Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for August, 2016

When all you have is a Clinton everything looks like impeachment

[ 86 ] August 31, 2016 |

Pink Floyd The Wall: Judge in the Arena – Gerald Scarfe

Andrew McCarthy is beating the rush (and a herd of dead horses) on calls to Impeach Bill Hillary Clinton!!

For our recent “Tricky Hillary” issue (National Review, Aug. 1, 2016, on NR Digital), I wrote a feature arguing that Mrs. Clinton should be impeached. Given that, through the last quarter-century of our politics, we have learned that pending Clinton scandals are interrupted only by new Clinton scandals, it comes as no surprise that my point has just been proven by a scandal that erupted last week.

I’m not sure which scandal A.M. has in mind, and frankly I’m not sure he is, either. At any rate, after a great many assertions about the mean nasty crookedness of Crooked Hillary the reader gets to something that looks more like a point than anything else that has gone before, but perhaps that’s just the desperation talking.

Mrs. Clinton’s audacity has caught the attention of two congressional committees, whose chairmen have noticed that the new revelations show she quite intentionally misled lawmakers in House testimony. (The testimony pertained to the Benghazi massacre, another “old” Clinton scandal, if you’re keeping score.) Last week, those chairmen — Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) and Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) of, respectively, the Oversight and Judiciary Committees — penned a letter to the Justice Department asking that Clinton be investigated and prosecuted for perjury.

Except as a political salvo to remind the public of Clinton’s mendacity as she campaigns for the presidency, the letter is pointless. The Obama Justice Department, having already declined to prosecute a solid felony case against Clinton for mishandling classified information and withholding government records is not going to give perjury allegations the time of day. More to the point, though, the congressional plea for a criminal investigation is wrongheaded. Mrs. Clinton should be impeached, not indicted.

He eventually settles down to explain why. A few centuries later he concludes with They’d do it to us so let’s do it to them because we’re the real victims, forever, amen.

Oh, one last thing. Let’s say the roles were reversed: The Democrats hold congressional majorities, and their presidential nominee is the dodgy real-estate mogul, while the Republicans are running a demonstrably corrupt former secretary of state. Would the Democrats have the slightest hesitation about impeaching the GOP candidate? I’m betting not only that the House would already have voted articles of impeachment; Senate Democrats would already have found the Republican votes they needed for conviction.

Anyone doubt me on that?

I certainly find it as convincing as anything else that comes out of the NRO.


Bad Stories About Marijuana Legalization

[ 86 ] August 31, 2016 |


I’ve long maintained that the biggest argument against marijuana legalization is that stoner culture is really irritating. Throwing hippies in prison? Well, there’s an argument for it! Anyway, the idea that marijuana culture is somehow this wonderful thing operating under the capitalist radar and is going to be destroyed by legalization and operating the industry something like alcohol is very annoying, especially when coming from supposedly respectable publications like Politico, who decided to run this hack piece about the future horrors of legalized and regulated weed in California.

In Sacramento, he insisted that growers be treated like farmers of any other crop. Most important, he won the removal of a limit on the number of growing licenses for small farms. But the price of that legitimacy has been steep and it is about to redefine the nature of the marijuana industry in ways that make many of its most committed supporters deeply uncomfortable. California’s iconic counter-culture drug is about to be treated just like a six-pack of beer.

Treated just like a 6 pack? The horrors! You mean, you can go to the store and buy it? And that there’s a system regulating that economy that might not just be a bunch of hippies getting back to the land, a description of the marijuana industry last accurate sometime around 1982? I have never heard such a horrible tale.

Under the new regulations, licensed distributors were given control over measurement, taxing and testing for all medical marijuana before it can move to the retailer. The rules are modeled on the system that emerged at the end of Prohibition to wrest control from mobsters and their illegal liquor empires. States required wholesalers to bring alcohol from the manufacturer to the retailer, a system that has proven fantastically lucrative for distribution companies. Some of those players are now poised to make millions of dollars as the middlemen in California’s burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Again, I am mortified. For some reason. Because this sounds totally rational to me.

But the transformation is causing discomfort within California’s community of renegade pot growers, many of whom worry that their long wished for legitimacy may end with them being coopted by the implacable force of corporate America.

Smoke another joint dude and let’s talk about The Man keeping us down!

“But it’s complicated,” she continues. “A lot of growers are thinking only about law enforcement and getting Water Quality enforcement off their backs. What they don’t realize is by January 1, 2018, if you’re operating a commercial grow and you don’t have a cultivation license and aren’t in the process of getting one—it’s just a cease and desist order. That can be thousands of dollars a day. And it could be ugly when the IRS comes in in a few years and businesses get audited. We do want to keep all our small farmers. They hold the culture. They hold the innovation. If we lose the small farmers we’re going to lose a lot.”

Oh noes! Licensing! Regulation! Not being able to dump a metric ton of rat poison in the forests!

Because, some say, groups with deep pockets to spend on political lobbying wanted it that way. Groups like the Teamsters.

“We concluded it was the best model for us and we proceeded to forge an alliance with law enforcement and local government because we thought that it fit their needs as well,” says Barry Broad, legislative director of the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.

Broad acknowledges the potential gain to the Teamsters’ organization.

“I’m not hiding our self interest. This is a growing industry and we’d like it to grow unionized,” he says. “To have local government, organized labor and law enforcement all together is a pretty potent alliance. What’s on the other side? A couple marijuana people with illusions of grandeur?”


Seriously, this is embarrassing. When was the last time dropping the IBT as some sort of symbol of Big Evil Organization was remotely legitimate? 1977? Ever? But no, if the Teamsters benefit–if the weed farms are unionized–evidently the entire culture of weed growing is destroying and replaced by the evils of regulated capitalism. I didn’t know that Politico was the resurrection of the Whole Earth Catalog, but maybe it is.

It goes on from there. It’s not that the regulation of tobacco or alcohol is perfect. But the idea that marijuana is somehow this special industry that is anti-capitalist or down with the earth and the people or whatever is complete and utter hogwash. The unregulated marijuana industry is a labor and environmental disaster, with dangerous and poorly paid labor dominating the workforce and the wanton use of pesticides and chemicals, the diversion of water, the bulldozing of mountaintops, the construction of illegal roads, and turning the forests into trash dumps. Marijuana needs to be legal. It also needs to be regulated. It needs to be regulated similar to other legal drugs in distribution and sales. And it needs to be regulated like any other agricultural product in the production. Otherwise, the problems that result are immense.

But at the very least, let’s stop pretending that hippie capitalism is somehow more pure and down to earth than regular capitalism. It’s still a bunch of people looking to do anything to make a buck.

Confederate Nomenclature Compromise

[ 71 ] August 31, 2016 |


Not a total victory for justice, but I don’t really mind how Alexandria, Virginia is dealing with its plethora of streets and statues named for Confederates. Basically, it’s renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, which is a gross name for a road, not tearing down its Confederate stuatue, but supposedly contextualizing it, and basically leaving all the other streets named for various Confederates alone because it would cost a lot to change it.

I’m basically OK with this for now, although it very much depends on what the contextualization of Confederate statuary actually looks like. Yes, I would like the American version of the Nazi Party to be demonized to the extent that anyone would be embarrassed and shamed to have anything named after them. And the defense that people come to Alexandria for its Civil War history is a ridiculous argument because it’s just not true. But it’s not like these fights are final. They never are. For now, it’s a step in the right direction. More fights will lead to more victories. I hope those fights happen.

What is Donald Trump doing in Mexico City?

[ 144 ] August 31, 2016 |


On its face, Donald Trump’s hastily-arranged visit with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto is a bizarre development, even given the extremely high bar established for that category by the Trump scampaign.

To say that Trump is reviled in Mexico all across the ideological spectrum is akin to saying that Mike Trout is a pretty good baseball player. It’s a bit of an understatement, in other words.

The natural suspicion is that Pena Nieto, who is at the moment extremely unpopular, is going to use what appears to be — on the part of both men — a last-minute seat of the pants stunt, to do something to help his own dire political situation. But what? To say that this isn’t going over well so far is like saying Erik Loomis isn’t particularly fond of ketchup:

The predominant feeling here in the Mexican capital is one of betrayal.

“It’s a historic error,” said Enrique Krauze, a well-known historian. “You confront tyrants, you don’t appease them.”

On Mexico’s most popular morning television show on Wednesday, a livid Mr. Krauze likened the president’s meeting with Mr. Trump to the decision by Neville Chamberlain, then the British prime minister, to sit down with Hitler in Munich in 1938.

“It isn’t brave to meet in private with somebody who has insulted and denigrated” Mexicans, Mr. Krauze said. “It isn’t dignified to simply have a dialogue.”

Yes, many Mexicans say, it was Mr. Trump who offended the people of Mexico with his disparaging comments about migrants and his promises to build a border wall paid for by Mexico.

But for many Mexicans, the surprising invitation from Mr. Peña Nieto — who has likened Mr. Trump’s language to that of Hitler and Mussolini in the past — is even worse.

Newspapers, television stations, social media and all manner of national communication were awash in vitriol at the idea of a meeting between the two men.

The invitation has managed to do what has always been a herculean task in this fractious and economically divided nation: unite the masses.

Protests are lined up for the day. Invitations designed like party fliers were fired off through the night, heralding the visit with a handwritten message: “Trump, you are not welcome!”

On top of all this, Trump is flying straight from this meeting to Arizona, to give a major speech on immigration. So what is really going on here? Josh Marshall:

It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics.

Put those factors together and Peña Nieto has massive and overlapping reasons to want to embarrass Trump. At a minimum since he’s probably not eager to create a true international incident, he has zero interest in appearing in any way accommodating or helpful. The calculus might be different if Trump seemed likely to be the next US President. Mexico is a minor power with the world colossus on its doorstep. But a Trump presidency seems unlikely. Far likelier, Peña Nieto will need to build a relationship with Hillary Clinton. These factors combined make for an inherently dangerous political situation for Donald Trump, especially since the atmospherics of this meeting will be the backdrop for Trump’s evening speech which is itself an incredibly important moment and one in which he has set for himself what is likely an impossible challenge. . .

Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.

Trump Supporters: It’s Both Race and Class

[ 235 ] August 31, 2016 |


Here is another long essay about Trump supporters and what they see in him. The useful thing in this piece is how it identifies the divide between relatively wealthy Republicans who hate welfare programs and believe in bootstrapism no matter what and poor whites who really need government programs but who associate them with blacks and immigrants and see Trump as a way out of that.

How can we understand this growing gap between male lives at the top and bottom? For Murray, the answer is a loss of moral values. But is sleeping longer and watching television a loss of morals, or a loss of morale? A recent study shows a steep rise in deaths of middle-aged working-class whites—much of it due to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. These are not signs of abandoned values, but of lost hope. Many are in mourning and see rescue in the phrase “Great Again.”

Trump’s pronouncements have been vague and shifting, but it is striking that he has not called for cuts to Medicaid, or food stamps, or school lunch programs, and that his daughter Ivanka nods to the plight of working moms. He plans to replace Obamacare, he says, with a hazy new program that will be “terrific” and that some pundits playfully dub “Trumpcare.” For the blue-collar white male Republicans Sharon spoke to, and some whom I met, this change was welcome.

Still, it was a difficult thing to reconcile. How wary should a little-bit-higher-up-the-ladder white person now feel about applying for the same benefits that the little-bit-lower-down-the-ladder people had? Shaming the “takers” below had been a precious mark of higher status. What if, as a vulnerable blue-collar white worker, one were now to become a “taker” oneself?

Trump, the King of Shame, has covertly come to the rescue. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho—and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. As one auto mechanic told me, “Why not? Trump’s for that. If you use food stamps because you’re working a low-wage job, you don’t want someone looking down their nose at you.” A lady at an after-church lunch said, “If you have a young dad who’s working full time but can’t make it, if you’re an American-born worker, can’t make it, and not having a slew of kids, okay. For any conservative, that is fine.”

But in another stroke, Trump adds a key proviso: restrict government help to real Americans. White men are counted in, but undocumented Mexicans and Muslims and Syrian refugees are out. Thus, Trump offers the blue-collar white men relief from a taker’s shame: If you make America great again, how can you not be proud? Trump has put on his blue-collar cap, pumped his fist in the air, and left mainstream Republicans helpless. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

Yet again, race and class are intertwined here. The white, poor southern men (the linked article profiles Louisiana) who love Trump are racist. There’s no doubt about that. They see their white privilege slipping away at the same time that they feel their class stability collapsing beneath them. How then to get the help you need in a world without good-paying working class jobs? Demonize those you used to demean for getting the programs you now need. Talk about yourself as a real, deserving American and the others as undeserving of Americanness.

There is no simply policy to solve racism. There are however policies that can undermine the class insecurities these people feel. Just because they vote for Trump and are racist doesn’t mean we should not take the precariousness of their lives seriously. Moreover, any class-based program that helps these white people in Louisiana also helps people of color. But sadly, working-class issues really are not on the table in this general election campaign (although arguably there are no issues under any kind of serious discussion right now). Democrats are a little better at recognizing the need to put people to work, but they have struggled mightily to come up with any sort of serious jobs program that would find good work for poor Americans. It’s all education and retraining, which are easy panaceas that make policymakers feel like they are doing something but which do almost nothing for the affected people. That’s what has to change–people of southern Louisiana, black or white or Asian or Latino, all need access to good jobs in the places they live. Racism will never go away. But until good jobs are in place, it will be very easy for fascists like Trump to make the kinds of connections between economic hard times and racial mythology to create very scary political movements in the United States.

Living Wages for Baseball Staffers

[ 122 ] August 31, 2016 |


I enjoyed reading this profile of Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor, largely because he’s a player in the larger New England music scene and sat in for most of the Drive-By Truckers’ show in Providence last fall, which was super cool. However, one thing about this interview alarmed me greatly:

AVC: You’re doing 81 games a year, plus playoffs?

JK: Yeah, 81 home games, and then hopefully if were lucky there are playoff games in addition to that.

AVC: Are you full-time or are you contract? Are you paid by the Red Sox?

JK: I get paid by the Boston Red Sox. I receive an hourly wage, which is a pretty small hourly wage, but I love the work, so that’s why I keep going back.

AVC: You’re not getting Big Papi money?

JK: Oh, I’m not even getting pay-the-bills money. I work an office job, and I do a ton of freelance music work as well.

What? The Boston Red Sox, an organization raking in endless dollars, does not pay their organist, who works 81 days a year, assuming they don’t make the playoffs, anything even approaching a living wage? Do they really pay him $10 an hour or something? That is absolutely disgraceful. It’s not as if I didn’t already know that professional sports franchises owned by billionaires with gargantuan television deals and endless marketing opportunities take every penny possible from their everyday employees. They’d still be doing the same to the players if they could get away with it. But I would have figured someone as central to the team as its long-time organist would at least be getting something that looks like a living wage. But no. Not even close evidently. Call me a filthy communist if you will, but I think the Red Sox organist should be able to pay his bills on his salary.

Divided Families

[ 36 ] August 31, 2016 |


One of the many horrible things about the deportations and criminalization at the heart of American immigration policy is that it divides families, with parents sent back to Mexico or Central America while their children, birthright citizens, remain in the U.S. While Obama’s immigration record is pretty mixed, his plan to reduce deportations that was overturned by racist judges would have helped solve this particular problem. Alas. But the problem is very real, unless you don’t want Mexicans in this country at all, which then dividing families is only a problem in that you probably wish you could deport the kids too.

“I understand that I’m unauthorized and I know I did something wrong that went against U.S. law, but I’m not a criminal,” she said. “I haven’t committed any serious offenses such as robbery, murder or prostitution.”

Sanchez entered the United States illegally in 2000. Before that, she had attempted to illegally come through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, but agents turned her away.

She met Paulsen in Vista shortly after arriving. He noticed her at the bus stop in front of the body shop where he worked as a mechanic. Paulsen didn’t know a word of Spanish at the time, and the two used an acquaintance as an interpreter. The couple married just one month after they met, in a civil ceremony in Vista.

Sanchez was filing paperwork for legalization in 2006 when she was summoned out of the country, to an appointment with immigration authorities at the U.S. Consulate in Cuidad Juarez. Authorities told her she would be prohibited from returning home to Vista for 10 years, despite the fact that Paulsen, 51, is a U.S. citizen and a Marine veteran.

Immigration law at the time stipulated that applicants seeking legal status must return to their country of origin. But once an applicant who had been living in the United States without permission left the country, they were automatically barred from re-entering for at least three years, sometimes for up to a decade.

“My whole world came crashing down.… You can’t believe that in one minute they’re destroying your life, your family,” Sanchez said in Spanish from her home in Tijuana. She told her husband they should divorce.

“I thought to myself, ‘How are we going to live like this, me in Mexico and my husband in the United States?’ ”

During her first three months in Mexico, Sanchez stayed with her three sons in the popular resort town of Los Cabos, where a brother worked as a physician. Her oldest child, Alex, was 5; Ryan, 3; and Brannon, 2 months.

But Paulsen wanted to be closer to his family, so he rented Sanchez a house in Tijuana. Though Paulsen contemplated moving to Tijuana, he said employment opportunities in Mexico were meager, and crossing the border every day for work would have been too difficult.

In Vista, Paulsen and the boys rent a home with Sanchez’s mother. Paulsen makes the 80-mile drive every weekend to the home in Tijuana.

Clearly, this policy is ridiculous and terrible for millions of Americans who have a family member who is an undocumented immigrant trying to contribute to this country.

A Good Use of the Last Year

[ 46 ] August 31, 2016 |


Late-period Obama continues to find useful ways to use his constitutional authority:

President Obama shortened the prison sentences of 111 inmates Tuesday, including 35 people who had expected to spend the rest of their lives in federal custody, authorities told NPR.

Word of the new batch of clemency grants came as the second in command at the Justice Department told NPR that lawyers there have worked through an enormous backlog of drug cases and, despite doubts from prisoner advocates, they will be able to consider each of the thousands of applications from drug criminals before Obama leaves office in 2017.

“At our current pace, we are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said.

The early releases apply to mostly nonviolent drug offenders who would have received lighter punishments if they committed the same crimes today. The new commutations mean this White House has granted 673 commutations, more than the past 10 presidents combined. Tuesday’s grants follow 214 more earlier this month.

There are obvious limitations to this approach to fighting the War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs — most of these people have already served lengthy prison terms when they shouldn’t have been incarcerated in the first place, and most of the War is being waged by our benevolent state overlords, not the feds. But it’s much better to be doing this than not be doing this.

Can A Revolution Run By Jeff Weaver Be Effectual?

[ 126 ] August 31, 2016 |

All signs continue to point to no:

The political revolution has let Tim Canova down. Bernie Sanders hasn’t shown up to campaign for his chosen primary challenger to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee. Heading into a Florida Democratic primary on Tuesday, Canova is behind by double digits in recent polling and looks likely to lose the race.

But that’s only part of the story. Former staffers at Our Revolution, the organization created to act as a successor to the Sanders campaign, believe the group did not do as much as it should have to help Canova in his bid to defeat the veteran Florida congresswoman.

A number of staffers who resigned from Our Revolution in protest over how it has been run say the organization’s 501(c)(4) status made it impossible to coordinate strategy with the Canova campaign, leaving the campaign worse off as a result. At least some departing staffers believe the organization should be set up under a different legal structure so that it can coordinate with candidates it endorses in the future and do more to help them win.

“I would absolutely say the prohibition on coordinating hurt the Canova campaign,” said Paul Schaffer, the former data and analytics director for Our Revolution. “We have an enormous core of dedicated volunteers. But when Our Revolution was set up as a 501(c)(4), that prevented us from mobilizing that big pool of Bernie supporters to work jointly with the campaign to get out the vote.”

Former Our Revolution staffers emphasize that they don’t fault Sanders for the way the organization has been managed. (Sanders has clarified that he will not be controlling or directing the organization.) Instead, many staffers who resigned blame Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s former campaign manager who was recently brought in to run Our Revolution, for the decision to operate the organization as a 501(c)(4).

The set-up appears to have caused organizational challenges and legal headaches. According to former volunteer engagement manager Ceci Hall, since Our Revolution wasn’t able to coordinate voter contact efforts with the campaign, a task that involved directing volunteers to call voters and encourage them to support the Canova campaign and get out to vote, some voters ended up receiving calls from both the campaign and Our Revolution.

I still think it’s entirely possible for Sanders’s supporters to be an effectual force within the party. But it seems enormously unlikely that Our Revolution will amount to anything, and I would continue to suggest that the Mark Penn of the left be kept far away from anything that looks like it might work.

Walk Of Shame

[ 84 ] August 31, 2016 |


A little buyer’s remorse?

Dissatisfaction with Trump, however, extends within his own party. Republican and Republican-leaning voters say by a 19-point margin, 54 percent to 35 percent, that Donald Trump wasn’t the best option in this year’s pool of candidates. In a June HuffPost/YouGov poll, those voters were evenly split, with 44 percent saying Trump was the best choice and another 44 percent that the party could have done better.

This is because not enough Republican voters are reading the highly convincing National Review analysis that uses specious historical analogies and random anecdotes to show that Trump is totally winning.

Mission Accomplished

[ 44 ] August 30, 2016 |

I love the films produced by the military in World War II. Here is Mission Accomplished, a short 1943 film about the success of the B-17.

Q: “What comes from Texas and goes 1, 2, Oops! 1, 2 Oops!”?

[ 13 ] August 30, 2016 |

A: Rick Perry learning to waltz!

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is preparing to step into the spotlight again, this time as a member of the upcoming season of reality television dance competition “Dancing with the Stars.”

Sure. Why not? Just keep them off Nekkid & Afeared, or whatever that is.

Page 1 of 2312345...1020...Last »