Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More GOP Minority Outreach

Virginia Republicans are suing Gov. Terry McAuliffe for allowing people to vote.

Virginia Republicans said Monday they’re planning to challenge Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent executive order that restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 former felons in perhaps the most pivotal state in the presidential race.

GOP leaders in the state legislature announced that they’ve hired Charles Cooper, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, to lead the effort. They said McAuliffe’s order exceeded the governor’s constitutional powers.

[…]

Responding to the announcement, Brian Coy, a spokesman for McAuliffe, a Democrat, said: “The Governor is disappointed that Republicans would go to such lengths to continue locking people who have served their time out of their democracy. While Republicans may have found a Washington lawyer for their political lawsuit, they still have yet to articulate any specific constitutional objections to the Governor exercising a power that Article V Section 12 clearly grants him.”

That appears to refer to the following language in the state’s constitution: “The governor shall have power … to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction for offenses committed prior or subsequent to the adoption of this Constitution.”

They left out the footnote that says that this only applies to Republican governors.

It’s a sad fact that the majority of people who are former felons are minorities and have a hard time getting to vote even if they had never lost their right to vote in the first place.  It’s also a given that the reason the Republicans are enacting voter ID laws and filing suits like this is because they know that if there were no hindrances to voting, they would lose.  So they obfuscate, deliberate, and cheat.

I can only hope that the Democrats will take notice and make sure the voters — including those who are allowed to vote — remember who it was that stood in the way to the voting booth.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Irony of the Day

Larry Wilmore in his concluding remarks at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night:

When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if i’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it.

Todd Starnes of Fox News is beside himself.

Starnes Obama 05-02-16

Mr. Starnes’ sense of racial justice has been seen before.

If you are suspicious about the nature of Starnes’ racial sensitivity, you should be. This is a guy who has made a Fox News career out of bigotry. He has accused the Obama administration of “orchestrating” civil unrest in Ferguson, called him the “Race-Baiter in Chief,” and complained that a woman of Indian descent was not American enough to be Miss America in 2013.

As just about everyone else in the world noted, white people are upset because Larry Wilmore can say out loud — and mean it in a loving way — what they’ve been muttering under their breath for eight years now.

Will For Hillary

George F. Will is so horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency and what it will do to the GOP that he’s basically pulling for Hillary Clinton.

He seems to think that it will be a lot easier for him to spend the next four years attacking her then it will be defending Trump while at the same time trying to resuscitate what’s left of the Republican Party.  Meanwhile, the Orcosphere has taken note of Mr. Will’s perfidy and is demanding his head on a spike.

I suppose you could feel a bit of sympathy for him and his bow-tied snobs, but if he hadn’t spent the last eight years attacking Barack Obama every time he opened his mouth, he could have prevented the wholesale takeover of the party by the knuckledraggers in the first place.

Reap what you sow, baby.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Next Thing You Know, They’ll Win Elections

Buck Newton, A North Carolina state senator is very upset that gay people are actually voting.

“We all know that the folks that wave the rainbow flags and things like that are politically very upset about the way things are today. They’re upsets about the way things have always been in this state,” he said earlier in his remarks. “And they’re bound and determined to try to change it, whether it’s by winning elections in the city of Charlotte on their city council or whether it’s wining [sic] elections in November in the General Assembly or whether it’s winning elections in November for our governor.”

It kind of reminds me of how a group of like-minded people banded together to vote for people who supported their causes.  Y’know, black people.  Or the elderly.  Or even, more’s the pity, cranky white people in the Tea Party.  It’s called “democracy.”  Funny how that works.

Might want to try it, Buck.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ted Cruz Is A Creep

Wow, Ted Cruz is really hung up on where people pee.

Ted Cruz’s tour de transphobia, launched last week to capitalize on Donald Trump’s criticism of North Carolina’s anti-transgender law, has embraced a new extreme position. Speaking to reporters this weekend in Indiana, he actually admitted that he doesn’t believe transgender people should be allowed to use any restroom except the ones in the privacy of their own home.

“Every one of us has the right to live our lives as we wish,” he said. “If any one of us wants to dress up as a woman or man and wants to live as woman or man and believes that we might be something other than what we were born, God has made each of us with free will and the ability to choose to do that if man to wants to dress as a woman, and live as a woman, and have a bathroom at home.”

A reporter sought clarification on the remark: “So then they shouldn’t use the bathroom out in public?”

Cruz then confirmed just that. “You don’t have a right to intrude upon the rights of others because whether or not a man believes he’s a woman, there are a lot of women who would like to be able to use a public restroom in peace without having a man there — and when there are children involved, you don’t have a right to impose your lifestyle on others.”

So if you are transgender — which is your business and your business only — then according to the presumptive Hall Monitor in Chief, you should hold it until you get home.  So if you’re at work or out shopping or traveling across country, stock up on Depends because this pervy busybody doesn’t want you to go because y’know, you might…

Donald Trump is a racist sociopath with fascist tendencies, but Ted Cruz is a full-on no-holds-barred creep, and the sooner he is removed from the public sphere, the better off we will all be.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Try This One On

The lawyers defending the occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge last January have come up with an interesting line of defense: the federal government has no power to control federal lands.

“The motion to dismiss in this case will challenge the Federal Government’s authority to assert ownership over the land that is now known as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” Bundy’s defense attorneys wrote in a court filing Friday asking for more time to file a motion to dismiss the charges against him for lack of jurisdiction. It was first flagged by the Oregonian. “It is Defendant’s position that this authority is critical to the Federal Government’s authority to have federal employees work on that land. Jurisdiction in this case will determine whether the Federal Government can prosecute protesters for being there at all.”

In other words, it was never federal land in the first place.

“Once statehood occurred for Oregon, Congress lost the right to own the land inside the state,” the defense argued in the brief.

Bundy’s defense is expected to argue in court that Malheur was not federal land because it had been doled out to homesteaders and was “relinquished.” It is also expected to “provide evidence about foundational documents from the Federal Convention of 1787.”

Good luck with that one.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Annals of Asshattery

John Kasich schools us on how to prevent rape.

Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich [Friday] told a female college student concerned about “sexual violence, harassment and rape” that she should not “go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.”

And if you do, well, whatever happens is YOUR FAULT.

Blaming the victim is one of those ways that the conservatives can get anti-abortion legislation whooped through legislatures: hey, you should know better than to have gone to that party or gone out with that guy; it’s not his fault that you had a little too much, young lady.

Yesterday he was aghast that anyone would think he was victim-blaming by saying he’s the victim of being taken out of context.  Then he basically doubled down on what he said in the first place.

Going Soft On Us

Via digby, Ted Cruz has said he will not ban dildos after all.

Cruz, asked by WABC radio host Curtis Sliwa if he would ban “the sale of sexual toys, dildos, or anything that sexually stimulates you,” answered that he would not.

“Look, of course not, it’s a ridiculous question, and of course not,” Cruz told Sliwa on Friday. “What people do in their own private time with themselves is their own business and it’s none of government’s business.”

What a stimulating conversation.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stiff Penalty

Mother Jones has the background on one of Ted Cruz’s more interesting cases when he was the Solicitor General in Texas.

In one chapter of his campaign book, A Time for Truth, Sen. Ted Cruz proudly chronicles his days as a Texas solicitor general, a post he held from 2003 to 2008. Bolstering his conservative cred, the Republican presidential candidate notes that during his stint as the state’s chief lawyer, in front of the Supreme Court and federal and state appellate courts he defended the inclusion of “under God” in the “Pledge of Allegiance,” the display of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state Capitol, a congressional redistricting plan that assisted Republicans, a restrictive voter identification law, and a ban on late-term abortions. He also described cases in which he championed gun rights and defended the conviction of a Mexican citizen who raped and murdered two teenage girls in a case challenged by the World Court. Yet one case he does not mention is the time he helped defend a law criminalizing the sale of dildos.

[…]

The brief insisted that Texas, in order to protect “public morals,” had  “police-power interests” in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” There was a  “government” interest, it maintained, in “discouraging…autonomous sex.” The brief compared the use of sex toys to “hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy,” and it equated advertising these products with the commercial promotion of prostitution. In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz’s office declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” That is, the pursuit of such happiness had no constitutional standing. And the brief argued there was no “right to promote dildos, vibrators, and other obscene devices.” The plaintiffs, it noted, were “free to engage in unfettered noncommercial speech touting the uses of obscene devices,” but not speech designed to generate the sale of these items.

In a 2-1 decision issued in February 2008, the court of appeals told Cruz’s office to take a hike.

For some reason Mr. Cruz and the State of Texas declined to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby depriving us of the chance of getting to know the would-be presidential candidate as the guy who went into great detail about the evils of self-gratification before the Court and the world.

Words that should never be in the same sentence: “Ted Cruz” and “dildo.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nice Try, Pat

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) tried to clarify the law that he signed that stomps on LGBT rights in that state with an executive order.

The law still prohibits — and, in fact, McCrory affirmed that it prohibits — trans people from using the bathroom in schools and government buildings that matches their gender identity. And the law still blocks cities and counties from legally banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations. These provisions remain untouched, regardless of any new protections for state government employees.

In fact, the executive order mostly seems to reiterate what the law already allows. Under the law, it’s already legal for private employers to set their own bathroom and locker room policies, and local governments and private employers can already set up their own nondiscrimination policies for their own employees. There was zero doubt about this prior to the executive order.

So these are not the problems with the law. Again, the actual criticisms are about the anti-trans bathroom law for schools and government buildings and the ban on cities and counties passing nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people. If anything, the executive order doubles down on the former.

As the American Civil Liberties Union put it, the executive order “is a band-aid on a brain hemorrhage.”

The real solution is to repeal the law and stop obsessing about what other people do when they pee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Keep Digging

First it was Indiana.  Last year the state’s legislature passed an ironically named “religious freedom” bill targeting gay rights.  It created such a stink from the business community that Gov. Mike Pence rushed to have it amended.  This year it was North Carolina which caused — and still is causing — threats of economic sanctions ranging from multinational corporations and banks to rock stars.  The governor of Georgia saw what happened and vetoed that state’s version of the bill, thereby assuring a worried world that “Family Feud” will still be “made in Georgia.”  But Mississippi went ahead with their bill, which is even more sweeping than the one in North Carolina, because, well, they’re Mississippi.  Now it’s South Carolina’s turn.

So I wonder if those geniuses in Columbia looked around them, saw what happened in North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi and said, “Mm, we gotta get us some ‘o that!”?

Oh well, there are already too many tourists in Charleston and Hilton Head.  The hotels, restaurants, and tourist shops could use a rest.

Boys Will Be Bros

The latest teenage heartthrob for boys.

Jack Rowe, an 18-year-old high school student from St. Paul, Minnesota, sat in the front row of a Donald Trump rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin last weekend, sandwiched between two friends.

He had caucused for Trump in Minnesota for the very first time a few weeks earlier. Freckled and grinning, he sported a red “Make America Great Again” hat and a gray Trump t-shirt.

Rowe had some thoughts on Trump’s rhetorical treatment of women, which had been dominating the news lately thanks to the Republican front-runner’s comments about punishing women who have abortions. Mainly, Rowe said, it’s a non-issue.

“Misogyny was an issue about maybe 60, 80 years ago,” said Rowe. “That’s not an issue today. There are a lot bigger fish to fry…You know, ISIS is chopping off heads. We’ve got 19 trillion dollars in debt.”

Young men like Rowe are a common sight at Trump rallies around the country: Mostly white, they travel in packs and frequently wear Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats, pumping their fists and cheering loudly as protesters get hauled out by security. They document their political activity like any good millennial would, recording their outings on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

They are dudes, jocks, preps and just-your-average college and high school kids. But on the campaign trail, they’ve come to be known simply as “Trump Bros.”

“Bro,” once just shorthand for “brother,” is a term that today describes a white youth subculture of “fratty masculinity,” as National Public Radio once politely put it. Depending on your perspective, “Bro” can either be meant as high praise (usually from a fellow khaki-wearing bro), or a derisive insult.

In dozens of interviews conducted around the country in recent months, one thing is clear: Many of them absolutely love the GOP frontrunner.

These are the kids in training for sitting at the end of the bar complaining about how a black guy got the job he shoulda had ’cause of (air quotes) affirmative action, not because he showed up for the interview with a buzz and a t-shirt that said “I’M WITH STUPID.”  These are the guys who beat up a kid they thought was gay in high school but secretly checked him out in the locker room, and these are the guys who will die at 50 when their livers wither to a cinder from ten thousand shots and beers on the way to making America great again.  They expect to have the world handed to them because they are white men whom God has decreed should, just because they’re white men, be in charge.

They are, as their idol would say, losers.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Reading

Teach Your Children Well — Jonathan Zimmerman in The Atlantic on the poor state of civics education in public schools.

Little hands. A bad tan. And blood coming from wherever.

If you’re put off by the crude tone of politics in the Age of Trump, you’re not alone. According to a recent poll by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate, and KRC Research, 70 percent of Americans think that political incivility has reached “crisis” levels.

The poll also found that Americans avoid discussing controversial questions, out of fear they too will be perceived as uncivil. The findings speak to a flaw with civic education, especially in the main institution charged with delivering it: public schools. Put simply, schools in the United States don’t teach the country’s future citizens how to engage respectfully across their political differences. So it shouldn’t be surprising that they can’t, or that that they don’t.

Schools have sometimes been blamed for the meteoric rise of Donald Trump, whose legions of supporters allegedly lack the civic knowledge to see through his proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States or to kill family members of terrorists in the fight against ISIS. But it’s hardly clear that Trump supporters are less knowledgeable than anyone else. In six state GOP exit polls, Trump was the most popular candidate among college-educated voters and came in second in another six polls.

Indeed, the facile dismissal of all Trump enthusiasts as bigots or ignoramuses speaks to the most urgent problem in American civic life: the inability to communicate with people who do not share the same opinion. Trump himself epitomizes that trend, routinely vilifying his opponents as “losers” or “dummies,” or worse. And yet Trump’s critics often use similar terms to tar his diverse array of devotees. This isn’t a discussion; it’s a shouting match.Public schools aren’t merely expected to teach young people the mechanics of government: how a bill is signed into law, what the Supreme Court does, and so on. They’re also responsible for teaching the skills and habits of democratic life, especially how to engage civilly with people from a different political camp.

Many districts have written policies promoting the teaching of “controversial issues” in schools. Typically, these policies affirm students’ right to discuss such issues as part of their preparation for citizenship. They also warn teachers against imposing their own point of view on students.But there’s an enormous gap between policy and practice. Many teachers say they’d like to address controversial issues but lack the time; in poorer districts, especially, every available minute is devoted to preparing students for high-stakes standardized tests. Others admitted that they were not prepared to lead such discussions, which require deep background knowledge on the issues as well as the skill to manage diverse opinions about them.

Still other teachers said that their districts discouraged or even barred them from addressing controversial issues, particularly if the teacher displayed a liberal or unorthodox bent. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, for example, two teachers and a counselor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were suspended without pay for hanging posters in their classrooms urging “No War Against Iraq.” School officials invoked the district’s “controversial-issues” policy, which declared that teachers “will not attempt, directly or indirectly, to limit or control the opinions of pupils.”

As later court filings confirmed, however, the district offered no evidence that the teachers were trying to do that; instead, the mere expression of their opinion was taken as proof of their propagandistic intent. Never mind that military recruiting posters festooned other parts of the school, or that one of the suspended teachers had organized a debate between herself and a pro-war colleague. Her poster was an act of indoctrination rather than education, officials said, and it had to be stopped.

[…]

To be sure, it’s easy to imagine situations where teachers might impose their views instead of assisting students in formulating their own. But many school leaders simply don’t trust teachers to know the difference. After the Ferguson riots, a superintendent in nearby Edwardsville, Illinois, prohibited teachers from mentioning the subject, lest they sway students in one direction or another. “We all have opinions on what should be done,” the superintendent explained. “We don’t need to voice those opinions or engage those opinions in the classroom.”

But how will children learn to “engage those opinions” unless they do so in the classroom? That’s become even more urgent over the past few decades, when Americans increasingly segregated themselves into communities of the like-minded. In 1976, 27 percent of Americans made their homes in so-called “landslide counties” that voted either Democrat or Republican by 20 percent or more; by 2008, 48 percent of Americans lived in such environments.

When divisive subjects do arise, Americans don’t know how to discuss them. In the same KRC survey that revealed overwhelming concern about the incivility of modern politics, over a third of respondents said they avoid talking about racial inequality, abortion rights, or same-sex marriage for fear of the discussion turning “uncivil.” And only one-third said that they do not avoid any issues because of worries about incivility.

Trump has played on that anxiety in his frequent broadsides against “political correctness,” encouraging people to follow his lead and say whatever they think. And while there’s a certain attractiveness to that kind of blunt candor, it’s a poor formula for civic discourse. Nearly three-quarters of the people replying to the KRC survey said they supported “civility training” in schools. Let’s hope they prevail on the schools to provide it.

Why It’s The Worst — Katherine Stewart in The Nation on Mississippi’s gay-bashing law.

On Tuesday morning, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523—the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”—one of the most sweeping of the nation’s “religious liberty” bills that are making the rounds in numerous red-state capitals this year. In the press they are often referred to as “anti-LGBT bills,” because they would give legal cover to those who want to discriminate against LGBT people out of “sincerely held religious belief.” Critics such as Ben Needham, director of Human Rights Campaign’s Project One America, has said the measure is “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.” But there is an even more radical agenda behind these bills, and the atrocious attempt to deprive LGBT Americans of their rights is only a part of it.

According to State Senator Jennifer Branning, one of the Mississippi law’s original backers, the real victims of the story are not the LGBT couples denied services but people “who cannot in good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage.” These are the true targets of discrimination, and we are invited to sympathize with the proverbial florist who balks at providing flowers at a gay wedding or the restaurant owner who refuses to serve a same-sex couple celebrating their wedding anniversary. But the text of the law also specifically protects the “sincerely held religious belief” that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” a marriage between a woman and a man. So if you are religiously opposed to other people having non-marital sex, this could be the law for you.

It is also inaccurate to think that this law is just about those who wish to refuse to perform a service. One of the more disconcerting sections of the law is that which discusses people who provide foster-care services. The government, we are told, will no longer be allowed to take action against any foster parent that “guides, instructs, or raises a child…in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief.” If you want to know what that could mean, check out Focus on the Family’s “spare the rod” philosophy of child rearing. On its website, the religious-right advocacy group offers handy tips on “the Biblical Approach to Spanking.”

If the point were only to spare the fine moral sentiments of a few florists, why would the law’s sponsors seek such a wide-ranging exemption from the laws and norms that apply to the rest of society? A helpful clue can be found in a letter that the American Family Association sent out in support of the Mississippi bill before it was passed. (The AFA has been named a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010.) The bill, said the AFA, is crucial because it protects the AFA, and groups like it, from the “governmental threat of losing their tax exempt status.”

There is a revealing irony in that statement. Tax exemption is a kind of gift from the government, a privilege. It is an indirect way of funneling money from taxpayers to groups that engage in certain kinds of activities (like charity work or nonprofit education)—and not other kinds of activities (like political activism). The AFA is right to worry about the governmental threat to their governmental subsidy. As our society views the kinds of activities they endorse with increasing skepticism, the justification for continued subsidies and privileges from the government will diminish.

The people who drafted the bill on behalf of the Mississippi legislators get it. (Most of the red-state “religious liberty” bills were either drafted or, to some degree, inspired by the Alliance Defending Freedom—the “800-pound gorilla” of religious-right legal advocacy and itself a beneficiary of the great tax exemption game.) This is why the very first “discriminatory action” by the government the law prohibits is “to alter in any way the tax treatment” of any person or organization that abides by the newly sanctioned religious beliefs.

It’s about more than money, of course. The AFA and its allies on the religious right want to carve out a sphere in American public life where religion—their religion—trumps the law. It’s a breathtakingly radical ambition. And it upends the principles on which our constitutional democracy is based.

None other than the late Antonin Scalia put his finger on the problem. To make an individual’s obedience to the law “contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs” amounts to “permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, ‘to become a law unto himself,’” he said. It “contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.” Scalia made these comments in his 1990 majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, the majority ruled that the state of Oregon could deny unemployment benefits to a pair of individuals who violated a state ban on the use of peyote, even though their use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. It was the overreaction to that verdict—on both the left and the right—that produced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Though intended only to ensure that laws did not needlessly burden the religious liberty of individuals, the RFRA sparked a wave of unintended consequences. It effectively planted the demon seeds of the current crop of “religious liberty” bills.

Employment Division, as it happened, involved a religion—that practiced by the Native American Church—with which Scalia likely did not identify. Which brings up a crucial point about the Mississippi law and its numerous cousins. These “religious liberty” bills are really intended only for a particular variety of religion. Indeed, HB 1523 protects you only if your religion involves a specific set of beliefs—such as the religious belief that “man” and “woman” “refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex,” and that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” marriage. To speak frankly, the law was designed to advance the claims of conservative Christians, and it would never have become law otherwise. If you think that every religion will find as much liberty in the laws of Mississippi, then I have a Satanic temple to sell you.

Donald Trump Performs Shakespeare — Aryah Cohen-Wade in The New Yorker.

“Hamlet”

Listen—to be, not to be, this is a tough question, O.K.? Very tough. A lot of people come up to me and ask, “Donald, what’s more noble? Getting hit every day with the slings, the bows, the arrows, the sea of troubles—or just giving up?” I mean, smart people, the best Ivy League schools.

But I say to them, “Have you ever thought that we don’t know—we don’t know—what dreams may come? Have you ever thought about that?” Ay yi yi—there’s the rub! There’s the rub right there. When we shuffle off this mortal whatever it is—coil? They say to me, “Donald, you’ve built this fantastic company, how’d you do it? How?” And I say one word: “leadership.” Because that’s what it’s all about, is leadership. And people are so grateful whenever I bring up this whole “perchance to dream” thing. So grateful.

And on and on with the whips and the scorns of time and the contumely and the fardels and the blah blah blah.

Then I see a bare bodkin and I’m like—a bodkin? What the hell is this thing, a bodkin? Listen, I run a very successful business, I employ thousands of people and I’m supposed to care whether this bodkin is bare or not? Sad!

And when people say I don’t have a conscience—trust me, I have a conscience, and it’s a very big conscience, O.K.? And the native hue of my resolution is not sicklied o’er, that’s a lie! If anyone tells you that the native hue of my resolution is sicklied o’er, they’re trying to sell you a load of you-know-what. And enterprises of great pith—listen, my enterprises are so pithy. So pithy. Fantastic pith. But sometimes, hey, they lose the name of action, right? I mean, it happens—it happens.

“Romeo and Juliet”

Quiet, quiet—shut up, over there! What’s coming through that window? A light, it is the east, and Melania—you know, people are always telling me, they say, “Mr. Trump, you’ve got a wonderful wife”—Melania, she’s sitting right there. Stand up, sweetheart. Isn’t she a beautiful woman, Melania? Gorgeous. I love women, they love me—and I think we all know what I mean, folks! I’m gonna do so well with the women in November. So well.

Melania’s the sun, is what a lot of people are saying. Hillary Clinton? I mean, with that face? She looks like the moon! She’s very envious, if you ask me, very envious, but can you blame her? Visit Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue—which is the best street in New York, by the way—I mean, who wouldn’t be envious? This moon, Hillary, is sick and pale with grief when she compares herself to Melania, who is a very beautiful woman, I have to admit.

Melania, she’s got a great cheek, it’s a wonderful cheek, a bright cheek, everyone knows it, the stars ought to be ashamed of themselves, ashamed. The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars. As daylight doth a lamp! Look at this, folks, how she leans her cheek upon her hand. If I were a glove upon that hand—first, let me tell you, I think we all know what I would do, because I bought the Miss Universe Pageant, very successful, so I know a thing or two about gorgeous women. And all this stuff about the gloves, and my hands—I have great hands, O.K.? Gimme a break.

“Julius Caesar”

Friends, Romans, folks—listen up. The reason I’m here is to bury Julius. It’s not to praise him. It’s just not. Brutus over there—we all know he’s a good guy, right? And he says Julius was low-energy. Is it a crime to be low-energy? Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t—who knows?

The point is, Brutus is a good guy, all these guys over there, the ones who did this, they’re all good guys—and Julius, Julius was my friend, a really terrific friend to me.

Julius—he brought a lot of captives home to Rome, filled a lot of coffers. Really fantastic coffers. Does that sound low-energy to you? And when the poor people, regular, hardworking, everyday Romans, cried—Julius did, too. He cried. I saw it with my own eyes—many, many times. But Brutus—Brutus says Julius was low-energy. And everyone knows that Brutus is a good guy, right?

You all saw that on the Lupercal, three times—three times—I tried to give Julius a kingly crown. And you should’ve seen this crown—this was a great crown, O.K.? Very, very kingly. And three times he said, “Nope.” Is this low-energy? Yet Brutus says he was low-energy—and, sure, sure, Brutus is a good guy.

I’m not here to say Brutus is lying, but I am here to speak what I do know. You all loved Julius once—so why not be a little sad, now that he’s dead? Just a little sad.

I’m sorry to say that the Roman Senate has been run by a bunch of morons for a long, long time. Morons! A lot of bad decisions—these guys, they’re like a bunch of animals. It makes me so sad. So sad. And I’m looking here at the coffin of my good friend, Mr. Caesar. Just a minute. (He pauses to wipe a tear from his eye.)

So we’re gonna build a wall! And who’s gonna pay for it? (The crowd shouts, “The Visigoths!”)

“Macbeth”

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and yadda yadda, the days are going by—what I’m saying is this is gonna last a long time, believe you me. Long. I see this candle, and I say—should I blow it out?

Should I? Because, when you think about it, and there’s been some great polling on this, in fact there’s a new poll out from the Wall Street Journal—which is a terrific paper, by the way, they’ve won a lot of prizes—listen to this, they say blow out the candle. They do, they say blow it out.

People come up to me and say, “Mr. Trump, life is like a shadow,” and I’m like, “What? A shadow? I don’t get it, and, listen, I went to Wharton, O.K.—the top business school in the country. So I’m a smart guy, I’m a smart guy, it’s no secret.”

And what’s really interesting is I like to talk, and tell a tale, and that tale is gonna have a whole lotta sound, and a whole lotta fury, because that’s what the American people want to hear! They want to hear some sound and some fury sent to Washington for once in their lives, and, I mean, is that too much to ask? They want to hear me tell it, and they can decide what it signifies, but I’m saying right now—it’s gonna sound great, I guarantee it. Absolutely, a hundred and ten per cent, just really, really great. O.K.?

Doonesbury — Future shock.

Friday, April 8, 2016

No Time For That

Steve M dissects Zeke Miller’s interview with Sen. Ted Cruz in Time magazine — did I say interview?  I meant slobber-job — and reminds me why I happily let my subscription to that once-relevant weekly expire.

The whole point of the cover story and the interview is to introduce Mr. Cruz to America and brace us for the possibility that he could be the eventual Republican nominee.  They do it without grilling him on his hard-right views, his disastrous shut-down of the government, or even his inability to use Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” as a lesson about learning.

It sounds more like they’re trying to pass off a warthog as a Labrador Retriever.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Annals of Unintended Consequences

Mississippi’s new law enshrining anti-gay bigotry also allows discrimination against straight people who lust in their hearts and act on it with other body parts.

The legislation, HB 1523, promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people. [Emphasis added.]

Which means that the good people of Mississippi could refuse service to their next-door neighbor, Governor Bentley of Alabama.

Tennessee Faerie Tales

The state legislature of Tennessee makes a 17th century collection of myths and superstition their Official State Book.

The Volunteer State’s legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill on Monday that would name the Bible as the state book and sent it to Gov. Bill Haslam. It is not yet known if the two-term Republican will veto the bill, though his attorney general has said it would violate the separation of church and state.

Because “The Chronicles of Narnia” was still under copyright and is too obscure in its analogies to Christianity, I suppose.  Or because “My Pet Goat” was taken.

Perhaps they should instead read up on a passage from some 18th century writings.

Fraud Wins

The Los Angeles Times has a detailed report on how the anti-choice group “Center for Medical Progress” conned the nation into believing that Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts.

She was subdued and sympathetic on camera. Her recollections of collecting fetal tissue and body parts from abortion clinics in northern California lent emotional force to the anti-abortion videos that provoked a furor in Congress last summer.

In footage made public last July, Holly O’Donnell said she had been traumatized by her work for a fetal-tissue brokerage. She described feeling “pain…and death and eternity” and said she fainted the first time she touched the remains of an aborted fetus.

Unreleased footage filed in a civil court case shows that O’Donnell’s apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed. David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who made the videos, is heard coaching O’Donnell through repeated takes, instructing her to repeat anecdotes, add details, speak “fluidly” and be “very natural.”

“Let’s try it two more times,” he told her at one point.

Later, O’Donnell protested: “I don’t want to tell that story again. Please don’t make me again, David.”

For more than two years, Daleiden and a small circle of anti-abortion activists went undercover into meetings of abortion providers and women’s health groups. With fake IDs and tiny hidden cameras, they sought to capture Planned Parenthood officials making inflammatory statements. O’Donnell cooperated with the filmmakers, offering an inside view of the fetal tissue trade.

The videos sparked numerous investigations into Planned Parenthood and efforts in Congress to strip the organization of its federal funding.

Now, Daleiden, head of the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress, and his associates contend that they were acting as investigative journalists, seeking to expose illegal conduct. That is one of their defenses in lawsuits brought by Planned Parenthood and other groups, accusing them of fraud and invasion of privacy.

But unpublicized footage and court records show that the activists’ methods were geared more toward political provocation than journalism.

The Times and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley took a detailed look at published and unreleased video footage, sworn declarations, excerpts of recorded dialogue and other court records from the lawsuits against Daleiden.

The truth is that in every state investigation into Planned Parenthood’s methods of operation, no one has turned up any wrongdoing.  And yet those states, including Florida, have cut off funding to the agency, some in defiance of federal law.

In short, these “pro-lifers” perpetrated a public fraud, were caught, and are going on trial for it, but they still got away with it because states run by anti-choice Jesus-shouters changed the laws and put women and their families in danger by depriving them of medical services from many clinics, few of which provided legal abortion services.

HT digby.

Monday, April 4, 2016

No Thanks, Obama

The New York Times has a piece about the great economic recovery going on in Elkhart, Indiana.  So who gets the credit?

Seven years ago President Obama came to this northern Indiana city, where unemployment was heading past 20 percent, for his first trip as president. Ed Neufeldt, the jobless man picked to introduce him, afterward donned three green rubber bracelets, each to be removed in turn as joblessness fell to 5 percent in the county, the state and the nation.

It took years — in 2012, Mr. Neufeldt lamented to a local reporter that he might wear his wristbands “to my casket” — but by last year they had all come off. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, at 3.8 percent, is among the country’s lowest, so low that employers here in the self-described R.V. capital of the world are advertising elsewhere for workers, offering sign-up bonuses, even hiring from a local homeless shelter.

Mr. Obama, whose four trips here during 2008 and 2009 tracked the area’s decline, is expected to return for the first time in coming weeks, both to showcase its recovery and to warn against going back to Republican economic policies. Yet where is Mr. Neufeldt leaning in this presidential election year? He may keep a photograph of himself and Mr. Obama on a desk at the medical office he cleans nightly, but he is considering Donald J. Trump.

“I like the way he just won’t take nothing off of nobody,” Mr. Neufeldt said, though days later he allowed: “He scares me sometimes.”

Billboards proclaim, “Hiring: Welders. Up to $23/hour,” but for all the progress, many people here — like Americans elsewhere — harbor unshakable anxiety about stagnant wages, their economic future and the erosion of the middle class generally. Antigovernment resentments over past bank bailouts linger, stoked by candidates in both parties (though taxpayers got their money back, with dividends). And social issues such as abortion, gun rights, same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act and immigration loom larger than any other for some voters.

It never ceases to depress me how people are scared by the distant possibility that the couple down the street may be gay or that someone across town may need an abortion, but things that can have a direct impact on their life such as a job or healthcare are less important at the ballot box.  They would vote for a candidate who would send their job to China but save them from two men holding hands at the Kroger.  Of course they’d vote for Trump: he loves the lower-educated people.

There’s also a certain strain of something else that runs through this mindset that might be, um, coloring their judgment.

Brian A. Howey, publisher of the Howey Politics Indiana newsletter and once a reporter in Elkhart, sounded stumped, even allowing for the state’s conservatism: “I’m a lifelong Hoosier. I’m just amazed that not only do people not appreciate what happened in ’09, but there’s a lot of hostility toward Obama. I think part of it is racial and a lot of it is political.”

In other words, if Barack Obama was a white Republican, the good people of Elkhart would be clamoring for him to run again.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pizza With Everything

Stories like this are why people across the political spectrum would rather watch reruns of Castle than the news.

During a stop at a pizza joint in New York on Wednesday, John Kasich drew the mock ire of locals and reporters on Twitter as he used a fork.

On Thursday, Kasich explained himself.

“Look, look, the pizza came scalding hot, OK? And so I use a little fork,” the governor of Ohio told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “You know what? My wife who is on spring break with my daughters said, ’I’m proud of you. You finally learned how to use a utensil properly.’ But I mean — not only did I eat the pizza, I had the hot sausage. It was fantastic.”

Kasich, apparently recognizing his error, finished up using his hands, although he did not fold over the slice, as is customary.

Oh my, how cute: a human interest story about a candidate to make him seem more appealing to the public and perhaps draw our attention away from his stinko record as governor of Ohio where he tried to wipe out the public sector unions, did everything he could to restrict the right to choose abortion or family planning, stood in the way of marriage equality to the point of cruelty, and reduced funding for public education.

But apparently it’s more important to know how he eats pizza.  That is the breaking news and that’s what gets bloggers like me to post stories like that.  Then I can also tell you about his hard-core record.  He’s not a whole lot different than Ted Cruz.  Gotcha.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Numbers Game

There was a story earlier this week in the Washington Post that revealed the startling news that 147 FBI agents were working on the Hillary Clinton e-mail case.

Wow!  That’s a lot of people!  There has to be something to all the rumors that what she was doing was illegal, immoral, and fattening!

Well…

An earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.

More like 12.

“There are currently about 12 FBI agents working full-time on the case,” says the source, who would only speak anonymously about an open investigation.

A former FBI official, also speaking anonymously, says many in the law enforcement community view the large estimates of people assigned to the case as completely improbable.

Or, as Oliver Willis tweeted, “Okay, it’s a guy.”

Too late.  The Orcosphere is already running with the 147 number and your in-box is already getting hit by your Fox-watching uncle who swears that 147 is only the number we know about; there have to be many more at work on it.