Friday, November 27, 2015


Molly Ball of The Atlantic has seen Donald Trump's supporters up close and has concluded that they're not going to change their minds:
Four months into his crazed foray into presidential politics, Trump is still winning this thing.... The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, which some hoped would expose Trump’s shallowness, have instead strengthened him by intensifying people’s anger and fear....

Some observers still think Trump’s support might be soft. Trump has dipped in the polls a couple of times, after a listless debate performance, for example. Perhaps the people who first glommed on to his celebrity got bored and drifted away. But if so, they didn’t find anybody else they liked. And they came back. And now, they are not leaving.

“I have got my mind made up, pretty much so,” says Michael Barnhill, a 67-year-old factory supervisor with a leathery complexion and yellow teeth. “The fact is, politicians have not done anything for our country in a lot of years.”

These people are not confused. They are sticking with Trump, the only candidate who gets it, who is man enough to show the enemy who’s boss....

“I look at the pictures of those refugees and they all look like able-bodied young men, 18 to 30 years old,” says ... Patrice Matthews, a 62-year-old retired school-district worker....

I hear versions of the point about able-bodied young men from five different people. I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face....
And of course Republican voters respond to Trump -- as Josh Marshall notes, he's just saying on the campaign trail what conservatives have been saying to one another for year:
It's not too much to say that there's nothing Trump has said in recent weeks that you couldn't hear any given Monday on the Rush Limbaugh Show, from various backbench House conservatives or a million other places in conservative media. If you pay attention to any of these three fronts, you know this. These are the same themes, enemies, and swear lines that have run right at the water line of conservative politics for years.
So what could beat Trump? David Frum argues that Trump should be attacked as an immigration flip-flopper:
... if you want to take down Trump, there is only one line of attack that will work....

Right now, construction crews are at work completing the new Trump hotel in Washington D.C.’s Old Post Office. In July, a reporter for the Post interviewed 15 of those workers.
[M]any of them had crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally before they eventually settled in the Washington region to build new lives.

Several of the men, who hail mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have earned U.S. citizenship or legal status through immigration programs targeting Central Americans fleeing civil wars or natural disasters. Others quietly acknowledged that they remain in the country illegally.
A spokesman for the Trump organization noted that construction workers on the site were employed not by Trump himself, but by subcontractors. That answer may constitute a valid legal defense -- but it’s no defense at all for attack ad purposes.
So Trump is a hypocrite -- but this has already been reported and it hasn't hurt him. Why might it hurt him eventually? Frum thinks it's because he came late to this issue, and could be portrayed as someone who might change his mind again:
Until he read Ann Coulter’s book this spring, Trump seemed to have been a perfectly conventional business Republican on immigration. In a 2012 interview, in fact, he blamed Romney’s loss on taking a too-tough line on the issue:
...“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.” ...
If Trump said those things in one interview, recorded only in print, it’s likely he said them in others, recorded in video and audio, the raw material of the attack ad.
I don't buy it. Trump supporters desperately want to believe. They know that in the past he's been pro-choice. He's been pro-single payer. He's been pro-Clinton. They don't care. Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat. David Horowitz was once a leftist. They want to believe in conversions.

But those undocumented workers on Trump's job site could provide a means to attack Trump -- if Trump opponents are willing to be extremely amoral even by the usual standards of attack politics.

What might give Trump voters pause is news that an undocumented Trump construction worker committed a violent crime. That's the primal fear of all anti-immigrant right-wingers: a fear that all or most of the undocumented are untraceable, uncontrollable, feral criminal sociopaths. (Trump on Mexico in his announcement speech: "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.")

Is it likely that a Trump construction worker is going to commit a violent crime? Statistics show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native born, so the answer is no.

Which is where the amorality of political operatives would have to come in.

If GOP Establishmentarians could cruelly and cynically persuade someone in local law enforcement to charge an undocumented Trump worker with an unsolved violent crime, and if they could sustain a cover-up of the worker's innocence, this could become a multi-day story and might genuinely hurt Trump. It would no longer be enough for him just to bellow that you should ignore his past statements on immigration and pay attention to the new ones, because now he'd be pressured to answer for an indefensible deed.

Arresting an innocent man would be an awful thing to do, of course, though it would hardly be the first time a law enforcement agency acted with this degree of moral bankruptcy.

The point is, it might work.

Or maybe Trump would successfully shift the blame to the nominal employer of his construction workers and emerge unscathed.
But trust me, the only chance the GOP Establishment has of beating Trump is by offering real evidence, phony or otherwise, that he's part of the problem. The Establishment will have to out-Trump Trump.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


This is where I'm supposed to tell you all the things I'm grateful for, but it just doesn't feel like that kind of year. For instance, here's the guy who's supposedly the sane, rational, moderate alternative to the crazies dominating the Republican presidential race:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says religious believers are called to “ignore” laws that violate their faith.

“In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin -- violate God’s law and sin -- if we’re ordered to stop preaching the Gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that,” Rubio said in an interview with CBN on Tuesday.

“So when those two come into conflict, God’s rules always win,” he added.
Do you see what Rubio did there? He's asked about tolerating legal same-sex marriage and he responds by imagining an America in which Christians are "ordered to stop preaching the Gospel" and "ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it." Who's ordering Christians to stop preaching Christianity? Who is even trying to force religious denominations to perform same-sex marriages, any more than we force Catholics to offer church weddings to divorced people?

But if conservatives like Rubio tell themselves these are the real threats, they feel justified in lashing out. They're the victims, based on what they say is being done to them.

There's a huge difference between this and the way blacks in America are treated by police departments and their law-and-order enablers -- black people are actually killed and brutalized by cops on a shockingly routine basis -- but the principle is similar: Again, the response is justified by the false claim that the attackers are the victims. We see this in the case of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago:
It was just about a year ago that a city whistleblower came to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman out of concern that Laquan McDonald’s shooting a few weeks earlier “wasn’t being vigorously investigated,” as Kalven recalls. The source told them “that there was a video and that it was horrific,” he said....

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times -- as Van Dyke unloaded his service weapon, execution style -- while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops.
The story that McDonald "lunged at" cops was not just ass-covering -- it reinforces a narrative that enables the police to act with impunity when dealing with young black males. They're feral! They're psychotic! They want to kill cops! We have to do these things!

One policy after another is justified by conservatives with a Big Lie. Syrian refugees are unvettable terrorists. Undocumented Mexican immigrants routinely murder and rape. Black Lives Matter protesters are thugs who want all cops to die and seek a violent race war. And on and on.

Conservatives are always the victims. The peril is always a threat to life and limb, or at least to their mortal souls. So we have to let them do whatever they want in response, right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


President Obama met with French president Francois Hollande yesterday and expressed solidarity with Hollande:
This barbaric terrorist group -- ISIL, or Daesh -- and its murderous ideology pose a serious threat to all of us. It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together. This is the unity of purpose that brings us here today.
Obama also spoke of the climate conference that will begin next Monday just outside Paris:
And next week, I will be joining President Hollande and world leaders in Paris for the global climate conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.
This, of course, is hilarious to right-wingers. Here's Aleister at Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit:
Get 'em, Barack!

... Yeah, that’ll show ’em.
And Here's Dana at Patterico's Pontifications:
... Showing that steel spine of resolve and the slick strategery we’ve come to expect from President Obama as he steadfastly works to contain, degrade and destroy ISIS, he threw down the gauntlet and reminded ISIS just who it is they are messing with....

This is the same world leader who believes there is no challenge that poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. You might ask, but what about the Barbarians at the Gate??? Meh. What’s a few heads rolling here and there and the destruction of Western civilization compared to fresh, clean air for the future Caliphate of the West living that awesome 7th century lifestyle?
And Pam Geller:
Jihad chaos. But no worries, Obama is taking control and going after the real villain, weather....
Oh, sorry, I forgot. It doesn't take real courage for Obama (and 137 other world leaders) to attend a conference in a suburb of a city that suffered a massive multi-stage terrorist assault just this month, with the likelihood that not all suspects are dead or in custody. It's not courage to attend this conference, which will stretch out over twelve days. That won't be recognized as a rebuke to intimidation.

For that according to the right, you need something serious.

Like this:

Baseball -- that's what evildoers take seriously. Remember Bush spending a few minutes on the mound throwing that pitch (in a bulletproof vest) in October 2001? Remember how that terrified our enemies so much that they immediately surrendered, and we didn't have to fight any wars during the Bush years? Remember how our foes were especially impressed that Bush's pitch was said to be a strike? Bin Laden immediately committed suicide after he saw that! Do you remember?

Yes, folks, that's what you do if you want to show resolve to terrorists: throw a ball, not attend a silly conference about the fate of the earth.


I keep thinking about the speculation that the Republican presidential race will come down to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump -- an idea inspired by a Quinnipiac poll of Iowa in which the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat.

Ever since Trump rose to the top of the polls, we've been told by some pundits that there'd be a "firewall" in the latter part of the nomination contest -- in blue and purple states with lots of delegates, a sensible moderate like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio is sure to do better than an angry wild man like Trump. As FiveThirtyEight's David Wasserman pointed out a few weeks ago, every congressional district awards three delegates, regardless of the district's redness or blueness. This favors a moderate candidate, Wasserman wrote:
The average blue district awards one convention delegate per 28,912 Romney voters, while the average red district awards one delegate per every 56,714 Romney voters. Thanks to this disparity, if a hard-right candidate like Cruz dominates deeply red Southern districts in the SEC primary, a more electable candidate like Rubio could quickly erase that deficit by quietly piling up smaller raw-vote wins in more liberal urban and coastal districts.
(The "SEC primary" is the "super Tuesday" that will take place on March 1, when a large number of mostly Southern states will vote.)

But if the field gets winnowed down and it's a race between Trump vs. Cruz, with states such as New York, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey voting late, the "moderate" who'll be favored in those states is likely to be ... Trump.

Cruz's strength, beyond the fact that he's as crazy as Trump, is that he appeals to conservative Christian voters as a fellow evangelical. That's a big reason he's gaining ground as Ben Carson, another religious-right favorite, fades.

But that's why the states that were supposed to be the GOP Establishment's firewall could be Trump's firewall. The more urbane states are wary of candidates who stress Christian conservatism -- that's why Trump has consistently had a bigger lead in New Hampshire, where religiosity is much less of a selling point, than in Iowa, where it's a huge selling point. Trump still does well in states with a lot of religious Republicans -- fascist authoritarianism playes well anywhere Republicans gather -- but he does better in the secular states, and Cruz does much worse. (Cruz may be close to the lead in Iowa, but he's still a distant third in New Hampshire, as he is in a new Suffolk poll of Massachusetts, where he's 22 points behind Trump.)

Cruz's top surrogate in heavily religious states is his father, Rafael, a fire-and-brimstone wingnut preacher who argues that evolution is Marxist and gay marriage is satanic. Those messages that have a lot less appeal in states where there are still country-club Republicans, some of whom even support gay rights.

So the guy that establishmentarians were counting on to stop a crazy front-runner could turn out to be ... the crazy front-runner himself.


Oh, and I'm not particularly impressed by Philip Bump's gloss on the latest Suffolk/Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire:
Suffolk and the Globe added something to the mix. If we added Mitt Romney to the list, they asked, would you switch to him? For 30 percent of respondents, the answer was "yes." Romney leads all other Republicans by a two-to-one margin. Trump loses a third of his support.
Yup -- but Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Fiorina, and especially Bush lose big as well, and Trump still has a huge lead among all non-hypothetical candidates:

Bump suggests that this means Trump's support is extremely soft. He writes:
When news of this survey first came out over the weekend, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver noted that this reinforced the idea that much of Trump's support comes from name recognition. Give voters another name they know, and that name gets a lot of support, too.
"Another name they know"? They don't know the name "Bush"? And why has Ben Carson done as well as he has in the polls? Does he have Trump-level name recognition?

Mitt Romney isn't doing well in this New Hampshire poll because he has name recognition. Romney is doing well because he was the governor of a neighboring state who owns a house in the state and remains popular there. Try polling Mitt in Iowa or South Carolina (or Texas or Mississippi) -- I bet you get a very different result. Meanwhile, the strongest challenge to Trump from an actually existing candidate could be from a crazier one than Trump.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It looks as if certain members of the Republican Establishment are actively trying to offend angry pro-Trump voters. I'm not sure why Establishmentarians would want to do this -- it's likely to just push more voters into the Trump camp -- but they're doing it anyway:
CONCORD, N.H. -- The state Ballot Law Commission on Wednesday quickly threw out a former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman's challenge to Donald Trump's eligibility to be on the GOP first-in-the-nation primary ballot.

After a hearing that lasted about two minutes, the five-member commission voted unanimously that the challenge filed by Fergus Cullen was without merit because New York state election records clearly show that Trump is a registered Republican in that state.

"Why are we here?" commission chairman Brad Cook asked Cullen....

"You are challenging someone's filing," Cook said. "This commission is not the forum for speeches or electioneering or advancing any other candidate. If you have any information that he is not in fact a Republican, then share it with us."

Cullen replied, "I do not have that information."
Fergus Cullen, the former head of the New Hampshire's Republican Party, is currently a columnist for the state's influential Union Leader newspaper as well as the founder of a pro-immigration group called Americans by Choice. His genius idea was to try to get the guy who's leading the New Hampshire polls by double digits thrown off the ballot, claiming he's not really a Republican, even though voter registration records show that he is. And there's reason to suspect Cullen wasn't acting alone:
Cullen said he filed the complaint on his own behalf. He also said a super PAC promoting Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president, A New Day for America, was aware that he would be filing the complaint before he did so and is “on the same page” believing that Trump is not a true Republican.” Cullen, however, said he is not supporting Kasich, or any candidate, for president at the moment.
The Trump campaign believes there's a Kasich-Cullen link:
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, in a statement to the Union Leader, suggested that Cullen works for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican rival far behind Trump in the polls....

In response to Lewandowski's claim, Cullen said he is not working for Kasich, and that he so far remains uncommitted. He and his wife Jenny held a house party for Kasich last weekend. He has also held events for Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham.
New Day for America, as I told you yesterday, is both a super PAC and the epicenter of a major effort to bring down Trump using $2.5 million is right-wing billionaire cash.

Is Trump a "true Republican"? He wasn't in the past -- but by now Republicanism and Trumpism are pretty much the same. Roughly a quarter of GOP voters love Trump and plan to vote for him -- and this GOP Establishment figure's response to that is to try to deny those people their democratic choice, based on an evidence-free assertion that Trump isn't eligible. And the guy throwing out this allegation is a pro-immigration activist.

Is this a deliberate attempt to make Trump bolt the GOP and run third party, as he's threatening to do again, with the distinct possibility that he'll take angry voters with him? Is that what Cullen wants? Is that what Kasich and the folks at his PAC want?

Well, if they keep this up, that's what they'll get. Pass the popcorn.


Turkish warplanes have shot down a Russian military aircraft on the border with Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Su-24 was hit by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s while it was flying over Syrian territory.

But Turkish military officials said the plane was engaged after being warned that it was violating Turkish airspace.

Mr Putin described the incident as a "stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of terrorists".
It’s a tough day for Moscow. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Syrian fighters destroyed a Russian helicopter with a missile, shortly after they forced it to make an emergency landing in a nearby government-held area in Syria’s Latakia province.

A Syrian insurgent group, which receives US Tow missiles, said its fighters hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile while it was in the air and put out a video showing the helicopter being blown up after one of its fighters struck it with another missile.
Regarding the pilot of the Su-24:
Shadi al-Ouwayni, an activist in rural Latakia Province, where the pilot’s body was recovered, said one pilot was shot as he drifted to the ground in his parachute while the other was captured by a local militia called the 10th Brigade. He said the pilots landed in different rebel-controlled, locations. His account could not be independently verified.

“One of the Russian pilots was shot as he was trying to land,” he said. “The other was injured and captured.”

A tape of one bloodied pilot lying on the ground began circulating on the Internet, with an activist saying that, “This is a Russian pilot and killer of men, women and children who was killed today after his plane was shot down in Syria.”
And the helicopter?
General staff spokesman Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, added that rebels in Syria fired on a Russian helicopter that was searching for the two pilots of the Su-24.

The shooting killed one crew member on the Mi-8 helicopter and forced it to land in neutral territory, he says.
I'm not the one you want to turn to for expert geopolitical analysis of all this. But I'm recalling that American conservatives regard Vladimir Putin as an omnipotent demigod, a strongman able to walk into any situation and enforce his will against lesser, weaker men.

Bill O'Reilly told us last year, "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants. The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate." Sarah Palin said, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates." Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle wanted Putin to become president of the United States for 48 hours, because, as she said, "I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right so that Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific, like ISIS." (This is assuming that Putin actually might want to take on ISIS.)

But there's been no heavy breathing about Putin's manliness to equal Victor Davis Hanson's:
... there is a value for us in Putin.... I refer to Putin’s confidence in his unabashedly thuggish means, the brutal fashion in which a modern state so unapologetically embraces the premodern mind to go after its critics....

... what is Putin? He is a constant reminder to the postmodern Western mind that the human condition has not yet evolved beyond the fist....

Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns -- what Obama dismisses as “tough-guy schtick.” Perhaps. But Putin is almost saying, “You have ten times the wealth and military power that I have, but I can neutralize you by my demonic personality alone.” Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport. It reminds us of Stafford Cripps being played by Stalin during World War II. “Make no mistake about it” and “Let me be perfectly clear” lose every time. Obama’s subordinates violate the law by going after the communications of a Fox reporter’s parents; Putin himself threatens to cut off the testicles of a rude journalist....

Putin is a reminder not just of our dark past, where raw force, not morality, adjudicated behavior, but, more worrisome, perhaps of a dark future as well, in which we in the West will continually overthink, hyperagonize, and nuance to death every idea, every issue, and every thought in terror that it might not be 100 percent fair, completely unbiased, absolutely justified. We will do anything to have the good life above all else; Putin prefers the bad life on his own terms.

... Putin is the evil hired gun, Jack Wilson (“Prove it!”), in the movie Shane, whose only law is what he believes he can get away with. We are the Hamlet-like sodbusters who one day are ready to pack up and leave, the next terrified lest we really have to....

For Putin, being weak is worse than being wrong.
Does Putin look weak right now? He certainly doesn't look like the ubermensch American conservatives have told us he is. If those shot-down aircraft were American, right-wing pundits would be proclaiming (triumphantly) that Barack Obama looks fatally weak at this moment. But they won't say it about Putin -- because love is blind.


UPDATE:Jeffrey Czerniak has a point:


Hot Air's Allahpundit, who can sometimes be a surprisingly sensible political analyst, tweets this:

To which Bill Kristol replies:

So this is how the right now fantasizes about rescue from Donald Trump? Jeb was going to take his rightful place at the top of the polls using money and breeding, but that didn't happen. Fiorina was going to be the candidate who had outsider appeal but had actually read a couple of briefing books; that didn't happen. Sensible people were going to flock to that thoughtful, experienced John Kasich. Nope. Rubio? Apparently not. So now it's Cruz?

I should acknowledge that Allahpundit and Kristol are probably genuinely rooting for Cruz -- in effect, he's their Trump, a guy who, unlike Trump, will apply government experience, a working knowledge of the lawmaking process, and a knowledge of American history to the project of smashing everything to bits.

I know Cruz is making gains in the polls, but Trump, for voters who aren't professional pundits, is what Cruz wishes he could be, someone seen as capable of remaking everything without limit. Cruz has been in the arena, and has failed to destroy liberalism; therefore, he's suspect. Trump has no such problem.

But just think about this. The GOP is so crazy now that the new "insider vs. outsider" fantasy of the primary race has Ted Cruz as the establishment choice. And who knows? That may be an accurate read on the party.

Oh, and if you think Trump would refrain from running third party in the fall if running third party means running against Cruz, you're delusional. Trump surely believes he'd win that battle. I'd love it if Kristol's scenario played out. And no, Cruz wouldn't seem centrist by comparison -- the two of them would out-wingnut each other all the way to November.


CLARIFICATION: This is presumably in response to a Quinnipiac Iowa poll in which Cruz is surging:
Donald Trump gets 25 percent of Iowa likely Republican Caucus participants in a too-close-to- call race with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who is at 23 percent, double his support from four weeks ago, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Dr. Ben Carson has 18 percent, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 13 percent.

Monday, November 23, 2015


This is how frivolously you can spend your money when you're conservative and richer than God:
Nearly a dozen big Republican donors backing different presidential candidates are coming together to help fund an advertising campaign attacking front-runner Donald Trump....

Matt David, spokesman for the group planning the attack, a Super PAC called New Day for America, which is supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich's presidential bid, said 10 new donors had pledged money in the two days since Politico reported Thursday evening the group's plans to attack Trump in New Hampshire....

David said New Day for America's plans to spend $2.5 million on anti-Trump ads in New Hampshire meant the group's message would achieve something near "saturation" in the state.

It has already received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from the new donors, and pledges over the past two days add up to more than $1 million, according to David.
And what are these richies getting for their money? Well, here's the first ad -- an ad consisting of stuff that was already supposed to bring down Trump's poll numbers already and utterly failed to do so:

John McCain attack? Check. Megyn Kelly attack? Check. Trump saying if Ivanka weren't his daughter he'd date her? Check. Attack on Ben Carson? Check.

Bringing all this up didn't work before, but rich people are footing the bill, so why not try the exact same thing and hope for a different result? That usually works, doesn't it?

Oh, and what else does the PAC have in mind?
David said his group plans to use ads on TV and radio as well as direct mailings to New Hampshire voters to show them what a Trump presidency would look like, depicting details like the complicated, expensive bureaucratic operations behind efforts to deport millions of illegal immigrants and get all Muslims in the United States to register in a database.
Oh, brilliant: You're going to tell angry Republican voters that Trump really can't deport all the undocumented immigrants and register all the Muslims, policies those angry voters desperately crave? While you're at it, why not tell some pre-schoolers that there's no Santa Claus? That'll go over equally well.

This is one more reason we ought to raise taxes on the rich: because when it comes to spending money on politics, the rich have no damn sense. We need to save them from themselves.


A new CBS poll says that Americans are split on whether to allow Syrian refugees into the country -- "47 percent say they should be allowed to enter as long as they go through a screening process, but slightly more - 50 percent - say they should not be allowed to come to the U.S. at this time." Republicans, needless to say, oppose admitting the Syrians, while Democrats are in favor.

But on the question of screening, there's no partisan divide:
... there is widespread agreement on a stricter screening process for Syrian refugees. Nearly eight in 10 Americans (78 percent) - including majorities of all partisan stripes - say it is necessary for Syrian refugees to go through a stricter security process than they do now.
So, America, you say the current screening process is inadequately strict. And you believe this because it consists of what exactly? And is done at what speed?

I'm being facetious, of course -- how many Americans do you think realize the vetting process tends to take about two years, and consists of approximately twenty separate steps?

The New York Times made this clear in an infographic posted on Friday -- but what percentage of Americans read the Times? And what other news sources have made clear that this is a long, painstaking process? For the matter, how hard have the Obama administration and Democrats in general worked to get this across?

Here are the steps, as listed by the Times: 1. Registration with the United Nations. 2. Interview with the United Nations. 3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations. 4. Referral for resettlement in the United States. 5. Interview with State Department contractors. 6. First background check. 7. Higher-level background check for some. 8. Another background check. 9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken. 10. Second fingerprint screening. 11. Third fingerprint screening. 12. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters. 13. Some cases referred for additional review. 14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer. 15. Homeland Security approval is required. 16. Screening for contagious diseases. 17. Cultural orientation class. 18. Matched with an American resettlement agency. 19. Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States. 20. Final security check at an American airport.

And there are additional steps for Syrians.

If CBS isn't going to report this, could the polling unit at least poll it? Ask respondents how long they think the process takes. I bet the most typical answer is a few days, if not mere hours or minutes.

We need to know if people know these things. Most of the media doesn't seem to regard keeping the broad public informed as part of its mission. The administration is staffed almost exclusively by people who've been high-achieving brainiacs all their lives, up to and including the president. All the people they know are well informed, so they seem incapable of imagining that other people aren't.

Here's another result in the CBS poll:
Just over a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, only 23 percent of Americans think President Barack Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the militant group ISIS, the lowest number yet recorded in the CBS News Poll. Sixty-six percent do not think he has a clear plan - a new high.

Large majorities of Republicans and independents say the President doesn't have a clear plan, and almost half of Democrats (40 percent) agree. More Democrats (45 percent) say he doesn't have a plan than say he does.
Americans are saying that the plan isn't "clear," and I wonder what they mean by that. Do they think it's not clear because they couldn't sum it up in one sentence? Or are they substituting "successful" for "clear" because the good guys don't seem to be winning?

Again, the president doesn't seem to want to explain what he's doing to the public -- and, again, neither does much of the news media. But does the public even know what's being done? I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I want the public polled on the air campaign. How many U.S. airstrikes do most Americans think there have been against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria? The answer, as of last Thursday, is 8,289. I'd bet money that that's at least 8,000 more than most Americans think there have been.

Is the president's strategy effective? Is it adequate? It's certainly reasonable to argue that a strategy focused on airstrikes isn't adequate -- but Americans at least ought to know what's being done.

Do they? We don't know. And apparently the press and the administration don't care to know.


Yes, this is a Drudge Report link, but the story (from England's Telegraph) makes a point worth considering:

The story:
Once the dust has cleared, the Belgian police service is likely to face heavy scrutiny over how the Paris gang were allowed to go undetected and how [suspect] Salah [Abdeslam] managed to give them the slip, writes Matthew Holehouse.

In Brussels, a city of 1.2 million people, policing is divided by six rival forces, while the city is governed by 19 different mayors....

Eddy Lebon, of the police union Sypol, told La Libre that the Belgian forensics service is "anaemic". Laboratories are being cut from 23 to 14, and may go down to 5. "They don't have the white powder to reveal fingerprints at the scene of a crime."

"Last fall, we stopped the recruitment of 600 police officers, 15 days short of their entry to the academy. If this absurd economy had not happened, today they would be entering service..."

"I could tell you about our cars that have 230,000 kilometres on the clock and tremble above 80 kilometres an hour, but I prefer to discuss our IT issues, the obsolete equipment we use for wiretaps and the state of our weapons."

Vincent Gilles, president of the SLFP Police union, said: "In the federal police, there is not enough money to buy new trousers for police officers, and young recruits make do with old overalls. Some teams are armed with 20 year-old rifles, with too few to go around, not to mention the lack of body armour."
So here's a thought: What if ISIS isn't really all-powerful? What if it's not an unstoppable band of international terrorists able to strike anywhere in the Western world at will, all because mom-jeans-wearing Obama gave the group the leeway to develop superpowers out of an overabundance of political correctness? What if ISIS has been able to strike several times in France this year not because it's the most terrifying threat ever, but because France is just across the border from Belgium, a country where the authorities are struggling to take the most obvious steps to combat it?

An AP story from a couple of days ago tells us more:
Until 2006, Belgium had a very permissive gun law by European standards, and many weapons used in the 1990s Balkan wars easily found their way into the Belgian criminal underworld. At the same time, the Justice Ministry was hurt by austerity measures, rendering it powerless to dig into the root causes of the problem.

"It is relatively easy to get your hands on heavy arms in Brussels," said Brice De Ruyver, a professor of criminology at Ghent University, who was security adviser to the prime minister from 2000 to 2008. "That applies to terror and serious crime. That is because the illegal arms trade has been neglected far too long. ... And once you have a reputation, it is tough to get rid of it."

... The number of police zones has been reduced from 19, but the current six is still considered an anachronism given the need to unify forces in combating extremism....

Extremist ideology has also been allowed to thrive due to police neglect. For years, the leader of Islamic radical group Sharia4Belgium directed one of Europe's more potent recruitment machines for fighters in Syria. Yet it was only this year that he was sentenced to 12 years in prison as the leader of what a court determined was a terror group. "Sharia4Belgium has been able to act with impunity for too long," said De Ruyver.
Oh, and there's this problem across the EU:
Add to that a system in which policemen are often blocked from crossing borders -- lacking jurisdiction to work in neighboring countries -- while criminals can take advantage of Europe's open border policy, and it becomes clear why Belgium is attractive for terrorists.
The message we're hearing right now, particularly from conservatives, is: ISIS is unstoppable and we're all going to die. Thanks, Obama! But obviously there's are plenty of sensible, non-controversial steps that could be taken to stop the group that haven't being taken yet in Belgium, or in Europe as a whole. It's reasonable to assume that more than just an intervening ocean makes America less vulnerable -- yes, conservatives, under President Obama.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


A post at Breitbart draws attention to an Ipsos survey conducted last month that finds a large degree of alienation in the American public -- particularly among Republicans:
More than half (58%) of Americans don’t identify with what America has become. Almost as many (53%) feel like a “stranger in their own country”. This sense of loss is particularly pronounced when we look at party identification: while 45% of Democrats don’t identify with what America has become, a whopping 72% of Republicans don’t....

... fully 64% of Republicans are moderately or strongly nativist, including over a quarter (26%) who agree with all three of the nativist statements (compared to only 31% moderately or strongly nativist among Democrats)....

Ipsos VP Chris Jackson writes, "Such trends clearly show [Donald] Trump’s appeal among the Republican base."

Why are these voters -- Jackson says they tend to be whiter, older, and live in the South -- so alienated? There are plenty of legitimate reasons: the economic downturn, the disappearance of blue-collar middle-class jobs. The country is experiencing demographic changes to which these voters seem not to be able to adjust. The same goes for changing mores on sex and gender.

But part of the problem is that a lot of these people believes things that just aren't so. They and their alienated peers spread some of this misinformation themselves, via email and Facebook and other online forms of communication.

And now they have a presidential candidate who's just like them.

First Donald Trump asserted, on two occasions, that he watch televised footage of "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in Paterson, New Jersey, celebrating the 9/11 attacks on the day they occurred. Then he retweeted these bogus statistics on crime:

Regarding the celebrating Muslims in New Jersey, Snopes has debunked all the rumors spread over the years via email.
In Cedar Grove, NJ, a customer saw the owner of a Dunkin Donuts store burn the U.S. flag. In another Dunkin Donuts store in Little Falls, a customer saw a U.S. flag on the floor with Arabic writing all over it. In Wayne, NJ the employees of Arabic background were cheering behind the counter when the heard about the attacks. A customer throw his coffee at them and phoned the police.
None of this happened. Nor did this happen:
My mom's friend was in the National Liquidator store in the Forest Avenue Plaza when the crashes happened.

The workers, owners, etc. were all cheering and laughing.
Or this:
September 11th, a Budweiser employee was making a delivery to a convenience store in a town called McFarland [California]. He knew of the tragedy that had occurred in New York. He entered the business to find two Arabs whooping and hollering and really cheering it up. It was obvious they were elated with what had happened earlier. The Budweiser employee went to his truck, called his boss and told him of the very upsetting event. He didn't feel he could be in that store with those horrible people. His boss told him, "Do you think you could go in there long enough to pull every Budweiser product and item our beverage company sells there? We'll never deliver to them again."

The employee walked in, proceeded to pull every single product his beverage company provided and left with an incredible grin on his face. He told them never to bother and call for a delivery again.
As for the crime statistics, Think Progress has debunked them, as has the New York Daily News:
From the FBI's 2014 report on U.S. homicides, of the 3,021 Caucasian murder victims, 2,488 of their assailants were white, or 82 percent.

Trump's backed statistics ring just as wrong for whites killed by blacks. While the fear-mongering graphic claims it's at 81 percent, it's really 15 percent, according to the FBI's statistics -- much less than the mogul's tweet would suggest.

The other "data" suggested blacks killed by whites were at 2 percent while blacks killed by blacks were at 97 percent. Again, wrong.

The real numbers behind blacks killed by whites in 2014 are at least three times more than Trump's tweet suggested, at 7 percent. Blacks killed by blacks are more than 10 percent less than the bogus numbers in the presidential candidate's tweet.

The image itself could be based off of phony numbers. While it's cited from San Francisco's "Crime Statistics Bureau" as data from 2015, the city's annual police reports end at 2014, and do not break down homicides by race.
If you're the kind of person who receives and retransmits this sort of undigested, unverified alarmist nonsense on a daily basis, then of course you're going to feel especially alienated by your country. Look at all those murderous, white-hating black people! Look at all those defiant Muslims dancing for joy right under our noses in our own country while real Americans suffer!

Donald Trump is exactly like everyone's email-forwarding racist uncle. No wonder everyone's email-forwarding racist uncle plans to vote for him.


Want to know why so many poor white voters vote for the GOP -- the party that boasts of its plans to shred the social safety net? Alec MacGillis says that, in fact, these voters don't vote against their self-interest -- they just don't vote at all:
In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

... Voter participation is low among the poorest Americans, and in many parts of the country that have moved red, the rates have fallen off the charts. West Virginia ranked 50th for turnout in 2012; also in the bottom 10 were other states that have shifted sharply red in recent years, including Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
In addition, MacGillis writes, voters just above these poor non-voters on the economic ladder resent the poorer citizens' dependency -- and this is not necessarily racial resentment. It's true among mostly white populations:
The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder -- the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

... Where opposition to the social safety net has long been fed by the specter of undeserving inner-city African-Americans -- think of Ronald Reagan’s notorious “welfare queen” -- in places like Pike County it’s fueled, more and more, by people’s resentment over rising dependency they see among their own neighbors, even their own families. “It’s Cousin Bobby -- ‘he’s on Oxy and he’s on the draw and we’re paying for him,’” [Jim] Cauley [a Democratic politcal consultant in eastern Kentucky] said. “If you need help, no one begrudges you taking the program -- they’re good-hearted people. It’s when you’re able-bodied and making choices not to be able-bodied.” The political upshot is plain, Mr. Cauley added. “It’s not the people on the draw that’s voting against” the Democrats, he said. “It’s everyone else.”
But wait -- hasn't every Republican told us that government social spending is a sinister -- and devastatingly effective -- Democratic plot to win every election forever by increasing the population's dependence on government? During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney complained that Democrats were trying to win the election with "free stuff," then he complained after the election about a Democratic strategy that promised one "big gift" after another. This year, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie have picked up on the "free stuff" rhetoric, as has Ben Carson:
Carson ... said he had “no desire whatsoever to hurt the poor ... but I believe in true compassion, providing the poor with a mechanism to climb the ladder of success,” Carson said.

“False compassion is patting them on the head and saying, ‘You can’t take care of yourself and I’m going to give you food stamps, a housing subsidy and free health care and all the things you need so you can stay dependent and vote for me.’”
Republicans believe that the link between government social spending and votes operates with the force of natural law -- and that too much spending leads to the death of democracy. They regularly quote an aphorism they variously ascribe to Tocqueville, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin:
A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.
Sometimes quoted as:
When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.
The actual source is a 1951 Daily Oklahoman column by Elmer T. Peterson, who attributes it to a Scottish judge and historian named Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813) -- although the quote doesn't appear in any of Tytler's works.

But Republicans believe this. They believe voters automatically vote for whoever gives them "free stuff," and that if you give more and more voters "free stuff," eventually there'll be more "takers" than "makers" and the nation will collapse. (Needless to say, they believe we've approached this point in the Obama years. They call it "the death spiral.")

But this actually doesn't work. The so-called takers don't vote. The neighbors of the so-called takers vote against the party that favors social spending. It's actually a terrible way to win votes, if winning votes is the point.

It might have an electoral payoff if Democrats made an effort to turn out poor voters, or if Democrats worked to raise the standard of living of their slightly more prosperous but still struggling neighbors. (A rising tide that lifted all boats, or at least the bottom 99% of votes, would be good politics because it would be good for the country.)

But government spending not a fiendishly clever plot to steal elections in perpetuity. Just the opposite.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


To a lot of Americans, fear of Syrian refugees -- and hatred of all Muslims -- is just simple patriotism. For some Poles, nationalist beliefs and anger at Muslim refugees are inevitably accompanied by Jew-hatred:
Anti-migrant resentment boiled over into anti-Semitism in Poland on Wednesday, when a protest against taking in Muslim refugees ended with the burning of an effigy of an ultra-Orthodox Jew holding the flag of the European Union.

Several dozen people were reported in attendance at the rally, in the western Polish city of Wroclaw, which was held in response to last Friday’s Paris terrorist attacks....

The crown shouted: “United Catholic Poland! National radicalism! Down with the European Union!” The demonstration was organized by the National Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth.

“Our duty, the duty of lawmakers and the government, is to say that we won’t take a single Islamist in to Poland because Poland is for Poles,” proclaimed one of the demonstration’s speakers. .

At the end of the demonstration one of the participants set fire to a previously prepared effigy of a haredi Jew as the crowd chanted, “God, honor and fatherland!”
Here's video, posted to YouTube by the white supremacist American Freedom Party:

Could this happen in America? Maybe, though most on the American anti-Muslim right regard themselves as friends of Jews and Israel. More likely to be burned in effigy in this country are Mexicans, liberals, or Democratic politicians, up to and (especially) including the president. Not that that would be any better.


The Wall Street Journal and Politico report that GOP forces are coming after Donald Trump. Oh, I bet he's just trembling in fear.

From the Politico story:
John Kasich has attacked Donald Trump relentlessly in debates and now his super PAC is planning to invest $2.5 million in the most aggressive takedown of the poll leader yet -- on behalf of an increasingly anxious GOP establishment.

The attack, according to a blueprint shared with POLITICO, will play out over the next two months on radio, TV, mail and online in New Hampshire. Strategists with the pro-Kasich group, called New Day for America, say the budget for the anti-Trump campaign is likely to grow.
Oh, wow -- John Kasich is planning to take Trump on! How can Trump possibly survive that onslaught?

Wait, it gets better. Do you know who the Kasich super PAC's adman is?
Fred Davis, the group’s colorful Hollywood-based ad-maker who is best-known for producing the “Demon Sheep” ad in the 2010 California Senate race, is working on a pair of anti-Trump TV ads.
Yup, possibly the worst political ad for a major-party candidate ever, in the service of Carly Fiorina's failed Senate campaign.

He's also the genius behind this 2010 ad:

The group’s first volley came Thursday, when it released an ad that pictured the billionaire side by side with President Barack Obama. “On the job training for president does not work,” says the ad, which invokes last week’s tragic Paris terrorist attacks. The group is currently spending about $600,000 to air the commercial, though David said more airtime is being purchased.
That would be this ad:

Wow, that's a real attack on Trump -- blink and you miss the split-second when he appears on the screen next to Obama. Following that, the ad has way too much Kasich. Yeah, I know it's a Kasich ad, but ... he's John Kasich. If you really want people to reconsider their support for Trump, you absolutely don't want to tell them their alternative is ... John Kasich.

The effort reported by the Journal has somewhat more promise:
The most concerted effort is Trump Card LLC, the self-styled guerrilla campaign being launched by Liz Mair, the former online communications director of the Republican National Committee....

Rick Wilson, a Republican media consultant, said in an interview that he is prepared to make ads for the new group.
Wilson made this ad, which ran in the 2014 midterms. I can see why voters might respond to it, though I have no idea if any voters actually did:

But this seems like a strategy for failure:
The group’s memo said it would be pitching opposition research to media in early-voting states, as well as radio and television ads and Web videos that attract media attention based on their “outrageousness and boundary-breaking or bizarre nature.”

One possible ad would link Mr. Trump’s views and style to his celebrity foe, Rosie O’Donnell, in hopes of provoking a reaction from Mr. Trump, according to the memo.
No. Trump is clearly impervious to opposition research. Early in his ascent, we learned about his evasion of military service in the Vietnam era and his apparent marital rape of his then-wife Ivana. Nothing stuck.

And you think you're going to get Trump by encouraging him to lash out at someone? That's playing to his strength. If you try to argue that he's actually like Rosie O'Donnell, he'll just lash out at her in an even uglier way -- to the delight of his fans, who despise her. And remember, his voters don't think such verbal assaults prove he's unfit to be president -- they think the assaults he's a brawler. They see Trump's beefs as evidence confirming his suitability to take on ISIS.

This might be somewhat effective:
Other possible tactics include fake pro-Trump ads that show him supporting socialized medicine, seizing property through eminent domain and taking other positions that stray from GOP orthodoxy; using a Trump impersonator to show him insulting people; and attacking his business record in “stark, nasty terms.”
If these ads look like pro-Trump ads, people might be momentarily fooled. But Trump's past support for positions the GOP regards as heretical hasn't hurt him yet, and probably never will.

To understand why, think about Ben Carson. He goes to a lot of trouble to describe himself as a former bad kid who was saved by Jesus. Conservatives Christians love the conversion narrative. Secular conservatives love conversion narratives, too -- remember, Saint Ronald Reagan was a convert to the GOP, a fact he loved to weaponize, to his admirers' delight:
"Mr. President, in talking about the continuing recession tonight, you have blamed mistakes of the past and you've blamed the Congress. Does any of the blame belong to you?" asked ABC White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson.

"Yes, because for many years I was a Democrat," replied Mr. Reagan.
Trump might stumble eventually, though I think he's a strong favorite to win the nomination. But if he does tumble, he'll be taken down by someone who out-demagogues him -- maybe Ted Cruz. He won't be undone by political hacks.