Tuesday, October 06, 2015


I'm sure you know that Bobby Jindal posted a rant on his campaign website blaming the recent massacre in Oregon on the shooter's father, as well as on American culture. A lot of commenters have addressed the attack on the father (my favorite response is Kalli Joy Gray's "Bobby Jindal Demands Apology from Oregon Shooter’s Father, for Not Loving Guns Enough," at Wonkette) -- but the culture-war part is also noteworthy, because it's the majority of the rant (the title of which is "We Fill Our Culture with Garbage, and We Reap the Result").

What's up? What does Jindal hope to accomplish with a jeremiad like this?
* We glorify sick and senseless acts of violence in virtually every element of our pop culture, and we have been doing that for at least a generation.

* Our movies and TV shows feature a continuous stream of grotesque killing of every kind imaginable. And this is true of virtually every genre, from horror to drama to comedy.

* We celebrate and document every kind of deviant behavior and we give out awards to producers who can push the envelope as far as possible. Rape, torture, murder, mass murder, all are cinematic achievements.

* Our music does the same thing, we promote evil, we promote the degradation of women, we flaunt the laws of God and common decency and we promote it all and we flood our young people with it.

* We have generations of young boys who were raised on video games where they compete with other young boys around the country and the world to see who can kill the most humans. We make it so fun, so realistic, so sensational.
In case you've forgotten, Jindal is only 44 years old. He's actually 13 days younger than Marco Rubio, who boasts of his love of Tupac -- and is doing much better in the polls. (Nationwide, Rubio's at 9.9% in the Real Clear Politics average, while Jindal is at a woeful 0.6%.) A lot of middle-aged Republicans grew up on rap, violent video games, and sex on cable. Why does Jindal think this message will sell to Republican voters?

I suspect Jindal is buying into some ridiculous conventional wisdom about how Republicans pick a president. The New York Times laid it out in a story yesterday:
Yes, 15 Republicans are still seeking the nomination. But in reality not all are competing for the same voters. They are running in what Iowa strategists call “lanes” -- one for candidates appealing primarily to evangelical Christians, a second for outsiders and Tea Party types, and a third for business-oriented conservatives.

Historically, Republicans have tried to win one of the proverbial “three tickets out of Iowa” in the state’s caucuses. This year, however, with such a crowded field, the three tickets may not be the top three finishers over all, according to some strategists, but the top candidate from each lane.
Do people seriously believe this? Do they seriously believe that being a niche candidate who wins in the evangelical Christian "lane" can actually give you a serious shot at the nomination?

In my adult life, it's never worked -- not for Pat Robertson or Alan Keyes or Gary Bauer or Mike Huckabee. Rick Santorum did best, but he had a billionaire backing him, and even so, he only won six states. (Mitt Romney won 39, plus D.C. and three territories.) George W. Bush showed great strength among evangelicals in 2000, but was also an Establishment favorite. Evangelical niche players never win.

I say this, and I'm sure I'm right, but I'm just an idiot blogger, while the people who believe this "three lanes" nonsense are political pros. So Jindal probably believes it, too.

In Iowa, where the GOP electorate is disproportionately evangelical, Jindal is, ADMITTEDLY, running better than he is nationwide -- but that'S not saying much. (This morning Jindal posted an exultant tweet boasting that the latest Iowa poll has him in fifth place. Yippee!) I suppose Jindal thinks that a strong, or strongish, showing in Iowa will be followed up by wins in the South -- but they like tough, bellicose candidates in the South way more than they like Jesus, so of course Donald Trump is going great guns in Dixie.

This is why I think Jindal is still playing the culture-war pander game. If so, it's for for no good reason.


Does this sound crazy to you?
In one of his signature Facebook Q&As Monday night, Ben Carson again weighed in on the Oregon shooting, writing that he had operated on victims of gun violence "but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."
How about this?
"If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere I would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon," [Carson] says. Including the teacher? "If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't."
Or this?
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speculated on Tuesday about what he would have done had he been at the Oregon college where a gunman opened fire last week.

The Republican presidential candidate weighed in on the hypothetical during a "Fox & Friends" interview.

"I'm glad you asked that question. Because not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," Carson said.

He speculated that he would have organized a response.

"I would say, 'Hey guys! Everybody attack him! He may shoot me but he can't get us all!'" Carson exclaimed.
If some or all of that sounds insane to you, then you must not be a Republican. In a sane country -- in a sane party -- the notion that gun ownership is more precious than the lives of innocent shooting victims, including children, would be a campaign-ender.

In the GOP, it's almost certain that Carson is winning the week with remarks like these. (He's also beaten Hillary Clinton in three straight polls, so the rest of us either accept this kind of talk or are too numb to react with appropriate outrage.)

Carson has already been gaining on Donald Trump in the aftermath of his declaration that Muslims are Constitution-hating religious fanatics unless proven otherwise and thus aren't suited to run for president, and in the aftermath of his decision to launch the #IAmAChristian hashtag campaign in response to the Oregon massacre. (It's an article of faith on the right that the Oregon massacre was specifically aimed at Christians, even though, as I've noted, there are reasons for serious skepticism about that.) Carson beat Donald Trump by 7 points in an Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll released Friday, the day of the massacre; the Muslim-bashing almost certainly can be credited with propelling Carson into the lead. Carson is also tied with Trump in Pennsylvania according to a new Mercyhurst University poll, and a national poll sponsored by the Club for Growth (which, it should be noted, loathes Trump) has Carson leading Trump by 5 points.

Expect more of this, because America is a depraved country, and the GOP is an especially depraved party. The gun talk will meet with widespread cheers on the right -- and it probably won't hurt him at all in the middle.


UPDATE: How does the increasingly tone-deaf New York Times summarize at all this heartless trolling and faux-swagger? This way:
Like many Republican presidential candidates who have sought to express sympathy for the victims while maintaining their support for gun rights, Mr. Carson appeared to struggle to address the issue with sensitivity.
Yes, that was his problem, right? He wanted to be sensitive, but it was just such a struggle.


Via Breitbart and Mediaite, I see that the right has a new hero:
David Jaques, publisher of the Roseburg Beacon, told Bill O’Reilly tonight President Obama should not come to the Oregon town after he politicized the tragic shooting last week.

... the president is reportedly traveling to Roseburg, but Jaques made it clear to O’Reilly plenty of residents would not be on board with that.

He said Obama’s “not welcome” in Roseburg because people think he will “grandstand for political purposes.”

“He wants to come to our community,” Jaques said, “and stand on the corpses of our loved ones and make some kind of political point.”
Jaques's paper, The Roseburg Beacon, is a small, conservative local publication that has been known to publish conspiratorial crackpottery.

On Jaques's personal Facebook page, he favorites a group called Americans for the Restoration of Freedom, which posts items such as a claim that Hurricane Joaquin was the product of "geoengineering," as well as an assertion that the Justice Department's Strong Cities Network is an anti-Constitution UN plot. There's also, um, this:

In 2010, Jaques was a key consultant to the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Art Robinson, a candidate much mocked for his interest in urine:
A candidate for Congress is soliciting mass urine samples from Oregonians as part of his day job as a scientist, a move some see as a novel approach to improving modern medicine and others call just another odd move in an offbeat political career.

Art Robinson, a Republican making his third bid to unseat Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, last week sent out thousands of fliers across Oregon asking for volunteer urine samples.

Robinson, co-founder of the nonprofit Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, said he is hoping to get 15,000 samples to help calibrate a machine that could use urine profiles to help predict if a person will develop degenerative diseases such as cancer.
This in itself wouldn't be troubling -- Robinson is, after all, a scientist -- if it weren't for his other crackpot notions:
In a monthly newsletter called Access to Energy, Robinson has used his academic credentials to float theories on everything from AIDS to public schooling to climate change (which he believes is a myth). In perhaps his most famous missive, Robinson once proposed using airplanes to disperse radioactive waste on Oregon homes, in the hopes of building up resistance to degenerative illnesses.

"All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean -- or even over America after hormesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases," Robinson wrote in 1997. He added, "If we could use it to enhance our own drinking water here in Oregon, where background radiation is low, it would hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases. Alas, this would be against the law." ...

In another essay, he called public education "the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States," leaving people "so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization."

Robinson theorized that the government had overhyped the AIDS epidemic in order to force social engineering experiments on those aforementioned public school students....
A decade ago, Jaques became president of One Nation United, which appears to be an Astroturf group ostensibly dedicated to Native American advocacy, but actually acting as a front for corporations seeking to limit Natives' rights:
At a recent Douglas County Commission meeting, ONU Executive Director Barb Lindsay described the group as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan public educational umbrella group" formed to "defend private property rights, free enterprise and the rule of law."

... Opponents of the group, including Indian tribes in New York, Oklahoma and Oregon, say it is a racist front group for industries that compete with tribally owned businesses in those states, such as the Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers' Association.

ONU began commanding attention in Oregon when Douglas County Commissioner Marilyn Kittelman joined its campaign for caps on tribal land trusts. And Kittelman's recall campaign manager, Douglas County Planning Commissioner David Jaques, recently became ONU's president.

... Jaques acknowledged that ONU is lobbying Congress to cap tribal land trusts. "But these spurious charges that this is some kind of hate or racist group?

That's insane, like saying the National Federal of Business is a hate group," he said.

Every page of ONU's August 2006 newsletter contains stories about what it calls "misguided" federal Indian policy. One article, for example, says: "The tribes' 'separate-but-favored' status has protected individual tribal members from the predations to which they, historically, were victim. But the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act transformed that shield into a sword that has been thrust into established, non-tribal communities whose citizens are left defenseless."

Sue Shaffer, chairman of the Cow Creek Band of the Tribes of the Lower Umpqua, called ONU a "national hate group" that has tried to stir up resentment here over the Cow Creeks' legal removal of about 2,000 acres from county tax rolls....
All in all, the guy seems like an ideal right-wing hero.

Monday, October 05, 2015


Is Jeb Bush tweaking his campaign strategy based on (snarky, not really serious) recommendations from me? Hard to believe -- and yet....
With Jeb Bush struggling to connect with some Republican activists, his campaign has begun exploring whether to bring in the person it thinks may be best equipped to give him a boost with skeptical conservatives: his brother George W. Bush.

The 43rd president is a very popular figure among Republican voters and could deliver a needed jolt to his brother’s sluggish campaign....

It may ruin the race for him down the line, but it could win the race here,” said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
On September 24, I pointed out the disturbing popularity of Dubya among Republicans -- a plurality of Republicans in one poll even said they'd vote for him if he could run for a third term. I said:
So maybe Bush has been dealing with his family all wrong. Maybe, if he wants to win the Republican nomination, he should appear with W. as much as humanly possible. Maybe he should campaign with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe he shouldn't have answered that question about whether he would have authorized the Iraq invasion with a defensive "I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody" -- maybe he should have said "Hell yeah I would have!"
I think Jeb could turn this into an entire campaign narrative. Remember the huge round of cheers he set off in the last debate when he said George W. "kept us safe"? Start with that -- then move on to the notion that Iraq and Afghanistan were completely pacified and trouble-free when Dubya left office (literally every Republican in America believes this now). Who made everything go bad, according to the GOP? President Obama -- and his first-term secretary of state, Hillary Clinton!

Embrace the notion of a restoration of the '00s, Jeb! Defend your brother's administration defiantly! Primary voters in your party will eat that up!

Know what else you could do? Get some high-profile veterans of W's wars to endorse you. "Lone Survivor" Marcus Luttrell was a Rick Perry man (you might remember Luttrell and his twin brother standing behind Perry when Perry announced his candidacy), but now he's unaffiliated. George W. awarded Luttrell the Navy Cross in 2007; Luttrell arranged to have his battle patch sent to George W. Maybe Jeb should beg his brother to hit up Luttrell for an endorsement. Same with Taya Kyle, the widow of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle -- she also endorsed Perry, but remember that Chris Kyle famously got into a 2006 bar brawl with Jesse Ventura because Ventura insulted Dubya and the Iraq War. So I think she might come around after a word or two from the ex-president.

(I suppose it might seem odd for a tough guy and a tough guy's widow to endorse someone like Jeb, but, hell, Sheriff Joe Arpaio endorsed Mitt Romney, so stranger things have happened.)

Really, Jeb, just go deep into this. It could be like Reagan calling the Vietnam War a "noble cause" in the summer of 1980. It sure would be "politically incorrect." Yes, it would be awful, but the only way to become the GOP nominee is to say awful things as often as humanly possible. So get cracking on this, Jeb.


Self-admiring Christopher Hitchens wannabe Kevin D. Williamson tells us at National Review that we shouldn't do anything about mass shootings because, really, gun murders are incredibly rare, as we'd realize if we weren't hooked on drama:
... we shouldn’t play the shooters’ game. These acts are dramatic because they are unusual (not as unusual as we’d prefer), extraordinary because they are unrepresentative of the contemporary experience rather than representative of it.... We are not, in fact, a polity dissolving into chaos. Our streets aren’t filled with blood -- they’re filled with mediocrity. Politicians sell you emergency when they want to take something away from you. Terrorists are not the only people who know that a scared population is a compliant population.
So don't worry your silly little head about the fact that we have one mass shooting a day in America.

Surprisingly, Williamson sees the tendency to succumb to fear across the political spectrum:
We insulated moderns are not very good at ranking risks.... we love stories. We love them more than we love reality: The Republican party is not run by a secret cabal of warmongering billionaires; Barack Obama is a cookie-cutter Ivy League lefty, not a Kenya-born al-Qaeda plant; you’re going to die from emphysema or from being fat rather than from Ebola or a resurgent Islamic caliphate; the people who commit the murders are for the most part going to be ordinary criminals going about ordinary criminal business, and a fair number of the people they kill are the same thing.
But, of course, it's only the liberal side of this that gets his back up in the case of guns:
Even our dramatic crimes are mostly rooted in ordinary failures: those failed families, again, failed mental-health practices, etc. A scary-looking rifle is visually arresting, a fact that tells us something about the weapon, and maybe something about us. It doesn’t tell us anything useful about the actual challenges facing the United States in 2015.
And it's hilarious that Williamson sees Americans as susceptible to unreasonable fears about, say, Ebola or jihadist violence. Hmmm, why would that be? Could i be because people such as ... oh, Kevin D. Williamson write about Ebola this way?
It is impossible to tell what will happen with Ebola here or abroad, and the flapping of this viral butterfly’s wings represents one of those high-stakes rolls of history’s dice, the outcome of which cannot be anticipated. Consider such human, economic, and cultural catastrophes as the Great War, HIV, or Communism: None of those was the obvious outcome of a foreseeable chain of events. Neither Karl Marx nor Gavrilo Princip, to say nothing of that unknown chimpanzee hunter, could have imagined where the currents of history in which they were wading would end up taking us.
Or about terrorism in the U.S. this way?
Just as denunciations of the “Red Scare” were used to draw attention away from the crimes of American individuals and institutions undertaken in service of the Soviet Union, now cries of “Islamophobia!” are being used to muddy the waters in the matter of the participation of American and Western people and institutions in the worldwide Islamic jihad against the West.... Here in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations operates openly and with the full protection of the law, in spite of its being identified by the Department of Justice as an unindicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which a phony charity was used to channel money to Hamas. (My colleague Andrew C. McCarthy, who knows a little something about Islamic terrorism, has done a great deal of work on CAIR, e.g., here.) Another group with Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood links holds the titles to hundreds of American mosques. Odd? Worrisome? “Islamophobia!”

Prediction: In 30 years, [they'll be] renaming Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan “Osama bin Laden Plaza” ...
If there's gun paranoia, I'd say it's overwhelmingly on the right, as Charles Blow notes today:
... as I have mentioned before, my oldest brother is a gun collector. He is a regular at the gun shows, buying and selling, but even he talks about a sense of unease at those shows as people engage in what can only be described as panic buying and ammunition hoarding.

These people are afraid. They are afraid of a time conservative media and the gun industry has convinced them is coming when sales of weapons, particularly some types of weapons, will be restricted or forbidden. They are afraid of growing populations of people they don’t trust. Some are even afraid that a time will come when they will have to defend themselves against the government itself.
What does Mr. Williamson tell us about the completely illusory need for ammunition hoarding?
As it wanes, the Obama administration grows bold, and even reckless, on matters that send a thrill up the leg of its most leftward supporters. Its new attack on so-called armor-piercing ammunition -- which is, in reality, a very broad attack on ammunition across the board -- is a dangerous and destructive example of the administration’s late-days slide into rule-by-decree....

What gun-rights advocates fear -- not without reason -- is that this is the beginning of a pincer movement, with the ATF banning non-lead ammunition as a threat to armor-wearing police officers and the EPA banning lead ammunition as a toxin....

In a sense, the gun-grabbers were telling the truth when they said that they had no designs on our sporting rifles. But the ammunition for those rifles is another story.
So Kevin D. Williamson clearly thinks that you shouldn't believe scare stories -- unless he's telling them.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Randy Scroggins is the father of Lacey Scroggins, who survived the Umpqua Community College massacre. He's been speaking to reporters about his daughter's account of the massacre, and he recounts that the shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, seasoned his bloodshed with a bit of emotional sadism:
Harper-Mercer told another student that if she begged for her life, he would spare her. But when the woman began to beg, [Lacey Scroggins] said, “Daddy, he shot her anyway....”

... Lacey told her father that at one point she could hear a woman tell the gunman, “I'm sorry that you are going through this -- I'm sorry that somebody has hurt you.”

“I bet you are, but it's not good enough,” Lacey remembered the gunman replying, and then, she said, he shot the woman.
If this is accurate, it says something about the shooter's frame of mind. Among conservatives, the massacre is being described as a specifically anti-Christian act, even though there are conflicting accounts of what the shooter said about Christianity:
Both [Anastasia] Boylan and Scroggins said the gunman shot Christians in the head and wounded others, though there was at least one account that said he treated all religions with the same cold response.

"She hears the shooter in front say, 'You, in that orange shirt, stand up!'" Randy Scoggins said. "'What religion are you? Are you a Christian?' He says 'Yes.' She hears another pop, and she hears a thud as he drops to the ground."

Rand McGowan, who was shot in the hand, told his mother it didn't seem the shooter was deliberately targeting Christians.

"It was more so saying, 'You're going to be meeting your maker,'" Stephanie Salas said.
Now consider what Dave Cullen, author of the definitive book on the Columbine massacre, wrote in The New Republic in the immediate aftermath of the massacre:
Already we are hearing statements attributed to the killer: the New York Post reports that he singled out Christians. Other supposed motives are sure to surface, and one or two may prove to be true. But most won’t. Killers say all sorts of things. Some taunt their victims, make fun of them. The Columbine killers taunted kids for being black, jocks, and Christians, and each of those was portrayed as a hate crime against those groups. But the killers also taunted kids for being fat and for wearing ostentatious glasses. (Eric Harris's journals are crammed with hate for every possible group.)

Resist the urge to apply motives. If the killer mentioned a characteristic of a victim, that may simply mean that he noticed it and then used it against the victim to try to inflict more pain. Nothing more.
It's quite possible that Harper-Mercer hated Christianity, or hated all religions. It's also quite possible that killing someone who professed belief in a just and beneficent God struck him as an especially delightful way to flip the bird at everything society regards as virtuous, and an especially cruel way to inflict emotional pain. The fact that Harper-Mercer offered to spare someone if she begged for her life, then shot her anyway, and the fact that he shot someone who expressed empathy, suggests that inflicting emotional pain was his primary goal, not attacking Christians. But I supposed we'll learn more eventually.


Today, The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes about Jeb Bush and the other Establishment candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Balz spots the reason Jeb is highly unlikely to win the nominating contest, though I'm not sure he realizes he's spotted it:
Lodged firmly in the establishment wing as the son and brother of former presidents, [Bush] faces resistance on the far right and among those yearning for an outsider. His hope is that he can change perceptions of himself, outlast his rivals with superior resources and persuade Republicans that he’s their best hope to win a general election.

Sally Bradshaw, Bush’s senior adviser, said the key remains what it has been from the start of the campaign: to portray Bush as a conservative reformer by stressing what he did in Florida. “People don’t know that yet,” she said. “When that message burns in, his numbers are going to change. That’s his path.”
Do you see Jeb's problem? His plan is to say, "Yes, I'm a conservative -- look at all the conservative things I did when I was in government a million years ago." In other words, his plan for winning over voters who want not only a right-wing ideologue but an outsider is to tell people what an ideologue he was years ago, as an insider.

With that strategy, he simply can't win the nomination.


Jeb should pander. Jeb should try to appeal to conservative voters' baser instincts on hot-button current issues. That's what they want, and that's what works.

This, for instance, seems brilliant:
Dr. Ben Carson ... has launched a social media response effort to the Oregon gunman’s reported targeting of Christians in his shooting spree on a community college campus on Thursday.

In one of several consecutive Facebook posts, Carson urges his millions of followers to change their Facebook photograph to an image of a hashtag: #IAmAChristian. The other Facebook photograph shows Carson holding up a piece of paper with the words “I am a Christian” written on it.

This is shameless, and perfectly in tune with modern conservative thinking (and it actually seems like something the God-bothering Jeb could do if he didn't think it was unseemly). As I write, Carson's photo post has 1,064,030 Facebook likes and 165,067 shares, while his logo post has 263,955 likes and 117,044 shares.

This election has been a sort of pander Olympics, with the three outsiders likely to sweep the medals. Trump panders on immigration. Carson panders on the alleged incompatibility of Islam and the Constitution. Carly Fiorina panders on Planned Parenthood. (And "pander" is probably not the word I'm looking for in all cases -- Carson really seems to believe everything he says, and I think Trump believes quite a bit of what he's saying, though I have serious doubts about Fiorina.)

Last night we got this from Trump:
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said armed teachers could have protected the students who were killed in a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon this week.

“This is in light of what’s gone on in Oregon,” Trump said Saturday during a campaign stop in Franklin, Tenn., after talking about his Second Amendment stance.

“And by the way, it was a gun-free zone,” he said of the Umpqua Community College shooting Thursday.

“I’ll tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or someone with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off,” he added.
That's how you establish yourself as a conservative now, Jeb, not by telling us what you did as an inside player when Nickelback and Creed were topping the charts.


Oh, and did I mention that we now have a poll (from TIPP and Investor's Business Daily) that has Ben Carson leading the GOP field, at 24%, with Trump at 17% (and Bush in fifth place, at 8%)? Playing to the cheap seats works (apparently better than rolling out a semi-serious tax plan, which might have been Trump's first mistake).

Saturday, October 03, 2015


I'm a gun-control proponent, but it's clear that much of our gun violence is at the hands of people who obtained their guns legally, and wouldn't have been prevented from getting their hands on firearms by any proposals currently on the table. We're told, for instance, that Christopher Harper-Mercer, the Oregon mass murderer, "owned 14 firearms, all of which were bought legally through a federally licensed firearms dealer.... Some were bought by Mr. Harper-Mercer, and some by members of his family."

But there's a common thread in three of the best-known recent gun crimes. Oregon:
Christopher Harper-Mercer was withdrawn and quiet as he grew up in southern California, spending most of his time indoors at his mother’s apartment and deflecting neighbors when they asked him how he was doing, or why he always wore the same outfit of combat boots and green Army pants. But there was one subject that got him to open up: guns.

Mr. Harper-Mercer collected handguns and rifles, and he regularly went to a shooting range with his mother, said neighbors in Torrance, Calif., where the two lived until moving to Oregon in 2013.
Texas, 2013:
Four letters, "PTSD," have hung over Eddie Ray Routh since the day he was accused of killing Chris Kyle, a famed Navy SEAL sniper....

The fragments of information presented about Routh, a 25-year-old Marine reservist, have been indelible thus far. Iraq war veteran. Listless and unemployed.

There's Routh: hospitalized multiple times since returning home, at one point reportedly threatening the lives of his family; also having been found shoeless and drunk by the police.

There's Routh: hospitalized another time because a friend in north Dallas was afraid he would hurt himself....

Kyle worked with a nonprofit group, FITCO Cares, to get returning veterans workout equipment. He had also written about using gun ranges as a kind of therapy for returning veterans, in which he'd give jokey tough-love between stories and beer. It's on such a trip with Routh that police think Routh turned a semiautomatic pistol on Kyle and one of Kyle's friends, Chad Littlefield, 35.
Connecticut, 2012:
Everyone tried to encourage Adam [Lanza] and looked for ways to engage with him. [Adam's mother] Nancy would take him on trips to the shooting range. Nancy and [Adam's father] Peter thought that their son was nonviolent; the best way to build a connection to someone with Asperger’s is often to participate in his fascinations.
I'm not part of the gun culture -- I don't own guns and haven't known many people who do. But I don't condemn the culture outright. It seems to me that most gun owners are right when they say that their use of guns is careful and responsible.

But the problem is that the gun culture doesn't even seem to acknowledge the possibility that some people really shouldn't go anywhere near a gun. Christopher Harper-Mercer, we've learned, was
an angry, isolated young man whose rage was fueled by animus toward religion and resentment at how his life was unfolding, law enforcement officials said Friday....

“He didn’t have a girlfriend, and he was upset about that,” said a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “He comes across thinking of himself as a loser. He did not like his lot in life, and it seemed like nothing was going right for him.”
But his mother went shooting with him, and no one who knew him -- no family member or acquaintance -- seemed to think that an angry young man plus fourteen guns in the house was a potentially lethal combination. No one thought it might be a bad idea for Adam Lanza or Eddie Ray Routh to go shooting.

How do we think about alcohol in this culture?

I drink -- not much, but I like drinking. Most people I know like drinking. But I don't have trouble keeping multiple thoughts about drinking in my head simultaneously: Drinking can be very pleasant -- but I shouldn't drink to excess, and everyone should avoid drinking and driving, and drinking can be a problem if it's your way of dealing with emotional distress, and some people simply can't handle drinking at all. I think most of us can hold all those thoughts in our heads at once. We'll proudly raise a toast at our daughter's wedding, but we also know that alcoholics need to steer clear of the bottle.

Is the gun culture able to think like that? It seems to me that the gun culture thinks gun use is healthy recreation for everyone except criminals and terrorists. Guns are always good for what ails you! Certainly it's never worrisome if someone in emotional pain is surrounded by guns. I grew up hunting. Guns have always been a part of my life. That's true for everyone around here. And on and on....

Members of the gun culture, I'm not recommending that you forswear guns -- I'm saying that you should recognize that gun use isn't healthy for everyone. Maybe you need to take a closer look at some of your fellow gun users. Maybe some of them need an intervention -- which doesn't mean that your gun use is a problem. They just need to be separated from guns.

I know: You feel under constant threat from us freedom-hating liberals. You think this sounds like just a subtler form of gun-grabbing.

Well, it's your decision. But remember what I'm writing the next time there's a bloodbath caused by someone who was surrounded with guns and who'd obviously been emotionally distraught for a long time. Maybe someone in your culture could have connected the dots.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Jeb Bush, I'm told, put his foot in his mouth:
Jeb Bush invited a firestorm on Friday by saying that “stuff happens” in reference to renewed calls for legislative action after tragedies like the mass shooting in Oregon.

“I had this challenge as governor because we had -- look, stuff happens,” he said at a forum in South Carolina. “There’s always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

The inelegant phrase immediately set off a wave of criticism from observers suggesting he was playing down the scourge of gun violence and the tragedy on Thursday....
But when I head over to Free Republic to check the response of GOP base voters, I see that most of them agree with him on this, even though they don't like him much. Here are some of the comments:
Watch the video, not the headline. He is absolutely correct.


Yes, I despise Jebby for his betrayal.

BUT I think in this sense, it sounds to me like he’s just saying, don’t come up with idiocy to disarm normal people because this nut went on a jihad against Christians.

He knows Obama, as usual, is milking this for everything he can.


I actually agree with that statement in it’s full context. But you ain’t getting my vote Bush III.


I can’t stand Jeb Bush and I’ll never vote for him under any circumstances, but he’s actually right for once.

There are tons of murders all over no one says anything about. Then a shooting occurs, the media salivates, the liberals yell gun control and some POS gets famous.


Very true. Violence won't "end" or be "stopped." And because of the hysterical reactions of knee-jerk socialists, many will buy even more firearms and ammunition. Before long, because of the efforts against the Second Amendment and declining economy, firearms and ammunition will be everywhere and far cheaper. America, the firearms garden. ;-)

The real answer would be to try to end fatherlessness by ending feminist socialism.


He’s absolutely correct on this. I’m not a Bush fan and I wish he’d just leave the race but he’s right on this. Stuff happens and every time a crazy goes off doesn’t warrant new bureaucracy. Everything that guy in Oregon did was already illegal. He didn’t have a criminal record nor a bad psychological evaluation that indicated he was a threat and honestly the vast majority of guys that fit his profile are not and never become threats to anyone so the idea that some how we can legislate ourselves to safety is crazy especially if we value the very foundational idea of our legal system which is that one is innocent till proven guilty. We do not just declare someone a criminal because they are weird.


Gotta say, yay, Bush.
There you have it. A couple of posters criticize the words or the tone, and more just accuse Jeb of being an incompetent politician, but most think he's absolutely right -- even though it kills them to say it.

I told you in my last post that Donald Trump was in sync with Republican thinking when he said something similar ("what are you going to do?"), and I said Jeb would get backup from right-wingers for this. He's getting it.


Mediaite's Matt Wilstein thinks Donald Trump's comments on the Oregon mass shooting are appalling. Wilstein has a point, but it should also be noted that Trump probably aced the questions he was asked in the eyes of the wingnut voters he's courting.
‘What Are You Going to Do?': Trump Pathetically Shrugs Off Shooting

... Asked [during an appearance today on Morning Joe] what he would do to prevent incidents like this one if he were president, Trump said, “Well first of all, you have very strong laws on the books. But you’re always going to have problems. I mean, we have millions and millions of people. We have millions of sick people all over the world.”

“It can happen all over the world,” he continued, before contradicting himself within the space of one sentence. “And it does happen all over the world, by the way, but this is sort of unique to this country, the school shootings, and you’re going to have difficulty no matter what.”
It's fine that he contradicted himself. Gun fans -- a group that includes pretty much all Republican voters -- regularly wave off questions about the much lower levels of gun violence in other countries, though when pressed, they tell us we have an excessive number of gun deaths because we live in a "diverse culture." So both parts of that contradiction are acceptable on the right.
... Characterizing the issue as one that has more to do with “mental health” than guns, Trump said, “It’s awfully hard to put somebody in an institution for the rest of their lives based on the fact he looks like he could be a problem.” He then added, “You’re going to have these things happen and it’s a horrible thing to behold.”

Host Willie Geist pressed Trump to say whether he really believes that “some people are going to slip through the cracks and there’s not much you can do about it.” And, remarkably, the GOP frontrunner answered affirmatively.
What's so remarkable about that? Republicans say that all the time.

“Well, you know, it’s not politically correct to say that but you’re going to have difficulty and that would be for the next million years, you’re going to have difficulty,” Trump answered, expressing an enormous degree of resignation on the issue of gun safety. “People are going to slip through the cracks and even if you did great mental health programs, people are going to slip through the cracks.”

“It’s the same old story. But what are you going to do? There are many people like that and what are you going to do? Institutionalize everybody?” he asked. “So you’re going to have difficulties. You’re going to have difficulties with many different things, not just this. That’s the way the world works -- and by the way, that’s the way the world always has worked.”

So, essentially, Trump is saying that we are always going to have mass shooting events in this country and his solution is… do nothing?
How different is that from what current Establishment dream candidate Marco Rubio said in the last presidential debate?
RUBIO: There’s a broader issue here as well. First of all, the only people that follow the law are law abiding people. Criminals, by definition, ignore the law. You can pass all the gun laws in the world -- like the left wants -- criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals.
Rubio just said about criminals what Trump says about the violently insane. And Rubio's answer is boilerplate Republicanism.

Wilstein's conclusion:
There may be an argument to be had over the best solution to the epidemic of gun violence in America, but the posture of pure indifference put forward by Trump should not be an acceptable position for someone who wants to be president of the United States.
Well, Trump's position already is an acceptable one for a presidential aspirant, because what Trump says is what just about every other Republican candidate believes, except that Trump's opponents are careful not to say, "what are you going to do?" They don't think there are major problems with our gun laws. Maybe they'll make vague noises about mental health:
Ben Carson just happened to be on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Thursday afternoon, shortly after news of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon broke. The GOP presidential candidate delivered the standard conservative message about focusing on mental health instead of gun control....

“Obviously, there are those who are going to be calling for gun control,” Carson said of the event, which left at least 13 people dead. “Obviously, that’s not the issue. The issue is the mentality of these people.” He said instead of focusing on guns, we should be looking for “early warning clues” to prevent incidents such as this one.
Certainly they'll say we have too much gun control already:
“Sadly, virtually every one of these shootings across the country has occurred in so-called gun free school zones,” [Ted] Cruz told conservative host Howie Carr of WRKO-AM, ahead of a two-day campaign swing in New Hampshire. “If you look at the jurisdictions that have really strict gun control laws, they consistently have among the highest crime rates.”

By contrast, he cited relatively low crime rates in Houston and Dallas where, he said, “the citizenry can defend themselves…. There is nothing a criminal likes more than an unarmed victim.”
Trump really would have aced this if he'd blamed the massacre on the removal of prayer from public schools, or on violent entertainment sold to America by the liberal entertainment industry. But he did fine. He passed this test with flying colors. Wanting to do nothing about gun violence is a sign that he's a genuine Republican.




He'll be attacked for that, but not from the right.




(Source: Vox; see also CNN.)

I'm throwing this out strictly as a thought exercise.

We know that America has far more deaths from gun violence than from terrorism. We know that America has far more deaths just from mass shootings than from terrorism -- it's been reported that we have more than one mass shooting per day now.

We say we don't know what to do about the shootings. But we think we know what to do about terrorism: Among other things, we engage in mass surveillance, collecting information on a staggering number of electronic communications.

Well, many mass shooters seem to use electronic communications to telegraph their intentions. It's being reported that the Oregon shooter did that on 4chan. (Yes, it was only the day before he shooting took place, but that would seem to be what, in a terrorism context, we refer to as "the ticking-bomb scenario.")

Would we reduce gun violence if we devoted massive amounts of resources to tracking electronic communications for signs of impending interpersonal violence that wouldn't normally be defined as terrorism? And if we did that, wouldn't we be addressing a much more significant and persistent threat to Americans' safety than terrorism?

Think of all the snazzy techniques that are supposed to allow the government to identify keywords hinting at terrorist intent -- shouldn't we be developing similar lists of keywords hinting at the intent to commit mass murder for thrills, or even garden-variety domestic violence? And if we want to have a layer of oversight, shouldn't the interpersonal-violence equivalent of a FISA court be ready at all times to rubber-stamp warrants?

I'm not proposing that we actually do any of this. But isn't it something we'd do if we actually cared about what really threatens Americans?

Thursday, October 01, 2015


The gunman in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College has been identified as Chris Harper-Mercer. Based on a photo found on his Myspace page, he appears to be white or mixed-race; Mediaite says, "There’s ... a dating profile circling around believed to belong to Mercer, identifying the user IRONCROSS45 as mixed race, 'conservative, republican,' and 'not religious, but spiritual.'"

If that's true, it's hard to imagine that he's a jihadist -- but at Free Republic and on Pam Geller's blog, that's still considered a credible theory.

Geller makes note of this story about the shooting:
The gunman who opened fire at an Oregon community college was forcing people to stand up and state their religion before he began blasting away at them, survivors said Thursday.

A woman who claimed to have a grandmother inside a writing class in Snyder Hall, where a portion the massacre unfolded, described the scene in a tweet.

“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” she wrote. “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs...."
Geller leaps to a conclusion:
This is a very disturbing development in today’s mass killing in Oregon. In a majority of the Islamic attacks, the killer asks their religion and kills the non-Muslims (ie Tunisia beach massacre, Mumbai terror attack, BP gas complex, Westgate mall...)
In a subsequent post, Geller refers to the massacre as the "Oregon religious shooting" and writes of the statement President Obama delivered this evening,
He shrugged off the motive implying it was irrelevant....

Obama’s refusal to recognize the jihad threat has made Americans unsafe.
But wait, there's more. At Free Republic, it's noted that one of two people linked on the shooter's Myspace page is someone named Mahmoud Ali Ehsani, whose own Myspace page includes a photo section that includes photos of "Mujahideen" in Iran, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Somalia.

Considering the fact that Harper-Mercer's own photo section includes Irish Republican Army logos and photos of IRA fighters, I rather suspect that he didn't share Ehsani's interest in Middle Eastern wars, although he might have gotten a thrill from war in general.

I would assume that the decision to question victims about religion (assuming this story is accurate) was an hommage to the Columbine killings -- or, rather, to a persistent myth about the Columbine killings. Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive account of that massacre, wrote about the myth in the aftermath of the second round of Republican debates:
Early in the Republican presidential undercard debate tonight, Rick Santorum dredged up a powerful old Columbine myth to defend Kim Davis, Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and to illustrate the steepness of America's moral decline. “Sixteen years ago,” he said, “this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith and she refused to deny God. We saw her as a hero.”

... Like most of the Columbine myths, the martyr story gained traction because it was based on a kernel of truth. A young girl did profess her faith in God at gunpoint, but she lived to tell about it. Her name is Valeen Schnurr. Ten years later, I sorted through the confusion again in my book, Columbine:
Val was shot before her exchange about God. Dylan [Klebold] pointed his shotgun under her table and fired several rapid bursts, killing Lauren Townsend and injuring Val and another girl. Val was riddled with shotgun pellets up and down her arms and torso. Dylan walked away.

Val dropped to her knees, then her hands. Blood was streaming out of thirty-four separate wounds. “Oh my God, oh my God, don’t let me die,” she prayed.

Dylan turned around. This was too rich. “God? Do you believe in God?”

She wavered. Maybe she should keep her mouth shut. No. She would rather say it. “Yes. I believe in God.”


“Because I believe. And my parents brought me up that way.”

Dylan reloaded, but something distracted him. He walked off. Val crawled for shelter.
It's widely believed that the shooters asked Cassie Bernall whether she was believer, then shot her to death when she said yes. (Bernall's mother wrote a bestselling book called She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.) My guess is that Harper-Mercer knew at least this famous pseudo-fact from mass-killer lore.

I'm not sure how long various figures on the right will cling to the notion that this was an act of jihad (though I see uberhack Charles C. Johnson of Got News calling Harper-Mercer a Muslim, based on no evidence apart from Ehsani's Myspace page). However, the right will treat this massacre as an assault on Christianity -- and you know whose fault that is. A Freeper writes this in another thread:
Did Obama's War On Christians Cause The Oregon Shootings?

As Donald Trump has stated, without rebuttal, Obama is conducting a War On Christians.

Did Obama's Christian-hating words and deeds motivate this killer to strike against Obama's enemies, the Christians?

Perhaps you should resign immediately, Mr. "president".
I do find one report about Harper-Mercer plausible: that he telegraphed the killing spree on a 4chan board for "incels" (so-called "involuntary celibates," i.e., guys who rage against the world because of their sexual and romantic failure). David Futtrelle of We Hunted the Mammoth has the shooter's alleged posts and other 4channers' replies, helpfully annotated. It's a scary culture in which at least one past mass killer, Elliot Rodger, is worshiped as a god -- and Rodger is invoked in the 4chan conversation. Jihad? I doubt it.


UPDATE: Raw Story has much more on Harper-Mercer. If all or most of this is true, the jihadist theory is even more absurd.
I garbled some facts in the post that used to be here -- Umpqua Community College, where a mass shooting took place today, was never part of the Oregon University System, and therefore it wasn't subject to a court ruling or a policy decision by Oregon's higher education board that I described in that original post. My apologies.


This is outrageous, though it's not surprising:
The state of Alabama, which requires a photo ID to vote, announced this week that it would stop issuing driver’s licenses in counties where 75 percent of registered voters are black.

Due to budget cuts, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said that 31 satellite DMV offices would no longer have access to driver’s licenses examiners, meaning that residents will need to travel to other counties to apply for licenses. The move comes just one year after the state’s voter photo ID law went into effect....

“Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one,” [Birmingham News columnist John] Archibald explained. “But maybe it’s not racial at all, right? ...”
At AL.com, Kyle Whitmire writes:
... we're looking at a nightmare.

Or a trial lawyer's dream....

A civil rights lawsuit isn't a probability. It's a certainty.

It's only a matter of time before some lawyer takes the state ... back to the courthouse.
I think that's part of the plan. Republicans would like to do this in as many states of the union as possible, and a court case could help them achieve that goal.

The next president of the United States will probably have multiple vacancies on the Supreme Court during his or her term -- of the nine justices, four are 77 years old or older. So -- attention Sanders fans who wouldn't dream of voting Clinton in the general election, or vice versa -- if we have a Republican president and a Republican Senate, the High Court is going to shift very, very far to the right.

A legal challenge to this law could well wind up in the Supreme Court. If it does, and if President Rubio or Bush or Fiorina or Carson has stacked the bench sufficiently, what Alabama is doing will almost certainly be declared constitutional. That will be an open invitation to the states to pull the same stunt.

All well in advance of the 2020 elections, which will choose a president and the state legislators who'll draw congressional maps for the ensuing decade.

If this sort of disenfranchisement is lawful by 2020, especially in purple states (North Carolina? Ohio?), it will get us that much closer to near-permanent one-party rule in Washington.

So, sure, this will go to the courts -- and the outcome might not be justice.


Over the past 24 hours, The New York Times has published several versions of the Jennifer Steinhauer story at this URL. The story concerns Kevin McCarthy and the likelihood that he'll succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House. As Daily Kos's Laura Clawson noted yesterday, the first version of the story buried news of McCarthy's admission that the point of the Benghazi committee was to tank Hillary Clinton's poll numbers in its eighth paragraph; the innocuous headline was "John Boehner Sets House Speaker Vote for Next Week." A later version of the story shifted to the headline "Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Favorite, Under Fire for Benghazi Comment," and put McCarthy's comments in the lede. (See a record of the shifting versions at NewsDiffs.)

But that wasn't the end of the rewriting.

The current version of the story re-buries the lede -- or, rather, it subsumes the lede in a narrative that portrays McCarthy not as a partisan hack, but as a happy, friendly golden retriever of a man who might run into trouble as Speaker because he's so darn outgoing.

No, I'm not kidding. I'll quote the current version story at some length so you can see how it works:
Can Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Favorite, Go From Buddy to Boss?

WASHINGTON -- Representative Kevin McCarthy of California has built a loyal following among House Republicans by calling them up just to gab, giving them special jackets when they joined his vote-whipping team and telling them their ideas are fantastic, even after telling the last guy who left his office that his (completely opposite) idea was great, too.

“If you want to talk to him,” said former Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas, “then you’re the only one in the world at that moment.”

But for Mr. McCarthy -- relatively inexperienced at governing and at times a political chameleon -- the question now is whether he can transform himself from the House fun dad always ready for a trip to Disneyland into one who makes the children do their algebra homework and eat their kale.

In just the past 48 hours, the man who longs to be speaker of the House insulted the man he would replace, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, and suggested that a taxpayer-funded committee to investigate the terror attack in Benghazi was designed to harm the political fortunes of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The remark was a gift-wrapped gaffe for Democrats, who will now spend the week before Mr. McCarthy’s effort to be elected speaker painting him as a partisan hack.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy told Sean Hannity of Fox News on Tuesday night. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

Mrs. Clinton responded that she found Mr. McCarthy’s comments “deeply distressing.”

Mr. McCarthy’s moves point to an uncomfortable problem: Many of the qualities that have led to his meteoric rise during a mere eight years in Congress may be liabilities should he be chosen to wield the speaker’s gavel, as is widely expected to happen next Thursday.

“His success has been his personality,” said Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas. Nonetheless, he said, “There has to be a strong hand somewhere in this because it is like herding cats over here.”
This is appalling. It suggests that the only problem with McCarthy's comment about the Benghazi committee was that he was trying to be the "fun dad" he always is and he's going to have to stop saying fun things like that if he wants to make House Republicans "eat their kale."

(In the same interview, McCarthy undiplomatically gave Boehner's speakership a grade of B-minus. Steinhauer apparently believes that slighting Boehner and acknowledging the nakedly political purpose a committee ostensibly devoted to the investigation of four deaths at a U.S. diplomatic outpost are morally equivalent gaffes.)

If you look at the "Compare with previous" links at NewsDiffs, you can see that the "fun dad" bit is new, and became part of the story only in the third version. Obviously that was the take on McCarthy that Steinhauer was working on when news of his Benghazi statement broke, and she just plowed on and shoehorned the Benghazi remarks into her take without ever considering that maybe "fun dad" didn't quite address what had just happened. But the "fun dad" take is classic Beltway-insider journalism: It seems to be a frank assessment of a power player, but it's a gentle, toothless critique. Is McCarthy too warm? Is Hillary Clinton too cold? That's what matters to insider journalists, not what these people actually do -- what laws they enact, what policies they support.

A guy who exults in shameless smashmouth partisanship is not being a "fun dad." Steinhauer doesn't get that, nor do her editors at the Times -- to them, it's all just sport. This is the mentality of horserace journalism expanded even beyond election coverage -- McCarthy is rising in the polls in the House GOP, and that's all that matters. The real-world consequences of what dishonorable politicians do don't matter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


At Vox, German Lopez writes:
Marco Rubio shows other Republicans how to respond to Black Lives Matter

... in a largely unnoticed appearance on Fox News's The Kelly File in August -- resurfaced by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie on Wednesday -- Sen. Marco Rubio gave a surprisingly strong response to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter that showed he not only views racial disparities in the criminal justice system as a real issue, but actually understands the roots of the problem.

"This is a legitimate issue," Rubio said. "It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community. It is particularly endemic among young African-American males -- that in some communities in this country have a much higher chance of interacting with criminal justice than higher education. We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country."

Rubio also gave a personal anecdote: "I have one friend in particular who's been stopped in the last 18 months eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped -- just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I'd be wondering what's going on here. I'd be upset about it. So would anybody else."
There's more, and Lopez is right: What Rubio says a hell of a lot better than most of the rhetoric we hear on this subject from other Republicans. Watch the clip here:

But let's talk about Beinart's gloss on this. Will Rubio really win the White House if he keeps talking this way? Yes, possibly, if he manages to win the Republican nomination -- but this kind of talk hurts his chances of winning in his party.

It certainly didn't help Rand Paul. Back in August 2014, in the wake of Michael Brown's death, Paul published an op-ed in Time in which he wrote,
If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.
In The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza wrote that the op-ed "shows why [Paul] is the most interesting voice in the GOP right now." Eight months later, Paul made an appearance at historically black Bowie State University:
Senator Rand Paul laid out his vision on Friday for a legal system that makes it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs and to vote, telling students at a historically black college here that he believes there are still “two Americas” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said almost a half century ago....

Mr. Paul also made a case for expunging criminal records of people who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies so they can find employment more easily, a stance that puts him at odds with many in his party.

“As Republicans we’re big on saying, ‘Well, we don’t want people permanently on welfare; we want them to transition from welfare to a job,’” he said. “People say, ‘Well, how am I supposed to get a job? I was a convicted felon.’”

“There has to be a way to figure out how we can get people back to work,” he added.
How's that working out for Paul? The Real Clear Politics polling averages currently show him with 2.3% of the GOP vote. There are a lot of reasons for that, but talking this way didn't help him at all.

Rubio gave this interview to a guest host on Megyn Kelly's show, at a time when the politically world was mostly talking about Hillary Clinton's emails, the Donald Trump/Roger Ailes feud, and a rumor that Al Gore might enter the presidential race. Not a lot of people noticed what he said at the time, but it was picked up by the conservative message board The Right Scoop. Commenter response was not charitable:
... The Black Lives Matter movement is bigoted at the core, based on lies, and should be condemned as reprehensible by every sane prominent figure. It's not about traffic stops, which happen because cops have to flood the zone in high crime neighborhoods (or just sit back and let those regions burn which is increasingly happening). The movement claims white cops are systematically SLAUGHTERING blacks because they're black, which is completely false and a dangerous lie to tolerate. Grassroots Nazis in Germany had sincerely held grievances against Jews and others, but that didn't make their grievances "legitimate". This dysfunction has been coddled and enabled by society for way too long....


Rubio just lost any support that I have considered giving him. This is a non issue, pushed by radicals based on false premises. Black lives matter members are lunatics who do not listen to fact or reason. I thought Rubio was a lot smarter than that.


The problems in the black community can only be fixed by the black community. The only thing conservatives can really do is reach out to black churches and support them by any means necessary. Unfortunately the most organized groups within black communities are the criminal elements i.e. the gangs....


He sounded like a democrat. Black Lives Matter is right up there with the Black Panthers...they encourage and justify thugs to break the law....

MO, the problem in the black community is cultural...blame whitey on everything that goes wrong and the entitlement mentality. There's very little personal responsibility and so many babies born out of wedlock - these are future parolees. Look at the role models they have...thug rappers and sports athletes. Successful black people like Ben Carson and Condoleeza Rice are portrayed as sellouts and their race called into question. If the culture doesn't change, many blacks continue to live on the democratic plantation and go nowhere in life.
So this is not likely to appeal to the GOP base, to put it mildly.

However, it's likely to appeal to the mainstream-media figures who are desperate for a safe alternative to the current Republican front-runners (and to Hillary Clinton, whom they despise). Vox's Lopez says this clip was "resurfaced" by Peter Beinart and Jamelle Bouie, but I'm skeptical -- I think Rubio's campaign fed it to the non-right-wing press in an attempt to get some good MSM coverage, and Beinart took the bait. Interesting move on the campaign's part, I guess -- but Rubio really should avoid talking like this as the GOP campaign heats up if he wants to get past the primaries.


I'm supposed to be upset because the Vatican is now confirming that Pope Francis secretly met with Kim Davis, the notorious gay-marriage refusenik who's still a county clerk in Kentucky. This news is supposed to be devastating to me because Francis is assumed to be one of the brightest stars in my pantheon of progressive heroes.

Well, I was a Francis skeptic when being a Francis skeptic wasn't cool. Yes, he's gotten up the noses of conservatives with statements I applaud, on climate change and capitalism's tendency toward rapaciousness, and bully for him, but I was wary of him early on because I didn't see any sign that he was going to revisit Church teachings on core issues -- abortion, homosexuality, the role of women in the Church. That ambiguous "Who am I to judge?" remark notwithstanding, he's stuck to the party line on all these matters. So while I've been caught up in the hoo-ha surrounding his visit, and while I appreciate his obvious empathy, he's still on the wrong side on a lot of issues as far as I'm concerned. I don't scratch my head and wonder, "Is the Pope a liberal?" He has a mix of views. Some are what we call liberal, some are what we call very conservative. I don't find it particularly difficult to wrap my head around that. And on the latter issues, he and his church leave me cold.

I'm not surprised that the anti-divorce Pope met with a multiply married woman -- Jesus hung out with Mary Magdalene, Francis does make a point of outreach to all sorts of people, and popes have never shied away from the divorced when they deemed it politically appropriate to strike up an alliance (see: John Paul II and Ronald Reagan). Also, Davis's parents are Catholic, and Davis's conservative-bigwig pal, the Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, grew up attending Mass with his Catholic mother. And the U.S. religious right established ties to Catholicism a while back, ties I'm sure are still strong.

Now, was this a mistake for Francis? Ed Kilgore thinks so:
... maybe Francis got punk’d into this meeting without understanding what a big deal it would be. But I have to say, if this Pope was trying to “transcend” the culture wars, googling Davis before giving her a private audience might have been a real good idea.
As does Charlie Pierce:
Everything [Francis] said about capitalism and about the environment is going to be drowned out because he wandered into a noisy American culture-war scuffle in which one side, apparently the one he picked, has a seemingly ceaseless megaphone for its views. What a fcking blunder. What a sin against charity, as the nuns used to say.

This is, obviously, the dumbest thing this Pope ever has done. It undermines everything he accomplished on his visit here. It undermines his pastoral message, and it diminishes his stature by involving him in a petty American political dispute.

... the pope trashed whatever good will he'd accrued here....
But what good did that goodwill do him? Immediately after a speech to Congress in which he enjoined legislators to work together for the common good, John Boehner resigned as Speaker under pressure and a government shutdown later in the year became all but inevitable. The state of Georgia put a female prisoner to death despite a plea from the Pope for a stay of execution.

(And I suppose conservatives would say that after cheering on the Pope we liberals went right back to aborting and gay-marrying.)

Francis has everyone rooting on parts of his agenda, and he also has everyone a little off balance. I'm sure that's exactly what he wants. But none of it's going to matter much -- personable popes make most people giddy, but the ability of popes to change minds on political issues is vastly overrated.

I'm grateful to Francis for the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. In terms of political efficacy, I don't think he's ever going to top that. Ultimately, he's not that powerful -- and on quite a few issues that's a good thing.


On Monday Last night, Kevin McCarthy, who's likely to be the next House Speaker, was interviewed on Fox by Sean Hannity. Oliver Willis watched and noticed that McCarthy indirectly acknowledged the obvious:
The House of Representatives Select Committee on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi is all about attacking Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, admits a senior Republican.

Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Fox News host Sean Hannity during an interview on Monday night ... that Clinton’s dropping poll numbers are evidence of the effectiveness of the committee....

It is a tacit admission by the second most powerful Republican in the House that the Committee’s true goal is taking out Secretary Clinton as a presidential candidate.
Here's what McCarthy said. He and Hannity were talking about what's going to be different in the House now that John Boehner has resigned as Speaker.
MCCARTHY: ... What you're going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen.
Beyond the acknowledgment of an obvious fact -- that the committee's goals are entirely political -- notice that McCarthy doesn't even bother with the right's usual phony sanctimony about Benghazi. There's not one mention of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack. There's none of this:

I guess the pretense that this is about lost lives is being dropped.

Go to 4:04 in the clip for the Benghazi exchange:

The conventional wisdom about McCarthy is that he's not one of the lunatic zealots, but in this interview he's certainly trying to establish his lunatic-zealot cred. The first thing he tells Hannity is that, yes, the House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, but things are going to be different now -- not because he's come to his senses and plans to discourage any additional repeal votes, which is what a sane right-centrist would do, but because the post-Boehner House is going to use reconciliation to fight Obamacare.

So he's saying he'll double down on relentless Obamacare opposition. And then, near the end of the interview (go to 5:19), he promises to double down on the Planned Parenthood inquisition, using new tactics -- it sounds as if he's promising some sort of tax-funded anti-Planned Parenthood roadshow, plus, apparently, a propaganda effort coordinated with Fox:
McCARTHY: This is what we're going to do, Sean, and we're not going to be able to do it alone: We're going to put a strategy together. Just as we do a select committee on Planned Parenthood, so we go out across the country, and they see. The president won't even watch those videos. The Democrats won't watch those videos. We need America to watch those videos. And you know what? We need your help as well.
I see a lot of lefties arguing that the GOP's ongoing Planned Parenthood witch hunt is a colossal political blunder, because polls show strong support for the organization. It's quite possible that it is a miscalculation -- but I worry when Republicans go on open-ended hunts for alleged villainous behavior in this way. Whitewater was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Monicagate. Benghazi was a nothing scandal -- until it morphed into Emailgate.

This is aimed primarily at Hillary Clinton. These SOBs know that, on a subconscious level, any attack aimed at Planned Parenthood can implicitly be one on Hillary because, to a lot of people, Planned Parenthood = militant feminism and Hillary = militant feminism. I know that's not true about Planned Parenthood for the majority of Americans, but I'm guessing that Republicans think it could be true for aging white Catholics in high-electoral-vote states such as Ohio and Michigan. Anything that might keep those aging white Catholics from coming home to the Democratic Party in November 2016 is worth it to the GOP. And if that doesn't work, the Planned Parenthood fatwa is certainly a unity builder for the party, which desperately needs one.

So expect McCarthy to be a supposed establishmentarian who gives a lot of leeway to the loons.


UPDATE: Dave Weigel writes this up or The Washington Post and makes it seem as if McCarthy made all these rightward gestures because he was browbeaten:
Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act -- "you have the power of the purse!" He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama's "amnesty," because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.

"Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy asked. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought."

"I give you credit for that," said Hannity. "I'll give you credit where credit is due."
Watch the clip -- yes, Hannity was pressing the uncompromising-zealot party line, but McCarthy seemed awfully eager to demonstrate his loon bona fides.


UPDATE: Regarding McCarthy's admission, I agree 100% with Martin Longman (BooMan): This was no blunder.
Now, I know that in certain Beltway circles telling the truth is considered one of the worst possible gaffes, but McCarthy bragged about the effectiveness of this smear campaign precisely because he wanted to remind people that the Republicans deserve credit for finding ways to effectively fight back against the Democrats. In other words, he was reminding the Republican base voter that there actually are examples where the Republican leadership did something extraordinarily partisan and obnoxious and that it worked. The reaction will probably be exactly what he hoped for. He gets a pat on the head and a couple of “Atta Boys.”

The idea that Republican members of Congress will clutch their pearls in horror that McCarthy defended their performance is a big reach, in my opinion.