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Monday, April 20, 2015

Walker comes out against legal immigration. Seriously

by digby

So the big news is that the Kochs are backing the Great Whitebread Hope, Scott walker. Say hallelujah!

Breitbart News is certainly excited. Especially since Walker has now come out not just against illegal immigration but legal immigration as well.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, pledged to protect American workers from the economic effects, not only of illegal immigration but also of a massive increase in legal immigration.

During an interview with Glenn Beck, Walker became the first declared or potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate to stake out a position on immigration fully in line with that of Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). He also noted that he has been working with Chairman Sessions on the issue to learn more about it.

Walker is now the only potential or declared GOP presidential candidate to discuss the negative effects of a massive increase in legal immigration on American workers:

In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—the next president and the next congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks, I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there—but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.

Walker discussed how in the past he did support amnesty, but says he doesn’t anymore, because he has learned more about the issue. That shows him to be one of the most open-minded GOP candidates on such matters. Walker went on to say:
As I said, I think when Chris Wallace a few weeks back, when I was on Fox News Sunday, asked me about this, he said. ‘did you change your position at least from some of these views from a decade ago’ and I said, ‘yeah.’ I think the American people not only want people who stand firm on issues, but people who listen to folks who have got rational thoughts and for me a lot of it was talking not just to citizens all across the country but to governors in border states who face real serious concerns about what’s happening on our border and elsewhere.
Walker says he discussed immigration policy in depth with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott when he visited the border a few weeks ago. He said that he doesn’t think he was “directly wrong” before but didn’t have a “full appreciation for what is the risk along our border.” He continued:

I knew there were people traveling, coming across the border, but really what you have is much greater than that. What you have is international criminal organizations, the drug cartels aren’t just smuggling drugs—they’re smuggling firearms and smuggling not only humans but trafficking and horrific situations. It’s an issue that’s not just about safety or about national security, it’s about sovereignty. If we had this kind of assault along our water based ports, the federal government would be sending in the navy. And yet there is a very minimal force along our land-based borders, be it New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, or California, and so to me it was clearly far bigger than immigration. 
We need to have a much bigger investment from the federal government to secure the border, through not only infrastructure but personnel and certainly technology to do that and to make a major shift. If you don’t do that, there’s much greater issues than just immigration. Folks coming in from potentially ISIS-related elements and others around the world, there’s safety issues from the drugs and drug trafficking and gun trafficking and gun things with regard—but to get to immigration you have got to secure the border, because nothing you do on immigration fundamentally works if you don’t secure that border.
Walker also discussed the need for interior enforcement:
Then I think you need to enforce the law and the way you effectively do that is to require every employer in America to use an effective E-Verify system and by effective I mean you need to require particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers. We got to have a system that works, but then the onus is on the employers and the penalties have to be steep that they’re only hiring people who are here, who are legal to be here. No amnesty, if someone wants to be a citizen, they have to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting.
This development, perhaps one of if not the biggest of the 2016 presidential campaign so far, comes as Walker has taken a commanding lead in polls in all three of the first GOP primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

The reason why this development is so significant is that the two establishment-backed candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both have an in-depth understanding of the immigration issue and come down on the side that supports special interests’ desire for a massive increase in legal immigration that hurts American workers.
Don't tell the Kochs about this:
“The fundamental challenge for my side is the seemingly inexorable change in the composition of presidential electorates,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres, whose clients include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said during a panel discussing the report. “And there’s no reason to believe that that’s going to stop magically.”

The demographic change poses little problem for the GOP in midterm elections, when young and minority voters are far more likely than older, white voters to stay home. But in the run-up to 2016, the demographic trend has some Republicans citing a need for change.

In 2004, Republicans’ most recent presidential victory, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the white vote, and 26 percent of the non-white vote — numbers that would lose him the White House today, Ayres said.

‘”That’s the stunning part for me in running these numbers — to realize that the last Republican to win a presidential election, who reached out very aggressively to minorities, and did better than any Republican nominee before or since among minorities, still didn’t achieve enough of both of those groups in order to put together a winning percentage” for 2016, Ayres said.
Maybe Ayres is blowing smoke for Rubio. Maybe he isn't. But you have to give Walker props for coming out against legal immigration. Remember all that handwringing about the people who've waited in line and how they should be given the first slot> Well, Walker just told them to go pound sand too.

Christie's epitaph

by digby

Is there anyone in the GOP race who is poor enough to hang this around his neck?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat are not wealthy, according to them and them only. Never mind that their $700,000 income last year puts them easily in the top one percent of earners. That’s not how Christie defines wealth. “Wealth is defined a whole bunch of ways,” Christie said in an interview with the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader. Wealth is a feeling, and he just does not have that feeling.

The reason Christie does not feel wealthy is that he has four children, he said, and that he has worked “really hard.” Also, other people don’t think of him as wealthy, he argues, and therefore, he is not wealthy.

The subject came up because the Christies, along with the rest of America, filed taxes last week. But Christie, unlike the rest of America, reported earnings of $700,000, a figure that puts him pretty solidly in one percent land.

“The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that’s that thick … is insane,” Christie told the editorial board. “We don’t have nearly that much money.”

He doesn't "feel" wealthy making only 700k a year. Just like the average All-American Joe he is.

Now New Jersey does boast the second highest median income in the country. It's 71,000 a year. So, except for that one little zero, Christie right in line with his constituents. Or, you could say that except for the extra 630,000 he makes he's right in line with his constituents.

But he deserves it. Because he works that much harder.

QOTW: Hillary Clinton

by digby

It wasn't from this week. It's from a while back. But it's good:

And then read this from Lindsay Beyerstein about Pervi Patel, the woman who was convicted of feticide. In Indiana.

I realize that it's fashionable in some circles to think that women are featherbrains for caring about this when neoliberal schemes are ruining the world and all. But there's a case to be made that if women were empowered here and around the world they might just make be useful allies in turning that scheme upside down. Think of it as an untapped resource.  In any case, a few of us can walk and chew gum at the same time and be concerned with both issues.

Heresy from Huckleberry

by digby

If anyone took Lindsay Graham seriously as a presidential candidate, this would sink him:
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's argument that the Second Amendment provides the "ultimate check against government tyranny" is a bit too extreme for potential 2016 rival and fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

"Well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn't go down that road again," Graham said, in an apparent reference to the Civil War. "I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets."

Speaking to a few reporters near the Senate floor Thursday, Graham was answering questions from TPM about the Texas firebrand and presidential candidate's argument made in a fundraising email that the Second Amendment confers a right to revolt against the government.

"The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn't for just protecting hunting rights, and it's not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny -- for the protection of liberty," Cruz wrote in the email Thursday, with the subject line "2nd Amendment against tyranny."

Graham demurred. "I'm not looking for an insurrection. I'm looking to defeat Hillary," he said. "We're not going to out-gun her."

While a consistent supporter of gun rights, Graham voiced a more mainstream legal view of the Second Amendment, as the Supreme Court first articulated in the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, that individuals have a right to possess a firearm for lawful self-defense.

"I think the Second Amendment allows people to protect their homes and their property and be secure in their persons," the senator said. "I think in a democracy the best check on government is voter participation. I think the First Amendment probably protects us more there."
There is no more fundamental a belief among the right wingers than that the 2nd Amendment is the super-Amendment that makes all the others possible. The NRA has convinced their followers that they are perpetrating an act of patriotism by owning guns and that democracy is only made possible by their willingness to fight for gun rights. Graham is way behind the curve on this and if he were running for re-election in the Senate this time, I suspect these comments would make him vulnerable. You are not allowed to have common sense about guns and be an elected Republican, especially not in the South. He might as well have said he was pro-choice and loves Obamacare.

Hillary Clinton, Progressives & the Uphill Climb

by Gaius Publius

The increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton may achieve the Democratic nomination for president without a serious challenge from the left has progressive discussion groups abuzz. There are, of course, a variety of opinions on whether this is good or bad. What I'd like to do here is define what "good" and "bad" mean in this context.

One kind of "good" outcome for progressives would be for the nation to be governed from people-first principles. A bad outcome for progressives would be a continuation of money-first, "let no insider be prosecuted" governance — a continuation, in other words, of the last eight years.

This puts a lot of issues under one umbrella — most of them economic — like student debt, banker fraud, abuse by the national security state, abuse by police, wage depression, wage theft, accelerating income and wealth inequality, immigration policy (which has a strong economic aspect, since illegal immigration is economically encouraged by the very forces that decry it), and the like. Call these the Warren Wing concerns, spotlighted by a Piketty awareness.

Another kind of "good" outcome, for Democrats, would be for the party to continue to hold the White House — keeping the Republicans out of power, at least on Pennsylvania Avenue — and perhaps to recapture the Senate and even the House.

Notice that these "good" outcomes don't equal each other; nor do they necessarily include each other. The first "good" is a progressive good, the second is a party good. Is the Democratic party a progressive party? There's the source of the problem. Clearly it's not, at least to date, in a great many of its policies, starting with the current push to pass TPP, the next NAFTA-style trade agreement. What Obama is doing to pass TPP is beyond extraordinary, and it will take both progressives and Republicans in the House and (perhaps) the Senate to keep it off his desk. (Read the link to see what I mean by "beyond extraordinary.")

There's a reason there's a "Warren Wing" in the party, and a reason why it's opposed and hated by most of the party's leaders.

So your first bottom line is — Democrats are united in winning the White House. Progressives are divided in winning with Hillary Clinton. In a nutshell, that presents a problem for Democrats and for Hillary Clinton. It's possible she could lose if progressives don't support her in sufficient numbers.

What Do the Polls Say?

I'll just summarize this and let you click through, since I want to get you to the next section. There have been a number of polls on Clinton's popularity and electoral chances. The latest is from Gallup, an organization that does not "lean left." Their bottom lines are three:
  • Clinton's favorable rating is 48%, her lowest since 2008
  • 54% of Democrats prefer to have a competitive primary
  • Still, 57% of Democrats want her as 2016 nominee
On the last point, if you drill down to "Democratic-leaning independents," that 57% becomes 53%. This makes a nice story: "A majority wants her as the nominee." Invert that, though, and it becomes: "Between 43% and 47% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents do not want her as the nominee."

Click through for the underlying data if you like. I hope, though, you see the problem. This could be "bad" in both senses above, since it opens the door to any Republican nominee who seems sane. It's a given that the Republican will be the most well-funded presidential candidate in the country's history, an instant advantage in a campaign marketplace that resembles product-perception manipulation more than anything related to ideas — what I'm calling a Campbell's Soup campaign.

What both parties will soon be filling your brain with (source)

How Upset Are the Most Upset Progressives?

In a word, very. I want to quote something I received via email from a respected progressive writer and thinker, reproduced with permission. It does not matter who wrote this. I can say personally that I've heard this view expressed a hundred times at and since the last Netroots Nation:
The economic left has no hope in this miserable process. HRC [Hillary Clinton] is a creature of Wall Street. It comes naturally to her, with her background in elite schools and her status in the political and wealth circles. It is utterly impossible to imagine that she will do anything for people past a tiny raise in the minimum wage. Her judicial appointments will be [people like] Stephen Breyer, not [people like] Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her cabinet will be filled with people like Penny Pritzger and Larry Summers.

I simply won't participate. I won't vote and I won't help her. She has no charisma for the left, and little for anyone else. The Republicans will put up the usual clownish excuse for a leader, but it really doesn't matter. I expect more people than ever will just refuse to participate after a hate-filled campaign. The oligarchy will feed the serfs just enough to keep them from revolting, and enforce their will with the usual repressive police force. The recent publicity for murderous cops will die out, and soon they'll be killing poor whites too. It's going to be ugly everywhere....
"I simply won't participate." Read those paragraphs again, just to be sure you absorb what it says. It says quite a bit. You don't have to agree with the writer or her/his ferocity. Just know that this thinking — and feeling — is far more widely held on the activist and intellectual left than even the "left" understands. Why? Because progressives tend not to say this to progressives inclined to disagree ... or inclined to say back to them: "But ... Republicans!" They had that conversation years ago, and they're done with it.

It doesn't matter what I think of Hillary Clinton, nor does it matter what you think of her. I know quite a few people who think quite highly of her. The problem is those polling numbers, and all those progressives who don't think highly of her. They are going away and aren't coming back.

Do Voters See Clinton the Way Disaffected Progressives Do?

If you look at the charges leveled by the writer above, you'll see several that have almost entered the "mainstream" — the body of "what everyone knows to be true," whether true or not. She's:
  • "A creature of Wall Street"
  • An insider with a "background in elite schools"
  • Someone with "status in the political and wealth circles"
  • Likely to appoint the Robert Rubins and the wealthy, like "Penny Pritzker and Larry Summers"
Whether she is or isn't, does or doesn't do any of these things, that perception will likely stick, despite the attempt to swing her campaign — remember, this is nothing more than image manipulation — in a pro-populist (pro-Warren Wing) direction.

She can waffle on her policies, but that will confirm the concerns. She can state her policies explicitly — for example, would she veto TPP if it crosses her desk? — but even that may not be enough, because again, this is nothing more than an exercise in image manipulation, and you have to be believed to be successful.

And regardless of what she says or does, the Republican machine will find her most vulnerable positions (among other things), including those bulleted above, and hit the public with them constantly. If people are inclined to believe something, a manipulative ad campaign is already halfway home, and Republicans are pros at this, masters with doctor's degrees in crowd manipulation.

What's the Answer?

The real answer, of course, is a primary in the Democratic party, with a candidate from the real (i.e., credible) left who will give voters a place to park an anti–neo-liberal, anti–Third Way protest vote.(I'll have more on Clinton as a proponent of Third Way policies later.) This would replicate what Sen. Eugene McCarthy did in 1968 — he gave Lyndon Johnson a realistic "sense of the party" in a way that polling could never do.

If Hillary Clinton survives a process like that, she may not be the most progressive candidate, but she will know the degree of Democratic support she has among progressives and those less progressive. Without a process like that, she enters the main event never having done battle, never having tested the degree of her real support among Democratic voters.

A surprise there would be a "bad" on both counts listed above.


(A version of this piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

Christie and Huckabee Social Security cage match

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon this morning about Big Chris Christie's working his way back into the hearts of the Villagers with strident calls to cut Social Security:
There is nothing like a big, macho Republican demanding that the government cut the meager benefits of the old and sick to get the Washington press corps stimulated, as Chris Christie proved again last week. The political media couldn’t find enough superlatives to describe him. They excitedly said his plan was “provocative, and risky“, that he was smartly positioning himself as “one guy willing to talk straight about the government’s unsustainable finances” — which was all part of the narrative of him being a hero who is “authentic and brave and tells it like it is.” What a man.

This classic beltway assumption — that cutting the safety net is the very essence of political courage and ideological integrity — goes all the way back to the early days of Ronald Reagan, when he was making stuff up about Social Security going broke in 1964. The trend continued well into the ’90s and ’00s, culminating with the press’s cheerleading for George W. Bush’s ambitious attempt to slash the program in 2005. But it took on even more of a febrile quality when, early in his term, Barack Obama mused about hopes for a Grand Bargain which included cuts to “entitlements.” There had always been Democrats who backed the idea, but it came as a happy surprise to the political establishment that one who was portrayed as being very liberal would join the chorus.

But something's stirring on the right. Big Man Mike Huckabee isn't having it:

So what to make of Mike Huckabee coming out swinging on this issue on Friday and taking Christie and the others to task in no uncertain terms?
“I don’t know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don’t understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is,” Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie’s proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.

Huckabee said his response to such proposals is “not just no, it’s you-know-what no.”

“I’m not being just specifically critical of Christie but that’s not a reform,” he said. “That’s not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace because what we are really embracing at that point is we are embracing a government that lied to its people–that took money from its people under one pretense and then took it away at the time when they started wanting to actually get what they have paid for all these years.”
He added that he had no intention of endorsing Paul Ryan’s plan either. This is very unusual for a Republican. They may not want to take that vote for cutting the program, especially since their base is very much among those who benefit from it, but they are never this unequivocal about it. It’s extremely rare for them not to issue any disclaimer about The Deficit and The Government Spending Too Much, etc, etc. To come right out and take the retirement age and means testing off the table — that actually is the “bold” and “authentic” breaking-with-conventional-wisdom for which the beltway media had already Christie all the credit.
Have the progressives finally made some headway on this issue? Lindsey Graham came out against cutting SS too. It's hard to imagine, but if there's actually some open discord on this issue among the right wingers, we may finally turned the tide. They'll never quit, of course. And Wall Street wants that money. But what this does is put a lot more pressure on Democrats to keep their grubby hands off the program. And that's a big relief.


"Lord of the Shadows" — the Bush legacy

by Tom Sullivan

Following up this morning on the must-read Der Spiegel article on the origins of an Islamic State (IS) cooked up by former Saddam Hussein intelligence officers. A trove of documents Der Spiegel obtained late last year reveal the architect of the Islamic State to be a former Iraqi colonel, Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, known to IS as Haji Bakr or else "Lord of the Shadows." Bakr died in January 2014 after implementing his "blueprint for a takeover ... not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an 'Islamic Intelligence State' -- a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany's notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency." Bakr and his agents would exploit others' extremist faith to recruit an army. The Syrian civil war provided the chaos they needed to implement their plan.

Bakr survived quality time in U.S. custody at Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison to eventually form "a powerful underground organization." He and a group of former Iraqi intelligence officers conceived a new Islamic State. They made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the figurehead. "They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face" that would attract foot soldiers from abroad. They preferred foreigners rather than Syrian rebels. (Local recruits might be reluctant to commit the atrocities necessary to instill the fear needed for control.) Spies would infiltrate towns and pave the way for takeover:

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. "We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks," Bakr had noted. "We will train them for a while and then dispatch them." As a postscript, he had added that several "brothers" would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to "ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge."

The spies were to find out as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were. Other details included what the imam's sermons were like, whether he was more open to the Sufi, or mystical variant of Islam, whether he sided with the opposition or the regime, and what his position was on jihad. Bakr also wanted answers to questions like: Does the imam earn a salary? If so, who pays it? Who appoints him? Finally: How many people in the village are champions of democracy?

Those who cooperated could be used. Potential leaders who might resist could be quickly disappeared. It had worked for Saddam Hussein. Using "ninja outfits, cheap tricks and espionage cells camouflaged as missionary offices," Der Spiegel reports, Bakr's shadowy team of Iraqi veterans created the Islamic State to reclaim the region they had lost to the American invaders and the leadership positions they had lost after Paul Bremer, George W. Bush's head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, dissolved the Iraqi army by decree in May 2003.

I once read a manual ostensibly distributed by U.S. intelligence operatives to Central American rebels during the Reagan administration. Among other tactics, it taught insurgents how to spoof assassinations of respected village leaders to make it look as if the central government had murdered them. Villagers previously reluctant to join the rebels, angered by the "government" killing of local elders would be tricked into joining the people who actually killed them. Not so different from the IS false-flag operations Der Spiegel recounts.

In another odd parallel (no, they're not equivalent), it appears what Haji Bakr and his team have done resembles a strategy U.S. politicos have used for decades: co-opting the religious right as foot soldiers for accomplishing secular goals. (Are they that gullible everywhere?) If Der Spiegel's reporting is correct, the Islamic State's jihadis have no idea they are being used by former Saddam intelligence operatives to help retake Iraq and the region for themselves and not for Islam at all. After Syrian rebels killed Haji Bakr, they scooped up "computers, passports, mobile phone SIM cards, a GPS device and, most importantly, papers. They didn't find a Koran anywhere." So it goes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Talking points for Village Pundits

by digby

Mark Halperin helpfully tells the Village what they are supposed to think about all the GOP hopefuls with this little "report card" based on his allegedly unbiased gut impressions. One thing is quite clear: the Village bros are lovin' them some spicy, Cuban meatball.

Style: More confident and focused than even in his well-received announcement speech. Led off with a string of jokes about Clinton, kids, and campaigns. Then turned earnest, keeping the crowd hushed and largely rapt, culminating with a resounding, sustained standing ovation. 
Substance: Laid out his agenda on taxes, education, and other issues with more purpose than detail, but made it powerful by fusing it with vivid descriptions of America’s needs.
Best moment: Closed with an extended passage about the nation’s future and the urgency of moving in a new direction immediately.

Worst moment: Rambled a bit at the end of the first third of his remarks—but that’s a quibble.

Overall: Speaks about the American Experience and his own family history like an old pro, making him seem wise and thoughtful beyond his years. Continues to hit his stride, creating believers within the party and the press. When he leverages his youth to make his optimism seem more organic, he stakes a greater claim than Walker, Bush, and the rest of the field to being the right leader for a better future. Enshrined his place in the top tier more solidly than ever before.
Oh yeah, baby ! He's hot!!

At the other end of the spectrum is poor old Rick Perry.

Style: Populist, anti-Washington message delivered in an intense but sometimes rambling manner. Not particularly funny, accessible, or soothing, despite nods toward optimism. On occasion let loose the manic arm-waving that he made infamous in the Granite State last cycle. 
Substance: Advocated corporate tax reform, talked energy policy, but stubbornly remained above 30,000 feet. 
Best moment: Talked about President Obama and the Mexican border in a crowd-pleasing, Texas-tough way. 
Worst moment: Wordy, dark description of the recent American past that meandered and stalled out without much audience reaction. 
Overall: Strong, mainline, conservative message, but delivered with flashes of his more lampoonable style—not the cup of tea of voters who continue to see and hear echoes of ‘12. Despite his many strengths, this version of Rick Perry cannot win the Republican nomination, and every time he acts like this at a high-profile event, he wastes more than an opportunity: He digs a deep hole even deeper.

And then there was this guy who I didn't even know was running:

Style: Talked rapidly, sometimes shouting, perhaps in an effort to seem forceful and driven. Showed little humor (beyond an opening clunker of a Clinton/e-mail joke), and little finesse. Occasionally hugged the side of the lectern, or wandered briefly away, only to return moments later.

Substance: Called for lower individual and corporate tax rates; elimination of the inheritance tax. Offered only generalities during an extended foreign policy section.

Best moment: Brought determination to his presentation, but no moments stood out.

Worst moment: The starkness of the line “President Obama doesn’t believe in America” turned into a downer even with a partisan audience that has little love for the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Overall: Largely unknown, even to many activists and the press; got some attention simply by being on the card. But didn’t give people a true sense of his heart, his history, or his hopes. Too dark and negative to be considered a happy Gilmore. Still, enough buzz in the room to likely encourage him to stay at it in the months ahead.

The other big names, Jeb, Walker, Christie all got solid "Bs" so they have plenty of potential. The weirdos like Bolton and Trump weren't all that appealing. Go figure.

So there you have it. The America's Got Political Talent re-cap from TMZ. Or rather Bloomberg. Whatever. You don't need to watch the pundits next week, they'll all be regurgitating this swill as if it actually means something.

Cretins in our midst

by digby

I have been known to get downright violent when I see people doing this at the beach. I can't even begin to tell you the level of loathing I have for these worst examples of the human species when I see it:
Well, just when you think people can’t be anymore savage and disgusting… a group of 4 in their 20’s took a baby sea lion off the beach last night, put it in the trunk of their car and drove off. Witnesses saw the group throwing things and teasing the animals, who based on their size were left on the beach as the mother foraged for food. They got a blanket, wrapped it around the juvenile pinneped and put it in the trunk of their car and left. The witnesses called police when they saw the group teasing the animals… but they left by the time LAPD arrived. The car was described as a 2 door black Honda Civic. The occupants are described as being total assholes. Earlier in the night LAPD cited and called parents of several drunk juveniles who were partying at the beach.
Here's the official story:
Nasty bites and federal prosecution are just two of the risks for whomever stole a baby seal lion from its mother on Dockweiler State Beach early Sunday morning, according to a wildlife expert.

Pete Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue told City News Service that sea lions “have a bite 10 times greater than a pit bull,” and he is concerned that someone may have been bitten when one of two sea lion pups was taken from the beach sometime before 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

Wallerstein said he went to the beach after security officers alerted him that two baby sea lions had come to shore, and one had gotten stuck in some nearby bushes.

Wallerstein freed the stuck pup, but said two Los Angeles police officers told him some people had wrapped the other sea lion pup in a blanket, put it in their vehicle and drove away. That’s a federal crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a year in jail.

The people who took the pup could also run into an issue taking care of it, Wallerstein said.

“It’s hard to feed them and they need water,” he said.

Wallerstein said that baby sea lions often come to shore, and are having an issue with starving.
There have been record numbers of babies on the beach, starving. They don't know why. It's horrible.

For anyone who lives here in Southern California and sees these baby sea lions on the beach, this is the proper protocol:
Do not approach or touch the animal. It is a federal offense to disturb them, and they may bite when threatened. Marine Mammals / pinnipeds are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Do not push, chase or coax the animal back into the water. It may need rest and if you push it back in the water it may drown.

Do not pour water on the animal. Pouring water on it may only further serve to debilitate a sick or injured animal.

Do not feed. Feeding the animal something other than what it is accustomed to may lead to illness and even death.

When I've seen people prodding or otherwise bothering the animal, I call the cops and a lifeguard. And then I cover my mouth with my hand and run up to the people warning them that these animals have a dreaded disease that's killing people all along the West Coast and even the slightest exposure could lead to extreme illness. Most of them are such dumb idiots they believe me and walk off quickly. The one's who don't usually just laugh like the barbaric scumbags they are until the authorities show up and then they scatter.

WTF is wrong with people?

Sunday Funnies

by digby

That would be because Norquist and company are drowning it in the bathtub. Feature, not bug.

Also too, what's the matter with Kansas? Brownback's the matter with Kansas:


Also too: not one innocent person has ever been executed. Luckily, we've caught all the bad convictions before they got that far. Whew ...


Yet another terrifying lesson in the perils of blowback

by digby

Der Spiegel has published a fascinating must-read about the real brains behind ISIS and how it came to be. They've come into possession of documents from a shadowy figure who was the real mastermind. And guess what? He was not really a religious fanatic at all. He was a top strategic thinker in Saddam Hussein's military. And he didn't plan to create an Islamic State per se, but rather a totalitarian state in the mode of East Germany using religion as the ostensible motivation and cover.

You have to read the whole thing to understand how much we seem to be misunderstanding the original of this "caliphate" business --- at least the original intention. (Who knows what it has really morphed into today ...) This part,  however, is of serious importance to anyone who follows national security policy and wants to ensure the US doesn't contribute to more disasters like the one currently happening in the middle east:

There is a simple reason why there is no mention in Bakr's writings of prophecies relating to the establishment of an Islamic State allegedly ordained by God: He believed that fanatical religious convictions alone were not enough to achieve victory. But he did believe that the faith of others could be exploited.

In 2010, Bakr and a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir and later "caliph," the official leader of the Islamic State. They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face.

Bakr was "a nationalist, not an Islamist," says Iraqi journalist Hisham al-Hashimi, as he recalls the former career officer, who was stationed with Hashimi's cousin at the Habbaniya Air Base. "Colonel Samir," as Hashimi calls him, "was highly intelligent, firm and an excellent logistician." But when Paul Bremer, then head of the US occupational authority in Baghdad, "dissolved the army by decree in May 2003, he was bitter and unemployed."

Thousands of well-trained Sunni officers were robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen. In doing so, America created its most bitter and intelligent enemies. [my emphasis] Bakr went underground and met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Anbar Province in western Iraq. Zarqawi, a Jordanian by birth, had previously run a training camp for international terrorist pilgrims in Afghanistan. Starting in 2003, he gained global notoriety as the mastermind of attacks against the United Nations, US troops and Shiite Muslims. He was even too radical for former Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi died in a US air strike in 2006.

Although Iraq's dominant Baath Party was secular, the two systems ultimately shared a conviction that control over the masses should lie in the hands of a small elite that should not be answerable to anyone -- because it ruled in the name of a grand plan, legitimized by either God or the glory of Arab history. The secret of IS' success lies in the combination of opposites, the fanatical beliefs of one group and the strategic calculations of the other.

Bakr gradually became one of the military leaders in Iraq, and he was held from 2006 to 2008 in the US military's Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison. He survived the waves of arrests and killings by American and Iraqi special units, which threatened the very existence of the IS precursor organization in 2010, Islamic State in Iraq.

For Bakr and a number of former high-ranking officers, this presented an opportunity to seize power in a significantly smaller circle of jihadists. They utilized the time they shared in Camp Bucca to establish a large network of contacts. But the top leaders had already known each other for a long time. Haji Bakr and an additional officer were part of the tiny secret-service unit attached to the anti-aircraft division. Two other IS leaders were from a small community of Sunni Turkmen in the town of Tal Afar. One of them was a high-ranking intelligence officer as well.

In 2010, the idea of trying to defeat Iraqi government forces militarily seemed futile. But a powerful underground organization took shape through acts of terror and protection rackets. When the uprising against the dictatorship of the Assad clan erupted in neighboring Syria, the organization's leaders sensed an opportunity. By late 2012, particularly in the north, the formerly omnipotent government forces had largely been defeated and expelled. Instead, there were now hundreds of local councils and rebel brigades, part of an anarchic mix that no one could keep track of. It was a state of vulnerability that the tightly organized group of ex-officers sought to exploit.

Attempts to explain IS and its rapid rise to power vary depending on who is doing the explaining. Terrorism experts view IS as an al-Qaida offshoot and attribute the absence of spectacular attacks to date to what they view as a lack of organizational capacity. Criminologists see IS as a mafia-like holding company out to maximize profit. Scholars in the humanities point to the apocalyptic statements by the IS media department, its glorification of death and the belief that Islamic State is involved in a holy mission.

But apocalyptic visions alone are not enough to capture cities and take over countries. Terrorists don't establish countries. And a criminal cartel is unlikely to generate enthusiasm among supporters around the world, who are willing to give up their lives to travel to the "Caliphate" and potentially their deaths.

IS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State's only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.
So the genesis of ISIS is really in the inane decision to "de-Bathify" and leave a bunch of highly trained soldiers (many of them trained by the US) humiliated and without any means of support --- then later imprison them all together for years so they could hatch plans to re-take the region and wreak revenge on their enemies. It could not be any dumber.

But then we knew that at the time.This review of Imperial Life in the Emerald City will remind you what happened if it all seems so far away:
Imperial Life is the bureaucratic story of Iraq's Year 1, the year after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, when the United States was the legal occupying power and responsible for the country's administration. The primary mechanism for that work was the Coalition Provisional Authority, headquartered in the Green Zone, a blast-barrier-encased compound created around Hussein's Baghdad palace, on the west bank of the Tigris. Chandrasekaran, The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief during this period, catalogs a lethal combination of official arrogance and ineptitude behind those walls that doomed Iraq to its bloody present every bit as much as insufficient military manpower did.

To begin with, the C.P.A.'s recruitment policy would have shamed Tammany Hall. Loyalty to George W. Bush and the Republican Party was apparently the prime criterion for getting work at the C.P.A. To determine their suitability for positions in Iraq, some prospective employees were asked their views on Roe v. Wade. Others were asked whom they voted for in 2000. Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and party activists were all solicited by the White House's liaison at the Pentagon, James O'Beirne, to suggest possible staffers.

Before the war began, Frederick M. Burkle Jr. was assigned to oversee Iraq's health care system. He had a r?m?o die for: a physician with a master's degree in public health, and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Berkeley. He also had two bronze stars for military service in the Navy, as well as field experience with the Kurds in northern Iraq after the 1991 gulf war. A week after the liberation, he was told he was being replaced because, Chandrasekaran writes, ''a senior official at USAID told him that the White House wanted a 'loyalist' in the job.''

That loyalist was James K. Haveman Jr., who had been recommended by the former Michigan governor John Engler. Haveman's r?m?ncluded running a Christian adoption agency that counseled young women against abortions. He spent much of his time in Iraq preparing to privatize the state-owned drug supply firm -- perhaps not the most important priority since almost every hospital in the country had been thoroughly looted in the days after Hussein was overthrown.

On page after page, Chandrasekaran details other projects of the C.P.A.'s bright young Republican ideologues -- like modernizing the Baghdad stock exchange, or quickly privatizing every service that had previously been provided by the state. Some of these ideas would have been laudable if they were being planned for a country with functioning power and water supplies, and that wasn't tottering on the brink of anarchy.

But how could these young Americans have known what life was like for ordinary Iraqis since they never left the Green Zone? Instead, they turned the place into something like a college campus. After a hard day of dreaming up increasingly improbable projects, the kids did what kids do -- headed for the bar and looked for a hookup. As for the Iraqis, they were conspicuous by their absence.

Presiding over this unreal world was the American viceroy, L. Paul Bremer III, who comes across in this book as a man who has read one C.E.O. memoir too many, a man who knew his mind and would not have his decisions changed by the inconvenient reality of Iraqi life just outside the blast barriers. All of this would be funny in a Joseph Heller kind of way if tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers weren't to die because of the decisions made by the C.P.A., the Pentagon and the White House.

In Chandrasekaran's account, all the arrogance, stubbornness and desire for career advancement crystallized at the end of March 2004, when Bremer decided to shut down a newspaper published by the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. With typical high-handedness, he made the decision without thinking through the possible consequences. He had no military backup plan if Sadr decided to fight and, predictably, Sadr's Mahdi Army did fight back. Within a few days four American private security operatives were ambushed and killed in Falluja, their mutilated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates. Suddenly, a year after overthrowing Hussein, the United States was fighting Shiite insurgents on one front and Sunni insurgents on another.

I'm sure most of you recall the accounts of the Bush administration's malfeasance during the early post-war. (If not, you should read the book --- it's mind-boggling.) You cannot fully comprehend the debacle that was the Iraq war without recalling those early decisions. Yes, the invasion itself was so daft it's hard to believe we actually did it. But I don't think anyone, including the Democrats who foolishly went along with it, were prepared for the astonishing ineptitude of the Bush administration in the aftermath in which they hired inexperienced college interns, GOP hacks and operatives and ideological zealots to "re-build" the country in the image of the Heritage Foundation's fondest wet-dreams. (I always thought Imperial Life in the Emerald City should actually be turned into a musical comedy in order to get the true feel for the outrageousness of the whole thing..)

I think we always knew that the seeds of the current debacle were being planted during that period. But I didn't know before this latest article that ISIS specifically stemmed from Saddam's old coterie. It's certainly possible that his original idea has simply morphed into a catch-all terrorist "brand" kind of like Coke or Kleenex. But the fact that it was originally cooked up by Saddam's old henchmen as a way to re-take their territory using the current religious fanaticism of the moment as an inspiration is yet another terrifying lesson in the perils of blowback.

Update: The hits just keep on coming. Yet another case where our alleged desire to "help" ended up in disaster.

Sobering statistic 'o the Day

by digby

Huh. Now why would that be? I'm sure the fact that vast numbers of the incarcerated are black has absolutely nothing to do with it.


Seeing the Other as real

by Tom Sullivan

Confronting Hatred: 70 Years after the Holocaust played on the local NPR station recently. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the program looks at "racism, antisemitism, and the ways in which hatred can grow." I tuned in late and heard a German woman confronting Klansmen. It led me to this 2014 clip from the BBC:

Mo Asumang is a German filmmaker who confronts racism by speaking directly to those who want her excluded from their world. They don't talk to or know their "so-called enemy," Asumang says, "so what they do when they talk to me, they talk to reality, and that's the first thing they have to survive."

Asumang concedes that her tactics for confronting hatred so directly are not for everyone. But she is inspired by the incredible change she witnessed in her own family, when her grandmother—a former Nazi party member, who worked for the SS—came face to face with a black grandchild.

My mother, she told me when she told my grandmother there's a baby going to be born and the baby's going to be black, that my grandmother said she wanted to jump in front of the tram and kill herself. But then when she saw me, even though she was at the SS, when she saw me, there was an emotional moment, and this emotional moment was human. There was a baby, and she was a woman. She felt like a mother. So she took care of me. So I think, through this in my personal history, I am really very, very sure that every person, even if the person has been to the SS, can change, but we have to bring it to a personal level.

It struck me how, as Asumang suggests, keeping the Other at a distance, maintaining the caricature, is essential to "keeping the faith," as it were. Nazis, Klansman, antisemites, various brands of religious fundamentalists, have nice, neat, black-and-white categories for the world that insulate them from opposing ideas, contradictions, and people unlike themselves. Dealing with real people makes them very uneasy. It is "out of fear," she suggests to a robed Klansman.

"No, it’s not out of fear," he insists. Fear is for the weak.

In evangelical circles, mingling to temptation, to corruption. It's threatening:

2 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV)
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Because the devil is gonna steal your faith if you let him get too close. (Remember the God Warrior?)

Professor David Pilgrim of the Jim Crow Museum in Michigan explains his interest:

As corny and trite as it sounds, I think that antisemitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia…I think those things undermine democracy. I think they make of democracy a lie. I mean as long as we have these "us versus thems," and as long as people are hurt in our society and others think that's their problem, then we undermine this nation. So the trick is, is to figure out a way to get people that are not themselves directly hurt to believe that they are a part of the same "We." And that for me has been the thrust of what it is I've spent my life trying to do; trying to make the "We" bigger.

The New York Times editorial board this morning examines renewed efforts to keep the wrong people from voting after the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act — efforts disguised as something loftier and more star-spangled. As sure as Benghazi, in 2016 we are sure to see more allegations of widespread fraud and more efforts to block participation by nameless, faceless "those people."

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Saturday Night at the Movies

In honor of America's favorite new holiday (4/20) I'm reprising this post:

Ganja with the wind: Top 5 Rasta Movies

By Dennis Hartley

Dreadlocks can't smoke him pipe in peace
Too much informers and too much beast
Too much watchie watchie watchie, too much su-su su-su su
Too much watchie watchie watchie, too much su-su su-su su

-from "Tenement Yard", by Jacob Miller

It's been a good week here in Seattle. As of this past Tuesday, Washingtonians officially joined the "over-the-counter"-culture, with a new shopping list: Milk, bread, eggs...and ganja. Never thought I'd live to see the day, but there you go. I just hope we don't blow it. Will we be able to smoke our pipe in peace? There are still a few bugs in the system, so it will be interesting to see how it all works out. At any rate, I thought I would mark the occasion by offering my picks for the top five Rasta movies, in alphabetical order...seen?

Countryman- Writer-director Dickie Jobson’s 1982 low-budget wonder has it all. Adventure. Mysticism. Political intrigue. Martial Arts. And weed. Lots of weed. A pot-smuggling American couple crash land their small plane near a beach and are rescued by our eponymous hero (billed in the credits as “himself”), a fisherman/medicine man/Rasta mystic/philosopher/martial arts expert who lives off the land. Unfortunately, the incident has not gone unnoticed by a corrupt, politically ambitious military colonel, who wants to frame the couple as “CIA operatives” who are trying to disrupt the upcoming elections. But first he has to outwit Countryman, which is no easy task (“No one will find you,” Countryman assures the couple, “You are protected here.” “Protected by who?” the pilot asks warily. “Elements brother, elements,” says Countryman, with an enigmatic chuckle).
I love this movie. It’s wholly unique and entertaining, with a fabulous reggae soundtrack.

The Harder They Come- While the Jamaican film industry didn’t experience an identifiable “new wave” until the early 80s, Perry Henzel’s 1973 cult classic can certainly lay claim as The One That Started It All. From its opening scene, when a wide-eyed country boy named Ivan (played by reggae’s original superstar, Jimmy Cliff) hops off a Jolly Bus in the heart of Kingston to the strains of Cliff’s own “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, to its blaze of glory finale, the film maintains an ever-forward momentum, pulsating all the while to the heartbeat riddim of an iconic soundtrack. Required viewing!

Rockers - I’ll admit up front that this island-flavored take on the Robin Hood legend doesn’t really have much of a plot to speak of, but what it may lack in complexity is more than made up for by its sheer exuberance (and I have to watch it at least once a year). Grecian writer-director Theodoros Bafaloukos appears to have cast every reggae luminary who was alive in 1978 in his film, which centers on a Rasta drummer (Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace) who has had his beloved motorcycle stolen (customized Lion of Judah emblem and all!) by a crime ring run by a local fat cat. Needless to say, the mon is vexed. So he rounds up a posse of fellow starving musicians (Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall, Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs, Robbie Shakespeare, Big Youth, Winston Rodney, Jacob Miller, et. al.) and they set off to relieve this uptown robber baron of his ill-gotten gains and re-appropriate them accordingly. Musical highlights include Miller performing “Tenement Yard”, and Rodney warbling his haunting a cappella number “Jah No Dead”.

Stepping Razor Red X- Legalize it! Nicholas Campbell's unflinching portrait of musician Peter Tosh (who co-founded the Wailers with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer) is not your typical rockumentary. While there is plenty of music, the central focus is on Tosh's political and spiritual worldview, rendered via a mélange of archival footage, dramatic reenactments, and excerpts from a personal audio diary in which Tosh expounds on his philosophies and rages against the "Shitstem". One interesting avenue that Campbell pursues is a suggestion that Tosh was the guiding force behind the original Wailers, and that Marley looked up to him as a mentor in those early days (I think it was more a yin-yang Lennon/McCartney dynamic). It’s a definite ‘must-see’ for reggae fans.

Word, Sound and Power - This 1980 documentary by Jeremiah Stein clocks in at just over an hour, but is about the best film anyone is ever likely to make about roots reggae music and Rastafarian culture. Barely screened upon its original theatrical run and long coveted by music geeks as a Holy Grail until its belated DVD release in 2008 (when I was finally able to loosen my death grip on the sacred, fuzzy VHS copy that I had taped off of USA’s Night Flight back in the early 80s), it’s a wonderful time capsule of a particularly fertile period for the Kingston music scene. Stein interviews key members of The Soul Syndicate Band, a group of prolific studio players who were sort of the Jamaican version of The Wrecking Crew (they backed Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, and Toots Hibbert, to name but a few). Beautifully photographed and edited, with outstanding live performances by the Syndicate. Musical highlights include “Mariwana”, “None Shall Escape the Judgment”, and a spirited acoustic version of “Harvest Uptown”.

Bloodthirsty nation

by digby

This makes me sick:

When you don't even give a shit that innocent people might be executed or that it's more likely to affect minorities you are an immoral piece of work who could, under your own value system, logically be executed yourself. After all, if you support executing innocent people you are no better than a murderer yourself.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more bloodthirsty than anyone else in the country. They aren't quite as bad as they used to be, but they're still bad. Democrats seem to be growing a bit more of a conscience:

Wider Partisan Gap on Death Penalty

I obviously don't support the death penalty. But I have some sympathy for those who truly believe the system works to only execute the guilty and that it's color blind. They're wrong about the facts but it's a moral question that operates on a pretty complicated level. It's this blithe acceptance that innocent people might be killed that shows this is about simple-minded blood lust not justice. It's barbaric.

A geyser of money worthy of Old Faithful

by digby

It boggles the mind:
Less than a week after announcing his 2016 campaign for president, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida doesn't need to worry about money.

It's as good as in the bank.

"Marco Rubio will have the resources necessary to run a first-class campaign, that’s already been determined," said billionaire Florida auto dealer Norman Braman, a former Jeb Bush supporter who is now one of Rubio's highest-silhouette donors.

Annandale Capital founder George Seay, who is hosting a Rubio fundraiser with the moneyed Dallas elite at his 7,000-square-foot, seven-bath home on Tuesday, said: "Marco has had zero trouble raising money."

At least seven other Rubio mega donors say their candidate has already received monetary commitments in excess of the $40 million he will likely need to battle through a presidential primary season that will feature a crowd of seasoned Republican candidates with strong financial backing.

Rubio’s whirlwind money-raising comes after a network of Senator Ted Cruz super PACs raked in $31 million following Cruz's announcement in March that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

The breakneck pace of the 2016 fundraising, most notably characterized by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's reputed aim to raise $100 million, is emblematic of how much the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision unleashed an era of unfettered political spending by for-profit corporations and the rich, altering the financial calculus of campaigns.

At a time when a band of billionaires can single-handedly bankroll the politician of their choice through a super PAC, in some ways it's never been easier to raise money, signaling a phase that campaign-finance reformers fear will further concentrate political power in the hands of the deep-pocketed few.

The commitments to Rubio, Cruz and Bush ensure this Republican primary season will be long and bruising given that raising money is no longer the issue it once was.
Even more mind-boggling is the fact that the money doesn't make even the tiniest dent in the wealth of these billionaires' fortunes.

It's going to be a truly dizzyingly profitable season for the media and the professional political world to have this huge influx of cash into the process. But we still get to vote. And the right wing base is well enough organized to make their own decision if they can see through this miasma of plutocratic smoke so they could surprise everyone. I'd guess that most people will be sick of this stuff long before the election and will tune it out. But hey, maybe that's the Big Money Boyz's nefarious plan.

Friends and allies

by digby

Maybe Bob Graham is a nut. But he seems to really believe this is true:

The episode could have been a chapter from the thriller written by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida about a shadowy Saudi role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

A top F.B.I. official unexpectedly arranges a meeting at Dulles International Airport outside Washington with Mr. Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after he has pressed for information on a bureau terrorism inquiry. Mr. Graham, a Democrat, is then hustled off to a clandestine location, where he hopes for a breakthrough in his long pursuit of ties between leading Saudis and the Sept. 11 hijackers.

This real-life encounter happened in 2011, Mr. Graham said, and it took a startling twist.

"He basically said, 'Get a life,' " Mr. Graham said of the F.B.I. official, who suggested that the former senator was chasing a dead-end investigation.

Mr. Graham, 78, a two-term governor of Florida and three-term senator who left Capitol Hill in 2005, says he will not relent in his efforts to force the government to make public a secret section of a congressional review he helped write - one that, by many accounts, implicates Saudi citizens in helping the hijackers.

"No. 1, I think the American people deserve to know the truth of what has happened in their name," said Mr. Graham, who was a co-chairman of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks. "No. 2 is justice for these family members who have suffered such loss and thus far have been frustrated largely by the U.S. government in their efforts to get some compensation."

He also says national security implications are at stake, suggesting that since Saudi officials were not held accountable for Sept. 11 they have not been restrained in backing a spread of Islamic extremism that threatens United States interests. Saudi leaders have long denied any connection to Sept. 11.

Mr. Graham's focus on a possible Saudi connection has received renewed attention because of claims made by victims' families in a federal court in New York that Saudi Arabia was responsible for aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers and because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the F.B.I. in Florida.

In sworn statements in the two cases, Mr. Graham has said there was evidence of support from the Saudi government for the terrorists. He also says the F.B.I. withheld from his inquiry, as well as a subsequent one, the fact that the bureau had investigated a Saudi family in Sarasota, Fla., and had found multiple contacts between it and the hijackers training nearby until the family fled just before the attacks.

Despite the F.B.I.'s insistence to the contrary, Mr. Graham said there was no evidence that the bureau had ever disclosed that line of investigation to his panel or the national commission that reviewed the attacks and delivered a report in 2004.

"One thing that irritates me is that the F.B.I. has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception," Mr. Graham said during an interview in a family office in this Miami suburb, which rose on what was a dairy farm operated by Mr. Graham's father, also a political leader in Florida.

If what he says is correct we have to assume that the US Government covered this up for fear of upsetting a very close ally in the middle east --- even at the expense of the truth about al Qaeda and 9/11. We should keep that in mind as we listen to our political leaders of both parties wax on about principles and values and keeping the babies safe. They often have a very different definition of what that means than the average American does.


Real men don't drink Chai

by digby

What an elitist ...

Sorry, that's just unAmerican...
Sophisticated Republican national security policy

by digby

This is what passes for Republican national security policy these days:

I'll just let Olivia Nuzzi explain:
The biggest threat that he can wrap his head around is a reptile—native to America!—that mostly feeds on small rodents and birds.

“When you’re dealing with Islamic Jihad ... you’re dealing with a rattlesnake.” — former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee
But this is not necessarily Huckabee’s fault—and he’s not alone.

Running a state does not require one to regularly contemplate war or diplomacy in the way that serving in Congress does.

Governors do not, obviously, get to vote on war resolutions or defense spending and because of that, their opinions about foreign policy are infrequently sought, because they are not relevant to their position.

In fact, were a governor to be completely devoid of presidential ambitions, they could feasibly serve two terms at the helm of any of the 50 states without once speaking publicly about the Middle East or Russia—and it wouldn’t actually matter.

And that’s how you end up with moments like the one two weeks ago on This Week, when former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, looking like a deer-in-headlights, haltingly answered a question about the biggest threat to national security.

“The greatest danger that we face right now on a consistent basis in terms of manmade threats is—um—is—nuclear Iran and related to that, extremist violence,” he said. “I don’t think you can separate the two. I think they go together in terms of natural threats, clearly, it’s climate change.”

His Republican counterparts who would like to be president have been equally unlucky navigating matters of homeland security.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, was asked about terrorism.

He responded confidently: “I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists does not wash up on American soil.”

Then, Walker made reference to his battles with unions—battles in which no one, to my recollection, was beheaded or hit by drones. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

After Crimea was invaded by Russian military forces, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended what The New York Times reported was “a confidential meeting of Republican activists.”

At the meeting, he was asked how he would deal with Putin differently than President Obama has, to which he replied by saying Obama’s behavior had let him be pushed around by Putin. “I don’t believe, given who I am, that he would make the same judgement,” he claimed. “Let’s leave it at that.” Christie reportedly did not offer any further insights into his own understanding of the issue.

In August, now-former Texas governor Rick Perry addressed the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He told them he believed it’s a “very real possibility” that ISIS could cross into the United States through Mexico because the border is not secure. “We have no clear evidence of that,” he acknowledged, but “individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be” planning to do that or, “they may have already used that.” Perry used this theory to advocate for a border fence.

These are the grown-ups.

By the way, Iranians are actually human beings not snakes  I know that comes as a surprise to many people.  There are even a whole lot of them right here in the good old US of A.

Cool vs Cold

by digby

Who knew Lincoln Chafee was such a putz?
COLMES: Do you have any relationship with Hillary Clinton? Do you know her at all?

CHAFEE: We served together in the Senate and we served on the Environment and Public Works
Committee together. I worked on a couple of bills with her.

COLMES: What’s your impression?

CHAFEE: She’s as everyone said a policy wonk, she can be cold.

COLMES: Cold personally? Not a warm fuzzy human being?

CHAFEE: Yeah, when we worked on some of these issues, she likes to be the center of attention.
Here's a little game: substitute the word "serious" for cold and see how it sounds. And then ask yourself whether it's laughable that a virtually unknown man who's quixotically running for president is criticizing a rival for wanting to be the center of attention.

I won't belabor the point but it's worth noting that people rarely call a man "cold." In fact, they call men "cool" a which has a whole other connotation. Saying a woman is "cold" is a put down that calls to mind some sort of sexual repression and I'm fairly sure that most smart, serious women have been called that in their professional lives, especially if they were not inclined to play the flirty game to sooth all the egos in the room.

More importantly, who gives a shit? It's not as if Jeb Bush or Scott Walker --- or Lincoln Chaffee, for that matter come across as cuddly comedians. Or, for that matter, Barack Obama who is so known for his cool demeanor that they call him "no drama Obama." He's so unemotional that if he was a woman he'd be called a frigid ice queen.

The truth is that we should want leaders who work hard and can keep their heads and stay focused. We don't need them to come up with cute nicknames for everyone or seem like the kid of person you'd want to have a beer with. Being "cool" (or "cold" if you insist) is an asset not a liability in a leader.

There are plenty of legitimate things over which to criticize Clinton and it's kind of sad (and idiotic) that the completely predictable sexist trope of "cold bitch" is still the go-to insult among so many people.


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