage tribal leaders in eastern Libya to declare a “semiautonomous” zone there, Mrs. Clinton wrote to [deputy chief of staff Jake] Sullivan, “This one strains credulity.”

Mr. Sullivan agreed, telling Mrs. Clinton, “It seems like a thin conspiracy theory.”
And while as a rule it's helpful to have friends in high places if you're doing business, it doesn't seem to have done Blumenthal much good in Libya:
Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture ... was ultimately unsuccessful....

The projects -- creating floating hospitals to treat Libya’s war wounded and temporary housing for displaced people, and building schools -- would have required State Department permits, but foundered before the business partners could seek official approval.

... their plans sputtered....
I'm reminded of another recent Times story, about attempts by Hillary's brother Tony Rodham to take advantage of his relationship with Hillary and Bill. Having relatives in high places doesn't seem to have helped Rodham much:
On and off for two decades, the affable Mr. Rodham has tried to use his connections with his sister and his brother-in-law, former President Bill Clinton, to further a business career that has seen more failures than successes....

When Mr. Clinton worked as a co-chairman of Haiti’s earthquake recovery commission, Mr. Rodham and his partners sought a $22 million deal to rebuild homes in the country....

Mr. Rodham’s Haiti project never did happen....

Mr. Rodham described his dire financial situation during ... court proceedings in 2012. As a result of a series of failed business deals -- including some in oil and gas, water, housing, tutoring and pharmaceuticals -- he said he had not made a mortgage payment in 10 months and was fighting home foreclosure.
There's impropriety here -- but it doesn't amount to much. You may think the Clintons are sleazy corrupt-o-crats, but if so, they're not very good at it.