Browsing the blog archives for December, 2015.


The American Impasse

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big picture stuff, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Here we are, rolling to the end of another year, about to elect another President.  Very likely the Democratic nominee will be elected, and yet barring divine intervention we’ll be stuck with a Republican majority in the House.  (Right now it appears the Senate could go either way.) So there is still obstruction ahead as far as the eye can see.

Our basic problem, as I see it, boils down to this: There’s a portion of the American population that is prepared, intellectually and emotionally, for the United States to adjust to the 21st century. This portion accepts the U.S. as a multicultural and multi-ethnic nation. It understands the U.S. is one nation among many on this planet, and that our future security and prosperity require friendship and co-operation among nations, for our mutual benefit. It sees government as a means to carry forward the will of we, the people; to secure the rights of citizens; and to be sure that everybody gets a “square deal,” as Theodore Roosevelt promised about 112 years ago.

And then there’s the portion that wants to crawl inside a 1950s-era Disney movie about America and patriotism and never come out. You remember those. In that world, nearly everybody was white. Men were in charge and women were happy to let them be in charge. The few blacks were poor but cheerfully docile, and Native Americans were remote characters who dutifully fell out of trees whenever a white man shot a rifle. You’d think they would have learned to stay out of trees.

There also are a lot of people in neither of those portions. I think a big chunk of the electorate probably knows that Donald Trump is ridiculous and really don’t want to bomb Iran, but they tacitly accept much of the “wisdom” of the Right because that’s all they ever hear — taxes must always be cut, government spending is always bad, and all Middle Easterners are dangerous. They probably don’t accept progressivism, but it’s also the case that it’s probably never been explained to them.

So here we are, this big, strong, wealthy and allegedly dominant nation, and we can’t so much as fix our own bridges. We’re stuck between moving forward as a modern representative democracy or morphing into some kind of authoritarian state run by a cabal of mega-billionaires. If the latter vision wins, the (white) masses will be placated by visions of Fess Parker and his spunky militia protecting the homestead against scary foreign things. Everybody else will be disenfranchised.

A couple of weeks ago,  Rebecca Traister wrote that we’re all suffering through the death throes of while male power.

This moment, this election, these years represent the death throes of exclusive white male power in the United States. That the snarling fury and violence are contemporary does not make them less real than the terrors of previous periods; it makes them more real, at least to those of us living through them. And the presidential-primary contest, while absurdist and theatrical, is reflecting very real fury and violence in the non-electoral world: the burning of crosses and black churches, the execution of black men by police, the resistance of male soldiers to women in elite combat positions, a white man with a history of violence against women himself a “warrior for the babies” after killing people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and a younger white man killing nine black churchgoers with the explanation “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country.”

The political contest just projects these panicked resentments on a bigger, more official screen. The public spectacle of this presidential election, and the two that have preceded it, are inextricably linked to the racialized and gendered anger and violence we see around us. Recall that Trump’s rise in politics began with his attacks on Barack Obama as foreign, as Muslim, as other. And that the tea party whence Ted Cruz springs has concerned itself mostly — official protestations about economic priorities to the contrary — with shutting down reproductive-health options for women. That is, when they are not trying to shut down the political ambitions of Hillary Clinton at any cost (see Trey Gowdy’s wild-eyed, profligate, and fruitless Benghazi investigation).

Increasingly, Republican voters want just one thing: revenge. Read what Frank Lutz says about pro-Trump focus groups:

I spent three hours in a deep dialogue focus group with 29 Trump supporters. The phenomenon of “The Donald” is rooted in a psyche far deeper and more consequential than next November’s presidential election. His support denotes an abiding distrust in — and disrespect for — the governing elite. These individuals do not like being told by Washington or Wall Street what is best for them, do not like the direction America is headed in, and disdain President Barack Obama and his (perceived) circle of self-righteous, tone-deaf governing partisans.

Trump voters are not just angry — they want revenge.

Mr Trump has adroitly filled the vacuum of vitriol, establishing himself as the bold, brash, take-no-prisoners megaphone for the frustrated masses. They see him as the antidote to all that Mr Obama has made wrong with America. So to understand why millions love Mr Trump so much, you have to take a step back and listen to why they hate Mr Obama so much.

Here, my Trump voter focus group was particularly illuminating. Some still believe the president is not Christian. Many believe he does not love America. And just about all of them think he does not reflect the values the country was built upon. Indeed, within this growing faction, Mr Trump has license to say just about anything. As we have seen repeatedly, the more outrageous the accusation, the more receptive the ear.

Mr Trump delights in unleashing harsh attacks on Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment and the “mainstream media”. His childlike joy in ridiculing his critics is tantamount to healing balm for the millions who have felt silenced, ignored and even scorned by the governing and media elite for so long. Is it any wonder that his declaration of war against “political correctness” is his most potent and predictable applause line?

This of course begs the question — what, exactly, has President Obama “made wrong with America”?  Other than being POTUS while black? Do they even know?

The fact that they hate “political correctness” above all things tells me that nothing matters to them more than the freedom to be openly bigoted without being stigmatized for it.

Tom Gogola writes that America really wasn’t ready for a black president.

If hope and change were the Obama buzzwords in 2009, the lesson of 2015 is that a bunch of overstimulated, hopelessly right-wing pseudo statesmen haven’t changed, grown up, dropped the sub rosa race-bait narrative—even as Obama delivered on his fair share of what he promised way back when.

Don’t ask me why Obama’s race is still an issue; ask Lou Dobbs. The immigrant-bashing news anchor blabbed to the Fox masses about how Obama only became president because he played the “race card,” a curiously timed outburst given that Dobbs made it just two weeks ago.

See the rock-solid belief in the minds of true bigots — black people get things handed to them they don’t deserve, at the expense of white people. They even somehow get elected POTUS when they don’t deserve it.

The Trump supporters feel their “values” are being threatened. And, of course, we know what those values are. They value maintaining social and cultural dominance as a birthright. They deserve to dominate because they are white. Being male and overtly Christian also count.

I could go on. Of course,there’s always been a disconnect between the ideal America and the “real” America. We see ourselves as the “good guys” who stand for freedom and compassion. And, y’know, every now and then, we have been. But there’s also always been bigotry and discrimination, sometimes to the point of violence. We’re a nation of mutts uneasily tied together by a Constitution that we all honor, even if we disagree over what it means.  And right now I have no idea where we are heading.

See also: Nate Cohn, Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat; Nancy LeTourneau, Republicans Want Revenge and A World View in Its Death Throes.

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Taxes and 2016: Some Choices

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Obama Administration, Republican Party, Taxes

Although this won’t surprise most of you, do read the in-depth feature in the New York Times about how the mega-wealthy avoid paying taxes.

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means. …

…Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions, and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

These several thousand Americans making use of the private tax system are mostly supporters of Republicans, and donors within this group are behind most of the money going into conservative Super-PACs. A very small number of them are Democratic Party donors, however.

In the heat of the presidential race, the influence of wealthy donors is being tested. At stake are the Obama administration’s limited 2013 tax increase on high earners — the first in two decades — and an I.R.S. initiative to ensure that, in effect, the higher rate sticks by cracking down on tax avoidance by the wealthy.

While Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have pledged to raise taxes on these voters, virtually every Republican has advanced policies that would vastly reduce their tax bills, sometimes to as little as 10 percent of their income.

At the same time, most Republican candidates favor eliminating the inheritance tax, a move that would allow the new rich, and the old, to bequeath their fortunes intact, solidifying the wealth gap far into the future. And several have proposed a substantial reduction — or even elimination — in the already deeply discounted tax rates on investment gains, a foundation of the most lucrative tax strategies.

The article goes on to say that the wealthy are not so much buying politicians as they are buying policy. The “income defense industry” has been able to lower their tax bills from roughly 27 percent to less than 17 percent over the past 25 or so years. The industry has also managed to hobble the IRS from going after them, even as the Obama Administration has made closing loopholes a priority.

Again, although there are Democrats who have gone along with this, for the most part it’s the Republican Party that supports it.

While you are at the New York Times, be sure to read “$250,000 a Year Is Not Middle Class” by Bryce Covert. Hillary Clinton has pledged not to raise taxes on the “middle class,” which she is defining as anyone who makes $250,000 or less. Covert argues that those who make $206,568 or more are in the top 5 percent of earners; they are not “middle class.” Further, this pledge will prevent a Clinton Administration from being able to fund programs that really would help the actual middle class, such as paid family leave.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both support a policy program that would provide paid family leave as a kind of social insurance, and this would be funded by a 0.2 percent payroll tax increase across the board. I’m seeing Hillary supporters gleefully pounce on this, saying Bernie would raise middle-class taxes and Hillary won’t. But it isn’t quite that simple, as Sanders also has pledged to leave all other taxes on people making $250,000 or less alone. Covert writes,

Mr. Obama, who also made a pledge not to raise middle-class taxes, has seen how limiting it can be. Early last year, he made an effort to levy some taxes on 529 college savings accounts, given that 70 percent of account balances in those and similar accounts are owned by families who make more than $200,000. The revenue from the tax would have been plowed into college subsidies that would reach low- and middle-income Americans.

It was a doomed idea. Some families with closer to median income do use 529 accounts. So adding a tax would, technically, increase some middle-class people’s burden, thus violating Mr. Obama’s promise. Backlash erupted not just from Republicans, but fellow Democrats, and he dropped the idea less than a week after floating it.

IMO this plays into the Republican talking point book about taxes, which says that taxes are an oppressive and horrible drain on the pockets of America, while expecting Americans to spend even more money to pay for things that a tax-funded program could provide cheaply is not.  (See also: health care.) It’s why we can’t have nice things. And it’s a notion supported by the income defense industry.

Also, too: Goats

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And Now for Something Completely Different

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blogging

My kids dropped by the temple yesterday for Christmas dinner.  I made slow cooked beef brisket; everything else was vegetarian. Porkless black eye peas and collard greens, corn bread, and banana pudding. The damnyankees in these parts don’t know what to do with black eye peas, and most of them never even heard of banana pudding.

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Christmas Eve

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Obama Administration

It’s suppose to be 73 degrees in Brooklyn by this afternoon. Make of that what you will

I know you’ve all been waiting for my annual cutesy animal videos, but out of deference to c u n d gulag, I’ll just post one this year.

Be sure to read Dave Barry’s 2015 Year in Review, but empty your bladder first.

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Republicans in Disarray

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Republican Party

Jeff Greenfield speculates that a Trump nomination would cause the Republican establishment to run a third-party candidate.

With Trump as its standard-bearer, the GOP would suddenly be asked to rally around a candidate who has been called by his once and former primary foes “a cancer on conservatism,” “unhinged,” “a drunk driver … helping the enemy.” A prominent conservative national security expert, Max Boot, has flatly labeled him “a fascist.” And the rhetoric is even stronger in private conversations I’ve had recently with Republicans of moderate and conservative stripes.

This is not the usual rhetoric of intraparty battles, the kind of thing that gets resolved in handshakes under the convention banners. These are stake-in-the-ground positions, strongly suggesting that a Trump nomination would create a fissure within the party as deep and indivisible as any in American political history, driven both by ideology and by questions of personal character.

Indeed, it would be a fissure so deep that, if the operatives I talked with are right, Trump running as a Republican could well face a third-party run—from the Republicans themselves.

Greenfield goes on to describe other times when presidential nominees were abandoned by their parties and consider what the Republican establishment might do. The most likely scenario, IMO, is that the the establishment will try to ignore Trump and work their butts off for House and Senate candidates instead, stacking Congress so that a Democratic president could be kept in check. I don’t see them trying to run an alternative candidate.

 

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This Is What Happens Without Separation of Church and State

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Religion

Brunei has banned public Christmas celebrations, and the usual promoters of the War on Christmas are apoplectic. The commenters of Jihad Watch are calling for a ban on Islam, while others snark that Muslims must be weenies (my word, not theirs) if their faith can’t stand up to Santa Claus hats.

This is from the same people who threw an epic fit over the building of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan and who whine incessantly about being oppressed because people wish them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” These are the same people whose god is such a wimp he can be ordered out of public schools by Supreme Court decisions. And these are the same people who insist they can use government offices to enforce their own religious beliefs, such as by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Many of these people would vote for Marco Rubio, who declared the United States is governed by God, not the Constitution. And don’t get me started on Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

(Note that several GOP candidates have claimed God told them to run for president. Why does God hate America?)

What these meatballs don’t get about Brunei is that this is what happens when there is no separation of church and state.

On my other website I devote several articles to Buddhism in China. It seems lots of people in the U.S. think China bans religion, and that is not true. Officially, the government in Beijing supports religion. In recent years, Beijing has sunk a lot of money into restoring temples (many destroyed during the Cultural Revolution) and building big religious displays, such as the gigantic Guanyin of the South Sea.

They do this for other religions, too. The government has restored many cathedrals destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Sounds nice, right? But the cathedrals are administered by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, part of the Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy. The CPCA also appoints bishops and, I believe, pays the salaries of clergy. The Vatican doesn’t recognize Chinese clergy as authentic. See also China’s Outrageous Reincarnation Policy.

In the case of Buddhism, Taoism, and other traditional Chinese religions, much of this investment is about tourism. Monasteries, shrines and temples are expected to make money. I understand the fabled Shaolin monastery is a regular cash cow for Beijing.  See also The Disneyfication of Tibet.

This is what happens without separation of church and state.

As most of you know, the establishment clause of the First Amendment essentially forbids Congress  (and through the Fourteenth Amendment, state and local government also) from favoring one religion over another. This is not about banning religion from the public sphere outright, just not showing favoritism. Governments can either ban nativity scenes on public (as in government) property or allow other religions to promote their holidays as well, including Muslims, Satanists and Pastafarians. Lots of groups are demanding that Festivus poles be displayed on public grounds this year, in protest of nativity scenes.

Last month a Pew survey found that white Christians are now less than half of the population. Conservative Christians who continue to claim separation of church and state is the work of the Devil had better think about what might happen if a non-Christian religion ever claims enough followers to become a majority in the U.S. Without separation of church and state, what happened in Brunei could happen here.

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This Is Murica

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big picture stuff, Republican Party

I didn’t even realize there was a mass shooting in Knoxville on Friday until I read about a young man who was shot in the head while shielding three young women. It’s so hard to keep up.

In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the siege of Miami. Or the drowning of Miami, as it were.

To cope with its recurrent flooding, Miami Beach has already spent something like a hundred million dollars. It is planning on spending several hundred million more. Such efforts are, in Wanless’s view, so much money down the drain. Sooner or later—and probably sooner—the city will have too much water to deal with. Even before that happens, Wanless believes, insurers will stop selling policies on the luxury condos that line Biscayne Bay. Banks will stop writing mortgages.

“If we don’t plan for this,” he told me, once we were in the car again, driving toward the Fontainebleau hotel, “these are the new Okies.” I tried to imagine Ma and Pa Joad heading north, their golf bags and espresso machine strapped to the Range Rover.

The situation is not helped by the fact that the state’s Republican government is in denial that this is happening. And the people whose property and neighborhoods are being flooded also are in denial, or just plain don’t understand what’s happening because no one is explaining it to them. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are working on ways to kill the Paris climate agreement.

The class acts at Red State are trying to make an issue of Hillary Clinton’s old lady kidneys. Just wait until your prostates enlarge, dudes.

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Everybody Behaving Badly

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Democratic Party

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the DNC voter database flap, and finally I found somebody who appears to understand what happened.

Basically, the DNC uses a creaky old voter database setup with firewalls between campaign staffs. Because of a glitch on the part of the database company, at least one Sanders staffer suddenly had access to Clinton data. He was supposed to immediately report this but did not. This was stupid on his part, because user activity on the database is monitored. Instead, it appears at least one staffer tried to access lists of donors. He or they  would not have been able to download these lists, according to the source linked above, but they would have been able to view valuable “topline” information. So, the Sanders staffer(s) behaved badly. The person deemed responsible for the bad behavior has been fired. There is no indication Bernie Sanders himself was involved.

There’s a broad consensus that actual damage to the Clinton campaign from this mishap was minimal. Would have been minimal, anyway, except other people behaved badly.

In a normal world, the DNC would have quietly gone to both campaigns, investigated the incident, and perhaps request that responsible parties be fired. However, this is not a normal world. In a massive display of bad judgment, and in a bare-assed attempt to put her thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz went public with this incident and made it a big bleeping deal.

Temporarily cutting off the Sanders campaign from the database was not an unreasonable thing to do while the glitch was being investigated and the firewall patched up. But DWS made it seem the DNC was punishing the Sanders campaign. And then the Sanders campaign felt compelled to threaten a lawsuit to get their access back (which has been restored). Maybe that was grandstanding; maybe the Sandernistas feared DWS was going to keep them locked out long enough to seriously shut down their funding drives.

The Clinton campaign has accused the Sanders campaign of theft, when IMO HRC and her people would have been better off stepping aside and letting Sanders and the DNC duke it out, especially since the beef all along is that the DNC is entirely in the tank for HRC.  This is at Vox:

The back-and-forth here is emblematic of a larger struggle between Sanders and the DNC, which has persisted since the beginning of the primary. The DNC has pretty openly lined up behind Hillary Clinton, pushing for her to cruise to victory without splitting the field, as happened in 2008. The Sanders campaign sees the severity of this punishment as driven by the DNC’s broader bias against their candidate.

Charles Pierce:

Let us stipulate a few things. First, the DNC, under the barely perceptible leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has greased the skids for Hillary Rodham Clinton. (A debate on the Saturday night before Christmas, when half the country’s on an airplane going to visit the other half? Please.) Second, yes, it’s true, if the situation were reversed, and it was the Clinton campaign that had breached the Sanders campaign’s data, The New York Times would be screaming bloody murder and talking about a “culture” of slicker, and where’s there’s smoke etc. etc. Third, it’s true that, if I wanted to throw the Democratic primary campaign into a little chaos to distract attention from the fact that Tuesday night’s Republican debate more closely resembled a casting call by Roger DeBris, this is exactly the kind of story I would want to have out there. And, last, it’s true that, if I wanted to distract from the fact that Sanders on Thursday was endorsed by the Communication Workers of America, and by Democracy For America, this also would be exactly the kind of story I would want out there. So, all your paranoid speculations are as well-founded as paranoid speculations can be.

 Josh Marshall believes this is going to hurt HRC and the Democratic Party more than it’s going to hurt Sanders.

Let’s be clear on one point: It may not look like it. But the DNC/Clinton campaign actually needs the Sanders Camp much more than the Sanders Camp needs them.

Here’s why.

The overwhelming likelihood is that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. That means that 3 or 4 or 6 months from now her campaign and the DNC will need to unify the party. Whatever the data folks at the Sanders campaign did, by suspending their access the DNC will quite likely give a lot of Sanders supporters the idea that if they’d only had access to their data, Sanders might have won. At a minimum, many will be convinced that the game was rigged all along: that the DNC was operating as an arm of the Clinton campaign.

Now, Clinton is the candidate with overwhelming party establishment buy-in. We all know that the DNC and its apparatus is more friendly and inclined toward her campaign. But there is a world of difference before passive support or hopes for her victory and actively tipping the scales in her favor. If Sanders supporters get the idea the DNC and its chair are doing the latter, it introduces a toxic chemical into the bloodstream of the party. That could cause big, big problems down the line for Clinton and for the entire Democratic ticket.

Now, if that’s not depressing enough, read Andrew O’Hehir:

We have been told once again, for the 443rd time, that sooner or later all the leathery, old, white Republicans will wither away and Democrats will inherit the earth. Sounds good in theory, but I have two questions: What Democrats? And what earth? …

…Hillary Clinton is a symptom of a party that has lost its ideological moorings and more recently been eaten away from below by political termites. She is not the disease itself, and the Hillary vs. Bernie cage match, with its frequently unappetizing gender politics, is not the main event. This week’s report from the Center for American Progress, with its claim that the nation’s shifting demographics overwhelmingly favor the Democrats in 2016 and beyond, was hardly breaking news (least of all to Republican donors and strategists). One of the authors of that study, Ruy Teixeira, co-wrote the book “The Emerging Democratic Majority” — published in 2002. At least he doesn’t give up easily. But this time around, the report contains or conceals a grievous epistemological error: It assumes a bipolar universe of Democrats and Republicans, the traditional realm of traditional politics. And in this year of Trump and Sanders and generalized political madness, that universe is imploding around us….

…The demographic changes envisioned in that CAP report will take many decades to play out, and if you want to insist that the Democratic glass is half-full, you can see the Sanders 2016 campaign as the beginning of a badly needed internal process of reform or revolution. But all confident predictions of an endless future of Democratic hegemony involve a failure to observe the most obvious facts in American politics: Party identification is dropping to all-time lows, and outside the unique demographic leverage of a presidential election, voting is doing likewise. …

… The Democratic Armageddon of 2014 revealed a party with no fight, no strategy, no ideas and no soul. Its elected officials and Washington apparatchiks whined and wailed, blamed their own voters for accurately perceiving that they were clueless and defeated, and then capitulated and crawled away. That party still hopes to be rescued by the demographic advantage it has been promised for 25 years and counting. But it has done nothing to earn or deserve that advantage, has no idea what to do with it and, absent major change, will be sure to squander it if it ever gets here.

I can’t say he’s wrong.

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Don’t Short the Big Short

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Obama Administration

Paul Krugman himself praises The Big Short, the new feature film on the financial crisis. Let’s all go see it.   Here’s a list of auxiliary reading to accompany the film.

There are lots of good reviews. This is by Peter Travers in The Rolling Stone:

It sounds like a horror show: a doomsday epic about the 2008 financial crisis and the Wall Street wolves who got rich off it. Gone were the homes, jobs and savings of average Joes. But wait. As directed and written by Adam McKay – the dude behind Anchorman and other giddy hits with Will Ferrell, his partner on the website Funny or Die – The Big Short is hunting bigger game. I’d call it a Restoration comedy for right the fuck now, a farce fueled by rage against the machine that relentlessly kills ethics, and a hell of a hilarious time at the movies if you’re up for laughs that stick in your throat.

So who doesn’t like it? Um, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The New York Post, and Fortune. Um, do tell.

I haven’t seen it, but now I’m going to have to make a point of it.

 

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Squawk Squawk Chickenhawk

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Republican Party

Hearing those meatballs running for the Republican nomination brag about how tough they’d be on terrorism is surreal. It’s like hearing some pot-bellied drunk brag about how he could beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. if the World Boxing Association would let him in the ring.

Ted “Tailgunner” Cruz brags about “carpet bombing” ISIS, apparently without comprehending what “carpet bombing” means. Even Frank Bruni is snarky

Someone needs to explain carpets to Ted Cruz.

They’re continuous stretches of material, usually rectangular, sometimes round. They’re not staggered, interrupted, with stops, starts, holes and sharp jags so that they smother and blot out only the evil bits of floor but leave adjacent, innocent ones untouched.

When you call for carpet bombing, as Cruz did again on Tuesday night, you are not outlining a strategy of pinpoint targeting or of any discernment.

You are sounding big and bold and advocating something indiscriminate. That’s the nature of a carpet. You can’t pretend otherwise.

Unless you’re Cruz, who can pretend just about anything.

I’m pretty sure none of the A-list contenders has had any experience wearing a military uniform, except perhaps for Halloween.  (Toast! and Dr. Ben did register for the draft during the late Vietnam era but were not called.)  Gilmore (is he still running?) was in the Military Intelligence Corp. for a while. Miz Lindsey has a considerable military record serving as a lawyer but was never deployed into combat. Of course, combat experience is no predictor of whether a President will be an effective commander in chief. But you’d think a person who has never seen war would at least affect some humility and reticence about sending other people into one.

On the other hand, there’s Mike Huckabee, who never served, telling young people to get off their butts and secure their freedoms.

Charlies Pierce:

So sitting there, listening to a bunch of people who never served a day in combat talk about how they’re going to turn the Middle East into obsidian glass and how they will keep me safe, it was hard not to fall off my chair. Frankly, I wouldn’t hire any of these people to watch my car in a valet parking lot, let alone lead the country into what they never miss a chance to call, “the Third World War.” Chris Christie? Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio?

Trump?

You see where I’m going here.

When he was a “federal prosecutor,” Chris Christie made more ferocious war on his expense account than he did against the “people who want to kill us.” (His big trophy case, the Fort Dix Six, is one of those strange half-entrapment cases.) He also doesn’t seem to like the Senate very much. Marco Rubio, continuing his ongoing effort to fill out a grown-up person’s suit, postured and promised us (again) a 500-ship Navy to keep us safe from the people who drive their pick-up trucks across the ocean to attack us. He also puffed himself up and declined to talk about classified information on national television. (This assumes, of course, that he even knows any, given the fact that he seems to have developed a severe allergy to something in the  room where the Senate Intelligence Committee meets.) Ben Carson said something very weird about being a neurosurgeon in connection with carpet-bombing Syria. (I’m not kidding.) It’s a very good thing that we really are not electing a commander-in-chief for the whole country because none of these guys is up to the job.

There’s an old saying, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Well, if hot air were missiles, these guys would be fearsome. But it ain’t, and they aren’t.

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