Sunday, July 05, 2015


Maureen Dowd got The New York Times to send her to Paris so she could write an unenlightening column about that city's Uber protests, a column that could easily have been written stateside with a few Web searches and a transatlantic phone call or two. (Dowd traveled to the Quai d'Orsay and interviewed a Foreign Ministry spokesman who said -- I hope you're sitting down for this earth-shattering news -- that he really likes America, a country he think is beautiful and whose residents he found very friendly when he visited. He doesn't like our gun laws, though. Hard-hitting, insightful journalism! Well worth the plane and hotel expenditures!)

Forgive the sarcasm, but I can't count the number of times I've read something similar in American journalists' interviews of French officials. But before Dowd gets to that, she gives us this, which is the journalistic equivalent of traveling to Paris and choosing to dine at McDonald's:
PARIS -- THE turquoise tranquillity of the Côtes d’Azur was rocked a couple of times during the Cannes Lions Festival, the advertising world’s rosé-soaked answer to the Cannes Film Festival.

Al Gore snubbed Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky, who was giving a speech for Ogilvy & Mather about how she became “patient zero” in the cyberbullying epidemic, was slated to sit in a V.I.P. box with the former vice president, who got an award for being a good brand.

But her invite got yanked.

The contretemps was a reminder that Gore’s prissy attitude toward l’affaire Monica helped cost him the election, because he was so angry at Bill Clinton that he leashed the Big Dog, curtailing the president’s campaigning, even in the South. If Al had been less eager to put baby in a corner, there would have been no phony action on Iraq and plenty of action on melting glaciers.

Monica’s main bullies were not of the cyber variety. The Internet was just getting up and running. Her chief bullies were flesh and blood, a raffish president and feminist first lady who are now vying to be a feminist president and raffish first lad. They’re the ones who tried to paint her as a “narcissistic looney toon,” as Hillary put it to her friend Diane Blair.

Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary’s Doberman and email correspondent, led the sliming of Monica as a fantasist and stalker. Hillary’s friends do not regard Monica as a victim, but a predator. They think she let herself in for trouble when she took up with a married president who was a magnet for right-wing bullies.
Okay, a few things. Lewinsky wasn't a "predator," but she did pursue the affair, as a lawful adult, albeit a young, naive one. Do Hillary Clinton's friends believe Lewinsky "let herself in for trouble when she took up with a married president who was a magnet for right-wing bullies"? Well, they're right. I'm not saying she deserved what she got, but she took a foolish risk.

And if we're arguing about who "Monica's main bullies" were, are our choices really limited to the digital media and the Clinton camp? How have, um, the Republicans disappeared from this contest? The GOP Congress that pursued impeachment to the bitter end? The so-called friends who used Lewinsky to get to Clinton? And, of course, the inquisitor, Ken Starr?

All this leads me to ask: Why is Maureen Dowd still at The New York Times? Why hasn't she joined the likes of Dick Morris and Judy Miller and become the regular Fox contributor she's obviously qualified to be?

Her fixation on the Lewinsky scandal would make her perfectly at home in Wingnuttia, where old scandals are endlessly rehashed and grievances are nurtured for decades. What's more, Dowd's specific focus on the moment when Team Clinton tried to tarnish Lewinsky's reputation is strikingly similar to the right's obsession with the relatively brief timespan when Hillary Clinton's State Department downplayed the true nature of the Benghazi attack. In both cases, it just doesn't matter. The truth about Benghazi became obvious very quickly in the fall of 2012, and was soon acknowledged by the administration. In early 1998, the public wasn't fooled by Bill Clinton's denial of an affair, and didn't care -- a CBS poll taken within weeks of the Lewinsky revelations, in February 1998, showed that nearly three in four respondents thought Clinton was hiding something, and yet he had a 66% job approval rating. Seventeen years after the fact, Dowd is still fixated on a coverup, that didn't work.

That's the kind of never-say-die thinking that would make her an ideal right-wing pundit.

But we're stuck with her, because the Times not only continues to back her but presumably foots the bill when she wants to jet off to Paris. Also, she retains a vestigial anti-GOP (or at least anti-Bush) skepticism, which might manifest itself between now and November 2016 if she can overcome her Clintonophobe monomania.

Give it up, MoDo. Go over to the dark side. We're sick of you here.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Ted Cruz seems very eager to persuade voters that he's from the Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party:
Sen. Ted Cruz defended Donald Trump on immigration and called out “the Washington cartel” he says is ignoring the issue, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration,” Cruz said of his rival for the 2016 GOP nomination, adding that it “seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans.”

“I’m not interested in Republican on Republican violence,” he told host Chuck Todd, adding that “bold … brash” Trump “has a colorful way of speaking.”

The Texas senator’s comments were similar to his defense of Trump during Fox & Friends on Tuesday.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump,” Cruz said on the show. “I think he’s terrific.”
Hey, I thought Cruz really believed he could become president. Does he just want to be Trump's running mate?

I'm joking, of course. I imagine that what Cruz is thinking is that Trump is peaking now, and that when Trump drops out of the race, probably early in the process, Cruz will be in a position to pick up his voters.

Except that Trump is nine points ahead of Cruz in the latest CNN national poll of Republicans. Trump is seven points ahead of Cruz in the two latest polls of New Hampshire, from Suffolk University and CNN/WMUR. Trump is one point ahead of Cruz in the latest Quinnipiac poll of Iowa (and they're both well behind Scott Walker). Trump is nine points ahead of Cruz in the latest PPP survey of Michigan.

If Cruz thinks he can just bide his time until Trump drops out, I think he has the wrong strategy. It looks as if Cruz will be the one to drop out first, and then Trump will get his votes.

I think Trump has, as the saying goes, limited upside potential -- a lot of Republicans still don't like him and never will. In this way, he's like Ron Paul -- and, like Ron Paul, he'll probably stay in the race way past the point at which he's mathematically eliminated, just for the adulation.

But in the meantime, he's going to make Ted Cruz irrelevant (a process Cruz is abetting with his me-too-ism). I think, in the early states, he'll help drive Cruz out of the race.


UPDATE: Looks as if it's a mutual admiration society:
On Saturday, Trump ... praised what he considers fellow candidate and Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s tough immigration stance, calling him “very brave.”
I think this is a ticket.

Friday, July 03, 2015


Kingmaker-wannabe Mitt Romney is up to something again:
Mitt Romney is hosting Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, at his waterfront compound on picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee on Friday night, people familiar with the plans said....

On Friday night, though, Romney will have the Christies as overnight guests. But they won't be the only non-family members in the house. Fellow GOP hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and his wife, Jeanette, are also joining the Romneys for Friday night's slumber party.
This isn't the first time Romney has extended invitations to multiple establishment-friendly candidates -- last month, he and Sheldon Adelson had a gathering in Utah that was attended by Christie, Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina. As I said at the time, that event seemed intended as a show of support for candidates with an Adelsonian foreign policy (i.e., not Rand Paul).

But notice who didn't attend the Utah event -- Jeb Bush. Jeb's also not sleeping over on the lake in New Hampshire tonight.

Romney seemed to be deferring to Jeb when he decided not to run for president this year, but I'm starting to wonder whether he's looking for a way to help Jeb's rivals at Jeb's expense.

I just found myself rereading the story Mark Halperin wrote the day he thought Romney would announce his candidacy; Halperin was embarrassed, of course, when Romney announced he wouldn't run. Nevertheless, the story includes this still-interesting nugget:
Public comments from both Mitt and Ann Romney suggested that the Romneys thought Jeb would make a strong candidate and an able president -- and that his presence in the contest would remove any obligation Romney felt to seek the office himself.

But those familiar with Romney’s thinking as he's been contemplating a run and over the years say that he has held a jaundiced view of the former Florida governor dating all the way back to his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, and has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner). Romney also considers Bush the national Republican figure who was the least helpful to him during his last run for the White House, a position that has darkened Ann Romney’s view of Bush as well.
I'm guessing that that last sentence tells us what's really responsible for the Romneys' disdain of Jeb. The rest is just Mitt persuading himself that his dim view of Jeb is based on careful and dispassionate analysis rather than raw emotion.

Establishment Republicans should probably settle on somebody who seems safe -- Bush, Rubio, whoever -- and just try to get that candidate elected. But if it's Jeb, I sense that Romney won't want to play along. I continue to believe Romney is a Nixonian resentnik, and that he doesn't realize this about himself. Let's see if there's more evidence that he's trying to undermine Jeb in the future.


Jeb, by the way, is holding "two intimate campaign events" (a dinner and a staff briefing) in Kennebunkport this weekend, according to theNew York Post's Page Six.


UPDATE: And now:
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, will travel to the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Me., early next week for a private lunch meeting with Jeb Bush, according to a person briefed on the plans who was not authorized to discuss the meeting.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, who have had a strained relationship for years, last met in January in Utah, when Mr. Romney was considering running for the White House for a third time.


Several of the reasons given by National Journal's Lauren Fox for Donald Trump's surge in the polls make sense: In a crowded field, it doesn't take more than low-double-digit support to get into the top tier (although tell that to Carly Fiorina and George Pataki); also, as pollster Geoff Garin tells Fox, " there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is strongly anti-immigrant and there is an overlapping piece of the Republican electorate that is anti-politician."

But I'm tired of reading this about Trump's good numbers:
Several pollsters consulted for the story say the recent bump may reflect the entrepreneur's high name ID more than it shows genuine voter support.
Excuse me -- did Trump not have high name ID before he announced his candidacy? I'm pretty sure America knew who he was -- he was on television and everything -- and yet, in nine polls released before (or just after) his announcement, his numbers were between 1% and 5%. Since then? 11% and 12%. That's nationwide; results in Iowa are similar. He got an announcement bump, and name recognition has obviously helped him, but it's crazy to pretend that he instantly polled well because people knew his name -- he didn't initially poll well.

It's possible that he polled poorly prior to the announcement because admirers didn't think he'd really run. But I think a portion of the GOP electorate simply loves what he's saying. They always knew who he was.


I spotted this yesterday:
Republican presidential candidate George Pataki is hoping to grab some of the spotlight fellow candidate Donald Trump is occupying, by pressuring the rest of the field to denounce Trump's inflammatory comments on immigration.

Pataki, the former Republican governor of New York, sent a letter to the more than a dozen other GOP candidates asking them to join him in calling out Trump for calling illegal immigrants to the U.S. "rapists" and "killers."

"The last week of news coverage over the language used by Donald Trump to describe Mexicans has left me and a lot of other sensible people wondering what century we are living in," Pataki said in his open letter....
Let's see -- how would that work out for the other candidates? Let's take a look at the response to Pataki's own denunciation of Trump:

How'd that go over with Pataki's followers?

So yeah, good luck with this, George.

Ted Cruz, of course, has Trump's back. A few other Republican candidates -- Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, and, surprisingly, Rick Perry -- have actually criticized Trump:
Last weekend, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican-American, was asked in Spanish about Trump at an event in Nevada. In Spanish, he said that Trump doesn't represent the values of the Republican Party, according to Bloomberg News.

Asked again in English, Bush said, "I don't agree with him. I think he's wrong. It's pretty simple."

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a similar response during an appearance at the National Press Club on Thursday: "Let me say, I do not think Donald Trump's remarks reflect the Republican Party. I think the Republican Party is reflected in people like me." Several hours later his campaign sent a press release touting an even stronger Perry response to Trump during a Fox News interview.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, campaigning in New Hampshire this week, said Trump's comments were "inappropriate and have no place in this race." Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said in response to a question at a campaign event in Iowa, "I don't need a letter from Gov. Pataki. I said from day one, when you label a group of people as rapists and drug dealers, says more about you then it says about them.”
Hmmm ... three guys who are struggling in the polls, plus Jeb. Not a word of criticism from Walker, Rubio, Paul, Carson, Fiorina. But look at the tweets above. Do you blame them?

Thursday, July 02, 2015


The donor class just sent a memo about Scott Walker to Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. Haberman and Martin got the Times to publish it virtually unedited:
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin spent months persuading influential Republicans that he alone had the impressive conservative achievements and mainstream American appeal needed to not only win the party’s nomination but also to recapture the White House....

Now a growing number of party leaders say Mr. Walker is raising questions about his authenticity and may be jeopardizing his prospects in states where voters’ sensibilities are more moderate.

His response to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage most emphatically demonstrated his sharp shift to the right: Mr. Walker called the court’s ruling “a grave mistake” and reiterated his call for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage....

After Mr. Walker moved to support Iowa’s prized ethanol subsidies, abandoned his support for an immigration overhaul and spoke out against the Common Core national education standards, his pointed tone on marriage caused some Republicans to ask publicly whether he is too willing to modify his views to aid his ambitions.
If you read between the lines, it's obvious that flip-flopping is not what's bothering "some Republicans" -- it's the deviations from what the donor class considers Correct Thinking:
The [ethanol] reversal was not well received in the political network led by the industrialists David H. and Charles G. Koch, according to a Republican aware of the reaction who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitivities over the group’s deliberations.

But [Walker's] stance on marriage is what has disquieted people who had counted on Mr. Walker taking a more restrained approach to the culture wars.

For several months, according to four people briefed on the discussions who were not authorized to describe an off-the-record meeting, Republican donors who were advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage had worked quietly to try to build bridges to Mr. Walker....
Yeah, they want a guy who won't make a fuss about marriage.

Further into the article, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, who supports immigration reform, assures us that Walker probably isn't really a hard-liner on immigration, despite his recent tough talk -- but based on Walker's words, that's another issue on which he and the fat cats are now at odds.

Meanwhile, Crooks & Liars quotes Chris Matthews, who's probably also parroting the GOP Establishment line:
During a segment on Hardball Wednesday, Chris Matthews ran a series of right-wing freakout statements about President Obama's decision to reopen the embassy in Cuba.... Scott Walker's was crafted for the warmongering nativist right wing.

"President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy there is yet another example of his appeasement of dictators," Walker wrote.

Why this would shock Tweety, I will never know, but it did.

"I'm starting to lose faith in Scott Walker as a reasonable person," Tweety lamented. "He's aping the right wing."
That, I guess, was Walker's rep in the Beltway: He's "a reasonable person," by the Establishment's definition of that term (i.e., merciless on taxes and unionization, but not conservative in any way that threatens business interests).

The Times article is a horse's head in Walker's bed -- a warning that the cash isn't going to flow as freely as he'd like unless he falls into line with the wishes of the fat-cat community.

But what Walker is doing is understandable: He's staking a lot on Iowa, and while he still leads there, his lead is slipping; nationwide, he's now in the second tier. The guy who's gaining right now, Donald Trump, isn't exactly doing it by being sober and moderate.

However, I wonder if the rise of Trump makes the Enraged Conservative lane a bit too crowded, to Walker's detriment. Walker's already competing with Cruz, Paul, and Huckabee in the Angry Refusenik lane. (I'm not going to distinguish between angry social conservatives, angry occasionally neo-Confederate semi-libertarians, and angry ad hoc blowhards, because they're all trying to channel roughly the same Fox/talk radio anger.)

But the donors thought Walker could bring those furious voters along and run as an Establishment guy. If he's choosing not to run as that sort of hybrid, and if the Establishment stops giving him quite so much money, it's going to a very easy race for Jeb Bush in the Not Completely Crazy lane.

Marco Rubio is struggling. Chris Christie is not going to make a comeback. John Kasich probably has more fans at the Aspen Ideas Festival than in the New Hampshire and Iowa electorates combined.

So if Walker keeps trying to sound like Trump (and Cruz and Huckabee), he might cede all the not-quite-crazy voters to Jeb, and that might be enough for Jeb to win. But we'll see.


These poll results are disheartening, and they're going to lead to a lot of smug triumphalism on the right:
American public opinion on the Confederate flag remains about where it was 15 years ago, with most describing the flag as a symbol of Southern pride more than one of racism, according to a new CNN/ORC poll....

The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race

Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree....
As Zandar notes, this isn't a case of "Oh, the old people are still living in the past, but the young are so much more enlightened": overall, 57% of respondents think the flag is more a symbol of pride than of racism; among Millennials, that number is 58%.

A second poll shows similar results:
[A] Suffolk University/USA Today poll conducted two weeks after the apparently racially motivated shooting ... found that 42 percent of Americans think the flag is racist and should be removed from state grounds, while 42 percent of Americans think the flag is not racist and represents Southern history.

(Those numbers break down less along regional lines and more along partisan lines, with 63 percent of Democrats calling the flag racist and 61 percent of Republicans saying it's not.)
Well, it's hard to fight 150 years of propaganda accepted as fact:
As historian David Blight writes in his 2001 book Race and Reunion, in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, former Confederates and their supporters waged a propaganda campaign to shape American historical memory. The result was a popular understanding of the war and its aftermath that glamorized the valor of Confederate soldiers, downplayed slavery as a cause of the war and cornerstone of the Confederacy, recast Reconstruction as a period of tyranny and “black domination,” and justified the violent disenfranchisement and dispossession of black Americans for decades to come.

Even after the narrative of a benign and honorable Confederacy fell out of favor with historians, it continued to dominate American popular culture in film and literature, from The Birth of a Nation to The Dukes of Hazzard. The damage wrought by this interpretation of history is immeasurable. It is only now unraveling.
Or not unraveling.

Did you read Margaret Biser's recent Vox article about the questions she heard regarding slavery while working at a plantation that's now a historic site? If you did, it won't surprise you that a lot of white Americans are oblivious to the realities of this part of our history. A small sample from that article:
I showed the young mother some of the slaves' names and pointed out which people were related to each other. The mom stiffened up, raised her chin, and asked pinchedly, "Did the slaves here appreciate the care they got from their mistress?"

"These were house slaves, so they must have had a pretty all right life, right?" is a phrase I heard again and again. Folks would ask me if members of the enslaved household staff felt "fortunate" that they "got to" sleep in the house or "got to" serve a politically powerful owner....

The most extreme example of this occurred in my very last week of work. A gentlemen came in to view our replica slave quarter and, upon learning how crowded it was, said, "Well, I've seen taverns where five or six guys had to share a bed!"
But white obliviousness extends beyond slavery and the Confederacy. When allegations of police brutality are in the news, we often hear from black men and teenage boys who report routine police stops for no reason. It seems impossible for whites to be unaware that virtually every black male is stopped by the police repeatedly -- an experience that we white males simply don't share.

And yet:
White people ... are more confident than ever that local police treat black and white people equally, according to the Washington Post.

A poll conducted by NBC News and Marist College ... found that 52 percent of white people have a "great deal" of confidence that local police treat black people and white people equally. That's a higher percentage than many previous polls that asked the same or a very similar question, dating all the way back to 1995.

Or maybe this isn't obliviousness. Whites certainly have a tendency to feel that being asked to feel empathy is a tremendous hardship. Some, I imagine, think it's worse than slavery.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


CBC News reports:
Despite the controversy, American rocker Ted Nugent claims to have hunted with a New Brunswick outfitter that is facing over 60 charges related to illegal hunting and illegal possession of animal parts.

Nugent posted several photos showcasing dead bears on his Facebook account stating he'd recently been on a hunting trip in Plaster Rock.

"At Lawrence Dyer & Sons in New Brunswick Canada," Nugent posted on June 23rd. "With Danny, Dave, Chris and Kim & team for THE best black bear camp anywhere! Rugsteaks are flowing baby!"

Daniel, Christopher, and Kimberly Dyer are three of five people charged under the Fish and Wildlife Act in relation to a seizure of illegal animal parts from the Lawrence Dyer & Sons outfitters lodge near Plaster Rock in January 2015.

Owner Daniel Dyer is charged with the illegal possession of black bear gallbladders and black baculum, the bone found in the bears' penis, as well as the meat, carcasses, and heads of moose and deer.
The bear's penis bone is believed to be an aphrodisiac in various parts of the world. Bear bile is also used in traditional medicine, particularly in Asia.
Wild bears are also targeted, as their bile is considered more potent. As a result, American black bears, whose population is still healthy, are the new target of both legal and illegal hunting and trade of their parts.
The bile is also used as an aphrodisiac.

Well, the Nuge has been known to violate a law or two regarding animals -- he admitted as much to authorities in 2012:
In a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Nugent will plead guilty to one count of transporting an illegally hunted bear -- an offense that could result in a $10,000 fine.

Nugent, 63, was on Alaska’s Sukkwan Island in May 2009 filming an episode of his Outdoor Channel television show, “Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild,” which is described on his website as the “ultimate hands-on conservation lifestyle television show.” According to court documents, he was bow hunting near a bait station designed to attract black bears when he fired an arrow that wounded a bear, which then ran off.

Nugent “failed to locate and harvest the wounded black bear,” the plea agreement said, and then four days later, he shot and killed another black bear at one of the registered bait sites and then transported it off the island.

The problem: Alaska hunting regulations say the first wounded bear fulfilled his bag limit; the second one was an illegal kill. Transporting it off the island made it a violation of the federal Lacey Act.
No word as to whether Nugent himself actually uses bear parts as aphrodisiacs. Is it irresponsible to speculate? I think it would be irresponsible not to.


This seems like a match made in heaven:
Chris Christie’s out to prove he’s the bluntest and most straightforward candidate running for president. So it was only natural that the first major endorsement of his bid for the Republican nomination came from the only governor with a brasher and more plainspoken reputation: Maine’s Paul LePage.

At a last-minute event organized by Christie’s camp during a weeklong swing through of New Hampshire, LePage became the nation’s first sitting Republican governor to endorse a candidate for president.
LePage really is Christier than Christie:
Infamously, one of the first things he did upon taking office in 2011 was order the removal of a pro-worker mural from the state’s Department of Labor. He said the painting suggested the government had an anti-business bias.

... here’s how LePage tends to talk about his opponents -- who are, in many cases, members of the general public: They’re idiots, liars and spoiled little brats; they’re corrupt, spineless and like the Nazis. He’s attacked Democrats in the state Senate with homophobia; and he’s joked about having his critics shot.

... the governor has responded to his 2014 reelection by trying to ram through an elimination of the state’s income tax; and now that LePage promised to veto any bill that comes his way -- be its author Republican or Democrat -- until Democrats allow a referendum to that end....
And now he's being threatened with impeachment for a Christie-esque act:
But the governmental dysfunction has become a sideshow to an even bigger controversy over Mr. LePage’s actions regarding a charter school for at-risk youths [known as Good Will-Hinckley]. The school had hired Mark Eves, the Democratic speaker of the House and a LePage foe, as its next president, starting Wednesday. Mr. LePage said Mr. Eves was unfit to lead the school, and threatened to withhold more than $500,000 in annual state money unless the hiring was rescinded; the school, a nonprofit fearing the loss could threaten private matching funds and lead to its closing, did so.

Mr. Eves accused the governor of blackmailing the school and threatened to sue him.

The governor’s actions have infuriated many who say he overstepped his executive authority; a group of Democrats and independents in the Legislature is researching how and whether to impeach him. Democratic leaders are taking a cautious approach, but have said nothing is off the table.
It's a Christie-esque act that Christie has specifically endorsed:
Christie also defended LePage’s threat to withhold funding from Good Will-Hinckley if the school hired Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. Christie said the governor “made a difficult decision he needed to make to benefit the kids.”
Christie won the love of a lot of right-wingers by being an obnoxious Republican loudmouth who insisted that everyone who disagreed with him was an imbecile with malign intent. But Christie lost his mojo when -- mere days after he accused President Obama of "clutching for the light switch of leadership" -- he embraced the president in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. (Jon Stewart:"I guess he found that f**king lightswitch, huh?") Then there was Bridgegate, and Christie's statements of contrition after it was revealed (he might have been forced from office, but I still believe if he'd responded with his usual nastiness he'd have a higher approval rating among Republicans right now).

That's Christie. But LePage? I'm not following the Maine news day to day, but as far as I can tell, he's never expressed contrition about anything.

Which is why I think he should be running for the GOP presidential nomination.

You say he could be impeached? That would boost his candidacy! Why is Scott Walker leading in so many polls? In part because he was forced into a recall election. Donald Trump is soaring in the polls in part because Univision went after him. (I assume the severing of ties to Trump by NBC and now Macy's will give him even more of a boost.)

So dump that loser Christie. Run, LePage, run! Be the unchecked id the GOP voter base really wants!

(Christie's endorsement of LePage threat via myopinion on Twitter.)


Hey, hippie -- why are you such a Gloomy Gus about corporations? As Frank Bruni points out, corporations are wonderful:
In the dire prophecies of science-fiction writers and the fevered warnings of left-wing activists, big corporations will soon rule the earth -- or already do.

Fine with me.

They’ve been great on the issue of the Confederate flag....

Eli Lilly, American Airlines, Intel and other corporations were crucial to the defeat or amendment of proposed “religious freedom” laws in Indiana, Arkansas and Arizona over the last year and a half....

And if it were up to corporations, we’d have the immigration reform we sorely need....

Major financial institutions were well ahead of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians when it came to same-sex marriage. The leaders of these banks and hedge funds lent their voices and considerable sums of money to its legalization in New York in 2011....
All true, as far as it goes -- but, um, Bruni does realize that the social impact of all of this is secondary to the social impact of the other things corporations do, doesn't he? Really, it's been in all the papers. In fact, it's in his paper just today, in several stories -- like this one explaining that President Obama's decision to raise the threshold for overtime pay of middle-class workers is only one relatively small step we'd need to take in order to reduce inequality:
While a broad range of workers once reaped the benefits of economic growth, the affluent have captured a rising share in recent decades, leaving the wages of everyone else to stagnate....

According to detailed tax data compiled by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, the top 10 percent of families captured just under 90 percent of the total growth in income between 2009 and 2014. All other families split the remaining 10 percent.
This might change, Bruni's paper informs us, if we could "improve the bargaining power of workers, so that they could claim more of the wealth generated by productivity gains, which the affluent are keeping primarily to themselves" -- but we read elsewhere in Bruni's paper today that the Supreme Court -- revealed this week as surprisingly socially liberal but still dominated by justices appointed by presidents of our more pro-corporatist party -- will hear a case that could curb unions even more than they've been curbed in recent decades.

Elsewhere in Bruni's paper, we see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce fighting anti-smoking laws around the world. We see homeowners in Oklahoma dealing with so many earthquakes as a result of fracking that they've now won the right to sue oil companies. And, of course, we see debt crises in Greece and Puerto Rico, part of the extended fallout from a financial crash caused by socially tolerant but greed-driven and criminal-minded financial institutions.

We literally have to wait until Bruni's last paragraph for an acknowledgment of any of this within the text of his op-ed, and then it's dismissive:
The list goes on. And while it doesn’t erase the damage that corporations wreak on the environment or their exploitation of workers paid too little, it does force you to admit that corporations aren’t always the bad guys.
No, they aren't always bad guys, Frank. But you didn't say they're a mixed blessing -- you said you'd happily let them rule the earth unchecked. They more or less do already, of course. And for a lot of people, that's not such a great deal.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Rand Paul, obviously, was sending two messages with this little gesture:
Rand Paul met privately with Cliven Bundy on Monday, the Nevada rancher and anti-government activist told POLITICO.

The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes....
Paul obviously wants it to be clear that he thinks the federal government is evil:
"I'd either sell or turn over all the land management to the states," Paul, a Republican presidential candidate and senator from Kentucky, said, landing him big applause at [this] campaign event. "I don't think the federal government needs to be involved."
But -- after spending a few months running what's occasionally seemed to be the GOP field's most racial inclusive campaign, and not getting very far with it in the polls -- Paul wants us to know that racism is OK with him:
Rand had thrown his support behind the rancher in 2013, calling the federal government’s actions “overreach.” But he withdrew it after the New York Times reported Bundy made racist remarks about blacks, saying they:
abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
But Paul seemed ready to court him again on Monday.
In case you missed the message -- in case you read this as just Paul saying he agrees with Bundy on the federal government's role in land management -- Paul tweeted the following a few hours ago:

There are few things white conservatives like more than negating or minimizing the mistreatment of non-white people in this country. Everything is as bad as slavery except, apparently, slavery. Plenty of Americans have suffered oppression equal to or exceeding what blacks have suffered in America -- and a lot of that suffering is happening to white people, right now! That's the message.

If you think conservative tolerance of racism is ending just because a few Republicans have gotten the message that the Confederate flag offends some people, you're naive. Donald Trump attacks Mexicans as rapists and is denounced by not one of the other GOP candidates for president. What's more, he soars in several polls, and gets his usual tongue bath from Fox News:
"Fox & Friends" co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Brian Kilmeade agreed with Trump Tuesday morning, arguing that the "Apprentice" brought in a huge profit for the network, and gave away money in return....

"He is not going to take it lying down," Kilmeade said.

"[NBC] never wanted him to run in the first place," Hasselbeck added, "perhaps because he was bringing in millions of viewers to the network ... and money."

"It was the No. 4 show on TV!" Doocy replied.

"I guarantee you they would not be worried about this if he wasn't doing so well," Kilmeade argued.

Doocy also added that Trump "was right" in his comments about immigrants, adding that the southern border "does have a problem." He admired of Trump for standing by his comments and not apologizing or backing down.

"He takes no prisoners," Doocy said.

The hosts also echoed criticism that the network was ditching Trump while choosing to stay with other media personalities who have made controversial statements, including Brian Williams and Al Sharpton.
And you know what else you can still say to a right-wing audience without arousing a ripple of protest? this:
In [a] discussion [on Fox Business, Ann Coulter] said of the Confederate battle flag and the Confederate Army:
The Confederate flag we’re talking about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.
It's apparently no longer necessary in Conservative World to say that the U.S. military is the greatest fighting force in history -- if you're a conservative, you're perfectly free to say it's inferior to the Confederate army. Patriotically, of course.

Republican officials can take down all the Confederate flags they want. This stuff is not going away on the right.


This is from The Hill:
Sen. Ted Cruz is hoping to ride the conservative backlash on gay marriage to the front of the Republican presidential pack.

The Texas Republican has hit the Supreme Court with repeated rhetorical barbs in the wake of its ruling Friday that allowed for same-sex marriage in all 50 states, calling the justices “lawless,” “elites” and “a threat to our democracy.”

... The Texas senator has been courting the religious right from the start of his presidential bid, launching his candidacy this spring at the evangelical Liberty University.

But he has competition for the conservative mantle, with rivals, such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also taking aim at the Supreme Court.

... Cruz needs to make up ground in Iowa, which is the first state in the presidential nominating process. A Des Moines Register poll released late last month found only 5 percent of potential caucus-goers listed Cruz as their first choice for president.

By comparison, Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008, garnered 9 percent in that poll.
Right -- and in the same poll, Ben Carson is at 10% and Scott Walker is at 17%.

My first thought when I read this was that perhaps white religious conservatives see Cruz as a bit too, um, foreign. Compare him to Scott Walker, a Wisconsin preacher's kid who talks the Christian talk on the trail ("Jesus affects my life no matter what I do"). And compare him to Mike Huckabee, a white minister who exudes Southernness. But then there's Ben Carson -- a black city kid who's also developed a big following among evangelical voters. I don't think ethnicity is Cruz's problem. It may not even be Bobby Jindal's problem.

I think the problem Jindal and Cruz might be having with these voters is that their religious conservatism doesn't seem baked into their makeup. With Cruz, it seems added on. (Jindal just seems to be trying too hard.) From what I read about Walker and Carson, the God talk just seems to flow naturally. Cruz seems as if he's glommed onto it as a source of bullet points to use in debates; he comes off as a sincere wingnut, but not so much as a sincere conservative Christian.

Rafael Cruz, Ted's father, might be able to make some inroads with this crowd -- Byron York calls him "the most effective surrogate of the 2016 campaign." Of course, he actually is a right-wing preacher. But I'm not sure he's effective enough to change the impression his son conveys: a right-wing zealot, yes, but one who got that way not by praying but by being trapped in Enemy Territory (i.e., the Ivy League). Ted has to make people think he feels this stuff in his bones. I don't think the church-social crowd buys that.


In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, David Brooks notes that social conservatives still seem determined to turn back the clock on sexual morality. Brooks tries to steer them away from the course they're on:
These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.

I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course....

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
I'd argue that the War on Sex not only makes religion look stifling and awful, it's done the same thing to conservatism, which was going great guns in the 1980s, and might have won an overwhelming, decades-long victory if righties hadn't been so obsessed with unwed mothers and gay people and porn.

What Brooks is trying to do is futile, because these folks aren't going to listen to his recommendation for an alternative course:
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love....

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

... the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.
But these social conservatives aren't remotely interested in "selfless love." They're interested in God's wrath. More specifically, they're interested in being the broken-windows cops enforcing God's wrath. They want to scold. They want to ban. They want to identify sinners and declare them unworthy unless they repent, while society, in unison, chants, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

And, failing that, they want to regard themselves as the culture's most long-suffering martyrs. Here's Rod Dreher, one of the conservatives Brooks mentions by name in his column, responding to what Brooks wrote:
I am recommending a strategy for resisting, enduring and thriving under the reality of occupation.
Yeah, there's a guy you want ministering to those in need, right?

The sense of being under siege feeds Dreher's sense of self-righteousness. He knows he stands for good. He knows that the society we live in is evil -- and that those of us who share the values of this society are deranged destroyers of civilization:
The point is, there is no way for Christians to undertake the task of nurturing stable families, as David correctly wishes for, without making the teaching of Christian chastity part of the mission. This is the one thing the world cannot accept....

The romanticization of sexual love is no new thing. But it continues to seduce us and to confuse us, and, along with economic individualism, has become on of the two dominant ideologies of our civilization. This bad idea has consequences. The destruction of the family and the sundering of social bonds are among them.
Love your significant other? Love your significant other romantically and sexually? You're going to hell. And you're taking the rest of us with you.

Stop trying to reason with these people, David. Stop trying to be one of these people -- we've read the rumors and we know you can't live according to their moral code. I'm sure most of these clowns can't do it themselves, either. But that won't stop them from lecturing us. David, please realize that what they want most for society is to be its morality cops. They don't really give a crap about Christ's love.

Monday, June 29, 2015


At Bloomberg's With All Due Respect, John Heilemann and Al Hunt (presumably in for a vacationing Mark Halperin) think Trump might quit the presidential race now that NBC has dumped him over his racist remarks about Mexicans:
JOHN HEILEMANN: ... Some people think Trump was just in the race to pump up his TV ratings. So now that he's off the network, Al, is it more or less likely that the Donald will stay in the race, at least until Iowa?

AL HUNT: Well, I've never seen the light and really fully appreciated the virtue of the Donald's candidacy, John, and I think it's an exercise in self-promotion. But what I don't know is, does this make it more likely he'll drop out 'cause he doesn't have this show to promote, or does the Donald figure, "Hey, if I stay in, I'll get a couple more gigs just as good"?

HEILEMANN: It's an interesting question. I think the conventional wisdom is, he's got no TV career going, he's more likely to stay in 'cause what else is he going to do. I wonder, though, at this point, if there's no financial return on the backside, if there's no ratings to ramp up, those are the ways -- the previous theories had always been, well, he's jut pumping his TV ratings, that would lead to more money is his coffers. Now, if he runs, and he's got no TV career, it's all just net outflow. He's just writing check after heck after check, and I don't know how Trump will feel about that if it gets to be September, October, November, and he's not moving in the polls and he's writing all those -- seeing all those dollars flow out of his bank account.

Do you really think the issue here is strictly money? Until he announced his candidacy, I was skeptical about Trump's interest in actually running for president, but he obviously has had a huge interest in making people think he could be a great president. Ever see his Twitter feed? He retweets every message of praise he gets. There's a psychological craving for adulation there -- the Koch brothers don't do that. Yes, Trump may be in it mostly for the grift, but I think he believes his own lavish praise of himself. I don't think it's just an act. I can't imagine being like that, but then again I can't imagine being Bobby Jindal or Chris Christie or George Pataki and thinking, "I have a real shot at the presidency." There's something going on with these guys, something delusional and psychologically unhealthy, something that's not about cash. (Christie and Jindal will have all the corporate and media opportunities they want once they leave office.)

Trump is an emotionally needy candidate, but he's also like the somewhat richer guys in he donor class who feel vital when they think they're controlling the presidential race -- even when they're throwing their money away on a loser. Did Sheldon Adelson invest wisely when he gave all that money four years ago to Newt Gingrich? How about Foster Friess and Rick Santorum? For them, owning a presidential candidate was an ego trip. Trump is just trying to be both the sugar daddy and the rich man's toy.

And besides, the most recent polls suggest that all this drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar ranting is actually working for Trump. In the next round of polls, he'll probably be in first place. So he's not going anywhere anytime soon.


The attorney general of the state of Texas is encouraging defiance of the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage:
County clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections to gay marriage, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Sunday.

Paxton noted that clerks who refuse to issue licenses can expect to be sued, but added that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs,” in many cases without charge....

Paxton’s opinion also noted that judges and justices of the peace can refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

“Judges and justices of the peace have no mandatory duty to conduct any wedding ceremony,” the opinion said, adding that couples cannot be refused on the basis of race, religion or national origin.
Texas likes to throw states'-rights fits of this kind. On the other hand, Texas is very willing to accept federal relief in the wake of major disasters -- fourteen in the past decade, including one just last month after a period of tornadoes, high winds, and flooding:
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding also is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding in Cooke, Gaines, Grimes, Harris, Hays, Navarro, and Van Zandt counties.

Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Why provide this money to a state that doesn't think government employees are subject to federal law?

I realize that the U.S. government won't really withhold disaster relief if Texas needs it tomorrow, or next week, or next month. But the money should be withheld. These people regularly bite the hand that feeds them.

Personally, I'd like to close all the military bases in Texas and invite Texans to secede, as they're always threatening to do. But that's just me. At the very least, let 'em clean up after their own damn tornadoes.


I don't know why so many people misinterpreted this:
... a few of the conservative Christian horn-blowers, like famously anti-gay Texas pastor Rick Scarborough, are backtracking on previous statements made regarding the ... SCOTUS ruling [on same-sex marriage]. Scarborough’s most recent clarification is noteworthy because he’s no longer going to set himself on fire in protest....

Earlier in June, a conference call Scarborough participated in leaked to the media. Aside from the usual rigmarole of protesting marriage equality, the pastor made one rather startling statement:
We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary we will burn.
... many believed Scarborough was indirectly threatening to set himself on fire if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

According to the Advocate, Scarborough claims that’s not at all what he was trying to say:
I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritual song, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,” in which the three were given a choice -- to bow to the image of Nebucahdnezzar or burn in a furnace. “We will burn” means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [last Friday’s] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.
So he was figuratively going to set himself on fire if the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case....
That's from Andrew Husband at Mediaite -- but he was hardly the only person who interpreted what Scarborough said as a threat to engage in self-immolation.

That's not what it was. It was Scarborough imagining -- with satisfaction, even though he'd never admit it -- that we evil pro-gay Christ-haters were going to burn him. Metaphorically, of course. I don't really believe he's up for that sort of martyrdom in any literal sense. But it delights him, as it delights most right-wingers, to feel persecuted and besieged. So he was proclaiming that he and his fellow believers are, in fact, under siege. Admire us for being targets of persecution because of our faith!

Conservatives love feeling besieged. Think of the usual rhetoric from the gun crowd. They don't want you to believe that they amass large numbers of guns simply because they like guns. So they imagine imminent fascist threats to our way of life from a tyrannical government, and unrelenting rampages by urban criminals, and waves of violent undocumented immigrants streaming over the border (accompanied by Middle Eastern terrorists! as well as the now-traitorous U.S. Army conducting Jade Helm 15 exercises in order to repress the people!). See, they don't want to feel obligated to own all those guns. But they're the good people, and because they're so good, evildoers want to threaten them. They have no choice.

Conservatives, similarly, don't want to rail endlessly against evil sodomites -- but evil sodomites and their heterosexual enablers just won't stop threatening them. See, for instance, Notre Dame professor Gerard Bradley's contribution by to a National Review symposium on the Court ruling, as quoted at Power Line:
This transformation is itself the “beginning” of something much larger and more dangerous than same-sex, monogamish “marriages.” Yes, polygamy is just around the corner. And Obergefell’s evident determination to, somehow, use the law to equalize the self-esteem (“dignity”) of adults and children in all sorts of irregular groupings is at least Orwellian.

... we should expect today’s decision to inaugurate the greatest crisis of religious liberty in American history. I am certain that it will.
He sure hopes it will, because if he's besieged by a world-historic level of persecution, then he's a righteous hero in his own mind. Just like the gunners, and just like Rick Scarborough smelling nonexistent smoke.