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Finally, Someone Willing to Set Priorities

[ 21 ] November 17, 2015 |

Republican presidential candidate in the formal sense Chris Christie has things to say:


As the GOP presidential hopefuls compete to see who can strike the toughest, most macho-looking anti-immigrant pose, we’ve witnessed Donald Trump’s “Operation Wetback,” thrilled to Ben Carson’s plan to Make Mexico Great Again, and heard Marco Rubio say “We can’t. We just can’t.” But here comes swaggering dicknose Chris Christie to deliver the hard truths those other pussies won’t: Not even an orphaned Syrian four-year-old would be allowed into the U.S. on his watch.

“The fact is that we need for appropriate vetting,” he told Hugh Hewitt Monday, “And I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point. They have no family here, how are we gonna care for these folks?”

Maybe three-year-old orphans are TROJAN HORSES! We can’t be too careful! Besides, any money that goes to war orphans cannot be funneled to developers of failed casino projects.


The Grownups Are Back In Charge

[ 305 ] November 17, 2015 |


No, no, for real this time:

“We have the right strategy and we’re going to see it through,” Mr. Obama told reporters as he wrapped up a summit meeting with world leaders before flying to the Philippines. He has consistently said that it would take time, he noted, and he would not change that strategy simply because of domestic pressure. “What I do not do is take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough or make me look tough.”

If he did not gratify a public hunger for retribution, or at least the language of it, the president gambled that his position was actually closer to the broader American reluctance to get entangled in another land war in the Middle East. Sending large numbers of American ground troops to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, would repeat what he sees as the error of the Iraq invasion of 2003 without solving the problem at hand.

“That would be a mistake, not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before,” Mr. Obama said. Victory over terrorist groups, he said, requires local populations to reject the ideology of extremism “unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.”

It’s like Bill Belichick using his timeouts before the two-minute warning. In a rational universe, you wouldn’t deserve much credit for doing something so obvious, but compared to other potential decision-makers it makes you look really good. For example:

His message drew fire back in Washington, where Republicans and other critics saw it as evidence of an out-of-touch fecklessness. “Unfortunately, the president’s press conference today confirmed that he is unwilling to acknowledge his failed policies or re-evaluate his strategy moving forward,” Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, described the president’s news conference as “excuse-laden and defensive,” proving he had no resolve or strategy to defeat the Islamic State. “Never before have I seen an American president project such weakness on the global stage,” he said.

Yes, if any strategy has proven effective for preventing terrorist groups from filling stateless vacuums, it’s the SHOCK AND AWE of BOOTS ON THE GROUND showing AMERICAN RESOLVE AND CREDIBILITY. Republican foreign policy is like Mike McCarthy or Dan Quinn kicking field goals on 4th-and-goal from the 1 because YOU HAVE TO PUT THE POINTS ON THE BOARD in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, with far deadlier consequences if they’re actually in charge of the White House.

Allen Toussaint In 10 Songs

[ 6 ] November 16, 2015 |


And That Worked Out Great!

[ 114 ] November 16, 2015 |


Shorter Verbatim Rick Moran [@ Edroso, so you can get out of the boat]: “Some of these young intellectuals will be mugged by reality and wake up to the truth. It happened here after 9/11. PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon was one such leftist whose eyes were opened on 9/11. Christopher Hitchens was another.”

If there’s any intellectual giant whose wisdom should guide us as we confront ISIS, surely the man who compelled Pauline Kael to retire should be near the top of the list.

Anyway, I’m sure everyone remembers when, with the enthusiastic support of people like Simon and Hitchens, the Bush administration razed Iraq, and reasonably assumed that Ahmed Chalabi and some Heritage Foundation interns could construct a stable liberal democracy ex nihlio in its place. If I recall correctly, this worked extremely well, and certainly did not create a stateless vacuum in which particularly vicious and atavistic terrorists could seize territory and launch attacks on other countries. So I’m sure if we try it again it will work out just great. Or at least it will as long as the president says the phrase “radical Islam” a lot. War cannot fail; it can only be stabbed in the back.

Roe in the Crosshairs

[ 47 ] November 16, 2015 |


Next June, the Supreme Court will determine whether Texas’s draconian restrictions on abortion are constitutional. If the statute is upheld, Roe has been overruled whether Kennedy says it explicitly or not:

In theory, the “undue burden” standard could have provided a fairly robust protection of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion; in practice, it has not.

Among other things, the court held in Casey that a mandatory waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion was constitutional, although the restriction placed a significant burden on some women – particularly poor and/or rural women – while not advancing any legitimate state interest in the protection of its citizens. Mandatory waiting periods are simply designed to make abortion maximally inconvenient and provide no heath benefits to the women subjected to them. As then-justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion in Casey: “The mandatory delay … appears to rest on outmoded and unacceptable assumptions about the decision-making capacity of women.”

The Texas statute is the obvious end point of a ruling like Casey; it’s the culmination of a process in which anti-abortion forces have piled regulation upon regulation until they have forced most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. In the case of Texas, HB2 was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals even though it would place a major burden on the reproductive rights of women outside of a handful of urban centers, and despite the fact that the law has no plausible connection to protecting a woman’s health. The clinics are not being closed because they don’t provide safe abortions, but because they do.

As with so many cases, it is nearly certain that the fate of a woman’s right to choose in the United States will come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the only member of the five-justice Casey majority still on the court. Supporters of Roe have ample reason to be pessimistic. Kennedy – always the shakiest member of the Casey five – has upheld 20 of the 21 abortion restrictions to come before him as a US supreme court justice under the new “undue burden” standard. It’s possible that he could vote to uphold the Texas statute and continue the process of asserting that Roe remains in force while making it devoid of any meaningful content.

I would estimate the chances that HB2 is Kennedy’s breaking point at about 60/40. I don’t think Kennedy would want to write an opinion overruling Roe. But is he capable of writing an opinion upholding HB2 and hence overruling Roe sub silentio while convincing himself that he’s not actually doing it? Sadly, yes.

A Town Without Law

[ 18 ] November 16, 2015 |

This is an amazing story about a lot of horrible things:

For years, people in the tiny Louisiana town of Marksville watched the feud between their mayor and local judge like some kind of daytime soap opera, with varying degrees of frustration and bemusement.

Then came the Nov. 3 shooting that killed a 6-year-old boy. Suddenly, the petty small-town bickering began looking more tragically sinister.

Why in the world, residents ask, were deputy marshals — whose main job is serving court papers for the judge — out there chasing cars and shooting up suspects? How did one of the deputies — who had been charged twice for aggravated rape and racked up a string of lawsuits for excessive force — even get hired? And how did a speck of a town like Marksville wind up with a shadow police force on its streets?

Ces Prises Sont Torride

[ 71 ] November 14, 2015 |


Many winger third-raters from various walks of life had some SCORCHING HOT TAKES on the terror in Paris. I think this one is my favorite:

It’s not easy to get that much wankery into 140 characters or less, but he Bush administration’s favorite stenographer can pull it off.

…and, yes, Weigel FTW.

…Rod Dreher’s take might singe your eyebrows.

You Can’t Keep Your Mind Off the Crimes of Paris

[ 82 ] November 13, 2015 |

This is horrifying.

Bobo and the Ivory Backscratcher

[ 64 ] November 13, 2015 |


The Maoists who edit the New York Times style and real estate sections and T Magazine turn to their best unintentional propagandist yet, Mr. David Brooks:

I went back to my long-distance conversation and heard him busying himself in the other room, perhaps having discovered that one of the nuts in the nut bowl was misaligned. Sometimes it is the structure of things that you shall be pampered and you have no choice but to sit back and accept that fact.

I was in Turkey as a temporary member of a 52-person group that was bouncing through Four Seasons hotels on a round-the-world tour. You put down roughly $120,000 a person and for 24 days you fly around the earth in a Four Seasons-branded private jet, taking off in Seattle and stopping in, among other places, Tokyo, Beijing, the Maldives, the Serengeti, St. Petersburg, Marrakesh and New York, going from Four Seasons to Four Seasons, with various outings off campus offered at every two- or three-night stop. I was joining the tour for days 15 through 21, which would take me from Istanbul to St. Petersburg to Marrakesh, after which I would return to New York. If Magellan had had his own 757 and a global archipelago of sumptuous breakfast buffets, his trip would have been something like this.


What sort of people go on a trip like this? Rich but not fancy. It is a sign of how stratified things have become that even within the top 1 percent there are differences between the single-digit millionaires and the double- or triple-digit millionaires. The people on this trip were by and large on the lower end of the upper class. One had a family carpet business. Another was an I.T. executive at an insurance company. There were a few law partners. There was a divorce coach who’d worked in finance, a woman who’d started a telecom business with her ex-husband and the vice chancellor from a medium-size university. Very few of these people were born to money. They did not dress rich, talk rich or put on airs. They have spent their lives busy with work and family, not jet-setting around or hanging out with the Davos crowd.


But sometimes money allows you to see too many things, too quickly. Sometimes if you seize all the opportunities your money affords, you may end up skimming over life and nothing is deep enough to leave a mark. There is a piece of travel literature wisdom, of uncertain attribution, that reads, ‘‘He who has seen one cathedral 10 times has seen something; he who has seen 10 cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.’’ If you’re in a major city for 48 hours, is it best to sample the highlights, or drill down? I really enjoyed tagging along with this gang for part of their journey. But some of the most memorable moments came from breaking away, wandering alone through the astonishing streets of St. Petersburg, one of the world’s great cities.

There are many, many more Deep Thoughts were these come from.

I long for my innocent youth, in which David Brooks pretended he couldn’t figure out how to spend twenty bucks at Red Lobster.

Cool Story, Brogressive II: The Search For Rand Paul’s GOLD

[ 185 ] November 13, 2015 |
U.S. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gestures while talking to journalists during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

U.S. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gestures while talking to journalists during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

This H.A. Goodman guy is a national treasure. You read one of this Salon editor’s choices and it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever read on a website that has regularly published Camille Paglia. And then you read another one and see that he’s entirely capable of topping himself. The opening sentences guarantee its status as a monument to idiocy:

First and foremost, the latest unscientific poll out of Western Illinois University has Bernie Sanders winning the presidency. Therefore, if polls are gospel, we’ll have a Democrat in the White House who plans on fixing the structural issues plaguing Wall Street and the U.S. economy.

If you click through his link, you’ll see this “poll” is…a mock election among students at Western Illinois University. And I would bet Rand Paul InTrade futures to dollars that even the “unscientific” qualifier was added by an editor, since the subsequent text discusses it as if it was an actual poll.

If you support Sanders in the primaries — entirely reasonable! — why shouldn’t you support Clinton in the general? I’m sure you will find his answer compelling:

One must vote for any Democrat, regardless of how they treat a core constituency.



But think about Supreme Court nominees! Selfish! Infantile!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fine and the New York Times writes that she has “no interest in retiring.” Justice Scalia isn’t stepping down from the U.S. Supreme Court soon and will only contemplate retirement when he “can’t do the job well.” Anthony Kennedy is in “no rush” to leave the Supreme Court. Justice Breyer has no plans to step down but will “eventually” retire one day.

The paranoid legions, frightful of voting their conscience and actually upholding our democracy, can rest assured that all four Supreme Court justices mentioned are still capable of lasting four more years.

When the next president is inaugurated, Antonin Scalia will be about to turn 81, Kennedy will be 80, Breyer will be 78, and Ginsburg will be about to turn 84. Are all of these justices “capable” of being on the court for 4 or 8 more years? Sure! Would you want to count on it? Of course not! Is the idea that Supreme Court nominations are the only difference between a Clinton administration and a Rubio administration idiotic? You betcha!

Of course, his logic for a Bernie Sanders write-in in the general is highly compelling:

If by chance Sanders loses the nomination, I’ll write him in, and if Democrats lose, then the Democratic Party will evolve to cater to progressives tired of moderate Republicans posing as Democrats. The Democratic Party will learn to uphold its ideals and evolve toward progressive views on war, foreign policy and other topics integral to the presidency.

So, to be clear, Clinton is not worth supporting because she has merely “evolved” towards progressive positions. But throwing an election to a wingnutty Republican president would be salutary, because it might cause the Democratic Party to undergo the “evolution” that, according to him, the party has already undergone.

By the way, a link helpfully provided by a reader might help to explain why issues involving women’s rights are entirely ignored in these Goodman’s peans to refusing to support Clinton in the general:

Therefore, the more Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and around the country learn about Jim Webb, the more they’ll see that he offers a great deal more than Hillary or any other Democratic candidate in 2016.

Democrats must evolve towards a progressive agenda, and that agenda is Republicans on the Supreme Court and Confederate flags for all.

There are entirely sound, non-sexist reasons to prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the primaries (although when you’re writing Sanders in in the general you’re attacking the rights of women whatever your intentions.) When you prefer Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, and Rand Paul to Hillary Clinton, you’re a misogynist.

Really, Salon should consider investing in Freddie deBoer instead. I mean, say what you will, his argument — “leaders of major brokerage parties are worth supporting only if they precisely agree with my unassailably correct positions on each and every issue” — is coherent. Very foolish and pathetically narcissistic and profoundly dangerous if it had any chance of attracting a meaningful number of adherents, but at least coherent. Goodman is just evidence that it’s literally impossible for an anti-Clinton article to be too stupid for Salon‘s editors not to put it at the top of the front page. Come back Matt Stoller, all is forgiven.

He Kept Us Safe!

[ 91 ] November 13, 2015 |

Farenheit 911 still

With notably rare exceptions:

When Donald Trump impugned the honor of his brother earlier this year, Jeb Bush proudly fell back on the achievement of the Dubya administration that has endured in public memory, despite his other failures: “He kept us safe.” Even in 2008, at the nadir of Bush’s presidency, Americans still gave him a fair measure of credit in this area. But the impression that Bush was successful, or even especially well-focused, on protecting Americans from terrorism is an inversion of reality, and the fact that it can still be asserted with a straight face is the residue of one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in American history.

Chris Whipple’s revelations about the CIA’s urgent, ignored pleas to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda before 9/11 flesh out an increasingly consistent portrait drawn by Kurt Eichenwald and other reporters. A broad and consistent body of evidence had persuaded intelligence officials that Al Qaeda was poised to carry out a devastating attack against the United States. It was not just the famous August memo, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” — the one Bush dismissed at the time as ass-covering — but a much longer and more desperate campaign to wake up Bush’s inner circle. Whipple reports, “Months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.”

But the Bush White House was dominated by neoconservatives, who were ideologically fixated on the threat posed by states and dismissed the threat of non-state actors. The administration’s defenders tend to gloss over the wee problem of Bush’s abject failure before the attack by treating it as a passing transitional problem, a matter of getting one’s feet wet, often speaking of the Bush presidency as if did not really begin until September 12. This willfully erases the administration’s gross negligence before the attacks.

It also ignores the reality that Bush and his closest advisers clung to their state-focused neoconservative dogma even after the attacks.

Save Us Mittens!

[ 144 ] November 13, 2015 |


Hard to see any flaws in this trial balloon:

Fehrnstrom pointed out that the fourth debate passed this week without any candidate landing a blow against Trump or Carson. “We’re about to step into the holiday time accelerator,” he said. “You have Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, then Iowa and a week later, New Hampshire, and it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye.”

According to other Republicans, some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney — despite his insistence that he will not run again. Friends have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight, according to the Republicans who were briefed on the talks, though Romney has shown no indication of reviving his interest.

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