Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DEATH OF AMERICAN ISIS FIGHTER SUGGESTS THEY'RE NOT COMING TO FIGHT US OVER HERE

Everyone's freaking out about the fact that an American named Douglas McAuthur McCain died fighting for ISIS in Syria, but this (from Michael Schmidt's story in The New York Times) makes perfect sense to me:
Mr. McCain's death ... is a sign that ISIS, at least in this case, is willing to use Americans on the battlefield in the Middle East rather than sending them back to the United States to launch attacks, as Western officials have feared.

"His death is further evidence that Americans are going there to fight for ISIS rather than to train as terrorists to attack at home," said Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer who is now a vice president at the Soufan Group, security consultants in New York. "Nor does it appear that ISIS regards Americans as assets that are too valuable to risk on the front line rather than to keep in reserve for terrorist attacks or propaganda purposes."
Our fear merchants always flip out imagining that Americans will learn terrorist skills overseas and then return to the U.S. to put what they've learned into practice. But why is that the ultimate fear? The people who've actually launched successful stateside terrorist attacks since 9/11 -- the Tsarnaevs, Major Hasan at Fort Hood -- were longtime U.S. residents with no battlefield experience who got the majority of their inspiration by going online right here in America. And the alleged threat that has Senator Inhofe's hair on fire -- that ISIS is "rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major U.S. city" -- has nothing to do with combat skills or overseas experience. I think the special fear that we'll face combat-hardened returnees on U.S. soil comes from war movies, post-apocalypse video games -- and, maybe, the crypto-rape mental narratives that lead gun-rights activists and anti-immigrant zealots to imagine "urban thugs" and child immigrants invading the Real America in marauding waves.

Obviously, we need to make sure the choke points are working -- Schmidt, in the Times, says the government knew about McCain and would have prevented him from returning:
The federal authorities learned only after he arrived in the country that Mr. McCain had traveled to Syria, according to senior American officials. In response, the American authorities included him on a watch list of potential terrorism suspects maintained by the federal government. Had Mr. McCain tried to re-enter the country, he would have almost certainly faced an extra level of scrutiny before boarding any commercial airliner bound for the United States, the officials said.
Well, I hope so. But I'm not going to believe that ISIS in on the verge of sending a battalion to America just because ISIS wants me to believe that. I'm reminded of this from Jon Lee Anderson's recent New Yorker piece about the killing of James Foley:
Last week, I met with Faisal Ali Waraabe, a politician in the Justice and Welfare Party, from Somaliland. He is a candidate in next year's Presidential elections.... Last year, he lost his twenty-two-year-old son Sayid, who was born and raised in Finland, to the dark enticements of ISIS. His son had also persuaded his young, new wife to join him, and the two now live, according to his father, near the town of Raqqa, ISIS's main urban stronghold in Syria. Faisal showed me a recent video of his son, posted on an ISIS Web site, on his smartphone; it shows a black-turbaned young man mounted on a horse, talking in heavily accented Finnish, and smiling into the camera. Calling himself Abu Shuaib al Somali, Sayid says, "The rule of Sharia will even come to Finland, and if you get called then, alhamdulillah, you'll enter Jannah" -- paradise -- "inshallah and Allah will take care of the ones you've left behind."
With fierce fighting still going on in ISIS's sphere of influence, how likely do you think it is that ISIS will launch an assault on Finland? How likely is it that ISIS believes the road to the global caliphate runs through Helsinki? And if a terrorist attack on Finland is planned, why telegraph it, alerting Finnish and global authorities to the identity of this Finnish national? Sorry, this is just a recruitment tactic built on trash talk. ISIS has its hands full. It's using foreign fighters to fight for the territory it's fighting in now. Be wary, but don't assume the ISIS hordes are coming soon just because they're boasting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

HOW REPUBLICANS COULD WIN OVER BLACK VOTERS, IN MANY CONVOLUTED, UNIMAGINABLE STEPS

Events in Ferguson, Missouri, have persuaded reform conservative Reihan Salam that Democrats might start losing a significant chunk of the black vote soon. I'm not saying that can't happen. However, it's extremely hard to imagine that it's going to happen in the bizarre Rube Goldberg sequence Salam outlines.

What got Salam thinking about this was Al Sharpton's eulogy for Mike Brown:
Byron York, columnist for the Washington Examiner, has just written a dispatch from Michael Brown's funeral, where the erstwhile presidential candidate, activist, and television news personality Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy. In classic form, Sharpton started off his eulogy by condemning "the police, the government, and the American system, concluding that they all combined to end a promising 18-year-old life." Yet Sharpton then addressed a different set of concerns:
After a demand for broad reforms in American policing, Sharpton changed course to address his black listeners directly. "We've got to be straight up in our community, too," he said. "We have to be outraged at a 9-year-old girl killed in Chicago. We have got to be outraged by our disrespect for each other, our disregard for each other, our killing and shooting and running around gun-toting each other, so that they’re justified in trying to come at us because some of us act like the definition of blackness is how low you can go."

"Blackness has never been about being a gangster or a thug," Sharpton continued. "Blackness was, no matter how low we was pushed down, we rose up anyhow."
Sharpton went on in this vein and, York tells us,
The cameras cut to director Spike Lee, on his feet applauding enthusiastically. So were Martin Luther King III, radio host Tom Joyner, and, judging by video coverage, pretty much everyone else in the church. They kept applauding when Sharpton accused some blacks of having "ghetto pity parties." And they applauded more when Sharpton finally declared: "We've got to clean up our community so we can clean up the United States of America!"
So what does this have to do with Democrats losing the black vote? Let Salam explain:
Not every observer was pleased by Sharpton's address, of course. Some were appalled by the implication that Brown's funeral should prompt a discussion of black personal responsibility, as York reports.
Salam quotes a New Republic piece by Julia Ioffe about respectability politics in the black community; we're told Ioffe is not a fan of the self-criticism.

Yes, but what does this have to do with Democrats losing the black vote? Relax, I'm getting there.

You see, according to Salam, angry progressives really might push the Democrats to the left on this issue, flipping the bird to everyone who might have applauded Sharpton's words:
... I don't doubt that many younger liberals, including many younger African-American liberals, feel as [Ioffe] does. One wonders if Al Sharpton has lost the plot in his old age, and if other voices, who forcefully reject the politics of respectability, will soon come to the fore.

Josh Barro, writing for The Upshot, raises the intriguing possibility that at some point, a Democratic political entrepreneur will run a national campaign that "gives[s] voice to the anger we're seeing in Ferguson."
And this, says Salam, is going to send a lot of black voters into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party:
I suspect that Barro is right, and that we will see a Democratic presidential campaign in the 2016 or 2020 primaries that offers a racially-infused critique of the American criminal justice system....

Note, however, that not all African Americans will welcome this critique. Indeed, there may well be overlap between those who embrace the politics of respectability and those who are wary of an overtly racialized conversation about criminal justice reform. The now-famous Pew survey which found "stark racial divisions” [http://www.people-press.org/2014/08/18/stark-racial-divisions-in-reactio... in reaction to Michael Brown's death reveals ... that 18 percent of blacks agree with 47 percent of whites that "race is getting more attention than it deserves"....

It is important not to extrapolate wildly from the existence of this contrarian slice of the African-American population. But one wonders if these voters might at some point be open to voting for a Republican Party that talks about criminal justice system more sensitively and intelligently without fully embracing a racialized critique and, most importantly, that places a much heavier emphasis on middle-class economic interests.
Let me remind you that the about-to-nominate-Hillary Democratic Party does not appear to be in danger of turning into the Malcolm X/Emoprog Party anytime soon -- or even having a prominent left-leaning candidate who would reject Sharpton's words on respectability. Let me also add that Sharpton does not appear to be yesterday's man on race for the simple reason that, while he may talk about respectability, he's also extremely forthright on the subject of police brutality and disrespect, as well as on the need for all Americans to recognize the dignity and worth of black people. That puts him far to the left of mainstream discourse on this subject.

People who are steeped in politics regularly overestimate the size and strength of the angry lefty bloc in American politics. To me, it's the Nader vote, with all that says about size and strength. It's not enough to pull the whole party leftward on race and leave Sharpton behind.

And then there's Salam's vision of a Republican Party that -- I'm trying to contain my laughter -- "talks about criminal justice system more sensitively and intelligently," and that appeals to some black voters based on "a much heavier emphasis on middle-class economic interests." I'm sorry -- apart from a few wonks (like Salam himself) and a few 2016 wannabes looking for photo ops and good press, the GOP is a collection of politicians who unashamedly describe the country in terms of Us and Them, "knockout game"-playing "thugs" as opposed to decent citizens, "makers" as opposed to "takers," people worthy to vote as opposed to people whose voting rights need to be curtailed, people who deserve tax cuts (the rich) allegedly besieged by people who deserve the back of the government's hand (everyone else).

And if George McEmoprog somehow becomes a serious Democratic presidential candidate in the near future on an "Off the Pigs" platform, does Salam seriously think the GOP is going to decrease its racial scaremongering? Please. So this is a ridiculous scenario.
NO, THE NEW YORK TIMES DID NOT PORTRAY JOHN WAYNE GACY MORE SYMPATHETICALLY THAN MIKE BROWN

One final post on this subject and I'm done.

You may have seen this piece by Vox's German Lopez, which quotes several tweets from Demos researcher Sean McElwee purporting to show that The New York Times, over the years, has written nicer things about mass murderers and serial killers than about Mike Brown, the subject of a widely criticized portrait in yesterday's Times.

The tweets are quite devastating. They're also thoroughly misleading.

Here's McElwee comparing the Times coverage of Brown and John Wayne Gacy:

Yes, the Times article on Gacy contains this paragraph:
Before his arrest, most people knew Mr. Gacy as the owner of a prosperous remodeling business, a Democratic precinct captain who threw annual parties for up to 400 guests and who entertained youngsters as Pogo the Clown.
But here's the very next paragraph:
But one by one, prosecutors said later, Mr. Gacy lured young men into his modest ranch house in an unincorporated area near O'Hare International Airport. He handcuffed them, wrapped a rope around their necks and tightened it with a few turns from a wooden stick. The victims strangled themselves while struggling.
No, this wasn't a puff piece. That paragraph is much worse than anything the Times has written about Mike Brown.

Here's McElwee on a Times story about Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold:

Here's what McElwee doesn't quote from that Times story:
On Monday, they went bowling. And on Tuesday, it seems, they committed mass murder.

Nobody had taken the two youths seriously.

They wore long black coats and hung out with a clique of middle-class suburban teen-agers that called itself the trench coat mafia...

They struck sullen, brooding poses. They talked about Hitler and wore clothes with German insignia. In February they completed a "diversion program" for first-time juvenile offenders, after their arrest for breaking into a van and stealing electronic equipment, the Jefferson County District Attorney said.

The other students, who came to know Mr. Harris and Mr. Klebold from mingling in the hallways and the commons, said the two youths had wanted to portray themselves as rebels or villains. But they were mostly viewed as losers.
Again, not a sympathetic portrait.

McElwee on Timothy McVeigh:

Not quoted from that Times story:
Residents of the Canyon West Mobile Park drew a picture of an arrogant loner who worked as a security guard for a now-defunct trucking company, lived with his pregnant girlfriend, expressed deep anger against the Federal Government and often caused trouble for his neighbors.

"He drank a lot of beer and threw out the cans, and I always had to pick them up," Bob Ragin, owner of the park, was quoted as saying. He said he had frequent fights with Mr. McVeigh, who often wore Army fatigues, over such things as loud rock music coming from his trailer and a dog he kept in violation of his lease.

Another Kingman resident recalled Mr. McVeigh at a shooting range. "Quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me," Jeff Arrowood told the newspaper. He said Mr. McVeigh fired hundreds of rounds at random targets. "He pretty much went crazy, emptying on anything -- trees, rocks, anything there. He just went ballistic."
There's also this:
Federal officials say his far-right political views, his anger and his taste for weapons merged last Monday when he rented a truck in Kansas and filled it with explosives that he set off in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
And this:
Mr. McVeigh became involved with extreme right-wing political groups off-post. The sergeant said he could not identify the groups, but added, "cults is what I call them."
McElwee on Ted Bundy:

Not quoted from that story:
The killer, who stalked victims in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1970's terrorized several university communities, selecting coeds for abduction from campuses at night or crowded parks in daytime when their defenses were lowered in familiar settings....

He usually throttled them and then sexually abused and mutilated them before disposing of their bodies in remote areas. If the skeletons were found months or years later there was nearly always evidence of fractured skulls and broken jaws and limbs.

"This kind of mutilation reveals a hatred of the female body," said Dr. David Abrahamsen a New York psychiatrist who is an authority on those who kill people in a series and is author of "The Murdering Mind."
McElwee on "Green River Killer" Gary Leon Ridgway:

Not quoted from that story:
For Gary Leon Ridgway's fellow workers at the Kenworth Truck Company, it was not exactly a bolt out of the blue when the authorities apprehended him at work on Friday and announced he was the prime suspect in the nation's largest case of unsolved serial murders.

They knew that Mr. Ridgway had been questioned by the police about 15 years ago in the so-called Green River killings -- the slayings from 1982 to 1984 of as many as 49 young women, many of them runaways or prostitutes, in the Seattle area. Some of the bodies were dumped in the river south of Seattle that lends the case its name....

Mr. Ridgway had brushes with the law that his co-workers and neighbors apparently did not know about -- the first in 1980, two years before the Green River killings started. A prostitute working near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport accused him of trying to choke her, but Mr. Ridgway told the police the woman had tried to bite him, and charges against him were dropped.

They also did not know that witnesses had told investigators that Mr. Ridgway had been seen with at least a few of the victims in the Green River case.

Two weeks ago, King County police vice squad members arrested him, charging him with loitering for prostitution, again near the airport. He pleaded guilty last Tuesday.
Only in this tweet is McElwee on somewhat solid ground:

The Times story he quotes does describe Theodore Kaczynski as an eccentric but quiet neighbor. There are no negative details about him.

But it was one of seven Times stories on Kaczynski dated April 5, 1996. This is from one of the other stories:
... in their search, agents said, they discovered that the little home was full of the raw material of lethal bombs.

Inside the cabin, the agents found a partly completed pipe bomb as well as chemicals, wiring and aluminum that could be used to build such bombs, said the F.B.I. affidavit, submitted by Special Agent Donald J. Sachtleben.

There were also notes related to construction of pipe bombs, Mr. Sachtleben's affidavit said, and 10 three-ring binders that "contain page after page of meticulous writings and sketches which I recognize to be diagrams of explosive devices."

Books on bomb manufacturing, written in both English and Spanish, were also found, the affidavit said. (Agents said Mr. Kaczynski understood Spanish.) There were also solid cast ingots, C-cell batteries, electrical wiring and logs of experiments on how different bombs would perform in various weather conditions, the F.B.I. said.
Cherry-picking the most benign paragraphs from a story about a killer and comparing them to the most negative paragraphs in a story about a victim demonstrates nothing. The Times is not nice to the killers McElwee has named. It just seems that way when the quotes are selected McElwee's way.

And, of course, a story about what the neighbors knew regarding a serial killer is going to have less negative detail if it's written just after the killer's capture because serial killers cover their tracks. Ted Kaczynski worked hard to conceal the fact that he was committing atrocities; Mike Brown didn't try nearly as hard to conceal his minor transgressions. So of course, when asked, all the neighbors could say about Kaczynski was that he had a nice garden.

Monday, August 25, 2014

IN DEFENSE OF JOHN ELIGON

I read John Eligon's New York Times profile of Mike Brown this morning and came away with the impression that it was a largely positive portrait. Then I went online and realized that I was supposed to be appalled by it.

I was supposed to overlook the description of Brown as a young man who "spoke seriously about religion and the Bible" and "was grappling with life's mysteries," who "overcame early struggles in school to graduate on time" and "was pointed toward a trade college and a career and, his parents hoped, toward a successful life," and who got into one fight that anyone of his acquaintance could remember, and even then he didn't throw a punch. ("I don't think Mike ever threw a real punch," a friend told Eligon.)

This, I was told, negated all that:
Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.
"No angel," as has been endlessly pointed out online, is a phrase the Times has used to describe Whitey Bulger and Al Capone; however, it's also a phrase used to describe Angelica Pickles from Rugrats and Cherubin from The Marriage of Figaro. It's a flexible phrase; if we white readers think it damns a young black man, it's because we think a young black man must be morally flawless to be worthy of respect (whereas a young white man should be cut more slack) -- or we believe that other whites believe this.

And I suppose plenty of whites do believe this. But it doesn't mean that an portrait of Brown has to be written for the racist lowest common denominator. In the immediate aftermath of his death, it was said that he shouldn't have to be a perfect person to be someone whose shooting outrages us. Now, apparently, he does have to be perfect.

There was anger at Eligon's references to drug use and rap. I find this striking because I've been told on Twitter that this piece is in stark contrast to the flattering portrayal of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his Rolling Stone cover story. But remember what we were told about Dzhokhar? That he was a pothead. Oh, and that his brother was, at times, an aspiring hip-hop artist and a boxer. (Imagine if we were being told that Mike Brown boxed.) These were the things that were supposed to be positive aspects (or at least benign aspects) of the Tsarnaevs' lives, before they turned to terrorism. So when we say that referencing rap and marijuana in reference to Mike Brown is a slur, that's a problem with us, not the reporter.

If we see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a good kid in his weed years but think references to Mike Brown's weed use must be suppressed, then we've internalized the racist narrative; it's colonized our minds even if we don't want to be racist.

Here's John Eligon, by the way:



A black reporter can certainly denigrate a black subject (see: Don Lemon) -- but I see nothing like Lemon's pull-your-pants-up talk in Eligon's piece. What I see, maybe, is a belief that he had to get flaws into the story because that's what's expected -- and maybe that's his internalization of racism.

But the robbery video exists. The raps, with some violence in the lyrics, exist and have been heard and dissected. Eligon tries to put them in context. He's 31 years old -- he's too young to remember a time when rap wasn't central to American and global popular culture, so maybe he just thought readers would understand Brown's rapping as an act of creativity, not menace. And at this point, why shouldn't that be the case?

Eligon doesn't seem like a guy who's in denial about racism:
As a 31-year-old black man himself, Mr. Eligon told me, he is attentive to many of the issues in the Ferguson case. During his time covering the Midwest for The Times, he has experienced apparent racial profiling -- "I've had the cops called on me twice for looking suspicious" -- and while covering courts in Manhattan, he once was told to sit down and wait for his lawyer to arrive.
He's said that the most nerve-racking moment of his journalistic career was interviewing a white supremacist in a small town in North Dakota ("Would the sight of me, a black man, at his door startle him so much that he would shoot first and ask questions later?").

I think he's getting a raw deal. I think if we can't read that profile and still see the Mike Brown portrayed by Eligon as worthy of a long life, we're the ones who have the problem.
EEEEK! THEY'RE TAKING OVER!

Beware, America! Breitbart wants you to know that the sharia takeover of America has already begun -- in Vermont!
VERMONT RESTAURANT REMOVES BACON SIGN DUE TO MUSLIM OPPOSITION AND SAFETY CONCERNS

Local Winooski, Vermont restaurant Sneakers Bistro has removed a sign that read, "Yield Sneakers Bacon" citing opposition from a Muslim community member and safety concerns.

The sign was put up as part of a city program that allows businesses to post an advertisement in an area where they have helped maintain city flowerbeds. The sign that read "Yield Sneakers Bacon" was removed after a woman, identifying herself as a Muslim, posted in an online community forum, stating she was personally offended by the sign....

Saturday morning the restaurant posted to Facebook, "We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics. We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety(emphasis added). Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere." ...
That boldface emphasis is in the original Breitbart post. I speak fairly fluent Wingnut, so let me explain what that means to every right-winger who reads it: Evil violent beheading Muslims want to kill us all unless we agree to convert to Islam and live as slaves in their oppressive global caliphate! Sneakers is the canary in the coal mine! The owners of Sneakers knew they were going to be first -- and we're all going to be next!!!!1!1!"

Er, no. I don't think that was the point of the "safety" reference. Here's a photo of the sign in question:



It looks very similar to a real Yield sign. It's diamond-shaped and yellow. As is noted in the local news report cited by Breitbart, the sign was posted at an actual intersection in what's called the Winooski Circle -- a traffic circle that happens to have the highest rate of crashes in Vermont.

So, um, I think that's what Sneakers meant with that reference to "safety."

Regarding the cultural sensitivity issue: I live in New York City, where the halal food trucks park near restaurants serving bacon-and-egg diner breakfasts, Certified Berkshire Heritage Pork preparations, and everything in between. It's all live-and-let-live, more or less (except for the restaurateurs not liking the food-truck competition). But hey, if the owner of a private business in Winooski, Vermont, freely chooses to stop advertising bacon (while still selling it), it's none of my business, is it?

I wonder what deep concerns the Breitbartniks would express regarding the "modesty committees" in ultra-Orthodox parts of Brooklyn. They assess shopkeepers' window displays, and shopkeepers usually agree to the changes they ask for:
The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood "modesty committee" was concerned that the mannequins in her store's window, used to display women's clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

"The man said, 'Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,'" the store's manager recalled. "'We're trying to safeguard our community.'"

In many neighborhoods, a store owner might shrug off such a call. But on Lee Avenue, the commercial spine of Hasidic Williamsburg, the warning carried an implied threat -- comply with community standards or be shunned. It is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity.

The owner wrestled with the request for a day or two, but decided to follow it. "We can sell it without mannequins, so we might as well do what the public wants," the owner told the manager, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals for talking....

"They operate like the Mafia," said Rabbi Allan Nadler, director of the Jewish studies program at Drew University in Madison, N.J....

"They walk into a store and say it would be a shame if your window was broken or you lost your clientele," he said. "They might tell the father of a girl who wears a skirt that's too short and he's, say, a store owner: 'If you ever want to sell a pair of shoes, speak to your daughter.'" ...
I'm kidding, of course. I'm sure the Breitbart folks would think this is perfectly understandable.

****

UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, yeah -- Yield signs are triangular, as is noted in comments. But does your driving brain know that? Your driving brain knows that there are yellow four-sided road signs -- does it see one with the word "Yield" and automatically reject it as a sign worth noting? I don't think the brain is that subtle. I think the brain reacts to it, at least initially, as a sign.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

ON THE RIGHT, NO LIE EVER COMPLETELY DIES

Okay, this is complicated.

On August 14, Major General Harold Greene was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was the first U.S. general to die in combat in decades. President Obama did not attend his funeral.

On August 15, William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection published a post titled "Guess Who Was Missing at Funeral of Highest Ranking Officer Killed in Combat Since Vietnam War." In this post, Jacobson quoted a tweet from a man named Matt Drachenberg:



This was followed by a tweet from Colonel Morris Davis, an Air Force veteran and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo. He wrote:



(Major General John Dillard was General Greene's most recent predecessor; he died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1970. The second officer mentioned in Davis's tweet is Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, who was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11.)

Byron York, on Twitter, linked to the Legal Insurrection post, paraphrased the Davis tweet, and, for good measure noted that Obama was playing golf during General Greene's funeral.

As York now acknowledges, most of what was alleged in the tweets and the Legal Insurrection post was a crock:
It turns out Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did, in fact, attend the Greene funeral, a fact I should have known.... If I had looked into it just a bit more, I would have seen, for example, a Stars & Stripes article that specifically mentioned Hagel's presence....

Curious about what Davis had said, I looked for any sign that Nixon had attended the Dillard funeral. I went to the Nixon Library website, which has posted the minute-by-minute White House logs of Nixon's activities. They're very detailed; if Nixon had gone to the general's funeral, it would have been listed. I looked through the month after Dillard's death and found no evidence Nixon had attended. Likewise, it turned out Bush did not attend the Maude funeral....

Just to summarize the facts in this convoluted affair: Hagel did attend the Greene funeral. Obama and Biden did not. Nixon did not attend the Dillard funeral, and Bush did not attend the Maude funeral. There is no "tradition" of presidential attendance at generals' funerals that Obama "bucked."
The weirdest aspect of this is that Colonel Davis didn't post that tweet because he's a wingnut -- he posted it because he doesn't like wingnuts. He's left-wing. (Here he is agreeing with a Cornel West attack on President Obama from the left.) He apparently had the cockamamie notion that fooling right-wingers with this tweet would make a point about their ignorance. As he told York when asked about it:
... in the right-wing's bash Obama glee, my tweet has been retweeted a couple of hundred times without anyone taking two minutes to Google to see if it's true. It's similar to a Chinese news agency reprinting that Kim Jong-un had been named the sexiest man alive without checking and finding that The Onion is a satirical site. It's also a sad commentary on how gullible people can be and how willing they are to latch onto "news" that supports the narrative they want.
Genius plan, Colonel -- because now this bit of disinformation will live indefinitely. York's piece debunking all this misinformation appeared six days ago. The Legal Insurrection post was updated with an acknowledgment of what York wrote. But just today, this appeared at Townhall:
The Obama administration announced this weekend that it will be sending not one, but three, officials to attend the funeral of Michael Brown on Monday.
President Barack Obama is sending three White House officials to the funeral service of the Missouri teenager whose death in a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked days of racial unrest.

Leading the group for Monday's service will be the chairman of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force, Broderick Johnson. My Brother's Keeper is an Obama initiative that aims to empower young minorities. Johnson is also the secretary for the Cabinet.

Also attending will be the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Marlon Marshall, and an adviser for the office, Heather Foster.
The decision would be highly questionable as is, but when compared to the White House's presence at, say, the funerals of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene or British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it's deplorable.

The White House has been selective in sending representatives to funerals -- recall that only a low-level delegation was sent to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's service last year. More recently,President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden skipped the funeral ofMajor General Harold Greene, the 2-star general killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 5.
The last link in the quote above is to a post at the right-wing BizPac Review, which quotes -- you guessed it -- the tweets from Matt Drachenberg and Colonel Morris Davis, and asserts flatly that Secretary Hagel also did not attend General Greene's funeral. The BizPac Review post has not been updated.

So right-wingers continue to be told that Secretary of Defense Hagel did not attend General Greene's funeral (he did) and that presidents routinely attend the funerals of generals who are killed (they don't) -- because no damaging assertion ever completely dies on the right. And hey, Colonel Davis, thanks for giving the wingers more propaganda to catapult.

****

And with regard to the Brown funeral: I'd say the delegation Obama is sending is the definition of "low-level" -- no president, vice president, neither of their wives, no Cabinet members. The supposedly "low-level" delegation to the Thatcher funeral included two former secretaries of state and two top diplomats.
WHO'S GOING TO BE MOTIVATED TO VOTE BY EXECUTIVE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION?

It's widely assumed that President Obama will soon announce some sort of executive action on immigration. Democrats hope this will help increase turnout by the party's base in November.

Will it? I've had my doubts, and they're reinforced by these poll results, which were published by Gallup on Friday:
Although both Republicans and Democrats name dysfunctional government, the economy, and unemployment as top problems facing the country today, they attach different importance to other issues....

The differences between partisan groups are most evident in terms of immigration, with an 11-percentage-point spread between Republicans (22%) and Democrats (11%) mentioning the issue....



Now, these Gallup numbers come from interviews conducted this month and last month, when immigration was very much in the news. "Prior to July," we're told, "immigration ranked much lower on the most important problem list."

But when immigration becomes a major issue, which party's voters are more galvanized? The border refugee crisis riled up Republicans, not Democrats. Why should we believe that the response to executive action on immigration will be different?

I suppose the counterargument is that Republicans are already quite motivated to vote, while Democrats aren't motivated at all right now. This could narrow the enthusiasm gap.

But when immigration reform happens, or is on the verge of happening, it infuriates the right -- at least when the president isn't named Ronald Reagan. It gets to the core of Republican voters' sense of being a besieged "us" under attack from an invading "them." (Well, a lot of issues make GOP voters feel that way -- though this will seem to them like the coming of an invading anti-American horde right now.)

I hope reform inspires Democratic voters. But it's going to enrage Republicans. I think the best we can hope for in terms of effect on November is a wash.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SO IF RICK PERRY IS CONVICTED, SHOULD HE HAVE TO REFUND THE COST OF YOUR T-SHIRT?

Rick Perry is selling indictment swag:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) seems to be enjoying the spotlight that has come with pushing back to his recent indictment.

The latest move: His new political action committee unveiled a T-shirt featuring Perry's mug shot. The back of the shirt features the mug shot of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose character Perry has repeatedly tried to attack while making her the poster child of his pushback.



I guess this doesn't quite fall under the rubric of profiting from a crime, does it - at least not yet? Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Still, "law and order" types in this country tend to be appalled at the notion that you can make money from felonious activity -- many states and the federal government have "Son of Sam" laws that legally prevent felons from making money off their misdeeds. Texas passed a law of that kind in 1979, though it was repealed in 1993.

On the other hand, a 2013 Austin American-Statesman article tells me that since the repeal of that law, prosecutors in Texas have "prevented felons from profiteering by attaching stipulations to their sentence regarding restitution." Will that happen to the profits from these shirts if Perry is convicted?

That article appears on the Senate site of Perry's fellow Texas Republican John Cornyn. I learn from the article that Cornyn wants to expand the federal Son of Sam law:
Spurred in part by new controversy over the online offering of a letter written by convicted Fort Hood mass shooter Nidal Hassan, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Friday proposed legislation to block high-profile criminals from selling "murderabilia" for their profit.

Cornyn, who tried unsuccessfully in 2010 to ban the sale of such items as artwork, letters and other memorabilia by serial killers, mass murderers and others convicted of heinous crimes, said the legislation would be the first federal law to prevent criminals from bolstering their notoriety through "murderabilia" sales....
Senator, your thoughts? Should Governor Perry have to refund any money he raises this way if he's convicted? Should Texas pass a new Son of Sam law? At what point do felonies become "heinous crimes"?
AND SPEAKING OF PRESIDENTIAL RECREATION DURING CRISES...

Yes, President Obama continued to play golf after the murder of James Foley -- but remember that an aide to President Kennedy summoned Mimi Alford, a college student with whom JFK was having an affair, to the White House in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Alford's 2012 memoir, Once Upon a Secret.



Although it should be noted that they didn't actually have sex, according to Alford:



But he wanted her there for him. And yet the world survived.

Friday, August 22, 2014

GOOD PRESS FOR A REPUBLICAN? IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH

There's a story in The Washington Post today about Rand Paul's trip to Guatemala to do eye surgery for indigent patients. Although the story notes the partly self-serving nature of the trip -- Paul is accompanied by, among others, his top political aide, David Bossie of Citizens United, two politcal admakers, and someone obtaining releases so that Paul can later use footage of the Guatemalans for (presumably) electoral ends -- it's largely a positive write-up. Paul Waldman responds by describing the senator as a "press management wizard":
How does Rand Paul do it? He's not someone who can give a speech that'll make you cry, like Barack Obama can, and he's not someone who lights up a room like Bill Clinton. He's never written a law, let alone an important one that improved people's lives. Nobody thinks he's some kind of super-genius.... And yet he gets way more attention than anybody else running for president.... So how does he do it?

... in the end, just because this is a story about Rand Paul doing charitable work on his August vacation, the reader unavoidably comes away thinking, "Isn't that Rand Paul a nice fellow?"

This is yet another demonstration of just how good Paul is at working the press. As the article says, this trip was planned months ago, and it's convenient ... because that's when congressional reporters have nothing else to write about. It can be hard to come up with things to fill your news pages about in August.
Except that it's not particularly hard to come up with things to fill up news pages this August. ISIS? Ebola? Ferguson? I'd say it's quite a newsy summer. So that's not it.

I don't think Paul is a "press management wizard." Yes, he gets good press, even when he's not doing charitable work. But there's a simple reason for that: He's a Republican, and he sometimes seems like a non-traditional Republican. The mainstream press is desperate for a Republican to love.

The press hates President Obama now, and is sick of the Clintons. The press regards Joe Biden as a joke and thinks the alleged Democratic up-and-comers (O'Malley, Castro, Gillibrand) are nonentities. Eliabeth Warren is okay, but she's a favorite of (ick!) ideologically committed progressives. Plus, she's an old lady! So there's a limit to her appeal to the boys on the bus. (The press is interested in her only to the extent that she might vanquish an even older lady, Hillary Clinton.) The boys fell for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama when they were young and had New Democrat bro appeal, but those days are long gone.

The political press really, really wants to love a Republican, though it can't just be any Republican. The members of the press corps are fairly urbane, so they don't want to embrace a Republicans who's anti-gay or who doesn't believe in climate change or who favor suppression of the black vote or who questions evolution. Of course, that's pretty much all Republicans. But the desire to love a Republican is strong, so any time one seems to deviate from the GOP norm, he looks really dreamy to the press corps.

Rand Paul does that a bit more than most -- he questions vote suppression and war (sometimes) and drug laws (to some extent) -- so he gives the press a tingle. But the press always feels a tingle when a Republican seems not quite Republican. Look, Paul Ryan put out a poverty plan! Marco Rubio talked about the poor, too! And Mitt Romney acted like a human being in that documentary about his campaign! Swoon, swoon!

It's Bush 2000 all over again. And if the press gets one of these guys elected president, it's going to end the same way.
DON LEMON MAKES SAME GUN TERMINOLOGY MISTAKE AS NOTORIOUS LIBERAL TED NUGENT

National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke is upset because of a gun terminology error made by CNN's Don Lemon:



Lemon's central claim was that, after the shooting in Colorado in 2012, he was able to go out and, in "20 minutes" or less, buy a machine gun. "I think," he added, "most people can go out and buy an automatic weapon."

... "A semi-automatic weapon," radio host Ben Ferguson explained, "is a gun that you and I are allowed to own, and in different places they have different rules. But to imply that anyone can walk out and buy an automatic weapon is just not true, Don."

Ferguson is correct, and Lemon is wrong. Under the law, "automatic" is the word we use to describe weapons that continue to fire for as long as the trigger is depressed. "Semi-automatic," by contrast, is the word we use to describe weapons that will fire once with each trigger pull....

Having been corrected, what Lemon should have said was, "you’re right, I meant 'semi-automatic.'" But he didn't. Instead, he said:
“For me, an automatic weapon is anything that you can shoot off a number of rounds very quickly.”
What?

... the item that the panel is discussing was a semi-automatic weapon. There is no "dispute" over this. This is not an ongoing "debate." It’s not a matter of "opinion." It's not an issue on which we can "agree to disagree." It’s not an "altercation" that can give way to "compromise." It’s a fact. An undisputed fact. And yet, for some reason, Lemon seemed to believe that he could talk his way out of his mistake.
Yes, Lemon got his terminology wrong. Gun extremists fixate on such mistakes, as a way of signaling to fellow members of their tribe that these gun-grabbers are arrogant elitist metrosexual pantywaists who don't know the first thing about our way of life. I think everyone who wants to report on gun violence or advocate for gun control needs to learn not to make such errors, if only to deprive gunners of this trump card.

On the other hand, Lemon is hardly alone. Here's a gentleman who's actually quite fond of guns, in an onstage appearance in 2007:



Obama, he's a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let's hear it for him. And then I was in New York. I said, "Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch." Since I'm in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions?
As an op-ed columnist for Oregon's Salem News noted at the time of this incident:
In the video clip capturing the rocker's antics, you see Nugent standing onstage with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in each hand. He references the weapons as "machine guns." My first thought was that such an outspoken gun advocate should know that the AR-15 IS NOT a machine gun. Sorry, good try Ted. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16 and it does not fire fully automatic.
A libertarian columnist for the Orange County Register -- a Nugent defender -- also identified the firearms as AR-15s, not machine guns.

Has Charles C.W. Cooke has ever chided Nugent for this error? If so, I'm not aware of it.

****

Cooke goes on to offer this video to demonstrate the difference between an automatic and a semi-automatic:



In the clip, you watch the use of an automatic weapon -- a belt-fed machine gun -- and, yes, it gets off a lot of rounds in an extremely short time. But then, at 1:25, you watch the shooter use a semi-automatic. He carefully spaces his trigger pulls so that he gets off eight shots in eighteen seconds. Cooke's point in embedding this video: This is what you liberals are so afraid of. Look at it. Heck, it's no faster than a standard hunting rifle.

Well, it's no faster if it's used that way. Cooke chose not to embed a video like this, which demonstrates how many shots you can get off with a semi-automatic weapon (an AR-15 or AK-47) if you're really trying:



With the AK-47, this shooter swaps magazines midway through the demonstration (and briefly fumbles the swap), yet still gets off 30 rounds in 30.66 seconds. And that's the second test -- in the first test, with the AR-15, he gets off 30 rounds in 23.1 seconds. Is that machine-gun fast? No -- but it's pretty freaking fast.

That's BooMan's point:
The first police officer arrived at the Sandy Hook Elementary School a mere four minutes after the first 911 call. And everything was already over. Twenty-six people were dead, including 20 first graders. As the police arrived, Lanza made it twenty-seven when he took his own life. Are you going to tell me that things could have been substantially worse if he had had a fully automatic M-16?
How fast do you need to be able to get off 30 rounds before we're not living under fascist tyranny?
NAHHH, NOTHING RACIST HERE

There's a thread over at Free Republic titled "Sign Ideas for Ferguson Counter-Protests." Here are a few suggestions from that thread:
I’d be there to help you protest
But I have to work instead.
So with the EBT I pay for
Your children will be fed.

PANTS UP!!!
DON'T TOOT!!!
("TOOT"? What decade are we in?)
How 'bout:
"Blacks are a protected species".
(Same with any minority.)

WE SHOULD HAVE PICKED OUR OWN DAMN COTTON.
There's concern trollery:
If you have time to protest and loot, you have time to study and work.

Get off welfare, get a job and quit crying about criminals dying committing a crime.

BOOKS, NOT BRUTALITY!

"Get even by getting an education and job"
And one Freeper comments:
Won't work. None of them can read.
It might be a good time to interject this, which is not from the Freep thread:

There's this:
NEED A NEW TV ?
Re-ELECT JAY !! WORKBOOTS OPTIONAL
Which is met by this:
Amazingly, not one pair of workboots was reported stolen during all that looting and pillaging.
And by this:
Workboots are the only thing still available at all of the looted stores!
Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah -- Joe the Plumber's Facebook page:



There are the usual attacks on Eric Holder and the Obamas:
Your slave masters, obama and holder love that they can manipulate you so easily.

Why didn't/don't Obama and Holder live in Ferguson ?
If Obama had a son, he'd look like Holder!
If Holder had a son, he'd look like Michele!
And, of course, many of the signs presuppose that Mike Brown attempted to murder Darren Wilson:
1)THUG TRIES TO KILL COP
2)THUG IS SHOT DEAD
WHICH PART OF "DUH!!"
DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?

"GENTLE GIANTS"
DON'T SMASH
PEOPLE'S FACES
BACK INTO
THEIR SKULLS

"Live like a thug, die like a thug"

Good grief, the cop got his eye punched out.
What don't you understand about a cop being attacked???

Sorry, We're Not Going To Make Beating Cops Legal!
And, of course:
Wilson/Zimmerman—2016
CNN is reporting that, contrary to reports that made their way up the wingnut food chain, Darren Wilson did not have fractured eye socket, although he did go to the hospital after the shooting and was treated for a swollen face. But Fox News hasn't updated its story "Missouri Cop Was Badly Beaten Before Shooting Michael Brown, Says Source," which is still among the "trending" stories on the Fox News home page as I write this. The story is also still on the Fox Nation front page.

Trust me -- America's right-wingers will never, ever stop believing that Brown broke Wilson's eye socket and nearly killed him, just as they'll never stop believing that Trayvon Martin nearly killed George Zimmerman. (Recall that a medical examiner at Zimmerman's trial called Zimmerman's wounds "very insignificant"; even Marc Siegel, a doctor who's a regular medical commentator for Fox, agreed with that.) The point of spreading the eye socket story was to plant the narrative in the minds of people who want to believe the shooting was justified. That effort succeeded.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DICK CHENEY IS AN OLD HAND AT POLITICIZING BEHEADINGS

The body of James Foley was barely cold when Dick Cheney suited himself up to go on Sean Hannity's Fox show to blame (as he sees it) the real enemy: the Obama administration.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is predicting that the beheading of American journalist James Foley is just the start of more violence if President Barack Obama doesn't "deal with this crisis" in Iraq....

"... magnify that [beheading] a million times over because that is what's in store for the rest of the world if we don't deal with this crisis."

"I think every single day that goes by [Obama] is finding that there's a bigger and bigger gulf between his hoped-for view of the world and reality," Cheney said. "I think the danger is enormous, I don't think the president understands it."

Cheney commented that he believes Obama's view of the world is "fundamentally flawed" and that his aversion to military action has made other world leaders view the president as "weak and ineffective," saying "there is no question ... he is viewed as perhaps the weakest president in my lifetime." ...
Cheney is an experienced politicizer of jihadist beheadings, although the last time he did this he waited until a couple of years after the murder, so he could do his politicizing during a presidential campaign. That led to a rebuke from the victim's father:
Following a controversial speech by Vice President Dick Cheney, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is urging Democrats and Republicans to refrain from turning his son's death into a political football.

Judea Pearl expressed his sentiments after Cheney's August 12 [2004] speech, in which the vice president blasted Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry for declaring that if elected, he would fight a "more sensitive war on terror." In the course of disparaging Kerry, Cheney invoked the Islamic militant killers of Pearl and another American, Paul Johnson Jr.

"The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity," Cheney said.

Days later, when asked about the speech, Judea Pearl told the Forward: "The family of Daniel Pearl respectfully requests that his tragic legacy remain non-partisan." Pearl, an Israeli-born computer science professor at UCLA, said that he did not know of any politician -- Democrat or Republican -- other than Cheney who has invoked the killing in order to score points against a political opponent....
But Cheney didn't care, and doesn't care now. He's got a war to win. And it's not a war against the people who cut off Pearl and Foley's heads.
AFTER COMMUNISM'S FALL, THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE, EXCEPT ORGANIZED ULTRAVIOLENCE

This is from a piece by The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson about the killing of James Foley:
Yesterday's guerrillas have given way to terrorists, and now terrorists have given way to this new band, who are something like serial killers. ISIS, an organization of thugs, is the Middle East's answer to the psycho-killer narco gang Los Zetas, trying to out-bad their enemies, to frighten them into submission, and to somehow draw themselves into an ugly cartoon of evil.
Anderson juxtaposes ISIS and brutal drug gangs -- which interests me because I've been thinking that jihadism and narcoterrorism are the only alternatives to capitalism left for anyone who chafes under the established order in a post-communist world. Capitalism triumphed a generation ago, communism is dead, but what remains is deeply unsatisfactory to much of the world, especially after the 2007-2008 economic collapse -- yet there appears to be no alternative.

No alternative, that is, except jihadism in parts of the world, and narcoterrorism in others. They're the only forces that create pockets wherein the Masters of the Universe, and the governments they own, aren't completely the masters.

Anderson goes on to write:
Last week, I met with Faisal Ali Waraabe, a politician in the Justice and Welfare Party, from Somaliland. He is a candidate in next year's Presidential elections. As a younger man, he was a socialist and a devotee of Che Guevara. Last year, he lost his twenty-two-year-old son Sayid, who was born and raised in Finland, to the dark enticements of ISIS.... I asked Faisal what he thought of ISIS, and about what his son is doing. He shook his head sadly, raised his hands helplessly in the air, and said, "They are the new barbarians."
Yes -- but if you're young and thoroughly unsatisfied with the status quo, they're pretty much all that's left. You're certainly not going to get very far in 2014 as a socialist devotee of Che Guevara.

The old bromide says that when nonviolent revolution is impossible, violent revolution become inevitable. Here's a variant: When economic revolt is impossible, nihilist revolution is inevitable. And it's going to be extremely violent nihilism, because that's the only thing that scares the crap out of the universe's Masters enough to hold them at bay.