Recommended; link to the publisher's site. Read an excerpt on the Americans United for Separation of Church and State website.
World News from:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Information Clearing House
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times
The urgency of the political fundraising pitches goes up at the end of every month anymore, and I'm struck by the disconnect between the attempted marketing and what might motivate donors. Today's noteworthy pitch is from the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee), using the zombie Romney list from 2012 (the gift that keeps giving), and under Mitch McConnell's name. Subject Big Time, as in "we need your help BIG TIME."
Only 1 day left! And "we are $13,447.25 away from our April goal," as if I had any reason to care about what goal they set or the twenty-five cents, or the end of the month. They're not asking me for all that, just $25, or $50 or $100 or so on. Assuming I'm all for the majority leader's legacy achievement of "fighting the Obama Agenda since Day One."
Fighting, and losing a lot of the time, fortunately, but more than a few "victories" involving the "successful" waste of taxpayer money while Senators (and members of the House) posture for the media, and fundraise for their next campaign. The problems the country faces? They mostly can't be bothered to address any of those.
After one more day (and a half), it'll be May, and if I want to send my $25 or whatever it wouldn't be in the April total! "The consequences could be devastating" they (and he) wind up, in the most unconvincing manner imaginable. Compared to what, exactly?
The slogan for the Idaho GOP convention this year is "Faith, Family, Freedom...Firearms!"
Maybe with a shoot-out, they can actually make some decisions this time.
The indefatigable Ted ("Lucifer in the flesh") Cruz boosters over at Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ aren't going to let a little thing like an 0-5 drubbing discourage them. George Rasley is excited about the Carly Factor for reasons that are make-believe. She worked her way up from a privileged start to top management at Lucent, got out when the going was good, and talked HP's board into pushing her through the glass ceiling. It was great for her; not so much for the companies that paid her outsized salaries and stuffed her golden parachutes.
Politics? Not so much. She didn't make a dent in her first race, a U.S. Senate seat in California, and... that's the whole résumé. Ah, but she and her ticket-topper "project clarity and principle," and "maturity." Fiorina is "an inspired choice," somehow. And no, no, no, it was "anything but" an act of desperation to name Fiorina early and take over part of the news cycle for a day or two.
The Cruz-Fiorina strategy is to make sure all the Republicans are losers, and nobody has the 1,237 delegates locked up before the convention, so... what? The convention will jump off the S.S. Trump and go for a Cruz instead? It's a lose-lose proposition, and adding dead weight to the ticket doesn't brighten the prospect.
Over on the Trump side, the guy who swept five primaries and beat the also-rans to a pulp decided he should get serious and say some things about foreign policy yesterday, going so far as to work from a script and a teleprompter for a change. The analysis from one credible source, long-time diplomat and foreign policy advisor Ambassador Nicholas Burns, and one not-so-credible, "scholar and terrorism expert who advises the Trump campaign," Walid Phares, was an even worse mismatch than Tuesday's primaries. Burns:
"I thought it was a very revealing speech about Donald Trump.
"And, frankly, as a citizen and voter, I think that it revealed that he doesn’t have the qualities to be a commander in chief and our top diplomat. If you think about the speech today, it betrayed, I think, a lack of in-depth knowledge, a lack of sophistication and nuance about the very complex world that we face, and a lack of humility about the restraint that America sometimes has to apply in the world.
"Those were the qualities, in my mind, that our best Republican presidents of the last 50 years had, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush. You saw very little of that balance and restraint today.
"Instead, what Mr. Trump did today was, he cast a series of ultimatums and threats mainly against our allies, against NATO and against Japan and South Korea. He was very soft on Russia. I thought it was a very unwise speech."
Phares countered with the claim that Trump was something "new," at least, and he wasn't saying everything in the last 30 years was a mistake, just that "mistakes were made." And of course we regret any appearance of impropriety. Trump's speech apparently got good reviews in Russia, anyway.
Regular readers of this blog will know just how I excited I must be about Ted Cruz's big announcement today that he's got his vice president all picked out ahead of time. Carly Fiorina!
Apart from the unlikability factor, now squared, there is plenty of fodder to revisit from when they were competing head to head. Brian Tashman on Right Wing Watch kicks it off with one of Fiorina's somewhat apt assessments:
“Ted Cruz is just like any other politician, he says one thing in Manhattan, he says another thing in Iowa, he says whatever he needs to say to get elected and then he’s going to do what he pleases.”
Most politicians are more likable, but leave that be. And Fiorina, well, she's getting to be a bit of a politician too, in spite of never actually having been elected to anything, or even voting, much. It's one thing to give a snow job to a credulous Board of Directors for a job interview, and quite something else to run for national office.
I love the CNN interviewer's comment that "you just gave me an unfortunate segue to my next question," which is pretty much what adding Fiorina to the Cruz "ticket" is going to be on his way out of the race. (The next question was about a Fiorina joke that flopped, rather than her flopped candidacy.)
There was some creative writing involved in coming up with virtues to pin on Fiorina. She knows where jobs come from? I don't think so. She certainly knew how to get rid of jobs: mergers and acquisitions, followed by layoffs. Oh, and she was born in Texas, so yippee ki ay. But that can't compare with the analysis from the NY Times team, who figured that Cruz pre-emptively naming his pick for veep
"was the political equivalent of a student pulling a fire alarm to avoid an exam: It was certain to draw attention and carried the possibility of meeting its immediate goal, but seemed unlikely to forestall the eventual reckoning."
There was some question about whether we would be for a while—or at all—down in the Owyhee River canyon between Cabin and Cable rapids. It isn't a place you could walk out of very easily under the best of conditions, and we were up the creek without a canoe. (We did save the paddles.) As Monday morning came with rain changing to snow, we were not looking at the best of conditions. At least 3 inches of wet snow down on our "Shipwreck Bench" and as much as 8 inches on the plateau above the rim. We'd been spotted by a pilot from Malheur County Search and Rescue Saturday afternoon, and were expecting some kind of help... but couldn't plan on it being "soon" with visibility barely a quarter mile and a storm that did not appear ready to quit during the day. Whether our makeshift shelter could keep us dry another night was an open question.
More about all that soon... I've got a week of catching up to do. Until then, let me just give a huge shout out to all the Malheur County (Oregon) Sheriff's team, the many Search and Rescue volunteers, and the four professionals from the Idaho Army National Guard 1st Battalion - 183rd Aviation Regiment who airlifted us out, flying in and out of a narrow, vertical-walled canyon in a snowstorm.
Not sure why they're shouting down in what's usually fine print, but says there this push poll was PAID FOR BY TEAM RYAN, A JOINT FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE AUTHORIZED BY AND COMPOSED OF RYAN FOR CONGRESS, INC., PROSPERITY ACTION, INC., AND THE NRCC. TEAM RYAN 320 FIRST STREET, SE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20003 which sounds like kind of a weird mashup, never mind the wood paneling background image. The "survey" I'm supposed to fill out is teased by telling me that they're "only reaching out to proven conservative activists to participate in this short survey," "because of limited time & resources." (They couldn't even afford to spell out that ampersand.) It's a Leadership Priority Survey don't you know, and I should be flattered to "provide House Leadership with critical data to help form a bold conservative agenda to move our nation forward."
Funny thing is, there is nothing for me to "fill in" (other than my name, email and ZIP code); just a set of nine checkboxes for what issues I want Republicans to focus on, and the list is the same old, same old they've been talking about and NOT DOING forever since they buggered Congress:
I mean... seriously? What makes sense is generic and obvious. What could be expanded to an actionable agenda doesn't make sense. Let's do the time warp again. Repeal Obamacare! Approve the Keystone pipeline! Strengthen national security!
Paul Ryan was supposed to be the grown-up, the policy wonk, the numbers guy, the rational person who could turn things around. But here he is spouting TEA Party nonsense, and he's still not nonsensical enough for the dyed-in-the-wool T.P. Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ, for example, thinks Paul Ryan's budget was a "major contribution" to the Trump campaign. The "no" rump of the GOP in the House prefers to just say NO to any budget, rather like the Senate's just saying no to any SCOTUS nominee.
Continuing his celebration of Confederate Heritage Month, David Neiwert explains how poor whites got suckered into fighting and dying for the south's slave-owning elite. And who knew how Biblical it all was? Quoting Historian Gordon Rhea:
Reverend Richard Furman of South Carolina insisted that the right to hold slaves was clearly sanctioned by the Holy Scriptures. He emphasized a practical side as well, warning that if Lincoln were elected, “every Negro in South Carolina and every other Southern state will be his own master; nay, more than that, will be the equal of every one of you. If you are tame enough to submit, abolition preachers will be at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands.”
A fellow reverend from Virginia agreed that on no other subject “are [the Bible’s] instructions more explicit, or their salutary tendency and influence more thoroughly tested and corroborated by experience than on the subject of slavery.” The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, asserted that slavery “has received the sanction of Jehova.” As a South Carolina Presbyterian concluded: “If the scriptures do not justify slavery, I know not what they do justify.”
When someone pleads profound ignorance, take him at his word? In any case, if I'd been paying closer attention, I might have been schooled by my former classmate at the University of Idaho (where we attended Professor Nick Gier's "Existentialism" class, no less), Doug Wilson, later the pastor of Christ Church, and founder of New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. As Mark Potok documented for the Southern Poverty Law Center a dozen years ago, Wilson and his co-author of Southern Slavery, As it Was advanced the proposition that southern slavery "was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence," and an exemplar of "mutual intimacy and harmony" for a multiracial society.
"Slave life was to [the slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care."
Idaho's junior Senator, Jim Risch is still fishing around for a compliment weak enough to express his support for Ted Cruz. He might have said "Never Trump" and left it at that, but to talk with Wolf Blitzer on CNN again with really nothing to say, reeks of desperation on both sides. Definitely not an endorsement, we got that.
Cruz is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, maybe.
But as funny as Jim Risch is, he's not as funny as Trevor Noah and The Daily Show, who came up with the perfect metaphor for how the GOP sees Ted Cruz.
"First of all, you're not winning. You're trying to catch up to Trump, who is winning. Second of all, you are not uniting the Republican Party. The Republican Party is uniting against Trump. You just happen to be the other guy! You're basically the toilet plunger of the Republican Party. That's all you are because no one wants to use a plunger, but they have to, to get the turd out of the way."
Ok, I'll just tell you: his children Ivanka and Eric, because they're not registered to vote in New York.
"They had a long time to register, and they were unaware of the rules and they didn't register in time," Trump said. "So they feel very, very guilty. They feel very guilty. But it's fine, I mean, I understand that. I think they have to register a year in advance, and they didn't."
It was either a year in advance, or 3½ weeks, one or the other. Philip Bump's report for the Washington Post went with the latter, March 25, for the primary next Tuesday.
Also on WaPo, this cute story about Trump's "charitable" impulses which don't seem to involve very much of his own money. The campaign made a 93 page catalog of his supposed contributions, but when they dug into the details, they found one thing missing:
"Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money."
2,900 free rounds of golf though, so there's that. He's changing the world one chip shot at a time.
The Washington Post has a series on jury nullification this week, starting with Robert Gebelhoff's introduction to the topic, and including Georgetown University law professor Paul Butler's advocacy of it as a tool against oppression, and the racism in our system of justice.
David Neiwert connects different dots for us, between jury empowerment, and bigotry. I've had the sense of jury nullification as "fairly benign," "appeal[ing] to 21st-century civil libertarians," with the upside possibility of juries being able to provide justice in situations when the law might be an ass. But there's a "long and very dark history," and the prospect of more of that.
“It is a recipe for anarchy . . . [when jurors] are allowed to substitute personal whims for the stable and established law,” in one judge's opinion, an invitation to tax dodgers and Hatriots of various stripes, from the KKK to the "Freemen" to generic "sovereign citizens."
"The leading proponent of jury nullification is a Montana-based outfit called the Fully Informed Jury Association, which has attracted a substantial audience among libertarians and drug-war critics (a small splinter group, also based in Montana and with a similar name, was overtly extremist and closely associated with the Montana Freemen). Though it presents itself as an educational organization, in reality, FIJA’s origins and orientation are extremist and built on long-rejected legal theories adopted from the old Posse Comitatus movement."
As the Bundy gang and its fellow travelers wind their way through federal courts in Nevada and Oregon, this topic is going to be a lively one, along with the expansion of social media to provide both self-incrimination and crowdsourcing pieces of defense. New chapters are being written.
When some mild violence (inevitably) broke out at recent Trump rally, the "sharp-tongued tycoon" opined that in the good old days, they would have taken that guy out on a stretcher. The NY Daily News (which seems the most appropriate medium for reporting on Trump, doesn't it?) reported that a rally on Long Island on Wednesday made good on reviving that nostalgia:
"Several elderly supporters were taken from the packed event on stretchers and at least two people were arrested when a fight broke out inside the hall, police said."
If you can't get enough of this sort of thing, there's a link to a quiz at the end: WHO SAID IT? TRUMP, HITLER, MUSSOLINI OR STALIN.
His office phone number in Washington D.C.: 202 224-2541. It's staffed 8:30 am to 6:00 pm eastern time, and when they experience a high volume of calls, there's a brief recording to that effect, ending with "thanks for calling. Goodbye."
They had a high volume going when I tried at 8:32 am, 8:34 am, and 1:40 pm MDT, and I finally got through at 3:34 pm MDT. I stated what I was calling in regard to: "President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, and the Majority Leader's obstruction of the Senate's constitutional duty to respond" and then paused, waiting to be asked my name, or something.
Staffer said "thank you, I'll pass that along" as if we were done. "I've got more to say," I said, and she apologized, and asked me to go ahead. I continued:
"I think the Senator McConnell's manipulation of this process violates of his oath of office. He's demonstrated the ability and willingness to obstruct government in general, and the president in particular, both as Majority Leader and Minority Leader, and while he CAN avoid doing his job, I think his actions are outrageous and despicable.
"The arguments he has made—starting on the DAY Justice Scalia DIED, no less—have been cynical and self-serving.
"By all accounts, Judge Garland is well-qualified for the job, and would be an excellent choice. The Senate could decide otherwise, of course, but to simply REFUSE TO DO THEIR JOB and hold hearings and VOTE on the nomination is completely unacceptable.
"The people of the United States elected Barack Obama president, TWICE, and the president has fulfilled his duty in selecting and nominating a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court.
"It's time for the Majority Leader to DO HIS JOB."
And then she thanked me again and said she'd "pass that along." Did she want my name or anything? Uh, sure. (Did she want to write it down or anything? Don't think so.) Not exactly satisfying, but I gave it a shot.
Idaho's junior Senator just added to the annals of "did I say that out loud?" with his was that an endorsement moment, talking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Really, there's not much to say. And "no choice" for the #NeverTrump camp. It's a political dead-end.
But Republicans can take heart from the analysis of two political scientists as to why Trump can't break the GOP. Even though the Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote just once since 1988, and three terms of Bush is a sorry consolation prize, the states and congressional districts are well-gerrymandered. Who needs a majority of votes? The House certainly didn't in 2012. And the Senate waves the banner of State's Rights mice that roar.
Whether it's Trump or Cruz losing to Clinton (or Sanders), expect the downward spiral to continue, and politicians to claim that "government is broken" while they keep pretending they had nothing to do with the breakage.
ID-01 Congressman Raúl Labrador touted support for his camel's nose bill, as seen in the Idaho Press-Tribune, from retired US Forest Service guy Jim Gerber. Gerber is more than 20 years past that career, but he had some experience, it sounds like. Whether he has facts to support the broad claim that "federal lands are being mismanaged by the federal agencies to the extent we are in danger of losing their sustainability and biological diversity," we have no idea. None are included in the short opinion piece.
The idea that all we need do is "create holes in the mature canopy" and "little else" sounds ridiculously simplistic. "This is not a hard concept to grasp," sounds patronizing and makes me wonder how well Gerber got on with his coworkers back in the day.
Imagining that "it only takes some willpower to make it happen," and that the big problem is that "federal agencies lack the willpower to manage the land" sounds like a bad joke.
"[L]et’s give the states a chance. They can do no worse and, who knows, they might even do a better job than the feds."
That's the line Labrador found tweetable. Who knows?! I know. The states most definitely could do worse; nothing Raúl Labrador or Jim Gerber has said gives us reason to believe it's all upside.
I wouldn't have a problem with a limited "experiment," as long as it takes into account selection bias, the Hawthorne effect, is scientifically designed, and follows relevant environmental regulations, which Labrador's Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act seeks to specifically override. (It proposes to set aside the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act, for starters.) Labrador's proposal also leaves fire management ("fire presuppression, suppression, and rehabilitation services") up to the feds with no mention of any payment for that, rather putting the lie to the whole "willpower" notion, along with the "they might do a better job" wild ass guess.
The bill is a one-in-a-hundred shot according to Govtrack.us, but it provides Labrador with a steady talking point as it goes nowhere.
Sen. Chuck Grassley expresses the height of chutzpah, in lecturing the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on how he's done too much politicization of the Supreme Court. "With all due respect," of course.
Are you kidding me?
With all due respect, Senator Grassley, when you get around to DOING YOUR OWN JOB, maybe your opinion about how other people are doing theirs will have some relevance.
Update: Before Grassley's free-range criticism of the Chief Justice, there was this high school kid shooting down the Senator's "lame duck" argument.
"Following the direction of the Republican’s logic, I politely ask you to step aside as chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee until the elections take place."
The week-ago op-ed, from Frank Bruni: Lose with Cruz: A Love Story. It's all entertaining, but here's a sneak preview:
"And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.
"Will they still respect themselves in the morning?
"I’m not sure we’ve ever witnessed a capitulation this grudging, a cynicism this grotesque, a reversal of regard this fraudulent and flat-out hilarious. While politics is an impure arena in which yesterday’s enemies routinely become tomorrow’s allies, the transmogrification of Cruz goes beyond that, proving that in the right circumstances, with the right motivation, you can see just about anyone in a newly flattering light."
The only way it could be more fullsome is to add Carly Fiorina to the ticket.
Whatever else he is, Donald Trump turns out to be a useful naïf in the 2016 political campaign for president. One of the brightest lines between today's dominant parties in this country is on the abortion question. The Republican position is abortion is evil and must be stopped at all costs; the life of the unborn is precious, and a woman carrying one must be persuaded, or if necessary, coerced to provide for it, no matter what the cost. The Democratic position is that abortion is a necessary evil, and legal, and we should do all we can to promote better alternatives while preserving access.
And then there's the gender divide. Whatever else we believe about rights and when they kick in and choice and sex and child support, men "would say no" the way Donald Trump did about whether a man who created an unwanted pregnancy should be punished. Gail Collins points out that "moment of shining clarity" coming out of the murky depths that Trump stirred up. Along with what the deal-maker-in-chief did not come up with:
"Since Donald Trump has no real positions on almost anything except deals, you’d think he could have put his remarkable intellectual neutrality to some advantage on this issue. It would have been great if he’d told Matthews that he wanted to fight abortion by giving women easy, low-cost access to contraceptives."
But that's never been part of the "pro-life" agenda, any more than accepting that comprehensive sex education is more effective at reducing unwanted pregnancy than abstinence-only exhortations has been. The Republicans have three candidates offering variations from Trump's top-of-the-head but off-the-reservation notion (as amended), to Ted Cruz's coerced pregnancy plan, never mind rape or incest, to John Kasich's proven record of legal restrictions driving clinics out of Ohio.
Katha Pollitt describes the logical contradiction at the bottom of the abortion and punishment discussion we didn't expect to have just now. The "pro-life" article of faith is that human life—and therefore human rights—begins at the moment of conception. To pretend that their ultimate goal is to #lovethemboth stretches disingenuousness beyond belief. As Pollitt puts it,
"Forgive me if I am skeptical that a movement strong enough to push for laws that severely limit abortion in the United States would be much different from anti-abortion movements in other countries where abortion is banned and women are punished. Forty-plus years of hurling insults like “baby killer” and “murderess” at women on their way into clinics have got to mean something."
But either Cruz or Kasich would be certain to find and nominate one or more anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. (Donald Trump is a wild card, a joker; we have no idea what he or the unpredictable crowd of advisors he'd assemble would do. There's no reason to think he'd follow Republican talking points, let alone a Republican platform after his biggest deal is closed and he's sworn in to his first elected office.)
The Republican campaign has had an "April Fools" flavor for 9 months or more, and here we are with Wisconsin about to save the day for the #NeverTrump forces, and drop us into the next pit over, Ted Cruz for president. (It's a two-holer, so to speak.) And did you hear the one about Carly Fiorina being Cruz's Veep? She said no "deal" has been struck, but she'd entertain the prospect, after Cruz said she was the type of “strong, inspirational” leader the country needs. Also, she endorsed Cruz, and
"has emerged as his standout surrogate on the campaign trail. Her engaging presence and shoot-from-the-hip style are a strong supplement to Cruz, who can struggle to connect with voters and sometimes comes across as inauthentic."
Carly Fiorina lending a new patina of "authenticity" to the Cruz campaign, that is rich, rich, rich. And we just don't get enough shooting from the hip these days. For his part, Cruz celebrated Fiorina's "giv[ing] Hillary Clinton nightmares." That might be said of a lot of people who worked at HP while Carly was in charge, too. Let's call her the nightmare VP candidate.
ConservativeHQ is over the moon about Trump turning into a not-winner, no surprise there, but if it turns out that the mal mots about punishing women who have abortions is the rock upon which he foundered, color it a surprise cake of pure irony. His campaign has been nothing but "a series of gaffes, rookie campaign errors and meltdowns" from a rational POV, and none of that has daunted the enthusiasm of Trump's supporters. But abortion. Friend of CHQ Rod Dreher of The American Conservative is quoted:
“This is how you know Trump hasn’t thought about abortion for more than five seconds, much less has had contact with the pro-life movement. Almost everybody in the pro-life movement rejects the idea of punishing women who abort their children.”
Do they now. Rev. Marci Glass has a different take on this idea of punishing women:
"Whenever another pro-life supporter bombs a Planned Parenthood Clinic or goes in and opens fire on whoever happens to be in the building, the “pro-life” movement decries the actions, and blames them on deranged individuals, all while ignoring that their own rhetoric is what fanned the fire and convinced them they were on a holy cause when they kill people in the name of “pro-life”.
"You cannot use rhetoric of “murder” and “baby killer” and then claim you have never promoted the idea women should be punished for seeking abortions."
If we weren't about punishing women, we would support living wages for low income workers. We would fund early childhood education centers and pre-school programs. We would offer affordable contraception to women. We would extend health care to people in the Medicaid gap, and work to improve the Affordable Care Act, rather than hold dozens of symbolic votes against it or pursue lawsuits to wreck it, and then dance on the wreckage.
Update: Terrance Heath's Wingnut Week In Review expands upon Donald Trump’s Scarlet Letter, and the various forms of pushback and pushforward. (Ranging from it was a trick question... and "of course abortion should be outlawed, and of course women who have abortions should be punished.")
Tom von Alten