Thursday, December 31, 2015

Prosecution Of A Legend

Opinions vary as to why in November Kevin Steele, seeking to replace then-District Attorney Lisa Vetri Fermin, defeated one-time District Attory Bruce Castor:

"It's a shame" that Cosby became a campaign issue, said Constance Carrier, 80, of Lower Merion.

She said she voted for Steele because she disagreed with Castor's politics.

"It has nothing to do with whether or not he should have prosecuted Bill Cosby," she said.

Dan West, 48, a Democrat from Bridgeport, said he voted for Castor because he was turned off by Steele's TV ads criticizing Castor's handling of the Cosby case.

"To a very large degree, I thought the ads were distasteful," West said.

Steele is a Democrat, while Fermin and Castor are Republicans. This matters because counties in Pennsylvania, as in too many other states, elects its chief county prosecutor, known as the District Attorney. Citing insufficient evidence, Castor had declined to prosecute the comedian.

Prosecution of Cosby for aggravated indecent sexual assault against Andrea Costand (who at the time was in a relationship with a woman, which does not help the defense) now has been enabled, evidently with evidence which was not to have been made public. (In the video below, Dan Abrams contends crucial evidence was supposed to be sealed.), The New York Times explains

court documents and the deposition from a civil suit filed by Ms. Constand in which Mr. Cosby acknowledged he had given women quaaludes as a party drug in his efforts to have sex. Some court records were sealed when the civil case was settled in 2006 but were released by a federal judge in July.

 This is  just fine with Christina Cauterucci, who concludes in Slate

“Reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers,” Steele said in a press conference on Wednesday. “After examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim.” It took a jab from male comedian Hannibal Buress to get the public to fully grapple with allegations against Cosby that had been around for a decade, and it may take Cosby’s own admission to drugging women before sex to force any legal action against him. Outrageous though that may be, a criminal conviction that allowed us to stop using the word “alleged” to qualify abuses detailed by more than 50 women would be a decisive validation of stories too easily brushed aside for far too long.

In a statement, Cosby's criminal defense attorney maintained

The charge by the Montgomery County District Attorney's office came as no surprise, filed 12 years after the alleged incident and coming on the heels of a hotly contested election for this count'ys DAduring which this case was made the focal point. Make nomistake, we intend to mount a vigourous defense against this unjust charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by acourt of law.

The defense team projects optimism of the final outcome and refers to the "unjust charge," which is not a claim that the incident did not occur as charged but merely that the defendant, a 78-year-old man who walks with a cane and has been active in philanthropic activities for decades, should not have been charged.

If the evidence warrants it, the arrest of Bill Cosby was justified. If convicted- and the circumstances warrant it- Cosby should be incarcerated for what appears to have been a serious offense. But courts should not be used to assuage conscience or anger. They should not  be used to pursue "a decisive validation of stories too easily brushed aside for far too long."

Nor should they be used as a political football. They are, of  course, in states which foolishly hold elections for court personnel (such as judges) and law enforcement personnel (such as district attorneys).  Pursing the Constand case against Cosby may be fully merited. But the reason should not be that a candidate in an election accused his opponent of giving a pass to the comedian some nine years ago. Justice is too important for that.

The prosecutors need to have considered the end game, consequences of an acquittal or conviction. In the latter case, sentencing should consider, that

Cosby’s ominously titled “Far From Finished” tour made him boatloads of cash before ending in May, and gave his supporters a way to show their love. Even as protesters have mobbed Cosby’s appearances, most theaters have been forced to honor their standing contracts with him or face expensive lawsuits from the comedian. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art has kept its Cosby-glorifying exhibition of Bill and Camille’s private collection on view for more than a year.

This is not a man in the throes of excruciating remorse.  However, if and when he is found guilty, the pleas for mercy, due to age, infirmity, a lifetime of achievement and service, or regret expressed between verdict and sentencing will be considerable. Hopefully, Cauterucci- who in the paragraph above inadvertently began to make a case for severe punishment-  and others clamoring for prosecution understand that conviction probably should mean that Bill Cosby die in prison.

The voters of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, generally well-educated and informed, nevertheless have no idea who would be the better, or even more zealous, District Attorney. If justice- whatever that might be- for Bill Cosby is an uphill battle, removing politics from the criminal justice system anytime soon is a far steeeper climb.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Made Man

"The inaugural issue of The Weekly Standard, the conservative magazine launched in 1995," writes The Atlantic's David Frum, "depicted then–Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich swinging into action, a submachine gun blazing in his left hand, under the headline 'Permanent Offense.'"

And now the GOP, the much-preferred party of the Weekly Standard (and still somewhat of David Frum) has Donald Trump on its hands.

Oh, it's not because of The Weekly Standard or Newt Gingrich, though each has played a part.  It has been a long time in the making, as described in July by author and professor of history Heather Cox Richardson.

It started, she implied, with Barry Goldwater but intensified with Richard Nixon, whose media advisor explained the psychological underpinning of the strategy when he once wrote

Voters are basically lazy. Reason requires a high degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand…. When we argue with him, we… seek to engage his intellect…. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable….

But the major blow to appealing to reason and fact probably was struck by the administration of President Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) when

To avoid niggling fact-checkers, in 1987, President Reagan’s FCC abandoned the Fairness Doctrine, a decision that meant that public broadcasters were no longer required to provide their audience with opposing viewpoints. Within a year, talk radio had taken off, with hosts like Rush Limbaugh hammering home the vision of a nation gone to ruin, awaiting redemption from the latest Movement Conservative candidate. In 1992, Limbaugh began to broadcast a television show, produced by Roger Ailes, to take the story to viewers. By 1994, the show was carried by 225 television stations.Two years later, Ailes would become the CEO of a new media channel, Fox News, which used the same formula—albeit updated—that Ailes had used to package Nixon’s story almost 30 years before.

Richardson reminds us of the senior adviser to Bush 43, who dismissed the "reality-based community" because "that’s not the way the world really works anymore…. When we act, we create our own reality…. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

It is a "disregard for fact in favor of narrative," Richardson notes, which "appears  to have become so accepted in the Republican Party that it is now openly driving Republican presidential candidates."

The only thing missing in the professor's analysis is that one word which encapsulates the Republican approach and conservative mindse. Oddly, that comes from an economist, Paul Krugman, who the other day commented

The subtext was that real leaders don’t waste time on hard thinking, that listening to experts is a sign of weakness, that attitude is all you need. And while Mr. Bush’s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America’s faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain, who once upon a time had a reputation for policy independence, chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate.

If attitude is one of the traits of Donald Trump- along with bravado,  dishonesty, misogyny, a simplistic view of minorities- it neatly encapsulated the style of McCain's running mate, and still does.  Addressing the delegates and guests in St. Paul, Palin asserted "I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.'

Republicans were delirious with delight. The mainstream media swooned. Centrists found someone they just knew they could believe in.

No surprise there. We had experienced the same thing five-and-a-half years earlier when, as Media Matters characterized it years later

On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln aboard an S-3B Viking jet, emerged from the aircraft in full flight gear, and proceeded to "press[] flesh," as The Washington Post put it, as he shook hands and hugged crew members in front of the cameras. Later that day, Bush delivered a nationally televised speech from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in which he declared that "[m]ajor combat operations in Iraq have ended," all the while standing under a banner reading: "Mission Accomplished." Despite lingering questions over the continued violence in Iraq, the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction, and the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, as well as evidence that Bush may have shirked his responsibilities in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG) during the Vietnam War, the print and televised media fawned over Bush's "grand entrance" and the image of Bush as the "jet pilot" and the "Fighter Dog."

It's how they've built the modern Republican Party, as Krugman and others- especially Richardson- have pointed out.  The monster they've created is different in style, but little different in content, from the rest of them. So criticize Donald Trump for all manner of things, including his (extremely tenuous) connection to David Duke (e.g., here, here, and here).  Or alternately ridicule, and apologize to, Trump, in the manner of Stephen Colbert (video below). However, as Colbert and others should realize, Donald Trump didn't drop out of the sky; the Republican Party is the test tube from which he has emerged, the gutter he has crawled out from.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

"Just Another Republican Billionaire..."

The answer to "how do I love thee" is "let me count the ways."   The answer to "what is wrong with  Donald Trump" is the same: "let me count the ways."

Trump has a remarkable love for authority and authoritarians, going so far as recently praising Vladimir Putin because he projects strength. He is a singularly sexist politician, claiming a Fox News anchorperson had "blood coming out of her wherever."  When a few years ago he stated "I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her," it was probably far less sexist than really, really creepy (even assuming he was thinking of "dating").

He is taken to saying such things as "I have fantastic relationships with the Hispanics" (the Hispanics?) and "I am going to protect women," and bragging that he forced Ford Motor Co. to move a manufacturing plant from Mexico to Ohio. Politifact has labeled Trump's statements- plural- its "lie of the year."

Views differ on Trump's perspective on immigration and guilt by association is unfair. However, it is probably not a good sign when David Duke praises the candidate's remarks as “I’ve said from the beginning I think his campaign is good in the sense that it’s bringing these issues to a discussion which we have to have in America."(In Trump's favor, Duke disagrees with him about Israel.)

And on and on and on- but enough of that, because Bernie Sanders on CBS' Face the Nation (video below) encapsulated the biggest problem with Donald Trump, albeit one which the mainstream media and most of the Washington establishment has little problem with. Sanders noted the GOP frontrunner had maintained wages are excessive,which Trump promptly on Twitter falsely denied. The Vermont senator and most authentically Democratic candidate then explained

Donald Trump says that I’m a liar because I said he believes wages in America are too high. Really?…It appears that Mr. Trump is getting nervous that working families are catching on that his policies represent the interests of the billionaire class against almost everyone else. He refuses to support raising the minimum wage. He believes wages are too high, and he wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very richest families in America. That’s not an agenda that ‘makes America great.’ It’s just another Republican billionaire wanting to make the very rich richer at the expense of working families.

As Sean Illing summarizes, Donald Trump is  "a fraud and a shill for the billionaire class, which the GOP dutifully represents." And like Illing, Bernie Sanders seems to recognize that Trump is a confederate in the GOP's goal of reinforcing corporate control of the economy and the culture. Take away Donald Trump's bravado and crudeness, and he's a perfect match for the Republican Party.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Comparatively Petty Argument

In their November 14, 2015 debate, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton all emphatically refused to use the term "radical Islam" when asked about the term by moderator John Dickerson.   O'Malley contended "radical Jihadis" is "calling it what it is" while Sanders insisted "I don't think the term is what's important." Clinton would concede only "We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression. And, yes, we are at war with those people. But I don't want us to be painting with too broad a brush."

Rick Santorum was not amused and tweeted "Yes @Hillary Clinton we are at war with radical Islam! You are not qualified to serve if you cannot even define our enemy!"  Similarly, John Ellis Bush, imagining a declaration of war, tweeted "Yes, we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism."
Appropriately amused, however, Mike Huckabee tweeted "You're all grown up now. You can do it. Three words. Ten syllables. Say it with me: "Radical Islamic terrorism.'"

Carefully avoiding the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" or "Islamic terrorism" is, as Huckabee infers, more humorous than dangerous.   Hillary Clinton, for her part, at least noted that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and Jordan are among the countries which "are going to have to take on ISIS."

More appalling than failing to acknowledge the obvious- that Islamic terrorism is destabilizing the Middle East and  poses a grave threat to world peace- is the utter hypocrisy of many GOP presidential contenders.  Observing the last Republican debate, David Masciotra  explains that several candidates

openly used the phrase “World War Three,” while others discussed the group of evil barbarians as if they had invaded New York and were marching toward D.C. as they spoke. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are not exactly the equivalent of Winston Churchill, and the American people, who panic on command, are not particularly resilient. Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure.” American politicians, and the Americans who empower them, are currently failing to act with grace while under no pressure. One could only imagine the nightmare of chaos and hysterics that awaits should ISIS actually attack.

Senator Ted Cruz left no room for interpretation when he pounded the podium to announce that the “biggest threat we face is radical Islamic terrorism.” Fear of terrorism dominates the discourse.

Any time a conversation about terrorism begins in a political debate or on cable news, there is not an elephant, but an unacknowledged gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle in the room that exposes the utter hypocrisy and insincerity of America’s declaration of war on “radical Islam.”

One of America’s closest allies is Saudi Arabia. The alliance is mostly a one-way relationship in which the United States is subservient and obsequious – essentially a harem to the Saudi royal family, who collect all the benefits and rewards.

Saudi Arabia is the country most responsible for the rise of radical Islam, and the largest benefactor to Islamic terrorist organizations. According to multiple sources of American intelligence and Indian intelligence, the Saudis have spent billions to build mosques, madrasas and cultural centers dedicated to the promotion of Wahhabism – the small but growing sect of Islam insistent on literal interpretation of the Quran, and violent jihad.

The Kingdom also may have been the "principal financier," as former Senator Bob Graham (D-Fl) puts it, behind the attacks of 9/11/01. Graham and Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) are among the current and former members of Congress who have read the 28 pages redacted from the report issued by a joint Senate and House report on "intelligence community activities" before and after 9/11/01.  The section, entitled "potential sources of foreign support for the September 11 hijackers," was classified by the Bush Administration and efforts to have its 28 pages released have been stonewalled by the Obama Administration (CNN report from 9/14, below).

"The information contained in the redacted pages is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American public," Jones maintains. It also is crucial to the understanding that the debate over the use of the term "Islamic terrorism" pales in comparison to the importance of assessing the role of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Recipe For Education Disaster

Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss writes

Please. Like Clinton or not, she hasn’t been a big advocate for large-scale school closures, and her words, in context with the remarks before and after, don’t suggest that she is planning on advocating the closure of public schools. (See transcript below.)

Certainly her language wasn’t artful, and she might wish she hadn’t said what she said. But according to her campaign, she doesn’t favor closing all of the schools that don’t do a “better-than-average job” and has never been an advocate for school closings.

Clinton, Strauss assures us, "hasn't been a big advocate for large-scale school closures." That suggests two questions, whether Clinton has been an average-sized advocate for large-scale school closures and whether she been a big advocate for medium-sized school closures?

These are not academic questions (well, yes, they are academic in nature) but critical, given the ongoing effort of the "reform" movement to end teacher tenure, assess student performance by tests for which students from poor communities are ill equipped, privatize education, and close public schools.  At the rally Tuesday in Keota , Iowa, Mrs. Clinton stated (short excerpt and full remarks, below)

Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better-than-average job.  If a school’s not doing a good job, then, y’know, that may not be good for the kids. But when you have a district that is doing a good job, it seems kinda counterproductive to impose financial burdens on it.

There would be, y'know, approximately half of schools (actually, probably slightly more than half) which would not be "doing a better-than-average job."  Leave for now the assumption that when children in schools are performing at a below average level, that it is the schools which are doing poorly. Students should have at least a little bit of accountability, notwithstanding the assumption of most centrists and conservatives that they have none.

USA Today's Lauren Camera, who like Strauss doesn't believe Clinton said what she said, doesn't make it any better when she quotes Clinton maintaining "The federal government doesn't have a whole lot to do with it.... This is mostly local decision-making. Therefore this is primarily a state issue, but as president, what I'm looking for is schools that exceed expectations. I don't care if they're urban, suburban or rural."

If the former Senator were harmlessly noting that, like everyone, she is more pleased with good schools than with bad, she would have stated "what we're looking for is schools that exceed expectations. I don't care if they're urban, suburban or rural." Instead, she added "but as president," confirming that the presumptive Democratic nominee is interested in closing schools.

As if to provide further confirmation, Clinton argued "And where there are small districts like this one, I know you’ve got online opportunities, and maybe there should be exploration about how you can also share teachers and all the rest of it."  When someone refers to sharing teachers, she is talking about reducing the number of teachers, hence the number of classrooms- and the number of schools. It's a neo-liberal approach which played a role in bringing on the Great Recession, now applied to education. It also is a recipe for increasing class size and decreasing teacher-to-student ratio.

Perhaps in Mrs. Clinton's sheltered world, there are lots of school administrators looking for qualified teachers. In the real world, there are lots of qualified teachers looking for jobs. But that itself is part of the neo-liberal mindset, in which it is imagined there are not enough talented or hard-working Americans to go around.

As Strauss notes, the candidate's spokesperson cleaned her remarks up. However, we haven't heard from the former Senator herself.

Clinton did not explain what she  meant by "all the rest of it."  Nonetheless, judging by her other thoughts, it's nothing good for America's students or teachers.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

First Amendment Threat

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been a crusader against same-sex marriage, at one time declaring the period following Obergefell v. Hodges "some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history."  But when a potential donor at a Manhattan fund-raiser (audio in video below) recently asked him whether "fighting gay marriage" is a "top-three priority for you," he responded "no. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority...."

Amanda Marcotte will have none of that.  She noted

Ted Cruz’s electoral strategy, particularly for winning the nomination, is to present himself as a near-prophetic figure to Christian conservatives, a strategy that has required him going hard in public against gay rights. But, as Mike Allen at Politico reported on Wednesday, Ted Cruz drops the medieval crusader act behind closed doors when meeting with funders that are more interested in tax breaks than forcibly divorcing happy couples.

Citing the Tenth Amendment, Cruz maintained also "people of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio."  However, Marcotte recognizes

a technicality. What this incident shows is that the empty rhetoric about “religious liberty” is all about trying to manipulate different audiences into hearing a different message. Here, he’s clearly using it to create a false sense that he’s a live-and-let-live guy, but when he’s in a different crowd, he’s putting forward a different face.

The live-and-let-live guy leans on the US Constitution, or so he  would have us believe. But since Chief Justice Marshall delivered the ruling in Marbury v. Madison in 1803 granting the judicial branch the power of judicial review, the Supreme Court has been the final arbiter of the constitutionality of legislation.  And six months ago, the US Supreme Court found, by a 5 to 4 vote, that no state may prohibit marriage between two individuals of the same sex, nor refuse to recognize a marriage lawfully performed in another state.Writing from Planet Nirvana, Justice Anthony Kennedy, rumored to be an actual lawyer, claimed

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations. 

Notwithstanding Kennedy's utopian reasoning, the Court ruled, clearly and definitively.  Yet when asked at the New York event how big a priority "fighting gay marriage would be in a Cruz administration," he responded "being a constitutionalist is integral to my approach to every other issue. So that I’m very devoted to.”  Asked whether it would be a "top-three priority," he replied "no. I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority."

Following the Court's ruling in June, Cruz in a speech declared "Religious liberty has never been more threatened in America than right now today," and he wasn't referring to threats against Muslims.  Writing at the time, he advocated judicial-retention elections for Supreme Court justices.

Ted Cruz is adept at switching from one message to another to pander to his audience. Whatever his message at the time, however, it's clear that as President he would target the wall of separation cited by one of  the Constitution's signatories as inherent in the First Amendment to the document Cruz claims a devotion to.

                                                   MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The States' Rights Dodge

This is why Ted Cruz must not be elected President:

Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday pardoned a U.S. Marine sergeant working as a recruiter in the early voting state of New Hampshire of all gun and ammunition charges filed against him in Hudson County last Labor Day weekend.

Joshua Velez, 26, of Davers, Mass., works as a recruiter out of offices in both Boston and New Hampshire.

Christie, a candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, is polling in fourth place in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire primary is 48 days away, scheduled for Feb. 9, 2016.

According to a statement from the governor's office released to media, "during the 2015 Labor Day Weekend,  Velez and his cousin visited his brother, who resides in North Bergen."

On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 5, Velez was stopped by police for failing to use a turn signal, and the officer discovered Velez's unloaded Ruger 9MM handgun, "which he inadvertently brought to New Jersey in the locked glove compartment of his truck," according to a statement from the governor's office.

Velez, who the Governor's office said had "lawfully purchased" his firearm and was "licensed to carry the handgun in Massachusetts" cooperated with the police,  identifying both the location of his license and the ammunition, which he had stored separately in the vehicle, but was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of hollow point bullets.

I know, I know. During this campaign for the heart-and-soul of far-right (i.e., Republican) voters, Christie has pardoned several individuals who ran afoul of New Jersey firearm laws.  Additionally, Sgt. Velez currently works in New Hampshire and is a member of the military, creating what a few years ago would have been obnoxiously termed "a perfect storm."

Still, pardoning Sgt. Velez, who cooperated with police, evidently is a solid citizen, and may have been unaware of New Jersey's interest in gun safety, may have been justified. The patchwork of laws, pertaining to gun control and other matters, through these United States is a travesty.

A very intelligent guy, Ted Cruz probably understands this, and it suits him fine.  In a recording recently made at a Cruz fundraiser at a tony law firm in Manhattan

During the question period, one of the donors told Cruz that gay marriage was one of the few issues on which the two disagreed. Then the donor asked: “So would you say it's like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”

“No,” Cruz replied. “I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it's defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty.”

Soothing the attendee without contradicting what he has said elsewhere, Cruz added: “People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. ... That's why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.”

Cruz derided the Politco article, responding in part "In fact it was striking, Politico runs this banner headline, 'Secret Tape!' when it was almost word for word what I said on Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert. It ain't very secret --I know Colbert may not have a ton of viewers-- but saying it on national TV, is not a great plan for keeping something secret. "

But Mike Allen of Politico had conceded that Cruz had told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show (news report with the pathetic Carol Costello, below)  "I support marriage between one man and one woman. ... But I also think it’s a question for the states." More troubling is, as "one Republican operative not affiliated with a 2016 campaign said by e-mail" to Allen, "Wow. Does this not undermine all of his positions? Abotion, common Core- all to the states?... Worse, he sounds like a slick D.C. politician- says one thing on the campaign trail and trims his sails with NYC elites. Not supposed to be like that."

It may be that, however, if one's governing philosophy is: whatever the individual state wants.  A court clerk in Kentucky issues marriage licenses without her, or the county's, name affixed so as not to imply the county's approval of marriage. In the absence of Hodges v. Obergefell, a married gay couple from a state which recognizes  same-sex marriage moves to a state which prohibits it,begging the question of recognition of the union in the latter state. A pregnant woman residing in a state which believes abortion is God-forbidden killing travels hundreds of miles to a state with less restrictive laws to obtain an abortion.   And a fellow living in a state without gun safety laws is arrested in a state with relatively strict regulation for violation of the latter state's laws. After conviction, he then gets pardoned for an offense for which a long-time resident of that state itself would not receive the same privilege.

It's all O.K. with Ted Cruz because "different states can make different decisions depending on the values of their citizens."  We tried that in this nation once before. Then we fought the Civil War.

                                                  MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Now An Anti-Terrorist

On Tuesday, reports Politico, Governor Chris Christie

suggested that Hillary Clinton suspend her campaign, saying that the Democratic front-runner needs to go to Paris and repeat her line that the U.S. is "finally ... where we need to be" in the fight against Islamic State.

Appearing on "Fox and Friends" from his campaign bus in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Christie again touted his experience as a federal prosecutor of convicted terrorists and his ability to strike the right chord of seriousness in light of the recent attacks in both Paris and San Bernardino, California.

The testosterone-induced challenge would be more credible if Hillary Clinton actually had made that remark. Instead, she had commented

I think it’s fair to say, Assad has killed, by last count, about 250,000 Syrians. The reason we are in the mess we’re in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad. I advocated arming the moderate opposition back in the day when I was still secretary of state, because I worried we would end up exactly where we are now.

And so, when we look at these complex problems, I wish it could be either/or. I wish we could say yes, let’s go destroy ISIS and let’s let Assad continue to destroy Syria, which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute. No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us as well as the region.

Interrupted momentarily, the former Secretary of State continued "And we finally have a U.N. Security Council resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria."

Notwithstanding Christie's radical reinterpretation of her remarks, Clinton clearly was referring to the strategy and commitment the USA now has to challenge ISIL.

Making things up about terrorism is a habit with Christie. In the last GOP presidential debate, he brought out one of his favorite tactics, leaving the impression that he was a U.S. prosecutor when the Twin Towers fell.  He claimed "on September 10th, 2001, I was named chief federal prosecutor in New Jersey."  However, that day he was merely told (by President Bush's counsel) that he would be appointed U.S. Attorney. The decision was publicly announced December 7 and Christie was confirmed December 20, 2001.

"And for seven years," the candidate contended, "I spent my life protecting our country against another one of those attacks" of "radical Islamic jihadism."  At best, he spent seven years, hardly his "life." Moreover, he didn't do even that. The Daily Beast's Olivia Nuzzi notes that when the U.S. Attorney announced his candidacy for governor

A 30-second campaign ad touting his record as U.S. Attorney focused only on the corruption cases he’d brought, boasting that Christie had “led the war” on crooked public officials. In another commercial, Christie bragged about how he “put corrupt politicians in jail” and “took on polluters” as the U.S. Attorney. He never mentioned terrorism.

At an event in Ocean County during that campaign, he described himself as a “former federal corruption prosecutor.”

Christie (on Russia, video below) at the debate further embellished his anti-terrorism record when he maintained

We prosecuted two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world and stopped Fort Dix from being attacked by six American radicalized Muslims from a Mosque in New Jersey because we worked with the Muslim American community to get intelligence and we used the Patriot Act to get other intelligence to make sure we did those cases.

"Two of the biggest terrorismcases in the world' involved, as Nuzzi explains

Hemant Lakhani in 2005, a 71-year-old (now-deceased) British citizen who had been recorded saying he “was willing to broker the sale of shoulder-fired missiles to shoot down American passenger jets” and the “Fort Dix Six” in 2007, when five Islamic men and their gun dealer were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill U.S. soldiers “at various installations, including the Fort Dix Army a base in New Jersey.”

In both cases, FBI informants played central roles in nailing the suspects, leading some critics to suggest the charges were the results of entrapment.

The Lakhani case was the subject of a 2009 This American Life installment, which painted the portrait of Lakhani as a hapless charlatan who had stumbled into the FBI’s trap despite possessing no ability to broker missiles of any kind. The Fort Dix case was torn apart and dissected by The Intercept in 2015, where reporters Murtaza Hussain and Razan Ghalayini made the case that the FBI worked overtime to convince the accused men to agree to commit terrorist attacks that Christie and his office then “thwarted.”

A Republican consultant in New Jersey (albeit one not supportive of the  governor), Rick Shaftan has stated "Christie's just like, whatever's gonna work this week. Terrorism wasn't an issue when he was running (for governor), now it's an issue, so he's pivoting."

It's all about branding. Responding to the recent Miss Universe dust-up, the ever-opportunistic Donald Trump said "I would recommend that they go have a beautiful ceremony, which is good for the brand and good for Miss Universe, and do a co-winner." That's a sentiment Chris Christie can really appreciate.

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More Than, Or Different Than, A Racist

Addressing Hillary Clinton's "brief  disappearance during Saturday's Democratic debate while she was using the lavatory" (video below), Think Progress has reported, Donald

Trump told the crowd, “Where did Hillary go? They had to start the debate without her. Phase two. Why? I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting. We want to be very, very straight up.”

We're so glad he wants "to be very, very straight up" but wants no one to "say it, it's disgusting."   Despite appearances, the disgusting comments about another individual's bathroom comments were not the worst remark Trump made.

Despite concern that Trump is a "fascist," Dylan Matthews argues

"Fascism" has been an all-purpose insult for many years now, but it has a real definition, and according to scholars of historical fascism, Trump doesn't qualify. Rather, he's a right-wing populist, or perhaps an "apartheid liberal" in the words of Roger Griffin, author of The Nature of Fascism. He doesn't want to overthrow the existing democratic system. He doesn't want to scrap the Constitution. He doesn't romanticize violence itself as a vital cleansing agent of society. He's simply a racist who wants to keep the current system but deny its benefits to groups he's interested in oppressing.

"To be blunt," Matthews writes, "Donald Trump is not a fascist." To be blunt: You, Dylan, are singularly unconvincing.  We learn from Politico that the speech in Michigan

was interrupted by more than a dozen scattered outbursts from protesters, eliciting a range of responses from the businessman.

“I’ll tell you they’re nice guys, very noncombative,” he remarked of one group of protesters, before questioning the judgment of young people who break out in protests in front of “9,000 maniacs who want to kill them.”

He also opined that if someone sat down young protesters and explained Trump’s message to them, he believed they would respond positively. During other outbursts, Trump was less conciliatory.

“You’re so brave,” a sarcastic Trump told one long-haired young man as security removed him from the arena. “He’s holding up his hands like he’s Mike Tyson. He never threw a punch — so brave.”

“You are a loser,” Trump told another protester. “You really are a loser.”

Not content merely to criticize  a disruptive protester removed by security, Trump sarcastically charged "he's holding up his hands like he's Mike Tyson. He never threw a punch- so brave." When the supporters attacked a Black Lives protestor at a Trump rally in November, Trump contended “Maybe he should have been roughed up. It was disgusting what he was doing.”

If he "doesn't romanticize violence," the Philadelphia 76ers are well on their way to an NBA title. University of Missouri administrators who resigned under pressure from Black Lives Matter are "weak, ineffective people." Marco Rubio is "totally weak on immigration."  Bernie Sanders "showed such weakness" in responding to a Black Lives Matter protest and Martin O'Malley acted like a "disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby."  the USA has "a bunch of losers" as displomats. John Ellis Bush is a "low-energy person" and "unhappy person" who is "way down in the polls." He's a loser.

Donald Trump,this writer believes, probably "just makes it up as he goes along, speaking from his gut, just like Uncle Harry at Thanksgiving dinner, just like two guys at the bar during last call."

However, the essence of Trump and his appeal was better captured four months ago by a Peter Wood, who a few months ago explained that we have been

persuading ourselves that authenticity to oneself is more important than respect for others. We are living in the midst of what I call “new anger,” the anger of people who are proud of being angry and congratulate themselves on it. Compare Mr. Trump with the episode in 1968 when William F. Buckley Jr. responded to a taunt by Gore Vidal on ABC in televised commentary on the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The famous exchange — Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Vidal a “queer” — is receiving fresh attention in the documentary Best of Enemies. Buckley, in the words of Hendrik Hertzberg writing in The New Yorker, “immediately regretted” the slur, “and eventually wrote that he had returned to his dressing room in a state of despair.” But “Vidal had no such regrets about calling his opponent a crypto-Nazi. He knew he had triumphed.” 

Buckley, the man of traditional values, despairs because his flash of verbal anger is a failure of self-control. Vidal, a man of the new era, exults because his taunt succeeded in breaking his opponent’s reserve. Today, Trump plays the part of Vidal, sneering at those over whom he would triumph. We are living in the midst of what I call ‘new anger,’ the anger of people who are proud of being angry and congratulate themselves on it. 

Donald Trump is an authoritarian with an easy acceptance of violence by his supporters.  Racist or not, the candidate himself- as well as the rabid following he has amassed- cannot, and should not, be written off as "simply being a racist."

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Reinforcing ISIL

Of course they "pounced," as one writer put it.

"They" would be Chris Christie,who claimed on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos "Mrs. Clinton is Mrs. happy Talk, and she just wants to happy-talk her way to the presidency. She is a personification of this Administration: Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes."

Accused of being warm and fuzzy, Mrs. Clinton may have been confused with Mr. Clinton by the guy who  has said

We have people across this country who are scared to death. Because I could tell you this, as a former federal prosecutor, if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is now a target for terrorists, that means everywhere in America is a target for these terrorists.

Scared to death! At least Christie's claim of Clinton's "happy talk" is not as bizarre as Carly Fiorina- Carly Fiorina!- saying Clinton will “lie as long as you (sic) can get away with it."

Seeking relevance, John Ellis Bush tweeted "No @HillaryClinton. We are not ‘where we need to be’ in fight against ISIS.”

Not surprisingly, the GOP candidates had nothing negative to say about the dangerous policy Hillary Clinton laid out in debate  (AP photo via Salon, below) Saturday for the current Mideast crisis.  "I have a plan," the Democratic front-runner started out rationally:

I have a plan that I've put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them. And it has three parts. First, to go after them and deprive them of the territory they occcupy now in both Syria and Iraq. Secondly, to go after and dismantle their global network of terrorism. And Thirdly, to do more to keep us safe. 

However, she continued "I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us on the ground to protect Syrians; I'm also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia."

Having been awake and conscious the last thirteen years, Bernie Sanders responded

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you've got to think about what happens the day after. And in my view, what we need to do is put together broad coalitions to understand that we're not going to have a political vacuum filled by terrorists, that, in fact, we are going to move steadily -- and maybe slowly -- toward democratic societies, in terms of Assad, a terrible dictator. But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That's the secondary issue.

There is time, arguably not the ability, to overthrow the regime in Damascus.  For now, we can learn from World War II in Europe, when the USA and the Soviet Union were allies despite Joseph Stalin. If the Soviets did not join the fight against the Third Reich, it is unlikely that Nazi Germany would have been defeated and the horrors pressed against Europe (and perhaps beyond) by Adolph Hitler would have far surpassed the evil visited upon eastern Europe by the communist regime. First things, first.

The USA need not ally itself with Russia, which whatever its motives (self-interest, no doubt) is undermining ISIL, the rebel group most likely to enter Damascus triumphant is Assad is soon deposed.  Exceptional or not, the USA cannot simultaneously defeat ISIL and overthrow Bashir Assad.  Aside from threatening World War III, a no-fly zone would undermine the Russian campaign against the most brutal terrorist group in the world today." If you hamper the war effort of one side," George Orwell once wrote, "you automatically help that of the other." That Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul are nearly alone among major presidential candidates who understand that is worrisome.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Knowing The Score

Opening and closing statements in debates are a  waste of time.  Additionally, they are an insult to our intelligence, for the implication is that we're really impressed with the candidate as he/she pontificates and blows himself or herself out of proportion.

Further, the best probably are those which are least sincere.  And so we are left to wonder whether Hillary Clinton's opening statement Saturday night  (thanks, Debbie W. Schultz) was merely a shout-out to Democratic voters, generally supportive of President Obama and hostile toward the GOP, or indication she has learned before being elected what it took the incumbent roughly four years to learn.  She stated (emphasis mine)

Well, thank you. And I'm delighted to be here in New Hampshire for this debate.

You know, the American president has to both keep our families safe and make the economy grow in a way that helps everyone, not just those at the top. That's the job. I have a strategy to combat and defeat ISIS without getting us involved in another ground war, and I have plans to raise incomes and deal with a lot of the problems that keep families up at night.

I'm very clear that we have a distinct difference between those of us on this stage tonight and all of our Republican counterparts. From my perspective, we have to prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we've made. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act, not improve it. They would give more tax breaks to the super-wealthy and corporations, not to the middle class. And they would, despite all their tough talk about terrorism, continue to let people who are on the no-fly list buy guns.

So we have a lot of work to do in this campaign to make it clear where we stand in the Democratic Party, what we will do for our country, and I look forward to this evening's discussion of real issues that face the American people.

Thank you.

As the presumptive nominee, Clinton has the luxury neither Sanders nor O'Malley has. She does not have to- indeed, does not want to- emphasize the differences she has with her (in resources and support) over-matched rivals.  Still, her harsh words for "all of our Republican counterparts" suggests that she understands that if she is elected, congressional Republicans- supported by the donor class and their popular base- will work to undermine her and her Party at every turn.

That would be in stark contrast with Obama, who in an interview in September, 2010 expressed to a New York Times reporter "optimism"

that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. “It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,” he said, “either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.”

Nearly two years later the President would state

that if he wins a second term the GOP "fever" of opposition to tax hikes for deficit reduction may break.

He said the Republican Party would, in effect, be forced to embrace "cooperation" and "common sense" which, he suggested, John McCain embodied on some issues four years ago.

"A lot of the tussles that we've had over the last three and a half years have had to do with this difference in vision, and it will be coming to a head in this election.  We're going to have as stark a contrast as we've seen in a very long time between the candidates.  I mean, 2008 was a significant election, obviously.  But John McCain believed in climate change. John believed in campaign finance reform.  He believed in immigration reform.  I mean, there were some areas where you saw some overlap," Obama told a group of donors in Minneapolis.

"In this election, the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction.  The center of gravity for their party has shifted," he said.

He discussed Republican refusal to accept any revenue increases to reduce the debt and deficit as a case and point.

"I believe that if we're successful in this election - when we're successful in this election - that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that," he said.

" My hope and my expectation is that after the election, now that it turns out the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again," Obama argued.

Three-and-a-half years later, the Donald Trump, the leading GOP presidential candidate, would say that Vladimir Putin is "running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

This will not harm a Republican's chances of being nominated. However, if her opening statement Saturday was any indication, Hillary Clinton understands what she's in for if nominated and elected.

President Obama has served a vital public purpose, after all.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Media Serving The Right, As Usual

Alert Chuck Todd- and his colleagues: conservatives can be terrorists, too. On Tuesday, Mediaite reported

All Los Angeles schools were closed today overan unspecified threat authorities believed to be credible. And whether it was or not, NBC’s Chuck Todd called it a successful terrorist attack regardless.

He said that officials probably erred on the side of caution, but still argued, “This was a successful terrorist attack today. It wasn’t blood, it was fear. Okay, and fear shut down the second-largest school system.”

Disagreement reigns in regard to a terrorist attack. The FBI insists "domestic terrorism" must

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

There is no "or"; the conjunction is "and,"  suggesting that all three characteristics must be present to constitute terrorism. (Its definition of "international terrorism" is the same except for the obvious difference.)

The definition seems unusually restrictive and probably would not cover the incident in Los Angeles because there was no explosive, hence no act dangerous to human life (unless students would have been in danger if they had instead attended school). Yet, many- if not most- Americans would consider the threat to the LA school system to constitute terrorism.

If it is,  Missouri's largest city experienced a terrorist attack on December 12.  RH Reality Check learned

Someone threw rocks through a window of a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis on Saturday. Police are investigating but have not released details on the incident, clinic officials said.

Planned Parenthood’s South Grand Health Center has operated since the 1970s, providing birth control, cancer screenings, well woman and well man exams, STD testing and treatment, and emergency contraception. The center does not provide abortion care.

“The center was closed at the time of the attack,” Mary M. Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement. “The safety of our patients, staff and visitors is always our number one priority. We are working with our security and operations staff to make sure we open safely on Monday morning. Our doors stay open—no matter what.”

Kogut said that police had detained a woman in connection with the incident.

Then on December 15 we learned

A Washington state man accused of posting threats on Fox Nation against employees of a Planned Parenthood partner in California was arrested by federal authorities last week, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Scott Anthony Orton posted comments vowing to pay anyone willing to kill employees for StemExpress, according to the criminal complaint from the FBI. StemExpress is a biotech firm that came under scrutiny for its work with Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program and was a target of anti-abortion "sting" videos.

The comments Orton allegedly wrote called one particular StemExpress officer a "death-profiteer" who should be "hung by the neck using piano wire and propped on the lawn in front of the building with a note attached."

The complaint alleges that the 57-year-old Orton, who lives in Puyallup, Washington, made interstate threats, as Stem Express and the unnamed employee are based in California. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The term terrorism is abused  and the word terror thoroughly misunderstood (as it can apply to broad array of behavior).   We still don't know who called in the threat to  the Los Angeles Unified School District, nor why, but a major network anchorperson/correspondent refers to it  as "a successful terrorist attack."

By contrast, when someone throws a rock through a window at a Planned Parenthood facility, the motive probably was to discourage provision of birth control services and/or health care services. When someone calls StemExpress a "death profiteer" and threatens to murder its employees, his motive is clear.  When "no more baby parts" Robert Lewis Dear Jr (below, from Colorado Springs Gazette via YouTube). boasts that he murdered three individuals at a Planned Parenthood clinic, he clearly has committed a terrorist act.

And when none of these acts is referred to as "terrorism" while so many others are, you know it's your conservative mainstream media at work.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Only Citizenship Matters

Ted Cruz is an excellent debate.  Nevertheless, as he won't acknowledge, he has subtly- and wisely-  altered his argument on immigration since Tuesday's Las Vegas event.

Slate's William Saletan points out that "Cruz’s shift" from support to opposition to legalization of illegal immigrants "has been documented by the Texas Tribune, National Review, Yahoo Politics,, and many others." (See here for the links he provided.)  Now The Hill reports

Two of the Republican senators who with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) authored 2013’s comprehensive immigration reform bill say they believe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments to improve their legislation.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake say they think Cruz wanted the “Gang of Eight” bill to pass, despite his arguments today that he was always an opponent of the bill.

The legislation — and Cruz’s motivation in offering amendments at the time — has become a flashpoint in the Republican presidential race, where Cruz and Rubio are battling for support from grassroots conservatives. Many GOP primary voters are strongly opposed to efforts to increase immigration.

The 2013 bill created a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, and Cruz argues Rubio’s support for it highlights a key difference between the two candidates.

Rubio’s counterargument is that the amendments offered by Cruz at the time show their positions on immigration really aren’t that different. While Cruz was opposed to the broader bill, he backedamendments that increased legal immigration.

Cruz’s allies argues that his amendments were “poison pills” designed to undercut support from the larger piece of legislation, but the remarks from Flake and McCain — a frequent critic of Cruz — offer support for Rubio’s position.

We don't know, additionally, why in the recent debate Rubio complained 

As far as Ted's record, I'm always surprised by his attack on this issue. Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally. Ted Cruz supported a 500-percent increase in the number of H-1 visas, the guest workers that are allowed into this country, and Ted supports doubling the number of green cards.

Perhaps Rubio aims to increase confusion, to engender a "he said, he said" response among prospective GOP primary voters, by conflating the positions of, or minimizing the differences between, himself and the other plausible candidate.   It would be bad strategy, however, because as Steve M. recognizes

Yes, every time this is brought up, doubts about Cruz form in the minds of immigrant-hating Republican voters. But those same immigrant-hating Republican voters are also reminded anew that Marco Rubio helped write an "amnesty" bill. Every time this is discussed, Rubio is linked to a moment in his career you'd think he'd want brought up as little as possible.

Yet, Cruz's approach, aside from noting "Marco wants to raise confusion," was uncharacteristically inept. His response  continued

it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against his legalization and amnesty. And you know, there was one commentator that put it this way that, for Marco to suggest our record’s the same is like suggesting “the fireman and the arsonist because they are both at the scene of the fire.”

He was fighting to grant amnesty and not to secure the border, I was fighting to secure the border. And this also goes to trust, listening on to campaign trails. Candidates all the time make promises. You know, Marco said,” he learned that the American people didn’t trust the federal government.”

Cruz could have done better by owning up to what he was doing, to acknowledge- yea, boast- that he supported legalization. He should follow the lead of one of his prime (undeclared) supporters, Rush Limbaugh, who on Thursday remarked  

It was the Gang of Eight, 'cause there were eight guys in it -- and Cruz was not one of them. Now, here again is what this is about.  They're trying to revise or rewrite the history of the debate.  The Gang of Eight bill had two planks in it.  One is "path to citizenship," which means vote, and the other is legalization, which means amnesty.  They wanted both.  The proponents of the Gang wanted both. Legalization -- no criminals anymore, no more criminal distinction -- and citizenship -- which means you get to go down and register at the DMV tomorrow as a Democrat. 

The Republican donor class likes the notion of legalization, which would provide a boost in the labor supply likely to have a downward effect upon wages.  If citizenship- as in the Gang's bill- includes a path to citizenship and thus greater bargaining power for immigrants, that can dealt with down the road.

The Republican popular base is less concerned about the impact upon labor supply or wages. It opposes citizenship primarily because the right to vote inevitably would come with it.  GOP primary voters fear citizensip largely for the reason Limbaugh stated: "citizenship- which means you get to go down and register at the DMV tomorrow as a Democrat." Apprehensive GOP primary voters envision a nation- their nation- in which not only are more Democrats elected, but in which their own votes are diluted.  Their influence, additionally, would be diminished by indiviudals perceived as outsiders and who (they believe) would be a drain on them. 

"The Gang of Eight bill," Limbaugh claims, "was to register 20 million new Democrat voters. The Democrat Party needs a permanent underclass of dependent people who are ill-educated, poor, maybe don't even speak English well. They can't survive without government assistance.  That's the ideal Democrat voter.  The more of them, the better. "

By late Thursday, Cruz had altered his message, crowing  "By calling their bluff, we won. We defeated amnesty. We beat it,"  by sponsoring "an amendment that made anyone here illegally permanently ineligible for citizenship.”   

Cruz might as well be honest and say "yes, I have been in favor of legalization. However, that's a way of preventing citizenship and allowing millions of foreigners to vote for the Party that gives them free stuff."  (The mainstream media wouldn't mind;  he didn't  say "Mexicans," so it's alright.)  

The Texas senator should also keep repeating "the Gang of Eight." Those eight privileged and well-connected Senators were very impressed, all puffed up, that finally they could be part of a "gang." But that included four Democrats, a fact disconcerting to most Republicans.  And the term reinforces the perception of a bunch of good old boys in Washington in cahoots against the American people. To most GOP voters, they are good ol' boys meaning harm, unlike the fellows in mythical Hazzard County, Georgia. (The south and the Confederate flag- this is, after all, a post about the Republican Party. Rest in peace, Waylon.) 

These people at Politifact bizarrely believe Ted Cruz didn't support legalization because his advocacy of a bill providing that was only a tactic. For the vast majority of us on either side, Cruz's opposition to citizenship is what matters, and GOP primary voters are among that vast majority.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just One Of The Boys

Slate's Fred Kaplan looks at the GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas and describes how "most of the nine major candidates proved they knew nothing, a fact that some tried to conceal by making stuff up."

John Ellis Bush and Rand Paul, Kaplan argues, each had something constructive to contribute; not so Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina.   He notes

You might think that Carly Fiorina, former denizen of Silicon Valley, would know this topic cold. If so, you would be wrong. She said that digital technology has moved on, and so have the terrorists, but that the “bureaucracy” hasn’t. Intelligence agencies need the private sector to help them intercept new communications, but Obama and Clinton never asked for help.

In truth, the NSA and other intelligence agencies have been quite adept at keeping up with the new technologies. To the extent they haven’t (for instance, with Apple’s new encryption programs, which block even Apple from cracking codes), the Obama administration has reached out to Silicon Valley for assistance on a regular basis—to no avail. It’s unclear why these executives would cooperate with Fiorina.

She didn't stop there, however, for

Fiorina’s plan to win the war: “Bring back the warrior class”—by which she means Gens. David Petraeus, Jack Keane, and Stanley McChrystal, who were all “retired early because they told Obama things he didn’t want to hear.” First, Keane retired during the Bush administration. McChrystal had to go because he insulted NATO allies—with whom he was supposed to be forming a coalition in Afghanistan—in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. Petraeus—well, we all know what happened there. Does Fiorina really think there are no other warriors among the U.S. Army’s generals?

What happened there is that the married Petraeus started carrying on with the woman who served as his biographer. Exposed, he submitted his resignation to President Obama and later was found to have given his gal pal some classified information, including names of covert officials. He was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, presumably because his name is not Eric Snowden, but General Petraeus. A real sweetheart and Carly Fiorina's kind of guy.

In his takedown of most of the candidates on the main stage, Kaplan generously did not quote Fiorina blustering

And I will not speak to him personally until we’ve rebuilt the 6th Fleet a little bit right under his nose; rebuilt the missile defense program in Poland right under his nose; and conducted a few military exercises in the Baltic states.

When Fiorina made nearly the identical argument in September, Stars and Stripes responded

... the U.S. 6th Fleet is less a collection of ships than a command structure for operating American warships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Moreover, the fleet is one of the few growing military commands in Europe. It is building land-based missile interceptor sites in Romania and Poland, and in the coming days it will welcome the last of four guided-missile destroyers to arrive for permanent stationing in Rota, Spain.

Although the status of the missile defense program in Poland is unclear, in June The Guardian had reported

Dozens of Nato landing craft churned through the Baltic’s grey waters. Further out at sea, huge warships – the US’s San Antonio, Britain’s Ocean and Poland’s Lublin – filled the horizon. On the beach, DVs – short for distinguished visitors – including the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, were watching.

The landing craft, especially the mega hovercraft of the Americans, were monstrous, on a scale that would have awed D-day veterans. Eurofighter Typhoons flew overhead. Marines raced out to disappear into the woods. A reminder that even the most carefully planned operations can go wrong came when a Polish transport vessel sank, ignominiously, about 100ft from shore.

The mock landing at Ustka, Poland, on Wednesday was the climax of a two-week Nato exercise called Baltops. Forty-nine naval vessels from 17 countries and 5,900 personnel were involved in this major show of strength.

Fiorina now refuses to acknowledge she was wrong about Gemeral Keane. On the upside, she went one whole, entire debate without lying (videos below, which are here and hereagain about Planned Parenthood. So, progress.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reckless And Bombastic

"It's time we punch Russia in the nose," one of the most judicious GOP presidential candidates asserted last night in Las Vegas. Observed Charlie Pierce: "that was noted Republican moderate John Kasich."

No one, however, does macho even nearly as well as Chris Christie.  The governor was asked "if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?" He replied

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

"Feckless weakling?" And they call Donald Trump a fascist.  (Probably neither is a fascist, but no one trumps Chris Christie at the authoritarian thing.)  This is not only great theater, but great humblebrag, with Christie confessing to having a "plain language hangup."

"Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate," countered Rand Paul in what Pierce refers to as "a decent body shot." However, Paul then forgot he was running in a Republican primary and added "My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, 'Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.'"

Yes, that is who GOP voters want, and their allies in the defense industry wouldn't mind churning out a few more missiles, either.  However, Paul added

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

Then the Kentucky Senator used the word "judgment" thrice while trying to gain support among Republican primary voters, whose favorite candidate is Donald J. Trump.  That works about as well as would emphasizing women's autonomy in a speech before National Right to Life.

Christie then employed the literary device of anaphora, using the word "reckless" seven times before huffing and puffing

And if you think that a no-fly zone is a reckless policy, you’re welcome to your opinion. But how is it working so far? As we have 250,000 Syrians murdered, slaughtered; millions running around the world, running for their lives. It’s not working. We need to try something else. And that is not reckless.

That's "reckless" twice more, a clever move for voters who now appear to want Donald Trump as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and leader of the Free World.  And no one noticed that if the dictionary is opened to the word "reckless," up pops a reference to threatening to start World War III because "something" must be done. ("Terror takes center stage at Republican debate," read the weirdly ironic caption from the Wall Street Journal on Twitter, photo below.)

If that's a reckless policy, that to the Israelis.  After Turkey shot down a Russian plane over its airspace, a "senior military official" told reporters "the Russian miliary is a new, key player which we are not ignoring. There is a clear boundary here, and they are busy with theirmatters, and we are busy with ours." The Jerusalem Post has reported

When asked if Israel would hypothetically intercept a Russian jet that crossed into its air space, the official said: "Our policy is that we do not attack or down anything that is Russian."

"Russia is not an enemy," he said. "We are trying to avoid tension with the Russians. Both sides wish not to get to a point where two pilots, an Israeli and a Russian, will meet in the air and will be unsure of what to do. We are not going near the aerial zone in which they are operating, and they don't come close to where we are operating."

"This region is made up of common boundaries, and there are a lot of players on the ground and in the air," the official said. "If a Russian plane crosses the aerial boundary, we will not launch a missile and we won't down it."

There is no word on whether Chris Christie believes Tel Aviv is "reckless" or at least a "feckless weakling." There is, alas, also no way of predicting with certainty Moscow's response if it were to violate a no-fly zone announced by the USA. Engaged in Syria primarily to prop up Bashar al-Assad, Russia's air war is directed against rebel groups, the most powerful of which is  ISIL.  Action taken against Russia, therefore, would have the unintended- but predictable- effect of strengthening ISIL which Christie (as well as others in the Republican field) argue President Obama has been feckless in fighting.

Rand Paul cannot present the red meat to the Republican voters that the likes of Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, or Carly Fiorina can.  Nonetheless, "as a debate that touched on almost every overseas military adventure that the United States has taken in the past 25 years," Charlie Pierce concludes," it is an argument worth having, in both parties. "

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