Saturday, October 03, 2015


I'm a gun-control proponent, but it's clear that much of our gun violence is at the hands of people who obtained their guns legally, and wouldn't have been prevented from getting their hands on firearms by any proposals currently on the table. We're told, for instance, that Christopher Harper-Mercer, the Oregon mass murderer, "owned 14 firearms, all of which were bought legally through a federally licensed firearms dealer.... Some were bought by Mr. Harper-Mercer, and some by members of his family."

But there's a common thread in three of the best-known recent gun crimes. Oregon:
Christopher Harper-Mercer was withdrawn and quiet as he grew up in southern California, spending most of his time indoors at his mother’s apartment and deflecting neighbors when they asked him how he was doing, or why he always wore the same outfit of combat boots and green Army pants. But there was one subject that got him to open up: guns.

Mr. Harper-Mercer collected handguns and rifles, and he regularly went to a shooting range with his mother, said neighbors in Torrance, Calif., where the two lived until moving to Oregon in 2013.
Texas, 2013:
Four letters, "PTSD," have hung over Eddie Ray Routh since the day he was accused of killing Chris Kyle, a famed Navy SEAL sniper....

The fragments of information presented about Routh, a 25-year-old Marine reservist, have been indelible thus far. Iraq war veteran. Listless and unemployed.

There's Routh: hospitalized multiple times since returning home, at one point reportedly threatening the lives of his family; also having been found shoeless and drunk by the police.

There's Routh: hospitalized another time because a friend in north Dallas was afraid he would hurt himself....

Kyle worked with a nonprofit group, FITCO Cares, to get returning veterans workout equipment. He had also written about using gun ranges as a kind of therapy for returning veterans, in which he'd give jokey tough-love between stories and beer. It's on such a trip with Routh that police think Routh turned a semiautomatic pistol on Kyle and one of Kyle's friends, Chad Littlefield, 35.
Connecticut, 2012:
Everyone tried to encourage Adam [Lanza] and looked for ways to engage with him. [Adam's mother] Nancy would take him on trips to the shooting range. Nancy and [Adam's father] Peter thought that their son was nonviolent; the best way to build a connection to someone with Asperger’s is often to participate in his fascinations.
I'm not part of the gun culture -- I don't own guns and haven't known many people who do. But I don't condemn the culture outright. It seems to me that most gun owners are right when they say that their use of guns is careful and responsible.

But the problem is that the gun culture doesn't even seem to acknowledge the possibility that some people really shouldn't go anywhere near a gun. Christopher Harper-Mercer, we've learned, was
an angry, isolated young man whose rage was fueled by animus toward religion and resentment at how his life was unfolding, law enforcement officials said Friday....

“He didn’t have a girlfriend, and he was upset about that,” said a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “He comes across thinking of himself as a loser. He did not like his lot in life, and it seemed like nothing was going right for him.”
But his mother went shooting with him, and no one who knew him -- no family member or acquaintance -- seemed to think that an angry young man plus fourteen guns in the house was a potentially lethal combination. No one thought it might be a bad idea for Adam Lanza or Eddie Ray Routh to go shooting.

How do we think about alcohol in this culture?

I drink -- not much, but I like drinking. Most people I know like drinking. But I don't have trouble keeping multiple thoughts about drinking in my head simultaneously: Drinking can be very pleasant -- but I shouldn't drink to excess, and everyone should avoid drinking and driving, and drinking can be a problem if it's your way of dealing with emotional distress, and some people simply can't handle drinking at all. I think most of us can hold all those thoughts in our heads at once. We'll proudly raise a toast at our daughter's wedding, but we also know that alcoholics need to steer clear of the bottle.

Is the gun culture able to think like that? It seems to me that the gun culture thinks gun use is healthy recreation for everyone except criminals and terrorists. Guns are always good for what ails you! Certainly it's never worrisome if someone in emotional pain is surrounded by guns. I grew up hunting. Guns have always been a part of my life. That's true for everyone around here. And on and on....

Members of the gun culture, I'm not recommending that you forswear guns -- I'm saying that you should recognize that gun use isn't healthy for everyone. Maybe you need to take a closer look at some of your fellow gun users. Maybe some of them need an intervention -- which doesn't mean that your gun use is a problem. They just need to be separated from guns.

I know: You feel under constant threat from us freedom-hating liberals. You think this sounds like just a subtler form of gun-grabbing.

Well, it's your decision. But remember what I'm writing the next time there's a bloodbath caused by someone who was surrounded with guns and who'd obviously been emotionally distraught for a long time. Maybe someone in your culture could have connected the dots.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Jeb Bush, I'm told, put his foot in his mouth:
Jeb Bush invited a firestorm on Friday by saying that “stuff happens” in reference to renewed calls for legislative action after tragedies like the mass shooting in Oregon.

“I had this challenge as governor because we had -- look, stuff happens,” he said at a forum in South Carolina. “There’s always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

The inelegant phrase immediately set off a wave of criticism from observers suggesting he was playing down the scourge of gun violence and the tragedy on Thursday....
But when I head over to Free Republic to check the response of GOP base voters, I see that most of them agree with him on this, even though they don't like him much. Here are some of the comments:
Watch the video, not the headline. He is absolutely correct.


Yes, I despise Jebby for his betrayal.

BUT I think in this sense, it sounds to me like he’s just saying, don’t come up with idiocy to disarm normal people because this nut went on a jihad against Christians.

He knows Obama, as usual, is milking this for everything he can.


I actually agree with that statement in it’s full context. But you ain’t getting my vote Bush III.


I can’t stand Jeb Bush and I’ll never vote for him under any circumstances, but he’s actually right for once.

There are tons of murders all over no one says anything about. Then a shooting occurs, the media salivates, the liberals yell gun control and some POS gets famous.


Very true. Violence won't "end" or be "stopped." And because of the hysterical reactions of knee-jerk socialists, many will buy even more firearms and ammunition. Before long, because of the efforts against the Second Amendment and declining economy, firearms and ammunition will be everywhere and far cheaper. America, the firearms garden. ;-)

The real answer would be to try to end fatherlessness by ending feminist socialism.


He’s absolutely correct on this. I’m not a Bush fan and I wish he’d just leave the race but he’s right on this. Stuff happens and every time a crazy goes off doesn’t warrant new bureaucracy. Everything that guy in Oregon did was already illegal. He didn’t have a criminal record nor a bad psychological evaluation that indicated he was a threat and honestly the vast majority of guys that fit his profile are not and never become threats to anyone so the idea that some how we can legislate ourselves to safety is crazy especially if we value the very foundational idea of our legal system which is that one is innocent till proven guilty. We do not just declare someone a criminal because they are weird.


Gotta say, yay, Bush.
There you have it. A couple of posters criticize the words or the tone, and more just accuse Jeb of being an incompetent politician, but most think he's absolutely right -- even though it kills them to say it.

I told you in my last post that Donald Trump was in sync with Republican thinking when he said something similar ("what are you going to do?"), and I said Jeb would get backup from right-wingers for this. He's getting it.


Mediaite's Matt Wilstein thinks Donald Trump's comments on the Oregon mass shooting are appalling. Wilstein has a point, but it should also be noted that Trump probably aced the questions he was asked in the eyes of the wingnut voters he's courting.
‘What Are You Going to Do?': Trump Pathetically Shrugs Off Shooting

... Asked [during an appearance today on Morning Joe] what he would do to prevent incidents like this one if he were president, Trump said, “Well first of all, you have very strong laws on the books. But you’re always going to have problems. I mean, we have millions and millions of people. We have millions of sick people all over the world.”

“It can happen all over the world,” he continued, before contradicting himself within the space of one sentence. “And it does happen all over the world, by the way, but this is sort of unique to this country, the school shootings, and you’re going to have difficulty no matter what.”
It's fine that he contradicted himself. Gun fans -- a group that includes pretty much all Republican voters -- regularly wave off questions about the much lower levels of gun violence in other countries, though when pressed, they tell us we have an excessive number of gun deaths because we live in a "diverse culture." So both parts of that contradiction are acceptable on the right.
... Characterizing the issue as one that has more to do with “mental health” than guns, Trump said, “It’s awfully hard to put somebody in an institution for the rest of their lives based on the fact he looks like he could be a problem.” He then added, “You’re going to have these things happen and it’s a horrible thing to behold.”

Host Willie Geist pressed Trump to say whether he really believes that “some people are going to slip through the cracks and there’s not much you can do about it.” And, remarkably, the GOP frontrunner answered affirmatively.
What's so remarkable about that? Republicans say that all the time.

“Well, you know, it’s not politically correct to say that but you’re going to have difficulty and that would be for the next million years, you’re going to have difficulty,” Trump answered, expressing an enormous degree of resignation on the issue of gun safety. “People are going to slip through the cracks and even if you did great mental health programs, people are going to slip through the cracks.”

“It’s the same old story. But what are you going to do? There are many people like that and what are you going to do? Institutionalize everybody?” he asked. “So you’re going to have difficulties. You’re going to have difficulties with many different things, not just this. That’s the way the world works -- and by the way, that’s the way the world always has worked.”

So, essentially, Trump is saying that we are always going to have mass shooting events in this country and his solution is… do nothing?
How different is that from what current Establishment dream candidate Marco Rubio said in the last presidential debate?
RUBIO: There’s a broader issue here as well. First of all, the only people that follow the law are law abiding people. Criminals, by definition, ignore the law. You can pass all the gun laws in the world -- like the left wants -- criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals.
Rubio just said about criminals what Trump says about the violently insane. And Rubio's answer is boilerplate Republicanism.

Wilstein's conclusion:
There may be an argument to be had over the best solution to the epidemic of gun violence in America, but the posture of pure indifference put forward by Trump should not be an acceptable position for someone who wants to be president of the United States.
Well, Trump's position already is an acceptable one for a presidential aspirant, because what Trump says is what just about every other Republican candidate believes, except that Trump's opponents are careful not to say, "what are you going to do?" They don't think there are major problems with our gun laws. Maybe they'll make vague noises about mental health:
Ben Carson just happened to be on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Thursday afternoon, shortly after news of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon broke. The GOP presidential candidate delivered the standard conservative message about focusing on mental health instead of gun control....

“Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” Carson said of the event, which left at least 13 people dead. “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.” He said instead of focusing on guns, we should be looking for “early warning clues” to prevent incidents such as this one.
Certainly they'll say we have too much gun control already:
“Sadly, virtually every one of these shootings across the country has occurred in so-called gun free school zones,” [Ted] Cruz told conservative host Howie Carr of WRKO-AM, ahead of a two-day campaign swing in New Hampshire. “If you look at the jurisdictions that have really strict gun control laws, they consistently have among the highest crime rates.”

By contrast, he cited relatively low crime rates in Houston and Dallas where, he said, “the citizenry can defend themselves…. There is nothing a criminal likes more than an unarmed victim.”
Trump really would have aced this if he'd blamed the massacre on the removal of prayer from public schools, or on violent entertainment sold to America by the liberal entertainment industry. But he did fine. He passed this test with flying colors. Wanting to do nothing about gun violence is a sign that he's a genuine Republican.




He'll be attacked for that, but not from the right.




(Source: Vox; see also CNN.)

I'm throwing this out strictly as a thought exercise.

We know that America has far more deaths from gun violence than from terrorism. We know that America has far more deaths just from mass shootings than from terrorism -- it's been reported that we have more than one mass shooting per day now.

We say we don't know what to do about the shootings. But we think we know what to do about terrorism: Among other things, we engage in mass surveillance, collecting information on a staggering number of electronic communications.

Well, many mass shooters seem to use electronic communications to telegraph their intentions. It's being reported that the Oregon shooter did that on 4chan. (Yes, it was only the day before he shooting took place, but that would seem to be what, in a terrorism context, we refer to as "the ticking-bomb scenario.")

Would we reduce gun violence if we devoted massive amounts of resources to tracking electronic communications for signs of impending interpersonal violence that wouldn't normally be defined as terrorism? And if we did that, wouldn't we be addressing a much more significant and persistent threat to Americans' safety than terrorism?

Think of all the snazzy techniques that are supposed to allow the government to identify keywords hinting at terrorist intent -- shouldn't we be developing similar lists of keywords hinting at the intent to commit mass murder for thrills, or even garden-variety domestic violence? And if we want to have a layer of oversight, shouldn't the interpersonal-violence equivalent of a FISA court be ready at all times to rubber-stamp warrants?

I'm not proposing that we actually do any of this. But isn't it something we'd do if we actually cared about what really threatens Americans?

Thursday, October 01, 2015


The gunman in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College has been identified as Chris Harper-Mercer. Based on a photo found on his Myspace page, he appears to be white or mixed-race; Mediaite says, "There’s ... a dating profile circling around believed to belong to Mercer, identifying the user IRONCROSS45 as mixed race, 'conservative, republican,' and 'not religious, but spiritual.'"

If that's true, it's hard to imagine that he's a jihadist -- but at Free Republic and on Pam Geller's blog, that's still considered a credible theory.

Geller makes note of this story about the shooting:
The gunman who opened fire at an Oregon community college was forcing people to stand up and state their religion before he began blasting away at them, survivors said Thursday.

A woman who claimed to have a grandmother inside a writing class in Snyder Hall, where a portion the massacre unfolded, described the scene in a tweet.

“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” she wrote. “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs...."
Geller leaps to a conclusion:
This is a very disturbing development in today’s mass killing in Oregon. In a majority of the Islamic attacks, the killer asks their religion and kills the non-Muslims (ie Tunisia beach massacre, Mumbai terror attack, BP gas complex, Westgate mall...)
In a subsequent post, Geller refers to the massacre as the "Oregon religious shooting" and writes of the statement President Obama delivered this evening,
He shrugged off the motive implying it was irrelevant....

Obama’s refusal to recognize the jihad threat has made Americans unsafe.
But wait, there's more. At Free Republic, it's noted that one of two people linked on the shooter's Myspace page is someone named Mahmoud Ali Ehsani, whose own Myspace page includes a photo section that includes photos of "Mujahideen" in Iran, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Somalia.

Considering the fact that Harper-Mercer's own photo section includes Irish Republican Army logos and photos of IRA fighters, I rather suspect that he didn't share Ehsani's interest in Middle Eastern wars, although he might have gotten a thrill from war in general.

I would assume that the decision to question victims about religion (assuming this story is accurate) was an hommage to the Columbine killings -- or, rather, to a persistent myth about the Columbine killings. Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive account of that massacre, wrote about the myth in the aftermath of the second round of Republican debates:
Early in the Republican presidential undercard debate tonight, Rick Santorum dredged up a powerful old Columbine myth to defend Kim Davis, Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and to illustrate the steepness of America's moral decline. “Sixteen years ago,” he said, “this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God. We saw her as a hero.”

... Like most of the Columbine myths, the martyr story gained traction because it was based on a kernel of truth. A young girl did profess her faith in God at gunpoint, but she lived to tell about it. Her name is Valeen Schnurr. Ten years later, I sorted through the confusion again in my book, Columbine:
Val was shot before her exchange about God. Dylan [Klebold] pointed his shotgun under her table and fired several rapid bursts, killing Lauren Townsend and injuring Val and another girl. Val was riddled with shotgun pellets up and down her arms and torso. Dylan walked away.

Val dropped to her knees, then her hands. Blood was streaming out of thirty-four separate wounds. “Oh my God, oh my God, don’t let me die,” she prayed.

Dylan turned around. This was too rich. “God? Do you believe in God?”

She wavered. Maybe she should keep her mouth shut. No. She would rather say it. “Yes. I believe in God.”


“Because I believe. And my parents brought me up that way.”

Dylan reloaded, but something distracted him. He walked off. Val crawled for shelter.
It's widely believed that the shooters asked Cassie Bernall whether she was believer, then shot her to death when she said yes. (Bernall's mother wrote a bestselling book called She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.) My guess is that Harper-Mercer knew at least this famous pseudo-fact from mass-killer lore.

I'm not sure how long various figures on the right will cling to the notion that this was an act of jihad (though I see uberhack Charles C. Johnson of Got News calling Harper-Mercer a Muslim, based on no evidence apart from Ehsani's Myspace page). However, the right will treat this massacre as an assault on Christianity -- and you know whose fault that is. A Freeper writes this in another thread:
Did Obama's War On Christians Cause The Oregon Shootings?

As Donald Trump has stated, without rebuttal, Obama is conducting a War On Christians.

Did Obama's Christian-hating words and deeds motivate this killer to strike against Obama's enemies, the Christians?

Perhaps you should resign immediately, Mr. "president".
I do find one report about Harper-Mercer plausible: that he telegraphed the killing spree on a 4chan board for "incels" (so-called "involuntary celibates," i.e., guys who rage against the world because of their sexual and romantic failure). David Futtrelle of We Hunted the Mammoth has the shooter's alleged posts and other 4channers' replies, helpfully annotated. It's a scary culture in which at least one past mass killer, Elliot Rodger, is worshiped as a god -- and Rodger is invoked in the 4chan conversation. Jihad? I doubt it.


UPDATE: Raw Story has much more on Harper-Mercer. If all or most of this is true, the jihadist theory is even more absurd.
I garbled some facts in the post that used to be here -- Umpqua Community College, where a mass shooting took place today, was never part of the Oregon University System, and therefore it wasn't subject to a court ruling or a policy decision by Oregon's higher education board that I described in that original post. My apologies.


This is outrageous, though it's not surprising:
The state of Alabama, which requires a photo ID to vote, announced this week that it would stop issuing driver’s licenses in counties where 75 percent of registered voters are black.

Due to budget cuts, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said that 31 satellite DMV offices would no longer have access to driver’s licenses examiners, meaning that residents will need to travel to other counties to apply for licenses. The move comes just one year after the state’s voter photo ID law went into effect....

“Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one,” [Birmingham News columnist John] Archibald explained. “But maybe it’s not racial at all, right? ...”
At, Kyle Whitmire writes:
... we're looking at a nightmare.

Or a trial lawyer's dream....

A civil rights lawsuit isn't a probability. It's a certainty.

It's only a matter of time before some lawyer takes the state ... back to the courthouse.
I think that's part of the plan. Republicans would like to do this in as many states of the union as possible, and a court case could help them achieve that goal.

The next president of the United States will probably have multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court during his or her term -- of the nine justices, four are 77 years old or older. So -- attention Sanders fans who wouldn't dream of voting Clinton in the general election, or vice versa -- if we have a Republican president and a Republican Senate, the High Court is going to shift very, very far to the right.

A legal challenge to this law could well wind up in the Supreme Court. If it does, and if President Rubio or Bush or Fiorina or Carson has stacked the bench sufficiently, what Alabama is doing will almost certainly be declared constitutional. That will be an open invitation to the states to pull the same stunt.

All well in advance of the 2020 elections, which will choose a president and the state legislators who'll draw congressional maps for the ensuing decade.

If this sort of disenfranchisement is lawful by 2020, especially in purple states (North Carolina? Ohio?), it will get us that much closer to near-permanent one-party rule in Washington.

So, sure, this will go to the courts -- and the outcome might not be justice.


Over the past 24 hours, The New York Times has published several versions of the Jennifer Steinhauer story at this URL. The story concerns Kevin McCarthy and the likelihood that he'll succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House. As Daily Kos's Laura Clawson noted yesterday, the first version of the story buried news of McCarthy's admission that the point of the Benghazi committee was to tank Hillary Clinton's poll numbers in its eighth paragraph; the innocuous headline was "John Boehner Sets House Speaker Vote for Next Week." A later version of the story shifted to the headline "Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Favorite, Under Fire for Benghazi Comment," and put McCarthy's comments in the lede. (See a record of the shifting versions at NewsDiffs.)

But that wasn't the end of the rewriting.

The current version of the story re-buries the lede -- or, rather, it subsumes the lede in a narrative that portrays McCarthy not as a partisan hack, but as a happy, friendly golden retriever of a man who might run into trouble as Speaker because he's so darn outgoing.

No, I'm not kidding. I'll quote the current version story at some length so you can see how it works:
Can Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Favorite, Go From Buddy to Boss?

WASHINGTON -- Representative Kevin McCarthy of California has built a loyal following among House Republicans by calling them up just to gab, giving them special jackets when they joined his vote-whipping team and telling them their ideas are fantastic, even after telling the last guy who left his office that his (completely opposite) idea was great, too.

“If you want to talk to him,” said former Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas, “then you’re the only one in the world at that moment.”

But for Mr. McCarthy -- relatively inexperienced at governing and at times a political chameleon -- the question now is whether he can transform himself from the House fun dad always ready for a trip to Disneyland into one who makes the children do their algebra homework and eat their kale.

In just the past 48 hours, the man who longs to be speaker of the House insulted the man he would replace, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, and suggested that a taxpayer-funded committee to investigate the terror attack in Benghazi was designed to harm the political fortunes of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The remark was a gift-wrapped gaffe for Democrats, who will now spend the week before Mr. McCarthy’s effort to be elected speaker painting him as a partisan hack.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy told Sean Hannity of Fox News on Tuesday night. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

Mrs. Clinton responded that she found Mr. McCarthy’s comments “deeply distressing.”

Mr. McCarthy’s moves point to an uncomfortable problem: Many of the qualities that have led to his meteoric rise during a mere eight years in Congress may be liabilities should he be chosen to wield the speaker’s gavel, as is widely expected to happen next Thursday.

“His success has been his personality,” said Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas. Nonetheless, he said, “There has to be a strong hand somewhere in this because it is like herding cats over here.”
This is appalling. It suggests that the only problem with McCarthy's comment about the Benghazi committee was that he was trying to be the "fun dad" he always is and he's going to have to stop saying fun things like that if he wants to make House Republicans "eat their kale."

(In the same interview, McCarthy undiplomatically gave Boehner's speakership a grade of B-minus. Steinhauer apparently believes that slighting Boehner and acknowledging the nakedly political purpose a committee ostensibly devoted to the investigation of four deaths at a U.S. diplomatic outpost are morally equivalent gaffes.)

If you look at the "Compare with previous" links at NewsDiffs, you can see that the "fun dad" bit is new, and became part of the story only in the third version. Obviously that was the take on McCarthy that Steinhauer was working on when news of his Benghazi statement broke, and she just plowed on and shoehorned the Benghazi remarks into her take without ever considering that maybe "fun dad" didn't quite address what had just happened. But the "fun dad" take is classic Beltway-insider journalism: It seems to be a frank assessment of a power player, but it's a gentle, toothless critique. Is McCarthy too warm? Is Hillary Clinton too cold? That's what matters to insider journalists, not what these people actually do -- what laws they enact, what policies they support.

A guy who exults in shameless smashmouth partisanship is not being a "fun dad." Steinhauer doesn't get that, nor do her editors at the Times -- to them, it's all just sport. This is the mentality of horserace journalism expanded even beyond election coverage -- McCarthy is rising in the polls in the House GOP, and that's all that matters. The real-world consequences of what dishonorable politicians do don't matter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


At Vox, German Lopez writes:
Marco Rubio shows other Republicans how to respond to Black Lives Matter

... in a largely unnoticed appearance on Fox News's The Kelly File in August -- resurfaced by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie on Wednesday -- Sen. Marco Rubio gave a surprisingly strong response to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter that showed he not only views racial disparities in the criminal justice system as a real issue, but actually understands the roots of the problem.

"This is a legitimate issue," Rubio said. "It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community. It is particularly endemic among young African-American males -- that in some communities in this country have a much higher chance of interacting with criminal justice than higher education. We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country."

Rubio also gave a personal anecdote: "I have one friend in particular who's been stopped in the last 18 months eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped -- just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I'd be wondering what's going on here. I'd be upset about it. So would anybody else."
There's more, and Lopez is right: What Rubio says a hell of a lot better than most of the rhetoric we hear on this subject from other Republicans. Watch the clip here:

But let's talk about Beinart's gloss on this. Will Rubio really win the White House if he keeps talking this way? Yes, possibly, if he manages to win the Republican nomination -- but this kind of talk hurts his chances of winning in his party.

It certainly didn't help Rand Paul. Back in August 2014, in the wake of Michael Brown's death, Paul published an op-ed in Time in which he wrote,
If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.
In The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza wrote that the op-ed "shows why [Paul] is the most interesting voice in the GOP right now." Eight months later, Paul made an appearance at historically black Bowie State University:
Senator Rand Paul laid out his vision on Friday for a legal system that makes it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs and to vote, telling students at a historically black college here that he believes there are still “two Americas” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said almost a half century ago....

Mr. Paul also made a case for expunging criminal records of people who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies so they can find employment more easily, a stance that puts him at odds with many in his party.

“As Republicans we’re big on saying, ‘Well, we don’t want people permanently on welfare; we want them to transition from welfare to a job,’” he said. “People say, ‘Well, how am I supposed to get a job? I was a convicted felon.’”

“There has to be a way to figure out how we can get people back to work,” he added.
How's that working out for Paul? The Real Clear Politics polling averages currently show him with 2.3% of the GOP vote. There are a lot of reasons for that, but talking this way didn't help him at all.

Rubio gave this interview to a guest host on Megyn Kelly's show, at a time when the politically world was mostly talking about Hillary Clinton's emails, the Donald Trump/Roger Ailes feud, and a rumor that Al Gore might enter the presidential race. Not a lot of people noticed what he said at the time, but it was picked up by the conservative message board The Right Scoop. Commenter response was not charitable:
... The Black Lives Matter movement is bigoted at the core, based on lies, and should be condemned as reprehensible by every sane prominent figure. It's not about traffic stops, which happen because cops have to flood the zone in high crime neighborhoods (or just sit back and let those regions burn which is increasingly happening). The movement claims white cops are systematically SLAUGHTERING blacks because they're black, which is completely false and a dangerous lie to tolerate. Grassroots Nazis in Germany had sincerely held grievances against Jews and others, but that didn't make their grievances "legitimate". This dysfunction has been coddled and enabled by society for way too long....


Rubio just lost any support that I have considered giving him. This is a non issue, pushed by radicals based on false premises. Black lives matter members are lunatics who do not listen to fact or reason. I thought Rubio was a lot smarter than that.


The problems in the black community can only be fixed by the black community. The only thing conservatives can really do is reach out to black churches and support them by any means necessary. Unfortunately the most organized groups within black communities are the criminal elements i.e. the gangs....


He sounded like a democrat. Black Lives Matter is right up there with the Black Panthers...they encourage and justify thugs to break the law....

MO, the problem in the black community is cultural...blame whitey on everything that goes wrong and the entitlement mentality. There's very little personal responsibility and so many babies born out of wedlock - these are future parolees. Look at the role models they have...thug rappers and sports athletes. Successful black people like Ben Carson and Condoleeza Rice are portrayed as sellouts and their race called into question. If the culture doesn't change, many blacks continue to live on the democratic plantation and go nowhere in life.
So this is not likely to appeal to the GOP base, to put it mildly.

However, it's likely to appeal to the mainstream-media figures who are desperate for a safe alternative to the current Republican front-runners (and to Hillary Clinton, whom they despise). Vox's Lopez says this clip was "resurfaced" by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie, but I'm skeptical -- I think Rubio's campaign fed it to the non-right-wing press in an attempt to get some good MSM coverage, and Beinart took the bait. Interesting move on the campaign's part, I guess -- but Rubio really should avoid talking like this as the GOP campaign heats up if he wants to get past the primaries.


I'm supposed to be upset because the Vatican is now confirming that Pope Francis secretly met with Kim Davis, the notorious gay-marriage refusenik who's still a county clerk in Kentucky. This news is supposed to be devastating to me because Francis is assumed to be one of the brightest stars in my pantheon of progressive heroes.

Well, I was a Francis skeptic when being a Francis skeptic wasn't cool. Yes, he's gotten up the noses of conservatives with statements I applaud, on climate change and capitalism's tendency toward rapaciousness, and bully for him, but I was wary of him early on because I didn't see any sign that he was going to revisit Church teachings on core issues -- abortion, homosexuality, the role of women in the Church. That ambiguous "Who am I to judge?" remark notwithstanding, he's stuck to the party line on all these matters. So while I've been caught up in the hoo-ha surrounding his visit, and while I appreciate his obvious empathy, he's still on the wrong side on a lot of issues as far as I'm concerned. I don't scratch my head and wonder, "Is the Pope a liberal?" He has a mix of views. Some are what we call liberal, some are what we call very conservative. I don't find it particularly difficult to wrap my head around that. And on the latter issues, he and his church leave me cold.

I'm not surprised that the anti-divorce Pope met with a multiply married woman -- Jesus hung out with Mary Magdalene, Francis does make a point of outreach to all sorts of people, and popes have never shied away from the divorced when they deemed it politically appropriate to strike up an alliance (see: John Paul II and Ronald Reagan). Also, Davis's parents are Catholic, and Davis's conservative-bigwig pal, the Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, grew up attending Mass with his Catholic mother. And the U.S. religious right established ties to Catholicism a while back, ties I'm sure are still strong.

Now, was this a mistake for Francis? Ed Kilgore thinks so:
... maybe Francis got punk’d into this meeting without understanding what a big deal it would be. But I have to say, if this Pope was trying to “transcend” the culture wars, googling Davis before giving her a private audience might have been a real good idea.
As does Charlie Pierce:
Everything [Francis] said about capitalism and about the environment is going to be drowned out because he wandered into a noisy American culture-war scuffle in which one side, apparently the one he picked, has a seemingly ceaseless megaphone for its views. What a fcking blunder. What a sin against charity, as the nuns used to say.

This is, obviously, the dumbest thing this Pope ever has done. It undermines everything he accomplished on his visit here. It undermines his pastoral message, and it diminishes his stature by involving him in a petty American political dispute.

... the pope trashed whatever good will he'd accrued here....
But what good did that goodwill do him? Immediately after a speech to Congress in which he enjoined legislators to work together for the common good, John Boehner resigned as Speaker under pressure and a government shutdown later in the year became all but inevitable. The state of Georgia put a female prisoner to death despite a plea from the Pope for a stay of execution.

(And I suppose conservatives would say that after cheering on the Pope we liberals went right back to aborting and gay-marrying.)

Francis has everyone rooting on parts of his agenda, and he also has everyone a little off balance. I'm sure that's exactly what he wants. But none of it's going to matter much -- personable popes make most people giddy, but the ability of popes to change minds on political issues is vastly overrated.

I'm grateful to Francis for the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. In terms of political efficacy, I don't think he's ever going to top that. Ultimately, he's not that powerful -- and on quite a few issues that's a good thing.


On Monday Last night, Kevin McCarthy, who's likely to be the next House Speaker, was interviewed on Fox by Sean Hannity. Oliver Willis watched and noticed that McCarthy indirectly acknowledged the obvious:
The House of Representatives Select Committee on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi is all about attacking Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, admits a senior Republican.

Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Fox News host Sean Hannity during an interview on Monday night ... that Clinton’s dropping poll numbers are evidence of the effectiveness of the committee....

It is a tacit admission by the second most powerful Republican in the House that the Committee’s true goal is taking out Secretary Clinton as a presidential candidate.
Here's what McCarthy said. He and Hannity were talking about what's going to be different in the House now that John Boehner has resigned as Speaker.
MCCARTHY: ... What you're going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen.
Beyond the acknowledgment of an obvious fact -- that the committee's goals are entirely political -- notice that McCarthy doesn't even bother with the right's usual phony sanctimony about Benghazi. There's not one mention of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack. There's none of this:

I guess the pretense that this is about lost lives is being dropped.

Go to 4:04 in the clip for the Benghazi exchange:

The conventional wisdom about McCarthy is that he's not one of the lunatic zealots, but in this interview he's certainly trying to establish his lunatic-zealot cred. The first thing he tells Hannity is that, yes, the House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, but things are going to be different now -- not because he's come to his senses and plans to discourage any additional repeal votes, which is what a sane right-centrist would do, but because the post-Boehner House is going to use reconciliation to fight Obamacare.

So he's saying he'll double down on relentless Obamacare opposition. And then, near the end of the interview (go to 5:19), he promises to double down on the Planned Parenthood inquisition, using new tactics -- it sounds as if he's promising some sort of tax-funded anti-Planned Parenthood roadshow, plus, apparently, a propaganda effort coordinated with Fox:
McCARTHY: This is what we're going to do, Sean, and we're not going to be able to do it alone: We're going to put a strategy together. Just as we do a select committee on Planned Parenthood, so we go out across the country, and they see. The president won't even watch those videos. The Democrats won't watch those videos. We need America to watch those videos. And you know what? We need your help as well.
I see a lot of lefties arguing that the GOP's ongoing Planned Parenthood witch hunt is a colossal political blunder, because polls show strong support for the organization. It's quite possible that it is a miscalculation -- but I worry when Republicans go on open-ended hunts for alleged villainous behavior in this way. Whitewater was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Monicagate. Benghazi was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Emailgate.

This is aimed primarily at Hillary Clinton. These SOBs know that, on a subconscious level, any attack aimed at Planned Parenthood can implicitly be one on Hillary because, to a lot of people, Planned Parenthood = militant feminism and Hillary = militant feminism. I know that's not true about Planned Parenthood for the majority of Americans, but I'm guessing that Republicans think it could be true for aging white Catholics in high-electoral-vote states such as Ohio and Michigan. Anything that might keep those aging white Catholics from coming home to the Democratic Party in November 2016 is worth it to the GOP. And if that doesn't work, the Planned Parenthood fatwa is certainly a unity builder for the party, which desperately needs one.

So expect McCarthy to be a supposed establishmentarian who gives a lot of leeway to the loons.


UPDATE: Dave Weigel writes this up or The Washington Post and makes it seem as if McCarthy made all these rightward gestures because he was browbeaten:
Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act -- "you have the power of the purse!" He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama's "amnesty," because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.

"Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy asked. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought."

"I give you credit for that," said Hannity. "I'll give you credit where credit is due."
Watch the clip -- yes, Hannity was pressing the uncompromising-zealot party line, but McCarthy seemed awfully eager to demonstrate his loon bona fides.


UPDATE: Regarding McCarthy's admission, I agree 100% with Martin Longman (BooMan): This was no blunder.
Now, I know that in certain Beltway circles telling the truth is considered one of the worst possible gaffes, but McCarthy bragged about the effectiveness of this smear campaign precisely because he wanted to remind people that the Republicans deserve credit for finding ways to effectively fight back against the Democrats. In other words, he was reminding the Republican base voter that there actually are examples where the Republican leadership did something extraordinarily partisan and obnoxious and that it worked. The reaction will probably be exactly what he hoped for. He gets a pat on the head and a couple of “Atta Boys.”

The idea that Republican members of Congress will clutch their pearls in horror that McCarthy defended their performance is a big reach, in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


A few days ago, John Boehner fell on his sword to avoid the wrath of angry House wingnuts. A day from now, another full month will have elapsed with immigrant-bashing, enemy-insulting Donald Trump still unchallenged at the top of the Republican presidential field.

All this must deeply trouble The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. Under these circumstances, how can he, a charter member of the media's Both Sides Do It club, possibly persuade his readers that polarization is the fault of the two major parties equally, an assertion that's axiomatic to him?

So of course it delights Cillizza that today he can post this:
Democrats are WAY angrier than Republicans about the political system

Guess which party is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

You'd think it'd be the party who has propelled three candidates who have never run for office before -- including one named Donald Trump -- to the top of its 2016 presidential field. And, according to new numbers from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, you'd be wrong.

A majority -- 56 percent -- of likely Democratic primary voters said that they "feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead." By contrast, just 37 percent of Republican primary voters express that same anger....
Chris, you idiot, this doesn't prove that Democrats are angrier than Republicans. This proves that Democrats are angrier than Republicans about the power and disproportionate wealth of rich elites.

This was the question:
Now, here are two statements that might describe how you feel. Please listen to both and then tell me which ONE best describes how you feel. (ROTATE :1 and :2)

I feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead.

I feel anxious and uncertain because the economy still feels rocky and unpredictable so I worry about paying my bills, day to day living costs, and whether I can count on my own situation being stable.

Or, if neither one is right for you, just say so.
Ask about anger a different way and you get very different answers. A CBS poll conducted in late July and early August included this question:
Which comes closest to your feelings about the way things are going in Washington --enthusiastic, satisfied but not enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry?
In that poll, 42% of Republican primary voters said they were angry, and only 24% of Democratic primary voters. (The angry Republican voters had a strong preference for Donald Trump, needless to say.)

And Republicans were angrier than Democrats in a 2010 CBS poll, in response to the same question (20% of Republicans were angry, as opposed to 7% of Democrats; also, 22% of Republicans were angry at the Obama administration, as opposed to, unsurprisingly, only 2% of Democrats).

Cillizza does more or less grasp the obvious:
My guess is that the populist strain runs more powerfully at the moment in the Democratic party than in the GOP. Democratic base voters ... see economic inequality as the issue of our times and are mad as hell that politicians in both parties aren't doing enough about it.
And yet he regards this one polling result as evidence that Democrats are angrier than Republicans overall:
... it's still a fascinating finding that forces a second look at assumptions that the GOP electorate is being driven by anger while Democrats are resigned to choosing Clinton. This poll suggests both of those assumptions might miss the mark. By a lot.
Um, Chris? Hillary Clinton is still winning among Democrats. And if you throw in Joe Biden, Democratic Establishment candidates are outpolling Bernie Sanders by more than two to one. Whereas outsiders are crushing insiders in the Republican field -- a majority of the GOP electorate is backing candidates who've never held office.

Oh, never mind. You need to believe that the conventional wisdom regarding GOP rage is wrong. If that's what comforts you, I can't help you.


The president of Planned Parenthood appeared before a House panel this morning, but she clearly wasn't expected to answer questions:
GOP Chair Repeatedly Interrupts Planned Parenthood Head At Hearing

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) repeatedly interrupted Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards as she tried to answer his questions Tuesday in front of the House Oversight Committee....

Chaffetz, who chairs the committee, started off by asking Richards about funds that were sent overseas.

"Do any of these funds go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo?" Chaffetz said early in the back-and-forth.

"Congressman, let me tell you --" Richards said before Chaffetz interrupted her.

"No, no, no. We don't have time for a big narrative," Chaffetz said.

"I'm not going to give you a narrative --" Richards said.

"Yes or no," Chaffetz replied, before Richards gave a more lengthy response.

A few moments later, Chaffetz asked Richards, "In your 2013 tax return, it lists $3.3 million marked as 'investment' in Central America and the Caribbean. I'm just asking you if that investment was an actual investment."

"We don't own anything in those countries. What --" Richards said as she was interrupted by Chaffetz.

"OK," he said. "I have to keep going." ...
Well, why would she be offered a chance to speak at adequate length in her own defense? Conservative ideology divides all people into two categories, the Purely Good and the Purely Evil. All conservatives are certain that Richards falls unambiguously into the latter category. Therefore there is nothing she can possibly say that could possibly be of value to good people.

If everyone is either Purely Good or Purely Evil, then the American system of government makes no sense, because compromise with political opponents is literally compromise with agents of Satan. That's why the government in D.C. doesn't work (although governments in pure red states such as North Carolina often seems to work with brutal efficiency).

We see right-wing Manichaeism everywhere. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are blocking a Manichaean shutdown of Planned Parenthood now, but we'll almost certainly have a shutdown later in the year, when Boehner is gone and the new House Speaker is compelled to appease the zealots. Meanwhile, in a new Public Policy Polling survey of North Carolina, we see that many Republican voters in that state just can't conceive of peacefully coexisting with either Muslims or believers in secular government:
44% of Carson voters think Islam should be illegal in the United States, to only 38% who think it should be legal. And with Trump voters the numbers are even more extreme- 52% think Islam should be illegal to just 31% that believe it should be allowed. Republican voters in the state as a whole are evenly divided with 40% thinking the practice of Islam should be legal and 40% thinking it should not.

Given those numbers it's not surprising that on the more narrow issue of whether a Muslim should be allowed to serve as President, only 16% of Republicans say yes to 72% who say no. And this all feeds into a broader concern that President Obama is waging a war on Christianity- 72% express that sentiment to only 20% who disagree with it.
(North Carolina Republicans are actually more only marginally less tolerant of Islam than Iowa Republicans -- As I noted last week, a PPP survey of that state Iowa found that 49% 30% of Republicans there believe Islam should be illegal in America, while only 30% 49% believe it should be legal.)

We can't be one nation if many of us think making concessions to our opponents is cooperating with the evil. But that's where we stand.


UPDATE: Garbled statistic corrected.


Newsflash: The Republican front-runner's tax plan is a Republican tax plan.
Trump Plan Is Tax Cut for the Rich, Even Hedge Fund Managers

Donald Trump’s tax plan, released Monday, does not live up to the populist language he has offered on taxes all summer.

When talking about taxes in this campaign, Donald Trump has often sounded like a different kind of Republican. He says he will take on “the hedge fund guys” and their carried interest loophole. He thinks it’s “outrageous” how little tax some multimillionaires pay. But his plan calls for major tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the richest Americans -- even the hedge fund managers. And despite his campaign’s assurances that the plan is “fiscally responsible,” it would grow budget deficits by trillions of dollars over a decade.

You could call Mr. Trump’s plan a higher-energy version of the tax plan Jeb Bush announced earlier this month: similar in structure, but with lower rates and wider tax brackets, meaning individual taxpayers would pay even less than under Mr. Bush, and the government would lose even more tax revenue.
At Politico, Danny Vinik writes an analysis titled "On Taxes? Not So Populist" ("Analysis: Trump's plan would benefit the rich, and cost $2-3 trillion"). The liberal-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice concludes that the top 1% get 34% of the tax breaks in the plan, while the bottom 20% get only 1% of the breaks. By contrast, Grover Norquist praises the plan.

As it turns out, Norquist was given an early look at the plan:
Shortly after Donald Trump unveiled his tax plan on Monday anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax reform group pushed out a statement backing the plan. To the casual observer, it might have looked like ATR was just getting on board.

But Norquist's group -- a major arbiter of conservative tax orthodoxy -- had seen the details of the plan coming, and had actually been in touch with Trump's campaign for weeks.

ATR, which favors slashing tax rates, works privately with most campaigns on their tax plans, and Trump's operation is no exception -- the campaign had first reached out to the group in late August, according to tax policy director Ryan Ellis.

Trump's people, according to Ellis, told him, "Look, this campaign's real. We have to put some policy meat on the bones here. We're starting to staff that up. We're going to start thinking in the next couple of weeks here in a serious way of what we want our tax policy to look like and we would love to have you as a resource to bounce that off."
When Trump shot to the lead in polls this summer, many pundits and wonks were dismissive. They told us that a candidate like Trump can't really win, because party insiders are the ones who really choose the victors in nomination contests. The fact that Trump is still in first place in the fall has led some pundits and wonks, such as Ezra Klein, to conclude that the conventional wisdom might be wrong:
... the Party Decides theory of presidential primaries ... argued, persuasively, that political parties quietly dominated presidential primaries, and so the best way to predict the eventual winner is to watch early endorsements. But as Andrew Prokop wrote in his critique of the idea, after correctly predicting nine out of 11 contested presidential primaries between 1976 and 2000, the only primary the theory has correctly predicted since 2000 was Mitt Romney's 2012 win.

Perhaps it's just been a bad few years for the theory. Or perhaps parties are systematically losing their ability to decide.
Klein thinks a changed media landscape helps candidates who are compelling on TV at the expense of those who are good at courting insiders. That plus the abundance of billionaire cash gives the party insiders less clout.

Trump seems to be the guy who's proving that the old rules no longer apply -- yet here he is putting together an utterly conventional tax plan by Republican standards, and submitting it for pre-approval to the pope of conservative tax policy, Grover Norquist. Trump sought Norquist's imprimatur the way any mainstream Republican candidate would.

And as Joe Nocera notes, Trump has also issued a gun plan that's utterly conventional:
[Trump's] second position paper, which hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves, is a no-holds-barred defense of the Second Amendment that the National Rifle Association could have written. Among other things, Trump says that we don’t need expanded background checks, and that concealed carry permits ... should be valid in all 50 states, just like a driver’s license.
Nocera seems shocked by this, but these are very mainstream positions in the GOP. Nearly every candidate in the field would sign legislation instituting national concealed carry reciprocity.

At first, Trump seemed like a wild man and an unconventional Republican. But he's becoming more and more conventional -- and he seems increasingly interested in winning the approval, if not of party insiders, then at least of the most influential Republican-linked interest groups.

Is Trump now just another Republican pol? By the time of the Iowa caucuses, will his personality be the only thing that distinguishes him from everybody else in the race? I'd say that's the way we're heading.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Rush Limbaugh has some theories about NASA's latest announcement:
Flowing water on Mars? That’s just part of the liberal agenda, Rush Limbaugh says.

The conservative radio talk show host addressed NASA’s announcement on Monday that it had found evidence of flowing water on present-day Mars, and -- spoiler alert -- he doesn’t believe it.
Limbaugh thinks NASA climate data is deceitful -- of course he would -- and therefore this news must be as well:
"...I said 'look at the temperature data, that has been reported by NASA, has been made up, it's fraudulent for however many years, there isn't any warming, there hasn't been for 18.5 years. And yet, they're lying about it. They're just making up the amount of ice in the North and South Poles, they're making up the temperatures, they're lying and making up false charts and so forth. So what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?'"
NASA's going to use this announcement to advance liberalism, Limbaugh says:
" ...NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they're going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we're even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That's what I'm going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let's just wait and see, this is September 28, let's just wait and see. Don't know how long it's going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don't know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming...."
But Limbaugh's not the only person who thinks the NASA announcement is a huge conspiracy. So does this guy, who sounds like Limbaugh's conspiratorial twin (although not quite as crazy):
NASA’s dramatic September 28 announcement that it has found "the strongest evidence yet" of flowing water on Mars was momentous. But according to one Russian lawmaker, it had a more nefarious purpose.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Kremlin-loyal member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, has alleged that the U.S. space agency decided to time the announcement to distract the world’s attention from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech to the United Nations the same day.

"Putin's speech was certainly the central element of the UN General Assembly session," Nikonov was quoted by the state-run TASS news agency as saying on September 28." ... It is not surprising that the United States held a NASA news conference devoted to water found on Mars at the time when Putin was addressing the UN General Assembly.”

... "Putin's speech was tough and concise. He formulated the basic principles of international relations without matching the United States and its allies. He offered concrete steps for resolving major international problems," said Nikonov, a member of the Kremlin-backed United Russia political party and a grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s foreign minister.

"This means that they had to interrupt Putin’s speech with something very serious,” he added.
So there you go. Rush Limbaugh thinks the announcement is connected to a sinister leftist agenda, and Vyacheslav Nikonov thinks it's connected to a sinister anti-Putin agenda. Maybe the two of them should argue about this at great length, while we'll ignore them.


Meanwhile, there's a third conspiracy theory: that the announcement was timed to coincide with this Friday's release of the film The Martian. I learned this from Entertainment Weekly:
Within moments of the announcement, Twitter began lighting up with cynicism and sarcasm suggesting that the news was timed to generate more attention for both the film, which opens Friday, and NASA’s own explorations. On Monday, The Martian director Ridley Scott did nothing to dispel the notion that the space agency was waiting for the most opportune time to present its findings about water on Mars.

“I knew that months ago,” Scott told Yahoo Movies.

... According to Scott, the topic of H2O on Mars came up during his discussions with the agency.

... Scott specified to the New York Times that he ... learned about Martian water after the film went into production....
This conspiracy theory I actually believe. The announcement's timing had nothing to do with Putin or liberalism. This is America. It was probably all about cross-marketing.


Donald Trump made openly racist statements about Mexican immigrants in his campaign kickoff speech -- and he shot to the top of the polls. Ben Carson subsequently made bigoted statements about Muslims -- and he's now solidly in second place, and threatening the front-runner.

Carly Fiorina is in third place in most polls, but she's well behind Trump and Carson. What can she say that's both shockingly taboo and catnip to the GOP base?

She may have found the answer:
Positioning herself as a steely advocate of aggressive counterterrorism programs, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina offered a vigorous defense of CIA waterboarding as a tactic that helped “keep our nation safe” in the aftermath of 9/11.

“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear -- that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina told Yahoo News. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
You might think that she'd have a lot of company, but on this subject, many of her fellow candidates are hedging or opposed (at least nominally):
[Jeb Bush] told a group of Iowa Republicans that he wasn’t sure whether he’d repeal an executive order banning certain interrogation techniques signed by President Obama....

In June, [Senator Lindsey Graham] ... voted against a measure that would categorically ban torture. The hawkish Graham said he opposed torture, of course, but was against publicly telling America’s enemies what they would face if caught....

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ... missed that vote on torture but later said he would have cast his ballot against it. “I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland,” he said in a statement at the time.

And during [the August] debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson won applause for this answer to a question about waterboarding: “You know, what we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn’t necessarily be broadcasting what we’re going to do.”

... Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas both voted for the torture ban earlier this summer. “Torture is wrong, unambiguously,” Cruz said at the time.
So Fiorina wins the ¿Quien es mas macho? contest again, just as she did by forcefully taking on Donald Trump in the CNN debate earlier this month.

I noted last week that 80% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush, and that a plurality of Republicans would vote for him if he could run for a third term, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll. I said that Jeb Bush would move up in the polls if he embraced his brother and the supposed pariahs of W's administration.

Fiorina seems to be grasping that notion. If she really wants the nomination, I think she should do something I recommended for Jeb -- make campaign appearances with Dick Cheney. (According to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted last year, 58% of Republicans have a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of Cheney.)

Fiorina has an opening here to distinguish herself as the full-service wingnut -- she's already the loudest voice on the Planned Parenthood videos, and with this embrace of Bush-era foreign policy lawlessness she need only add a staggeringly regressive tax plan (I mean more staggeringly regressive than her competitors' plans) to have all the legs of the three-legged stool of wingnuttery.

Oh, and did I also mention that in that Yahoo story Fiorina also boasted of her cooperation with NSA surveillance excesses?
Fiorina’s relationship with the U.S. intelligence community dates back to the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, when she got an urgent phone call from then NSA director Michael Hayden asking her to quickly provide his agency with HP computer servers for expanded surveillance.

While he did not tell Fiorina the details, Hayden confirmed to Yahoo News last week that he needed the HP servers so the NSA could implement “Stellar Wind” -- the controversial warrantless wiretapping program, including the bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records and emails, that had been secretly ordered by the Bush White House. “Carly, I need stuff and I need it now,” Hayden recalled telling Fiorina.

Fiorina acknowledged she complied with Hayden’s request, redirecting trucks of HP computer servers that were on their way to retail stores from a warehouse in Tennessee to the Washington Beltway, where they were escorted by NSA security to the gates of agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

“I felt it was my duty to help, and so we did,” Fiorina said. “They were ramping up a whole set of programs and needed a lot of data crunching capability to try and monitor a whole set of threats. …What I knew at the time was our nation had been attacked.”
I had my doubts about Fiorina, but she's looking like a stronger and stronger competitor to me. So go for it, Carly. Embrace the Cheney family. Call for a massive ground war in Iraq (or Iran or Syria or...). Say you'll pay for it with billionaire tax cuts. The rubes will just love the political incorrectness of it all.


Here are David Herszenhorn and Jonathan Martin writing in The New York Times about John Boehner's resignation and the ongoing anger of GOP zealots:
Even as conservatives rage against not having 60 votes in the Senate to overcome Democratic filibusters, or the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, their fiery language is almost certain to diminish the party’s chances of expanding its majorities. That would require winning seats in swing states and districts, where voters often prefer more centrist views.

“A lurch to the right is suicidal,” said Gregory Slayton, a Republican fund-raiser who backed Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin in the presidential race before he dropped out a week ago.
Nahhh. Right-wing extremism never really seems to hurt the GOP very much. The government shutdown of 2013 was followed by a Republican takeover of the Senate, in which Democrats lost seats in Colorado and Iowa, states that twice voted for Barack Obama as president; in a pair of other two-time Obama states, New Hampshire and Virginia, Democratic incumbents barely won tough races. And after retirements, Democrats also lost seats they'd previously held in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Oh, and of course Republicans gained 16 seats in the House in 2014, to give the GOP its largest House majority since 1928. And don't get me started on the big Republican gains in state legislatures.

I'd love to believe that things will be different in 2016, but from what I've seen, Democratic voters (and potential Democratic swing voters) don't remember anything that happened more than a month or two ago, whereas Republican voters cast their ballots based on grievances that dates back months, years, or decades. I realize that more Democrats will turn out in a presidential year than in an off year, but have you seen the polling of head-to-head matchups? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is struggling to beat her possible Republican opponents, including Donald Trump; in one poll, she's losing to the utterly unqualified Ben Carson by 7 points. A recent poll of Florida, a state Obama lost won twice, shows Clinton not only losing badly to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio but losing to Carson by double digits.

I'd love to think a shutdown will change all this. I don't see it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I spotted this on Twitter a little while ago:

Fox's Greta Van Susteren spotted it, too:

Yes, it is very kind of the Pope. It's also very curious that, of the many developmentally disabled children in Pennsylvania, one who was blessed by the Pope just so happened to be the daughter of a well-connected former U.S. senator, a guy who's running for president, and who made excellent use of that developmentally disabled daughter in a presidential campaign four years ago.

Bella Santorum has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. Santorum shot to the top tier of 2012 GOP presidential candidates after he made Bella's condition the subject of an online campaign ad:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family -- his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child like so many who are targeted in abortions.

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

"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
Santorum regularly worked mentions of Bella into his 2012 campaign speeches -- to great effect, as The New York Times reported:
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.
And yes, Santorum and his wife published a book about Bella earlier this year -- just in time for this campaign.

Now, this isn't the first time Santorum injected the story of one of his children into a political campaign. In 2005, when he was gearing up for what would ultimately be an unsuccessful bid to retain his Senate seat, Santorum managed to get the story of another child, one who died shortly after birth, into the opening paragraphs of a Washington Post profile:
In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.

Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.

"That's my little guy," Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father's hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly....

Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, "Letters to Gabriel," a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel's premature delivery. At one point, her doctor raised the prospect of an abortion, an "option" Karen ridicules. "Letters to Gabriel" also derides "pro-abortion activists" and decries the "infanticide" of "partial-birth abortion," the legality of which Rick Santorum was then debating in the Senate. The book reads, in places, like a call to action.

"When the partial-birth abortion vote comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third time," Karen writes to Gabriel, "your daddy needs to proclaim God's message for life with even more strength and devotion to the cause."
In 2013, Santorum politicized the health of yet another relative, in a sppech to a right-wing group:
Former Sen. Rick Santorum delivered a solemn but forceful rallying cry when speaking about the death of a close family member Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

With tears in his eyes, the former presidential candidate talked emotionally about his nephew who passed away Thursday in Pittsburgh from what Santorum described as "a horribly painful disease that almost overnight began ravaging his body."

... As the silent crowd listened, Santorum spoke with conviction from his speech, which he hand-wrote an hour beforehand, an adviser told CNN. While society has made immense progress in stopping physical pain, he said, Democrats have gone too far in trying to use government programs to address almost every other pain.

"The left can always promise more stuff and make it sound like they care more, because they make it easier for Americans by providing the stuff for them through government programs paid for by somebody else's money," he said.
So, am I wrong to suspect that Santorum pulled strings to get his daughter in position for the Pope's blessing? And am I wrong to think that he arranged all this for the most selfish of motives?

I know Santorum's campaign is going nowhere this year. But as long as there's still a ray of hope, I guess he's going to work all the angles.


UPDATE: The story is now being worked by Fox Nation, The Right Scoop, and (scroll down) The Washington Post. Nice work, Rick.


UPDATE, WEDNESDAY, 9/30: Still working it, I see.