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‘No more than right wing politics turned up to eleven’

Donald Trump

Josh Marshall, like many other political observers, is still trying to explain why Donald Trump remains the front-runner for the Tea-GOP presidential nomination. He has led the polls since he announced his candidacy in July.

Parties and politics inflect and harness trends in the broader society. They don’t create them. There’s nothing new under the sun about Trumpism. It’s just a turbo-charged, more media savvy version of the resentment politics the GOP has been tapping for fuel and riding for decades.

…Trump, in his current incarnation, is no more than right wing politics turned up to eleven.

BTW kudos for the Nigel Tufnel reference from the hilarious “This is Spinal Tap” (1984). Yes, what Trump is saying isn’t really different – only he says it louder.

The right-wing and the Republicans have merged into what I starting calling the Tea-GOP last year (after John Boehner famously said that there was no difference between the Tea Party and the GOP). This means that there is no way for Trump’s primary opponents to attack his actual policy positions as too extreme. On the contrary, they copy his rhetoric.

Before this election cycle, Tea-GOPers used to talk about a border fence (e.g. John McCain’s call to build the “danged fence”). Now everybody calls it a “wall” because Trump wants a wall. When Trump started complaining about so-called “anchor babies,” even John Ellis (“Jeb!”) Bush started using that derogatory term. Now Trump is setting the terms of the hysterical debate regarding Syrian refugees.

None of the serious political journalists think Trump will emerge as the eventual Tea-GOP presidential nominee. Josh Marshall is predicting either Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz or Marco Rubio. Even if he doesn’t win, the Tea-GOP brand is now defined by Trump – and he’ll be giving a big speech at the nominating convention.

More info:
Nate Silver: Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls


Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears NM proposal map

For Native Americans, it’s a sacred place of healing. Twin buttes on Elk Ridge that form a landmark called the Bears Ears (Orejas del Oso on old maps).

The Bears Ears national monument designation for 1.9 million acres would include the existing Natural Bridges National Monument, Dark Canyon Wilderness, part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest and part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lands surrounding these areas and adjacent to Canyonlands National Park are long overdue for national recognition and protection.

Conservationists have been very patient. Wilderness proposals have been made and talked about for more than 30 years with no action taken by Congress. Now we have an opportunity to do something significant. President Obama ought to proclaim the Bears Ears National Monument before he leaves office at the end of next year.

Petition: Ask President Obama to Protect Bears Ears Now

More info:
Bears Ears Coalition
Tribal coalition in Washington, D.C., pushing for Bears Ears National Monument
Explore the Proposed Bears Ears National Monument!


First person accounts of the Paris Attacks

Via Huffington Post.

I’m shocked and dismayed and horrified.



Is anyone surprised an anti-abortion Republican is afraid of research into abortion?

To be honest, there are so many gob-smacking details in the story it’s difficult to know which deserve the most mockery.

Let’s start by noting that the Missouri state senator involved is chair of the Missouri senate’s interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life.  Let’s just pause and let that sink in.

What the actual fuck?!  The state of Missouri’s senators are so far gone that they actually have a Committee on the Sanctity of life. The duties of said committee are spelled out here and are genuinely stunning in multiple, utterly nonsensical ways: Read the rest of this entry »

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Salon Wins Today’s “Best Headline Award”

The GOP debate was a blizzard of garbage: Sorting through last night’s mess of lies and crazy

You gotta read it.

Here’s a taste:

For just a second, it was possible to glimpse an actual debate in the middle of this blizzard of garbage. Here were two men representing competing strands of the Republican Party – the libertarian wing of Rand Paul versus the heirs to Reagan’s tax-cuts-and-imperialism-because-AMERICA branch that has found in Marco Rubio its perfect, pliable spokesman. Here was a meta-debate in the making, with a child tax credit as the Trojan horse by which the GOP would smuggle into the silly season a meaningful talk about the contradictions between its conservative philosophy and its actual practices, the entire existential crossroads that the party has been standing in front of since the George W. Bush administration.


Trump: Your Wages Are Too High!


Last night’s Tea-GOP presidential debate was a miserable slog through two hours of lies, myths, and disinformation. I gave up after the first hour. But Donald Trump set the tone right away with the very first question from Neil Cavuto. And the Wisconsin audience must have been composed almost entirely of millionaires, because they applauded for every one of the deeply unpopular proposals coming from the eight candidates.

[Emphasis added]


…And so we begin. Candidates, as we gather tonight in this very august theater, just outside and across the country, picketers are gathering as well. They’re demanding an immediate hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Just a few hours ago, near Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing the same for all state workers, the first governor to do so.

Mr. Trump, as the leading presidential candidate on this stage and one whose tax plan exempts couples making up to $50,000 a year from paying any federal income taxes at all, are you sympathetic to the protesters cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year?


I can’t be Neil. And the and the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.

But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.


So do not raise the minimum wage?


I would not do it.


We all laughed when John Ellis (“Jeb!”) Bush told Americans to forget about a raise, just “work longer hours.” Last night, Trump said roughly the same thing.

Americans work an average of 47 hours a week. Our wages have stagnated since 1979. None of the Tea-GOPers on stage last night offered any help at all for the struggling middle class or entry-level workers. Nor did they address the injustice of the low-wage business model, which forces taxpayers to subsidize some of the nation’s most profitable corporations when their employees are not paid a living wage.

More info:
Unemployment keeps going down. So why aren’t wages going up?
Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil
Americans are spending $153 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s low wage workers


The Purity Culture’s Stew of Terror and Misinformation Boils Over

I’ve been trying to make sense of the antics on display at the Omaha Public School hearing about making changes to their thirty year old sexuality education program.

It had the hallmarks of a moral panic:

A moral panic is a public panic over an issue deemed to be a threat to, or shocking to, the sensibilities of “proper” society. This is often fanned by sensationalistselective reporting in the media and exaggerated accounts offered by “moral entrepreneur,” a category that includes politicians on the make and activists in search of a cause. Moral panics can result in what is a real phenomenon being blown way out of proportion, or in what is not a real phenomenon in the first place being widely believed to be real. Moral panics often feature a caricatured or stereotypical “folk devil” on which the anxieties of the community are focused, as described by sociologist Stanley Cohen who coined the term in his study Folk Devils and Moral Panics, which examined media coverage of the mod and rocker riots in the 1960s.[1][2]

Read the rest of this entry »


A Majority of Republicans in the House Want the US to Default on Its Debt

How do we know?  They just voted for it.  167 Republicans voted against the budget deal negotiated by Boehner and Obama.

All the Democrats voted in favor, as did 79 Republicans. It may or may not be a good deal but it beats the hell out of defaulting on our debt or shutting down the government.

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JEB! has a moment of unfortunate Bushiness

Over the weekend, Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly highlighted an excerpt from an interview with JEB! Bush that is gobsmacking in its honesty while also demonstrating that JEB! has apparently no political instincts and has inherited the family’s propensity for saying awkward things:

If this is an election about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people are literally in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.

By all means, JEB! head off and do those cool things.  FWIW, it’s clear that the Bush’s have lost control of the Republican party. Jeb was always perceived as the “smart” Bush, the one with the political chops, the policy know-how and the ability to lead. He’s been a stiff, unappealing candidate, an ineffective campaigner and oddly maladroit in is messaging.

LeTourneau makes an observation I find interesting:

Overall I get that folks like Bush, Sr. and many of his team are probably shocked at the GOP’s response to Jeb’s presidential campaign. But the truth is, they would be in much better shape right now if they had stood up to all this nonsense a long time ago (like before Jeb decided to run for president). At least then it wouldn’t have come off so self-serving and entitled.

The Bushes are the Republican establishment. Their connections served to raise vast sums of money for Jeb’s campaign. By their thinking, he should have cruised to victory. But he isn’t. And the Republican base is having the time of their lives.


Marco Rubio non quitter quitting the Senate

In the category of “don’t the let the doorknob hit you on the ass on the way out” Marco Rubio has apparently decided he’s not running for re-election to the Senate.

Remember, Rubio arrived in the Senate as one of the GOP’s rising stars, he was going to be the future of the party.

This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust.

In an effort to put lipstick on a pig, he’s casting his decision to leave the Senate as virtuous:

Rubio is not a quitter, the argument goes.

In fact, that’s precisely why he’s quitting this place.

“He wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing now if he were a quitter,” said Norman Braman, a Florida auto dealer and one of Rubio’s longtime donors.


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Republicans live by the conspiracy theory, die by the conspiracy theory

I was in the odd position of being able to watch a sizable chunk of Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House committee investigating BENGHAZI! If you wondered what was the big deal before the hearing, you were even more in the dark after it.

For 11 hours, Republicans grilled Hillary Clinton about all sorts of ephemera, trivialities and tangents. We heard a lot about some guy named Sidney Blumenthal, one Republican went so far as to ask if the US Ambassador to Libya had Hillary’s home address, email, fax and cell numbers.  Another Republican asked if Hillary had been home alone all night after the attack (the answer is yes).  The promised revelations of nefarious wrongdoing never emerged. At the end of the hearing, the Republicans looked foolish, Hillary looked presidential and we knew nothing about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that we did not know before.

The hearings made several other things abundantly clear.

  • Republicans are convinced that someone did something nefarious that resulted in the deaths in Benghazi and that something was deliberate, intentional and malicious.
  • Republicans have no idea what that nefarious action actually was.
  • Republicans aren’t sure who did the nefarious thing that resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi.
  • Republicans have decided that the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is proof of a successful conspiracy to do something nefarious and further investigation must, of necessity, unveil that nefarious action and the person behind it.
  • Hillary Clinton drives the Republicans completely and totally crazy.

Conservatives are convinced that Jim Jordan’s line of questioning was a “bombshell” that blew apart Hillary’s testimony. But they’re the only ones. Jordan read an email of Hillary’s to her daughter that said something like “some people are saying this attack was motivated by angry response to a youtube video demeaning muslims but we believe it is a terrorist attack.” Somehow that obvious statement has become proof of a conspiracy to mislead America.

In the fever swamps of the American right, the story goes something like this: while the attack on the consulate was still happening, the Obama administration, in cahoots with Hillary Clinton, spread a false story about the attacks in an attempt to win the 2012 election which Obama should have lost any way.  This false story is of monumental importance because, without it, Barack Obama would have been revealed to be a simpering, weak president and manly man Mitt Romney would have crushed him in the election. And, besides, the whole attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi was the result of a nefarious, secret conspiracy that somehow resulted because of deliberate wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration.  If it doesn’t make sense, that’s okay because it’s not really supposed to. The lynch pin of the conservative theory of Benghazi is missing because in the real world it does not exist and in conservative world it has yet to be found.

Conservative politicians have done such a good job of convincing conservative voters that Hillary Clinton is a master at the arts of lying, deception, dishonesty and the dark arts of politics that those same politicians are now facing the impossible task of figuring out how to get out of a trap of their own making.  A story at Vox describes Benghazi as a political version of the classic prisoner’s dilemma. Conservative activists and voters simply will not and cannot accept the assertion that Hillary didn’t do something wrong. They support conservative politicians who promise to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Conservatives who don’t promise to get to the bottom of the conspiracy find themselves facing furious  conservative voters and activists until they at long last promise to get the bottom of the conspiracy.  Lather, rinse, repeat.


‘Called upon to fight, they fled’

Andrew Bacevich: On Building Armies (and Watching Them Fail)

First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq. Now, there is Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry) without even mounting serious resistance. Called upon to fight, they fled. In each case, the defending forces gave way before substantially outnumbered attackers, making the outcomes all the more ignominious.

“Vietnamization,” the U.S policy that ended in abject failure with the fall of Saigon in 1975, proved that training, weapons, and equipment can never make up for a deficit of will. Also, a weak state with dubious legitimacy can’t be propped up for very long by military force. Jump to the conclusion:

What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly. So where U.S. interests require that fighting be done, like it or not, we’re going to have to do that fighting ourselves. By extension, in circumstances where U.S. forces are demonstrably incapable of winning or where Americans balk at any further expenditure of American blood — today in the Greater Middle East both of these conditions apply — then perhaps we shouldn’t be there.

Bacevich doesn’t address the fiasco of the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, armed and trained by the U.S., who promptly surrendered and turned over all their equipment to al-Qaeda. The Pentagon recently announced the end of that misbegotten military aid effort (which was probably undertaken solely to make Senator John McCain happy, as if).

More info:
Taliban Withdraw From Kunduz After Days of Fighting
Not Again! US Trained Syrian “Moderates” Surrender To Jihadists – Hand Over Heavy Weapons


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