Monthly Archives: November 2015

Trump: Annoy Your Local Police With Your Paranoia

Well, what he said was this today (emphases are mine):

We can’t let it happen anymore. We have to be strong, we have to smart. We have to be fair, we have to be fair to all side. And it’s tough. You know, if you’re Muslim — and there are so many, they’re so great, they’re such good people — but we to be smart, because it’s coming from this area. I mean, there’s something going on. There’s some nastiness, there’s some meanness there. There’s something going on in the mosques and other places. And we have to at least say there’s a problem so we can solve it. We can’t close our eyes.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama — he wants to close his eyes and pretend it’s not happening. Why is he so emphatic on not solving the problem? There’s something we don’t know about! There’s something we don’t know about. (Shouts from the audience can be heard, declaring that Obama is a Muslim.)

So, we have to go out — and again, the greatest source for this is our local police. And the really greatest source is all of you, because you have all those eyes. And you see what’s happening. People move into a house a block down the road — you know who’s going in. You can see. And you report them to the local police. You know, it’s too complicated — call the federal government, who do we call? it’s a big bureaucratic mess, nobody knows what they’re doing, okay?

But you people, and me and everybody, you know when somebody moves to an apartment near you, or to a house near you — you’re pretty smart, right? We know if there’s something going on. Report them! Most likely you’ll be wrong, and that’s okay. But let the local police go in and check out [sic], and you’ll get rid of this stuff. That’s the best way. Everybody’s their own cop, in a way — I mean, you gotta do it, you gotta do it.

Holy Christ.  I mean, it will never happen, but what if he actually becomes President?

Trump Lies A Lot

Here are some links just from the past few days.

So…. why is Trump still leading in the polls?  It’s not hard to figure out.  Polls show that people have a high distrust in government and the media, so they simply believe Trump.  Also, he says what they believe, so they don’t care about its accuracy.

It’s getting less and less funny, and more and more scary.  In the long run, he won’t win and might even drag the party down.  But still, his demagoguery is rare.


The Murder Of Laquan McDonald

It was murder.  Plain and simple.

But let’s start with the account from the police union, as described to the Chicago Tribune in October 2014:

“He’s got a 100-yard stare. He’s staring blankly,” [Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat] Camden said of the teen. “[He] walked up to a car and stabbed the tire of the car and kept walking.”

Officers remained in their car and followed McDonald as he walked south on Pulaski Road. More officers arrived and police tried to box the teen in with two squad cars, Camden said. McDonald punctured one of the squad car’s front passenger-side tires and damaged the front windshield, police and Camden said.

Officers got out of their car and began approaching McDonald, again telling him to drop the knife, Camden said. The boy allegedly lunged at police, and one of the officers opened fire.

McDonald was shot in the chest and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m.

Emphasis mine.

Let’s see what actually happened:

Not quite the same.  And NBC News in Chicago reports that after the shooting police arrived at a nearby Burger King to review surveillance footage from the restaurant:

After the shooting, according to Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King, four to five police officers wearing blue and white shirts entered the restaurant and asked to view the video and were given the password to the equipment. Three hours later they left, he said.

The next day, when an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to view the security footage, it was discovered that 86 minutes of the video were missing.

In a statement, a spokesman for the IPRA said: “We have no credible evidence at this time that would cause us to believe CPD purged or erased any surveillance video.”

But according to Darshane, both the cameras and video recorder were all on and working properly the night of the shooting.

“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”


The levels of repulsiveness in this incident are alarming.  Not only the shooting, but the cover-up, and the fact that it never would have come to light but for legal persistence and FOIA requests.  One can imagine how often the police were able to get away with these things before video cameras.

Protests are most peaceful, but continue:

After a night of loud, angry protests but few arrests, police and elected officials are bracing Wednesday for more possible backlash over the release of a dramatic video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting at a black teenager as he lay on the street.

Organizers from Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago have called for new protests Wednesday in Chicago’s Loop and in the busy retail strip along north Michigan Avenue on Friday.

On Tuesday night, crowds of well over 200 people marched through downtown streets chanting “16 shots,” a reference to the number of times that, prosecutors say, Officer Jason Van Dyke fired at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who died later of gunshot wounds.

Scores of protesters clashed mildly with police late into the evening, occasionally pushing and shoving with officers in heated confrontations.

Even right wing reaction is muted.  Sean Hannity had to admit this was murder (but then he shifted focus to “what about all the police who have been killed”).

Warren Beatty Is So Vain (Among Others)

Well, mystery partially solved:

Carly Simon released the hit song “You’re So Vain” about a self-absorbed lover in November of 1972, leaving fans to wonder for more than four decades who it could be about.

Now the mystery is somewhat solved. Simon, 70, told People magazine that at least part of the song refers to actor Warren Beatty.

“I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren,” she told People.

That apparently is no surprise to Beatty.

“Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!” Simon said.

You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you, goes the chorus. You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you, don’t you, don’t you?

The second verse includes the lines:

You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive / Well you said that we made such a pretty pair / And that you would never leave / But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me / I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee / Clouds in my coffee, and…

Simon, who was married to singer James Taylor from 1972-83 and has two children with him, claims the other verses in the song are about two other men. She doesn’t plan on revealing their identities any time soon.

I think everyone had already figured out that Beatty was the guy.  Or one of them.

Anti-Refugee Fearmongering Continues

What Obama Says:

What I say:

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Turning our backs on desperate Muslim refugees plays right into ISIS’s hands.  After all, they recruit from a disenfranchised and angry population.  What better to create a disenfranchised and angry population?

How Hating Muslims Plays Into Terrorists’ Hands

Jonathan Chait:

This is what ISIS, the Islamic State, wants.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” said Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland who studies how people become terrorists. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.’”

The moments following a terrorist attack are often filled with acts of reprisal. In the six months following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, anti-Muslim violence and mosque vandalism more than quadrupled compared to the same period in 2014, according to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, a watchdog group.

Extremist groups feed off of alienation, some counterterrorism experts say, and Islamist militants deliberately aim to make Muslims in the West feel isolated and turn against their own communities.

According to this line of thinking, acts of terrorism widen the cultural divide by provoking hate crimes against Muslims in the West. This strategy gained traction in the early 2000s after al-Qaeda was sent into hiding by Western military action. Abu Musab al-Suri, an influential jihadi thinker whom the Wall Street Journal called “the new mastermind of jihad,” argued for a distributed network of terrorist cells recruited from the Islamic diaspora, carrying out terrorist strikes in their own communities. These attacks, and the backlash they generated, would inspire other to radicalize.

“What the Islamic State wants to do is to start a civil war,” said political scientist Gilles Kepel Saturday in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde. Kepel, a professor at Sciences Po and an ISIS expert, has extensively studied the ideology and strategies of modern-day jihadis.

Al-Suri, Kepel said, had a vision: “a proliferation of blind attacks that will provoke lynchings of Muslims, attacks on mosques, harassment of women in veils, and create hotspots of war that will put fire and sword to Europe, seen as the soft underbelly of the West.”

The attacks on Paris this weekend seemed to follow Al-Suri’s script. Four of the terrorists have been identified as French or Belgian nationals who were recruited in the West. And if these early incidents are any indication, anti-Muslim sentiment will again surge in Europe, further distancing Muslim communities.

A study published last year in The Economic Journal found that the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after 9/11 led to a decline in assimilation rates in American Muslim communities. In places where hate crimes increased the most, Muslim immigrants in subsequent years spoke English less fluently, were less likely to marry non-Muslims, and women were less likely to be working.

GOP Frontrunner on Terrorism: I’m A Psychic

Donald Trump has magic feels and can tell when terrorism will hit:

“I predicted Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Trump declared in Knoxville, adding, “In my book, I predicted terrorism. Because I can feel it, like I feel a good location, O.K.?

“In real estate — my father always used to tell people, ‘You know, he may be my son, but everything he touches turns to gold,’” Mr. Trump said. His father helped him begin his real estate career with a loan. “When my father said that, that was a great compliment because he was a tough cookie. He said, ‘He has an instinct for location.’ You have an instinct about things. I really believe I have an instinct for this kind of thing.”

Vetting Syrian Refugees: A Governor With Guts

Kudos to Gov. Peter Shumlin

SOUTH BURLINGTON – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values.

As of early Monday afternoon, nine Republican governors had said they would attempt to stop the relocation of refugees from Syria because of safety concerns following Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

“The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,” Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning, “which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.”

As of September, the United States had accepted 1,854 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The war has displaced about 4 million people.

Shumlin said he believes seven or eight refugees from Syria are being considered for placement through the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont, and he believes the state can take more.

“It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin emphasized what he called the “rigorous” screening process for refugee resettlement.

“We root out folks who should not be accepted,” Shumlin said.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seems xenophobia is ruling the day with the red-staters.


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

Can they do this?  In a word, no.

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.

The vetting of Syrian refugees to the U.S. (we’re only going to be taking in 10,0000) is arduous:

And entering the U.S. as a refugee is by far the most difficult and complex of all routes in; refugees are the single most vetted population entering the country.

All those seeking to come as refugees must first be registered by the UN Refugee Agency, which identifies the families most in need. UNHCR screens each family, painstakingly documents their family composition and history of flight from Syria, then refers those who best qualify for the U.S. resettlement program on to the federal government.

The U.S.’s own vetting process then kicks in, with the Department of Homeland Security conducting in-person interviews, gathering detailed biographical and biometric data and conducting multiple background checks that include combing through multiple federal agencies’ respective consular, law enforcement, intelligence and national security databases.

Expertly trained officers from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple intelligence agencies are involved in vetting refugees before they are approved to travel to America. Further screening is also conducted when refugees arrive in the U.S., after their first year here, and if and when they apply for citizenship.


The process takes 18 to 24 months, which makes it harder.  For example, the medical screening is only valid for 6 months, so you might have to repeat this process a couple times before all is said and done.

Keep in mind that many countries in Europe will accept a refugee application based simply on a case file.

Here’s one Syrian refugee’s family’s story.

And another from a local family.

UPDATE:  Ben Carson denamds end to federal aid to Syrian refugees (remember, these are people running away from ISIS):


NUMBERS TO CONSIDER from the Economist

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And that’s it.  NONE — ZERO — NADA — have been arrested for committing domestic terrorism.

UPDATE — Booooo to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is also challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for her Senate seat.  She is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees.

Paris Attacks: A Summary

There were seven coordinated terror attacks in Paris carried out by militants, killing at least 129 people.

The first attacks were launched virtually simultaneously, with two explosions close to the Stade de France at just after 9.20pm local time, four miles apart.

The explosions came as a large crowd were enjoying the first half of the international friendly between France and Germany.

The attacks then moved to central Paris, where a separate team of gunmen arrived in a black Seat at the Right Bank area of the city.

The attackers opened fire on the Petit Cambodge Cambodian restaurant inRue Bichat, and the Le Carillon bar on the other side of the road.

With devastating coolness they gunned down diners and revellers at the two venues, killing 15 and sending a shockwave of terror through an area being enjoyed by many on their Friday night out.

The fourth attack came on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, when the same unit of terrorists drove the 500 yards to eh Casa Nostra pizzeria and opened fire on diners, killing at least five.

From there, the militants drove around a mile south-east – apparently past the area of the Bataclan concert venue – to then launch another attack, this time on La Belle Equipe bar in Rue de Charonne. At least 19 people died after the terrace was sprayed with bullets at around 9.35pm.

The next attack, at the Bataclan concert venue in Boulevard Voltaire, was the most deadly. There, at least 89 people lost their lives when they were shot by black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests.

The attackers stormed into the hall and fired calmly and methodically at hundreds of screaming concert-goers, who were watching the US rock group Eagles of Death Metal playing to a full house of 1,500 people.

They began a siege that would last two hours and forty minutes. Two of the militants blew up their explosive belts as heavily armed anti-terror police ended the siege at around 12.30am. A third was shot by officers.

Finally, at around 9.50pm a third blast took place near the Stade de France, this time by a McDonald’s restaurant on the fringes of the stadium.

The boom caused terror among spectators who had already been attempting to flee the stadium following the first two explosions.

The match had continued, with many attributing the initial noises to fireworks, but word soon spread of what had taken place outside the stadium, as people read updates on their mobile phones.

At least 129 people have died, according to city officials, with many still in intensive care.  One was an American student from Long beach, California.

At least 89 people were killed in the concert hall. Three assailants were also killed after police stormed in – two by activating their suicide vests and a third shot dead.

On Sunday, France struck back at the heart of Islamic State, launching 20 airstrikes on the Syrian town of Raqqa, the defacto capital of the “caliphate”.

In a joint operation with US forces, targets including a command post, a recruitment centre for jihadists, an arms depot and a terrorist training camp were destroyed, according to the French defence ministry.

Overnight on Sunday, anti-terrorism units also launched raids across France, in Toulouse, Grenoble, Calais and Paris. Several arrests were made and weapons have been seized.

Fifteen men have been linked to the attacks. Seven of the terrorists were killed by suicide bombs.  In the Molenbeek area of Brussels, the police made seven arrests during a series of raids, at the order of the Brussels prosecutor Francoise Schepmans.  One man is on the run.

15 men have so far been linked to the Paris attacks.

But Belgian intelligence officials have suggested that up to 20 people may have been part of the terrorist cell that planned the attacks, meaning a total of six people could be on the run.


Bad News Coming Out Of Paris

Looks like a series of pre-planned coordinated terrorist attacks happening in different places throughout Paris.

Also a reported hostage situation at the Paris Bataclan concert hall.

18 killed in central Paris according to another report.

A possible response to the killing of Jihadi John by a U.S. drone strike?

Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match.

French president Hollande evacuated from soccer stadium.



Guardian reports

Eyewitness Ben Grant said he was in a bar with his wife when the gunshots were fired and he had seen six or seven bodies on the ground. He told the BBC: “I was told people in cars had opened fire on the bar. “There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest. I was at the back of the bar. I couldn’t see anything. I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. “We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us.”

CNN reporting that the shootings were at three places.

This Vine reportedly captures the explosion noise during the soccer game:

ABC News adds that 60 hostages are believed to be held in what is being described as “an ongoing situation.” AP and Sky News saying it is 100 at Bataclan concert being held hostage.

Shots heard a couple minutes ago outside Bataclan concert hall


158 dead. Probably still going to go up. Over 100 killed in the theater before the police finally entered and killed the gunmen. A total of 6 separate terrorist incidents in Paris tonight.

Quel tragedie.

Dissecting The GOP

There’s a new book coming out by Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and in it, he divides the Republicans into four camps:

They are: (1) moderate or liberal voters; (2) somewhat conservative voters; (3) very conservative, evangelical voters; and (4) very conservative, secular voters. Each of these groups supports extremely different types of candidates. Each of these groups has also demonstrated stable preferences over the past twenty years.

The most important of these groups is the one most journalists don’t understand and ignore: the somewhat conservative voters. This group is the most numerous nationally and in most states, comprising 35–40 percent of the national GOP electorate. While the numbers of moderates, very conservative and evangelical voters vary significantly by state, somewhat conservative voters are found in similar proportions in every state. They are not very vocal, but they form the bedrock base of the Republican Party.

They also have a significant distinction: they always back the winner.

This is true.   Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Even-keeled men with substantial governing experience.  These are the picks of the somewhat conservative voters.

But what we are see playing out in the GOP race so far is a battle between the two smallest, but loudest of the four groups… the very conservative evangelical voters and the very conservative secular voters.  Most of the candidates are chasing one of those two groups (with some notable exceptions — Kasich appears to want the moderate or liberal GOP voters, and Christie appears to want the somewhat conservative voters).  The very conservatives look at McCain and Romney and say they did not win because they were not conservative enough, a rather stupid assessment since any move further from the center is not going to get more, but less, support from the population.  (Does anyone really think that Carson is more likely to get moderates and liberals compared to Romney?)

From a GOP standpoint, Iowa is very conservative/evangelical.  It will not pick a candidate that appeals to the 35-40 percent of GOP voters who are merely somewhat liberal.  Candidates are paying to Iowa in order to get a bounce, but the thing is, the bounce won’t last.  It won’t mean a win (in fact, an Iowa win usually means you don’t have what it takes to get the GOP nomination).

When will the shedding start?  After Iowa, I expect you will see some consensus building among the four camps.  For example, in the very conservative/evangelical category, you have Carson, Santorum, Huckabee and Jindel.  Three of those will be gone by the end of New Hampshire’s primary, leaving Carson as the very conservative/evangelical go-to guy.  Once the pack gets down to six or so, that’s when the race really begins.

In the end, it will fall upon the somewhat conservative voters to throw their collective weight behind someone.  Right now, they are split and/or undecided and/or not paying attention.  Eventually, that will change, and the map will look VERY different (and they will back Rubio, I predict)

GOP Debate #4 Wrap-up

Well, you can just read my Tweet below.

As Nate Silver says, not every debate is a game-changer, and this one wasn’t.

Here are the 538 website grades, Nate Silver’s grades, and my grades:

Marco Rubio B+ B+ B
Rand Paul B- B- B+
Ted Cruz B- B+ B+
Jeb Bush C+ C+ B-
Carly Fiorina C+ B C+
Donald Trump C+ B C+
Ben Carson C+ B+ C+
John Kasich C C C

As abhorrent as I think they are, I think Rand Paul and Ted Cruz did the best at distinguishing themselves and taking advantage of the longer (90 second) time to respond format.  Trump and Carson, both weak on substance and clearly out of their league on wonky stuff, did their best to tread water with the low information voters.  This was very substantive, and I think a lot of low information voters — the bread and butter of the right — lost interest pretty early.

While there was no whining about the questions, and little to whine about.  The moderators did fine, but didn’t challenge very much.  The candidates answered with stump speeches and prepared lines, drifted off onto weird tangents, and then moderator would say, “Just to make it clear, you would be in favor of…..” just to bring the candidate back to the question.  Here is a case in point:

BAKER: In seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?

FIORINA: [Looks like a deer in headlights.] Well, first of all, I must say as I think about that question, I think about a woman I met the other day. [blah blah blah, playing for time, hoping everyone will forget the question.]Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats.

Look at the question.  Look where Fiorina ended up.  Acting as if a different question was asked.  Or rather, the opposite question.  It’s almost like the moderators’ questions didn’t matter.

And by the way, that’s not a throwaway question. That’s an important question for the general election.  Republicans have to come up with a better answer than simply saying the opposite of the question.

There are other examples.  Ben Carson tarted up his opposition with a correlation between minimum wage increases and high unemployment that does not exist. Rand Paul responded to a question about the Obama-era energy boom by promising to repeal Obama-era regulations that clearly didn’t destroy the U.S. energy market.

Josh Marshall has an excellent quote about what happens when candidates’ statements are not challenged:

So now we have a debate structured around letting candidates say absolutely anything – because scrutinizing candidates is liberal. This leads to having half the debate framed around how strong financial regulation leads the biggest banks to get bigger and bigger and how we need to put in place new policies to prevent banks from getting this big. And the best place to start is to repeal Dodd-Frank. ….[I]t’s impossible to find any way into this conversation because it’s all theology and self-referencing assertions.

Jeb Bush, an exception to this overall dynamic, seemed to be the exception to this, and even scolded his unrealistic adversaries by saying “They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this.”  Republicans should have listened to him.  They didn’t.  It’s hard to hear what people are saying when you’re swimming in a pool of KoolAid.

University Coddling And “Safe Spaces”

I keep reading about “safe spaces” showing up in our universities, and it strikes me as just bizarre.  As far as I can tell, a “safe space” is a designated space intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material.

So, for example, a university might be sponsoring a debate on rape culture, and somewhere near the lecture hall, there would be a “safe space”.  The room would be equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. It is where you would go if you were feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against your dearly and closely held beliefs.

That on its face seems like the right and compassionate thing to do.  But the criticism — one that I am beginning to understand — is that the “safe space” movement is getting out of hand, and used to stifle intellectual discourse.  It is one thing to create a safe space for those who are truly — TRULY — traumatized; it is another to create a safe space for people who just want to shut down debate.  And from what I read in these stories, every person who goes to college must be traumatized.  As such, a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. Professors are encouraged to provide “trigger warnings,” and on some campuses report “microaggressions.”

And it begs the question: how can you have an intellectual space AND a therapeutic space co-exist?  Have our universities become just one big soft pillow, and how will this help students in the real world where “safe spaces” don’t exist?

Even President Obama has wondered if universities are too coddling:

“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative, or they don’t want to read a book if it had language that is offensive to African Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women,” Obama said Monday while speaking at a town hall meeting at North High School in Des Moines. “I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either — that you when you become students at colleges, you have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

This issue came to a head yesterday at the University of Missouri.  In case you hadn’t heard the news, minority students lodged a series of protests against the university administration and its lackluster response to repeated incidents of racial prejudice and violence.  The students were clearly in the right, and when the football team threatened not to play future games, that’s when it really hit the fan.  The University’s president resigned — a huge victory.  The students held a rally but a photographer was prevented from taking pictures.  Why?  Because the students had created a “media safe space” so they wouldn’t be traumatized by the media.

And that’s when I hopped off the bandwagon.  Seriously?  “Traumatized by the media?”  First of all, you can’t take a public space, like an outdoor quad on a college campus, and just declare it off limits to certain people.  That’s called…. um…. segregation.  That word ring a bell?  Secondly, the notion that minority students are going to be “traumatized” by the presence of a photographer at a rally is silly.  Just silly.  Again, I am suggesting that the notion of a “safe space” is being used to stifle speech (or in the case, press), rather than for its intended “make safe” intent.

The ill effect of this is not only bad for those whose views are stifled…. it is also bad for students:

The dangers that these trends pose to scholarship and to the quality of American universities are significant; we could write a whole essay detailing them. But in this essay we focus on a different question: What are the effects of this new protectiveness on the students themselves? Does it benefit the people it is supposed to help? What exactly are students learning when they spend four years or more in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence that require strict control by campus authorities, who are expected to act as both protectors and prosecutors?

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.


The point of universities is to expose yourself to a variety of opinions and beliefs.  You will receive wisdom from people who disagree with you — not necessarily because they will persuade you (although they might), but maybe because it will help you define and clarify what you truly believe.

Intellectual is open.  Safe spaces are not.

Starbucks Fires The Opening Salvo In The War On Christmas

… and it is a direct hit.

These year, I am not going to mock the War on Christmas.  I’m going to join it.  This time, I’m fighting for Team Pagen.

And so is Starbucks apparently:

The sight of red cups being handed out at Starbucks usually signifies the “most wonderful time of the year” is underway, but this year’s holiday season at Starbucks is already being marred by a red cup controversy.

While red cups of Starbucks past have featured holiday symbols like reindeer and ornaments, this year’s cup is plain.

When the cup was unveiled earlier this month, the coffee chain described it as having a, “two-toned ombré design, with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below.”


Joshua Feuerstein, an evangelical pastor and a social media and internet personality, posted a rant on Facebook declaring that Starbucks had removed Christ and Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.

An interesting claim, because the older cups had snowflakes.

Feuerstein said he “pranked” the store by ordering his coffee and telling the barristas his name was Merry Christmas, which they wrote on his cup. He also wore a T-shirt with an image of Christ on it. He flashed a small pistol he said he carried into the store in defiance of CEO Howard Schultz’ request that customers not bring firearms into the stores even in states that permit open-carry.

The outrage spread over the internet with the help of conservative websites like Breitbart News, who called it part of the “war on Christmas” and said political correctness had gone over the line.

But still, I think Starbucks first shot was a good one.  Maybe we can win the War On Christmas this year.

And to end this post, here’s a response from a Christian on this issue:

What is Feuerstein doing wrong? There are five things I’d like to talk with him about if he’d be willing to contact me:

  1. He’s trying to impose Christian morals on a secular company. Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth that holds spiritual meaning for Christians. The rest of the world celebrates other things on December 25th and certainly the least festive thing is to try to make people feel guilty or stupid for not acknowledging your holiday.
  2. He’s confusing a greeting with the holiday. Christmas is larger and bigger and will happen whether a company recognizes it or not.
  3. He’s taking the battle to a company rather than to the hearts and minds of people. As we’ve seen in the past few months, Starbucks tends to serve as a stomping grounds for flashy, dramatic conservative Christian performances of antagonistic faith. It is a great place to demonstrate how you stand up to the “liberals of the world,” and because Starbucks wants your money and for you to like them, they won’t fight back. They don’t care. These people are still buying coffee. And, incidentally, while Starbucks is demonstrated at, friends and neighbors who could be being loved or given truth to about the Gospel are being ignored.
  4. He’s equating Christianity with conservatism. Conservatives are right about a lot–I identify as one–but Christian does not equal conservative and certainly doesn’t equal American or gun-owner. When Feuerstein flashes his gun and challenges “all great Americans and Christians” to “prank” Starbucks as though they are the same thing (probably something he could clarify but which his syntax implies), he’s completely wrong.
  5. Feuerstein isn’t convincing anyone. By accusing Starbucks of hating Jesus in his video description, he’s vilifying them and using flashy click-bait tactics to spread his video. His tactics encourage disagreement and win-lose situations.

What should we be doing? 

If you’re an American and a Christian worried about the growing absence of Christ in public businesses or institutions there are three things that we can do that won’t make the situation worse:

  1. We can stop martyring ourselves with no cause and stop “fighting back” with flashy, viral, passive-aggressive demonstrations. Losing a Christmas greeting on a cup is very small battle compared to the battle for the one neighbor you’ve been meaning to tell about Jesus but haven’t gotten around to talking to yet. Starbucks isn’t persecuting us and even if they were, our marching orders from Christ himself are simple: “Turn the other cheek.”
  2. Do extraordinary acts of love. It’s not about winning arguments or using brute shows of force. By the way, if Feurestein is correct in saying that tens of thousands of Christians have visited Starbucks in the last 20 hours and done this, that’s at least $100,000 worth of business he’s sent to his opponent. Starbucks is laughing all the way to the bank. And if Feuerstein’s sarcastic, flippant, aggressive attitude is indicative of the attitudes of those working with him, Starbucks employees probably aren’t being convinced of the extraordinary love of Christ.
  3. Stop equating Christianity with America or conservatism or gun rights. Civilizations come and go. They are mortal in the truest sense as C. S. Lewis points out in The Weight of Glory. Human souls are eternal. If we were expelled from America, lost all of our guns, or couldn’t vote for Republican candidates anymore, we Christians would still be Christians, and we could still follow Christ. The rest of that can melt away. (Admittedly, such a situation sounds terrible, and it’d be difficult for me to let go of some of those things peacefully, but Christ is in me perfecting me so that I truly can cling to Him when I lose everything else.)

That’s all I’ve got to say….

Is Carson Being Picked On?

If Carson is engaging in a blame-the-media strategy — well, that’s one thing.  It’s a tried and true right wing go-to.  But his complaint about being the recipient of “unprecedented” media scrutiny strikes me as the whining of political neophyte… ironically, the very things that Carson is.

In any event, it is not true.

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Ben.  They play with live ammunition here.

Carson Now Actually Has A Problem: Dishonesty (Or Perhaps, Stolen Valor)

It is one thing to think that Joseph of biblical fame built the Pyramids to store grain; it is another to lie about your resume.  GOP candidate has owned up to a pretty big lie:

Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The academy has occupied a central place in Carson’s tale for years. According to a story told in Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” the then-17 year old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s telling, was followed by a “full scholarship” to the military academy.

West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.

“In 1969, those who would have completed the entire process would have received their acceptance letters from the Army Adjutant General,” said Theresa Brinkerhoff, a spokeswoman for the academy. She said West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process. “If he chose to pursue (the application process) then we would have records indicating such,” she said.

When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.

“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”

“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett went on. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”

This admission comes as serious questions about other points of fact in Carson’s personal narrative are questioned, including the seminal episode in which he claimed to have attempted to stab a close friend. Similarly, details have emerged that cast doubt on the nature of Carson’s encounter with one of the most prominent military men of that era.

It won’t deter his most ardent supporters (the GOP is full of rabid supporters), but I think this one might stick and hurt him otherwise.  I’m not sure he can attack others (including Hillary) on credibility issues.

UPDATE:  They are trying to defend this at right-wing sites:

I don’t see a big deal here. If Westmoreland told me “with your grades and ROTC performance, you’d get a full ride at West Point,” I would in fact tell that story as “I was offered a full ride at West Point.”

Well, maybe I wouldn’t, actually. I think I’d actually say I was told I could get a full ride at West Point by General Westmoreland.

Still, I can see telling it the other way, in shorthand. (For example, if this was two sentences in a book — I can see the events being collapsed and streamlined into the bullet point.)

Perhaps that’s true.  As a way of shorthand.  Problem is, the people on the right don’t allow that kind of common sense parsing when it comes to, say, everyday use of the word “is” (see Clinton, Bill).  And another problem, he repeats that shorthand a lot.

UPDATE #2:  The Carson pushback is at The Daily Caller (Glenn Beck’s site):

“The campaign never ‘admitted to anything,’” a spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to a hit by Politico claiming his campaign admitted to “fabricating” a key point about his West Point story.

“The Politico story is an outright Lie,” Doug Watts told TheDCNF.

Politico published a piece Friday claiming Carson’s campaign “admits fabricating” the fact that he applied and was admitted to West Point.

“Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICOthat a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,” Kyle Cheney writes in the lede.

That’s a bit weak.  They don’t explain the West Point story, or correct it.  They just say that never “admitted fabricating” it.  Doesn’t mean that they didn’t fabricate the West Point story — it just means they’re not admitting the fabrication.

And now the New York Times clarifies:

In an interview with The New York Times Friday, Mr. Carson said: “I don’t remember all the specific details. Because I had done so extraordinarily well you know I was told that someone like me – they could get a scholarship to West Point. But I made it clear I was going to pursue a career in medicine.”

“It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’”

Mr. Carson has recounted the episode of being offered a scholarship at various points in telling his triumphant personal story. (Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships; it is free to attend.)

Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships?  It is free?  Um… well.  That’s kind of relevant, isn’t it?

Either Carson is lying or he misremembered it.

UPDATE #3:  Conservative sites like Ace of Spades are really straining to clean this up:

Carson’s book does have a single line: “Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point. This isn’t quite wrong either. Nobody gets scholarships per se to West Point….

In other words, if it is a BAD LIE (i.e., nobody gets scholarships per se to West Point), then we can conclude that what Carson said “isn’t quite wrong”.

Query:  If something “isn’t quite wrong”, isn’t that a way of saying that it “isn’t quite right” either?  Perhaps Ace of Spades would care to elaborate on what isn’t quite right, too.

UPDATE #4:  Politico changed its headline, and took out the “admitted” reference, which was good.  That said, I still think Carson mischaracterized his West Point “offer” at best; lied about it at worst.  You be the judge.

NC-GOP Poll: Carson Over Trump By Double Digits

GOP Presidential Primary – Respondent’s First Choice

Registered voters who were self-identified Republicans or Independents who lean Republican were asked who they planned to vote for if the presidential primary were held today. Fourteen candidate names were read to respondents, with names randomly rotated to prevent primacy and recency effects. The survey found Carson in the lead with 31 percent. Carson gained 10 percentage points from the prior Elon Poll conducted between September 17th and September 21st. Donald Trump dropped to second place with 19 percent (compared to 21.5% in the last poll). Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are now in third place. Cruz was previously in 6th place with 6.2 percent but currently has 9.7 percent support. Rubio was in 4th place in the previous poll with 7.4 percent, but now has 9.7 percent support as well. Jeb Bush’s support has dropped from 7 percent to 4.6 percent and Carly Fiorina, previously in 3rd place, has dropped to 6th place with only 3.4 percent (a 6.5 point drop in support). Not a single respondent in our sample mentioned Bobby Jindal, George Pataki or Rick Santorum as a candidate for whom they intend to vote for. Twelve percent of Republican voters are still undecided.


GOP Presidential Primary – Respondent’s Second Choice

Republican respondents were also asked a follow-up question: “If [Respondent’s first choice] dropped out of the race for president which Republican candidate would you vote for?” Ben Carson leads the GOP field in this question as the second choice for 15% of Republican voters, which is similar to what we found in the September 2015 poll. Trump was the second choice for 14% of Republican voters (also similar to the prior poll). Nearly 14 percent said they would vote for Marco Rubio if their first choice dropped out (approximately a 3 point gain). Only 4.4 percent said Carly Fiorina was their second choice (compared to 11.4% a month ago).

2016 Democratic Presidential Primary

Registered voters who are self-identified Democrats or Independents who lean Democratic were asked who they would vote for if the presidential primary were held today. Three candidate names were read to respondents with names rotated randomly. Hillary Clinton is still the clear favorite among Democratic voters in North Carolina. Fifty-seven percent said they planned on voting for Clinton, a 33 point lead over Bernie Sanders’ 24 percent. Clinton’s support is up 4 points from the September survey. Martin O’Malley had less than 3 percent support. Nearly 14 percent of Democrats or Democratic leaning Independents are still undecided.

Hypothetical Match-Ups in the 2016 Election

Respondents were given five hypothetical races they might see in the 2016 election. For each they were asked to say which candidate they would support. Matchups were rotated randomly.

Clinton v. Bush

Between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, Clinton has a three and a half point advantage (46.6% to 43.0%). This is a reversal from the September Elon Poll which found Jeb Bush beating Clinton by about 3 points (46% to 42.6%). Bush does better with whites (55% to 33%), but Clinton does much better with African Americans (90% to 4%). Men tend to favor Bush over Clinton (47% to 42%), while women favor Clinton (51%) over Bush (40%).

Clinton v. Carson

When Clinton faces Ben Carson, Clinton loses by over 4 points (48% to 44%). Clinton has gained some ground against Carson since September when Carson was leading Clinton by 11 points. Some of these gains seem to come from women who now support Clinton over Carson, but just barely (46% to 45%). This is a shift from September when Carson did better with women than Clinton (48% to 44%). Independents still favor Carson over Clinton by a noticeable margin (57% compared to 32%). In September Carson had support form 15% of Black respondents, which although low was twice as much as any other Republican. That support has been cut to 7% in this recent poll.

Clinton v. Fiorina

Clinton leads Fiorina by 6 points in a hypothetical matchup. Clinton does better with women (51% to 38%) and African Americans (89% to 3%), but Fiorina does better with Independents (47% to 39%). Men prefer Fiorina over Clinton, but only slightly (46% to 44%). Only 3 percent of African Americans said they would support Fiorina. 5

Clinton v. Trump

In September Clinton led Trump by 7 points (47% to 40%). Clinton has now expanded that lead to nearly a 10 point lead (50% to 40%). Compared to the other 4 hypothetical matchups, Trump seems to get the lowest level of support from women (33%) and the lowest level of support from African Americans (2%). Trump fares worse than all other tested Republicans in matchups against Clinton.

Clinton v. Rubio

Besides Carson, Rubio is the only other Republican candidate in our 5 hypothetical matchups who beats Hillary Clinton. Rubio has a 1 point advantage of Clinton (46% to 45%) and does better among men, whites, and Independents.

This Is What We Can Expect From A Carson Presidency

i.e., something almost entirely fact-free.  You see, it seems that Ben Carson is doubling down on his theory that the Egyptian pyramids were not built as funerary monuments but in fact were built by the biblical Joseph, when serving as Pharoah’s Prime Minister, to store grain. “It’s still my belief, yes,” Carson told CBS News today in Naples, Florida.

Bush 41 On Cheney and Rumsfeld

Dad was a far better president than sons.  Of course, Dad could never be elected in today’s uber-conservative GOP.  But I always had a soft spot for the elder Bush.  And here’s why.  According to the New York Times:

…the elder Bush told biographer Jon Meacham that Cheney “had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer.” Calling the former vice president “iron-ass,” the elder Bush said he “just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with.”

The former president also called Rumsfeld “an arrogant fellow” and suggested that his lack of empathy made him a poor public servant in George W. Bush’s White House.

“I think he served the president badly,” Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything.”

“There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that,” he said.

The former president’s comments, detailed in Meacham’s book “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” are sure to be seen through the prism of the presidential run of his other son, Jeb. The former Florida governor is struggling to regain political momentum, in part after questions about the dynastic nature of his 2016 run.

In the book, George H.W. Bush doesn’t shy away from criticism of George W. Bush, suggesting that some of his son’s rhetoric – like describing North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “axis of evil” – was ill-advised.

“I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there — some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,” he said of George W. Bush.

That last part doesn’t sound right.  I don’t think Bush is criticizing his son by saying his son’s actions were ill-advised.  I think he was (again) criticizing the advisers, i.e., Cheney and Rumsfeld.

UPDATE – Rumsfeld fired back in a statement to NBC News: “Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.”

Yeah.  I don’t think that was the point.  He made his own decisions, based on the bad advice (and facts) he was given.

I won’t say anything about Rumsfeld, age 83, commenting on the elder Bush, age 91, getting up in years.

Thank You, Gun Nuts

Did you hear the one about the guy in Colorado walking around a quiet neighborhood with a rifle in plain sight, and an observant woman called 911 and was told by the 911 dispatcher that Colorado had an open carry law so they couldn’t stop him?  And then he shot and killed three people, all of which might have been prevented if the police were allowed to stop people walking around with loaded rifles?

Yeah, it happened.

Denver-area law enforcement agencies say their response to armed people in public varies on the circumstances.

“Is this person exercising their rights or about to start a very serious situation in which someone is going to be killed?” said Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “We just don’t know the difference.”

Hmmmm.  Maybe you could pass a law or something.

Election Day 2015

An off election year, which means that nobody went to the polls, practically.

But there were two local results that caught my eye:

My friend Dawn Morgan was re-elected mayor of Kernersville for the 300th time (it seems) — she won 95.8% of the vote.  It helped, I suppose, that she ran unopposed.

And in Walnut Cove, they passed a referendum which would allow for the service of mixed drinks.  That won 55.6% of the vote.  The measure of the referendum was put on the ballot by the owner of a Mexican restaurant.  I have two things to say about this: (1) 55.6% seems awfully close for such a rather mundane measure.  I mean, if you’re okay with beer and wine and raw liquors, what objection could you have to mixed drinks? and (2) Walnut Cove has a restaurant?

UPDATE:  Actually, I just learned of a third interesting issue, also out of Walnut Cove.  With the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners, challengers George Mitchell and Danny Hairston have won the two seats that were open in a field of six candidates, pushing out incumbents Elwood Mabe and Kim Lewis.  The reason, it appears, is because Lewis and Mabe voted (along with the rest of the Board) to allow the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (now the Department of Environmental Quality) to probe for shale gas or oil on a sliver of town property in the Walnut Tree neighborhood, which lies in Stokes County.  In other words, Walnut Cove’s governing body said “yes” to fracking, so two of them just got ousted. Full story here.

Disease Of The Week

It’s called dementia with Lewy’s Bodies, and Robin Williams.  So says his widow, citing the cause of his suicide.  It wasn’t depression that caused the suicide, so much as the dementia with Lewy’s Bodies which caused the depressions which caused the suicide.

I have to be honest here: Is attribution to a physical illness merely a way to make a mental illness more palatable?  Given the stigma against mental illness (which includes depression), you have to wonder if the family is trying to revive some honor to Mr. Williams.

Draft Of GOP Candidates Debate Demands

Via Dave Weigel and Robert Costa at the Washington Post, here’s the complete draft — second draft, actually — of the letter Republican candidates are considering sending to TV networks, with their questions/demands about the upcoming debates.

None of the candidates have actually signed this yet, so it still could change.  And note that it isn’t a “demand” so much as a letter soliciting information so that each candidate can determine if he/she wants to participate.

Some of these seem reasonable.  Some of these are just whiny.  On the whole though, I would say that the candidates would prefer that debates become joint press conferences rather than anything resembling a debate.  Which, by the way, is impossible when there are ten people onstage anyway!

But hey, there’s one thing they can all agree on:

The campaigns reached an early consensus on one issue, according to several operatives in the room: the secure standing of Fox News Channel. Any changes would be applied to debates after next week’s Fox Business Network debate. Among the reasons, according to one operative in the room, was that “people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad,” a reference to the network’s chief.

Of particular interest to me is the issue of “gotcha” questions.  They are not rejecting “gotcha” questions outright — but they want to ensure that each of them get the same amount of “gotcha” questions.  Because nobody wants to look like Nixon in a pack of Lincolns, I guess.  The thing this — what if you are a Nixon in a pack of Lincolns?

Dear _____:

This letter is on behalf of the 15 Republican Presidential campaigns. We are aware that you are sponsoring a debate on _____ at ______. Below and attached are questions about your debate to which the campaigns would appreciate answers at your earliest convenience, and in any event no later than a month from today.

The answers you provide to these questions are part of a process that each campaign will use to determine whether its candidate will participate in your debate. All the candidates recognize that robust debates are an important part of the primary elections. It is also important that all debates be appropriate platforms for discussing substantive issues and the candidates’ visions for the future.

To achieve this going forward, the campaigns ask that you:

– Answer the questions below within 30 days of receipt by communicating directly with the campaigns. We’ll provide an email list for that distribution.

– No later than a month before your debate (earlier if possible), schedule a conference with all the campaigns participating jointly so that the campaigns may ask questions about the format for your debate, the moderators and your answers to the questions below. The campaigns may request an additional call(s) to discuss specific issues.

– The campaigns’ will use the manner in which your debate(s) are run (and changes you say you will make from your past debates), the quality and fairness of your moderators’ questions, their enforcement of the rules and their ability to achieve parity in distribution and quality of questions and time among the candidates to evaluate whether the candidates wish to participate in your future debates.

– In addition, based on their evaluation of previous debates, the campaigns wish to have in all future debates a minimum 30-second opening statement and a minimum 30-second closing statement for each participant; candidate pre-approval of any graphics and bios you plan to include in your broadcast about each candidate, and that there be no “lightning rounds” because of their frivolousness or “gotcha” nature, or in some cases both.

The campaigns appreciate your participation to achieve what they feel is a great need for more accountability and transparency in their primary debate process. In addition to addressing the above points, please answer the following:

 Where and when will the debate be held?

 What are criteria for inclusion? If you choose to base this on polls, please detail which polls and why each poll’s methodology and sample size is acceptable to you.

 Who is the moderator? Will there be any additional questioners? Are they seated?

 What is the estimated audience for the debate? Will it be disseminated on-line? By radio? Will it be disseminated by other means and do you have any additional partners?

 What format do you envision – podiums, table, other?

 Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibility for all questions asked, even if not asked by your personnel?

 What is your proposed length of the debate?

 Will there be opening and closing statements. How long will they be?

 Will you commit to provide equal time/an equal number of questions of equal quality (substance as opposed to “gotcha” or frivolous) to each candidate?

 How long are the answers and rebuttals? If a candidate is mentioned, will he/she automatically be called on so they can rebut?

 Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?

 Will you commit that you will not:

o Ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question

o Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer

o Have a “lightning round”

o Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning

o Allow props or pledges by the candidates

o Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates

o Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)

o Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes

o Leave microphones on during breaks

o Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?

 What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?

 What instructions will you provide to the audience about cheering during the debate?

 What are the plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?

 Are you running promo ads before the debate about your moderator(s)?

 What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?

 Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

If there is any additional information you would like to provide the candidates and the campaigns, please do so. Thank you for your cooperation. Should you have any questions, the campaigns will be pleased to answer them.


UPDATE:  Uhoh.  A fly in the ointment.  Donald Trump is going rogue!!

Donald Trump and his advisers have decided to work directly with television executives and take a lead role in negotiating the format and content of primary debates, which have become highly watched and crucial events in the 2016 race, according to Republicans familiar with their plans.

Trump plans to reject a joint letter to television network hosts regarding upcoming primary debates drafted Sunday at a private gathering of operatives from at least 11 presidential campaigns, the Republicans said.

And from The Onion:

  • All moderators to be quarantined from society 18 months prior to debate to eliminate bias
  • Statute of limitations prohibiting questioning candidate about any statements made more than 60 seconds in the past
  • Mechanized, continuously rotating debate stage gives every candidate equal time at center podium
  • No questions from, for, or about women
  • At least one tray of pigs in a blanket during pre-debate luncheon
  • All questions must be prefaced with personalized compliment about candidate’s policies or appearance
  • One consequence-free tirade against any marginalized group of each candidate’s choosing
  • Rule stating that any participant thrown off stage by another candidate automatically disqualified from presidential campaign
  • Safe podium space for all candidates made uncomfortable by line of questioning
  • Multiple-choice section
  • Each candidate given five paper DebateBucks they can use at any time to buy new questions from moderator
  • When a candidate A causes the debate ball to go out of play, candidate B will start at the top of the key and check the ball before resuming play
  • Every candidate allowed to deliver five minutes of closing personal attacks

Russian Plane Crash In Egypt

A Russian charter plane crashed over the weekend on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.  All 224 aboard the Airbus jetliner were killed, with company executives ruling out technical or human error only to be upbraided by aviation officials who called such assertions premature.

The Metrojet flight full of mostly Russian vacationers, bound for St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, plummeted after reaching cruising altitude, scattering in chunks and bits across Sinai. The lack of information has combined with unsubstantiated claims by the Islamic State that its militants destroyed the aircraft to avenge Russia’s immersion into the Syria war.   The plane had been in the air about twenty minutes when it suddenly plummeted from around 33,000 feet above the Peninsula.

I’ve reviewed the data and in my opinion, this was foul play.  I say this for two reasons:

(1)  Scattered debris.  The parts of the jetliner were scattered over an area of five square miles, meaning that it broke apart high in the air.

(2)  The flight data.


As the chart above notes, the aircraft rose in altitude and then drops off.  My guess is that event occurred around 4:12 and the aircraft continued to fly, or at least the section containing the flight data black box continued to fly, upward.  This happened with the Lockerbie explosion as well.

This is inconsistent with ordinary mechanical error or pilot error.

The only question I have, in my non-expert analysis, is whether the plane was impacted from something one the outside, or exploded from the inside.  Piecing together the jetliner will be relatively easy and it will be easy to detect residue, if any, of chemicals or explosive powder.  Sadly, one way to figure out what happened is to examine the bodies for shrapnel from the plane.  If a person has something lodged in him/her from, say, the right side of the plane, and that person was sitting on the left, that would indicate that the fuselage exploded in — i.e., a missile.

Or maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.  But I read about this stuff.

Anyway, with Russia taking an active role in the Middle East now, it clearly has skin in the game.  Maybe the United States would be smart to let Middle East turmoil become Russia’s problem.

RIP Fred Thompson

Actor, lawyer, senator, and even presidential candidate.  This guy did a lot of cool things.  He died yesterday at the age of 73 in Nashville.

I first noticed him way back during the Watergate hearings in 1974.  Back then, when there was a congressional investigation, Congress was smart enough to hire lawyers to ask the questions and get information, rather than ask the questions themselves. A young Roy Cohn asked the questions for McCarthy.  And so on.  Thompson was Watergate council for the Republicans back then, and he was interested in getting to the truth — not covering Nixon’s ass.

The leap from lawyer to actor was relatively simple.  In 1977 Mr. Thompson found himself representing the whistle-blower in one of Tennessee’s biggest political scandals. In her role as a parole administrator, Marie Ragghianti refused to release inmates granted pardons after paying then-Gov. Ray Blanton. Mr. Thompson successfully represented Ragghianti in a wrongful termination case, helping her win a settlement and a return to her job in 1978.

That case eventually became the subject of a book and launched Mr. Thompson’s acting career. Mr. Thompson played himself in the 1985 version of the movie “Marie.” Critics praised his performance, and more roles soon followed.

Five years later, Mr. Thompson had roles in three of the biggest films of 1990: “Days of Thunder,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Die Hard 2.”  He also enjoyed a five-year run on NBC’s “Law and Order” as District Attorney Arthur Branch from 2002-2007.

Though he took a break to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.  Failing that, he returned to acting, including the role of Judge Noose in a Broadway production of “A Time To Kill”.

NC Senator A Member of The KKK?

Anonymous is at it again.

The hacking group claimed last month to have hacked multiple KKK Twitter accounts, and obtained some membership rosters of the KKK. This list includes a number of other prominent politicians across the country. Anonymous said it would be unmasking Klan members around the anniversary of the Ferguson protests.

Here is the full listing of political figures — including NC Senator Thom Tillis — that Anonymous claims to be linked to the notorious hate group, which got on Anonymous’ bad side last year when a chapter threatened to use “lethal force” against protesters in Ferguson, Mo.


It is not immediately clear what impact, if any, this will have. None of this, it seems, can be proved. Not yet anyway.

But will the mainstream press start looking into it?

UPDATE:  Yup…. USA TODAY has it….


Yup.  There was something about the release of names that had a certain casual-ness about them.  Anonymous usually does some vetting in order to maintain credibility, and this stuff seemed unvetted.  In light of that, I will remove the information.

As the New York Times once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing), “Anonymous is a small cadre of hacking geniuses surrounded by a sea of computer idiots.”