Wednesday, April 01, 2015

DON'T GIVE MICHELE BACHMANN ALL THE BLAME -- OBAMA-AS-LUBITZ IS A RIGHT-WING MEME (updated)

Michele Bachmann posted this on Facebook on March 31:



Bachmann is being denounced as a uniquely extreme goggle-eyed lunatic. But this isn't even an original idea.

Here's Legal Insurrection cartoonist A.F. Branco on March 30:



And here's HopeNChange Cartoons ("Proudly conservative -- fiercely funny") on March 27:



That one is accompanied by a post whose author goes by the name "Stilton Jarlsberg." It reads in part:
Lubitz, in his single-minded madness, couldn't be stopped because anyone who could change the jet's disastrous course was locked out.

It's hard to imagine the growing feelings of fear and helplessness that the passengers felt as the unforgiving landscape rushed up to meet them. Hard - but not impossible.

Because America is in trouble. We feel the descent in the pits of our stomachs. We hear the shake and rattle of structures stressed beyond their limits. We don't know where we're going anymore, but do know it isn't good. And above all, we feel helpless because Barack Obama has locked us out.

He locked the American people out of his decision to seize the national healthcare system. Locked us out when we wanted to know why the IRS was attacking conservatives. He locked us out of having a say in his decision to tear up our immigration laws, and to give over a trillion dollars in benefits to those who broke those laws.

Obama locked out those who advised against premature troop withdrawals. Locked out the intelligence agencies who issued warnings about the growing threat of ISIS. He locked out anyone who could have interfered with his release of five Taliban terror chiefs in return for one U.S. military deserter.

And of course, Barack Obama has now locked out Congress, the American people, and our allies as he strikes a secret deal with Iran to determine the timeline (not prevention) of their acquisition of nuclear weapons....

It was only near the end of the 8 minute plunge that everyone finally understood what was really happening. Only near the end when they began to scream.

Like those passengers, a growing number of Americans feel a helpless dread as they come to the inescapable conclusion that our nation's decline is an act of choice rather than of chance. The choice of one man who is in full control of our 8 year plunge.

A man who has locked everyone out.
You think someone like Bachmann represents the rightmost point on the bell curve of crazy, and it turns out that she's not alone at the far edge, because of plenty of others are right there with her. At this point, the right is so deranged that she may be closer to the middle of the curve than the far end.

****

UPDATE: Oops, one more -- from right-wing Net-radio talker Teri O'Brien on March 27:
Barack Obama: America’s Andreas Lubitz. Is it too late to keep our great country from slamming into the side of a mountain?
You can pretty much guess the rest.

****

UPDATE: And I also missed this, from Roger L. Simon at PJ Media on March 27:
Obama the Crazy Pilot

... Obama and his minions are huddled wherever they’re huddled, busy destroying the Western World with their bizarre policies and eagerness to make a deal with Iran that is so desperate it makes the word pathetic seem pathetic. The results of this desperation have been wretched, a fascistic new Persian Empire emerging from Libya to Yemen with Obama auditioning for the role of Cyrus the Great – or is it Ahmadinejad Junior? Whatever the case, it’s horrible....

It’s hard to know why Obama is doing it all. I know it sounds like a rude overstatement but in a way he reminds me of that crazy German pilot flying that plane into that alpine cliff, only the plane is us (America and the West). Does he hate us all that much – or is it just Netanyahu? ...
(Hat tip: nancydrew in comments.)

CONGRATULATIONS, HATERS: TED CRUZ IS NOW A TOP-TIER CANDIDATE AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT

Ted Cruz's 2016 poll numbers have been in the doldrums, but a new Public Policy Polling survey says he's made big gains:
PPP's newest Republican national poll finds that Ted Cruz has the big momentum following the official announcement of his candidacy last week. His support has increased from 5% to 16% in just over a month, enough to make him one of three candidates in the top tier of GOP contenders, along with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush....

Cruz has really caught fire with voters identifying themselves as 'very conservative' since his announcement. After polling at only 11% with them a month ago, he now leads the GOP field with 33% to 25% for Walker and 12% for Carson with no one else in double digits. Last month Walker led with that group and almost all of the decline in his overall support over the last month has come within it as those folks have moved toward Cruz.
How do you become a favorite of the wingnut Republican voter base? Regular readers of this blog know my theory: You have to persuade those voters that liberals and Democrats really, really hate and fear you. Cruz's problem in the months leading up to the announcement of his candidacy was that we'd stopped acting as if we were afraid of him. We hardly talked about him anymore, and when we did, all we talked about was how much other Republicans hated him. So he'd become the male Sarah Palin -- yes, a vengeful warrior for True Conservatism, but a warrior who apparently couldn't shoot straight.

But once he'd announced, we lefties - and, yes, I'm as guilty as every other bloviator -- couldn't stop talking about him. We treated him as if he's a conservative force to be feared. Some of us dredged up the old Joe McCarthy comparisons. (An aside: Can we please stop comparing Cruz to Joe McCarthy? Yes, they look somewhat alike. Yes, Cruz also hates communism. But Cruz has no power to destroy reputation or ruin lives -- I'm not saying he wouldn't given the chance, but he can't, and he's not likely ever to have the power, unless, God help us, some GOP president puts him on the Supreme Court, which I wouldn't rule out.)

We all talked so much about Cruz after he announced his candidacy that now he seems powerful. It looks as if we fear him. So of course the voter base has (at least temporarily) forgotten Scott Walker's union-busting and three recent election victories, and has forgotten Ben Carson's National Prayer Breakfast speech:
Ben Carson [has] dropped from 18% to his new 10% standing. There's a lot of overlap between the voters who like Carson and the voters who like Cruz and where previously they'd been naming Carson as their first choice the momentum for Cruz lately seems to have really cut into Carson's support.
The candidates, or at least the non-Jeb candidates, are going to figure this out, if they haven't already. In order to win, they're going to have to anger us and scare us. If we rise (or the GOP voter base thinks we're rising) to some candidate's bait, that candidate will soar in the polls.

So we should probably dispense our outrage carefully -- though, frankly, I'm glad we elevated Cruz, because he might be the least electable Republican apart from Donald Trump. Go Ted!

HILARIOUS RICK SANTORUM SAYS ISIS PROPAGANDA IS BETTER JOURNALISM THAN THE NEW YORK TIMES

Rick Santorum is one of three public figures who've been identified as enemies in a new issue of an ISIS propaganda magazine:
A magazine published by the Islamic State has put Virginia state Sen. Richard H. Black on very short enemies list.

The publication, Dabiq, singles out Black (R-Loudoun) along with two others it describes as “crusaders,” former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and CIA veteran and author Gary Berntsen.
Via PJ Media, here's Dabiq quoting Santorum:



So how did Santorum react to this? He reacted as you might expect: He used what Dabiq published as an excuse to take a swipe at ... um, The New York Times:



STEVE DOOCY: You know, it's one thing if The New York Times quotes you, or we quote you on Fox, but when ISIS quotes you, what did you think?

RICK SANTORUM: Well, the difference is ISIS actually quoted me accurately, composed -- compared to The New York Times, which is sort of a remarkable comment on the state of the media today.
Oooh, snap! Ya burnt, New York Slimes!

Seriously, Santorum? When have you been quoted inaccurately in The New York Times? I'm not asking about expressions of opinion in the Times that you don't like, or interpretations of facts you disagree with in straight Times journalism -- when exactly has the Times misquoted you? I want article titles and dates. It's not "a remarkable comment on the state of the media" if it's not based on facts, so give me facts.

Yes, maybe I'm making too much of an offhand quip (although I don't think it was an offhand quip -- the stumble over the word "compared" suggests to me that this exchanged was scripted for Doocy and Santorum and read off prompters, as, I suspect, many of the liberal-baiting jokes in Fox interviews are scripted). But this is how the right thinks. ISIS is bad, but ISIS isn't the main enemy. The main enemy is the right's domestic political opposition (and, in this case, Rupert Murdoch's media competitors, who are all, of course, part of the vast left-wing conspiracy). You'll see this in the rest of the clip. Santorum's ultimate enemy is in the Oval Office:
SANTORUM: ... They did. They accurately quoted -- I described who they were, what they were about, what they wanted to accomplish, and they put it out there because it accurately described who they are, which is, again, a comment on this administration and their unwillingness to deal directly with the truth about who ISIS is, they're a global jihadist movement, they have established a caliphate, they want to expand that caliphate, and I explained what that was about. So I took it as them actually finding an American politician who actually described them as to who they really are.
Did you follow thaT? Santorum is such a truth-teller, and Obama such a prevaricator, that even ISIS admires Santorum for his truth-telling.

Santorum is proud of being quoted by ISIS. He's come to the conclusion that ISIS has somehow pulled the wool over Obama's eyes, which helps ISIS, while his own noble truth-telling exposes ISIS -- yet the members of ISIS actually admire him for exposing them!

In reality, ISIS wants to quote Santorum because his words function as an extremely effective recruiting tool. The Santorum quote in Dabiq comes from a February appearance by Santorum on (of course) Fox News, in which he aggrandizes ISIS almost as effectively as its own propaganda does ("They’re not losing ground. They’re not being discredited in the eyes of the Muslim world. They will get stronger") and suggests that nothing will stop the group short of deploying a large U.S. ground force:
In the caliphate, the reason that we had a thousand-year world with the Muslim world....When I say “we” I mean the West...had a thousand-year war with Islam is that Islam was ever-expanding. When Islam began to contract, it collapsed. The caliphate was eliminated. Now they have established a caliphate. They are dead serious about expanding it. Unless we begin to take back that ground and make this caliphate irrelevant in the eyes of the Muslim world, or the radical Muslim world, we are going to have a bigger and bigger problem. So, the key is to act promptly and to make sure that America is involved. We have to have...I said today in my speech here at CPAC that we could put forth 10,000 troops....
Many right-wingers have quoted Graeme Wood's Atlantic article "What ISIS Really Wants," but Wood thinks it would be a terrible idea for America to rise to ISIS's bait this way, because it's exactly what ISIS wants:
The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a [allegiance] to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment.
So Santorum is doing what ISIS wants, and is quite pleased with himself for doing it. Oh, and by the way, Obama and The New York Times still suck!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ON INDIANA, DAVID BROOKS AND MELISSA McEWAN ARRIVE AT APPROXIMATELY THE SAME CONCLUSION

The latest David Brooks column, on Indiana's "religious freedom" law, has been mercilessly picked apart by Chrlie Pierce, Yastreblyansky (here and here), and Driftglass, among others. The Brooks passage that's most infuriating is this one:
Morality is a politeness of the soul. Deep politeness means we make accommodations. Certain basic truths are inalienable. Discrimination is always wrong. In cases of actual bigotry, the hammer comes down. But as neighbors in a pluralistic society we try to turn philosophic clashes (about right and wrong) into neighborly problems in which different people are given space to have different lanes to lead lives. In cases where people with different values disagree, we seek a creative accommodation.
We expect Brooks to be exasperating in this way. We're not surprised that "the well-mannered moral monster," as Pierce describes him,"would like all those hysterical gay people to start using their inside voices and to understand that their desire for equal protection under the law would be better served if they understood the feelings of the people who think they are sodomite insects who are all going to hell."

But what am I hearing from Shakesville's Melissa McEwan, a committed progressive? She's an Indiana resident, and she's written a post for a site called Model View Culture in which she also chides progressives for urging a boycott of Indiana, and in which she further argues that the regressive nature of the state is actually progressives' fault:
Many of the people calling for the boycott are, realistically, individuals who have never set foot in Indiana, never will, and probably couldn’t pick out Indiana on a map. But there were also corporate leaders who immediately embraced the notion of a boycott. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced his company would be “cancelling all required travel to the state of Indiana,” and called on “other tech CEOs and tech industry leaders to please take a stand.

Hoosiers are already hurting economically....

The idea that we need more pressure in order to be moved to do something is absurd. People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance. We are too busy trying to survive.
(Let me interrupt right there. "People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance"? Does McEwan think the participants in the Montgomery bus boycott were part of the economic elite? A century ago, were the strikers who built America's labor movement part of the 1%, in McEwan's estimation?)
What you need to understand about Indiana is that the state government doesn’t give a fuck about the people of the state. If you don’t, either, you’re on their side. Not ours.

The truth is, progressives with resources have been boycotting Indiana for decades. That’s actually why we’re in this situation. If you want to know what a boycott would really look like, what result institutional neglect will really have, this is it. This legislation -- it’s the result of Indiana having been de facto boycotted for years, written off as a place unworthy of investment by people who could help.
Yes, we effectively wrote this legislation, according to McEwan, by not rebuilding the state's economy from scratch with a benignly carpetbaggish crash program of progressive entrepreneurialism. (Those of us who have absolutely no head for business are, I guess, guilty even if we have nothing of this kind to offer Indiana -- hey, you know what you are if you're not part of the solution....)
...What a generalized boycott of Indiana would do is harm working people -- among whom are queer business owners, as well as queer employees of inclusive and supportive employers, and also queer employees of discriminatory employers, because that’s the only job they can get in a state with far too few jobs.

And let’s be honest here: It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering “Boycott Indiana!” had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people.

Which underlines what’s really the worst thing about this idea: It’s reflective of a vicious stereotype that disappears the existence of the very people for whom the sloganeers purport to care.
That's right -- we're pressuring Indiana because we're the haters.

I'm at a loss. I don't know where to begin.

I'm struck, though, by how much overlap there is between McEwan's leftier-than-thou cry of rage and the self-satisfied windbaggery of Brooks. Ultimately, isn't McEwan also calling for "deep politeness" while excoriating those who choose confrontation? Isn't McEwan arguing that we should never fight and should always look for a "creative accommodation"?

And aren't they both full of it?


(McEwan post via Tom Watson at Forbes.)

RAND PAUL APPARENTLY THINKS HOMOSEXUALITY IS A LIFESTYLE CHOICE, BUT GUN OWNERSHIP IS INNATE

BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden reports:
Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn’t buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person’s lifestyle.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013....

Eleanor May, a spokesperson for Paul’s 2016 re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate, said the rights that count are those in the country’s founding charter. “What he is saying in this video is that he does not classify rights based on behavior, but rather recognizes rights for all, as our Constitution defines it,” May told BuzzFeed News.
Holden writes:
But it’s unclear how far -- and to whom -- Paul extends the argument that rights cannot be defined by behavior.

Practicing religion, for example, is a behavior enshrined as a primary American right. Free speech is behavior protected by the Bill of Rights....
Um ... gun ownership? Is gun ownership not "behavior"?

We know that Senator Paul is one of the most uncompromising supporters of gun rights in Washington (which is quite a high bar to clear). We know he's put his name to fundraising appeals from a group that's so pro-gun it's fought to defeat Eric Cantor and other Republicans. We know Paul announced a threat to filibuster all gun control legislation in 2013 (around the same time as the interview quoted above), and we know he blocked confirmation of President Obama's choice for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, because Murthy thinks gun violence is a public health issue. So, yeah, Paul is pro-gun.

I guess he thinks gun ownership is so fundamental to the makeup of certain human beings, is so hard-wired, that it simply can't be considered "behavior." Ask me to pass a background check at a gun show? That's discrimination! I was born this way!

Gay sex? A choice. Owning an assault rifle? An essential part of who you are.

DID THE 2014 BLOWOUT EMBOLDEN REPUBLICANS ON SOCIAL ISSUES?

The standard narrative of the 2014 elections is this: Republicans suppressed the Tea Party and avoided running divisive candidates. Even candidates such as Joni Ernst who'd expressed Tea Party-esque views in the past developed the discipline not to talk about those views. The Republican Party's template for the future is to run electable candidates who reassure voters that conservatism isn't scary.

But I suspect that Republicans drew another conclusion from their 2014 electoral successes. In many states, GOP candidates won even after supporting extremely divisive legislation. Controversial Republican governors such as Florida's Rick Scott, Kansas's Sam Brownback, Maine's Paul LePage, and,of course, Wisconsin's Scott Walker all won reelection. Republicans increased their majorities in state legislatures. These wins came after Republicans passed laws that not only busted unions and limited voting rights but significantly restricted abortion in state after state.

So even as Republican candidates learned to be circumspect in their language about social issues in particular -- no more "legitimate rape" talk -- they were developing a sense of what they could get away with while retaining the support of moderate voters.

I think that's why 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls aren't being cautious about Indiana's "religious freedom" law. They think 2014 means they can get away with this:
Key Republican presidential hopefuls are backing Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act...

"I think Governor Pence has done the right thing," Bush said [on Hugh Hewitt's radio show], according to the New York Times. "I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all...."

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination last week, said in a statement that he favors the new law....

Earlier today, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum said in a tweet he supports Pence....
And:
Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio also backed the law during an appearance on Fox News.
This comes at the same time that Chris Christie -- widely regarded as a moderate -- has expressed support for the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion at the federal level after 20 weeks.

These guys are looking and 2014 and concluding that voters will still vote for you if you think like Todd Akin as long as you don't talk like Todd Akin -- or, perhaps, as long as you don't talk like Todd Akin in the few months leading up to a general election. They think they can be religious-right warriors now, when the only voters they have to worry about are GOP primary voters. They assume the vast majority of non-Republican voters aren't paying attention to what they're saying now or won't remember by November 2016, at which point they will have dialed down the rhetoric and spent several months saying only bland and anodyne things about social issues.

Will this work? Will they get away with it? We'll see. But they won't if we remember.

Monday, March 30, 2015

CAN WE PLEASE SETTLE ON A LEGAL AGE OF MAJORITY?

A Boston Globe opinion piece by a psychology professor named Laurence Steinberg predicts that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers will argue that he was only kinda-sorta over the adult age threshold at the time of the Boston Marathon bombings, as a way of trying to save him from the death penalty. Will this really happen? And is this an odd line of argument when our legal system treats much younger defendants as full-blown adults?
As the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, moves into its defense phase, his attorneys likely will lean heavily on the science of adolescent development to argue that their client should be spared the death penalty. Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s lead defense attorney, has already made several references about Tsarnaev’s youthfulness and susceptibility to the influence of his older brother....

Tsarnaev was 19 at the time of the bombing, an adult under every state’s criminal law. States often have departed from the presumptive age of majority, 18, in prosecuting and punishing juvenile offenders, but the departures always have been toward a younger, not older, dividing line. Arguing that a 19-year-old is still an adolescent is a step in a new direction.
I'll say. In Wisconsin last year, two twelve-year-old girls were charged with stabbing a classmate in an effort to appease an Internet-based fiction character called Slender Man; earlier this month, a judge ruled that the two girls should be tried as adults. Obviously, the defense in that case will raise the subject of the girls' age -- appropriately. But why are we even arguing that two girls of this age are pseudo-adults before the law?

The two defendants in that case are white, but it's primarily nonwhite youths who get tried as adults in America. A quick Google search finds these headlines: "Black Missouri teens increasingly tried disproportionately as adults"; "Black, Latino youths disproportionately sentenced in adult courts" (in California); "Black boys are more likely to be tried as adults in Chicago"; "Colorado minority youth disproportionately tried as adults."

In his article, Steinberg points out that the Supreme Court has embraced the notion that adolescents aren't fully capable of adult decision-making, although the Court has primarily focused on minors:
The defense team will probably point to several US Supreme Court decisions issued during the past decade, in which the Court’s majority concluded that adolescents’ immaturity rendered them less culpable than fully mature adults. Writing for the court’s majority in Roper v. Simmons, the case that abolished the juvenile death penalty, Justice Anthony Kennedy identified three features of adolescence that mitigate juveniles’ culpability: impetuous decision-making, heightened susceptibility to coercion, and an unformed personality.

In subsequent decisions that built on Roper, the court connected adolescent impulsivity to research on brain development, arguing that adolescents’ neurobiological immaturity meant that their crimes are often due to factors they can’t control. More recently, research also has identified the neural bases of adolescents’ intensified susceptibility to peer pressure and is revealing the period to be one of heightened neuroplasticity, or capacity for the brain to change.
But how often do we apply this in the cases of nonwhite youths charged with run-of-the-mill crimes? Do we say that a nineteen-year-old charged with a gang-related shooting -- or, for that matter, a nonwhite sixteen-year-old being tried as an adult -- ought to earn our empathy because his adolescent brain hasn't developed full maturity? Is that happening in our courts on a routine basis?

I think what Steinberg is talking about is scientifically valid. But I also think we need to decide who's an adult in this society and who isn't for the purposes of the law -- and we ought to try to apply a single standard. If we're going to let some lawyers argue that a nineteen-year-old bomber was a still-developing child, we shouldn't be saying that two twelve-year-old girls are adults, or that thousands of nonwhite teenage boys caught up in the criminal justice system are also adults well before their eighteenth birthdays. It makes no sense.

AND AFTER THAT, RUBIO'S GOING TO HANG WITH SINATRA AND JILL ST. JOHN AT THE FONTAINEBLEAU

Marco Rubio is going to be one of the youngest candidates in the presidential race, but I see from a Wall Street Journal story that he apparently wants his campaign to be a bridge to the twentieth century:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is laying plans to announce his presidential bid in two weeks....

Mr. Rubio has made tentative arrangements to announce his White House bid on April 13 at the historic Freedom Tower in Miami, a Rubio adviser said, though aides haven’t yet made final the location and timing. The Freedom Tower is where thousands of Cuban refugees were admitted to the country during the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants.
First of all, yes, Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants, but despite his efforts at confusing the issue, his parents were not Castro-era refugees -- they came here in 1956, as The Washington Post reported four years ago:
During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.

But a review of documents -- including naturalization papers and other official records -- reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959....

Rubio’s office confirmed Thursday that his parents arrived in the United States in 1956....
The Freedom Tower wasn't used to provide servants to immigrants until after Castro took power.

Beyond that, what kind of time warp is Rubio living in if he thinks the way to win the presidency in 2016 is to run against the commies? According to a January Pew poll, 63% of Americans favor reestablishing relations with Cuba. Even among Republicans, opposition is only at 48%. (And as I've noted, in Iowa, which is an agricultural state, there's strong support for increased trade with Cuba.)

Look, I know that the GOP's voter base is very old. I know that there's been a hole in the Republican soul ever since the Berlin Wall fell -- Republicans really miss hating communism. But, guys, it's 2015. Fidel Castro is something like 137 years old. It's over. We won. Stop living in the past -- especially you, Marco, you young whippersnapper.

****

The Journal story also discusses the announcement plans of other presidential aspirants. Regarding Hillary Clinton, there are no surprises:
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is likely to end years of speculation about her political plans and officially jump in the race in mid-April, a person familiar with the matter said.
And as for Jeb Bush:
Less clear is the timetable for former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. His announcement could come as late as this summer.
So wait -- the entire chattering class has spent months demanding an immediate Hillary Clinton announcement, but Jeb might not make his candidacy official until months from now and that's OK? I'm just looking for a clarification on that.

JUST VOTE FOR LYNCH AND SAY "BENGHAZI!" A LOT

Pity the poor Senate Republicans -- according to Jonathan Martin and Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times, they really, really want Loretta Lynch to be confirmed as attorney general, if only because that would lead to the resignation of Eric Holder, history's second-greatest monster (after Barack Obama) -- but they can't actually vote for Lynch because primary voters will be mean to them:
The nomination of Ms. Lynch, a seasoned United States attorney from New York, has laid bare the difficult politics confronting the new Republican majority. Lawmakers have found nothing in Ms. Lynch’s background to latch on to in opposition, and many are loath to reject the first African-American woman put forth to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But, they say, their constituents have told them that a vote for Ms. Lynch affirms Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which she has said she finds lawful.
May I just remind you that a number of these Republicans won't be up for reelection until 2018 or 2020? At which point we will almost certainly have a new attorney general -- and if it's Hillary Clinton's attorney general, that person could be the new Antichrist? And yet these senators think they'll be brought low in a Republican primary three or five years from now for a vote confirming Lynch?

What's crazy about this is that the GOP Establishment demonstrated in 2014 that it could help non-teabaggy incumbents survive a contested primary. Yes, Eric Cantor lost a House primary, but he was asleep at the switch and didn't fight back against his Tea Party opponent. And yes, Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi barely survived a primary challenge. But all sorts of alleged RINOs survived -- including the likes of John Boehner and Lindsey Graham, who are frequently maligned by the purists. (Graham, by the way, plans to vote for Lynch.)

Many Republican senators think they'd be committing career suicide if they cast this one vote -- yet Graham does all sorts of things that would seem suicidal, as does Boehner. Why do they survive?

The answer is obvious: They're frequently on television denouncing President Obama and his policies as the gravest threat in the history of the Republic. That's the secret -- if you have conservatively incorrect votes on your record and you have to get through primary season, get some help from the Establishment, and cover your right flank by planting yourself in front of as many TV cameras as possible and yammering about golf and Teleprompters and "leading from behind" and Bowe Bergdahl, or, for the future, Benghazi and erased emails and Huma Abedin.

Just toss the voters large slabs of red meat. Then you can vote however the hell you want in situations like this.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

AN EXERCISE EQUIPMENT CONSPIRACY SO VAST

Via Zandar, I see that Power Line's John Hinderaker doesn't believe that the injuries Harry Reid sustained back in January could possibly have resulted from exercise equipment:
In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.
Would it be irresponsible of Hindrocket to speculate? Apparently it would be irresponsible not to:
When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters.
Oh, but this isn't idle speculation -- Hindrocket has unimpeachable sources!
A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.
Well, that settles it then! Case closed!

No, wait -- Mr. H doesn't want to leap to conclusions:
Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.
To be sure, it was a Rube Goldberg-y sort of accident, if it happened the way Reid's spokesman said it did:
The accident occurred when an elastic exercise band broke, striking Reid in the face and causing him to fall, said spokesman Adam Jentleson. Reid struck part of the equipment as he fell, breaking multiple bones near his right eye.

As he hit the floor, he broke several ribs.
Can anything like this even happen? How many people have ever suffered serious injuries from these things?

Well, a lot, actually.

Go here if you want to read a brief article from Case Reports in Ophthalmological Medicine about a man who suffered a detached retina after his eye was hit by an elasticized exercise band. Go here if you want to read about a woman who's suing a Manhattan fitness club for $1 million because, she claims, "she suffered severe injuries, including a loss of vision in one eye, when an exercise resistance band snapped from her foot and hit her in the face."

Here's an account of a pretty terrible accident:
While attempting to measure how much force a heavy elastic exercise band produced when used for biceps curls, the band slipped loose and struck me in the right eye. The immediate pain was excruciating and lasted several minutes. After that a severe burning/itching sensation remained for hours. Vision through the eye was extremely blurred with a dark donut-shaped zone blocking one third of it.

I immediately went to my eye doctor, who sent me to a surgeon specializing in eye injuries. Upon inspection he determined that the cornea had been collapsed and the iris damaged to the point where it was bleeding into the space between the cornea and the lens....

What followed was a week of sitting upright in a chair virtually all the time in an attempt to hold the eye as still as possible. Once torn, the very delicate iris is prone to rebleeding after the initial bleeding stops. I even had to sleep sitting up. Three rebleeds occurred in spite of this and it was three weeks before the iris has healed. During this period there were days where the pain in the eye was so all-consuming that psychologically I ceased to exist other than as a vessel of the pain. Even high doses of vicodin had no effect on it.

... muscles in the upper left quarter of the iris were permanently torn. The iris can no longer contract, is frozen at 8 millimeters in diameter and off center toward the 10 o'clock quadrant. This wide open iris causes considerable glare during the day and when watching television. I have been told there is nothing that can be done to correct this condition.
You want more? There's this from a newspaper in Washington State:
One of those horror stories belongs to a Puyallup man who shared his story with me on the condition I don’t use his name. He’s hired an attorney in an effort to recoup medical expenses.

He was in a boot camp class with a bright red band fully extended with both hands over his head. When one of the handles broke, the band snapped around and hit him in the face. He broke his nose, and his eye filled with blood. A friend rushed him to the emergency room, where he underwent a barrage of expensive tests and needed stitches.

He couldn’t see with his damaged eye for several days, and his face was bruised for a month. He had to sleep sitting in a chair so the blood would drain from his eye.
And then there's this, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's SaferProducts.gov site:
I was injured by the Target Embark resistance band while exercising to a dvd. During a pull up sitting on the floor, the door opened and the ball catapulted and hit me square in the right eye. I didn't even know it happened right away - it took me a minute to register something had even occurred. It caused a broken lower eye socket, a traumatic cataract, traumatic glaucoma, corneal damage and mydriasis. I have undergone 2 surgeries, one an implant to correct the fracture, and one cataract removal and pupil cerclage. I most likely will need to have glaucoma surgery and a corneal transplant. I am functioning well and can see decent since the surgery, but my eye is plagued by constant inflammation and general achiness.... I consider myself lucky to have vision in my eye still, but I definitely won't ever be the same.
This report was accompanied by a rather unpleasant photo:



That particular exercise band was recalled. It's one of several such recalls, as you can see if you go to the site of this Dallas law firm, which actively solicits clients for resistance band injury lawsuits, as does this California law firm.

So, yeah, these things can hurt you. I'll leave you with this, which I guess could have been a lot worse:

WE COULD USE A FEW MORE GROUNDSWELLS, ON A FEW OTHER ISSUES

Tim Swarens, a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, tells us that Governor Mike Pence is backtracking hastily on the state's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he signed on Thursday:
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week....
The negative response to this law has been impossible for Indiana to ignore. I think that's great. I think it's great that other states considering such laws will now need to think twice.

So why can't be there be similar negative groundswells in response to regressive state laws on other subjects?

Oh, yeah, right:
I spoke with Pence on the same day that ... Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle announced that his company will abandon a deal with the state and city to expand the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis because of RFRA’s passage.

Oesterle’s statement is a telling sign that the outrage over RFRA isn’t limited only to the political left. Oesterle directed Republican Mitch Daniels’ 2004 campaign for governor. And it’s a signal that the damage from the RFRA debacle could be extensive....

Pence said, for example, that he had a “cordial and productive” conversation with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who announced shortly after Pence signed the RFRA legislation on Thursday that the company will cancel all corporate-related travel to Indiana. That conversation, however, has not led to a reversal of the Salesforce decision.
Right -- this groundswell is effective because the issue matters to the business community, which has become more and more gay-friendly in recent years. Generally speaking, progressive forces alone aren't capable of bringing this kind of pressure to bear.

We're at cross purposes with the business community on economic issues, and on fighting climate change. On other issues, the business community has no dog in the hunt: fighting police brutality in non-white communities, say, or defending abortion access, or closing the gun show loophole. Businesses want to retain LGBT employees and customers, so the issue of LGBT rights is a rare area of agreement between progressives and a large segment of the business community.

Yes, progressive forces have won a few without having business on their side -- higher minimum wages here and there, the reversal of anti-union legislation in Ohio. But it's rare. We're still not very strong. We're going to be embattled until we can put a scare into conservatives without needing reinforcements.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

RAND PAUL IS WRITING A BOOK ABOUT PRAYER IN THE WHITE HOUSE, BECAUSE LIBERTY, I GUESS

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

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

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



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

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

And the second book? ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMERICA'S OLIGARCHS WANT IT ALL, AND THEY WANT IT NOW

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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





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

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

ISLAMOPHOBES FIND A GERMANWINGS STORY THEY LIKE

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

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

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

Speisa.com reported:

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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



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

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

DEMOCRATS HAVE NO BENCH, PART MCMLXXVII

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

* * * *

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

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

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

FOREIGN POLICY MADE E-Z,THE WAY HEARTLAND AMERICA LIKES IT

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

Hewitt: Right.

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

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



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

*****

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

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

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



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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THE GERMANWINGS MURDER-SUICIDE WASN'T ISLAMIST TERRORISM. HERE'S HOW THE U.S. RIGHT WILL PROBABLY COPE. (updated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

(Hat tip: nancydrewed.)

BOWE BERGDAHL HYPOCRISY LINKFEST

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

* Funny, Jake Tapper Used to Want Berghdahl Freed

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

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

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

And, from Gawker:

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



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

But I'm stating the obvious, right?

WHY DOES THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL HATE ISRAEL?

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

Oh, wait:
Netanyahu Told to Mend Ties With Washington

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

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

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