Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Or Perhaps The Guillotine

A week and a half ago, Irin Carmon tweeted "credit to @kevin NR for openly taking abortion=homicide view to its logical conclusion (death penalty for women)."

In a twitter conversation of September 28, Williamson recommends "treating abortion like as homicide" and argues we should "address the entire criminal architecture," suggesting capital punishment for all hospital staff involved in the procedure. And hanging is his preferred means of execution.

This, of course, prompted a strong reaction.  Salon's Jim Newell wrote

As ugly as it sounds, Williamson’s position, as Irin Carmon tweeted, is the logically consistent pro-life position. If you believe abortion is murder, then the law should charge those who get abortions with murder and subject them to life-in-prison or capital punishment, depending on a jurisdiction’s homicide sentencing guidelines. Or perhaps, since it’s doctors performing the abortions, “merely” charges of conspiracy to murder or whatever. Those who think that abortion is murder but don’t feel that the woman who has an abortion should face homicide charges should ask themselves, Why?

Let’s take another “hard” pro-life position that is at once extreme and logically consistent: the idea that women shouldn’t even be allowed to have abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. So many politicians label themselves pro-life but allow for these exceptions, and these are the exceptions for which the Hyde Amendment allows federal Medicaid funds to cover abortions.

It's understandable, as Newell concedes, that some pro-life advocates accept abortion when the prospective mother's life is in danger, given that the continuance of a life other than that of the fetus' is involved.  A fair trade-off may be made. But pro-life folks might accept abortion also in case of rape or incest because the woman emerges as the victim.

In fact, some anti-abortion rights activists have claimed women should not be prosecuted because they are victims of... victims of whatever; it makes no sense but conservatives have an odd perception of victimization.  In either case, a woman who has been raped or the object of incest is a victim of a horrendous crime.

Nonetheless, Newell- and Carmon- are right to maintain that Williamson's support for prosecuting the prospective mother is the only logical position for the pro-choice crowd.  If abortion were illegal, she will have participated in a murder and should be charged, as Newell understands, with "conspiracy to murder" or "accessory to murder charges.  Or perhaps she ought to be charged with murder itself, as is virtually anyone else who has paid to have someone killed.

Still, Williamson's sincerity can be questioned.  Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs recognizes the "agenda (of many conservatives) is to roll back all progress on women's rights. But he belies a misunderstanding when in reply to Williamson's response, he tweets "it's telling that you advocate hanging instead of a more humane method of execution. Reveals serious animus."

It reveals animus, but a lack of seriousness.  If abortion is banned (chart below from New York magazine) and women prosecuted, the latter can at most be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which is not likely to include the death penalty and surely not hanging.

But that's how it is when people are outraged and react emotionally.  For men, at least, it's rip out their gonads, beat the crap out of them, or hang 'em high. It's not prosecuting someone fully with the aim of life without parole or execution in accordance with the law.

Admittedly, most conservatives can't afford to be serious about this. They can call for charging with murder the doctor; or the doctor and the hospital employees tangentially involved, as does Williamson. However, they cannot call for charging the woman with murder.  For if they did, there no longer would be a rough balance between pro-life and pro-choice activists and sympathizers in the nation.  Instead, the anti-abortion rights movement would be blown up or, alternatively, endure a slow, agonizing death.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

We May Have That Itch Again

In a recent NBC News/The Wall Street Journal poll, 1283 registered voters were surveyed on a variety of issues.  The most interesting and evidently important question was

If it were determined by the military commanders that the best way to defeat the ISIS army was to use American military troops on the ground, would you be in favor of this decision or would be in opposition to this decision, or do you really not have an opinion one way or the other?

The results were, at first glance, stunning:

In favor of American military troops on the ground …………….. 45
Opposed to American military forces on the ground…………… 37
No opinion either way…………………………..………………….. 16
Not sure……………………………………………………………. 2

This would seem to be an extraordinary result, a finding that most Americans with an opinion, if it became U.S. policy, would support American soldiers yet again being sent into combat- and that without the inevitable groundwork which policymakers and others would lay.

But upon further reflection, one ought not to be surprised. The pollsters skewed the results in the direction of a favorable response in two ways.  Although not the obvious takeaway, using ISIS as an adjective- "ISIS army"- rather than as a noun ("ISIS") adds an element previously unknown.  Is ISIS an "army" in any conventional sense? No one (else) has suggested it is, and we Americans are accustomed to defeating an army rather than getting bogged down fighting terrorists, an elusive bunch.

More obviously, there is no more effective way to prompt an affirmative response than to precede the question with the predicate "if it were determined by the military commanders that the best way to defeat..."

Americans have a difficult time questioning the uniform (suggesting that if Colin Powell had ever run for President and somehow been nominated by the GOP, he would have been extremely difficult to beat, even though he is evidently a con man or a sucker).  It is as if pollsters last year had asked "Do you support a cut in food stamp benefits, even though it would leave millions of children hungry?" That would be an interesting poll- with predictable results.

But on another level, the question does have basis in reality.  Already, there have been military men suggesting that ISIS cannot be defeated without soldiers on the ground.  And if the President were to announce that Americans were being sent to the Middle East to fight, surely he would claim the support of the brass, which would present a united front to the public. Nervous Nellies (nervous nellies?) would not be tolerated, lest they would go the way of General McChrystal. (The military is still subservient to the civilian branch of government, at least in theory.)

Nonetheless, there still is a disquieting impulse among the populace to do it all over again.  Reacting generally to the war footing, rather than specifically to this survey, Digby comments

And frankly, I'm almost as disgusted that the American people continue to be thrilled at the prospect of kicking ass over some trumped up threat --- and yes, I do believe that a whole lot of us are anxious to get back to the business of ass-kicking. It's much more exciting than thinking about the wealthy elites stealing more and more of your meager earnings. But it's a dangerous and nasty way to entertain ourselves out of a nasty malaise.

And in memory of simpler, less complicated,  times, here is Tom Paxton in 1980 singing about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a resulting Olympic boycott:

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Or Was It A Double Latte?

It appears to have begun with the gosh-darned liberal media, when ABC News at 2:19 p.m. on Tuesday reported

Some are calling it the “latte salute.”

When President Obama stepped off Marine One at the Wall Street landing zone in New York City, en route the United Nations, he saluted two Marines at the bottom of the stairs as he held a coffee cup in the same hand.

Presumably, after the President on Wednesday "charted a muscular new course for the United States in a turbulent world" in a speech to the U.N.'s General Assembly, ABC covered the substance of the President's remarks on the third war the USA will be fighting in Middle East in the past dozen years. But on Tuesday, this "liberal" media outlet proceeded to cite three (anonymous) Instagram users (only), none of whom called it the "latte salute." The Washington Post, in maintaining "it was quickly dubbed the latte salute," linked to the ABC article.

Two hours after the ABC piece, Fox News contributor and former Florida Representative Allan West tweeted "if  there was ever any doubt as 2 the level of regard Obama holds for our military, this latte salute seals the deal."

That evening, Karl Rove at least got the drink right after Sean Hannity asked (video below) "did you see the latte salute?" He contended

Look, he knows there are going to be two Marines at the bottom of Marine One when he gets off, and the idea that I’m going to just jaunt out there with my chai tea, and give them the old … you know it’s not a latte salute, it’s a chai salute, because he drinks chai tea, but I mean please, how disrespectful was that?

Rove also described Obama as a "chai-swillin’, golf-playin’, basketball trash-talkin.... Commander-in-Chief’”    Basketball trash-talkin.  Glad we got that race thing out of the way with election of the first black President.

The real problem, however, was described by columnist Garry Wills, who never has claimed to be psychic, but could now. Seven or eight years ago, righteously annoyed about abuse of "commander-in-chief," he wrote

We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of marines.

That is an innovation that was begun by Ronald Reagan. Dwight Eisenhower, a real general, knew that the salute is for the uniform, and as president he was not wearing one. An exchange of salutes was out of order. (George Bush came as close as he could to wearing a uniform while president when he landed on the telegenic aircraft carrier in an Air Force flight jacket).

Reference to Bush 43 has been made many times this week (still not often enough) and you've probably seen this awesome display of respect a few times:

President Bush didn't get criticized much at the time (not now, either). Aside from the obvious reasons (in order of ascending importance)- he's black, currently unpopular, and a Democrat- Obama has gotten so much flak, there is an additional factor, presaged by Wills.   Brian Adam Jones of the blog Task and Purpose quotes Rachel Maddow in her 2011 book Drift recalling

Soldiers were supposed to salute their president; the president was not supposed to salute the soldiers. No modern president, not even old General Eisenhower, had saluted military personnel. It might even be, well, sort of, improper. Reagan seemed disappointed at this news. John Kline suggested he talk to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps and get his advice, and the commandant’s advice ran something like this: You’re the goddamn president. You can salute whoever you goddamn well please. So Ronald Reagan continued saluting his soldiers, and he encouraged his own vice president and successor, George H.W. Bush, to do the same. And every president since has followed.

(Jones believes Kline, then a Marine officer and now a Repub member of the lower chamber, wanted Reagan to stop saluting, thus rendering his suggestion the President ask the commandant of the Marine Corps rather odd. Imagine: "No, Mr. President, we're angry you've been saluting us." Coincidentally, Bill Maher recently selected Kline as the target for his "flip a district" campaign.)

So we can attribute the practice of a President saluting the soldiers to Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) or, as he is viewed by the GOP. Saint Ronnie. Obama, with his latte, chai, Maxwell House, or I really shouldn't be doing this anyway salute, has failed to uphold the noble practice inaugurated by the Man Who Could Do No Wrong. And that is an even greater sin, in their eyes, than being born black.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Summoned, But Not Really Expected

I am shocked- shocked!- to learn that people don't want to "self-deport."  The Associated Press reports

Tens of thousands of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed, the Homeland Security Department has acknowledged privately.

An official with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the United States never showed up weeks later for follow-up appointments.

The ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of the meeting Wednesday and separately interviewed participants.

On the recording, the government did not specify the total number of families released into the United States since October. Since only a few hundred families have already been returned to their home countries and limited US detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, the 70 percent figure suggests the government released about 41,000 members of immigrant families who subsequently failed to appear at federal immigration offices.

The official, who was not identified by name on the recording, also said final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 people traveling in families caught at the border since May but only 14 people had reported as ordered.

In a statement e-mailed Thursday afternoon, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the no-show rate ‘‘represents an approximate snapshot of individuals encountered beginning in May’’ who did not report to ICE. Christiansen added that some of those people may still be reporting to immigration court hearings and a ‘‘significant’’ number of deportation cases are still pending before judges.

On the negative side, the number of detention facilities, as indicated by the AP, is grossly insufficient. But on the negative side, the number of courts is paltry, also.  Two months ago, Dara Lind of VOX (charts, below) explained

... the administration's broader plan is to deport children and families who are already here more quickly by staffing up the immigration court system. It's announced surges of immigration judges and court staff to deal with children, and with Central American adults who were apprehended alone. Once it's opened family detention centers, it will send another court surge to process cases in those detention centers.

It's also changing the way that immigration court hearings are scheduled: now, judges are instructed to hear the cases of children and families who've recently come into the US before they hear the cases of other immigrants. (That will make the wait even longer for those immigrants whose cases get bumped.)

It typically takes months or years to get a hearing in immigration court. The administration's goal is to get through a case in a matter of days. One Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official told the press that the goal of the detention center opening in New Mexico is to deport a family within ten or fifteen days. Only a few weeks after that announcement, the government started deporting the "first wave" of families from New Mexico to Honduras.

The Republicans, of course, were of no help. The President requested $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to address the immediate problem and the GOP-controlled House responded by passing a bill providing $694 million, less than 19% of Obama's proposal. "Some Republicans," Lind noted, "have suggested that the administration simply ignore existing law so that it can quickly deport all child migrants via 'expedited removal' instead of putting them in front of an immigration judge."     When you don't like the law, just ignore it; a nation of men, not of laws, to them.  (And that would be men, not women and men.)

Making a mockery of Bill Clinton's paean to "those who play by the rules," most of the newcomers skip court while the others show up, some of them only to be deported.  In what is often described as "the richest country on earth," we won't pay to determine whether the newcomers are illegal immigrants (who should be deported) or refugees from oppression (who should not be). When there is cause, deport the individual; otherwise, let the person stay, working his or her way toward eventually becoming an American.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yes, Ann, It Works (As It Should).

Ann Romney missed her chance. Talking Points Memo on Wednesday reported

Democratic accusations that Republicans are engaged in a "War on Women" are "offensive" and "not gonna work," Ann Romney said in a Fox News interview that aired Tuesday.

"It's ridiculous," Romney said. "Honestly. I mean, I don't think they're getting very far with that by the way. It's not gonna work. I think women are a lot smarter than that. And that's kind of offensive to me to tell you the truth."

Romney's comment came after she was asked about previous remarks by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz who said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had "given women the back of his hand."

Queen Ann might have wrapped herself in the flag, a time-honored and effective tradition, and called Democrats out for trivializing war.  Democrats could have responded that there has been a "war on" drugs, coal, the middle class, and virtually everything but war itself (a "war on war"- that one might be refreshing).  But with a little preparation by Minister of Propaganda Frank Luntz, Romney's response might have carried the day.

Democrats, for their part, might have reacted to Ann Romney by agreeing that women are quite smart, as demonstrated by Mr. Romney capturing among women a mere 44% of the two-party vote in 2012, the largest gender gap found in Gallup's presidential polling (chart, below).

The "war on" jargon is grotesquely overused. Still, in another of the Repub assaults on women's rights, Laura Clawson of Daily Kos in March noted

North Carolina's Republican candidates for U.S. Senate believe that the state has the right to ban contraceptives. Candidates Ted Alexander, Greg Bannon, and Heather Grant think states should be able to ban contraceptives, but claim they don't think North Carolina should actually do so. Mark Harris thinks states should be able to do so, but doesn't think any ever would. And state House Speaker Thom Tillis, the likely frontrunner in the primary, thinks states should have the right to ban contraceptives and won't say whether he thinks North Carolina should...

Obviously, Republican candidates who are willing to talk about the right to ban contraceptives are uniformly in favor of a fetal personhood amendment, which—oh, look at that—might lead to a ban on certain forms of birth control. Funny how that circles back, isn't it?

So there is serious antipathy in the Repub Party to the rights of, oh, roughly 50% of the population, aside from minorities, the poor, the working class, and students.  But, fortunately, Mrs. Romney is wrong in her other assertion.

"Honestly," she says, and leading off with "honestly" (are we to think she usually is not speaking honestly?), you question her sincerity.   "I don't think they're getting very far with that by the way. It's not gonna work," the would-be First Lady maintained.

Guess again, wife of he who holds contempt for nearly half of Americans.  We take you to the case of Martha McSally, Repub opponent of Arizona Representative Ron Barber, the latter representing the district of former Representative Gabby Giffords, noted gunshot victim.When McSally ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2012, her ads included one (below) comparing herself to Democrat Giffords. 

Gabby and her husband were not amused and recently the organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, headed by Giffords ran an two ads criticizing McSally for opposition to closing the gun show loophole. One (below) features a woman named Carol who says her daughter was killed by a criminal who bought a firearm at a gun show and didn’t receive a background check — a check, she states, that McSally would oppose.

“To McSally, it’s just politics,” Carol says as she clutches a picture of her deceased daughter. “To me, it’s personal.”

McSally and The Arizona Republic vehemently complained about the ads (nothing more "vile," as the newspaper called it, than criticism based on issues). Two days  ago, Politico observed

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ pro-gun-control group has taken down a harsh ad against Arizona House candidate Martha McSally after the Republican explained her position on allowing stalkers to buy guns.

The ad features a woman named Vicki who recounts how her 19-year-old daughter was hunted down and murdered by an enraged ex-boyfriend, while a narrator says McSally, who is running for Giffords’ old seat in Congress, “opposes making it harder for stalkers to get a gun.”

But the ad wasn't taken down because of pressure. Rather, Politico continues,

The decision to take down the ad 24 hours before it was scheduled to go off the air was made based what Pia Carusone, executive director for Americans for Responsible Solutions, described as a change in McSally’s position.

The group, which includes a super PAC and nonprofit arm, is supporting Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, a former aide to Giffords, against McSally.

Carusone said the group received a letter from McSally’s campaign laying out the Republican’s position on access to guns for stalkers convicted of felonies and misdemeanors.

McSally “supports the full enforcement of federal laws that are in place to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons, including convicted felons (including stalkers), domestic abusers, the mentally ill, and people in the country illegally,” the letter states. It goes on to stress that McSally also “supports adding misdemeanor stalking to the list of criminal offenses that would keep dangerous individuals from obtaining guns in other states where stalking can also be a misdemeanor.”

McSally has said nothing of her evidently continuing opposition to closing the gun-show loophole, apparently because- unlike stalking- that does not disproportionately affect women. A word to the wise to stalkers in Arizona: buy your firearms on line or at gun shows. 

That brings us around to Ann Romney, who "honestly" believes the liberal Democratic charge that the GOP is waging a war on women will be unsuccessful. She says "I don't think they're getting very far with that by the way. It's not gonna work. "  Welcome to Arizona, Ann, where the gun subculture is prevalent and a pro-gun candidate slides by when her only concession is that stalkers shouldn't buy firearms. At gun shops.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All Hail The Commissioner

Responding to controversy after the initial penalty (two-game suspension) he imposed upon then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell admitted "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

No, you didn't. And apparently you don't. And so you won't.

After the firestorm following release of the second video dramatizing Rice's knockout blow against fiancee (now wife) Janay, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely, demonstrating that a king can overreact as well as he can underreact.

In both instances, the $44 million-a-year commissioner exercised supreme authority. And now, in the guise of cracking down on bad behavior, he's apparently determined to do it again. Sunday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported

Adrian Peterson still has not come to grips with the prospect that his 2014 season has all but officially ended and that his future in the NFL is uncertain, multiple sources have told ESPN.

Even if Peterson reaches a plea deal on a child abuse charge with Texas prosecutors, the NFL will severely discipline the Minnesota Vikings star, according to sources.

Peterson is in denial about his future, according to a team source. The Pro Bowler tweeted Friday that he passed a lie detector test, which served as further proof, according to multiple sources, that he "really doesn't get it."

The Vikings do not foresee Peterson in their future, according to team sources, following a botched attempt to activate the running back this past Monday only to reverse course Wednesday by placing him on the commissioner's exempt list.

Peterson faces a child abuse charge in Texas for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son in May. He has said he meant only to discipline the boy and not hurt him.

Since he is on the exempt list, Peterson can collect the remainder of his $11.75 million salary for this season. However, the Vikings have not disclosed whether they plan to activate Peterson at any point this season.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned child abuse as a violation that the league will harshly punish during his news conference Friday, prompting the Vikings to change their expectations regarding Peterson's potential return to the team, according to sources.

In his tweet (below), Peterson- the NFL's best running back- asserts "I requested the polygraph" and adds "no weapon."  Veteran reporter Mortensen does not say why the "multiple sources" believe either reference confirms Peterson "doesn't get it."  Nor does he explain exactly what the tired cliche "doesn't get it" means in this context or what "denial" (another tired cliche) means here. Does Peterson naively believe he will return to the Vikings this season? Does he naively believe that he will be allowed back into the NFL at some point and at least one team will be interested in signing him? Or is he foolish to believe even that he merely will be back in the league in the future?

We are not told, and we don't know.  After Rice was suspended for two games, Goodell increased the penalty for domestic violence (and sexual assault) to six games.  But instead of imposing this penalty, Goodell sentenced Rice to an indefinite suspension so the running back can return to his profession whenever the commissioner, for whatever reason, chooses. Or never, if the spirit so moves him.

We know the aphorism "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is usually true.  While Roger Goodell serves at the pleasure of the NFL owners, he will be allowed, as his sordid history has demonstrated, to continue in his position as long as the owners continue to make money. Given that the tax-exempt National Football League has a virtual license to print money, it will take either sponsors with backbone or a lot more controversy for him to lose his position.   But kings, we know from history, can be overthrown.

!Note,I requested the Polygraph. Share that as well! May The Lord continue to Bless U All. #EPD#NoWeapon

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Playing The Patsy

Bill Maher (video below), as only he can, asks an intriguing question:

When it comes to baited into going to war, America has to try a little harder to not being so fucking easy! Excuse me. Just a few months ago polls showed Americans were sick of war. They'd had enough. They were anxious to stay out of the Middle East. Then they saw two beheadings and over night and they were like, 'Oh, war, we can't stay mad at you.' You know, conservatives love to vilify anyone who doesn't want to immediately throw down as appeasers. But when you're dealing with terrorists whose aim is to bait us into overreaction and you oblige them, aren't you the appeaser?

Less profanely, the Guardian argues

The killing of Mr Haines was not an act of revenge. It was an act of provocation. Like the two murders of the American journalists, it was designed to frighten and to inflame. It seems nothing would please Isis more than for these killings to provoke an intemperate and thoughtless violent reaction from those at whom they are aimed. Such a reaction might, in Isis’s crude and perverse logic, give them public legitimacy as victims rather than as killers. Such things have happened all too often in history. This in itself is a good enough reason for western leaders to have cool reactions. But there is also a case for saying that the hostage slaughter video campaigns are themselves a sign of Isis weakness, not Isis strength. The jihadis’ spectacular military advance early this year in northern Iraq has been stalled in recent weeks by Kurdish fighters and US air strikes. These reverses may have spurred anger and exasperation in the jihadi ranks. That could explain why the ghoulish Isis propaganda blitz apparently aimed at provoking an overreaction from the US and the UK is taking place now rather than at any other time.

It's not only the propaganda blitz which is "ghoulish."  Saddam Hussein, pretending he had weapons of mass destruction so as not to appear weak to Iran, seemingly welcomed the U.S. invasion. Similarly, ISIS now may be flaunting its viciousness to encourage a reputation as the premier terrorist group in the Mideast. Hussein was overthrown and killed and the war appeared won by the "good guys.".  Several thousand American deaths later, Iraq is less stable, and U.S. citizens are increasingly fearful of a terrorist attack here.

David Corn notes "There are hundreds of anti-Assad militias, each side with its own agenda. Some moderate bands have no interest in taking on ISIS. Some fighters shift allegiances between secular outfits and Islamic extremist groups. For that and other reasons, the "bad guys" (as we accurately but simplistically- call them) may lose and we may not win.  War is no longer a zero-sum game.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Brownback Needs Sex To Win.

Kansas native and author/historian Thomas Frank notes the "privatization, deregulation, and an enthusiastic race to the bottom" which has characterized the leadership of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.  The incumbent faces a major electoral challenge because

You’ve got tax cuts so severe they’ve brought on fiscal catastrophe and thrown the state’s school system into crisis. You’ve got bullying by state legislators against organizations that criticize Brownback’s healthcare plans, and hints of pay-to-play corruption just under the surface. And, of course you’ve got credit downgrades as all this becomes known to the outside world.

The wrecking crew is in full swing in Kansas, and for once the people there seem to be ticked off about it. Once the hero of the state’s sin-hating millions, Sam Brownback is unpopular today. Indeed, his situation is so bad that the only sure way he can be rescued is by a mass disregard for economic reality—by cognitive blinders strapped on simultaneously by millions of individuals.

More ominously, he adds "either that, or by the culture wars."   And now Politico, relying on a report from "a twice-weekly local paper with no website," reports that in 1998, police looking for illegal drugs executed a search warrant at a club known as "Secrets" (or Club 169) near the border of Oklahoma in southeastern Kansas.  The owner of the club was charged with sale of methamphetamine and not having a tax stamp and the business was closed, but not before a police officer in his own words

noticed a white male sitting in a couch with a white female standing over him.  She did not have her top on and was only wearing a G-string. I told them to get on the floor and to keep their hands where I could see them. They got on the floor, but the white male was still in a sitting position. I told him again to lay on his stomach and to keep his hands where I could see them. At this time he did so. When he got on the floor he advised that he was the attorney for the owner of the club and he wanted to see him. I told him that he would have to wait until things were secured.

That was sixteen years and the white male is now 43 years old, married with three children, and Brownback's opponent Paul Davis. Davis was not charged in the incident, nor was there any indication he knew of a connection between the business and illegal activity.   In a normal world, his actions at the strip club nearly a generation ago would eclipse those of Representative Michael Grimm (video below) of New York. Last year, the New York Republican was asked by a reporter about an investigation into campaign finance fraud and responded  "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony…No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

He was not charged, and currently leads his Democratic challenger in polls and is favored to win re-election in his Staten Island district.  Davis perhaps faces a greater electoral obstacle because his behavior involved sex rather than a mere threat to kill.   Fortunately for the Democrat, however, he has to defeat only Brownback, who has steered a normally conservative state sharply backward, and to whom Kansans seem to be catching on.

Only last month, Standard & Poor''s Rating Services downgraded the state's credit rating as it cited the sharply lower revenues brought about by the deep cut in taxes pushed by Brownback. S&P suggested the state faces a major deficit in the coming fiscal year and its move comes on top of a credit downgrade by Moody's in April for largely the same reason(s).

Whatever the outcome in Kansas, the real moral of the story might be found in the tale of the tea party Republican Brownback appointed to be the chairperson of the Kansas Securities Commission in 2011.  In a turn of events which could serve as a metaphor for the tea party movement, Frank explains

Can you guess how the Tea Partier played it? Yes, you can: He played it exactly like the hack-n-crony regulators of the Bush Administration that the Tea Party was supposed to be so very different from. Jack’s main agenda item, according to a withering account of his tenure that ran last year in the Topeka Capital Journal, was to get rid of a majority of the commission’s staff and replace them with political allies and, of course, lobbyists. His grand vision was to cut the regulated some slack, to remake the state as a place where hedge-fund types would no longer need to worry too much about “overzealous” supervisors — “to open Kansas as a destination state for hedge fund managers, private equity operators and venture capitalists.” With the tools of deregulation they were going to build a Wall Street on the Plains—and along the way Mr. Jack somehow found money in the commission’s budget to air radio spots in which he himself told listeners about all the neat things he was doing. Finally, when things didn’t work out for him in politics, it was through the revolving door to a local brokerage....

That story has pretty much been lost amid the broader avalanche of calamity in Kansas, but still it’s worth dwelling upon. Ten years ago, when I wrote a book about politics in the place where I grew up, I was impressed by the populist tone of the state’s conservative rebels. I was amused by the way they mocked the state’s successful and well-connected professional class. (This kind of thing still goes on, of course. On Thursday, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who also finds himself behind in the polls,denounced his opponent as “another millionaire politician trying to deceive voters and buy a U.S. Senate seat.”) In the aftermath of the slump brought to you in 2008 by Wall Street, those populist rebels won. Thanks to the Great Recession, those rebels were able to defeat their opponents completely. The offices of the state are now nearly entirely at their command.

And what have the populists’ leaders done with that power? To say they proceeded to sit down and write passionate love letters to Wall Street is hyperbole, but it’s not sufficient.... 

Think back over all those years of prayer and organizing and going door to door and yelling about the liberal elite with their lattes and their fancy Volvos—what has it fetched the rebellious right-wingers of my home state? Yes, one of their leaders got a cash-out job in leafy Leawood. Hopefully a McMansion, too. But for most of the rest of them it’s crumbling schools and dwindling services and the huge expressionless face of the local ag monopoly, remorselessly bidding down the labor of their neighbors. Before they vote again for that prayerful fellow who makes such a show of genuflecting before Mammon the great and powerful, they need to consider: maybe this guy’s got the wrong god. 

Fittingly or ironically, the only thing that now can save the fanatically anti-abortion rights governor is sex and his shouts of Obama! Obama! The strip club incident occurred almost a long time ago, but the Governor to the 1% needs a titillating diversion to divert attention from the privatization regime (The Young Turks video below) he's destroying his state with.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

We'll Back Him Up Until We Can Push Him Off The Cliff.

In his latest column about President Obama's new Mideast policy, Charles Krauthammer does what he does best- blaming President Obama- writing

... What was the Islamic State thinking? We know it is sophisticated in its use of modern media. But what was the logic of propagating to the world videos of its beheadings of two Americans (and subsequently a Briton) -- sure to inflame public opinion?

... It was an easily sprung trap to provoke America into entering the Mesopotamian war.


Because they're sure we will lose....

They count on Barack Obama quitting the Iraq/Syria campaign just as he quit Iraq and Libya in 2011 and is in the process of leaving Afghanistan now. And this goes beyond Obama. They see a post-9/11 pattern: America experiences shock and outrage and demands action. Then, seeing no quick resolution, it tires and seeks out leaders who will order the retreat. In Obama, they found the quintessential such leader....

Steve M. does what he does best, skewering conservative columnists, remarking

"The quintessential such leader"! So ISIS has calculated that Obama is a big wuss -- but not quite enough of a big wuss to shrink from the fightaltogether if provoked, just enough to start the fight, get embroiled in it,then quit, just the way he's done in, oh, say, the fight against Al Qaeda, in which ... um ... he's killed the leader and some top subordinates, thus helping to create precisely the competition for the title of Earth's Baddest Jihadist Group that ISIS is currently trying to win.

Oh, and Obama is so uniquely and predictably feckless that ISIS can count on him not to give in to pressure to widen the war, and to cut and run before another U.S. president (maybe even a Republican!) can fight ISIS more effectively (because who could possibly fight ISIS lesseffectively?). It just isn't possible, according to ISIS, that Obama will hold the line, or even score some victories, then hand the war off to an able successor, even though he'll be president for only two more years. ISIS is counting on Obama to pursue the fight to exactly the extent that maximizes ISIS's glory, and then to withdraw exactly when the fight can't be rapidly escalated by whoever succeeds him, all because Obama is such a uniquely terrible American leader. 

Why, it almost seems as if ISIS thinks exactly the way Charles Krauthammer and his Fox News buddies think. Odd how that works.

Shortly before Obama took office, President Bush negotiated with Iraq a Status of Forces Agreement which would have had all American soldiers out of Iraq by the end of 2011. His successor wanted to keep a small residual force, but that fell through when Baghdad refused Obama's condition that American soldiers be given immunity from prosecution. But the right simply can't (or refuses to) get its arms around the idea that the Iraq War had not been won before Barack Obama lost the war and became The Great Appeaser.

Still, sixteen paragraphs through the seventeen paragraph column, one is surprised that the ever-hawkish Krauthammer apparently opposes further U.S. military action.   He refuses to join the GOP "they're coming to get us chorus," noting

the Islamic State’s principal fight is intramural. It seeks to supersede and supplant its jihadi rivals — from al-Qaeda in Pakistan, to Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, to the various franchises throughout North Africa — to emerge as champion of the one true jihad.

He realizes even "The strategy is simple: Draw in the world’s great superpower, create the ultimate foil and thus instantly achieve supreme stature in radical Islam as America’s nemesis."

He maintains "Obama's 'broad coalition' remains a fantasy" because

It’s more a coalition of the unwilling. Turkey denied us the use of its air bases. The Sunni Arab states are reluctant to do anything militarily significant. And not a single country has volunteered combat troops. Hardly a surprise, given that Obama has repeatedly ruled that out for the U.S. itself.

He might have added that even Iraq premier Haidar al-Abidi, a Shiite Muslim who would be pleased if the Sunni ISIL were eliminated, is lukewarm about the coalition.  Al-Abidi had definitively ruled out American soldiers and asserts "The only contribution the American forces or the international coalition is going to help us with is from the sky.   We are not giving any blank check to the international coalition to hit any target in Iraq."

But by the end, Krauthammer goes off the rails, remarking

Testifying on Wednesday to the Senate, Kerry declared that the Islamic State “must be defeated. Period. End of story.” Not the most wisely crafted of declarations: The punctuational emphasis carries unfortunate echoes of Obama’s promise about health care plans and the word “must” carries similar echoes of Obama’s assertions that Bashar al-Assad had to go.

So John Kerry is unwise, even a fool.  Barack Obama is incompetent and a dissembler.  But- wait for it- we have to support their policy.  Even then, in contrast to nearly his entire argument, Krauthammer cannot bring himself to opposing, or even expressing ambivalence about, the Administration's plan. He  concludes- even as he takes a shot at the President-

Nonetheless, Kerry’s statement remains true for strategic and even moral reasons. But especially because when the enemy deliberately draws you into combat, it is all the more imperative to show the world that he made a big mistake.

The problem is not only that Krauthammer and his Fox News buddies think as ISIL thinks.  It is also, as Steve M. clearly understands, that the GOP will not give credit to President Obama even when they agree with his policy.

Speaking out of turn, Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia (who has wanted a vote to authorize military action; photograph from the AP) captured the essence of his Party's desire to have it both ways when he admitted

A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, 'Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.'   It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.

There is insufficient profile in courage in either party but especially in the GOP, annoyed Obama has refused to employ triumphalist rhetoric.  They so badly want a war from a President who gained office partly by pledging to wind down the Iraq debacle. "See, I told you so" can be emotionally gratifying. They won't oppose the war, but won't give Obama credit, either, an easy transition (or no transition at all) for a Party which decided to obstruct the President and his agenda before he even took office.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Feminist Limbaugh

Politico's Dylan Byers reports

On Tuesday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairperson Steve Israel sent a blast email asking supporters to sign a petition calling on Limbaugh's sponsors to pull their advertising from his program because of remarks he had made about rape. Israel characterized Limbaugh as saying, "…No" means "yes" if you know how to spot it…” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a similar email on Wednesday....

The email directed recipients to a form where they were required to fill out their email address and had the option of supplying their zip code. After giving their information to the DCCC, they are redirected to ActBlue and asked for a donation, preferably recurring weekly.

Limbaugh spokesperson Brian Glicklich told Politico "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails about Rush Limbaugh are an intentional lie, using 10 words carefully selected from his full comments to imply the opposite of what he actually said."  (An intentional lie? I hate those unintentional lies?) In response to Glicklich's response to Israel's response to Limbaugh's response to an apparently new policy at Ohio State University, the DCCC e-mailed Politico

The world according to Rush Limbaugh: women who use the birth control pill are ‘sluts,’ ‘no means yes if you know how to spot it,’ and anyone who dares question him is ‘reprehensible.’ There’s no context where no means yes, and that’s why thousands of Americans are responding to our petition demanding that his sponsors to pull their advertising.

Helpfully, Byers provided a transcript of the controversial statement (video, below):

Consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn at any time, and the absence of 'no' does not mean 'yes.'" How many of you guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that "no" means "yes" if you know how to spot it? Let me tell you something. In this modern world, that is simply not tolerated. People aren't even gonna try to understand that one. I mean, it used to be said it was a cliche. It used to be part of the advice young boys were given.   See, that's what we gotta change. We have got to reprogram the way we raise men. Why do you think permission every step of the way, clearly spelling out "why"... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen if even one of these steps is not taken?

Byers received this transcript.... from the Limbaugh camp. Yes, Glicklich- in defense- sent to Politico a statement including "Why do you think permission every step of the way, clearly spelling out 'why'... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen if even one of these steps is not taken?"  Further, Glinklich neglected to mention that Limbaugh, following a commercial break, added "I don't know how men can be held to that Ohio State agreement, policy, anyway, because everybody knows in sex men don't think with their brains. Not the one in their heads, anyway. It's just so silly."

It's just so silly.  Yet, the Limbaugh camp says the DCCC charged the talk-show host with implying the opposite of what he "actually said."  Actually, even the portion Glinklich quoted has the boss maintaining if men don't ask "permission every step of the way.... are all of these not lawsuits just waiting to happen?"  Given that "lawsuits" is a four-letter word (until an individual has to file one), that would be a truly bizarre way of expressing concern about sexual assault on campus. As if to emphasize his point, Rush soon thereafter added (transcript of entire segment, here)

You ever notice that? I've never run across anybody who suggested that women need to be reprogrammed. I don't think I've even come across anybody who wanted to teach a girl how to throw right. They just accept it is what it is. But honestly, folks, it's always reprogramming men. It's always men who seem to provide or be at the root of all of these cultural problems. And if we could just make men less like men and more like, I guess, women, then we would be rid of all of these problems.

If he had any integrity, Limbaugh would own up to what he had inferred and defended it which, if his characterization of the Ohio State (or as they say there, "The Ohio State University") policy were accurate (a huge "if"), would be plausible for a humble guy who bills himself as "guaranteed to be right 99% of the time."

Limbaugh's audience, overwhelmingly conservative, knew exactly what he meant. But he's not supposed to be challenged because, in the conservative mind, merely questioning a statement is simply not to be done. It's all part of the sense of victimization carried around by the right and would be recognized  as a defining characteristic, were the media willing to notice it.

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