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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lucky folks

by digby

In more ways than one ...

On on early morning nature walk we saw a gator, a snake, frogs, pretty birds, and had this unexpected encounter. (Warning...curse word at end!)
Posted by Tina Dorschel on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

That is apparently a rare Florida panther. What a beautiful creature.

Unspeakably cruel

by digby

I've written before about this horrible experience forced on women and their families by zealots who think this is all an abstraction and simply want to make a philosophical point.

Here's another one:
Daniel and Taylor Mahaffey were 20 weeks pregnant and desperately wanted their child, but when doctors informed them a complication meant the fetus had no chance of survival, they just wanted their baby’s suffering to end. Yet because of their state’s “fetal pain” law, the married Texans say they were forced to endure a stillbirth and wait as their baby slowly died in utero.

The Mahaffeys had begun decorating the nursery in anticipation for the little boy they planned to name Fox, after one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.

On Wednesday night, Taylor, 23, felt something abnormal and since their last pregnancy ended in miscarriage, they rushed to the hospital. By the time they got there, Fox’s feet were already pushing through his mother’s cervix. Doctors tried several emergency measures to stop the preterm labor, including putting Taylor on an incline in the hopes that they could perform a cervical cerclage—a procedure in which doctors stitch shut the cervix. Nothing worked. Nothing could save him.
Heartbroken, the Mahaffeys asked about their options. “The only humane thing to do at that point would be to pop the sack, and let little Fox come into this world too early to survive outside,” 29-year-old Daniel Mahaffey wrote Monday, telling his story on Reddit.

The doctors and nurses at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin cried with them, but said because of Texas law HB2, they could not help speed Taylor’s labor. Technically, the baby was healthy and the mother was healthy, so to induce labor would be an abortion, and to do it at this stage in the pregnancy would be illegal.

The Mahaffeys were sent home to wait for their baby to die or for Taylor’s labor to progress. “We cried ourselves to sleep, waiting for him to come,” Daniel said in an interview with The Daily Beast.
They prayed conflicting prayers: for a miracle that might save him and for an end to their baby’s suffering. Daniel worried his wife would hemorrhage while Taylor could feel the baby struggling inside of her, Daniel said. Taylor declined to speak for this article.

When Taylor started bleeding, they went back to the hospital, but with Fox’s heart still beating, doctors couldn’t legally interfere.

“Eventually she was just screaming at them to get the child out of her,” Daniel said.

After four days in and out of the hospital, the bag of waters surrounding their baby burst and Taylor delivered Fox. “One nice thing is we got to hold him,” Daniel said. “That’s the only silver lining.”
Texas is one of 12 states that bans abortions after 20 weeks post fertilization with bills ostensibly based on the wholly unscientific idea that fetuses can feel pain after that period of gestation. (A review of the evidence by the American Medical Association found that “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”)

This is what comes from superstition, blind zealotry and political cynicism coming together with the power of the state. There is no moral reason to put someone through this. It's torture.

Trump's other exceptions

by digby

You can't make this stuff up:

Trump said, "I have been called by more Muslims saying what you are doing is a great thing, not a bad thing."

When pressed by Matthews, Trump added, "I have, actually, believe it or not, I have a lot of friends that are Muslim and they call me. In most cases, they're very rich Muslims."

"But do they get into the country?" Matthews then asked.

"Oh, they'll come in," Trump responded, later adding that the ban will have exceptions.

Did he make the RNC Great Again?

by digby

So this is the big news this morning:
Multiple outlets reported Thursday afternoon that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was meeting with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus after the billionaire recanted the party's pledge to back the eventual GOP nominee. 
TIME and CBS News confirmed the meeting, citing anonymous sources. 
Asked at a town hall event Tuesday night whether he would still adhere to the RNC's pledge, Trump replied, "No, I don't anymore." 
The RNC pledge was first circulated among GOP candidates in September 2015 as a largely ceremonial party unity gesture when Trump's insurgent campaign started to gain traction. 
The meeting also comes on the heels of Trump's comments that if abortion was outlawed, women who got abortions should be punished. He later said that only abortion providers should be punished if abortion was illegal.
The meeting's over now and at this point nobody knows what happened except Trump said the party would be united.

I'm a little disappointed. The Great Negotiator should have emerged from any meeting with the RNC giving him the nomination by acclamation, amirite? Shouldn't Preibus have come out and stood behind Trump at a press conference like the newest Trump butler?

Paul Ryan savior? Not so fast.

by digby

I mentioned the other day that Ryan might be getting a primary challenge from a Tea Party plutocrat and it looks like it's for real:
Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen announced yesterday that he is challenging House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in the Republican primary, saying he’s “had it” with the Speaker betraying conservatives.

“Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have become front-runners in this presidential election cycle because they have dared to communicate an anti-establishment message. They won’t be alone,” Nehlen said. “I will bring the fight straight to one of the most powerful establishment players in Washington, taking him on right here in Paul NehlenWisconsin’s 1st District. Paul Ryan is a career politician. It’s time that career came to an end.”

“Paul Ryan’s embrace of big government spending, his continued support of illegal immigration and imported workers, and his championing of the job-killing trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership betrays me, this district, and this nation,” said Nehlen.

“He’s failed to put America’s security and American jobs first. I’ve had it. We’ve all had it,” said Mr. Nehlen, a successful executive, entrepreneur and inventor who previously donated to Ryan’s campaigns according to reporting by The Washington Times’ S.A. Miller.

As S.A. Miller reported in The Washington Times, the emergence of a viable Republican challenger in the district is the culmination of a months-long recruitment effort by tea party activists who say they were double-crossed by Mr. Ryan when he passed a $2 trillion spending package late last year.

Meanwhile all the GOP establishment types see Ryan as the consensus answer to their little Trump and Cruz problem should it come to that at the convention. Good luck with that.

As the incumbent Speaker of the House it's highly unlikely that he'll be ousted in a primary. But as Eric Cantor proved, under the right circumstances anything can happen. As a presidential candidate replacement for Trump and Cruz, the outsider and the anti-establishment extremist, he's a very poor choice.

That time Trump followed one of his policies to its logical conclusion

by digby

I wrote up Trump's comments about punishing women for having abortions for Salon this morning. Weirdly, I'm sort of on Trump's side on this. He's unschooled in the byzantine illogic required for a conservative politician to be "pro-life" and simply made the reasonable assumption that if you consider abortion murder and want to make it illegal, then millions of women must be criminals. That didn't set off any alarm bells because he has no problem with the idea of putting millions of people behind bars as a general principle and doesn't think much of women as a group anyway.

After last night, we can add abortion politics to the long list of issues Donald Trump knows less about than a politically aware 12 year old. On an MSNBC town hall, Chris Matthews asked Trump one of the tougher questions a “pro-life” politician has ever had to face. He asked him if a woman who has an abortion should be punished. And Trump said yes, provoking an outcry from just about everyone on all sides of the debate. It’s obvious why decent people would be appalled. But Trump was probably surprised that his anti-abortion allies didn’t see it his way.
This question is always tricky for those who hold anti-abortion views. After all, it makes little sense to believe abortion is murder and fail to hold the person who makes the decision to commit the murder accountable for it. In that regard (and in a big break from normal practice), Trump is the one being rational. As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte pointed out yesterday:
[T]he official stance that Republicans are supposed to take is that women are victims of abortion and therefore cannot be held responsible for it. Yes, it’s true that women pick up the phone, make the appointment, talk through their decisions with medical professionals, sign paperwork and then either take a pill or let the doctor perform an abortion, but none of this should be taken, in conservative eyes, as evidence that women are the people responsible for the abortion happening. Women are regarded by conservatives as fundamentally incapable of making grown-up decisions. If they choose abortion (and by implication, if they choose sex), it’s because they poor dears were misled.
Yes, the same people that conservatives treat as literally too stupid to understand what making a medical decision entails are then expected to raise children.
The party line is that abortion is murder but the woman who solicits it is not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect. Keep in mind that one third of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives. That’s a whole lot of defective crazy ladies we’re allowing to roam free in society.
After it was pointed out that Trump had screwed the pooch, he issued a rare written “clarification” much like the one he was forced to release when he said the military would follow his order to commit war crimes. (These are the only two times he’s done this.) Sounding as if it was a forced confession dictated to a prisoner of war, the statement said:
If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed – like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.
Actually Reagan, after having signed a liberal abortion bill as Governor of California in the 1960s, ran for president on a “pro-life” platform that only provided an exception — for the life of the mother. And while he didn’t make it the crusade of his presidency, he also didn’t hesitate to reiterate that stance while in office. This famous passage from his 1988 State of the Union speech is often thrown up as an example of brilliant anti-choice oratory:
Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Federal funding for abortion and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense. But with that one exception, let us look to those others in our land who cry out for children to adopt.
You’ll note that he only mentioned the one exception for the life of the mother. And that exception is under fire as well from the farthest fringes of the anti-choice movement which has begun to discuss the idea openly that a woman should die rather than abort a fetus. The 2011 Congress even passed a “let women die” conscience clause for doctors and hospitals:
[T]he GOP-led House of Representatives, with the blessings and encouragement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and extremist religious groups such as the Family Research Council, passed a bill in a vote of 251 to 172 that would, among other things, allow doctors and hospitals to “exercise their conscience” by letting pregnant women facing emergency medical conditions die.
Luckily the Senate let the bill die instead. But this idea is gaining currency among zealots who are canonizing women who choose their fetus over their own lives. (This is obviously their choice and they have a perfect right to make it but the sanctimony with which these “pro-lifers” celebrate the woman’s death makes it starkly clear that they believe it is the only truly moral choice.) This concept remains on the fringes for now, but the other exceptions for rape and incest, which have always been mainstream even among conservatives, are increasingly being abandoned.
Neither Rick Perry nor Marco Rubio endorsed those exceptions in their presidential campaigns, arguing that “every life is precious.” And back in 2012, even amidst the furor over Missouri candidate Todd Akin’s controversy in which he bizarrely stated that women can’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape,” the platform committee at the RNC called for a ban on abortion, with no exceptions, not even the life of the mother. Just to make it truly antediluvian, they also called for a ban on emergency contraception, apparently believing that if any female did happen to find herself in circumstances one might define as a “legitimate rape,” she should also be denied the possibility of preventing a pregnancy from resulting in the first place.
So, despite Trump’s accidental foray into logical thinking, in which he correctly surmised that if abortion is illegal, it makes no sense not to hold the primary perpetrator legally liable, his lawyerly walk-back places him among the less radical of pro-life candidates. He apparently does not believe women should die rather than have an abortion and he has said in the past there should be exceptions for rape and incest. So, if Trump were president he would not force girls to give birth to their own siblings, something which is rapidly becoming a rare act of compassion among “pro-life” politicians.
And while it’s certainly positive that he’s also no longer looking for a proper “punishment” for women who have abortions, as Marcotte points out, much of anti-abortion activism and the current wave of anti-choice legislation does punish women for having abortions. The practical effects of the rabid protests, the fear mongering, the onerous regulations, the closing of clinics and the defunding of vital services is to make the lives of unintentionally pregnant women who do not wish to bear a child unbearably miserable. Sadistic activists will go to any lengths to terrify young women, even running vicious scams to convince them they are in legal jeopardy if they go through with an abortion. Authorities around the country are arresting and jailing women for having illegal self-induced abortions, as bizarre as that sounds. These days people take their lives into their hands to even accompany a friend to a clinic if some “pro-life” terrorist decides that is where he’s going to carry out his deadly crusade.
So Trump’s original position isn’t really all that radical. Women are punished every day for having abortions. Indeed, a fundamental belief among many anti-choice radicals is that pregnancy and childbirth themselves are penances women must pay for their sexuality.  (“No get out jail free card for you, young lady.”) Trump, being unschooled in the ways of the conservative movement, foolishly assumed that you’d have to change the law before you could inflict the punishment.


It's good news week

by Tom Sullivan

Great. It's 5 a.m. and the headlines this morning prompted a novelty song from the mid-1960s to start playing in my head.

Melting of Ice Sheet Could Flood Coastal Cities by 2100

Antarctic ice loss could double expected sea level rise by 2100, study says

Sea levels set to 'rise far more rapidly than expected'

From the journal Nature:
Choices that the world makes this century could determine the fate of the massive Antarctic ice sheet. A study published online this week in Nature finds that continued growth in greenhouse-gas emissions over the next several decades could trigger an unstoppable collapse of Antarctica’s ice — raising sea levels by more than a metre by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500.

“That is literally remapping how the planet looks from space,” says study co-author Rob DeConto, a geoscientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The good news, he says, is that it projects little or no sea-level rise from Antarctic melt if greenhouse-gas emissions are reduced quickly enough to limit the average global temperature rise to about 2 °C.
See? Good news.

From the New York Times:
New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, are all just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.
Answer? Have Donald Trump build a wall around Manhattan. A big, beautiful wall.

More good news. The study itself is here.

Of course, a technological breakthrough might stop the melting. Or maybe A.I. could solve it for us. Remember Microsoft's failed experiment last week with its Twitter chatbot named Tay? Microsoft returned Tay to the lab for regrooving after she went a bit wonky:
Tay launched on 23 March, but less than 24 hours later she was switched off by Microsoft after tweeting publicly about her support for Adolf Hitler, her hatred of Jews, calling feminism "a cancer" and suggesting genocide against Mexicans. Tay also blamed George Bush for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and described President Barack Obama as a "monkey".
Well, Microsoft brought Tay back online Wednesday (briefly) to learn more from human Twitter users:
The learning experiment, which got a crash-course in racism, Holocaust denial and sexism courtesy of Twitter users, was switched back on overnight and appeared to be operating in a more sensible fashion. Microsoft had previously gone through the bot’s tweets and removed the most offensive and vowed only to bring the experiment back online if the company’s engineers could “better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values”.

However, at one point Tay tweeted about taking drugs, in front of the police, no less.

Tay then began repeating the same tweet over and over until engineers made her account private, effectively taking her offline again. Microsoft told the IBTimesUK, "Tay remains offline while we make adjustments. As part of testing, she was inadvertently activated on twitter for a brief period of time." Maybe Tay will learn enough from contact with humans to keep New York from drowning from the actions of humans.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The border patrol goes political

by digby

Well, this is good news:

The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) is throwing its support behind Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, its first-ever presidential endorsement.

“The NBPC has had a longstanding practice of not endorsing presidential candidates in the primaries,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will not, however, shy away from voicing our opinions as it pertains to border security and the men and women of the United States Border Patrol."

The group said that if the borders are not secured, communities will “continue to suffer at the hands of gangs, cartels and violent criminals preying on the innocent."
They praised Trump's stance on immigration and said he could change the nation's policies.

“Unlike his opponents, Donald Trump is not a career politician, he is an outsider who has created thousands of jobs, pledged to bring about aggressive pro-American change, and who is completely independent of special interests,” the statement continued. “We don't need a person who has the perfect Washington-approved tone, and certainly NOT another establishment politician in the W.H.

"Indeed, the fact that people are more upset about Mr. Trump’s tone than about the destruction wrought by open borders tells us everything we need to know about the corruption in Washington,” the group added.

The union also hailed Trump for not being politically correct or “subservient” to foreign countries and special interests and said he was responsible for making illegal immigration a key issue in the race.

“Mr. Trump is correct when he says immigration wouldn’t be at the forefront of this presidential campaign if months ago he hadn’t made some bold and necessary statements,” the statement reads.

“And when the withering media storm ensued he did not back down one iota. That tells you the measure of a man. When the so-called experts said he was too brash and outspoken, and that he would fade away, they were proven wrong. We are confident they will be proven wrong again in November when he becomes President of the United States.”

What a great group of public servants. Very professional. Awfully proud to be paying their salaries.

Groped and pepper sprayed at Trump rally

by digby

It's only the beginning:
Police said the girl was peppered-sprayed in the crowd by a non-law enforcement person. Hundreds of anti-Trump protesters and supporters had gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in southern Wisconsin, where Trump was holding his maiden rally in the state ahead of Tuesday's primary. 
In video posted on social media of the tense scene, the teen appears to be arguing with a middle-aged man and shoves or punches him before the pepper spray is deployed by a second man. The girl appears to hold a sign that accuses Trump of supporting white supremacy. She is standing next to another young woman holding a Black Lives Matter sign. Others in the crowd could be heard chanting, "All lives matter." 
Police said they are reviewing several videos taken at the scene and have spoken to several eyewitnesses. The young woman told officers she was groped by a man before pushing him away, police said in a statement.

I'm sure Trump will say she was asking for it by protesting in the first place.

This is one of the men the police are looking for. He wants to make America great again.

Even the supposedly sane ones are clueless

by digby

Here's your GOP mainstream alternative to Trump, which says everything you need to know about the mainstream. This stuff is considered benign and normal. Not it's not as crudely misogynistic as Trump, but it's the kind of everyday demeaning bullshit women put up with all the time in the workplace and sadly, in politics.

At a CNN town hall on Tuesday in Milwaukee, Charlotte Rasmussen from Butler, Wisconsin, asked Kasich whom he would choose as his vice president were he the GOP’s nominee.

“Are you available? You look great tonight,” he said to her in response.

It’s hard to imagine him saying a similar thing to a male questioner.

Kasich has previously attracted headlines for his comments to and about women at campaign events. When a female student raised her hand to ask him a question in October, he said, “I don’t have any tickets for, you know, Taylor Swift or anything.” His routine of asking women “Have you ever been on a diet?” to explain his views on balancing budgets came to an end after it attracted negative headlines in November.

He’s said that he was elected to office with the help of women who “left their kitchens” to campaign for him and noted in 2012 that “it’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official … they’re at home doing the laundry.”

Kasich also conflated his party’s outreach to Latino voters with tipping hotel maids last year.

Comments aside, Kasich didn’t show much respect for women when he signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in February. Nearly half of Ohio’s abortion clinics have closed since he was elected in 2011.

Marcy Stech, the communications director at EMILY’s List, a group that elects women to office who are pro-abortion rights, said Republicans lose another female voter “every time John Kasich opens his mouth.”

“He’s the king of tone-deaf slights toward women — which still pale in comparison to his destructive, anti-woman record in Ohio,” she said. “The worst part? He’s supposed to be the sane one in this election.”

He's just a regular old sexist jerk. Which I guess makes him a loveable coot we needn't worry about. But his views on abortion, while not quite as ignorant as Trumps, are just as vile. He just signed a bill this month banning all state funds for Planned Parenthood.


Tweet o' the Day

by digby

Referring to this, of course.

"He's mental"

by digby

Yes, she actually wrote that

Of all the crazy stuff Trump has said, this is the one that finally gets Coulter's attention?
"I’m a little testy with our man right now," she said.

"You are? Daddy’s annoyed you?" Yiannopoulos asked in response, referring to Trump.

"Our candidate is mental. Do you realize our candidate is mental? It’s like constantly having to bail out your sixteen-year-old son from prison," Coulter replied. "OK, let’s move past last night’s tweet."

"This is the worst thing he’s done," she continued, adding that Trump's comments about Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) status as a war hero were also hard to defend.

"Everything else I could probably defend. I could, I think, off the top of my head. Most of it — it was them overreacting," she said, referring to liberals. "But the McCain thing, that was — OK it was a dumb joke, it didn’t work. Oh, well. Didn’t kill him. But that tweet last night…"

Later in the interview, Coulter confirmed that she was referring to Trump's Heidi Cruz retweet when Yiannopoulos mentioned that Trump retweeted "a picture of Cruz’s wife and a picture of Melania."

"That’s exactly the tweet I’m talking about," Coulter said. "No, you can’t defend it. This is when we’re bailing our sixteen-year-old out of jail."

This is a woman who's been tweeting out white supremacist screeds for years but a playground insult from Trump is offensive? This is the single most toxic, disgusting public figure in America whose made a lot of money with sophomoric, schoolyard insults that make Trump look like an amateur.

This remains one of my all-time favorites, from a column about the Democratic Convention that got her dropped by USA Today:

"My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

There's no point in trying to catalog her degrading, adolescent insults over the years. It's endless. Trump isn't close to being in her league. But it's interesting that she's starting to hedge her support. Nobody has been more of a passionate Trump supporter than Coulter.


The GOP's SCOTUS litmus test

by digby

Well, their presidential front runner's anyway:

Donald Trump on Wednesday fired back at Hillary Clinton, remarking that he would likely nominate Supreme Court justices who “would look very seriously at her email disaster.”

The former secretary of state has been under fire over her use of a private email server during her time at the State Department and called out the Republican front-runner in a speech Monday highlighting the impact the Supreme Court should have on this election. Clinton invoked Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and asked Wisconsin voters what kind of justice a President Trump would nominate.

“Well, I’d probably appoint people that would look very seriously at her email disaster because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that to start off with,” Trump said in a phone interview with ABC's “Good Morning America.” “What she’s getting away with is absolutely murder. You talk about a case — now that’s a real case.”

The New York billionaire added, “If she’s able to get away with that, you can get away with anything.”

Not knowing how the judicial branch of the government works isn't quite as alarming as not knowing how the world's nuclear umbrella works but it's not good. This is the man many Republicans think should nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

Trump is Rush's legacy

by digby

I wrote this for Salon this morning:

Yesterday we were treated to the spectacle of Donald Trump’s campaign manager being arrested for misdemeanor battery of Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. The candidate stood by his man. After weeks of denials and assassinations of the victim’s character, he finally blustered and blathered and then did his Trumpian thing: He said she started it by physically attacking him with what might have been “a little bomb” (it was a pen) and threatened to have her charged with assault. Once again, he dominated the new cycle with his misogynist sideshow. It seems to be working for him. NBC announced thathis poll numbers were closing in on 50 percent.
Meanwhile, the Republican establishment continues to rend its collective garments, lashing out in all directions, trying desperately to figure out how it all went wrong. So it was only a matter of time before some GOP elite turned his gaze on the king of the vulgarians, Rush Limbaugh. Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson lit into him yesterday with a blistering criticism, blaming him for Trump’s success.
He’s right that Limbaugh is responsible — but also he completely misses the reason.
Gerson admits that Limbaugh has not formally endorsed Trump but observes that he has been cheering on his campaign’s crusade against “the establishment” and “the elite” even as he admits that Cruz is the true conservative in the race. (I wrote about Limbaugh’s delicate dance between the Cruzies and the Trumpers in his audience a while back.) He believes Rush has inadvertently convinced the Trump voters that ideology doesn’t matter:
For decades, Limbaugh set the tone of popular conservatism by arguing for ideological purity. Now, the great champion of conservatism has enabled the rise of the “least conservative Republican presidential aspirant in living memory” (in the words of Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs). Trump is a candidate who talks more of personal rule than of limited government. A candidate who praises a single-payer health system, proposes higher taxes on the wealthy, opposes entitlement reform and advocates the systematic destruction of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. This is the politician Limbaugh has given the ideological hall pass of a lifetime.
Gerson believes this is very unfair to the decent people he knows in politics who are not driven by greed and corruption. He says, “Criticizing their venality from 30,000 feet in his Gulfstream jet rings particularly hollow.” And he takes great issue with Trump’s shallowness and the fact that he is all “impulses and instincts”, a man who doesn’t reason from first principles.
Most importantly, he adamantly rejects his vulgar personality, writing:
[M]any Republicans, in Washington and elsewhere, do not view civility, inclusion and tolerance as forms of weakness or compromise. In fact, they view casual misogyny, racial stereotyping and religious bigotry as moral failings, in their children and in their leaders. And they oppose — as a matter of faith or philosophy — any form of populism that has exclusion, cruelty or dehumanization at its core.
Gerson has obviously not been listening to Rush Limbaugh over the past 25 years or he would know that the millions of conservatives who listen to his show every day are positively enthusiastic about casual misogyny, racial stereotyping, religious bigotry, cruelty and dehumanization. Those are Rush Limbaugh’s stock in trade.
Decades before Donald Trump sent a crude tweet mocking Heidi Cruz’s looks, Rush Limbaugh went on TV and made a disgusting joke about a 13 year old girl. The late great Molly Ivins reported on it back in 1995:
On his TV show, early in the Clinton administration, Limbaugh put up a picture of Socks, the White House cat, and asked, “Did you know there’s a White House dog?” Then he put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton, who was 13 years old at the time and as far as I know had never done any harm to anyone.
When viewers objected, he claimed, in typical Limbaugh fashion, that the gag was an accident and that without his permission some technician had put up the picture of Chelsea—which I found as disgusting as his original attempt at humor.
Who does that remind you of? Or how about a record of disgusting misogynist rhetoric so ugly it makes Donald Trump sound like Billy Graham. Here is just a random sampling of his greatest hits, via Media Matters:
One of Limbaugh’s (many) running attacks on Hillary Clinton is that she is in possession of a “testicle lockbox” that represents, in Limbaugh’s retelling, “the worst characteristics of women … totally controlling, not soft and cuddly. Not sympathetic. Not patient. Not understanding. Demanding, domineering, Nurse Ratched kind of thing.”
Michelle Obama’s nationwide anti-obesity campaign has rankled Limbaugh and other conservatives, who have responded to the fitness drive with a barrage of nonsensical attacks on Mrs. Obama’s weight — Limbaugh is fond of referring to the First Lady as “Michelle, my butt,” and has said “it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice.” Last September, commenting on the size of the presidential limousine, Rush said: “The beast weighs eight tons without Michelle in it. Eight tons. Sixteen thousand pounds.”
Anyone who has listened to enough Rush Limbaugh knows that he holds feminism in low regard and will often refer to feminists as “feminazis,” a term he proudly takes ownership of. Last June, in trying to explain attacks on Sarah Palin, Limbaugh declared that feminism “was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” He elaborated, saying the “feminazis” were “trying to reorder human nature because of how unkind it was to them.”
Did Michael Gerson miss this shocking 2012 diatribe about Sandra Fluke, the woman who testified before congress about the need for insurance coverage for contraception?
“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
 “Ms. Fluke, have you ever heard of not having sex? Have you ever heard of not having sex so often? So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Limbaugh briefly got in trouble for that but it doesn’t seem to have affected his reputation among respectable beltway conservative thought leaders like Michael Gerson who still see him as an avatar of ideological conservatism.
But Gerson isn’t alone. Limbaugh commonly sickens decent people with his outrageous rhetoric and the conservative movement inevitably comes to his rescue. Recall that time he stuck up for the Abu Ghraib torturers by saying they were just “blowing off steam”, and the National Review stepped up to energetically testify to his superior character:
Rush’s angry, frustrated critics discount how hard it is to make an outrageous charge against him stick. But, we listeners have spent years with him, we know him, and trust him. Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the “facts.” We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her.
That inane misrepresentation of reality came from the pages of America’s most prestigious conservative magazine.
Rush Limbaugh is a vastly wealthy, crude, arrogant blowhard with a vicious, bigoted worldview.  He has no compassion or self-awareness and an ego the size of Krakatoa. He has been the expression of the right wing id for almost three decades. And yet intelligent conservatives like Michael Gerson still cling to the belief Limbaugh’s popularity has had something to do with conservative ideology.
But he is right about one thing. There would be no presidential candidate Trump without Rush Limbaugh paving the way. Donald Trump is the man Limbaugh has always wanted to be.


NC's HB2: Is it getting hot in here?

by Tom Sullivan

House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina's new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state's employers. McColl's criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte's former mayor.

NC Attorney General Roy Cooper held a press conference yesterday morning to announce his office would not defend the bill in court, calling HB2 "a national embarrassment" at odds with his office's employment policies. Cooper explained, "In order to protect our non-discrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client, the State Treasurer's Office, part of our argument will be that HB2 is unconstitutional." Cooper, a Democrat, is also running for governor this fall against Republican incumbent Pat McCrory who signed HB2 into law last week.

Feeling the heat by Friday, McCrory felt he had to clear the air about HB2 by issuing a press release: "Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren't saying about common-sense privacy law."

Discrimination? It's just common sense, by jingo, with a double dip of Real-American, flag-wavin' freedom and a big dollop of liberty on top. McCrory's Q&A-style FAQ drew quick parodies, such as this one by Aaron Keck of Durham:

Give him credit! McCrory’s FAQ page gets a couple things wrong – for instance, he says “nothing changes in North Carolina cities,” which isn’t right, and he says the bill doesn’t “take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina,” though in fact it does – but in general, most of what’s there is technically correct.

Only thing is, he forgot a few questions.

So let’s take care of that.

1. Now that House Bill 2 has passed, is it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in North Carolina?

Yes. Sections 3.1 and 3.3 of the bill prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, and biological sex. (Section 3.1 also bans discrimination on the basis of age or disability, but only when it comes to employment practices.) Sexual orientation is not included as a category, so it is, in fact, legal now to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Here’s the full text of the bill, if you want to read it for yourself.

2. What does that mean in practice?

You can be fired for being gay. You can be demoted for being gay. Employers can refuse to hire you for being gay. They can refuse to promote you for being gay. Businesses can refuse to serve you for being gay.

3. If someone wants to discriminate against gays and lesbians, do they have to claim a “sincere religious objection,” like in the Indiana law last year that caused such a fuss?

No. State law allows people to discriminate against gays and lesbians for any reason they like.
Skipping down to the snark:
9. Rrgh! Okay, how about Republicans? Is it legal to discriminate against Republicans?

All right, smart-aleck.

10. No, seriously. Can I ban Republicans from eating in my restaurant?

Well…actually, yes. But not because of House Bill 2. Party affiliation has never been a protected class, so technically you’ve always been able to do that.
In fact, Keck points out what N.C. NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II observed when he appeared on MSNBC. In addition to targeting the LGBT community, HB2 "makes it illegal for a city or county to require contractors to pay more than a minimum wage." Furthermore, HB2 nullifies the ability of citizens to bring an employment or public accommodation discrimination case in state court, it must be done in federal court. It is "bad and unholy and immoral."

McCrory "needs votes right now more than he needs campaign donations," writes James Hohmann for the Washington Post. He and his fellow Republicans are betting reelection on throwing gasoline on the culture war fire. Plus, as Elias Isquith notes at Salon, with Art Pope as a benefactor, money is less of a worry for McCrory.

Transgender people began posting their photos on Twitter to make their voices heard and their points made. Not that McCrory or the extremists in the legislature are listening.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

He's always worse than you think

by digby

Well, Trump pretty much said today (on his hideous private plane) that a reporter was asking for it when she got manhandled by his campaign manager ---  and that's if the woman wasn't lying. His press conference was one of the most cretinous he's done yet. He never fails to prove the worst of what people think of him. 

And then there's this:

Paul Manafort Jr. is almost eerily perfect for the role of Donald Trump’s Republican convention master. 
Manafort’s last major political consulting job was handling the 2010 campaign of Victor Yanukovych for president of Ukraine. Yanukovych won, but was ousted in a coup four years later after he had expanded his $75 million mansion, suppressed rival political parties and freedom of the press, and undermined Ukrainian independence by cozying up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin on trade, energy and security. 
Now Manafort’s job is to make sure that Trump — who lives in a $300 million mansion, disdains the press and admires Putin — can translate his primary and caucus victories into the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July. 
Trump realized that he needed a seasoned pro to identify, woo and keep track of trustworthy convention delegates. If he falls short of the majority needed to win in the primaries and caucuses, his foes will try to fill those delegate slots with disloyal “Trojan horses” or use rules and floor tactics to deny him in the nomination. 
That’s where Manafort comes in. 
“He’ll do more than just count delegates — he will get the data, get to know everyone, and run much of the operation from here on,” predicted Roger Stone, a longtime Trump associate and a former business partner of Manafort. 
Starting with the College Republicans and Young Republicans in the 1970s, moving through many GOP conventions, the 66-year-old Manafort has amassed deep experience in the care, feeding and disciplining of delegates. 
His main work over the years has been to run consulting firms that advised controversial clients ranging from the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines to leaders in Russia, Nigeria, Burma, Kenya, Angola and the Bahamas. 
(Manafort could not be reached for comment; the Trump campaign did not answer a request for comment on their adviser’s foreign work.) 

He's Roger Stone's guy.  

No open carry by the Quicken

by digby

Looks like the presumptive nominee for the presidency won't have all those good guys with guns to protect them.

The United States Secret Service said Monday that attendees of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July will not be allowed to enter the event if they are carrying a firearm, despite the growing number of signatures on an online petition asking the RNC to permit firearms.

The petition on Change.org has accrued more than 46,000 signatures directed toward the Quicken Loans Arena (where the convention will be held), the RNC and the Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The petition noted that the Quicken Loans Arena prohibits weapons on its premises, though Ohio is an open-carry state. The arena's ban "is a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk," the petition's author wrote.

However, private employers and entities are permitted to ban firearms despite the open-carry law, according to Ohio state law. The Secret Service, in response to interest around the petition, also noted a separate law, Title 18, United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752, that permits the agency to overrule state open-carry laws when it is overseeing a protected site.

"Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site," Secret Service spokesperson Kevin Dye said in an emailed statement. "The Secret Service works closely with our local law enforcement partners in each state to ensure a safe environment for our protectees and the public. Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event."

The GOP convention spokesperson Kirsten Kukowksi said the Republican Party will continue to support the Second Amendment, but will follow the orders of Secret Service first and foremost.

"The Republican Party has been and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. It is in our platform and is strongly supported by our candidates. The Republican National Convention is a national special security event which means the Secret Service is the lead agency and we will defer to their planning as it relates to safety and security of the convention," Kukowski said in a statement on Monday.

Trump declined to share his opinion about the petition on the Sunday morning talk shows, but said that he would look into it.

The rest of us who go to public places will have to rely on the yahoos with guns not to shoot us by mistake while they're "protecting" us. But it's probably a very good thing that all those gun-toting wingnuts won't be packing heat in the convention center when the Trump riots break out.

Fear makes them feel alive

by digby

And authoritarian police tactics make them feel strong. As long as it's aimed at "those people":

Last week, Ted Cruz stated that Muslim neighborhoods should be patrolled by officers of the law to prevent radicalization and just about everyone had an opinion. Lindsey Graham and Rush Limbaugh represented the pro-Cruz and pro-patrol side while NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and NYC mayor Bill de Blasio had the anti-Cruz and anti-patrol side.

As it turns out — at least according to two polls — many Americans are joining ranks with Graham and Limbaugh. According to one poll by Morning Consult, 50% of respondents were in favor of the patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods. 71% of Republicans were completely on-board while only 34% of Democrats were all for it. 20% of Republicans opposed it while 56% of Democrats were against it.

Morning Consult summed up their findings like this:
Have the terrorists won? The main motif to emerge from a new Morning Consult survey taken after the attacks in Brussels last week is that the threat of terrorism may diminish how much people worry about privacy and civil rights. 
A majority of Americans voters appear to be willing to do whatever it takes, even backing what amounts to a revocation of essential American liberties and ideals, in an effort to keep us safe.

But whatever you do, don't pass even one law that might prevent lunatics from getting semi-automatic weapons. Because that would be unAmerican.


Yes, there is a Trump Doctrine

by digby

... and it's a lot like the Corleone Doctrine.  I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

Donald Trump managed to shock the world once again. Last week, he actually sank so low that he publicly attacked Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi’s looks. Not that anyone thought he wasn’t the type to say such rude things.  He’s made a habit of it for many years. But he is running for president and, more importantly, he did this during a period when all eyes were on Europe in the wake of another devastating terrorist attack, and he was simultaneously criticizing the president for continuing on his historic diplomatic mission to Cuba and Argentina. But that wasn’t what shocked the world. What has put every government on the planet on high alert was his alarming interview in the New York Times on the subject of foreign policy.
We already had some inkling of his general incomprehension in this regard throughout the campaign as he cavalierly talked about torture, the banning of Muslims, and “bombing the shit out of” our supposed enemies. I wrote previously about his bizarre trek to the the capitol to speak with the Washington Post and AIPAC earlier last week. But as MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said on his show Monday night, the interview in the Times over the weekend was “like taking a world tour of Donald Trumps ignorance.”
Trump spoke with reporters David Sanger and Maggie Habermann on the telephone for over 90 minutes and on virtually every question they asked he was clearly vamping like a 12 year old giving the book report on a book he hadn’t read.  Romney spokesman Kevin Madden characterized the transcript of the interview as being “just full of tautological nonsense.”
He complains incessantly about the money the U.S. is spending on security, which is fair enough, but his solution is to put a gun to the whole world’s head and demand they pay up or the U.S. will let the world burn. Trump is  calling for the U.S. to stop being the world’s policeman and start being the world’s mobster extortionist: nice little country you’ve got here, be a shame if anything happened to it. After all, he’s calling for a gigantic increase in military spending, which doesn’t make a lot of sense if he’s believes we should pull back from the world. Indeed, he never says the US should pull back at all. He’s just going to blackmail the world into ponying up the cash for the huge buildup he’s planning and if they don’t agree, they’ll be sorry.
Basically, he thinks of world affairs the same way he thinks of his political opponents. It’s all about whether they’ve been “friendly” to him. When asked if he would be willing to lend humanitarian aid he said:
You know, to help I would be, depending on where and who and what. And, you know, again — generally speaking — I’d have to see the country; I’d have to see what’s going on in the region and you just cannot have a blanket. The one blanket you could say is, “protection of our country.” That’s the one blanket. After that it depends on the country, the region, how friendly they’ve been toward us. You have countries that haven’t been friendly to us that we’re protecting.
Too bad about the humans inside those countries. But then empathy isn’t his strong suit.
He constantly berates George W. Bush for “destabilizing” the Middle East (which is correct) but it never occurs to him that the consequences of say, telling Japan and South Korea to go build their own nukes or putting NATO in mothballs because it costs too much money might just have the effect of “destabilizing”   the entire planet. 
Like a child, when he can’t think of an answer to a difficult question, he claims he doesn’t want other countries to know his plans so he won’t share them with the press, but he does seem to truly believe that it makes sense for the United States to be “unpredictable.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A nation as powerful as the U.S. has to be as transparent as possible or allies and enemies alike will find it untrustworthy and provocative. We have enough problems with our national security state as it is — caprice is the last element we need to put into the mix.
For 70 years the world has been organized around the idea of collective security backed by the United States. The idea was to prevent another world war and, even more importantly, a nuclear war. There have been huge downsides to that project but withdrawing from that abruptly out of pique or withholding our protection unless they pay up would be disaster. In the eyes of the rest of the world, the U.S. will have become a rogue superpower that has to be stopped.
There are plenty of good reasons for a presidential candidate to question our military commitments and seek new ways to secure the stability of the country and the planet. But sane people should no more turn to this man to do that than they would turn to the Olson twins. It’s very, very dangerous.
Perhaps more telling than any of this, though, is Trump’s equally thoughtless appropriation of the term “America First,” last heard in common usage by anti-semite xenophobe Pat Buchanan, but which originally was the name of an isolationist group that put pressure on President Roosevelt to keep America out of World War II. It was mostly a respectable group of citizens but there were some at the top, notably flying ace Charles Lindberg who had more than a little bit of fondness for Hitler’s Germany. Trump might want to steer clear of any more of those associations. His mass deportation and torture policies are already close enough.
“America First” undoubtedly sounds great to a lot of people and it’s not unreasonable or unusual for a candidate to argue for a foreign policy that puts national interest before global interest. It’s not even unprecedented for a candidate to run as a “Fortress America” isolationist calling for a withdrawal from all global obligations. But if anyone thinks the man who says this is the type of person who will turn the other cheek and refuse to respond unless our shores are directly threatened, I think they do not understand this man’s character:
Look at what China’s doing in the South China Sea. I mean they are totally disregarding our country and yet we have made China a rich country because of our bad trade deals. Our trade deals are so bad. And we have made them – we have rebuilt China and yet they will go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen. Amazing, actually. They do that, and they do that at will because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.
He went on to blather incoherently about negotiating some trade deal in retaliation and using it as a bargaining chip but in the end he said he wouldn’t want them to know if he was prepared to go to war over these islands. That unpredictability again.
Donald Trump is actually entirely predictable. He has laid it all out many times. He commonly threatens people, telling them to “be careful” or they’d “better watch out.” You can bet money that when he feels disrespected, this is exactly what he will do:
“Get even. When somebody screws you, screw the back in spades. I really mean it. I really mean it. You’ve got to hit people hard and it’s not so much for that person, it’s that other people watch.”
Trump has expressed true admiration for only four leaders: Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton, both of whom were removed from duty for exceeding their authority, and authoritarian strongmen Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.  He says all the time, “We’ve got to be strong,” by which he means dominant.
These foreign policy interviews have not shown us an “America First isolationist” by the historical definition and people would be foolish to see those allusions in any literal way. He wants America to be a gangster protection racket, holding up other countries for money lest they “disrespect us” by refusing. If that happens he’s going to have to “hit hard,” because “other people watch.”
This is all just the tip of the iceberg of the ignorance, incoherence and lunacy on display by the GOP frontrunner and everyone who follows politics should read the transcript of this stunning interview. You can bet that every foreign leader has read it and is already making contingency plans. Secretary of State John Kerry said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday:
Everywhere I go, every leader I meet, they ask about what is happening in America. They cannot believe it. I think it is fair to say that they’re shocked. They don’t know where it’s taking the United States of America. It upsets people’s sense of equilibrium about our steadiness, about our reliability. And to some degree, I must say to you, some of the questions, the way they are posed to me, it’s clear to me that what’s happening is an embarrassment to our country.
It’s not just an embarrassment. It’s dangerous