Meanwhile, Back at the Bird Sanctuary …

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I know we’ve all moved on from the clown-shoe occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but the last of the occupiers have not moved on. Four of the brave and resolute patriots remain on the Refuge, saying they will not leave unless they are promised law enforcement will not be mean to them, and that they will not be arrested. However, a federal grand jury just indicted their sorry butts, so I doubt that’s going to be an option.

Presumably speaking from a jail cell, this week Ammon Bundy issued an order to state and federal authorities to go home.

Ammon Bundy, leader of the monthlong armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge, said from jail Thursday that the takeover was “a needed action” and called on state and federal law enforcement officials to leave eastern Oregon. …

…”Government officials chose to end our educational efforts with attacks of force and it appears they attempt to do it again,” Bundy said in the minute-and-a half statement. “Go home, Oregon State Police. You have already killed enough. Go home, FBI. It is time to end this.”

Also, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would make the occupiers responsible for paying for the extra law enforcement their occupation required, and also for any damage they’ve done to property on the Refuge. They’ve run up about a million dollar tab so far.

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Dust and Ashes, Egos and Religion

Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton

The two Dem candidates were asked spiritual/religious questions yesterday, and IMO their answers spoke volumes about how they see themselves and their campaigns.

This is from a CNN town hall meeting last night, a question asked by Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett, of Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, NH:

Rabbi Simcha Bunim taught that every person has to have two pockets, and in each pocket they have to carry a different note. And the note in one pocket says the universe was created for me. And in the other pocket the note says I am just dust and ashes.

I want you to take a moment and think about what you would tell us about your two pockets. How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have—a person must have to be the leader of the free world—and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?

This is a great question. It comes close to being a koan. And may I say it’s so refreshing to glimpse a bit of mature spirituality in mass media.

Anyway, Clinton’s answer — which you can read in the CNN transcript — focused on her desire to be of service, and on the relationships she has with clergy. Here is part of it:

I have friends who are rabbis who send me notes, give me readings that are going to be discussed in services. So I really appreciate all that incoming.

And the final thing I would say, because again, it’s not anything I’ve ever talked about this much publicly, everybody knows I — I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so I’ve had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, political, public issues. And I read a, um, a treatment of the prodigal son parable by the Jesuit Henri Nouwen, who I think is a magnificent writer of spiritual and theological concerns. And I — I read that parable and there was a line in it that became just a lifeline for me. And it basically is practice the discipline of gratitude.

So regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful. Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe. Be grateful for your limitations. Know that you have to reach out to have more people be with you, to support you, to advise you, listen to your critics, answer the questions.

But at the end, be grateful. Practice the discipline of gratitude. And that has helped me enormously.

This is an excellent answer. It reveals more genuine spirituality than all of the Bible-thumpers in the GOP put together.

And here’s a question aimed at Bernie Sanders:

COOPER: You know, I want to follow up, because Jason also mentioned faith, which is something you’ve spoken a little bit about. You’re Jewish, but you’ve said that you’re not actively involved with organized religion.

What do you say to a voter out there who says — and that who sees faith as a guiding principle in their lives, and wants it to be a guiding principle for this country?

SANDERS: It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.

I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me.

And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people.

So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.

I would have liked Sanders to respond to the rabbi’s question also, but this was good, too.

Both candidates stressed concern for the well-being of others as a religious motivation for running for President, which to me reveals a more sincere and mature level of spirituality than the nonsense spewing from the likes of Ted Cruz about how God wants him to be President in order to make America the country God wants it to be. If the great host of dead Christian theologians going back to Augustine — indeed, maybe Paul as well — could rise up and speak, they would denounce such presumption. Probably most of the rabbis would, too.

Clinton also spoke to how religion strengthens her and helps her keep going. And that’s fine, in the Christian tradition. Sanders, however, didn’t speak about himself as much as about the great interconnection of human beings.  What happens to one, happens to all of us. This is closer to a Buddhist perspective.

I read a few days ago that a big difference in the two campaigns is that Clinton tends to emphasize her resume and how she is battle-tested and ready to do the job. Sanders rarely refers to himself at all, and instead speaks of the problems we face and change he wants to see.

And if there were some way to combine those two qualities, boy howdy, would that be a great candidate.

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Who’s Got the Spin?

Obama Administration

Talk about lame spin. What I’ve seen from Clinton’s side is:

1. She’s the first woman to win the Iowa Caucuses! Yeah, and Ted Cruz was the first Latino to win the Iowa Caucuses. And Sanders would have been the first New York Jew to win the Iowa Caucuses. So? Somehow, this seems so … last century. If a rabbit had won for the first time, that would have been a story.

For the record, other than Clinton in 2008 I believe the only other woman to receive any votes at all in an Iowa Caucus was Shirley Chisolm, in 1972.

2. Yesterday a meme was circulating on social media — HRC’s photo with the words, “The people of Iowa gave her their trust.” The population of Iowa is 3.1 million. Of those, 171,109 participated in the Dem caucuses. We don’t know actual raw vote counts, but we know the votes must have been close to a tie. By my calculations, Clinton won the trust of roughly .0003 percent of the people of Iowa.

3. [Gloating] We Won. Suck it up, Berniebots. So endearing.

She’s a terrible campaigner. The woman has her strengths and virtues, but HRC to political campaigning is like Pat Boone to R&B.

Some of the Sanders supporters are not taking the near-loss well. Some of them seem to have expected Sanders would crush Clinton, even though pre-caucus polls mostly predicted she would win. There’s also a lot of grumbling that some precinct captains had their thumb on the scale for Clinton, so to speak, but frankly there is nothing to be gained by going there. The Iowa delegation will be nearly evenly divided between Sanders and Clinton delegates. Who “won” is not going to matter down the road.

The Sanders campaign reports that he received $3 million in donations in the 24 hours after the Caucuses. Now, there’s some good spinning for you. He is also refusing to concede defeat in Iowa (as close as it was, I don’t blame him) and he’s also pushing for more debates. Still, all the data suggest he’s going to be crushed in every primary after New Hampshire.

If Marco “baby cheeks” Rubio is the eventual GOP nominee IMO Clinton (presumably) will crush him. Next to her, he’s going to look like somebody who should be finishing up his homework before he can go to Little League practice. She’s also not going to hesitate in going after him for his hard Right positions on reproductive freedom. But it’s too early to count Trump out, I think.

Couple o’ things to read — Charles Pierce describes an interview of Hillary Clinton by Chris Matthews that sounds, well, horrible. When is Tweety going to retire already? Also, I don’t always agree with Matt Yglesias, but I think he nailed the problem with Democratic establishment here.



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It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Spinning Is Over


There are election results, and then there is the post-voting spin contest. Especially in the case of Iowa, the latter is arguably more critical.

Marco Rubio finished a “strong” third, only one percentage point behind second-place The Donald. Already the Establishment types are pinning their hopes on Marco as the guy who will restore sanity to the election and become a reasonably presentable GOP nominee. The Chicago Tribune wants to believe that Trump wasn’t even a factor last night, even though he did beat Rubio. Behind the scenes, Toast! will be pressured to drop out and endorse Rubio. He’d probably rather eat live frogs.

What to make of the Clinton-Sanders virtual tie? Some spinners are smugly saying that Sanders had to win big to remain viable, so Clinton is the big winner, even though (as of this morning) the race is still too close to call as far as news media are concerned.

But other reports say the Clinton campaign is “unnerved.” Andrea Mitchell reported the Clinton folks were in meltdown.

Mr. Sanders showed strength in unexpected ways that could signal trouble for Mrs. Clinton, performing surprisingly well in rural counties and small caucus precincts, and even making some gains among Hispanic Democrats, his advisers said on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Sanders won several counties that Mrs. Clinton carried in 2008 in conservative-leaning southwestern Iowa and in the northern part of the state, including Cerro Gordo County, where Mr. Sanders drew three times as many people as Mr. Clinton as the two men held dueling rallies last Wednesday night.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s friends and former advisers from Arkansas and the White House planned to meet her in New Hampshire to provide moral support and energy to her campaign team. Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight.

Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight. Spoken like a campaign that just had a wakeup call. My sense of things is that Sanders may be winning the post-election spin contest. However, it remains to be seen if he can win any primaries other than New Hampshire.

This breakdown shows that Sanders had the overwhelming support of younger participants, while older voters went for Clinton. It also shows that people still consider Clinton to be the one who is safely electable. That’s a bubble Sanders needs to burst if he’s going to win after New Hampshire.

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The Money Campaign

Obama Administration

The New York Times has a fascinating graphic showing how much money each candidate has received and what percentage of it comes from PACs.  Going by donations directly to campaigns, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running first and second, followed (at some distance) by Ben Carson. The Republican candidates aren’t getting anywhere close to the direct campaign money that the two Democratic front runners are getting.

PACs are something else. Toast! far and away has received the most PAC money, and from this he still has more cash on hand than any other candidate. Were it not for the fact that nobody likes him, he’d be in great shape for a general election campaign. All that money seems to be plunging down a very deep drain.

However, if we’re looking at cash on hand from the donations pool, Clinton and Sanders are both in much better shape than their nearest Republican rival, who would be Ted Cruz.

Two candidates still running have received no PAC money at all. They are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  Also Hillary Clinton has had to spend considerably more than Sanders to stay ahead of him.

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The No We Can’t Candidate

Democratic Party

Tomorrow there will be caucuses in Iowa, and shit starts to get real. Nate Silver says Trump is substantially ahead of the competition. Clinton is slightly favored but not a sure thing.

I wrote a few days ago that Hillary Clinton has been selling herself as the pragmatic progressive, arguing that an incremental approach to change will get better results in the long run than Bernie Sanders’s Hail Mary promises. But this weekend she seems to have gone from being the “yes we can, eventually” candidate to the “no we can’t” candidate.

“I want you to understand why I am fighting so hard for the Affordable Care Act,” she said at Grand View University after hearing from a woman who spoke about her daughter receiving cancer treatment thanks to the health care law. “I don’t want it repealed, I don’t want us to be thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate. I don’t want us to end up in gridlock. People can’t wait!”

She added, “People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.”

She didn’t specifically say that the U.S. will “never, ever” get single-payer health care, but that’s how she’s being quoted. David Atkins wrote,

Clinton is offering what seems to be a false choice: advocating for single-payer healthcare doesn’t mean that the Affordable Care Act isn’t protected. Presumably, a Sanders administration would fight to protect the Affordable Care Act just as stridently as a Clinton administration would until and unless a superior replacement were passed.

I could respect her if she said that a true national, taxpayer-funded health care system is not going to happen in the near future in our current political climate. I don’t think it will, either. But never, ever? That’s not incrementalism; that’s surrender.

Brian Beutler thoughtfully deconstructs what’s really going on in the Dem campaign. The real argument for HRC all along has been that she’s the one who is electable. Sanders is too big a gamble. But is this true? Beutler says the pragmatists “must demonstrate that he is likely to lose to a Republican nominee, where Clinton is likely to win.” As it is, everybody’s going by what’s in his (or her) gut. Nobody really knows. Certainly Hillary Clinton has some big vulnerabilities, even if her supporters refuse to acknowledge them.

Especially if it turns out that Donald Trump really will be the Republican nominee, I think it’s safe to say all bets are off.

And if we call the electability argument a wash, which candidate is the better champion for progressivism?

It’s true that single-payer health insurance and free public college aren’t likely to become federal law even if Sanders wins the presidency. But by the same token, neither are Clinton’s plans to improve Obamacare, and provide debt-free college and paid family leave.

Clinton’s agenda would become politically viable if Democrats were to somehow reclaim the House and Senate during her time in office–her proposals are designed to reflect party consensus, while Sanders’s platform reflects the consensus of just one of the party’s wings.

But if we’re imagining both of their agendas as opening bids in negotiations with Congress, why fault Sanders for not negotiating with himself? Ask a future Democratic Congress for single payer and a $15 minimum wage and you might get laughed at… but you also might get the public option and a bump to $12. Ask it for the public option and a $12 minimum wage, as Clinton might, and you’ll get a fair hearing from the outset, but you might end up with advancements barely worth fighting for. President Obama, as Sanders is fond of noting, negotiated with himself, and progressives paid an unknowable price as a result.

My concerns also.

Odds are still very high that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. I wish I felt better about that than I do.


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Update On Oregon

Obama Administration

This is being reported on NBC:

The FBI and state police staked out a spot along the route to John Day to stop the caravan. At first, both vehicles complied with an order to pull over, but then the lead vehicle took off, the law enforcement official said.

It didn’t get very far, hitting a snow bank. Finicum, the official said, jumped out of that vehicle “brandishing a firearm.” He was shot and killed.

This account of things appears to be corroborated by a guy claiming to have been driving one of the two vehicles involved. A teenage girl who was with the Bundy crew claimed that Finicum had his hands up when he was shot, but she also said she was hiding on the floorboards of the truck when this happened.

See also Charles Pierce, in posts written before and after the arrests.

Also, too: Eyewitnesses knock down conspiracy theories about LaVoy Finicum dying on his knees

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A Bang and a Whimper

firearms, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

So the Bundy boys and some of their followers are in FBI custody. LaVoy Finicum, the “live free or die” warrior known for taking in foster children to work on his unprofitable ranch so he could collect government checks has been killed. So far no details have been released describing Finicum’s death, but already the Web is buzzing with the rumor that Finicum was shot trying to surrender.

Before Finicum’s death was even confirmed, supporters rushed to portray him on social media as a martyr who, according to unverified accounts, had his hands up and was unarmed when he was shot. Law enforcement sources told CNN that Finicum and Ryan Bundy were the only two leaders who did not surrender during the confrontation.

One of the crew at Gateway Pundit, official home of the Dumbest Man on the Web®, reported that “The man was on the ground hands up, unarmed and cooperating. A real need to be shot three times.”

Those details hasn’t been reported anywhere, so how he could have known that is a mystery. And I didn’t think Finicum was ever unarmed. I imagined he had a gun and holster strapped around his PJs when he brushed his teeth at night. But perhaps Black Lives Matter has a surplus “Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ T-shirt this guy could buy .

USA Today reports that five or six of Bundy’s followers remain at the wildlife sanctuary they’d been occupying.

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Damn, How I Hate Democratic Presidential Primary Season

Democratic Party

There was a time in 2004 that if one were not totally in the tank for Howard Dean, one was a Republican shill. I remember writing some complementary things about Wesley Clark on a liberal forum and was promptly screamed off of it for selling out.

And don’t get me started on 2008. Supporting Barack Obama cost me some friendships I never got back.

And now social media seems entirely taken up with Clinton and Sanders supporters hurling juvenile insults at each other. Just from a social-psychological standpoint, it fascinates me that Hillary supporters are utterly unconscious that they are just as bad as the so-called “Bernie bros.” They seem to feel entitled to stoop to whatever kindergarten-level insult they want about Sanders and his supporters while patting themselves on the back for being mature and un-divisive. The Sanders people also indulge in cheap insults, but most of them (that I’ve seen) seem a tad more self-aware about it. Both sides are equally bad at over-simplifying issues, mindlessly repeating second-hand talking points and painting everything in black-and-white terms. There’s lots of political naïveté out there.

One actual difference that is emerging is that Clintonistas see themselves as pragmatic incrementalists, while Sanders supporters are calling for revolution. As I wrote earlier this week, there is a strong argument to be made for the incremental approach — call it half a loaf is better than none. On the other hand, a Sanders supporter recently commented that HRC is promising half a loaf, which means maybe we’ll get a couple of slices.

Sanders is calling for two loaves, and Clinton people doubt he can deliver even the two slices. On the other hand, maybe the time has come to stop accommodating our expectations to the power of the Right. Maybe the time has come to demand two loaves, because the Right ain’t what it used to be. Maybe now is the time to think big, while the Right is in chaos.

Just analyzing myself, I realized eight years ago that one of the reasons I supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, in spite of the fact that their stands on issues were nearly identical, is that I resented the hell out of being told, over and over, from 2004 on that Hillary Clinton would be the 2008 nominee. No one else need apply.

Dear DNC: Don’t tell me who I’m supposed to support. In a democracy, I’m supposed to be allowed to make up my own mind. Thanks much.

And then, of course, Obama ran a very smart campaign, while Clinton did not. This rather put the lie to the claim that she was the only one who was “electable.”

Per Charles Blow, Clinton is repeating many of the mistakes she made in 2008. Not being able to learn from mistakes is not a good sign. See also Corey Robin on the basic dishonesty of Clinton’s current campaign.

On the other hand, without some backup from Congress Sanders possibly couldn’t deliver the two slices. And he seems weak on policy details, while Clinton is a super-wonk.

So there really is a serious debate to be had here about which of these two should be the nominee. It’s a shame we can’t seem to have it.

My sense of things is that this election is going to break some old molds. Already Nate Silver has been found to be out of his element. This would argue that we’re about to see a major shake-up in the political system.  We’ll know more once we see some primary results, I think.

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The Crumbiness of Toast!

The Smarter Brother

Speaking of being out of touch with the times, consider the politician formerly known as “the smarter brother” until he embarked on a national political campaign and we all realized he isn’t.  In truth, Toast! is in some ways a more pathetic doofus than Dubya, if that’s possible. Just goes to show how nepotism and cronyism can carry one way beyond his level of competence.  #Jeb!

Anyway, Toast! dropped some jaws yesterday when he praised Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his handling of the Flint water crisis.

I’ll pause a moment to let that sink in.

Toast! blamed the crisis on too much government regulation, and then praised Snyder for stepping up to solve the problem. Seriously; he did that. I’m not sure even the rubes will buy that one.

A few days ago the Toast! campaign — no, he actually hasn’t dropped out yet — released his education platform. It includes lots of “school choice” rhetoric and stuff about “expanding charter schools.”

Although charter schools still have a lot of supporters, my sense is that the once soaring idea is quickly becoming a lead balloon. It’s like privatizing Social Security; the more people look at it, the less popular it gets.  And it opens Bush up to additional scrutiny about his absolutely awful charter school failures in Florida. See, for example,

The Big Jeb Bush Charter School Lie

Florida’s big charter school problem (which Jeb Bush manages not to talk about)

Charter School in Miami Fails, but Proves Useful on Jeb Bush’s Résumé

Testing Time: Jeb Bush’s Educational Experiment

That last article proposes that Toast!’s charter school initiative was supposed to be his answer to Dubya’s “no child left behind” program. We might also remember that one of Dubya’s claims in 2000 was the story of the “Texas miracle,” and how his reforms had so improved Texas schools. And then we found out the “miracle” was based on phony numbers. But that didn’t become public knowledge until after Dubya was selected. Toast!’s claims are already thoroughly debunked.

Not that it matters, since nobody is paying any attention to Toast! any more.

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