09/17/2015 archive

The Trump Card

Is Trump too honest for the GOP? He’s actually challenging Republican fantasies – but it could spell trouble

by Simon Maloy, Salon

Thursday, Sep 17, 2015 02:45 PM EST

One thing I did notice that might end up stinging Trump is the fact that he’s a little bit too honest when it comes to certain key issue areas. The Republican Party and the conservative movement have dogmas and mythologies that they take great care to insulate from the corrosive effects of real life, particularly when it comes to economics and national security. At last night’s debate, Trump did his part to tear them down.

About halfway into the festivities, CNN moderator Jake Tapper asked Ben Carson about his Bible-inspired flat tax plan, which would have every taxpayer in America kick in ten percent of their income, regardless of what they make. Carson explained that his plan is an improvement upon our current system of progressive taxation, because the very idea of asking a wealthy person to pay a higher tax rate is “socialism,” and “that doesn’t work so well.”

Trump was given his opportunity to respond, and he correctly pointed out that progressive taxation isn’t “socialism,” but rather a matter of basic fairness: a multi-millionaire can shed ten percent of their income with little difficulty, but that’s not the case for someone living on a subsistence wage.

That answer was a direct challenge to many of the other candidates in the race, who have proposed plans that either completely flatten the tax code or skew it more in favor of the wealthy. So much of Republican and conservative economic policy is premised on the idea that the tax code is unfair to high earners, who need more money so that they can create jobs for normal people, and Trump said that way of thinking is indefensible.

On national security, Trump went even bigger, having the temerity to suggest that George W. Bush’s eight years of bumbling mishaps and misguided invasions are the root cause of all instability in the Middle East. “Your brother – and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected,” Trump shot at Jeb. “You know what?” Jeb said in response. “As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.” Trump fired back: “I don’t know. You feel safe right now? I don’t feel so safe.” At that point, Scott Walker joined the conversation to defend Jeb and his brother. “It’s not because of George W. Bush; it’s because of Barack Obama,” he said to applause from the audience.

The idea that George W. Bush’s foreign policy was ultimately a success is a fiction Republicans and conservatives tell themselves in order to keep faith in the “Bush Doctrine” or the “Freedom Agenda” or whatever the hell they’re calling the “invade and/or bomb everyone everywhere” strain of foreign policy thought. For the foreign policies of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham to make even the slightest bit of sense, you have to start from the premise that The Surge in Iraq fixed all the problems in the country after years of bloody sectarian violence and political intransigence. Then you have to convince yourself that the rise of the Islamic state and the attendant destabilization of the region are the fault of Obama for not forcing the Iraqis to agree to a residual force of few thousand U.S. troops. Trump challenged those fictions, causing the establishment candidates to huff in disagreement.

Statements like these might end up hurting him because there has to be a limit on how un-Republican the Republican primary electorate will allow a candidate to be. GOP voters and conservatives like being told that all the undocumented immigrants will be kicked out and that we’ll stick it to the Chinese. They also like being told that tax hikes are socialism and that all the problems in the Middle East are Barack Obama’s fault for surrendering to the terrorists. The worst thing that could happen to Trump is if those voters get tired of his immigration act and start paying more attention to the other things he says.

The Donald is an umitigated asshole but I think he’s very important.  He shows how fundamentally angry even Republicans are at the Beltway Neo-Lib consensus and how thin support for the tired tropes is.

It’s all Been a Pack of Lies

Well, if you told me you were drowning

I would not lend a hand

I’ve seen your face before my friend

But I don’t know if you know who I am

Well, I was there and I saw what you did

I saw it with my own two eyes

So you can wipe off that grin,

I know where you’ve been

It’s all been a pack of lies

That is about the sum of last night’s five and a half hour, two tiered GOP presidential debate on CNN moderated by Jake Tapper. Aside from the sniping about records as governors, senators and CEOs, America got an earful of chest thumping war mongering , fantasy and lies about everything from Planned Parenthood to vaccines, tried and untried bad ideas on the economy and taxes, and only one question about climate change. None of it was challenged by any of the candidates or the moderator. This was a marathon exercise in performance art by a bunch of scary, mindless individuals on an ego trip to be the most powerful politician in the world.

FactChecking the CNN Republican Debate

By FactCheck.Org

The candidates flubbed claims on vaccines, immigration, Hillary Clinton and more.


The Republican presidential candidates met for their second debate on Sept. 16, this one hosted by CNN at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. We found they strayed from the facts on numerous issues, including:

   Donald Trump told a story linking vaccination to autism, but there’s no evidence that recommended vaccines cause autism. And Sen. Rand Paul suggested that it would be safer to spread out recommended vaccines, but there’s no evidence of that, either.

   Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Trump donated to his gubernatorial campaign to get him to change his mind on casino gambling in Florida. But Trump denied he ever wanted to bring casino gambling to the state. A former lobbyist says he did.

   Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said that Hillary Clinton was “under investigation by the FBI” because she “destroyed government records.” Not true. She had the authority to delete personal emails.

   Trump said that “illegal immigration” cost “more than $200 billion a year.” We couldn’t find any support for that. Actually, it could cost taxpayers $137 billion or more to deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, as Trump proposes.

   Trump again wrongly said that Mexico doesn’t have a birthright citizenship policy like the United States. It does.

   Carly Fiorina said that the Planned Parenthood videos released by an anti-abortion group showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” But that scene isn’t in any of the videos.

   Fiorina repeated familiar boasts about her time at Hewlett-Packard, saying the size of the company “doubled,” without mentioning that was due to a merger with Compaq, and she cherry-picked other statistics.

   Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that U.S. policies to combat climate change would “do absolutely nothing.” The U.S. acting alone would have a small effect on rising temperatures and sea levels, and experts say U.S. leadership on the issue would prompt other nations to act.

   In the “happy hour” debate, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham glossed over the accompanying tax increases when he said only that Ronald Reagan and then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill “found a way to save Social Security from bankruptcy by adjusting the age of retirement from 65 to 67.”

Facts Go on Trial at Second Republican Debate

Bt Charles Pierce, Esquire Politics

How much of this bullshit is going to go unchallenged?

Ben Carson still wants to change the tax code to a 10 percent biblical tithe. Rand Paul wants a 14 percent flat rate. Mike Huckabee wants the Fair Tax. Only Donald Trump stuck up for a progressive income tax, which Carson called “socialist” as Teddy Roosevelt went to 78 rpm under the sod. The most nauseating moment came when Scott Walker deflected a question on the minimum wage by emphasizing all he’s done for higher education in Wisconsin. Which raised a problem with this whole format. Jake Tapper did a good job playing one candidate off another, and using their own words to do it. But there was a lot of high-quality bullshit being slung around up there that went completely unchallenged. Walker’s paean to higher education was one example. The phony Planned Parenthood videos were treated as gospel. Nobody got called on anything except on what they’d said about someone else. (Hugh Hewitt was next to useless, bringing a touch of evening drive radio to an event that was starved for gravitas anyway, but we expected that.) There simply isn’t a single new idea on the economy here. There are only bad ideas that nobody’s tried yet.

The GOP debate was a chaotic disaster: Why CNN’s most watched program ever was also completely ridiculous

By Jack Mirkinson, Salon

Jake Tapper & co. did their best to avoid the pitfalls of the Fox News debate. Only problem? They whiffed badly

Tapper’s line of questioning left much to be desired. Time and again, the candidates were asked explicitly to argue with each other-“Tell him why he’s wrong” was a common refrain-rather than forced to mount a thorough defense of their own views. The emphasis on letting the candidates pin each other down meant that multiple whoppers went by unchallenged, with Carly Fiorina’s entirely made-up horror stories about Planned Parenthood being a notable example.

The strategy also turned the proceedings into a bit of a chaotic mess. At the Fox debate, the moderators made clear that not all the candidates would get to answer every question. Tapper not only let everybody weigh in on everything, he also gave everyone a chance to reply to every mention of their name, meaning that huge chunks of time were taken up with bickering and point-scoring. The candidates took to whining “Jaaaaaaake!” like bad Marlon Brando impersonators as they pleaded with Tapper for time. More often than not, Tapper gave in. He shouldn’t have.

And the biggest lie of all, from the “smarter” brother.

No, Jeb: George W. Bush Did Not Keep Us Safe

By Amanda Marcotte, Talking Points Memo

In a bit of ugly sparring over who did or did not support the Iraq War, Jeb Bush, in a moment of pique, jumped in with, “You know what? As it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.”

The audience, comprised of Republican primary voters went nuts, and so Bush doubled down on his claim that having 3,000 citizens die from a terrorist attack — the largest in American history — “kept us safe.”

“You remember the rubble? You remember the firefighter with his arms around it?,” he railed. “He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism and he did keep us safe.”

Liberals on Twitter, including myself, sternly disagreed that safety was maintained if you’re standing on a pile of rubble where, just hours before, one of the largest office buildings in the world had stood. In the grander scheme of things, it’s also hard to really buy the idea that safety was best secured by using this terrible terrorist attack as a pretense to start an irrelevant war in Iraq that diverted resources from actually fighting terrorism. Not to say, it’s questionable that anyone is kept safe by the fallout from that war, which led to the deaths of almost half a million people and stoked instability and resentment against the United States.

Stopped Clocks and Alarms

If you see Stupid say Stupid.

Here’s The Ridiculous Texas Law That Allows Law Enforcement To Pretend A Digital Clock Is A Hoax Bomb

by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt

Thu, Sep 17th 2015 10:37am

There may be some method behind the zero tolerance, racially-tinged madness of the Irving, Texas, police department. The department perp-walked fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed out of school and into its welcoming arms for the crime of not building a bomb. It was a clock, but because it had wires and a circuit board and was contained in a metal case and was on school grounds and Ahmed Mohamed’s name is Ahmed Mohamed, the police decided that if it wasn’t a bomb, it was the next best thing: a “bomb hoax.”

So, after handcuffing him “for his safety” (ACTUAL QUOTE) and holding the non-bomb “as evidence” of a crime that wasn’t committed, the department has dropped all charges. It isn’t very repentant, however, despite everyone else — including the President of the United States — expressing support for the student. It still claims everything about the horrendous debacle was by the book. And, sadly enough, it probably was.

Mohamed didn’t pretend the clock was a bomb. Far from it. But that doesn’t matter because of subsection (2), which takes away anything involving intent and puts it all in the fearful minds of nearly any government official. “Alarm or reaction of ANY type.” How does one avoid causing an alarm or reaction in others, especially others that seem particularly easily alarmed? It’s impossible.

Mohamed’s science teacher wasn’t alarmed, but he did remark that maybe Ahmed shouldn’t show this project to anyone else. Mohamed didn’t plan to, but the clock started beeping during another class and shortly thereafter, his English teacher started panicking. (But in the controlled sort of panic where a person demands someone hand over a bomb — something no rational person would do if they actually thought the device in question was a bomb.)

Now, if we’re going to play along with this statute’s wordings, a whole lot of everyday items suddenly become much more “dangerous.” Road flares, cell phones, batteries, a box full of wires, a vibrator, a doorbell, a power inverter… basically anything someone might feel could explode or could trigger an explosion would fall under the enormous shadow this statute casts.

But if we’re going to play along with the police and the stupid law they used to defend their actions, we have to ask why several school officials — including the English teacher who reported Mohamed to them — weren’t arrested as well. After all, they very likely knew they didn’t have an actual “explosive or incendiary device” in their hands, and yet they approached the police department with claims that they did. This very definitely provoked a reaction and, at that point, the device was in the possession of school personnel. That’s subsection (2).

By claiming a bomb was on the school’s premises (when they likely knew it wasn’t a bomb — see also: no evacuation of the school, no warning sent to parents, etc.), they also violated subsection (1) of the statute.

Perp walking a few school officials out of the building and into squad cars would certainly teach them not to waste valuable law enforcement resources with stupid, fearful bullshit. But these actions would only be taken by a police department not so inclined to waste its own time investigating bombs that aren’t bombs and arresting students who aren’t criminals. And, as can clearly be seen, the Irving PD does not meet these standards.

Old News

Nick Merrill: the man who may unlock the secrecy of the FBI’s controversial subpoenas

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 17 September 2015 07.30 EDT

Unless the US Justice Department challenges a federal judge’s order that was kept secret until Monday, 27 November will be a landmark date for transparency in the post-9/11 era. The black bars obscuring the specific kinds of data the FBI sought from Merrill in 2004 will lift, revealing categories of information the bureau seeks to acquire outside the normal warrant process.

Merrill, president of the firm Calyx, which at the time provided web hosting services, chose to fight the NSL instead of complying. He said that the public would be horrified to see the sorts of things the FBI acquires without a warrant.

“Internet service providers, email providers and other online services often store huge amounts of intensely personal and revealing data. NSLs have allowed the FBI to run rampant, demanding the sensitive records of innocent people in complete secrecy, avoiding the constitution’s carefully designed system of checks and balances, without ever appearing before a federal judge,” Merrill, now 42, told the Guardian.

The 2001 Patriot Act lowered the standards for issuing NSLs substantially. No longer did the FBI need a particularized suspicion against an individual target, just “relevance” to a terrorism or espionage investigation. Special agents-in-charge at the FBI’s 56 field offices could now issue an NSL, not merely senior officials at its Washington headquarters. The gag orders, however, remained.

Accordingly, the Patriot Act transformed NSLs from a rarity into a routine tool. While secrecy has made hard numbers about NSLs hard to acquire, the FBI made 8,500 requests for data through NSLs in 2000. In 2014 an advisory group on surveillance appointed by Barack Obama reported that the FBI now issues 60 NSLs on average every day, which works out to 21,900 annually. Since a single NSL can request records from multiple people, the total number of people affected is likely to be vastly higher – and remains obscured in secrecy.

Obama’s surveillance advisory group, which included former US intelligence officials, warned that NSLs sought for intelligence investigations “are especially likely to implicate highly sensitive and personal information and to have potentially severe consequences for the individuals under investigation”. It said it was “unable to identify a principled reason why NSLs should be issued by FBI officials“.

As Merrill sought to disclose more, the FBI said, according to New York federal judge Victor Marrero, Merrill “would reveal law enforcement techniques that the FBI has not acknowledged in the context of NSLs, would indicate the types of information the FBI deems important for investigative purposes, and could lead to potential targets of investigations changing their behavior to evade law enforcement detection”.

Marrero, on 28 August, ruled in Merrill’s favor anyway. But the judge’s opinion was kept secret until Monday to ensure that it did not itself reveal classified information.

“The gag was never necessary to protect national security, but to prevent a fulsome debate about the scope of the government’s unchecked power to obtain personal information about Americans,” said German, the former FBI agent, now with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.

“Its release should be just the first step in a much more comprehensive discussion about the full range of government programs to spy on its own citizens.”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Michael Winship: Congress Is a Confederacy of Dunces

Already we’re deep into September and Congress has reconvened in Washington, prompting many commentators to compare its return after summer’s recess to that of fresh-faced students coming back to school, sharpening their pencils, ready to learn, be cooperative and prepared for something new.

This, of course, is where the analogy crumbles.

For this particular Congress to cooperate and do something new would require a miracle on the order of loaves and fishes — perhaps Pope Francis can do something about that when he’s on the Hill next week. His Holiness may be the only hope.

What’s happening is just the latest virulent iteration of the strategy with which the Republicans have infected Congress from the night Barack Obama became president. Make governing impossible (as the old P.J. O’Rourke saying goes, “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”). Shut down democracy, if that’s what it takes. Keep from happening anything that helps and protects the 99 percent or threatens the plutocracy.

Linda Sarsour: Ahmed Mohamed is just one example of the bigotry American Muslims face

Parents like me send our children to school every weekday morning entrusting the adults there to educate them and to cultivate, encourage and promote innovation and creativity among them. More importantly, I trust that my children are protected from any harm – not arrested and interrogated without my presence or that of an attorney by law enforcement officers for trying to intellectually impress the very adults we ask them to trust and with whom they spend most of their days. [..]

But as much as I am outraged at the treatment this young boy endured, I’m dumbfounded at the ignorance of the adults in his school including the police who literally cannot tell the difference between a clock, a bomb and a “fake bomb”, let alone the kind of kid who might bring any of the above. What message does Ahmed’s treatment by his own teachers send to American Muslim students, aspiring inventors, innovators and engineers? We have spent billions of dollars promoting the math and sciences in schools across the United States – but I guess the people who designed those outreach efforts didn’t mean for Muslim kids to take the bait.

The only plausible explanation for a teacher at a school chartered for innovation to respond to a student’s invention with incarceration is that the student was Sudanese American and Muslim, and the teacher, like many Americans, had been saturated with anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia.

Michelle Goldberg: Judging by Last Night’s Debate, the GOP Race Is Only Getting Crazier

Even if Donald Trump goes away, the Republican Party isn’t climbing out of the fever swamps anytime soon.

Luckily for the GOP, most people had probably tuned out by the time last night’s interminable Republican debate hit the two hour and 50 minute mark, when it reached peak craziness. That was when Donald Trump repeated his claim that childhood vaccines cause autism, invoking an employee’s child who “went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

This would have been a good time for someone on the stage to stand up for reality, on an issue where they could count on some degree of conservative support. After all, in a recent poll,

After all, in a recent poll, 57 percent of self-described conservatives said that kids whose parents refuse vaccination shouldn’t be allowed to attend public school. One would think there would be ideological space for someone to whack Trump for parroting left-leaning B-list entertainers like Jenny McCarthy. Instead, the exchange left viewers with the sense that everyone on stage thought Trump had a point. [..]

What is clear, however, is that even if Trump goes away, the Republican Party isn’t climbing out of the fever swamps anytime soon. There were two figures on stage who made occasional gestures towards rationality. Rand Paul criticized militarism and the war on drugs. John Kasich came out against shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood, and insisted that it’s not realistic to promise to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement on day one of a new administration. In a CNN poll taken shortly before the debate, their combined support was 5%. Nothing that happened last night seems likely to change that.

Amy B. Dean: Universal pre-K is the next great public policy crusade

High-quality pre-kindergarten should concern everyone – not just liberals

A clear majority of Americans agree: high-quality preschool should be guaranteed by the public, just as our primary and secondary schools are. It’s an idea that Democrats are hoping to add to their legacy – something to stand along aside Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit as lasting institutions in American life. But it’s also a policy that even business-minded Republicans have reason to support. Not only does it provide a cost-effective educational intervention for our kids; it also gives their parents the freedom to participate in the job market.

On July 7, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced legislation to Congress proposing state-run pre-kindergarten programs that would be freely available to families earning less than $48,000 a year. Unfortunately, Casey’s bill, which was an amendment to No Child Left Behind, has stalled on Capitol Hill. However, at the state level, several Republican governors have already gotten behind their own proposals, creating bipartisan support for an issue whose time has come.

Robert Reich: Why We Must Fight the Attack on Planned Parenthood

On Thursday, right-wing extremists in the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to try to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of women’s health care and family planning services.

Planned Parenthood is under attack and it’s up to all of us to fight back. Any society that respects women must respect their right to control their own bodies. There is a strong moral case to be made for this — but this video isn’t about that. This is about the economics of family planning — which are one more reason it’s important for all of us to stand up and defend Planned Parenthood. [..]

Public investments in family planning — enabling women to plan, delay, or avoid pregnancy — make economic sense, because reproductive rights are also productive rights. When women have control over their lives, they can contribute even more to the economy, better break the glass ceiling, equalize the pay gap, and much more.

Jeb Lund: Donald Trump owns this election. All we can do is lean into the weirdness

If the 2012 presidential election was the first real internet election, this one seems destined to be the first viral one. The viral plane is one of pseudo-real, pseudo-crowdsourced, pseudo-communication, in which some “content” takes control of everyone’s consciousness despite the fact that few if any of us overtly care for or respect the thing. Virality is housed in a place beyond our objections, and saturates us all.

All of this is to say that this is the Trump election, whether he wins or not. Our politics is now simply a reality television show and a clickbait article mashed together, and it may be better for all of us, psychologically, if we just play along.

The structure of Wednesday’s debates reveals the truth of this thesis: it was a two-tiered phenomenon of pseudo-elimination created by the pseudo-metrics of polling, which is dependent less on any rigor about the subjects’ engagement with policy and far more on their reactive engagement with whatever’s flared up and infected us all digitally.

On This Day In History September 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September is the 260th day of the year (261st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 105 days remaining until the end of the year.

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (Debates)

What about them do you not understand?  Funny on a deep fried stick.

Stephen- Kevin Spacey, Carol Burnett, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp.

Larry, Larry, Larry- Ice T, Ricky Velez, and Calise Hawkins. Tick tock, be afraid of the clock.

Eat It!

No, the dog is not there to lick your plate and it’s terribly undignified.  Hey look!  There are more clowns!

I’d tell you to send in the lions except they’re clowns too.

The Kiddie Table

We start tonight with Funnel in your Pants, one of the classics.

Performing are Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Rick Santorum.  Unfortunately we will not be favored by Rick Perry who is too busy being indicted to appear or Jim Gilmore (who is he again?).