Sunday, November 23, 2014

SCOTT WALKER AGAIN MOCKS A PRESIDENTIAL WANNABE'S AGE. HERE'S WHY THAT'S CREEPY.

In a New York Times story about the Republican presidential field, there's this:
To date, Mrs. Clinton, 67, has been the target of the age-oriented attacks by the younger Republicans. But some of that fire is now from within, albeit subtly. After Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, 62, mentioned 1980s-era congressional doings, when he was in the House, at a news conference here, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 47, shot back: "John talked about '86? That’s when I was in high school."
Walker has mocked Hillary Clinton's age on more than one occasion. He did so a couple of weeks ago:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, raised the subject of Hillary Clinton's age when discussing when he might run for president.

"Whether it’s two years, six years, 20 years from now, because at 47, I mean I think about Hillary Clinton, I could run 20 years from now for president and still be about the same age as the former secretary of State is right now," Walker said in an interview with the local Fox affiliate....
And shortly before that:
This is not the first time the potential 2016 candidate has taken a dig at Clinton's age. Shortly after the latest midterm elections, Walker told Fox News that Clinton, who recently turned 67, embodies "old" politics.

"I think the biggest loser (in the midterms) was Hillary Clinton," Walker said. "She embodies Washington. She embodies that old, tired top-down approach from the government. I think in the states as governors, we offer a much better alternative, and I think there's a number of us who would be good prospects out there."
Why is this especially creepy coming from the 47-year-old Walker? Because his wife, Tonette, is 59:
Tonette Marie Tarantino was born on October 19, 1955....

She married her first husband when she was 23, but he died of kidney disease by the time she was 30. Five years after her first husband's death, she was at a karaoke night at a barbecue restaurant when she first met Walker, 12 years her junior.... She and Walker wed in 1993....
Tonette Walker is eight years younger than Hillary Clinton -- but that means she's closer to Hillary's age than to her husband's. And Tonette Walker is only three years younger than John Kasich. (Scott Walker may have been in high school in 1986, but his wife was a 31-year-old widow.)

If Scott Walker is a 47-year-old man who mocks other people for being older when his own wife is twelve years older, how much respect can he possibly have for her?
BUT YOU SAID THE GOP IS A MOSTLY RATIONAL PARTY NOW, WITH JUST A FEW PESKY EXTREMISTS

Well, I told you Republicans weren't going to give up on Benghazi:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday blasted a House GOP-led investigation that recently debunked myths about the 2012 Benghazi attack.

"I think the report is full of crap," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union."

... Graham didn't clearly pinpoint why he dismissed the report's findings, but suggested its information was provided by people in the intelligence community who had previously lied to Congress about the attack.

... Host Gloria Borger said the report found no one lied.

"That's a bunch of garbage," Graham replied....
More:
A leading Republican wants to expand the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack by adding a Senate probe....

Referring to the House Select committee Chairman, and the Democratic ranking member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said the current House investigation should be expanded.

"(Republican) Trey Gowdy and (Democrat) Elijah Cummings have done a good job," he said. "I can't imagine the U.S. Senate not wanting to be a part of a joint select committee. We'll bootstrap to what you've done, but we want to be part of discussion," Graham told Fox News. "What I would suggest to (incoming Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell is to call up Speaker Boehner and say 'Listen, we want to be part of this'."
The preferred Beltway narrative is that responsible establishment Republicans make up the majority of the party, and all they really want to do is "show they can govern," but they have to keep fending off a few pesky extremists, and they occasionally have to make extremist noises themselves to fend off primary challenges from the right.

Oh, please. Lindsey Graham just got reelected; he's not going to have to worry about a primary challenge from the right for another six years. I know he's made noises about running for president, but he knows he's not going to get the nomination.

The reality is that the entire Republican Party is crazy -- the differences are just in degree. People like Lindsey Graham will support immigration reform (at least in theory) and might vote not to shut down the government or put the entire country into default, but that doesn't mean they aren't crazy about other things.

As the second story I quoted (from Fox News) makes clear, the crazies in this case are three of the most prominent establishmentarians in the Senate:
Graham, along with his two Republican colleagues, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, have been outspoken advocates of a special investigation, because they say then-acting director of the CIA Mike Morell misled them about his role in crafting the so-called media talking points that blamed an opportunistic protest gone awry for the assault....

The Obama White House did not move away from the protest explanation for the attack that killed four Americans - Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, and former Navy Seals and CIA contractors Ty Woods and Glenn Doherty - until September 20....
Just a reminder: the attack happened on September 11, 2012, and we've spent more than two years fixating on talking points that the administration stuck with for nine days. And three of the major poohbahs of the establishment want us to keep fixating on these talking points until...

... oh, November 2016, I imagine:
... When Morell retired from the CIA last year, he told The Wall Street Journal he hoped to advise a presidential campaign, with anonymous sources telling the paper Morell was close to Hillary Clinton. Morell now works as a counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington D.C. firm closely aligned with the former secretary of State.
And then there's this:
... The report also shed new light on the CIA operation in Benghazi. Morell said the CIA annex was in eastern Libya "collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi Annex was not itself collecting weapons."

Newly declassified testimony before the House Intelligence Committee attached to the House report from the Director of National intelligence, James Clapper, as well as Morell, confirmed to lawmakers that the weapons shipments were known at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Rep. Devin Nunes: Are we aware of any arms that are leaving that area and going into Syria?

Mr. Morell: Yes, sir.

General Clapper: Yes

Nunes: And who was coordinating that?

Mr. Morell: I believe the (redacted) are coordinating that.

Nunes: And were the CIA folks that were there, were they helping to coordinate that, or were they watching it, were they gathering information about it?

Mr. Morell: Sir, the focus of my officers in Benghazi was (redacted) to try to penetrate terrorist groups that were there so we could learn their plans, intentions and capabilities (redacted.)

The discussion is cut short by Rogers, who says not all members present have sufficient security clearances to hear further details. Fox News was first to question in October 2012 the significance of weapons shipments from Libya to Syria via Turkey, and who in the administration was read in on the program.
So McCain, Graham, and Ayotte are angry about this report, which refrains from accusing Morell of slipping arms to Syrian rebels in 2012. What's odd about this is that McCain and Graham told us in 2012 that they wanted Syrian rebels armed. So they wanted arms to go to the rebels and they're angry about a report that fails to accuse Morell of sending arms to the rebels? Or are they just angry about the talking points while the right-wingers who regard McCain, Graham, and Ayotte as evil neocons are angry about the arms? And Benghazi has them locked in a rage-disorder marriage of convenience?

Well, that's the modern GOP for you. All that matters is that you arrive at the conclusion that Democrats are traitors who must be crushed. Conclusion: no, Benghazi isn't going away.

(Links via Crooks & Liars and Politicus USA.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

RIGHT-WING SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE BENGHAZI REPORT: A REPORT FROM DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

The House Intelligence Committee has issued a report on Benghazi that rejects much of what the right-wing base believes about the incident. Shortly after I wrote about this, I found an old post of mine being linked in a right-winger's tweet:



That's going to be the reason that at least some righties dismiss this report: they don't trust Mike Rogers, the outgoing chair of the Intelligence Committee. He's made the list of "top ten RINOs" in the House, based on ratings from the American Conservative Union. He's specifically loathed by many on the right for past votes to raise the debt ceiling, and to renew the Patriot Act. The latter sticks in the craw of those conservatives who use "neocon" as a pejorative; the tweeter quoted above is one of those:



The old post of mine that this guy linked was from March of this year; in it I noted that Rogers was very much against Rand Paul's drone filibuster. I also noted that he was getting criticism for his work with regard to Benghazi -- a Free Republic thread at the time was titled "Joe diGenova tells WMAL GOP Congressman Mike Rogers (MI-8) is trying to kill Benghazi Investigation." And I quoted an interview Rogers gave to The Washington Post, in which he responded to criticism of his committee's work by saying,
Part of the problem has been that there are conspiracy theorists who wanted us to find conspiracy A, B, and C, and I ran a very aggressive fact-based investigation. I didn't go into it -- as an old FBI agent you don’t get into it with a conclusion, but a premise.
As I wrote,
If he's actually bragging about not working backward from the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is an anti-American Antichrist, no wonder the base hates him.
So now we have his report, and we can go to The Conservative Treehouse to get a sense of what has some right-wingers ticked off:
• Both Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger are members of the Congressional Gang of Eight....

• Both Rogers and Ruppersberger would have been briefed on the CIA operations in Benghazi during 2011/2012 as the covert operation began....

• Rogers, Ruppersberger along with Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Saxby Chambliss and Diane Feinstein would have been notified of the presidential authorization. In 2011 they were the congressional Gang of Eight. Their lack of oversight reflected a willful blindness to the operation....
..."The committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi"...
...The word emphasized is "unauthorized", meaning all of the activity was known, active, and authorized....
The belief is that there's a cover-up of covert arms shipment from Libya to Syria, a cover-up of which Rogers is a part. He has been an advocate of arming Syrian rebels, for which some on the right despise him.

I'm just scratching the surface of anti-Rogers anger on the right. Some think he actually has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, citing the fact that he spoke at a dinner honoring Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who tried to establish the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" and who's believed on the Pam Geller right to be dangerously close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

So, long story short, some wingers aren't going to buy this report. For them, Benghazi will never truly die.
BENGHAZI? THEY'RE NOT GOING TO DROP IT

You'd think this would be the end of Benghazi, but don't count on it:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

But as a couple of us noticed last night, at least one prominent right-winger isn't giving up the fight:





You remember Stephen Hayes, right? A longtime advocate for the belief that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda? And, not incidentally, the author of a Dick Cheney biography written with Cheney's extensive cooperation, after Cheney praised Hayes's work on the alleged Saddam/Al Qaeda connection?

Admittedly, the rest of the right is barely acknowledging the existence of this report. As I type this, there are 66 linked items at the Drudge Report, but nothing on Benghazi. There's nothing about Benghazi on the front page of Fox Nation (Lois Lerner is front an center), and there's just a terse item acknowledging the facts of the report at National Review's Corner.

Well, of course. They won't talk about it for the same reason they won't talk about the fact that America is now Ebola-free -- because it would require them to admit error. It would require them to tell people they've worked up into a frenzy that the frenzy was uncalled for. That would make their audiences angry at them. The audiences know Democrats are engaged in every possible variety of unspeakable evil, and are all-powerful in their wickedness. They won't stand for being told otherwise.

But the silence doesn't mean that prominent right-wingers now realize Benghazi mania is pointless. It means they'll return to the subject when they think it suits them. Trey Gowdy's House Select Committee on Benghazi is still at work, after all. And as Politico notes, the just-released report does give Republican haters something to work with:
The report is likely to spur criticism against the State Department over the shape of its security protocols as the agency knew it was unprepared to defend the outpost in case of a well-organized and heavily armed attack -- a high probability in highly volatile region.

The report said State Department agents felt "ill-equipped and ill-trained to contend with the threat environment in Benghazi.”
I know -- that's nothing new. But it mean that Benghazi crazies can focus less attention on Susan Rice and more on Hillary Clinton. Don't worry, folks, we haven't seen the last of breathless Fox Benghazi stories with Hillary's "What difference does it make?" clip on auto-repeat.

Friday, November 21, 2014

THE VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY TO TAPE HANNIBAL BURESS'S STANDUP ACT

I think my favorite gloss on the Bill Cosby story comes from Steven Hayward at Power Line:
I'm skeptical this came out of nowhere, and it would be interesting to find out with whom Burress discussed this subject prior to including it in his act.
Right. I'm sure Buress put the bit into his act after lengthy discussions with ... um, George Soros? Valerie Jarrett? Yeah, must be Jarrett. I'm sure she personally wrote the bit, and she was probably the one sitting in the back of that comedy club in Philadelphia illegally taping Buress, because now was the time to deploy the bit (which Buress says he's been doing on and off for six months) in order to distract us all from ... what? Democratic losses in the midterms? Jonathan Gruber? Benghazi?



Hayward continues:
Writing in The New Republic yesterday, Rebecca Traister says the charges against Cosby, though previously reported, were willfully disregarded because Cosby made white people feel just too good about themselves:
One reason that we have collectively plugged our ears against a decade of dismal revelations about Bill Cosby is that he made lots of Americans feel good about two things we rarely have reason to feel good about: race and gender...

White people loved "The Cosby Show," especially liberal white people... Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves or confront any hard questions about how they had benefitted from American systems from which black Americans had not benefitted..

But when Cosby began to do his moralizing on race and responsibility, some of the cracks in the show's gender politics were exposed. It became clear that he placed a lot of blame for racial inequality not just on black people, but on black women who were not like Clair Huxtable... This was a brutal language of misogyny, blaming women—women unattached to men—for the social disintegration of the family.
Message received and understood: depart from the liberal party line at your peril.
Um, let's ignore the fact that Traister is saying that liberals watched Cosby and got the false impression that racism was no longer a problem. She's criticizing liberals.

And then consider the timeline she lays out. Hayward wants you to think that Cosby deviated from the party line and then had to be made an unperson by the liberal-fascist Politburo. But when does Traister say Cosby began blaming blacks (and black women in particular) for problems in the black community?
Cosby's infamous "pound cake" speech, delivered in 2004 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, was about what he saw as the role of parental inattention in landing so many black young men in jail. He was officially addressing both mothers and fathers, but his gendered judgments got clearer as he demanded, "Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is his father? And why don't you know where he is?" In the same speech, Cosby lamented, "No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband," and chided, "Five or six different children, same woman, eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you're going to have to have DNA cards so you can tell who you're making love to." This was a brutal language of misogyny, blaming women -- women unattached to men -- for the social disintegration of the family.
And for this heresy, the left-fascist goon squad cracked down on him ... er, a decade later?

Because the jackbooted thugs of the lefty secret police had a chance to deal with him sooner:
Over the course of the past decade, charges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted more than a dozen women have been reported in plenty of splashy venues: in Newsweek and Gawker, on-camera on "The Today Show" in 2005; in People magazine in 2006.
So: 2004, he sharply criticizes blacks, and black women in particular; 2005 and 2006, allegations of rape arise. Did we disappear him then?
Yet much of this stuff has remained unacknowledged in the context of Cosby celebration. He's received an NAACP Image Award and the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Award; a year ago, Jon Stewart concluded an interview with Cosby by noting "This man is the best," and this year, upon presenting him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Chris Rock called him "the greatest comedian to ever live."
Gee, I guess not.

I guess we responded to those attacks on Correct Thinking about race by letting him bask in adulation for another ten years, then bringing the hammer down. Because we're fascists, but we're slow fascists. Soros and Jarrett took a while to give us the go-ahead.

WHAT DOES OUR EFFETE NIHILIST PRESIDENT HAVE AGAINST HUNKY TAR SANDS ENABLERS?

In her latest cry of despair at the supposed horrors of the Obama presidency -- this one's titled "The Nihilist in the White House" -- Peggy Noonan explains the real meaning of Keystone:
And there is the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration's apparent intent to veto a bill that allows it. There the issue is not only the jobs the pipeline would create, and not only the infrastructure element. It is something more. If it is done right, the people who build the pipeline could be pressed to take on young men -- skill-less, aimless -- and get them learning, as part of a crew, how things are built and what it is to be a man who builds them.

On top of that, the building of the pipeline would show the world that America is capable of coming back, that we’re not only aware of our good fortune and engineering genius, we are pushing it hard into the future. America's got her hard-hat on again. America is dynamic. "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Not just this endless talk of limits, restrictions, fears and "Oh, we're all going to melt in the warm global future!"

Which is sort of the spirit of this White House.
Where to begin? Well, I'm trying to be high-minded here so, in response to the notion of Keystone allowing laborers to "take on young men," I'll resist the temptation to post sexualized totalitarian shirtless-laborer propaganda. Instead, I'll say: We need to build this specific pipeline in order for laborers to be able to mentor other laborers? Hey, how 'bout we ask the American Society of Civil Engineers whether there are any other projects that need doing?



Are you telling me, Peggy, that you don't see anything we could build on this list that would show the world that "America's got her hard-hat on again"? It has to be Keystone?

And if you're looking for some sort of engineering marvel, well, is Keystone even what you're looking for? Isn't it just another pipeline, apart from the fraught nature of what it's supposed to carry?

Ahhh, but I guess that's the point -- it carries a payload that's utterly masculine in its viscous dangerousness. Build it and you're the boss of the beach, able to kick sand in the face of our 98-pound weakling of a president and his effeminate whining about climate change.

That's the message of the last bit I quoted, of course: that Barack Obama is a big girl because he worries about greenhouses gases, and because the thought of fossil fuels doesn't make his sap rise. Of course, when he tried to fund some actual cutting-edge manufacturing technology, in the alternative-fuels area, the program was vilified by the right, including Noonan herself, even though the overall program turned a profit for the U.S., and even though the world would probably be much more impressed by U.S. breakthroughs in alternative energy than by one more pipeline meant as a conduit for unusually dirty oil. But that wouldn't have the intended effect on Noonan, would it?

REPUBLICANS: THE PARTY OF GREMLINS

Many of us warned that it would be dangerous to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. We were assured, however, that Republicans are perfectly safe and harmless as long as you don't (1) expose them to bright light, (2) get them wet, or (3) feed them after midnight -- especially the last one because they undergo metamorphosis from the gee-whiz aw-shucks Norman Rockwell patriots they were all through the 2014 campaign into grotesque, uncontrollably destructive gremlins.

Well, apparently that's happened now:
Rising Republican hostility toward President Obama's impending immigration plan is as intense as has ever existed between the White House and the GOP.

... But the strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes....

To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.

Another government shutdown is not what McConnell and Boehner had in mind when their party won control of Congress this month....
More:
The debate is also a test of whether the party can contain the controversial and sometimes offensive comments that have often hindered attempts to bolster support for Republicans among Hispanics. After tea party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on Wednesday that protected immigrants would become "illiterate" voters, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) winced.

"Unfortunate, unfair, unnecessary, unwise," said Graham, who is close to party leaders.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate from the Philadelphia exurbs, said the leadership is asking his colleagues to "not play into the president’s hands."

"The president wants to see an angry and intemperate response, thinking the Republicans will do something that leads to a shutdown," Dent said. "Don't take the bait, and don't have a hysterical reaction. We can be strong, rational and measured."

... Many conservative lawmakers, however, are shrugging off pleas from leadership.... Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday that Obama's executive action should be met with a refusal to vote on any more of his nominees....

And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- one of the loudest voices on the right — has hinted at bringing up impeachment measures....

Amid the chatter over strategy, it is the tone of outraged rank-and-file members that most worries GOP elders. Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, they do not want to see Republicans tagged by Democrats as hostile toward Latinos and other minorities.

"It only takes a couple" of comments for an unflattering narrative to build about the Republican response, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "That's the trouble with having some of these new, young punks around here. They ought to listen to us old geezers."
Obama, the leaders say, fed them after midnight, and now they're going nuts, so it's all Obama's fault. Never mind the fact that a lot of us said it wasn't a good idea to let these creatures into our house in the first place, just because the looked so cute in their ads.



Oh, well -- this is what we're dealing with now:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AMERICA: MAKE THE [FILL IN THE BLANK] PROBLEM GO AWAY, BUT DON'T DO ANYTHING THAT UPSETS US

This relates to what I was talking about this morning:
Majority Say Not Gov't Duty to Provide Healthcare for All

For the third consecutive year, a majority of Americans (52%) agree with the position that it is not the federal government's responsibility to ensure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to the start of Barack Obama's presidency in 2009, a majority of Americans consistently took the opposite view.



As I said this morning with regard to immigration, Americans want problems solved ... until they start being solved. Then they say, "What? This is part of the solution? And this? We don't want any of this!"

In the case of health care, Americans wanted it universal, government-guaranteed, unrestricted, inexpensive, tax-free, and free of other new costs. I think they'd have gotten a better deal with single payer, but that was off the table, and if Americans want it, they haven't made themselves aware of why it's off the table, i.e., which vested interests don't want it. (Americans won't confront vested interests -- that's so last century.) Then again, Americans probably would feel betrayed by single payer (omigod higher taxes!), and yet they don't understand that the politically feasible alternatives necessarily involve compromises and require deals to be cut. So they no longer want what they wanted.

Repeat across every other controversial issue, ad infinitum.
BARACK OBAMA, WORLD-DESTROYING SLACKER

Here's the header for Joseph Curl's opinion column in the October 12 Washington Times:



An excerpt from the column:
On Sunday, President Obama suited up for work.

He put on his pants (most likely one leg at a time, but perhaps not), then slipped on his black windbreaker, the one with the presidential seal on one side, his name on the other (in case he forgets who he is). He put on some comfy sports socks, laced up his shoes real tight -- it would be a long, hard day.

Then he grabbed his leather bag of tools, which also bears the presidential seal and the number "44" (in case he forgets which number president he is). He stomped out of the White House and boarded his presidential motorcade just before a pool of traveling reporters was ushered out (he would, again, go unseen for the day, not unlike Kim Jong-un of late).

That was at noon. And yes, you guessed it, the president was not off to "work," but to play golf -- and set a milestone in the doing. Mr. Obama was heading out for his 200th round since taking office. Two hundredth! Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous professional golfer in the world, has played just 269 rounds since Jan. 20, 2009 -- and that's his day job. Go figure....

And now here's the header for today's column:



An excerpt:
... Despite his vow to work with Republicans, he will shove his executive order down their throats, intent on bringing conflict with the soon-to-be ruling party.

... But like the Joker, the president is intent on bringing chaos to America. In that "Dark Knight" scene, Alfred explains the Joker's true goal: "Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Mr. Obama will say otherwise in his address Thursday night, but this is who he really is. And like the Joker, he is to be truly feared.
We know that the frothing lunatics of the right harbor two views of the president that are utterly in conflict -- he's a stumblebum affirmative-action underachiever and he's a tireless tyrant who uses his unlimited power to crush his enemies without mercy -- but it's just delightful to see this self-contradictory worldview presented so baldly by one person over the course of a little more than a month.

Bonus Curl excerpt from October 12:
Of course, the president couldn't just rush off to the course minutes after taking [an] important phone call [about a U.S. Ebola case] (unlike the time he delivered a statement about an American beheaded by terrorists and then left immediately to play golf on Martha's Vineyard). No, Mr. Obama dickered about a bit in the White House, heading to Fort Belvoir just before 1 p.m.

So, the president spent a few minutes on the phone, then five hours on the golf course. But then, that makes perfect sense: In the 40-second pool spray, shot from the walkway outside the Oval Office, one thing was glaring -- there wasn’t a single thing on the president's desk. Not a piece of paper, a folder, even a Post-it note.
I bet the Joker has a neat desk, too, because who needs paperwork when you're PLOTTING TO BURN DOWN THE WORLD?????

AMERICA: MAKE THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM GO AWAY, BUT DON'T DO ANYTHING THAT UPSETS US

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake spots a paradox in immigration polling:
Breaking: Americans support a path to citizenship.

About six in 10 support a new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, according to a new poll from NBC News and Wall Street Journal. And that number jumps to a whopping 74 percent if you qualify that the undocumented immigrants must take steps like paying back taxes.

The very same poll, though, also asked people whether they support legal status -- shy of citizenship -- for illegal immigrants. Support for this, somewhat amazingly, is just 39 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

In other words, huge majorities support a path to citizenship. But on a path to legal status, it's reversed.

What?
Blake has a couple of theories:
Why the support for citizenship but not legal status? Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe people don't like the idea of two classes of Americans. Maybe they think of citizenship as something that is earned, and legal status as something that is bestowed without cost to the beneficiary.
I think it might have to do with the wording of the questions, and with what Americans want from government. In the NBC/Journal poll (PDF), the questions about the path to citizenship describe what seems to be a long process. The main question contains the word "eventually." The follow-up describes a lot of hoops for immigrants to jump through:
Q23 Now, as you may know, there is a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship that would allow foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens. Do you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

And, thinking some more about this...

Q24 If a proposed pathway to citizenship allowed foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens if they pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps, would you (ROTATE TOP TO BOTTOM/BOTTOM TO TOP) strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?
Those are the proposals favored by, respectively, 57% and 74% of poll respondents. They describe gradual processes.

Now compare this:
Q21 Next, I'm going to read you several actions the next Congress could take. For each one, please tell me whether you would strongly support this action, mildly support this action, feel neutral about it, mildly oppose it, or strongly oppose this action....

Creating legal status for some immigrants who are here illegally
This has 39% approval, 48% disapproval.

The key word here, I think, is "creating." Americans don't want us to just give undocumented immigrants stuff. We want to watch them earn it. And we don't want anything to happen rapidly -- it upsets us. We have all kinds of problems in this country, and we're furious at the government for failing to address them, but then we seem to get upset at most proposals that actually do address our problems, because they disrupt the status quo, partly in ways that make us uncomfortable. So we get as angry when solutions seem to be imminent as we are when no solutions seem to be imminent.

I'd also point out that in a September Washington Post/ABC poll, the following question was asked:
Q: If Congress does not act to address the immigration issue, do you think Obama should or should not take action on his own through executive orders?
In that poll two months ago, 52% of respondents said the president should act, and 44% said he shouldn't. But in the NBC/Journal poll -- now that we know executive action is imminent -- 38% approve it and 48% disapprove it. It's as if, as action gets closer, suddenly we don't want action. We want the problems solved, but solutions, or partial solutions, upset us.

Is that it? Well, it's a theory. Your guess is as good as mine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A FEW OBVIOUS POINTS ABOUT REPUBLICANS' APPARENT INVULNERABILITY

At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman notes that Republicans increasingly believe they'll pay no price with voters if they shut down the government in response to President Obama's executive action on immigration. Here's recent history as Waldman recalls it:
Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn't stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that "Washington" is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren't in the president's party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters.
That's not quite the whole story, of course. It's too simple to say that after Republicans crash the system, "large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that 'Washington' is broken." Voters don't just, on their own initiative, conclude this -- they're told this, over and over and over again, by the self-righteous mandarins of the Beltway press corps. And Democrats never try to identify for the voters precisely who "the people who broke" Washington are -- even Democrats blame "gridlock," or 'Washington," rather than the GOP.

So of course voters fail to assess the blame correctly.

Waldman adds:
The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.
Well, it's no surprise that we had low turnout with a Republican skew. Every day, all day, Republicans are told by their favorite media outlets that everything wrong in America is the fault of the Democrats, and thus they arrive at Election Day hell-bent on driving those Democrats out of office. A tiny minority of Democratic voters who are consumers of the left-wing media are regularly reminded who's to blame, but most Democratic voters are moderates who give the lefty media a miss; they're told by the mainstream media that the whole system is an unfixable mess because everyone's at fault. So of course they gave in to despair this year and stayed home.

And all this will probably happen again over the next two years. So Republicans may as well shut down the government again. After all, the vast majority of voters will never hear them blamed for doing so.
COULD THE RIGHT EVER MEME-IFY THE PHRASE "GOVERNMENT MARRIAGE"?

The Daily Caller reports:
Prominent Protestant Pastors Vow To No Longer Perform Government Marriages

Two Protestant pastors, concerned about rapidly-changing government definitions of marriage, have started a movement encouraging priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages.

Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner, Episcopal and Anglican pastors respectively, launched "The Marriage Pledge" at the conservative religious journal First Things on Tuesday....
Here's part of what Seitz and Radner write:
In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.

As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends....

To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage....
So here's their pledge, which they're inviting other members of the clergy to sign:
We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church's life.
I was struck by the phrase "government marriage," which Seitz and Radner use, and which also appears in the Caller headline. On the right, could this phrase actually catch on? Could wingers decide that marriage is evil and awful if it's linked to the (yecch!) government?

I'm not sure. I've seen the phrase "government marriage" just one other place: in a post at Reason's Hit & Run blog titled "The Problems with Government Marriage." (According to the post, the problem with "government marriage" include state bans on same-sex marriage, which, of course, Seitz and Radner favor.)

In 2011, while running for president, Rick Santorum tried to make state-run education seem sinister, using similar wording:
... Santorum took a swipe at public schools. "Just call them what they are. Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools," he said.
The phrasing never quite caught on. However, the idea that government-run schools are evil is quite common on the right.

Could that happen with marriage? Could it become a point of pride for right-wingers to refuse to register their nuptials with the state, and for ministers to refuse to legitimize marriage in the eyes of the state?

I could see there being a small refusenik niche among young heterosexual right-wingers in love -- some might choose to marry at churches that reject a state marriage system open to those filthy sodomites. But I think even most right-wingers want the marriage benefits, not to mention the big ceremonies, and they won't want to be forced to schedule a religious(-right) ceremony and a civil ceremony in order to have both. Besides, having the latter ceremony would defeat the purpose of the former, wouldn't it?

And besides, even in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, no church has been forced to alter its rules about which couples it considers eligible for marriage. To me, that's as it should be: we don't complain about the fact that divorced Catholics are prevented from remarrying in the church, even though divorce is legal under secular law. If some churches won't marry gay couples, I think that's the same thing. It's their choice.

I suppose if the law changes we'll see an increase in rejection of state-sanctioned marriage by conservatives. But if that never happens, this seems like an idea that's too radical even for the radical right.
HOW IS BREITBART MAKING ITS READERS STUPIDER TODAY?

After yesterday's Jerusalem synagogue attack, President Obama made the following statement (emphasis added):
We know that two attackers senselessly and brutally attacked innocent worshippers in a synagogue during their morning prayers. Obviously, we condemn in the strongest terms these attacks. A number of people were wounded, and four people were killed, including three American citizens. So this is a tragedy for both nations, Israel as well as the United States. And our hearts go out to the families who obviously are undergoing enormous grief right now.

Secretary Kerry has spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas has strongly condemned the attacks. Tragically, this is not the first loss of life that we have seen in recent months. Too many Israelis have died. Too many Palestinians have died. And at this difficult time, I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and to reject violence.

The murderers for today's outrageous acts represent the kind of extremism that threatens to bring all of the Middle East into the kind of spiral from which it’s very difficult to emerge. And we know how this violence can get worse over time. But we have to remind ourselves that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace and to be able to raise their families knowing they're safe and secure. The United States wants to work with all parties involved to make that a reality, and to isolate the kind of extremists that are bringing about this terrible carnage.
How is Breitbart covering this?



President Obama has responded to today's terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four Israeli Jews attending morning prayers condemning the attack, and stating that "the majority of Palestinians" want peace.

In a statement delivered to the White House press pool, President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that "too many Palestinians have died," as well as Israelis, in the struggle between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas and its affiliates, including the internationally active Muslim Brotherhood. "At this difficult time," the President told reports, "I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence." ...
I love the fact that under the screaming, one-sided headline there's this grudging acknowledgment of the president's paired sentences: "President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that 'too many Palestinians have died,' as well as Israelis." Oh, and a misquote of another part of the president's statement is also worth savoring -- according to the Breitbart story, the president asserted that "'the majority of Palestinians' want peace," when Obama actually said, "the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace." (The Breitbart story, needless to say, provides no link to the complete statement, available at the White House website in text and video form, because God forbid any of Breitbart's readers be exposed to the president's words in context.)

And these are the people who say Jonathan Gruber's Obamacare videos prove that the administration deliberately deceives people by massaging the facts?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

REPUBLICANS ARE ALREADY BLAMING DEMOCRATS FOR THINGS WE HAVEN'T DONE YET

Here's Philly talk radio guy Chris Stigall:



I'm not sure exactly what Stigall's saying here. Does he think Obama vetoed the Keystone bill today? (That's not what happened -- the bill had to pass by a 60-vote threshold to break a Democratic filibuster, like, um, the many, many bills filibustered by Republicans during Obama's presidency, and it failed.) Or is Stigall saying that in the future, when (inevitablu) the Republicans pass a Keystone bill, an Obama veto will demonstrate that the president is a horrible, uncompromising guy? (Obama, of course, has vetoed only two bills in six years as president.) If it's the latter, can right-wingers at least wait for Obama to actually do this horrible thing before hating him for it?

*****

Similarly, there's Noah Rothman's post at Hot Air about a possible Republican response to executive action on immigration by the president. Rothman thinks the GOP will choose to hold up only the expenditures relevant to enforcement of the executive order, rather than shutting down the entire government. He quotes Byron York's description of this approach:
... a shutdown battle could occur -- but it would be a battle over shutting down the small part of the federal government tasked with enforcing the immigration order. Everything else would remain up and running.
But Rothman thinks mean old Democrats will lie to the public about that:
If this were to occur, Barack Obama, liberal Democrats, and their allies in the press would apply all their power and influence to propagate the notion that Republicans had again shut down the government. They would, however, be deprived of the images of shuttered post offices, or war memorials and public zoos manned by joyless sentinels preventing citizens from making use of them.
That's right -- we'd just lie to everyone and say the government was shut down, even though it would be glaringly obvious that the vast majority of the government was open. Because we're horrible that way.

Fortunately for the forces of Right and Truth, some brave apostates would refuse to cooperate with Democrats' sinister efforts at mass mind control:
... some honest Democrats appear disinterested in helping their fellows craft the dubious narrative that the GOP had forced a suspension of governmental activity in a tantrum over the legalization of much of America's illegal immigrant population.

"It happens all the time," outgoing Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told National Review's Joel Gehrke. "That's not uncommon that there’s amendments saying 'none of the funds in this appropriation bill may be spent for' -- fill in the blank."
Um, Mr. Rothman? Levin said what the average Democrat thinks -- if Republicans don't shut down the government, we won't say they shut down the government. If Republicans block the executive order, we'll say they're blocking the executive order. If the rest of the government continues to function, we'll acknowledge that. We're like that, you see. We acknowledge reality.

We don't know if Republicans really can restrain themselves this way. But if they can, swell -- we'll admit it. So don't convict us for a crime we haven't committed, and won't commit.
WASHINGTON POST IS SHOCKED, SHOCKED, TO HEAR OBAMA TALK LIKE ... MITT ROMNEY

The editorial board of The Washington Post is appalled:
In Mr. Obama's own words, acting alone is 'not how our democracy functions'

DEMOCRATS URGING President Obama to "go big" in his executive order on immigration might pause to consider the following scenario:

It is 2017. Newly elected President Ted Cruz (R) insists he has won a mandate to repeal Obamacare. The Senate, narrowly back in Democratic hands, disagrees. Mr. Cruz instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to collect a fine from anyone who opts out of the individual mandate to buy health insurance, thereby neutering a key element of the program. It is a matter of prosecutorial discretion, Mr. Cruz explains; tax cheats are defrauding the government of billions, and he wants the IRS to concentrate on them. Of course, he is willing to modify his order as soon as Congress agrees to fix what he considers a "broken" health system.

That is not a perfect analogy to Mr. Obama's proposed action on immigration. But it captures the unilateral spirit that Mr. Obama seems to have embraced since Republicans swept to victory in the midterm elections. He is vowing to go it alone on immigration. On Iran, he is reportedly designing an agreement that he need not bring to Congress. He already has gone that route on climate change with China....

Mr. Obama may find a constitutional way to rewrite the nation's immigration laws. But in his frustration with democracy, he is likely to prove his point: Unilateralism will not make the system work.
That's really supposed to leave a mark on Obama: Mr. President, the way you're acting reminds us of that crazy bomb-thrower Ted Cruz. But the Post ed board seems to have forgotten that Mitt Romney, the upright, mainstream, sober-sided 2012 Republican presidential nominee. told us many times throughout his campaign that he planned to do something quite similar, also unilaterally, and none of the Beltway insiders currently occupying the fainting couch ever reproved Romney for it:
Gov. Mitt Romney says he has a plan that would allow states to skirt some of the biggest pieces of the health care reform law -- a proposal that could punch gaping holes in the federal law his critics say he inspired.

... Romney would use the law's "state innovation waivers" to allow the states to opt out of some of the most fundamental pieces of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate, the health insurance exchanges and the requirements for some employers to provide coverage or face fines, a Romney aide tells POLITICO....

"I'll grant a waiver on Day One to get [repeal] started," Romney said at Tuesday's debate in New Hampshire....

The state waiver provision, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), was written into the law to allow states to come up with their own health care reform proposals as long as they meet strict requirements: that they cover as many people as the law would have, be budget neutral and ensure coverage is just as affordable and comprehensive.

The Romney aide said the campaign believes the language is written in a way that gives the HHS secretary enough latitude to read a waiver application in a much more generous way, with few -- if any -- of the same demands. For instance, a requirement to provide "comparable coverage" could be interpreted by the Obama administration as covering the same number of people -- but a Romney adminsitration could interpret it as just ensuring that the same number of plans are available.
Now, maybe the press didn't give Romney a hard time about this because there seemed to be legal limits on how much the law could be gutted under these waivers, and because the waivers wouldn't have taken effect until 2017. The Romney people said, however, that this would at last "provide more certainty to individuals, businesses and states that they would be free of the Obamacare burdens in 2017." The plan was to gut the law to the maximum possible extent that it could be gutted -- unilaterally.

And no one in the chattering classes got the vapors.

****

That's what Romney planned to do on Day One. After that? Well, as he said in that October 2011 debate:
"On Day One, granting a waiver for all 50 states doesn't stop in its tracks entirely Obamacare. That's why I also say we have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on Day Two, with the reconciliation bill, because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation, [with] 51 votes."
And what would that mean exactly?
Even without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Republicans could use a process called "reconciliation" to repeal parts of the bill that relate to spending. That could carve out such significant portions as the government subsidy that helps poor people buy the mandatory insurance and the penalty levied against people who don't comply with the mandate.

"What he could do even if he does not have the 60 votes in the Senate, which seems unlikely, is use the budget process to repeal all of the portions of the Affordable Care Act that relate to spending money, which is where all the controversy is," said Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow at Project HOPE who was a top health-care policymaker in both Bush administrations.
That wouldn't have been full repeal, but it really would have gummed up the works:
It turns out that not all of the law can be undone using the budget process. Things like requiring insurers to accept people with preexisting health conditions would almost certainly need the same 60 votes to undo it as they needed to pass it in the first place....

"So now we could be sitting here with reconciliation having stripped out all the money, on Jan. 1 every sick person in America is showing up, getting their guaranteed-issue health insurance, and it's just going to ravage the insurance pools, drive the cost of insurance way high," [Health industry consultant Robert Laszewski] said.
I bring all this up because this week we have Ron Fournier, yet again, arguing that evil Barack Obama and the evil Democrats did an evil thing by passing evil Obamacare without the magic fairy dust of bipartisanship:
On health care, we needed a market-driven plan that decreases the percentage of uninsured Americans without convoluting the U.S. health care system. Just such a plan sprang out of conservative think tanks and was tested by a GOP governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Instead of a bipartisan agreement to bring that plan to scale, we got more partisan warfare. The GOP resisted, Obama surrendered his mantle of bipartisanship, and Democrats muscled through a one-sided law that has never been popular with a majority of the public.
But here was Mitt Romney, planning to gut Obamacare first with executive action that bypassed Congress, then with a law passed in Congress on a strictly-line vote -- no "mantle of bipartisanship" there.

And no mainstream chatterer expressed the slightest bit of outrage.
THE PRESIDENT STILL DOESN'T REALLY UNDERSTAND REPUBLICANS

If a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline passes the Senate soon, President Obama will veto it, and there won't be enough votes to override the veto. That's for now, of course -- once Republicans have the Senate majority come January, Republicans and pro-Keystone Democrats could muster enough votes to override an Obama veto.

At that point, The New York Times tells me, the president may decide to use Keystone to drive some sort of bargain -- in a way I find unimaginable:
White House advisers have repeatedly said that they do not intend to issue a final decision until a Nebraska court issues a verdict on the route of the pipeline through that state. But that decision is expected to come as soon as January, the same month that an incoming Republican-majority Congress can be expected to send another Keystone bill to the president's desk -- one that could be within a few votes of a veto-proof majority.

If that is the case, people familiar with the president's thinking say that in 2015 he might use Keystone as a bargaining chip: He would offer Republicans approval of it in exchange for approval of one of his policies.
In exchange for approval of one of his policies? Seriously?

The obvious objection to this is that the Republicans simply don't bargain -- in every case, the GOP responds to a dealmaking situation with the Michael Corleone line: My offer is this: nothing.

But the problem is more than just the GOP's refusal to negotiate. I don't see evidence that the GOP even wants the president to sign the bill.

If he signs it, it's no longer available to Republicans as a wedge issue. Republicans care much more about having a long list of wedge issues than they do about actual policy outcomes. Republicans want to fire up the base by being the pro-Keystone party, and want to collect large amounts of money from energy-industry donors by being the pro-Keystone party; those are much more important considerations to them than actually getting the pipeline built.

What's more, while Republicans favor Keystone, it's not so important to them that it's worth trading for something the president favors that Republicans don't favor. Making deals is politically dangerous for the Republicans. Fox and talk radio and Drudge and Breitbart have the GOP base so angry about every issue that any concession on any issue is deemed a betrayal by the base.

So when the president offers to sign the bill in return for a GOP concession on another issue, he's offering Republicans something they don't really want. The Keystone pipeline is much more important to them as an issue than as a conduit for fossil fuel.

The president is making the same mistake Democrats made when they agreed to the sequester. Democrats thought, "Surely Republicans will negotiate to end the sequester cuts because some of the cuts are in defense, and Republicans care deeply about preserving a strong defense." Republicans didn't care. They don't really give a crap about defense spending -- what they care about is being seen as the party of strong defense, while Democrats are seen as the surrender-monkey hippies who put daisies in gun barrels. The policy outcome doesn't matter -- all that matters is the posture, and the political advantage Republicans can gain from it, in votes and checks.

Republicans would be delighted if a Republican president signed Keystone into law, of course. But a Democratic president? Voluntarily? In return for concessions? They'd rather fight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

DEAR GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: WHEN YOU'RE TO THE RIGHT OF JOE ARPAIO...

This tweet surprised me:



Yes, Chris Christie is more mean-spirited than Sheriff Joe Arpaio, at least on the issue of so-called gestational cages for pigs. In fact, on this issue, Arpaio isn't mean-spirited at all -- he's been opposed to the small, constricting cages for many years, whereas Christie may not be mean-spirited so much as, well, self-serving, as the Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle explains:
I can understand Chris Christie's dilemma -- either signing an enormously popular bill to ban gestation crates in New Jersey or caving in to the veto demands of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, whose support is coveted by every aspiring Republican presidential candidate who trudges through Iowa. There's no mystery that Christie is closely examining the idea of running for president, and that the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses often winnow the field and set up the front-runners.

But defying Gov. Branstad might be just what Christie needs to prove he's no handmaiden of the political class in this country....
But Christie has no desire to prove anything of the sort, so he's told Iowa voters he'll veto the New Jersey bill, just as he did last year.



Pacelle explains that the cages are falling out of favor:
This issue has been on state ballot three times -- first in Florida and then in Arizona and California -- and each time voters approved the ban by ever-wider margins. In Arizona, the conservative sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, was the pitchman for the HSUS ballot initiative to ban the crates. In 2006, 62 percent of Arizonans voted for the ban. California voters approved a similar ban with nearly 64 percent of the vote, with the measure even winning in much of the state’s more conservative and agriculture-dominated Central Valley.

Six other states, by act of their legislatures or state rulemaking, have passed laws to phase out the crates, including the major pig-producing states of Colorado, Michigan and Ohio.

But those public policy gains are less compelling than the revolution that's occurring in the food industry. More than 60 of the biggest names in food retail have said they want to cleanse their supply chains of pork from outfits that confine the sows so severely. In announcing it would phase out its purchase of pork from farms that confine sows in crates, McDonald's -- which buys perhaps 15 percent of all pork bellies in the United States -- said gestation stalls "are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows." Denny’s said that banning gestation crates "is best for our company, our guests, and our continued work to improve animal welfare."

During the last 30 months, almost every big name in food retail has gotten on board, including fast-food giants Burger King and Hardee's, supermarket chains Kroger and Safeway, food service providers such as Aramark, Compass and Sodexo, and middle-America restaurants such as Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel.

But the argument that really clinches the case is that some of the biggest pig producers have decided to get out of the crates business. Smithfield and Cargill have made pledges to rid their production systems of that form of extreme confinement. Tyson has indicated it wants to move in that direction.
But Christie won't yield.

Hell, there's even an editorial in favor of the bill at National Review:
... The National Pork Producers Council opposes S998, because it opposes any legislation that might constrain animal agriculture. The group's communications director belittled animal-welfare concerns, telling a journalist, "So our animals can't turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets.... I don't know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.”

Most of us are not so dismissive where cruelty to animals is at issue, which is why the bill is supported by 93 percent of New Jersey voters, including 94 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans. It's hard to imagine a more popular piece of legislation.

... it's not just animal science that is offended by the crates -- so is basic morality. In short, forcing pigs to spend their lives in such conditions violates elementary principles of decency, compassion, and mercy.

It also violates Biblical principles, which teach us that righteous people have concern for the welfare of their animals. "Animals are God's creatures," the Catholic Catechism teaches. "He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."

Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has written eloquently about the need to get rid of these crates, both in his book Dominion, which opens with a denunciation of crates as violating conservative principles, and in articles for The American Conservative and National Review Online.

The bill on Governor Christie's desk right now is a common-sense measure that merely requires that pigs in New Jersey be able to lie down when they wish and turn around comfortably.

Surely, that's the least we as a society can provide them.
Nahhh. Not Chris Christie.

New Jersey doesn't have a lot of pig farms, and animal rights activists say none actually use these cages. So the bill won't have much practical effect. But by signing it, Christie could articulate a principle. His veto also articulates a principle:

"Me first."
CNN: YOU JUST CAN'T HOLD REPUBLICANS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS

This CNN story acknowledges that, yes, it does seem quite possible that Republicans will throw sand in the gears of government in the next two years. But you can't blame them, because it's really not their fault:
... Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Obama could spark a backlash over immigration.

"If he goes it alone he is going to run into the ire of the American people," Graham said, though said Congress also had a responsibility to act....

GOP leaders are already braced for pressure from the right for a tangible and not merely symbolic reflex when the president acts.

"If the president moves forward and does his executive action, the Republicans have no choice but to respond," said Dan Holler, communications director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative non profit group.

"That response needs to be legislative. The vehicle that makes most sense is denying funding for the activity that they say is unconstitutional and inappropriate." ...

Obama's immigration move is certain to ignite a firestorm of grass roots conservative anger. That will in turn pile pressure on rank-and-file Republican House members who campaigned for office slamming what they see as an imperial president....

Nothing worries Republicans in deeply conservative districts more than the prospect of a primary challenge, and many simply cannot afford not to mount the kind of rowdy response to Obama which will rock Boehner's restive caucus....

Executive orders on immigration will also detonate as the 2016 presidential race dawns, trapping Republicans between the party's activist base and a desire to engage Hispanic voters vital to GOP White House hopes....
Paragraph after paragraph of this story portrays Republicans, once again, as helpless prisoners of their voter base, of right-wing activist groups, and even of "the American people" overall. Republicans don't want to be obstructionist -- they have no choice! They're "under pressure"! Left to their own devices, they'd make deals like crazy!

And, we're told, this puts the poor dears at great risk:
Republican anger is however masking a serious problem the party has yet to resolve : how to hit back at what it sees a presidential power grab.

Other than warning that Obama would "poison the well" for future cooperation, GOP leaders won't say whether they will use pending federal funding bills as leverage.

That route led to a damaging government shutdown for which the GOP paid a heavy political price last year.
This story comes to my attention via BooMan, who writes:
Tell me, please, exactly how the GOP paid "a heavy political price" for shutting down the government and hurting our credit rating. They just had a huge victory in the Senate elections, the exact kind of statewide elections where politicians are supposed to be punished for pandering to the worst extremists in their party. They paid no political price and were, in fact, richly rewarded for their irresponsible behavior.

And if there is one single dominant reason for why the GOP got away with acting like five year-old bullies, it is because the media never mentioned their behavior in the 60 days leading up to the elections. If a tree falls in the forest and the only sound heard is about the Ebola virus and ISIS, then no one knows that a tree fell in the forest.

If the media had actually had a discussion about how a Republican-led Congress was likely to behave, then what's coming wouldn't be such a surprise to people.
Mainstream journalists didn't bring up the shutdown (or GOP intransigence in general) because they found the GOP's "Obama wants ISIS and Ebola to kill Americans" narrative more appealing -- but insider journalists also didn't mention the shutdown because they still think the shutdown wasn't a reflection of the "real" Republican Party. To the media, the shutdown was the work of a bunch of crazies who forced it on the party's congressional leadership and "establishment" members, all of whom were helpless to resist.

And the establishment types are being called helpless again in this story. It's never their fault. Therefore, Republicans are never responsible for their own behavior.

That's awfully convenient for them, isn't it?
HOW'S THAT LASER-LIKE FOCUS ON GOVERNING WORKING OUT, REPUBLICANS?

Why you'd almost think Republicans were deliberately misleading us when they said they were going to concentrate on showing us they could govern:
The Republican Congress is getting ready to ramp up the Obamacare hearings, firing up enough investigations to keep Obama administration officials visiting hearing rooms on both sides of the Capitol for the next two years.

They'll shine the spotlight on everything from cable-friendly scandals to tried-and-true complaints about the law's side effects. They’re going to investigate premium increases for individuals and small businesses, the impact on the federal deficit, payments to insurance companies that attract too many sick people, and the threat of huge tax headaches for some Obamacare customers next spring.

They'll be watching closely as the new enrollment season for the health care law begins on Saturday, although they'll only jump in with hearings if there's another disaster. And yes, Republicans are going to have a lot of fun with Jonathan Gruber....

They're probably not going to drag Gruber up to the Hill to testify, but they will use his comments to taunt administration witnesses and suggest that the law wasn't passed in an honest, transparent way....
I just had a crazy thought: Maybe all that talk about making governing the #1 priority was a ruse to throw mainstream-media journalists off the scent, while Republicans really planned to do nothing but this sort of thing for the next two years. That couldn't be right, could it? That would suggest that the mainstream press is stupid and naive and easily gulled. Could that possibly be true?

I love the fact that Republicans want to have a Gruber show trial, but don't want Gruber to show up. I guess they're afraid he could be contrite, in which case portraying him as worse than Hitler for the next two years might not seem sporting. Or maybe they're afraid that he'll demonstrate why, despite his loose tongue, he actually earned the money he's been paid by the federal government (and some state governments) -- in all likelihood, he understand this stuff on a technical level better than anyone else in America, and we might actually get to see that side of him, as ignorant Republicans struggle to keep up.

But yes, there are going to be multiple hearings in multiple committees in both houses of Congress. It's going to be all Obamacare all the time in Congress (unless, I suppose, Benghazi intervenes). But the mainstream press won't ask whether this contradicts the Republicans' pious pronouncements about governing. Hey, Republicans gave their word. It would be unfair to hold them to it.