Monthly Archives: October 2015

Uninsured State By State

From tomorrow’s New York Times, this remarkable map shows the percent uninsured in each state under Obamacare.  The states which elected to expand Medicare coverage are outlined in bold, and you can see the difference.  Compare, say, Arkansas in 2015 to its southern neighbors which did not expand Medicare coverage.

ocarestatesbig

Ted Cruz: “Climate Change Isn’t Science; It’s Religion”

OMG.  Sen. Ted Cruz, candidate for the highest office in the land, thinks that climate change — a phenomenon widely accepted by the scientists who study it — is a religious belief.

“Climate change is not science. It’s religion”

That is what he told Glenn Beck yesterday.

To back up his claim, Cruz pointed to the way we talk about climate change.

“Look at the language, where they call you a denier. Denier is not the language of science … Any good scientist is a skeptic; if he’s not, he or she should not be a scientist. But yet the language of the global warming alarmists, ‘denier’ is the language of religion, it’s heretic, you are a blasphemer.”

Nnnno.  You just disproved yourself.  The language of religion, as YOU say Ted, is “heretic” and “blasphemer”.  Those are words used for people who reject something that people BELIEVE in.  “Denier” is used with regard to FACTS.  Not faith…. facts.

What a goon.

I’m tired of hearing how “smart” Cruz is, and how he argued a case before the Supreme Court, etc.  If he is smart, then he can’t honestly believe what he says, and he is playing his followers for fools.

Debate Questions: A Primer

There continues to be a lot of criticism of the moderators of the CNBC debate held Wednesday night.  And some of the criticism is legitimate.  The first question to Donald Trump, for example, was “Are you a comic book candidate?” is so absurdly dumb that it staggers the mind.  It is a question designed solely for the purpose of soliciting a reaction, of getting a sound bite, of getting the moderator some press attention (which it did, in a negative way).

On the other hand, you have complaints like this:

“Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidate,” Carson said at a news conference before a speech at Colorado Christian University. “What it’s turned into is — gotcha! That’s silly. That’s not helpful to anybody.”

***

“Using it for political purposes just doesn’t make any sense at all,” Carson said. “The first thing we’re looking for is moderators who are actually interested in getting the facts, and not just gotcha questions.”

***

Asked to define a “gotcha” question, Carson focused on a debate exchange about Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that the former neurosurgeon had repeatedly endorsed, personally and in paid speeches.

“The questions about Mannatech are definitely gotcha questions,” Carson said. “There’s no truth to them. I know people know how to investigate. They can easily go back and find out I don’t have any formal relations with Mannatech. They can easily find out that any videos I did with them were not paid for, were things I truly believed. That would be easy to do. If they had another agenda, they could investigate and say — see, there’s nothing there! But if they have a gotcha agenda, they conveniently ignore all the facts and try to influence public opinion.”

Bzzzzzt!  Wrong!

There are two kinds of questions in a debate — relevant and stupid (i.e., irrelevant).  A relevant question is one about a political policy (regarding any issue) or political philosophy, or aspects of one’s character (leadership, integrity, judgment, etc.).  An irrelevant question is one that has no bearing on any of those.

A “gotcha” question is not always bad — in fact, it may be relevant.  “Did you take a bribe for your votes while in the Senate?”, for example, is clearly a gotcha question, and (I think everyone would agree) is relevant.  “Did your cousin have a legal abortion in the 1980s” probably is not relevant.

But question that is hard, and a question that may raise an issue of a candidate’s past or character isn’t a bad debate question.  And for Carson, the Mannatech issue is not an inappropriate question to ask.  Especially since his answer seemed rich with prevarication:

“There’s a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a ten-year relationship,” Quintanilla asked. “They offered claims that they could cure autism and cancer. They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive-marketing lawsuit in Texas and yet your involvement continued. Why?”

“Well, it’s easy to answer,” Carson quickly replied. “I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.” He then backtracked a little. “I did a couple of speeches for them. I did speeches for other people, they were paid speeches,” he told the crowd before switching back to a full denial. “It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them.” Then he again acknowledged a role. “Do I take the product? Yes, I think it’s a good product.”

Hmmmm.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” The company disputes that Carson was a “paid endorser or spokesperson,” according to the Journal, and claims his financial compensation went to charity.

National Review also highlighted Carson’s connections to Mannatech in January and how Carson’s team went to great lengths to distance themselves from the company. Some of his video appearances have been removed from the Internet, but those that remain appear to show a deeper affiliation than Carson claimed during Wednesday’s debate.

In one video for Mannatech last year that remains online, Carson discusses his experiences with nutritional supplements while seated next to the company’s logo. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson explained. “And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food … Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

Carson stopped short of making substantive medical claims about Mannatech’s products. But he did say

“You know, I can’t say that that’s the reason I feel so healthy,” he said. “But I can say it made me feel different and that’s why I continue to use it more than ten years later.”

Which, when coupled with the known fact that he is a doctor, amounts to a medical endorsement.

And that is a problem.  It certainly raises a question.  Which is why a question is appropriate.  Even if all it does is give Carson a change to smack down the issue.

Candidates should welcome these “gotcha” questions — it gives them a spotlight to clear the record.  (see Obama, Birth Certificate).  The candidates who complain about “gotcha” questions are those who get “got” by them.

UPDATE:  And now this…

Mr. Andrew Lack Chairman, NBC News 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York, New York 10112 Dear Mr. Lack, I write to inform you that pending further discussion between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and our presidential campaigns, we are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016. The RNC’s sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America’s future. We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns. The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith. We understand that NBC does not exercise full editorial control over CNBC’s journalistic approach. However, the network is an arm of your organization, and we need to ensure there is not a repeat performance. CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on “the key issues that matter to all voters—job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy.”  That was not the case. Before the debate, the candidates were promised an opening question on economic or financial matters. That was not the case. Candidates were promised that speaking time would be carefully monitored to ensure fairness. That was not the case.  Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive. The first question directed to one of our candidates asked if he was running a comic book version of a presidential campaign, hardly in the spirit of how the debate was billed. While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of “gotcha” questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas. I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not. While we are suspending our partnership with NBC News and its properties, we still fully intend to have a debate on that day, and will ensure that National Review remains part of it. I will be working with our candidates to discuss how to move forward and will be in touch. Sincerely, Reince Priebus Chairman, Republican National Committee

The debate questions were not in bad faith — they were just bad.  So, Reince is partially right.  Whining about it though — that’s not petty?   Also…. Important to note: the NBC exec in charge of the suspended 2/26 debate, Andy Lack, doesn’t oversee CNBC… it operates independently… Drum reacts like me:

CNBC did screw up, but mostly by failing to keep the toddlers on stage under control and being poorly prepared to deal with brazen lies delivered with a straight face. For what it’s worth, I’d also agree that a few of the questions they asked were stupid and/or churlish. Not much more than any other debate, though. But conservative grievance culture is once again demanding someone’s head on a platter. After all, if conservatives look bad on television it’s gotta be someone else’s fault, right? So it’s off with NBC’s head. Jeebus. And these guys claim that they’re the steely-eyed folks who can take down Putin and the ayatollah? What a bunch of crybabies.

Anyway…. Since, I was talking about Carson…. this also happened:

This is true.  Also, amateurs produce more porn than professionals.  The point? Seriously, this Republican meme about amateurism being an asset is crazy and dangerous.  Carson seems to relish his standing not only as an outsider but as a non-expert in public policy. He seems to believe that he’d be able to govern by applying “common sense” to the nation’s problems. But this is nonsense. The presidency is a hard and complex job. Electing a true amateur to the White House makes as little sense as having an amateur doctor do brain surgery.

Post GOP Debate #3 Recap

Well, according to highlights and conventional wisdom, the two winners of last night’s debate were Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  Rubio because he bested Bush in a scuffle, and Cruz because he bashed the media.

As for Rubio, he clearly saw the Bush attack coming and was prepared for it.  Bush should have known better.  It’s not like the comedy circuit where you try out your material in smaller venues and then use it “for the first time” on national TV.  Bush had been attacking Rubio for days on the campaign trail — of course Rubio is going to have a comeback up his sleeve.

Which brings me (and everybody else) to Bush.  This guy was supposed to be the clear nominee, and he just is not cutting it.  It’s one thing to be upstaged by showboating outsiders like Trump, but Bush can’t even shine among insiders.  He had one brief good moment in one debate (when he said, incorrectly, that his brother “kept us safe”) and that was it.  He’s not the grown-up and he has the deer-in-the-headlights look that his brother had on morning of 9/11 while kids are reading to him.  How long can he stay in with such bad debate performances and terrible poll numbers?  Probably a while — he has tons of money — but that would be torture.

Cruz whined about the media.  That’s red meat.  I think the criticism of the debate moderators was somewhat warranted — they asked about the horserace and not about the candidates’ positions way too much — but when Republican candidates whine about the media, it makes them look weak.  Someday, they hope to deal with Putin and ISIS.  And they can’t handle CNBC correspondents?  Puh-lease.

Trump and Carson seem to have hold their own — they have a hardcore group of followers who will never leave them.

Christie and Kusich did some Hillary-bashing, but didn’t do much to improve themselves.  Fiorina was shrill (I think she’s had her 15 minutes).  And Rand Paul was there.  And Huckabee barely was there.

But honestly, GOP candidates, you can’t criticize the moderators for asking stupid non-substance questions (“is yours the comic book candidacy?”) and then whine that the media is so unfair and went so easy on the Democrats.

Meanwhile, these just get better and better….

P.S.  An article by Brian Beutler about The GOP’s Grotesque Festival of Lies.

The night continued like this. Ben Carson denied his involvement with a nutritional supplement scam company that has been well substantiated. When a moderator pointed out that the $1.1 trillion hole in his tax plan would require cutting government by about 40 percent, he said, “that’s not true.”

At one point, a moderator apologized to Donald Trump for misquoting him, because he insisted, “I never said that,” with persuasive adamence. But he did say that. She’d quoted him correctly, to the word.

After the candidates abused the truth for 10 hours, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus attacked the moderators, and conservatives delighted in the knowledge that the base would chalk up the whole mess to media bias, damning GOP primary voters by assuming their oafishness.

GOP Debate #3 Preview

On CNBC tonight.  I will not be watching.  Ratings will be lower than the others I expect.

Trump is already complaining that the debate is unfair, even though it hasn’t happened yet.  I expect him to be more Trumpian than ever because of the recent polls showing that Ben Carson has passed Donald Trump as the top choice among the GOP electorate both in Iowa and nationally.

And the silliness has already begun, because now the candidates are squabbling over — I am not making this up — the green rooms:

DENVER, Colo. — Just hours before GOP candidates take the stage here Wednesday night, tensions over the Republican National Committee’s handling of the debates are flaring anew.

At issue this time: greenrooms.

During a tense 30-minute meeting at the Coors Event Center, which was described by three sources present, several lower-polling campaigns lashed out at the RNC. They accused the committee of allotting them less-than-hospitable greenroom spaces while unfairly giving lavish ones to higher-polling candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

The drama began Tuesday afternoon as RNC officials led campaigns on a walk-through of the debate site. After touring the stage, candidates got a peek at what their greenrooms looked like.

Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theater-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina’s room had a Jacuzzi.

Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet. So was Rand Paul’s.

Palin Started It

Light blogging as things are busy, but I had to draw attention to this op-ed by William Paley in the Washington Post, entitled “The GOP’s dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin” because I think it is right on the money, i.e.:

Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican “grown-ups,” who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election, when they were free to speak their minds, they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014.

Now that tiger is devouring the GOP establishment. Party elders had hoped new presidential debate rules would give them greater control. But they are watching helplessly as Trump leads the pack and House Republicans engage in fratricide.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy. The Republican establishment’s 2008 embrace of Palin set an irresponsibly low bar. Coincidence or not, a batch of nonsense-spewing, hard-right candidates quickly followed, often to disastrous effect.

In Delaware, the utterly unprepared Christine O’Donnell promised “I’m not a witch,” but it didn’t save a Senate seat that popular, centrist Republican representative Mike Castle would have won, had he been the nominee.

In 2012, Missouri Republicans hoped to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Those hopes died when GOP nominee Todd Akin opined that “the female body” could somehow prevent pregnancy from “a legitimate rape.”

Party leaders aren’t responsible for every candidate’s gaffe. And Republican primary voters, not party honchos, choose nominees. But it’s easy to draw ideological lines from Palin to O’Donnell to Akin and so on to some of the far-from-mainstream presidential contenders of 2012 and today.

Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was rising fast in Republican presidential polls in July 2011. Pizza company executive Herman Cain led the polls three months later. Does anyone now think Bachmann and Cain had the skills, experience and temperament to be president?

True, the party eventually settled on Mitt Romney. But for months, Americans wondered, “Is this party serious?” Now the Republicans’ leading presidential contenders are Trump — who vows to make Mexico pay for a “great, great wall” on the U.S. side of the border — and Ben Carson, who questions evolution and asks why victims of the latest mass shooting didn’t “attack the gunman.

This isn’t to heap new scorn on Palin. But let’s not diminish the recklessness of those who championed her vice presidential candidacy. It was well known that McCain, 72 at the time of his nomination, had undergone surgery for skin cancer. It wasn’t preposterous to think Palin could become president.

Now Republicans ask Americans to give them full control of the government, adding the presidency to their House and Senate majorities. This comes as Trump and Carson consistently top the GOP polls. Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Trump calls Palin “a special person” he’d like in his Cabinet. That seems only fair, because he’s thriving in the same cynical value system that puts opportunistic soundbites above seriousness, preparedness and intellectual heft.

Monday Presidential Outlook

Slow news day but it is well worth mentioning that the sheen has come off the Trump, at least in Iowa.  Now we have three polls showing a substantial lead by Ben Carson over Trump:

Ben Carson has overtaken Donald Trump in Iowa, surging to a 14-point lead, according to a new poll.

A Monmouth University survey released on Monday found Carson taking 32 percent support in Iowa, followed by Trump at 18 percent.

That’s a 9-point gain for Carson from the same poll in late August, while Trump has fallen five points in that time.

The poll found Carson with the best favorability rating in the field, with an astounding 84 percent of Iowa Republicans having a positive view of him, compared to only 7 percent who view him negatively.

Trump’s favorability rating is at 53 percent positive and 38 percent negative. His favorability rating is essentially unchanged from late August, although the percentage of those who view him unfavorably has increased by 5 points in that time.

Trump has led in nearly every poll of Iowa since early August, but the Monmouth survey is the third recent poll to show Carson with a healthy lead over the field in the Hawkeye State.

A Des Moines Register-Bloomberg poll released last week showed Carson with a 9 point lead, and a Quinnipiac University survey found Carson ahead by 8.

Carson is ahead among all demographic groups in Iowa, according to Monmouth. He leads among Republicans who describe themselves as “somewhat” and “very conservative,” as well as self-described moderates.

Carson also leads among evangelicals, non-evangelicals, men and women in the poll.

It is difficult to say what happened.  Trump “won” both debates.  He didn’t gaffe (or at least, there was nothing that seemed like a gaffe).

Personally, I think two things happened.  First of all, he simply grew tiresome to some people.  Secondly, the Democratic debates showed what serious candidates looked like, and people saw Trump in a new light.  Iowa is getting closer and now the Republicans there are getting more serious about who they want.  Carson was always slowly rising, and that made him a safer bet (especially among evangelicals).

As a Democrat, this is fantastic news.  Democrats would love to run against Trump, but the one person even better than Trump, is Carson.  A nice guy, but politically dumb.  Really dumb.

The Most Powerful Hurricane Ever Recorded Is Bearing Down On Mexico

200-mph sustained winds and even more powerful gusts.  Patricia is “the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins,” according to a Friday morning forecast discussion.

The closest contender, at this point, might be Hurricane Camille when it battered the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969. Regardless, Patricia looks to be more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005 and many others.

151023060912-hurricane-patricia-friday-530-a-m-satellite-image-exlarge-169

When it hits land, it will be devestating.  This potentially catastrophic destruction would occur in a small area of Mexico’s Jalisco State, between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, according to the NHC’s projected path on Friday morning.  Fortunately, that is not a heavily populated area.

Note that hurricane-force winds (74+ mph) extend out 30 mph from the center of Patricia. This means that a small part of Jalisco’s coast will see the most extreme winds at landfall. A destructive storm surge will also occur near and to the right of where the center makes landfall.

map_tropprjpath20_ltst_5nhpao_enus_650x366

Here is a live feed of Minerva, Mexico (about 120 miles inland from landfall):

Benghazi Committee/Clinton Testimony Wrap-up

Well, to watch to Fox News last night, you would think Hillary got pilloried by the committee.  Not surprising, but I wondered if they heard the same things I did.  The common theme was that “Hillary lied” about Benghazi, although I listened really hard (on Sirius radio) in the hopes that someone would explain exactly what she lied about.  And on that point, I’m still a little vague.

A lot of what was discussed, particularly on Hannity, had to do with the supposed “stand down” order that was given to the military to NOT go into Libya and rescue the ambassador and other embassy workers.  I don’t know why they harp on that.  First of all, it has been debunked over and over again by the military and the CIA and other congressional committees looking into it.  There was no feasible military rescue operation once the violence had started.  Secondly, Hillary wouldn’t be giving the “stand down” order even if there was one.  So I don’t know what that was about.

think the biggest “ding” against Hillary is that she “knew” (at some point) that the embassy over-run in Benghazi was not a spontaneous protest about a video.  But she pretended that it was, because it would look bad for the Obama administration if it was a pre-planned terrorist attack (and it was merely two months before election).  I don’t really understand this at all.  Four embassy employees (including one ambassador) being killed in Libya looked bad for Obama, no matter what.  Plus, the timeline is sketchy.  Even the CIA thought (for 24 hours or so) that the embassy was attacked as the result of a protest over a video (that’s what was causing similar protests in Egypt).  And in truth, some people in the protest were there because of the video; they were arrested and admitted so.  And finally, even if all that is a legitimate complaint, it’s a political one.  How the Obama Administration “spun” (or even mis-spun) Benghazi in the 24-48 hours AFTER it happened is not going to help prevent future embassy attacks.

Anyway, when you step back from the weeds, Fox News and the conservative pundits made it clear that this was all about Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.  Not about the 4 dead people.  It really didn’t change anybody’s mind, I’m sure.  It is telling that Fox News, unlike CNN and MSNBC, cut away from the hearing mid-day.  (God forbid they let their viewers see what is happening when they can just tell their viewers what to think during Hannity).

The general consensus outside the Fox News bubble was that the Committee really didn’t touch Hillary, or do itself any favors.  Speaking at a press conference, even the Committee leader, Rep. Trey Gowdy, had a hard time saying that anything “new” came from Hillary’s testimony:

And even conservative pundits thought it didn’t speak well of the Committee. Like Erick “Eric” Erickson at Redstate, who called the hearing “a waste of time” and a “carnival road show of back bench congresscritters playing to the cameras and Hillary Clinton working hard to play persecuted victim”

Then there’s conservative Byron York, whose report on the day was entitled “Benghazi Bust:

So a hearing billed as an epic, High Noon-style confrontation — granted, the hype came from the media, not Republican committee members themselves — instead turned out to be a somewhat interesting look at a few limited aspects of the Benghazi affair. In other words, no big deal. And that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton.

Well-known conservative writer John Podhoretz, a former speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was unimpressed at times

Obviously, CNN and MSNBC noted that Hillary did well, and remarked how this has been ten days for Hillary (great debate, no Biden entry, etc.).  But as for the hearing yesterday and Hillary, I’ll return to Erick Erickson:

So we’ll go through today’s hearing and the GOP will think there were sterling moments of gotcha brilliance. The Democrats will think there were sterling moments of fundraising opportunity for Hillary Clinton. The press will ignore it all. And the 70% of Americans not on twitter or following the hearings today will go on with their lives.

Yup.  Slate said it even better:

All in all it was a bust for Gowdy and the Benghazi committee, to the point that conservative pundits were griping about how poorly the Republicans fared against Clinton. Anyone who doubted that the committee was a partisan exercise in Clinton-bashing came away free of doubts. The only sliver of good news for the Republicans is that it likely won’t matter. The notion that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engineered some sort of evil Benghazi cover-up is already assumed to be true in the minds of conservatives and Republican voters. The fact that Gowdy and crew spent the day stepping on rakes and scoring own-goals in a failed attempt to “prove” it won’t change their minds. And the House GOP won’t put the brakes on the investigation because the committee’s utility as a vehicle for strategic press leaks outweighs the bad press it’s enduring at the moment. The Benghazi committee will grind on, performing much the same role it always has.

Hillary Clinton vs. Benghazi Committee

Before I get into this, if you’re not up to speed on what the whole Benghazi controversy is about, Vox has a really great primer on the issue.

As the primer states, the number of investigations and hearings into the Benghazi incident is unprecedented.  Check out these graphs:

investigations-02-816x487

investigations-03-816x438

Today, Hillary Clinton is appearing before the House Benghazi Committee to testify, and the media is playing it up like a wrestling match.  “What Hillary needs to do is blah blah blah”.  They keep saying the stakes are high for Hillary.  They say emotions are high, and if she slips up just once, that sound bite will be repeated over and over again.

I don’t think the stakes are high at all.  I think all Hillary needs to do is go in there and tell the truth.  If the Committee beats her up, she’ll look good, and they will look bad.

The Committee has been under fire because members within the Committee have basically revealed that their raisen d’etre is to ding Hillary, rather than investigate what happened in Benghazi.  In fact, a new CNN poll released today says that 73% of Americans think the Committee is politically motivated.

Is this political?  Listen to this NBC reporter:

Here’s a livefeed which obviously won’t be working once the whole thing is over:

I’ll be having live updates as the day goes on…. if anything happens.

UPDATES:

10:09 am:

Gowdy (the chair of Committee) seems to be launching into an impassioned defense of the Committee’s existence, stating the goals of the Committee.

He’s very much in a defensive crouch.  He strains to make the link between Hillary’s email and the “whole point” of the Committee — what happened in Benghazi.  Also, he uses the word “truth” a million times.

Oddly, he’s bashing all the other investigative committees (all led by Republicans) in order to justify his own committee.  Sounds like SOME Republicans were wasting taxpayer money.

10:20 am:

Elijah Cummings (D-Md), the Democratic ranking member.of the Benghazi Committee, is speaking now… and he has turned it up to 11.  A viscous attack on the Committee and its politically motivated investigation.  He points out that Trey Gowdy cancelled interviews with DoD and CIA officials in favor of interviews with Hillary Clinton campaign staffers.  Boom!  Says “Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Sec. Clinton’s campaign.”  Pow!  He makes the point that all the Republican-led national security committees already exonerated the administration.  Bam!

As he wrapped up, Cummings mocked the accusation that Sidney Blumenthal was Clinton’s “primary foreign policy advisor on Libya” and noted that it been awarded four Pinocchios by the Washington Post.

The thing for Hillary to do now is be quiet, responsive and helpful.  Cummings is doing the fighting.

10:28 am:

Cummings is done.  I’m trying to be objective, but Gowdy just looks like a guy who got spanked publically.

Hillary is talking. “I am here to honor the service of those four men…and the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.”  Unlike the two previous speakers, she talks about the people who died in Benghazi.  HUGE points.

Hillary Clinton on death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi: “I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy … after the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as they carried his casket”

Hillary Clinton on foreign policy post-2012 Benghazi attack: “America must lead in a dangerous world and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places”

Hillary’s strategy is to rise above the din.  She’s the only one paying tribute to those who died in the Benghazi attacks.  She’s the only one talking about the history of embassy attacks.  Her strategy is very effective.  She’s coming off as the only grown-up.  She says she “took responsibility” and “launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.”

“There is more to do, and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies.”

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10:45 am:

Gowdy pats himself on the back for not interrupting Hillary’s opening statement.

And now we’re into the Q&A.  Here’s the part where it get boring and everybody tunes out.  Because nobody cares about details.  In truth, THIS is how the an investigation SHOULD be.

9 more hours of this?  Yawn.  Don’t expect more fireworks or updates for a while.

11:05 am:

Cummings destoys a talking point.  He played a clip of Darrell Issa lying on cable television about Clinton denying requests for extra security in Benghazi. In truth, that decision was made without Clinton’s knowledge or input, as all previous investigations have already concluded.

Clinton clarified that all State Department cables carry a stamp with the secretary’s signature, so a signature stamp doesn’t indicate that she has seen something. She claimed that the State Department didn’t have enough money appropriated for their security requirements and so naturally they had to make decisions about priorities.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., presents piles of Hillary Clinton’s emails from 2011 and asks why so many from 2011 and so few from 2012 when Libya became a hot spot.  Weird GOP pivot from “How could you use email for such sensitive work?” to “Why are there not way more emails about this stuff?”  Is Sen Brooks upset that Hillary did NOT conduct classified business via email?? Clinton answers that she didn’t work primarily from e-mails (she didn’t even have a computer in her office, which to me is the biggest scandal to be revealed so far), and that she got classified briefings, met with staff, etc.  That was how she got informed.

12:15 pm:

Hillary Clinton blows back against myth that she denied security requests from our embassy in Libya:

12:30 pm:

Generally speaking, the questions are Benghazi-centric and not email-centric.  I’ve scanned a few popular rightwing blogs, and there seems to be little interest (other than repeating long-debunked talking points).  The few that are following it seemed discouraged and angry at the “feckless” Republicans on the Committee who are “incompetent” at bringing Clinton down.  These people just refuse to accept the possibility that Clinton didn’t do anything wrong.

12:45 pm:

Jim Jordan (R-Oh) is laying into Clinton (and not letting her respond) about why the attacks happened.  He openly states that Hillary was part of an administration lie saying that the attack was caused by a protest against a video, rather than a pre-planned terrorist attack.  His focus is on statements and emails coming from Clinton within the first 24 hours of the attack, when, of course, nobody was quite sure why. Clinton to Jim Jordan: “I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.”  She points out that even today, you can’t get into the head of every attacker to determine why they attacked the embassy, and some were there because of the video.  And not for nothing, but the CIA initially thought it was the video as well.

1:15 pm:

Gowdy banging Secretary of State about emails from Sydney Blumenthal.  He’s saying that the Obama team rejected Blumenthal to work in State Dept., but that Hillary used information from Blumenthal anyway.  (Ironically, this is just after Gowdy insists that this isn’t a prosecution where you try to prove something).  Not sure what relevance this has to Benghazi, and Hillary says so. It will not help us understand security at the Benghazi mission or why we didn’t know an attack was imminent. It’s just an attempt to undermine Clinton’s reputation by linking her with Blumenthal. I think everyone watching this show understands that.

Fireworks at the end before the break as Cummings demands a recorded vote to release Blumenthal transcript.  He says that if Gowdy is going to ask questions about the Blumenthal emails, why not release his testimony so people can understand the context?  Cummings and Schiff accuse Gowdy of selective releasing of emails to make Hillary look bad. Gowdy adjourns. In a snit. He threatens more and bigger Blumenthal drama to come. I’m still not sure what this is all about or why it has anything to do with the Benghazi attacks.  I guess Gowdy is trying to say that Blumenthal advised Clinton on Libya, and he shouldn’t have been so important.  Yet, Clinton has already testified (today and many times before, as well as in her book) that Blumenthal was not her primary source on Libya. Actually, at one point Gowdy claimed Blumenthals emails are relevant because former Libya ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Benghazi attack, had to read them. As if to say, “well Chris Stevens read these emails, and just look what happened to him.” It doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. And I assume Republicans know it. Or maybe the objection is that Clinton had more access to Blumenthal than Stevens?  No, that’s dumb too.   Anyway, if Blumenthal’s emails are so important, the Committee should release his deposition transcript.

Aaaaand why CNN is going downhill….

I like Josh Marshall’s take on how things are at halftime:

Listening to the questions from Republicans questioning Hillary Clinton, it’s hard not to step back and ask what it is they’re even trying to prove or what their point is. The lines of questions are disjointed and they’re pressing points she either freely concedes (yes, it was terrible and she’s ultimately responsible) or the point of which isn’t even clear (why did Sid Blumenthal send you so many emails?). It’s not going well for the committee at all. And what’s most revealing about the testimony so far is that they definitely get that: they know it’s going badly for them. And that’s led to a rather churlish and defensive tone to the whole proceeding that’s further deflated any sense that this is more than a clown show where the clowns are struggling. As I’ve now said several times, it’s a world of difference that this happening post-McCarthy and not pre-McCarthy. The questions wouldn’t necessarily have been different. The arguments from the GOP would not have been any better. But now the assumption from the press is that Hillary is on the upswing (both in her poll numbers and on the ‘Benghazi’ question) and the committee members are on the defensive. At least to a degree, she’s been vindicated in this whole drama and the committee has been discredited. *** Because of all this, Republican committee members just seemed pissed because this was supposed to be awesome – after all, a committee designed to bring down Hillary and circulate all those numskull conspiracy theories about Chris Stevens wearing a chest cam and how President Obama was watching everything happening live on his iPhone. Hillary’s yet to get at all flustered and has even had the opportunity to gently explain to Republican members how the State Department works. She looks poised; they’re radiating spittle.

But Gowdy hinted at some kind of Blumenthal-related bombshell in the next segment… is it something actually damaging?  Or is it one of those insinuation-if-you-read-between-the-line things that maybe could be damaging if you hold it up to the light at just the right angle?

3:30 pm:

Hearings restarted about an hour ago.  No flashbangs, a little more about Sid.  But we can all relax because Chuck Woolery has weighed in:

3:50 pm:

Peter Roskam (R-Il) is asking questions now and….

Very true.  And of course, this relates to security at Benghazi how?

Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam:

Let me tell you what I think the Clinton Doctrine is. [Reads from prepared card.]I think it’s where an opportunity is seized to turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And at the precise moment when things look good, take a victory lap, like on all the Sunday shows three times that year before Qaddafi was killed, and then turn your attention to other things.

See? This hearing is nothing more than a disinterested investigation into the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/2012. You partisan naysayers who think it’s just about attacking Hillary Clinton on national TV should be ashamed of yourselves.

And now we’re on another break.

Kids And Guns

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This is Sean Smith when he was 10.  Hes with his little sister Erin, age eight.  This photo was taken the day before he unintentionally shot and killed her.

There are around 110 fatal shootings involving children under 14 each year, according to a new study. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that at least another 1,000 are shot but survive.

But those are numbers.  Read a story about what happens after the fatal shootings.

Biden Announces He’s Not Running

Like I said. You should all listen to me.  Now will you believe me when I say Rubio will be the GOP nominee?

UPDATE:  Yup to this….

But seriously, for the last month I’ve been hearing stories about how Joe will get in the race.  A politician says he heard from an inside source that Joe will run.  And that gets tweeted.  And the reported on.  Look at this screen capture of CNN I just took: bidenrunning Not to mention….

The wish became father of the fact, except the fact wasn’t true. It was never going to happen.  He would be entering too late.  He had zero dollars in the campaign war chest and a short time to raise it.  He would need staffers in all 50 states, and guess what?  They have jobs now. And what’s more, he is ideologically trapped.  He would have to run on Obama’s record, which would be fine, except that is mostly where Hillary is at (except on things that Dems hate, like TPP). Biden wasn’t going to out democratic socialism Bernie Sanders. Let’s face it — Clinton and Sanders are the two poles that define the Democratic party – and there are two people currently in the race with strong holds on them. Personally, I like Joe Biden.  And I like Clinton.  I wouldn’t want to have to choose between them. Now I won’t have to. By the way, Bill Kristol is having a bad week…

 

In that last one, Kristol is talking about Star Wars, saying that there is no evidence that the Empire is evil.  Right.  Not evil. Except that part where the Death Star destroyed an entire planet that was neutral in the war.

Then again, Bill Kristol is always wrong. By way of review, whatever Kristol says, the opposite must be true. Some of his greatest hits include:

  • “Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.”
  • 1993 was the “high water mark” of the LGBT rights movement.
  • After encouraging John McCain to invoke Bill Ayers during his campaign for president, Kristol chastised the campaign for doing exactly that, calling it “stupid” politics.
  • “[The Iraq War] will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. […] It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime.”

UPDATE #2:  In his non-announcement speech, Biden chided the political tone, and said that the opposing party should not be treated like the enemy.  He is right, of course, but many see that as a swipe at Hillary who, in the last debate, said she was proud to have made some Republicans an “enemy”.  I don’t know if that was a swipe at Hillary, but I think Joe is wrong about Democrats not treating the opposing party like the enemy.  Maybe in a different era, but not in the current one.  Because God knows they treat Democrats like the enemy.

Republican voters think about politics differently. They see politics as an enduring contest, not a series of discrete events. They are more apt to see the big picture, and therefore are easier to motivate.  Republican voters, being older and somewhat wealthier and more likely to own property, are more apt to see politics as a continuing conflict of interests that roll over from one election to the next — they can always be convinced that some undeserving person is coming to take away what they’ve earned.

Democrats, by contrast, “are less likely to view politics in such stark terms.” Younger voters, minority voters, single women, the non-propertied, might have more to gain from an active government, but it is much easier in general to motivate people if they fear they’re going to lose rights and privileges and stuff. Especially stuff. Especially stuff that they earned.

The result is that Republicans are more motivated politically, which is why they come out in droves during mid-terms and off-presidential election years.  That’s how they come to dominate on the local level.

The only way to counter that is for Democrats to understand that they need to view the Republicans like the Republicans view the Democrats: as an enemy.

Which is why good-government, consensus, let’s-get-along, politics-can-be-pure strategies — like the one Biden was advocating — are bad for Democrats.  The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans—or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false.

I think Hillary Clinton, who knows a little bit about Republicans witch hunts from the 1990s and right now, understands that Republicans are out for blood.  She is a fighter.  And a winner.

GOP In Disarray: House Freedom Caucus Cools To Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Tuesday night that he will consider a bid for House speaker as long as a few conditions are me and one of those conditions is that he doesn’t have to kiss ass to the House Freedom Caucus, the group of 40 far-right Republicans who don’t want to compromise, who want to shut down government, etc.  Basically, he doesn’t want to do what Boehner had to do, dealing with all the in-fighting and spending most of his time fundraising for people who are giving him problems.

You can’t really blame Ryan.  It’s not a great job, trying to lead the contentious and fractured GOP.

But political reporters suggest that the unbendable House Freedom Caucus may not be warming to Ryan today.

You know you’re in trouble when the voice of reason is Peter King.

King is right.  Anyway, the HFC is supposed to meet with Ryan later today.  Could be fireworks if they push Ryan too far and he says “screw it”.  I don’t think that will happen, but it could.

40 Years Ago Today — Game 6: Red Sox v Reds

It’s arguably the best major league baseball game ever played, and it was played 40 years ago today.  The Reds-Red Sox rivalry revived national interest in the national pasttime.  And when you look back at all the hall-of-famers playing — Johnny Bench, Pete Rose (okay, not a hall of famer, but….), Carl Yastremski, Fred Lynn,. Luis Tiante, Carlton Fisk….

Boston’s Carlton Fisk waves the ball fair, then rounds the bases with a 12th-inning homer as the Red Sox beat the Reds, 7-6, to even the Series at three games apiece. Before Fisk homered, Boston’s Bernie Carbo tied the game with a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning, the Reds’ George Foster, in left field, threw out the potential winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and Boston right fielder Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan of a home run in the top of the 11th and then doubled off Ken Griffey, who was on first base. All of which is why many consider this the greatest World Series game ever.

Have three and a half hours?  Watch it:

Well Played USA Today

Today is “Back To The Future” Day.  In the movie Back To The Future II, Marty McFly gets in the DeLorean time machine and travels from 1985 to October 21, 2015.  At one point, he sees a copy of the “future” USA Today (that’s how he learns the date).  So what does the actual USA Today look like for today?  The newspaper is marking the date that graced the front page of its appearance in Back to the Future II more than 25 years ago with a wrap-around supplement that features an elaborate recreation of the edition featured in the iconic movie.

USA-Today_Back-To-The-Future

And by the way….

Benghazi Committee Gets Laughable

The House Benghazi investigation committee was supposed to be Hillary’s downfall, but it’s just turned out to be a huge ugly albatross around the GOP and the neck of the committee’s chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  Here’s the latest screw-up:

2016 Election Tidbits

biden-hat-ring-reporter-luckovich1)  Biden His Time.  I have written much about Joe Biden entering the Democratic race because I think it is a news story ginned up by the media.  Oh, I’m sure he has considered it, but I took him at his word that he was wiped out by his son’s death and that he might not have the emotional energy for a campaign.  And Hillary, I’m sure he knew, was not going to disappear in a sea of scandal.  So I don’t think he wants to get in the race; I don’t think he’s politically any difference from Hillary.  He also doesn’t have the organization in place.  He’ll make it interesting for a while, and then he’ll lose.  Anyway, the media is thinking he might announce today.  In fact, the Washington Post accidentally put the “Joe’s Running!” story online:

The Washington Post accidentally published the article it had prepared in the event Vice President Joe Biden announces his presidential campaign on Monday night, due to a “technical glitch” when someone was attempting to embed a video. The story included background and analysis, if Biden were to become a candidate.

The article was quickly replaced with an editor’s note: “This file was inadvertently published.”

2)  Jim Webb is out of the race.  He might run as an independent, which means he gets all the debate time for the Independent nomination to himself.

Jim, we hardly knew ye.  No, seriously.  Nobody knew who you were, which is why you never hit 1%.

3)  Trump not fading.  Despite predictions from me and other, Trump doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, if the polls are accurate.  NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, released last night, says:

1. Donald Trump: 25% (up four points from September)
2. Ben Carson: 22% (up two points)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (up two points)
4. Ted Cruz: 9% (up four points)
5. Jeb Bush: 8% (up one point)
6. Carly Fiorina: 7% (down four points)

The remaining candidates are at 3% or lower, including Chris Christie, who has seen his support steadily drop in recent months, falling to just 1% in this poll. Trump’s 25% showing, meanwhile, represents the strongest support any GOP candidate has in any NBC/WSJ poll this year.

A new CNN poll offers similar results:

1. Donald Trump: 27% (up three points from September)
2. Ben Carson: 22% (up eight points)
3. Jeb Bush: 8% (down one point)
3. Marco Rubio: 8% (down three points)

The remaining candidates are at 5% or lower. Fiorina, in particular, has seen her standing collapse, dropping from 15% to 4% in the CNN poll just over the course of one month.

National Review published a striking piece yesterday noting that the GOP establishment, long confident that Trump’s backing would be fleeting, is starting to reevaluate its assumptions.
It began as whispers in hushed corners: Could it ever happen? And now, just three months from the Iowa caucuses, members of the Republican establishment are starting to give voice to an increasingly common belief that Donald Trump, once dismissed as joke, a carnival barker, and a circus freak, might very well win the nomination.
“Trump is a serious player for the nomination at this time,” says Ed Rollins, who served as the national campaign director for Reagan’s 1984 reelection and as campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee in 2008.
The same piece quoted Steve Schmidt, an MSNBC political analyst who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, saying, “Trump has sustained a lead for longer than there are days left” before voting begins in Iowa.

Yes, Trump will take Iowa.  And probably New Hampshire too.  But I still say Trump will fade, as will Carson, and every will settle for Rubio. The blue collar GOP riff-raff have consolidated on Trump.  That is why he leads.  The white collar GOP is still fragmented.  When the field thins out, Trump will see a decline.  Wait for it.

4)  My campaign advice to Jeb!  Jeb Bush, in one of the GOP debates, got the loudest applause line when he defended his brother saying, “He kept us safe.”  Now, the Jeb campaign seems to be doubling down by continuing to embrace Bush 43.  I think that is a terrible mistake.  For one thing, I don’t think the audience was applauding Jeb’s brother during that debate, but the fact that Jeb retorted at all.  It was an unscripted moment from Jeb that pleased the audience.  It wasn’t an endorsement of Bush 43, who — I think the record is clear — did NOT keep us safe.  I think this explains why Jeb! is going down in the polls — his running as a Bush.  Big mistake.

5)  Liberals take Canada.  The centrist Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, started the campaign in third place but in a stunning turnaround now command a majority.  Mr Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, said Canadians had voted for real change. Incumbent Conservative PM Stephen Harper – in power since 2006 – has congratulated his rival.  Justin Trudeau is son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, considered the father of modern Canada.

Maybe that’s why Scott Walker proposed building a wall on our northern border.

For what its worth, this was the longest-lasting federal election campaign in Canada since 1872 – 78 days (By contrast, the US campaign began when Ted Cruz declared himself a candidate on Mar 23, 2015. Elections will be held on November 8, 2016. – 596 days or 1 year, 7 months and 16 days)

Preliminary results show voter turnout in Canada to be in excess of 68% of eligible voters (In 2012 election, 53.6% of US eligible voters cast a ballot)

Dumbest Man Ever Still Leading The GOP Polls

Holy Mary Mother Of God, the man doesn’t know how seasons work!  Chris Mooney tackled this subject last year in a blog post aptly titled “Dear Donald Trump: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming”:

1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

2. Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the northern hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft US National Climate Assessment.

[…]

When it’s winter on Earth, it’s also summer on Earth…somewhere else.

Also….

B2-47d6IMAAXnmo

First Human Trials On An HIV Vaccine Start Today

Researchers may be one step closer to creating an HIV vaccine.

This month, the Institute for Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore launched the first phase of clinical trials for a new treatment. The immunogen, known as the Full-Length Single Chain (FLSR), could potentially induce protective antibody responses to HIV-1 strains, going where previous trial vaccines have fallen short.

And it only took three decades and millions of deaths.

The Problem With Trump-Bush-9/11 And Clinton-Benghazi-9/11

I know I’m not the first to bring it up, but there is a huge disconnect going on right now when you tie together to seemingly separate stories.

Trump is saying that since 9/11 happened during Bush 43’s watch, Bush 43 bears some culpability.  This makes Jeb Bush act all defensive, because (he seems to argue) the President cannot micromanage every aspect of national security so he cannot be held responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Fair enough, I suppose, although it begs the question: if that rationale is true, doesn’t it apply to Obama and Hillary Clinton with respect to the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi on the night of 9/11 (2012)?

This point was driven home when Jake Tapper brought up Benghazi in this context:

TAPPER: Obviously Al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11, but how do you respond to critics who ask, if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?

JEB BUSH: Well I — the question on Benghazi which, is hopefully we’ll now finally get the truth to, is was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security. There were calls for security, it looks like they didn’t get it. And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack, was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That’s what the investigation is about, it’s not a political issue. It’s not about the broad policy issue, is were we doing the job of protecting our embassies and our consulates and during the period, those hours after the attack started, could they have been saved?

TAPPER: Well that’s, that’s kind of proving the point of the critics I was just asking about, because you don’t want to have your brother bear responsibility for 9/11 and I understand that argument and Al Qaeda’s responsible, but why are the terrorists not the ones who are responsible for these attacks in Libya?

BUSH: They are, of course they are but — of course they are, but if the ambassador was asking for additional security and didn’t get it, that’s a proper point and if it’s proven that the security was adequate compared to other embassies, fine, we’ll move on.

Now, had the conversation continued, I suppose Tapper could have reminded Jeb that there was a call to beef up security prior to the 9/11 attacks as well.  We all remember this, yes — which went to then Secretary of State Rice as well as Bush 43?

bin-laden-doc

So how is this different from a communication or email to Clinton saying that embassy security in Benghazi needs improvement?

Jeb went on to defend his brother by saying “it’s what you do after that matters”.  I suppose.  But that highlights another difference: both Clinton and Obama have acknowledged that what happened in Benghazi was indeed a failure on their part (albeit not a direct one).  Bush, Cheney and Rice have yet to do the same re: 9/11.  Just sayin’.

Benghazi Committee Now Deciding What Is Classified (Hint: Only Things That Hurt Clinton)

The letter speaks for itself (but I will highlight for emphasis):

Dear Mr. Chairman:

On October 7, 2015, you sent me a 13-page letter making a grave new accusation against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Specifically, you accused her of compromising national security and endangering lives.

The problem with your accusation—as with so many others during this investigation—is that you failed to check your facts before you made it, and the CIA has now informed the Select Committee that you were wrong. I believe your accusations were irresponsible, and I believe you owe the Secretary an immediate apology.

It appears that your letter was rushed out to the press to counter the public firestorm caused by Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s stark admission that Republicans are using millions of taxpayer dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president. However, your letter only provided further evidence of this fact.

In your letter on October 7, 2015, you stated that Secretary Clinton received an email from Sidney Blumenthal on March 18, 2011, that included the name of someone who purportedly provided information to the CIA. You asserted that this information was classified, arguing that Secretary Clinton “received classified information from Blumenthal—information she should have known was classified at the time she received it.” You then alleged:

Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded that email to a colleague—debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.

In your letter, you went to great lengths to highlight the gravity of your accusation, stating:

This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.

To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, “redacted due to sources and methods.” To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines.

Predictably, commentators began repeating your accusations in even more extreme terms, suggesting in headlines for example that “Clinton Burns CIA Libya Contact.”

Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified. Specifically, the CIA confirmed that “the State Department consulted with the CIA on this production, the CIA reviewed these documents, and the CIA made no redactions to protect classified information.”

Unfortunately, you sent your letter on October 7 without checking first with the CIA. Now that we have done so, we have learned that your accusations were incorrect.

As a result of your actions, the State Department yesterday asked the Select Committee not to reveal the individual’s name publicly, not for classification reasons, but to protect the individual’s privacy and avoid bringing additional undue attention to this person.

Unfortunately, the standard operating procedure of this Select Committee has become to put out information publicly that is inaccurate and out of context in order to attack Secretary Clinton for political reasons. These repeated actions bring discredit on this investigation and undermine the integrity of the Select Committee and the House of Representatives.

Sincerely,

Elijah E. Cummings
Ranking Member

Fourteen Years Later

It took fourteen years, but a major player in the Republican Party has finally acknowledged that 9/11 happened during George Bush’s presidency and that the former Bush cannot really own the claim that “he kept us safe”.   The most amazing thing is the person saying that is in the lead for becoming the next GOP nominee.  Yeah, Trump went there today.

The feud began Friday morning when Trump implied that the former president could share some blame for the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, as he was in office at the time.

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump said Friday morning on Bloomberg TV.

Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Ruhle interjected, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that,” before Trump stood by his comments.

“He was president, OK? … Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Trump said.

The comments came in response to a question from Ruhle about Trump’s “soft hand.” She said the world had seen his strong side, but Bush after 9/11 and President Barack Obama after the Sandy Hook massacre both had to stand in front of America and show a different side of them.

“I need to know that you will make us feel safe and you will make us feel proud,” Ruhle said to Trump.

“I think I have a bigger heart than all of them. I think I’m much more competent than all of them,” Trump said, before getting into the criticism of Bush.

You have to admit….

For his part, candidate Jeb! responded with a Tweet:

“My brother kept us safe” is like saying presidential security was really good during Act One of “Our American Cousin”.

Trump is (I hate to say this) right.  And if it were any other Republican, they would be reviled for saying this obvious truth.  Can Trump get away with it?  I think he can.

Florida Can No Longer Lock Mentally Disabled People And Forget About Them

Fifteen years ago, J.R. — an intellectually disabled man who “functions as a seven-year old.” — was charged with sexual battery, but he was never tried because a court found him incompetent to stand trial. Instead, J.R. was involuntarily committed to a residential mental facility by a court order that contains no end date.

End of story.  You see, under Florida law, the only entity that can order people like J.R. to be released is the court that originally ordered those people to be committed. And those courts have no obligation to conduct periodic reviews of whether institutionalized people.belong in a mental institution.

J.R. for example did not get a hearing since 2005.

I think the gravity of that needs to sink in.  Obviously, there was a competency hearing of some kind, so J.R. received “due process” under the Constitution.  Yet, he is in effect incarcerated indefinitely, even though he was never convicted of a crime.  And that’s a huge constitutional problem.

Fortunately, in a decision handed down by the Eleventh Circuit federal appeals court yesterday, this is no longer permissible.

“A state must release a person who is involuntarily committed if the grounds for his commitment cease to exist,” Judge Beverly Martin explained in her opinion on behalf of a two-judge panel. That constitutional requirement, however, “is toothless if a state does not periodically review whether the grounds for commitment are met.”

Specifically, Judge Martin notes, J.R. was committed under a law that permits the institutionalization of people who lack “‘basic survival and self-care skills to such a degree that close supervision and habilitation in a residential setting is necessary and, if not provided, would result in a real and present threat of substantial harm to the person’s well-being’ or would leave the person ‘likely to physically injure others if allowed to remain at liberty.’” J.R. may very well have presented a danger to others at the time of his confinement, but he has now lived more than a decade in a facility where he could learn coping and socialization skills that may eliminate that danger. He’s also been convicted of no crime.

At the very least, Martin’s opinion establishes, he should not remain confined forever because no one has bothered to look into whether his commitment can still be justified.

It’s some small progress in the law recognizing the rights of the mentally ill.

In A Few Decades*, Americans Will Laugh At This The Way We Laugh At Victorian-Era Magazines

You wouldn’t invite a stripper to your family Thanksgiving, would you?  Because they might perform their act just as you start carving the bird.

And if that’s true, then why would you let your gay grandson bring his “partner” to Thanksgiving?  You might get gay juju on the stuffing.

*I say “a few decades”, I hope “a few years”

Aliens Discovered?

the-truth-is-out-there-e1442834798176

Yeah, I’ve been watching in a little X-Files binge-watching (man, Gillian Anderson was hot), but I would be interested in this story anyway.  It is a mystery, but a serious mystery reported by serious science journals.

Something is going on surrounding a star identified as KIC 8462852:

A star, named KIC 8462852, has been found with a highly curious transit signal. In a paper submitted to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers, including citizen scientists from the Planet Hunters crowdsourcing program, report: “Over the duration of the Kepler mission, KIC 8462852 was observed to undergo irregularly shaped, aperiodic dips in flux down to below the 20 percent level.”

The research paper is thorough, describing the phenomenon, pointing out that this star is unique – we’ve seen nothing like it. Kepler has collected data on this star steadily for four years. It’s not instrumental error. Kepler isn’t seeing things; the signal is real.

“We’d never seen anything like this star,” Tabetha Boyajian, a postdoctorate researcher at Yale University and lead author, told The Atlantic. “It was really weird. We thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.”

The Planet Hunters volunteers are depended on to seek out transits in Kepler’s stars in the direction of the constellation Cygnus. This is a huge quantity of data, from over 150,000 stars in Kepler’s original field of view, and you can’t beat the human eye when identifying a true dip in starlight brightness. The Planet Hunters described KIC 8462852 as “bizarre,” “interesting” and a “giant transit.” They’re not wrong.

Follow-up studies focus on two interesting transit events at KIC 8462852, one that was detected between days 788 and 795 of the Kepler mission and between days 1510 to 1570. The researchers have tagged these events as D800 and D1500 respectively.

The D800 event appears to have been a single transit causing a star brightness drop-off of 15 percent, whereas D1500 was a burst of several transits, possibly indicating a clump of different objects, forcing a brightness dip of up to 22 percent. To cause such dips in brightness, these transiting objects must be huge.

Okay.  So the brightness of a distant star drops off in two events.

So what causes the brightness of a distant star to drop off?  That’s a no-brainer.  Something crosses in front of it.  Like, say, a large planet.

The problem is that planets orbit a star with periodic rotations (we go around the sun once every 365 days).  Whatever transited in front of KIC 8462852, a mature F-type star (approximately 1.5 times the size of our sun), was not periodic.

Maybe it was a big cloud of space dust… thicker in some areas and not so think in other areas… passing in front not twice, but just once?  Nope.  They checked for that.

The researchers also investigated the possibility of a huge planetary collision: could the debris from this smashup be creating this strange signal? The likelihood of us seeing a planetary collision is extremely low. There is no evidence in data taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) that a collision happened, creating a very tiny window of opportunity between WISE’s mission end and the beginning of Kepler’s mission (of a few years) for an astronomically unlikely cosmic event like this to occur.

The only natural explanation favored by the researchers seems to focus on an intervening clump of exocomets.

“One way we imagine such a barrage of comets could be triggered is by the passage of a field star through the system,” write the researchers.

Indeed, they argue, there’s a nearby star that might have tidally disturbed otherwise dormant comets in the outermost regions of the KIC 8462852 star system. This small star is located around 1,000 AU from KIC 8462852 and whether it’s a binary partner or an interstellar visitor, its presence may have caused some cometary turmoil. Like the other scenarios, however, the exocomet explanation still falls short of being fully satisfactory.

So once you have ruled natural phenomena, what do you have left?  Artificial phenomena.  In other words: a mega-engineering project created by an advanced alien civilization.

Indeed, hunting down huge structures that obscure the light from stars is no new thing. The Search for Extraterrestrial Technology (SETT) is one such project that does just this. Only recently, a survey of the local universe focused on the hope of detecting the waste heat generated by a technologically advanced civilization, specifically a Type II Kardashev civilization.

On the Kardashev scale, a Type II civilization has the ability to utilize all the available energy radiating from a star. Using a vast shell or series of rings surrounding a star, a Dyson sphere-like structure may be constructed. This has the effect of blotting out the star from view in visible wavelengths, but once the solar energy has been used by the alien civilization, the energy is shifted to longer wavelengths and likely lost as infrared radiation.

Basically. what it could be is a “swarm of megastructures,” possibly created to capture energy from the star.  Like giant solar collectors the size of many large planets. Cool.

The next step is to point a radio antenna at KIC 8462852, just to see whether the system is generating any artificial radio signals that could indicate the presence of something we’d define as “intelligent.” Boyajian and Wright have now teamed up with Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, to get a radio telescope to listen into the star and if they detect an artificial signal, they will request time on the Very Large Array (VLA) to deduce whether any radio signals from that star are the chatter of an alien civilization.

It might be a long shot, and the phenomenon is more likely a clump of comets or some other natural phenomenon that we haven’t accounted for blocking star light from view, but it’s worth investigating, especially if there really is some kind of alien intelligence building structures, or perhaps, ancient structures of a civilization long-gone, around a star only 1,500 light-years away from Earth.

Tweet Recommendation

I am enjoying the Twitter account of @manwhohasitall.  It is basically a parady Twitter account which satirizes some of the inane crap spouted at working moms from womens’ magazines.  By changing the gender, you can see how patronizing some womens’ magazines are to their readers.

Nice Vetting, Fox News

CRYfFE3VEAAUsxC

CNN reports:

Wayne Simmons, a recurring guest on Fox News who claimed to have 27 years of experience with the CIA, was arrested Thursday after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he lied about his service.

Simmons is accused of falsely claiming that he worked as an “outside paramilitary special operations officer” for the CIA from 1973 to 2000. On Fox, this was often shortened to “former CIA operative.”

He was also indicted for using that false claim to gain government security clearances and an assignment as a defense contractor, where he advised senior military personnel overseas.

Simmons made his initial appearance in court on Thursday afternoon. If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison on charges of major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government.

Simmons is a familiar face to Fox News viewers. After the arrest was announced on Thursday, Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti told CNN that he “was never a contributor for Fox News,” and that he appeared on the network only as a non-paid guest. She therefore declined to comment further.

Hmmmm.  I don’t know what Fox News means when they say “contributor”, but it seems to me that if he was invited onto Fox News to contribute his “expert” opinion, he was by all definitions a “contributor” and it makes no difference whether he was paid or not.

Some of his Fox News claims: There Are ’19 Paramilitary Muslim Training Facilities’ In The U.S.

But seriously, the indictment is pretty serious, charging him with major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government.  The indictment is below the fold….

A Revisit To “Yes Means Yes”

The New York Times did a great story yesterday about the virtues and the difficulties of teaching, and enforcing, a “yes-means-yes” policy in schools, particularly colleges.

I have written about this before, but by way of quick background, there is a movement on college campuses and in high schools to move away from the “no means no” mantra and teach/enforce “yes means yes” — also known as “affirmative consent” — as a way to reduce the troubling incidences of sexual assault on campus.

In a nutshell, I was critical of “affirmative consent” in my prior post.  My objections fell loosely into one of two categories:

(1)  As a university policy or disciplinary “law”, affirmative consent is unworkable and unrealistic.  It turns everybody — men and women into would-be rapists.  And this can be shown by a simple thought experiment.  Think about the last time you had sex with your spouse/significant-other.  At each stage, as you took it to “the next level”, did your spouse/significant-other give affirmative consent, i.e., did they say the actual word “yes” to your question about taking it to the next level?  They didn’t?  Well then, under the policy imposed by some universities, you committed sexual assault on that person.  Are you surprised to learn that?

Obviously, that is the earmark of a flawed policy.  If this law wouldn’t work in the real world… why would it work on college campuses?

Since I last wrote about affirmative consent, the law has changed a little in California. Originally, affirmative consent meant an actual “yes”.  The actual word.  Apparently, even lawmakers realized this was unrealistic and made the law slightly better.  Now, affirmative consent includes “clear body language” as well.

But of course, that begs the question: What constitutes “clear body language” showing affirmative consent?  Yes, we can talk about the obvious triad of truths (“Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated”, “Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent”, and “When consent is withdrawn or can no longer be given, sexual activity must stop”), but once you get past those sub-rules, we get into gray areas of ambiguity.  Let’s say your would-be possible sexual partner dances on a table after a glass of wine, removes some articles of clothing, and playfully nibbles your ear.  Is that clear body language showing affirmative consent to intercourse? (I would argue “no”, but — and this is important — that’s just my opinion).  Would it be affirmative consent to… something?  Is he or she incapacitated to give affirmative consent from the one glass of wine?  What if you didn’t know he or she had imbibed wine?  It’s not hard to imagine real-world scenarios where ambiguity enters the picture — something you do not want to have in a university sexual assault policy where the consequences are (1) being a rape victim and/or (2) being expelled from university as a rapist.  In both cases, that follows you around for life.

This is why I say that these university disciplinary policies, even modified to include “body language”. are largely unworkable.

Turning to my second objection….

(2)  Affirmative consent gives credence to a bad faith argument made by rapists.  The movement from “no means no” to “yes means yes” seems to reinforce the notion that sexual assault happens because of a miscommunication.  In other words, it presupposes that either (a) women are too stupid/timid to communicate “no” effectively or (b) men are too stupid to understand that a woman has just communicated “no”; or (c) some combination of a and b.  There is no way of proving (or disproving) this, but I believe that the vast majority of women know how to say “no” non-verbally if not verbally.  I also believe that the vast majority of men know when women are not giving consent, even if they fail to say “no”.

In my view, the problem isn’t that we need to teach young people to communicate and listen better; it’s that we need to teach men not to ignore what they know to be true — i.e, that a passed-out woman, or a woman who pulls away when you kiss her, etc. is not giving consent.  It’s not that men fail to understand when a woman lacks consent; it’s just that bad men simply don’t care.  I believe that you can teach some men all you want about consent, and play all the “no means no” and “yes means yes” classroom exercises you want, and it won’t make a lick of difference.  Because the problem (to repeat myself) isn’t that some men miss the signals from women; it is that they ignore them.

I am mindful of what Amanda Marcotte has written:

The “no means no” movement was about shutting down rapists who tried to confuse the issue over whether it really counts if she came to your room/she’s your wife/she wore a short skirt/she accepted the drink you drugged. “Yes means yes” is about shutting down rapists who claim, falsely, to not know it’s wrong to rape someone even if she is too drunk to stand/she said “I want to go home”/she just laid there crying instead of asking me to stop. It’s about shutting down bad-faith excuses by shifting the discussion to how the aggressor knew he had a yes.

I think that’s pretty astute.  But just because a rapist makes a bad faith argument “I didn’t know it was wrong to have sex with a woman as she is crying” doesn’t mean we have to honor his argument.  And that’s what affirmative consent does.  It treats that bad faith lie as if it was made in good faith.

But men in those situations are not stupid — they just pretend to be.  If a woman is crying, he knows he has no consent. We don’t need to teach him what consent is.  In fact, as Marcotte cites, 61 percent of men (according to one study) say they get consent via body language, so let’s not pretend that they aren’t aware of the concept at all.

Could I be wrong?  Maybe.  As I’ve conjectured before, perhaps I give too much credit in the ability of women to say or convey “no” under normal non-pressure circumstances (obviously, if a woman is being pinned down or held at gunpoint, saying “no” seems superfluous — I’m not talking about those situations).  And perhaps I give too much credit to men and their ability to “read” when a woman gives a non-verbal “no”.  I don’t know.

That said, as a sex ed tool, there is certainly no harm in teaching “yes means yes” and “no means no” if it gets everybody — men and women — thinking about consent.  But it is not going to get the would-be rapists to care about consent.  The only way to do that is to (a) take sexual assault allegations more seriously and (b) make guilty parties actually pay for what they did, rather than sweeping it under the rug.

Anyway, let me turn to the New York Times article, and address the issues brought up there:

SAN FRANCISCO — The classroom of 10th graders had already learned about sexually transmitted diseases and various types of birth control. On this day, the teenagers gathered around tables to discuss another topic: how and why to make sure each step in a sexual encounter is met with consent.

Consent from the person you are kissing — or more — is not merely silence or a lack of protest, Shafia Zaloom, a health educator at the Urban School of San Francisco, told the students. They listened raptly, but several did not disguise how puzzled they felt.

“What does that mean — you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?” asked Aidan Ryan, 16, who sat near the front of the room.

“Pretty much,” Ms. Zaloom answered. “It’s not a timing thing, but whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”

The “no means no” mantra of a generation ago is being eclipsed by “yes means yes” as more young people all over the country are told that they must have explicit permission from the object of their desire before they engage in any touching, kissing or other sexual activity. With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on a bill this month, California became the first state to require that all high school health education classes give lessons on affirmative consent, which includes explaining that someone who is drunk or asleep cannot grant consent.

Again, I don’t think there is any harm, and probably some good, in requiring students in sex education classes to think about, and talk about, the concept of consent.  Affirmative consent, lack of consent — it’s all good fodder.

I also applaud the gender-neutral approach that Ms Zaloom employs;  Notice she did not say “the man must ask” but says instead, “whoever initiates things to another level has to ask.”  There are many reasons to phrase it this way — but certainly one reason has to stem from an acknowledgment that sexual aggression can happen in any configuration (a female friend who attended an all-female college told me that sexual assault was common within the student body there as well).

Last year, California led the way in requiring colleges to use affirmative consent as the standard in campus disciplinary decisions, defining how and when people agree to have sex. More than a dozen legislatures in other states, including Maryland, Michigan and Utah, are considering similar legislation for colleges. One goal is to improve the way colleges and universities deal with accusations of rape and sexual assault and another is to reduce the number of young people who feel pressured into unwanted sexual conduct.

Critics say the lawmakers and advocates of affirmative consent are trying to draw a sharp line in what is essentially a gray zone, particularly for children and young adults who are grappling with their first feelings of romantic attraction. In he-said, she-said sexual assault cases, critics of affirmative consent say the policy puts an unfair burden of proof on the accused.

Well, I am among the critics of those colleges who adopt affirmative consent as the standard in campus disciplinary decisions.  However, my issue isn’t so much about the burden-shifting.  I agree that it does shift the burden to the accused, and that will undoubtedly lead to bad results, as evidenced by some recent unfortunate well-publicized bogus rape stories.

But at the same time, anyone who has been paying attention to this issue knows that there is and has been very poor treatment of accusers.  And although I think, as in all crimes, the burden should rest with the accuser, universities in particular have been outright barbaric in “turning it around” and prosecuting those who claim to be victims.  Only within the past few years have steps been made — small ones — in that regard.

“There’s really no clear standard yet — what we have is a lot of ambiguity on how these standards really work in the court of law,” said John F. Banzhaf III, a professor at George Washington University Law School. “The standard is not logical — nobody really works that way. The problem with teaching this to high school students is that you are only going to sow more confusion. They are getting mixed messages depending where they go afterward.”

But Ms. Zaloom, who has taught high school students about sex for two decades, said she was grateful for the new standard, even as she acknowledged the students’ unease.

“What’s really important to know is that sex is not always super smooth,” she told her 10th graders. “It can be awkward, and that’s actually normal and shows things are O.K.”

The students did not seem convinced. They sat in groups to brainstorm ways to ask for affirmative consent. They crossed off a list of options: “Can I touch you there?” Too clinical. “Do you want to do this?” Too tentative. “Do you like that?” Not direct enough.

“They’re all really awkward and bizarre,” one girl said.

“Did you come up with any on your own?” Ms. Zaloom asked.

One boy offered up two words: “You good?”

That drew nearly unanimous nods of approval.

Personally, I feel this way: since your first sexual encounter is going to be awkward anyway, it might as well be really awkward by introducing the concept of affirmative consent to 10th graders.  Maybe we CAN succeed in bringing up a generation that is better at thinking about consent.

As an aside: I know that high school kids having conversations like this freaks out the conservative right.  To that I say, given the choice between your prudishness, on the one hand, and educating young students in order to avoid sexual assaults, on the other hand — I’m going to say…. uh… “fuck you” to you prudes.  Without your consent.

Anyway — to reiterate —  don’t think affirmative consent is a realistic concept to introduce to those who are already sexually active, which includes many if not most college-age people.

Under the new law, high school students in California must be educated about the concept of affirmative consent — but they are not actually being held to that standard. So a high school student on trial on rape charges would not have to prove that he or she obtained oral assent from the accuser. That was the case with a senior at the elite St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire this year who was accused of raping a freshman. The senior was acquitted of aggravated sexual assault but found guilty of statutory rape — sex with a minor.

As for college students, the law passed last year in California does not change the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted in criminal courts, only in the way they are handled by colleges, which are permitted to use affirmative consent as a standard.

Right.  And in fact, you couldn’t use affirmative consent as a standard in the real world.  It violates any number of constitutional amendments, including the First Amendment.  Liberals complain about how conservatives want to legislate what goes on in people’s bedroom — well, can you think of a law more intrusive than a law which requires people to say “yes” to each other at every stage of their sexual interactions, every time?

It’s totally unconstitutional and unworkable, which is why I don’t think that policy can work in universities.  Fortunately, the New York Times articles gives some real-life examples:

Last year, Corey Mock, a student at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was expelled after officials there found him guilty of sexual misconduct because he could not prove he had obtained verbal consent from a woman who accused him of sexual assault. But a Davidson County Chancery Court judge ruled in August that the university had “improperly shifted the burden of proof and imposed an untenable standard upon Mr. Mock to disprove the accusation.” The judge called the university’s ruling “arbitrary and capricious.”

Right.  I agree.  In fact, in many cases, proving your sexual partner said “yes” is even harder than proving that you, as a sexual assault victim, said “no”.

In another case, a former student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who was evicted from his dormitory room after a student accused him of rape, filed a lawsuit in federal court in August against the university and several administrators. The former student, identified in court records as John Doe, argued that he had been denied the rights promised in the student handbook and that the adjudicators of his case had ignored text messages that supported his view of the encounter.

Again, at best, when it comes to disciplinary policy, the shift from “no means no” to “yes means yes” doesn’t take you anywhere.  It still leaves us with a he-said-she-said dilemna.  Except we’re now arguing about “yes” instead of “no”.

Kevin de León, the California State Senate speaker pro tempore and lead sponsor of the high school legislation, said the new law was as much about changing the culture as it was about changing the law.

“Sexual violence has always thrived in the gray areas of the law,” Mr. de León said. “What we want to create is a standard of behavior, a paradigm shift as much as a legal shift. We’re no longer talking about the old paradigm of the victim being blamed for their own behavior.”

Without doubt, Mr. de Leon has the right sentiment.  We do want to move away from the victim-blaming behavior.  But affirmative consent, I maintain, doesn’t achieve that goal when it comes to punitive tribunals. As my thought experiment above shows, it simply turns everyone, men and women, into would-be rapists (as well as victims, and often within the same sexual encounter).

There’s also a subtle paternalistic sexist underpinning to Mr. de Leon’s comments.  Again, I think he means well, but he implies that woman are incapable of saying (or showing) “no”, and so we must move away from that “old paradigm” in order protect women, seeing as how they are apparently made of candy-glass. I don’t know how many feminists would agree with that perception.

But among teenagers, who are only beginning to experiment with their sexuality and have hazy ideas of their own boundaries, the talk tends to be about “hooking up” and what the new rules are. “Kids are still establishing patterns of behavior, and they have a lot of specific concrete questions,” said Ms. Zaloom, who has written a curriculum for affirmative consent programs that is being used throughout the country.

Students will ask, “Can I have sex when we are both drunk?” she said. “I get this one a lot: If I hook up with a girl and the next day she decides she didn’t want to do it, then what do I do?”

These are not easy questions to answer.  And Ms. Zaloom, to her credit, doesn’t answer them.

Ms. Zaloom will typically use such questions as a way to begin talking about the benefits of sexual partners’ knowing each other. But sometimes, there are no straightforward answers, she said. “We’re trying to show them very explicitly that sex has to include a dialogue,” she added, “that they have to talk about it each step of the way.”

And that’s smart.  But it also highlights the problem facing universities today as they try to use affirmative consent as a tool of enforcement.  If there are no simple answers, it may be a good starting point for a sex ed discussion, but how could it work as a sexual assault policy?

Take, for example, the first question.  What if both participants are drunk?  (I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that, throughout time and memoriam, this accounts for a wide percentage of sexual encounters in college).  If both participants were drunk, who is responsible for seeking, and giving, affirmative consent?  Will they remember if it was given at all?  Are they both victims?  Did they both violate university policy?

You see the problems with affirmative consent.  Good teaching tool, but useless in the real world.

One 10th-grade girl asked about approaching someone about a casual encounter. “What if it’s just a one-time thing?”

“You have to be prepared to say ‘no’ and hear ‘no,’ ” Ms. Zaloom said.

Another girl chimed in, “If you don’t care about a person too much, you might not be inclined to listen.”

Yes, chiming-in girl.  That’s the problem.  It’s not a question of not saying, and not hearing.  It’s is a matter of “not listening”.  Or more accurately, not caring to listen.  Pigs be pigs.

Ms. Zaloom suggested making clear plans with friends ahead of time, like making pacts to leave parties together. And she urged them to have conversations with potential sexual partners “before you get swept up in the moment.”

“How do we even start a conversation like that?” one boy wondered.

“Practice,” Ms. Zaloom answered.

Well, I think  perhaps Ms. Zaloom punted that last question, but that’s not the point.  The point is that, as a sex ed, tool, anything — anything – that gets young men and women focusing on consent will (one hopes) affect their subsequent behavior.  Does it work?  I refer to another NY Times article, and what one male student said:

Since first hearing about the new policy, he said, he had been practicing consent almost religiously. He now asks for consent once or twice during sexual encounters with women he knows well, and four or five times during more casual or first-time hookups.

“I certainly didn’t expect the policy to change my behavior,” he said, “but it has.”

It’s getting to be a little more comfortable, he said. He crafts and poses questions like “You O.K. with this?” “Do you still want to go ahead?” and “Hey, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

Well, good!  But….

One woman he was having sex with for the first time accused him of being devious in asking for consent. She thought he was using reverse psychology to get her in bed. That wasn’t it at all, he said.

Affirmative consent is a reverse psychology tactic to get women to have sex?  Well, I’m not sure about the “reverse psychology” part but I certainly like the idea of linking consent with having good sex.   That’s certainly the thrust of certain campaigns like “Consent is Sexy“.  I think we need more of that kind of educational campaign, and less rule-making where universities turn sexual interaction into basically an exchange of legal documents.  Make it a cultural change, and change the way people think about sex.  That’s the education prong.

And as for the university discipline policies?  How do you balance the rights of the accused with the rights of the accuser?  Yeah, it is thorny.  It is difficult.  But the first thing universities need to do, rather than legislate and script the sexual encounters of students (which, I maintain, is probably unconstitutional), is demonstrate their own seriousness about the issue.  Universities need to develop a zero tolerance policy.  Not just develop a zero tolerance policy, but implement it. No sweeping under the rug because the accused violater is the star halfback.  No belittlement of accusers and asking the victims(!) how they could have avoided the situation better.  No more looking at sexual violence as “hookups gone bad”.  No more red tape and delayed justice.  In short, if university administrators (who are now facing Title IX lawsuits) need to acknowledge their past errors, and not force students to engage in some ridiculous charade.

The Rude Pundit On Clinton’s Debate Win

He’s not endorsed anyone yet, and yes, he’s rude, but he’s a great writer too:

See, after nearly three decades in the public spotlight, a good chunk of that spent in the cross-hairs of every scandal gun Republicans could load, nothing you can throw at Hillary Clinton is gonna dent her. She ran out of fucks sometime in 2008, and now, with no fucks to give, Clinton has become a loose, agile candidate who gives as good as she gets. When Chafee chided her on the private email server and moderator Anderson Cooper asked if she wanted to respond, her curt “No” was a goddamn brilliantly simple way to deny credibility to a bullshit topic. Once upon a time, Clinton would have overexplained herself for the millionth time. It would have seemed paranoid, as if she was cornered. It would have been boring. Instead, Clinton defused it by, more or less, brushing her shoulder. Imagine if her accuser was some Republican fuckwit like Trump or Marco Rubio, left sputtering about honesty and integrity while Clinton declined to engage. Imagine how small that Republican will look. Well, watch Chafee shrink in that moment and you get the idea.

***
Republicans are shitting blood today for lots of reasons. Clinton gave the barest preview of the arrows she has in her quiver for whichever sacrificial lamb the GOP finally clusterfucks into being the nominee. Right-wingers are all howling over Clinton declaring that Republicans are enemies that she’s made. Well, no shit. It would have been insulting to the GOP if she hadn’t said they were her enemies. The raison d’etre of Republicanism for a good chunk of the last 25 years has been to be one or the other Clinton’s bitter rival. So go fuck yourself with your sudden fainting couch act.

More importantly, though, Clinton tore shit up when she finally got to bring in women’s health issues. Asked about how she’d respond when Republicans attack her for wanting to spend money on family leave, Clinton wrecked the room: “Well, look, you know, when people say that — it’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, ‘You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care.’ They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it.” She continued on this passionate counteroffensive, “We should not be paralyzed — we should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain, “big government this, big government that,” that except for what they want to impose on the American people. I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it. That is the way to get it done.” And not a single fuck was given.

Read the whole thing.

Trump Draws Analogy Between Black Protesters And Isis

And here is what he linked to…

We need a strong leader- and fast! A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Trump is saying, in no uncertain terms, that if Sanders can’t stand up to black protesters, then how will he stand up to ISIS?

My question to Trump is…. why do you place Black Lives Matter protesters on the same side of the equation as ISIS terrorists?

I am wondering if Trump is trolling for attention, because this will get it.  It is a huge mistake.

Debate Wrapup

demodebate

The point of any debate is to draw contrasts and attract new voters. Did anyone do that in last night’s first Democratic debate?

Perhaps, but only with those who hadn’t decided up until now.  I don’t think Sanders swayed any Hillary voters and I don’t think Hillary swayed any Sanders voters.

Still, it was a good debate in that it was an actual debate, rather than a food fight like you have seen on the Republican side.  The winner, without a doubt, was the Democratic Party showing itself to be the grown-ups.

Anderson Cooper, sadly, became a stand-in for all the media folk trying to make the Democratic contest about emails and Benghazi! and “socialism.”  But that was shut down pretty quickly because the candidates — and certainly the audience — were united in disdain for the superficiality of where Cooper and the other moderators wanted the discussion to go.  Note to journalists:  Democrats are not Republicans.

Equally annoying was the tokenist questions.  Seriously.  Cooper might just have easily said, “And now here’s a woman with a woman question.   And after that, a black guy with a black question.”  Really?

That said, Hillary Clinton did very well.  She was poised, polished and highly competent at appealing to various segments of the Democratic electorate. She was personable and authentic.  She did what she had to do.  Conservatives who hoped that she would fall flat on her face must have been sadly disappointed, and perhaps a little nervous.  (Conservatives pundits like to cast Hillary as “robotic” and calculating, and therefore inauthentic, but that was laid to rest by Clinton’s off-the-cuff quip to the fact that she urinates differently than her rivals).

Unfortunately, the media is being a tad hyperbolic about her performance. Mark Halperin, for example, gave Clinton a perfect A. The New York Times, which has been very tough on Clinton, was full of praise for her.  Politico says “Clinton Crushes It“.

Yes, that’s a bit much.  I think this is so they can play a “Clinton comeback” narrative, which annoys me because I don’t think Clinton was ever “down”.  The Benghazi/email thing has been a distraction, but only for the media.  As Sanders admitted, everybody (certainly on the left) is simply sick of hearing about the “damn emails.”  This morning, talking heads in the media are saying Sanders gave a “gift” to Clinton — no, that’s not what that comment was.  It was an indictment of the mainstream media’s obsession with the non-scandal.

Most of us NOT in the media didn’t think the ginned-up “controversy” sent Clinton into disarray.  Therefore, we don’t buy the notion that she “proved herself” last night.  After all, Clinton has been the frontrunner and nothing but the frontrunner. And last night, we merely saw why she is the frontrunner.

So saying that we saw a “Clinton comeback” last night is a bit like saying Tom Brady is making a “comeback” after Deflategate. Clinton’s political skills, like Brady’s QB skills, don’t have anything to come back from.

As for Sanders — well, truth be told, I am more politically aligned with him than I am with Hillary.  Except on guns.  For the life of me, I cannot fathom some of his positions on guns, in particular his past voting record on giving gun manufacturers immunity from liability, and his voting no (twice) on the Brady Bill.  Yes, I know that he voted against the Brady Bill because he thought states (rather than the federal government) should be the ones to limit firearms, but I don’t even agree with that.  Not that Sanders is terrible on guns — there are plenty of reasons why the NRA gives him an “F” — but I think he could be better on it.

[Note: In the interest of fairness, I will say that I have problems with some of Hillary’s positions, too, past and present.  Her voting records on the Iraq War, for example.  And her position on not reinstating Glass-Steagall regulations.]

But my problem with Sanders is that he shows no sign that he can work outside comfort zone.  I’m not saying that he is entrenched like the House Freedom Caucus; I’m saying that he seems a bit Johnny One-Note on issues of income inequality and Citizens United (yes, they’re related).  And while I wholeheartedly agree with him, and am energized by his passion on those domestic economic issues, I worry about other areas.   I’m not as comfortable with him in foreign policy — for instance, dealing with, say, Putin.

That said, Sanders had an extraordinary debate, especially for those who had never been exposed to him before.  I think he might appeal to “angry” independents who simply cannot stomach the Republican Party of “No”.  He’s appealing because he always looks like he’s too busy for the stupid shit. Or combs. I still predict that, even if his star rises in the short term, it has a limited life span after Iowa and New Hampshire.  But it is a good thing he is in this race, if only because it pulls Hillary to the left.

As for the other three, well…. the Democrats held their kids’ table debate and their main debate at the same time.

Lincoln “Block O’ Granite” Chafee looked like he wandered onstage by accident, and noted twice that he had never had a political scandal.  He voted against Glass-Stegall because it was his first day on the job and he got confused because his dad had just died.

Martin O’Malley defended his record as mayor in Baltimore, where there were riots this year, and seemed a little confused about foreign policy (Assad didn’t “invade” Syria; he became President of Syria — a not insignificant difference).

And Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, the candidate most likely to want you off his lawn, said his military service gave him leadership skills — he also humblebragged about killing a guy in ‘nam.  (In fairness to Webb, the stories behind his Navy Cross and Silver Star medals are interesting and worth a read.  The word “valor” applies to Webb, no doubt).

But Chafee and Webb clearly didn’t belong there.  I would vote for either of them before I would vote for ANY of the Republican offerings, but I don’t think they could ever be presidential material.  O’Malley would be a fine president; he’s just not the best choice by far (I especially liked his 90-second closing speech saying the Republican debates were lessons in intolerance).

As for the candidate NOT there — Joe Biden — I don’t have a lot to say.  I don’t think many Democrats were looking at Sanders and Hillary and thinking, “I hate BOTH of them.  I wish Biden would get in.”  Hillary’s performance might make Biden think twice about getting in (she’s a better debater), if he was planning on getting in at all.

UPDATE:  Conventional wisdom said that there would be fewer viewers watching the Democratic debate compared to the two GOP debates.  And conventional wisdom was right.  But there were far more viewers last night than expected.  While exact numbers are yet to be released, the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours averaged an 11.2 household rating, meaning that 11% of all American homes with TVs were tuned in.  That breaks the previous Democratic debate record set in 2008, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama squared off in prime time on ABC. That debate had an 8.9 household rating and 10.7 million total viewers.

UPDATE 2:  It was 15.3 million viewers.  And while that was significantly less than the 24 and 23 million viewers for the first two Republican debates, respectively, it shows that a vast segment of the country has not forgotten about the Democrats and is looking to them for answers.

A Tweet From 2009 Could Haunt Rubio

I’ve always seen Marco Rubio as one of the few “serious” GOP candidates and one who could pose an actual challenge to HRC.  But this tweet of his from 2009 is very… uh… Carsonesque.

CROWKHSWsAA8Mvu

What a dumb thing to tweet.  It originally was published in the midst of the June 2009 protests stemming from allegations of elections fraud and the violent Iranian government crackdown that followed.

 

A Century Ago

For no reason other than my amusement, here are the headlines from 100 years ago….

The Red Sox won the World Series (they would win again in 1916 and 1918, but that was it for the 20th century)… and WWI was heating up.

David Brooks On His Own Party

He’s pissed:

Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.

This produced a radical mind-set.

***

Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!

People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.

These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.

Brooks isn’t a moderate Republican.  He’s a conservative.  A conservative’s conservative.  The thing that separates him from the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus is that he believes that government has a role and a function.

Planned Parenthood To Give Fetal Tissue For Free

In a letter sent to the National Institutes of Health, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the recent accusations against her group are “categorically false” and that the goal of the organization’s critics has “nothing to do with our fetal tissue donation compliance process.”

Richards adds:

“Today, we’re taking their smokescreen away and pushing forward with our important work on behalf of millions of women, men, and young people.

“The participation by a handful of our affiliates in supporting women who choose to make fetal tissue donation has always been about nothing other than honoring the desire of those women and contributing to life-saving research and cures. In order to completely debunk the disingenuous argument that our opponents have been using — and to reveal the true political purpose of these attacks — our Federation has decided, going forward, that any Planned Parenthood health center that is involved in donating tissue after an abortion for medical research will follow the model already in place at one of our two affiliates currently facilitating donations for fetal tissue research. That affiliate accepts no reimbursement for its reasonable expenses — even though reimbursement is fully permitted under the 1993 law.”

She adds:

I want to be completely clear about two things: First, Planned Parenthood’s policies on fetal tissue donation already exceed the legal requirements. Now we’re going even further in order to take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda. And, second, our decision not to take any reimbursement for expenses should not be interpreted as a suggestion that anyone else should not take reimbursement or that the law in this area isn’t strong. Our decision is first and foremost about preserving the ability of our patients to donate tissue, and to expose our opponents’ false charges about this limited but important work.

I think that’s fine, although everybody knows that the complaint against PP isn’t really about getting reimbursed for fetal tissue donations.  It’s about, and has always been about, abortions.

I mean… before the women-hating conservatives were saying “PP is aborting fetuses so they can sell fetal tissue for profit!”.  Now the same conservatives will say, with the same amount of outrage, “PP is aborting fetuses so they can give away the fetal tissue for free!”

My point is that you can’t appease those people, particularly since they aren’t terribly interested in the facts or the truth.  I guess PP isn’t trying to.  I think they are trying to get the focus on the fetal tissue donations, because that is….you know…. a GOOD thing.  Helps cure disease.

Anyway, here’s the full letter:

Democratic Debate Tonight — The Also-Rans

Five Democrats take the stage tonight for the first Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate on CNN, and all eyes will be on Hillary Rodham of Chicago and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Here are the other three:

Martin O’Malley — former governor of Maryland

O’Malley is the only life-long Democrat in the Democratic field. He was a two-term governor and notched several progressive achievements, including passing legislationlegalizing same-sex marriage and outlawing the death penalty in Maryland. All he has to show for it are the anemic poll numbers above.

Still, O’Malley is a plausible candidate — he’s just been squeezed out so far. Clinton has racked up most of the endorsements from the Democratic mainstream, and Sanders has claimed the liberal alternative lane. O’Malley could try to push aside Sanders, but his record on policing as mayor of Baltimore and his past chairmanship of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council have hurt him in his appeals to liberal voters.

It’s a long shot, but O’Malley’s better bet is probably to position himself as the mainstream alternative to Clinton, especially if Joe Biden doesn’t run. If you’re looking for the candidate who can most benefit from the debate, O’Malley is the one. Of the three also-rans presented here, he is the only one who can claim a strong connection to Democratic powerbrokers and point to liberal achievements he made while in office.

Lincoln Chafee — former governor and senator from Rhode Island

  • National: 0.6 percent
  • Iowa: 0.5 percent
  • New Hampshire: 1.0 percent

Chafee is one of two Democratic candidates in the 2016 field never to win an election as a Democrat (Sanders is the other). Chafee was a Republican senator, then an independent governor, then became a Democrat while in office.

The biggest news Chafee’s campaign has made since it launched in early June came in his announcement speech, when he called for moving the United States to the metric system. He continues to talk about Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War, but most Democrats don’t careabout that much anymore. Even if they did care, Sanders also voted against the Iraq War.

When combining campaign and PAC money through July 31, Chafee raised the least amount of money of any of the major candidates running for either party’s nomination.

He’s unlikely to make much more noise during this campaign. Still, at least the metric system has a champion.

Jim Webb — former senator from Virginia

  • National: 1.2 percent
  • Iowa: 1.2 percent
  • New Hampshire: 1.0 percent

Webb is a candidate who’s out of time. He’s conservative for a Democrat — a former Reagan administration official whose position on the confederate flag has been mixed. He does have a niche, appealing mostly to white moderates.

Webb’s problem: The Democratic Party has become increasingly liberal and increasingly non-white. The percentage of non-whites has doubled over the last 25 years, while the percentage of liberals has risen by 14 percentage points over the last 15.

Webb’s best chance will come when the Democratic race moves away from the early states and into areas with more moderate and conservative white voters, such as Appalachia and the South. Perhaps he can use the debate to build strength among these shrinking Democratic constituencies.

****************************

The debate isn’t likely to make or break Chafee or Webb — neither has a strong base within the Democratic primary electorate. For O’Malley, however, it’s time to shine or risk continuing to shrink into the shadows.

Clinton has to come off as authentic and a “real person” with family and middle class values.  Sanders has to come off as “not so much like an old coot” to broaden his appeal beyond Iowa and New Hampshire.  I suspect both can succeed at this.

I won’t be watching (there will be at least five more of these debates, kids), and I have no predictions as to winners.

I DO predict the following:

(1)  Hillary will be asked more times than once about her email server.  She will say it was a mistake, but it wasn’t — you know — THAT bad.

(2)  Bernie will ask if he is really as socialist and what does that really mean.

(3)  There will be questions about Biden, because the horserace is more important that the issues.

(4)  There will be questions about Syria, for which there is no good answer.  Because it is beyond fixable (by us).

(5)  When it is over, Trump will say that the ratings were low because it was “boring” and he wasn’t there.

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Sweat Because She Is A Robot

Real interview:

ANOTHER ROUND: In preparation for this interview, I watched a lot of your interviews, and I noticed you never sweat, like physically. I’ve done like a little bit of press and I get so hot — TV lights, stage lights.

ANOTHER ROUND: I’m sweating now and I’m sitting still.

ANOTHER ROUND: What is your deodorant situation?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, you’ve only done a little bit. When you’ve done as much as I have —

ANOTHER ROUND: But like, what is your secret?

HILLARY CLINTON: My secret is just you do it so often. You didn’t see me 40 years ago when I did my first ones. Right?

ANOTHER ROUND: I don’t mean sweat because you’re nervous. I just mean physically. I’m genuinely curious what your deodorant is.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I just turned off the thermostat. [Clinton glances at the wall.] No, no, I don’t know.

ANOTHER ROUND: Do you have a spray situation. Is it a liquid? I’m not joking.

HILLARY CLINTON: Solid. Solid block. I like the solid. Solid block is much better.

ANOTHER ROUND: OK. This is an odd question that I lobbied for a lot because it’s one of my favorite questions to ask people. If you don’t have an answer, that’s fine, but I will be a little sad. What’s the weirdest thing about you?

HILLARY CLINTON: The weirdest thing about me is that I don’t sweat.

ANOTHER ROUND: Obviously. Best argument for Hillary as a robot: zero sweat.

HILLARY CLINTON: You guys are the first to realize that I’m really not even a human being. I was constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago. People think that, you know, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they created it. Oh no. I mean, a man whose name shall remain nameless created me in his garage.

ANOTHER ROUND: Are there more of you?

HILLARY CLINTON: I thought he threw away the plans, at least that’s what he told me when he programmed me — that there would be no more. I’ve seen more people that kind of don’t sweat, and other things, that make me think maybe they are part of the new race that he created: the robot race.

ANOTHER ROUND: So there’s a cyborg army is what you’re saying.

HILLARY CLINTON: But you have to cut this, you can’t tell anybody this. I don’t want anybody to know this. This has been a secret until here we are in Davenport, Iowa, and I’m just spillin’ my electronic guts to you.

ANOTHER ROUND: And without bourbon.

HILLARY CLINTON: Without any bourbon. Yeah. That’s why I have to wait ‘til the end of the day.

You know that some whackjob is going to take something here out of context and use it for real.

An Apology Was What Was Called For

First, the video that went viral and started it all….

The Mac & Cheese Kid, as he has known, apologized by video.  Critics were, and are, saying that he is still a smug arrogant brat and/or is not acknowledging his alcohol problem.  I hear all that and don’t necessarily disagree, but I don’t think that is relevant.  An apology was appropriate (some people in this world can’t even muster that) so let’s acknowledge that he made one before we snark, okay?

Fox News Moron Doubles Down With Dr. Carson: Stupid Jews Could Have Taken The Nazis

Yes, the European Jews were just a bunch of pants-wetting pansies back in the thirties:

Dr. Ben Carson recently asserted that if guns had not been confiscated from Jews then Hitler would have had more trouble orchestrating the Holocaust.

Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation Leauge, quickly objected, stating that there were few firearms available to Jews in Germany in 1938 and that surrendering them did not measurably contribute to the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.

Ben Carson is right, and Jonathan Greenblatt is wrong.

For the record, I have hosted a fundraiser for Dr. Carson, but I was also born a Jew and have studied the Holocaust. And I have spoken before the Anti-Defamation League in the past.

The wisest answer to a government that insists its citizens disarm is, “Over my dead body.”

What Greenblatt fails to account for is that the surrendering of firearms by Jews when required to by Nazi authorities was not merely the surrender of guns and ammunition. Those material items would not have been sufficient to defend against the Third Reich’s military.

The mindset that Jews surrendered with their guns is far more important than the hardware they turned over: They surrendered the demonstrated intention, at all costs, to resist being deprived of liberty. If Jews in Germany had more actively resisted the Nazi party or the Nazi regime and had diagnosed it as a malignant and deadly cancer from the start, there would, indeed, have been a chance for the people of that country and the world to be moved to action by their bold refusal to be enslaved.

Yes, that would have required immeasurable courage. Yes, that would have required unspeakable losses. But is that not the lesson of the Old Testament? Does not Abraham bind his son Issac to an altar, willing to sacrifice his son’s life to God’s Word—to the truth? Must not we all be ready to sacrifice ourselves to stand in the way of evil?

Granted, I was not there. Granted, hindsight is 20/20. But it turns out it was a bad idea for any Jew to have turned over a gun. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have boarded a train. It was a bad idea for any Jew to have passed through a gate into a camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to do any work at any such camp. It was a bad idea for any Jew to not attempt to crush the skull or scratch out the eyes of any Nazi who turned his back for one moment. And every bullet that would have been fired into a Nazi coming to a doorway to confiscate a gun from a Jew would have been a sacred bullet.

To me, Jonathan Greenblatt seems to have forgotten those iconic words, “Never Again.” Thank God that men like Ben Carson remind us of them.

The wisest answer to a government that insists its citizens disarm is, “Over my dead body.” It would seem to be the end of any discussion and the beginning of active, heroic resistance. Because it is very hard to imagine that disempowering citizens by having them render themselves defenseless can lead to anything good. It is very likely a sign that the culture has fallen ill and that an epidemic of enslavement of one kind or another is on the horizon.

No, Dr. Ablow, you weren’t there, and yes, Dr. Ablow, hindsight is 20/20.  And let’s remember that thousands of Jews resisted in Germany, in the Warsaw ghetto, in France, and everywhere else.  And while brave and heroic, it simply resulted in expediting their deaths, and the death of others.  Hell, Kristellnacht happened ostensibly because an armed Jew shot and killed a German officer.  As a result, 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.  Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers, Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.  Over 100 Jews were killed.  From one Jew with one gun.  I don’t care how many handguns you and your friends have — you simply cannot rise against a superpower that has machine guns, aircraft, and — you know — tanks.

Truthfully, we do not have to wonder what would happen if Germany’s Jews had guns and numbers and a tradition of organized violence. Nazis hardly started with the Jews. First they had to deal with the German Communist Party.

Where Jews were for the most part a random selection of middle class Germany, the Communists were a different story. German Communists had an organization and violent ruthlessness that rivaled Hitler’s gang during the Weimar era. In fact the entirely legitimate threat of a revolution in Germany (they tried a few times and nearly pulled it off once) goes a long way to explaining why German nationalists and business leaders would play ball with an obvious nut like Hitler in the first place.

So yes, the Communists were spoiling for a chance to make the brownshirts come take their guns from their cold, dead hands. When the brownshirts got ahold of state power, first in Bavaria and then everywhere, they did exactly that. And then there were no more Communists in Germany.

So much for arming yourselves against the Nazis.

But this is the conservative myth, and wet dream.  They want to rise against their own government some day — at least, that is the fantasy.  So if you have that mindset, you have to blame the Jews for their own demise.

Today In Campus Mass Shootings

(1)  One dead, three wounded at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.

(2) Two people shot (UPDATE: one killed, one wounded) at Texas Southern University – happening now — school on lockdown; shooter on the loose.  (UPDATE: 2 now in custody; 1 still being sought)

Arizona and Texas have very lax gun laws.  Just sayin’

Dems In Disarray*

*If you don’t get the joke, there is a political meme out there known as “Dems In Disarray”.  It seems that certain columnists and websites every so often love to write what is known as a “Dems in Disarray” piece, usually when there is very little about the Democratic Party which is in disarray.  (I’ve even seen “Dems In Disarray” opinion pieces simply because Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running against each other). My use “Dems In Disarray” as a post title here is tongue-in-cheek.  The story is that Republicans are in disarray.  It’s so bad that even conservative sites cannot deny it.

Anyway, what is clear in the fight for the Speaker of the House position is that nobody wants it, and the conservative House Freedom Caucus has a litmus test that nobody wants to try to meet.  However, a party turns its lonely eyes to one man: Paul Ryan.  It seems every Republican is hoping, begging, pleading with Paul Ryan to run for Speaker. And it seems clear he has the votes and then some.

I don’t really know why.  For a conservative, he is very practical and pragmatic.  I don’t think he is the type to shutdown the government and engage in hostage-taking over raising the debt limit or defunding Planned Parenthood.  Yet, that’s just what the HFC wants in a leader.   So why does everybody think Ryan will make the HFC happy?

In the meantime, this disarray gets disarray-ier. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) dropped out of the conservative House Freedom Caucus yesterday, citing the caucus’ recent focus on the speaker race

Still, the HFC seems to hold all the cards.

UPDATE:

And why won’t Paul Ryan take the job as Speaker of the House?

The former 2012 vice-presidential candidate isn’t much more conservative that McCarthy, but he’s arguably the one Republican with the national stature to overcome the reflexive insurrection from the right. So far, no good. “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement on Thursday.

Why not? A Ryan pal offered this explanation to me: “Because he’s not a f—ing moron.” Translation: Ryan has a real future. No speaker has ever been elected president (Since James Polk in the 1840s, anyway) — and no speaker dragged into ugly budget crises by his strife-stricken party is ever, ever going to be.

Breaking: Who Is The House Speaker?

As my Twitter feed suggests, something is happening with the GOP House.

Kevin McCarthy was expected to voted in as House Speaker.  But the rumor is he is out.  He dropped out.

Chaffetz is it.

Yup, not a rumor.  McCarthy, who admitted that the Benghazi investigation was politically motivated to get Hillary, dropped out.  Election postponed.

Remember, this person comes after the Veep in the line of succession.

It’s not clear why McC dropped out (or was allowed to “drop out” when he was actually forced out) or what forces are at work here.  Something in his past?  Are the uber-far righties rallying against him?  Have the moderates made a comeback?  To be continued….

UPDATE:  NBC News reports that US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recognized he had no path to get to 218 votes to claim the speaker’s chair. The House Freedom Caucus, which is believed to have about 40 members, announced it would back Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., to become the next speaker.  The conservative House Freedom Caucus is the group that thinks funds for Planned Parenthood should be blocked as part of a bill to keep the government open.

The HFC has received criticism among Republicans like Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who publicly broke with the caucus last month. McClintock, a social and fiscal conservative, wrote in a letter to the HFC: “I know that every member of the HFC sincerely supports these (conservative) principles, but as I have expressed on many occasions during our meetings, I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them.”

Basically, this means that even Kevin McCarthy is not wingnutty enough for the far right.

But Can They Build A Bridge Out Of Her?

What the hell is happening over at Fort Meade?

Air Force dental technician accused of being a witch

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing a former Air Force contractor who says she was fired from a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, after complaining that her co-workers discriminated against her because she was Hindu.  She claims they then accused her of being a witch.

Group founder and president Mikey Weinstein wrote in a letter to officials: “We have spoken with witnesses at the clinic under your command who have universally confirmed that, not only did this horrid harassment take place, but ever since the execution of her punishment for failing the religious test imposed by the leadership of Epes Dental Clinic, a particular offending party has effusively celebrated her replacement by a Catholic woman by saying publicly that ‘It’s good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the devil.’”

The alleged harassment violates a “vast sea” of Defense Department and Air Force directives as well as the U.S. Constitution, Weinstein writes.

“The No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution absolutely forbids the exact same type of practices which are so commonplace under your command in the brazen establishment of evangelical Christianity as the only approved solution for religious belief in the 579th D[ental] S[quadron] of the Epes Dental Clinic at Fort Meade,” the letter says.

Reached by Air Force Times, Deborah Schoenfeld said that her co-workers at the Epes Dental Clinic harassed her over her Hindu faith, claiming she was satanic for wanting to practice yoga and meditating.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld’s account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”

One co-worker, who Schoenfeld said prayed for her to find Jesus, told her that meditation summons demons, adding that “all the soldiers who are doing meditation and yoga to help their PTSD, they are getting infected also,” Schoenfeld said.

When her requests for help through the chain of command went nowhere, she filed a formal complaint on Sept. 2, Schoenfeld said. That day, she was fired for allegedly using profanity against a co-worker, although she was not allowed to know who had accused her of doing so, she said.

The Air Force District of Washington has received Weinstein’s letter and is looking into the allegations raised, said spokesman Maj. Joel Harper.

“The Air Force thoroughly reviews all instances in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedoms or accommodations,” Harper wrote in an email Monday to Air Force Times. “Mutual respect is an essential part of the Air Force culture. Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to  maintain an effective team.”

Emphases are mine.

I think those co-workers have confused voodoo and Hindu.  And I don’t know how meditation gets mixed in there.

Quote Of The Day

From former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, in his new memoir, The Courage To Act:

[I] lost patience with Republicans’ susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.

That’s a Reagan quote, except Reagan was talking about the Democratic Party.

Bernake was nominated for the job by president George W. Bush, for whom Bernanke served as head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

It’s not hard to see what Benanke feels this way. The know-nothing wing of the Republican Party rebelled against the TARP rescue package at the height of the economic meltdown. They howled that low interest rates would lead to imminent hyperinflation. They resolutely refused to consider fiscal stimulus despite Bernanke’s repeated pleas (see helpful illustration below from 2011). They wanted to audit the Fed. They wanted to end the Fed. They wanted to put us back on the gold standard. When Bernanke told them that spending cuts would lead to higher unemployment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (who is about to become Speaker of the House) refused to believe him.

Megan McArdle Should Stop Thinking… And Writing

Daily Beast columnist Megan McArdle has figured it out.  The mass shooting problem.  We don’t have to debate it anymore.

In a long screed at the Daily Beast entitled “There’s Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre”, McArdle goes through all the proposals out there — banning certain guns, taxing or banning ammunition, greater checks on the mentally ill, etc. — and basically rejects them all out of hand.  Why?  Because the Newtown shooter would have been successful anyway even if those laws and policies had been enacted.

This is crazy logic, and I’ve been reading it a lot lately.  Basically, what McArdle and others are saying is this: if a law or policy can’t stop all mass shootings, then there is no point in enacting it.  Case in point:

Reducing the body counts a bit is obviously a very worthy project; I am okay with outlawing magazines that contain more than ten bullets.  But this will in no way prevent people from going on murderous rampages.  We are not talking about an end to spree killing, only about a (perhaps) very slight reduction in its deadliness.

Can you imagine if that logic was applied to, say, automobile safety?  “Well, setting speed limits aren’t going to prevent ALL car accidents, so what’s the point of having speed limits at all?”.  Insanity, right?

McArdle is, of course, being the good libertarian (“government is not the answer”), but she takes this to a new level, virtually sneering at these ideas and saying it is “easy and satisfying to be for ‘gun control’ in the abstract, but we cannot pass gun control, in the abstract.”

After rejecting all the various proposals out there as insufficient, McArdle takes on the tired strawman… banning ALL guns, which nobody is seriously suggesting.

Self-conscious that she is doing the easy essay of poking holes in others’ solutions, McArdle forces herself to come with a solution of her own,  And here is where she gets crazy:

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.  Would it work?  Would people do it?  I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

So, in sum: the chances of achieving anything with any gun legislation are so low that in these circumstances, people should resign themselves to probable death by running at the person firing a gun in the hope that enough people will follow that their likely death will not be in vain.

“Would it work?” is sort of an odd question for McArdle to ask. (especially since her answer is “I have no idea”), but it makes me wonder exactly what her metric of success is.

I would say more, but what Jonathan Chait points out at NY Magazine is more than adequate:

Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It’s way more feasible than gun control!

***

Unless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle’s plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication… I award this essay no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has specific guidelines on how to act when one’s life is threatened in a shooting situation. Objective 1 is to evacuate, and if you cannot evacuate, objective 2 is find a hiding place: “If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.” DHS recommends that people take action against an active shooter only as a last resort and when your life is in imminent danger.

From the DHS manual:

DHS page 1

DHS page 2

That seems not only logical, but in line with human instinct.

New York Inmates Beat A Bunch Of Harvard Students

.… in a debate:

BOSTON — Months after winning a national title, Harvard’s debate team has fallen to a group of New York inmates.

The showdown took place at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. Last month, they invited the Ivy League undergraduates and this year’s national debate champions over for a friendly competition.

The Harvard debate team also was crowned world champions in 2014. But the inmates are building a reputation of their own. In the two years since they started a debate club, the prisoners have beaten teams from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. The competition with West Point, which is now an annual affair, has grown into a rivalry.

At Bard, those who help teach the inmates aren’t particularly surprised by their success.

“Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,” said Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, which operates in six New York prisons. “Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.”

Students on the Harvard team weren’t immediately available for comment, but shortly after the loss, they posted a comment on a team Facebook page.

“There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend,” they wrote. “And we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the Eastern New York Correctional Facility for the work they do and for organizing this event.”

Nicely done, inmates.

Republicans Don’t Really Want “Religious Freedom”

Someone at Daily Kos pulled certain results of this PPP poll and turned it into this revealing bar graph:

religion

What does it mean?

While most Republicans want religious freedom, almost half of them mean they want religious freedom for Christians only (and/or no freedom for followers of Islam).  Perhaps they don’t understand what “freedom” means, or perhaps they think “religion” means Christianity only.

Stop It Everybody!

I am getting a little frustrated with the issue-hijacking every time there is a national tragedy, particularly mass shootings.  Whatever is in the news, people dovetail their own pet issues onto it.

No, Catholic League.  The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that the world is anti-Christian.

No, right wing nutjobs. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument the Muslim violence is rampant.

No, Jezebel. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that misogyny is to blame.

No, GOP presidential candidates. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that abortion is the root of all evil.

No, conspiracy theorists.  The Oregon shooting was real and does not reinforce your theory that the Obama administration is staging fake mass shootings as an excuse to take your guns away.

I see this all the time.

And it needs to be called out more.

By the way, we all remember the grand-daddy of issue-hijacking, don’t we?

 

Shut Down The Benghazi Committee

The normally-unfriendly-to-Hillary New York Times has had enough of the Benghazi thing.  That’s pretty surprising since The New York Times has run one phony exclusive after another. First, her famous emails were illegal, except they’re not. Then they were contrary to regulations enacted, oops, 18 months after she left office. Next Hillary was the subject of an FBI criminal probe. Except that too turned out to be false. Now they’re making a big deal out of the exact date she changed email addresses. Seriously.

Well, welcome to the party, New York Times.  Some of us had enough of the Benghazi investigations a long time ago when other congressional committees turned up nothing.  But the McCarthy admission (explained below) seems to have been the last straw: there’s no question now that there is no “there” there, and the only Benghazi scandal is the committee itself, soaking up tax dollars on a political vendetta against Hillary Clinton.  The NYT editors:

House Republicans may be disinclined to disband the Select Committee on Benghazi with the presidential race heating up. But at the very least they should rename their laughable crusade, which has cost taxpayers $4.6 million, “the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a leading candidate to become the next speaker of the House, acknowledged last week that was the point of burrowing into the details of the 2012 attacks on government facilities in eastern Libya that killed the American ambassador and three colleagues.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy said in an astonishing moment of candor that was clearly a gaffe, rather than a principled admission. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

Lawmakers have long abused their investigative authority for political purposes. But the effort to find Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Libya attacks, was personally responsible for the deaths has lost any semblance of credibility. It’s become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans.

The deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his colleagues have been exhaustively investigated by several other congressional committees and an independent panel of experts commissioned by the Department of State. The reviews found systemic failings at the State Department. But they found no evidence that Mrs. Clinton was directly responsible for the security lapses, which, of course, is the goal of the Republicans who want to derail her presidential bid. The possibility that all those investigators have somehow missed a crucial, damning piece of evidence seems negligible.

>Led by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a former federal prosecutor, the Benghazi committee has trudged on, summoning a seemingly endless list of witnesses who have offered little new substantive information about the attacks. Since it was impaneled in May 2014, the committee has spent more than critical congressional committees, including the House Intelligence and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, which have oversight over bureaucracies with multibillion-dollar budgets.

“There’s nothing to justify the committee’s long duration or expense,” said Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who sits on the committee and has called for it to be disbanded. “We have nothing to tell the families and nothing to tell the American people.”

Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Oct. 22. The hearing will give Republicans another chance to attack the credibility and trustworthiness of the leading Democratic presidential candidate. It will do nothing to make American embassies abroad safer or help the relatives of the four killed in Libya.

The hearing should be the last salvo for a committee that has accomplished nothing. If the Republicans insist on keeping the process alive, the Democrats should stop participating in this charade.

For her part, Hillary is running this ad:

And then there is this….

Good for her.

CQUG_KTUYAA5orN

Say this about him, House Benghazi Czar Trey Gowdy has a knack for getting reporters to give him good coverage no matter how absurd his claims. For instance, the Washington Post gave him an uncritical platform for his some more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pushback against Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s public admission—or, really, bragging—that the Benghazi Committee’s purpose is attacking Hillary Clinton. Gowdy’s response is just precious:

“It’s tough,” he says after a moment. “People should go by what we’ve done. How many people have we interviewed? How many of those people have been named Clinton?”

This is where reporter Elise Viebeck could have gone back to something she herself wrote the very same day:

During his deposition, [Sidney] Blumenthal was asked more than 200 questions related to the Clintons, significantly more than about Benghazi. A source who was in the room said the first time the word “Benghazi” was uttered in a question to Blumenthal was at 6:30 p.m. The deposition began at 10:30 a.m.

They did not ask him about Benghazi, which is supposedly their entire focus, until eight hours into the interview. That is … something of a tell.

His Parents Must Be So Proud

I’m not a fan of the public shaming of private people, but this is going viral.  And with good reason.

A drunk kid from the University of Connecticut staged a coup for some bacon jalapeño mac & cheese, and inadvertently revealed himself to be the worst person ever. He came to the university dining hall really drunk, in search of that spicy porky mac. He was asked to leave by the management because he was 1) really drunk, 2) drinking in a place where you’re not allowed to drink, and 3) underage drinking. He refused to leave without his mac & cheese, at which point someone began filming his altercation with the management.

After repeatedly yelling, getting physical multiple times, and calling the manager a “retard” and a “fag”, this guy—

screen-shot-2015-10-06-at-113349-am-YMN7LS

—a restaurant employee we’ll call “Chill Beret Guy” decided that enough was enough. After the kid pushed the manager again, Chill Beret Guy took him down and held him until the cops arrived and took him away.

When the video was posted, it wasn’t too hard to find out who he was. His name is Luke V. Gatti. He’s a 19-year-old from Long Island, and after a cursory glance through his Facebook, it appears that he really likes to ski. That’s not why it was easy to find him, though; he has already been arrested twice for similar drunk-entitled-college-kid incidents. He was first arrested about a year ago at a house party on disorderly conduct charges, which involved him calling a police officer the n-word. His second arrest occurred two weeks later, when he assaulted a police officer. At his hearing, the judge told Gatti that he was “a little concerned” he would “pull a trifecta before the month is over.”

It took him a bit longer than a month, but he did indeed pull off a trifecta. As Chill Beret Guy held him down, Gatti started trying to play the victim and said, “If I get arrested again, I’m f*cked,” to which Chill Beret guy had the perfect response…

“Well then you’re f*cked.”

I know nine minutes is a lifetime in the Internet world, but…. watch it.  It’s fun. (Strong language though)

Chart Of The Day

Grammerly is an app that, well, judges and fixes your grammer (in, say, Word documents).

The folks at Grammerly went to 2016 Presidential candidates’ Facebook page, taking comments that were at least 15 words long and expressed either positive or neutral feelings about the candidate. Then, the app selected at least 180 of those comments to analyze for each candidate.

Which candidate’s supporters had the best mastery of the English language?  Which has the worst?

Welcome the chart of the day….

grammar-prez2

That’s right.  All five Democratic presidential candidates’ supporters beat ALL of the Republican presidential candidates’ supporters.

Supporters of Donald Trump made grammatical errors an average — an AVERAGE — of 12.6 times every 100 words.  Oh my god.

To be honest, I don’t think this chart really means anything.  I imagine most of the candidates fall within the margin of error of each other.  And grammatical errors doesn’t necessarily mean stupidity — perhaps the writers are angry, or are intentionally using “internet parlance” (emoticons, etc.).  But it IS interesting that all the Dems beat out ALL the Republicans, and that Trump was so MUCH of an outlier.