Saturday, May 31, 2014


This is the big news of the day:
The lone American prisoner of war from the Afghan conflict, captured by insurgents nearly five years ago, has been released to American forces in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Obama administration officials said Saturday.

The soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, was handed over to American Special Operations troops inside Afghanistan near the Pakistan border about 10:30 a.m. Saturday....
Republicans, predictably, are furious:
... senior Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were troubled by the means by which it was accomplished....

Top Republicans on the Senate and House armed services committees went so far as to accuse President Obama of having broken the law, which requires the administration to notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out.
But in all likelihood, if they'd gotten advance notice, the Republicans would have done everything in their power to block the release of Bergdahl -- as, reportedly, they did in 2012:
Republican opposition to diplomatic compromise with the Taliban is blocking the release of a captured U.S soldier held since 2009 and broader negotiations aimed at a resolution of the decade-long war.

A recent German interview with a leading Afghan diplomatic mediator, Naquibullah Shorish, describes the stalled scenario for peace in some detail. The process, launched with Obama administration support in Qatar in 2010 under German mediation, was to begin with a prisoner exchange as a trial test for further talks. The American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bigdahl, who was captured on June 30, 2009, was to be released in a swap for five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo. The Taliban believed the exchange had US approval. But US Republican opposition made Congressional approval impossible, and the talks have floundered ever since....

The interview with Shorish, a mediator with links to all parties, appeared at by the writer Otto Steinbicker on July 8 [2012]...
In July 2012, Rolling Stone published a story about Bergdahl by Michael Hastings. Hastings noted that negotiations for a prisoner exchange were taking place, but were meeting resistance, particularly from Republicans, who planned to demagogue the issue if the released happened before the November election:
According to White House sources, Marc Grossman, who replaced Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was given a direct warning by the president's opponents in Congress about trading Bowe for five Taliban prisoners during an election year. "They keep telling me it's going to be Obama's Willie Horton moment," Grossman warned the White House. The threat was as ugly as it was clear: The president's political enemies were prepared to use the release of violent prisoners to paint Obama as a Dukakis-­like appeaser, just as Republicans did to the former Massachusetts governor during the 1988 campaign....

The tensions came to a boil in January, when administration officials went to Capitol Hill to brief a handful of senators on the possibility of a prisoner exchange....

[Senator John] McCain reluctantly came around on the prisoner exchange, according to those present at the meeting, but he has continued to speak out against negotiating with the Taliban. Opposition has also come from Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia who won election with a vicious smear campaign against former Sen. Max Cleland, a decorated Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs in the war. Chambliss, according to Bowe's father, has insisted that America shouldn't make a prisoner trade for a "deserter."
(The fact that some believe Bergdahl became a POW because he deserted is something to keep in mind as this story develops.)

It should be noted that objections to the Bergdahl negotiations didn't just come from Republicans, according to Hastings:
Some top-level officials within the administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are very wary about making a swap for Bowe. "Panetta and Hillary don't give a shit about getting him home," says one senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations. "They want to be able to say they COINed their way out of Afghanistan, or whatever, so it doesn't look like they are cutting and running." (Both Clinton and Panetta, by law, would have to sign off on any exchange.)
But on the question of whether negotiations like this put Americans at risk, I'll quote Hastings again:
Those in the Pentagon who oppose the prisoner exchange have insisted that the deal would send the wrong message to America's enemies. "The Pentagon is making the argument that American soldiers would become targets for kidnapping," says a senior administration official. "We pushed back on that. They already are -- the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been using their resources to kidnap Americans for years." Prisoner exchanges take place at the ground level all the time in Afghani­stan, and Gen. David Petraeus, now the head of the CIA, has pointed out in discussions about Bowe that U.S. forces made distasteful swaps in Iraq -- including one involving Qais Khazali, a Shiite extremist who orchestrated the kidnapping and execution of four U.S. soldiers in Karbala in 2007. Even a hard-line Israeli nationalist like Benjamin Netanyahu has recognized the value of a single soldier: In October, the prime minister agreed to free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal who had been held captive by Hamas for five years. The move was overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Israelis. "The Israelis really care about the value of one life," says a senior U.S. official. "Does the American public?"
Does the American public? Do Republicans? We'll see.

Golfer Phil Mickelson is under investigation for possible involvement in insider trading, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I'm wondering how long it's going to be before folks on the right start telling us that we're hearing the heavy tread of the Obama jackboot --in early 2013, you may recall, Mickelson whined about the tax bill on his earnings of $60 million -- a cry of freedom that was praised by Peggy Noonan ("it was unusual: Most people in his position are clever enough not to sound aggrieved") and was deemed the start of an anti-Obama tax revolt in a op-ed by Obana conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root. Last year, as Breitbart noted, Mickelson went on CNBC and told Maria Bartiromo that CEOs he golfed with were telling him they weren't hiring because of Obamacare.

Mickelson has had some difficulties with money. Many reports over the years have said that Mickelson has had gambling problems -- here's a good roundup -- and, well, the current story tells us that the insider trading allegedly involves a well-known Vegas gambler:
Federal investigators are pursuing a major insider-trading probe involving finance, gambling and sports, examining the trading of investor Carl Icahn, golfer Phil Mickelson and Las Vegas bettor William "Billy" Walters....

Investigators are examining whether over the past three years Mr. Icahn tipped Mr. Walters -- famous in Las Vegas for his sports-betting acumen -- about potentially market-moving investments by Mr. Icahn's company.

The FBI and SEC are examining whether Mr. Walters on at least one occasion passed a tip on to Mr. Mickelson, these people said, and are studying the two men's trading patterns....
So will the right-o-sphere ignore that aspect of Mickelson's life and politicize this? We'll see.

Friday, May 30, 2014


The Daily Beast inexplicably gave many column inches today to Reason's Nick Gillespie so that he could proselytize for libertarianism and praise the Koch brothers (without whose largesse Gillespie would be unemployed). Gillespie points the Beast audience to the recent work of Daniel Schulman, author of Sons of Wichita, a new book about the Kochs. If you have eyes, prepare to have wool pulled over them now:
In a recent piece for The Washington Post, Schulman reminds readers that while the Koch brothers remain staunch opponents of Obamacare and government spending, "they are at odds with the conservative mainstream" and "were no fans of the Iraq war." As a young man, Charles was booted from the John Birch Society (which his father had helped to found) after publishing an anti-Vietnam War newspaper ad, and David told Politico of his support for gay marriage from the floor of the 2012 Republican National Convention. In the past year, the Charles Koch Institute cosponsored [an event] with Buzzfeed about immigration reform (which angered many on the right)....
The Kochs didn't like the Iraq War? Funny, I don't recall them putting together a massive interconnected funding apparatus to stop the war. Nor do I recall them doing any such thing to advance the cause of same-sex marriage or immigration reform. In fact, the vast majority of politicians who've benefited from their help have been pro-war, anti-gay, and anti-immigration. Curiously, when faced with politicians who agree with them on some things and not others, the Kochs always choose the ones whose areas of agreement would line the brothers' wallets.

Gillespie goes on to assure us that the Kochs are a real wild card:
As Schulman writes, the Republican establishment has always had reservations about the Kochs, "who often aligned with the Republicans on free-market issues and downsizing government... [but] Republicans [couldn't] count on the Kochs to fall in step on issues such as immigration, civil liberties, or defense, where they held more liberal views. The brothers and their company also opposed subsidies across the board, a position GOP members didn't always share. 'The Republicans don't trust us,' said one Koch political operative."
But then Gillespie writes:
When it comes to the social issues the GOP refuses to stop talking about despite declining levels of support among voters, the Kochs' record of direct activism has never been strong.
Gee, ya think?
During the Libertarianism 2.0 phase [which "covers the past 30 years or so," according to Gillespie], they supported libertarian groups such as Reason Foundation and Cato that call for drug legalization, marriage equality, open borders, and the like, but there's no question that they focused most of their literal and figurative political capital on economic issues that caused less stress among establishment Republicans.
But hey, that could change any day now! No, really!

No, not really. Gillespie is trying to deceive us, or is deceiving himself. Apart from Ralph Nader, I hope no one is stupid enough to believe him.

Eric Shinseki has resigned. Until today, it sure looked as if Fox News wanted this to happen -- on various Fox platforms, one commentator after another after another has said that Shinseki needed to go.

So what's the lede of Fox News's story on the resignation?
President Obama announced Friday that embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki would take the fall for the rapidly growing scandal over veterans' health care, accepting his resignation under pressure from members of both parties.
(Emphasis added.)

Oh, so now his departure is a phony gesture. Right. Got it.

The panel on the Fox show Outnummbered added that Shinseki wasn't fired, so, y'know, it doesn't really count:
Harris Faulkner asked Powers why - with veterans dying due to a lack of care from VA facilities - the president did not fire Shinseki and instead chose to wait for him to offer his resignation.

"It sends a completely different message when you fire somebody," said Faulkner.

[Kirsten] Powers said she's not sure why the president doesn't fire people...

[Tucker] Carlson made the point that even if the president himself resigned, it wouldn't fix the VA, which has had problems for decades.

"The problem is the government's not that good at delivering medical care actually. Or anything else that requires precision and nuance and human touch. Big bureaucracies just aren't good at that," said Carlson.
So, really, Shinseki failed when he didn't disband the VA medical system and privatize veterans' health care in his first week in office.

Well, this is S.O.P. for the right (hat tip: SheriffFruitfly):


I'm impressed with what Hillary Clinton is doing now -- giving Politico an advance look at her forthcoming memoir's Benghazi chapter, scheduling a June 17 Fox News interview with Bret Baier and Greta van Susteren, a disproportionate percentage of which will undoubtedly be devoted to Benghazi.

She's taking it to the right. She's saying, "You want to talk Benghazi? Fine, let's have that talk." The excerpt, as Politico summarizes it, makes clear that she has answers to everything the right howls when it howls about Benghazi; none of them are going to be answers that satisfy the right, but they're answers that, for reasonable people, will rebut the overheated case the right is making: that this was an incident without precedent in American history, that it was a deliberate betrayal rather than a failure, that those who had responsibility to try to prevent it are not fit to walk among decent people. (Because, y'know, no embassies are ever attacked when REpublicans are in the White House.)

Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she knows how to take a punch. I'm enjoying the fact that she's daring the right to take its best shot.

Last night, NBC News aired another clip from the Brian Williams interview with Edward Snowden. Snowden said something about how our surveillance system metastasized after 9/11 that seems obvious, but clearly isn't to the government:

From the transcript:
... what [the 9/11 Commission] found, in the post-mortem, when they looked at all of the classified intelligence from all of the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren't collecting information, it wasn't that we didn't have enough dots, it wasn't that we didn't have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we have.

The problem with mass surveillance is that we're piling more hay on a haystack we already don't understand, and this is the haystack of the human lives of every American citizen in our country. If these programs aren't keeping us safe, and they’re making us miss connections -- vital connections -- on information we already have, if we're taking resources away from traditional methods of investigation, from law enforcement operations that we know work, if we're missing things like the Boston Marathon bombings where all of these mass surveillance systems, every domestic dragnet in the world didn't reveal guys that the Russian intelligence service told us about by name, is that really the best way to protect our country? Or are we -- are we trying to throw money at a magic solution that's actually not just costing us our safety, but our rights and our way of life?
It's a macho thing. It's analogous to what we did with torture. Obviously, torture had to be the right thing to do, because it was so badass. Never mind assessing whether the torture would be effective (much less whether it would be consistent with our laws and professed values) -- we were cranking it up to eleven, and every real man knows deep in his groin that louder, more, harder, angrier, bigger is always better.

That's what we're doing with surveillance. Who cares if the program isn't actually preventing terrorist attacks? Who cares if we're collecting more data than we can process intelligently? Bigger is better! The amount of information we collect is huge! That complex in Utah we built to store all the data is massive! Isn't that all you need to know?

On the NBC broadcast, Pete Williams was appalled at what Snowden said:
Well, there's certainly widespread agreement about his first point, that the intelligence agencies missed critical clues about some of the 9/11 hijackers, information, it turned out, that the United States had but failed to recognize its significance. But few have argued, as Snowden does, that the U.S. suffered from too much intelligence in the run-up to last year's Boston Marathon bombing. Two reports, including one from Congress, on the FBI's investigation of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say, if anything, the FBI was hampered by not having enough information, because of some of the things the Russians did not share in passing along their concerns about the older brother, Tamerlan, well before the bombings....
But the promise of this Panopticon is that the government won't miss anything. Yes, the Russians gave the U.S. only the vaguest hints about Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- but if you're scrutinizing everything and everybody, why isn't that enough? Isn't the point of a maximalist surveillance regime that nothing escapes it?

Instead, as Snowden says, we miss needles in lrger and larger haystacks. Because, to us, haystack size is everything.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I told you about Joe the Plumber's response to the Isla Vista murders last weekend: in a post that went viral (and not in a good way), Mr. Wurzelbacher informed Richard Martinez and other parents of Elliot Rodger's victims that he's pro-gun, dammit, and "your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights."

Wurzelbacher is now miffed that these words inspired a negative reaction -- so he's declaring that all his haters actually hate the troops:
Military Members Died Defending Our Rights, Will You Allow Their Sacrifice To Be Mocked

I wrote my "open letter" on the eve of Memorial day -- a day we honor the fallen heroes that defend and protect our rights.

These men and women that served and paid the ultimate price for our way of life were someone's dad, mom, brother, sister, or daughter. They made that sacrifice, which guarantees our freedoms because they believe in America. So I’m asking the question:

Why are the lives of these brave Americans less important than the victims of Elliot Rodger?

Because if the solution to this horrific incident is surrendering to the devious schemes of oppression; it nullifies the sacrifice of all Veterans. To infringe on our rights to bear arms would make a mockery of our fallen heroes who died defending our way of life....
Just for the record, the "your dead kids" post didn't include a single word about Memorial Day or veterans.

I'm not sure what the connection is, but Wurzelbacher has his non sequitur and he's sticking to it:
The killings are useful, the grieving an opportunity, the survivors are props in a staged circus of phony outrage, but with real people now damaged by the very policies the Marxists hope to arrange more of.

Don’t believe me? Look how the country has taken care of our veterans....
There follows the expected denunciation of the Veterans Administration in the Obama years -- you know, because there were no problems with veterans' health care during the pro-gun Bush admininstration (cough Walter Reed cough). There's also this:
Even when 90-year-old men in wheelchairs wish to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. – a monument they built by trudging across Europe in their bare feet to kill Nazis, cramming into submarines in the South Pacific to hold off the invading Japanese, and staring down Rommel's tanks in Africa – they’re confronted with steel barricades, compliments of the Administration.
You may not realize this if you don't lurk in the right-o-sphere as much as I do, but this incident -- which took place during a government shutdown caused by Republicans -- took on Benghazi-like importance among the Fox News crowd for a while, and is still high on the list of enduring anti-Obama grievances for the right.

What any of this has to do with the murders in Isla Vista, I'm not sure. But if I don't get it, I guess it's because I hate America.

Wurzelbacher has a habit of impugning other people's patriotism by playing the "troops" card at inappropriate moments. Back in 2011, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Ohio against Marcy Kaptur. She repeatedly said that Wurzelbacher wasn't really a plumber -- and you can't blame her, because he wasn't actually licensed as a plumber in Ohio. According to Wurzelbacher, she did that because she hated the troops, as PolitiFact Ohio noted at the time:
That has prompted Wurzelbacher to claim that Kaptur is disrespecting his military service and training in the Air Force, showing disrespect for veterans.

Wurzelbacher plunged forward with that line of attack in a news release May 3 in which his campaign urged Kaptur to support a bill sponsored by Columbus-area GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, which would require states to consider military training when certifying truck drivers, registered nurses and emergency medical technicians. Stivers' bill would not affect plumbers. The news release charged that "Marcy has recently been attacking Joe's military service and his training in the Air Force."

In April 2012 published a column by Wurzelbacher titled "Why Doesn't Marcy Kaptur Respect Veterans?" In his essay, Wurzelbacher said that Kaptur's proposal for a Veterans Jobs Corps to employ 20,000 veterans in projects to restore public lands, would reject their military training and instead "turn them into federally employed landscapers and groundskeepers."

"Kaptur and her campaign staff certainly don't respect my own military training," Wurzelbacher’s column continued. "That's obvious from the way they call me a 'faux' plumber. Are all our other veterans 'fake' in their jobs, too? Marcy's campaign has denied my military experience several times before, each time proving that she and her staff don’t respect veterans and our military experience."

Wurzelbacher's campaign put out a news release in October 2011 titled "Marcy Kaptur Disrespects Service of Military Veteran." Although Kaptur and her campaign spokesman Steve Fought hadn’t ever mentioned Wurzelbacher’s military record in questioning his lack of plumbing credentials, the news release accused the pair of "maligning" Wurzelbacher’s "record of military service and hard work." It said Wurzelbacher learned to be a plumber during a four year Air Force stint, and that he "legally worked as a plumber for numerous plumbing companies in the Toledo area" after leaving the military.

In a series of email exchanges, Wurzelbacher’s campaign did not provide instances in which Kaptur and Fought specifically maligned their candidate’s military service, apart from claiming that he isn't actually a plumber. They contend that by saying Wurzelbacher isn't a plumber, Fought and Kaptur are saying that his training is non-existent or inadequate. And because Wurzelbacher got that training in the Air Force, Wurzelbacher's camp contends that claiming Wurzelbacher isn’t a plumber constitutes an attack on his military training.
Last refuge of a scoundrel? Yup.

Apart from giddy Republican dittoheads and political commentators anxious for something to write about, does anyone actually give a crap about what Dick Cheney says?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney blasted President Obama as the weakest president of his lifetime on Wednesday, following the president’s speech defending his foreign policy approach at the West Point commencement ceremony.

"He is a very, very weak president," Cheney said in an interview with Fox News. "Maybe the weakest -- certainly in my lifetime.
Wow, that's ... thought-provoking. By which I mean it's anything but thought-provoking -- it's trash talk, it's an old white grump's version of the dozens, it's the political equivalent of what compulsive hecklers like Robin Ficker do from the stands at sporting events. Does anyone actually ponder the content of what life-wasters like this say? No -- maybe we find it colorful, maybe we think, "Ooooh, snap!" -- or, if we're, y'know, adults, we think, Really? On your deathbed, you're going to look back on spending years of your life doing this and feel it was time well spent?

Cheney shakes his fist impotently at Obama over and over and over and over and over and over. It's supposed to make him look tough, but, hey, Obama's still in the Oval Office (remember when Cheney called Obama a "one-term president"?) and Obama's first secretary of state is the favorite to be Obama's successor, while Cheney's still yelling with nothing to show for it. Cheney's not a tough guy -- Cheney is Wile E. Coyote.

Or he's Todd Kincannon:
J. Todd Kincannon, the former chairman of the election commission in Simpsonville, S.C., has been known to say some offensive things. He recently said transgender people should be "put in a camp"; he tweeted, "Hey what's the difference between Trayvon Martin and a dead baby? They're both dead, but Pepsi doesn’t taste like Trayvon"; and he once called Wendy Davis a "whore."
And that was before his series of attack tweets in response to last weekend's Isla Vista murders. Oh, but those messages are infantile, and Cheney is so serious. No, Cheney's not serious. There's less of an Andrew Dice Clay feel to his trolling, but it's otherwise the same. It's Kincannon with a fake air of genuine concern for welfare of the Republic (and with, admittedly, no penis tweets so far), but no one except the naive is fooled: Cheney's doing this for exactly the same reason as Kincannon: because he's having fun.

Cheney adds nothing to the foreign policy conversation. Insult comedy doesn't count.

I don't think it's a wonderful thing for democracy that we're probably going to have another Clinton running for president, and possibly another Bush -- but I don't find it as appalling as many other people do. And we're reminded today by John Harwood that voters gravitate to multi-politician families the way they gravitate to familiar brands:
Three business school professors recently set out to discover what accounts for regional differences in product choices by consumers.

Although about 60 percent of it had to do with regional sales and marketing, a startling 40 percent stemmed from what they described in The American Economic Review as "persistent brand preferences." Past experiences with the product or memories of family and friends using it shaped their buying decisions.

Democrats' hopes of holding the Senate this fall rest significantly on the political equivalent of that "brand capital." In four states that usually lean Republican, Democrats will be running candidates from families with multigenerational records of political success -- the Pryors of Arkansas, the Landrieus of Louisiana, the Begiches of Alaska and the Nunns of Georgia. If at least two of the four legacy candidates can eke out victories, the Democrats' chances of holding the Senate will be better than even....
People vote for dynasties all over the country, though it seems to bother the bloviators only when the members of the dynasty are named Clinton. (I don't even consider the Clintons a true dynasty yet, since Bill and Hillary are both first-generation strivers who happened to get married, unlike the Bushes. Get back to me when Chelsea is running for something.)

Dems are running members of dynasties in Southern states, where they're at a disadvantage. I'm OK with running a Clinton in the 2016 presidential race because Democrats will have hurdles to overcome then, too -- President Obama's low poll numbers, an economy that never got fixed, the traditional difficulty of keeping a party in the White House for three terms, court victories Republicans have been winning on campaign finance and voting rights, a Republican Party that blocks everything Democrats want to do and then leaves Democrats with the blame. It would be nice if Democrats could win in 2016 on the Democratic brand, but the brand isn't looking too good these days, even if the Republican brand looks worse. And if Clinton wins on her brand name, well, don't blame her -- that's how people vote.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


A lot of commentators, with varying degrees of success, have tried to link the Elliot Rodger killings to popular culture. In a Daily Beast essay, former Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu writes that, yes, nerds are fed the line that they can have unrealistic fantasies fulfilled, as seen in dubious scenarios:
... We (male) nerds grow up force-fed this script. Lusting after women "out of our league" was what we did. And those unattainable hot girls would always inevitably reject us because they didn't understand our intellectual interest in science fiction and comic books and would instead date asshole jocks. This was inevitable, and our only hope was to be unyieldingly persistent until we “earned” a chance with these women by "being there" for them until they saw the error of their ways. (The thought of just looking for women who shared our interests was a foreign one....)

This is, to put it mildly, a problematic attitude to grow up with. Fixating on a woman from afar and then refusing to give up when she acts like she's not interested is, generally, something that ends badly for everyone involved. But it's a narrative that nerds and nerd media kept repeating.

... One of the major plot points of Revenge of the Nerds is Lewis putting on a Darth Vader mask, pretending to be his jock nemesis Stan, and then having sex with Stan's girlfriend. Initially shocked when she finds out his true identity, she’s so taken by his sexual prowess -- "All jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex." -- that the two of them become an item.

Classic nerd fantasy, right? Immensely attractive to the young male audience who saw it....

It’s also, you know, rape....
Chu ultimately says it doesn't matter what pop culture tells you because it's on you to grow up and act responsibly. But before saying that, he runs through a lot of dodgy pop-culture examples that appeal to nerds, many of them from sci-fi -- including rape in the "nerd-libertarian" works of Ayn Rand.

I'm thinking of this in the context of Ann Hornaday's Washington Post essay linking the killings to wish-fulfillment fantasies in the films of Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, and even Rush Limbaugh's attempt to link the killings to The Hunger Games. (Rodger's father was a second-unit director on the first Hunger Games film.)

I don't believe there's a direct connection between the killings and any fictional work -- Rodger, in his writings and videos, doesn't seem to invoke movies or books. But the pickup artist subculture Rodger became fixated on has something in common with a lot of the works I've mentioned. The notion of PUA culture is that with enough hard work (what the PUA people call "game"), you can fulfill your dreams. That's classic power-of-positive-thinking Americanism. It's also similar to the libertarian dream -- it's not just that there are ubermenschen in the world, it's that whoever has sufficient will can become one, and at that point you're entitled to whatever you get. That's true even if you're a nerd or a schlub, which is where the works cited by Hornaday and Chu come in.

I'm not saying these works are responsible for what Elliot Rodger did -- I'm saying that this hold-on-to-your-dream, anyone-can-have-it-all, all-it-takes-is-one-person idea pervades American culture, in a lot of different forms. It feed the cult of the entrepreneur. It feeds the gun culture, because every politicized gunner thinks he has the potential to be a lone-wolf hero thwarting a crime or overthrowing a tyrannical government. It's why conservatives take idiots like Donald Trump and Herman Cain seriously. (To the right, Trump is a self-made man, not a rich man's son who went into daddy's business.) It's why liberals get lulled into thinking that one elected official (Ralph Nader, Barack Obama) has the potential to make everything all better.

Limbaugh mentioned The Hunger Games because it involves young people killing young people. What seems more relevant is the fact that it's a story of one lone individual scoring victories against a system that's much bigger than she is. We Americans love that idea. Elliot Rodger saw the female gender as a totalitarian state, and he wanted PUA culture to turn him into Katniss Everdeen. Sorry if that's a creepy way of putting it, but as a way of describing his sexual worldview, I don't think it's far off the mark. It's really an American fantasy, because Americans are told there's nothing we can't do if we put our minds to it. Elliot Rodger just applied it to the notion of having sex, while in a constant state of rage.

This thinking appeals across the spectrum, but I see it more on the right -- it's the GOP that doesn't believe you're worthy of consideration if you merely work at a job rather than run your own business. In any case, it's about conquering rather than coexisting in a society, and it's not healthy.

I keep reading that Hillary Clinton's greatest vulnerability in a 2016 presidential race will be her awful relationship with the press. I haven't read the Ken Auletta article on this yet, but The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner read it and has responded with what he apparently feels is a bold pronouncement: that Hillary has no one to blame but herself for her bad media relations. (I thought the vast majority of the press believed this, but Auletta apparently has a more nuanced take.)

However, Hillary's awful media relations somehow didn't prevent this from happening:
Americans overwhelmingly side with Hillary Clinton over Karl Rove in brain flap

Two-thirds of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll disapprove of the Republican strategist raising questions about Clinton's age and health in advance of her potential presidential run. The lopsided negative reaction to Rove's commentary -- just 26 percent approve of his topic of criticism -- includes majorities of every age group as well as Democrats and independents.

... Big majorities of nearly all demographic and political groups disapprove of Rove's focus, including men and senior citizens, two groups that the GOP needs in a general election. Only among the subset of conservative Republicans do a majority (52 percent) approve of what Rove said. Even among those who would oppose Hillary Clinton as a candidate in 2016, nearly half disapprove Rove's commentary....
Gee, do you think the public might already have well-formed, mostly positive opinions of Hillary Clinton and her husband, and therefore the Clintons might not need to stroke the media incessantly in order to remain in the public's favor? Could it possibly be that they've hit the sweet spot now, and the amount of negative coverage they get from the mainstream press engenders sympathy, the way Rove's attackdid?

I don't know how the press will possibly function in the next two and a half years if it's not being stroked by the presidential front-runner. This could be a real media crisis.


ALSO: I almost forgot to give you the key finding of this poll:
Hillary Clinton and her ex-president husband win substantial popularity in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. ...

Fifty-five percent of Americans say they’d support Clinton running for president in 2016. More, 63 percent, express a favorable opinion of Bill Clinton, the second-highest popularity rating he’s achieved in decades in the public spotlight....

Clinton's support as a candidate is similar to when it first was tested in an ABC/Post poll a year and a half ago (then 57 percent)....
Or as Oliver Willis says:

Heh. Indeed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


So what was Elliot Rodger's problem? Instapundit's wife, Dr. Helen Smith, said on Saturday that it was lack of mental health care. You see, young men never get the mental health care they need, thanks to evil feminists:
The Elliot Rodger Case: If Pick-Up Artists Are Guilty, Then So Are the Feminists

... Judgy Bitch makes the best interpretation I have seen thus far:
The fact is that Elliot's outburst does indeed highlight an issue of central importance to the MHRM [Men's Human Rights Movment] - the inadequate, almost non-existent treatment of mental health problems for young men. Socially, our treatment seems to be to wait until the tortured young man puts a bullet in his own head, and just pray that he doesn't take innocent victims with him.

As a strategy for health, it's not working very well.

Compare that to how we respond to women who are mentally fragile after giving birth. We screen for Post Partum Depression and throw money and resources into keeping both the women and their children safe, because if we don't do that, a lot of babies will end up dead. Women struggle with mental issues, too, and take it out on the innocent. But rather than ignore those women and hope for the best, we create programs designed to identify and help them.
Perhaps it is the feminists and their supporters who block funding and education going to boys' and men's issues that are to blame....

As a psychologist who has worked with men and boys for over 20 years, I can say that our society is devoid of programs and help for mental health issues for men or we try to give help that is not helpful. We focus on women and forget that boys and men have problems too.
No, she hasn't taken this post down, or updated it to acknowledge the significant amount of mental health care Rodger received throughout his life. (Being right-wing means never having to say you're sorry.) In fact, Robert Stacy McCain recommended the post just this morning, saying, "Dr. Helen is a psychologist who has specialized in studying male violence and is also the author of Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream -- and Why It Matters. If anybody is an actual expert in this area, she is." Um, maybe -- but she's not an expert on currently available facts.

Michelle Malkin's Twitchy thinks the problem is just the opposite:
One of the many dubious memes coming out of Friday's shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., is that Elliot Rodger simply needed some tender, loving psychiatric care....

Aw, the poor baby just needed a little "help" -- presumably from a mental health professional. Just one problem with that theory: In his manifesto, Rodger revealed that he was being seen by one of the best-known psychiatrists in Southern California as well as several therapists/counselors.
So evil feminist culture denied him psychiatric treatment and evil Hollyweird culture lavished him with mollycoddling therapists -- who, by the way, probably made him sicker, according to Reason's Brendan O'Neill:
Yes, he might have spent some late nights lurking on "men's rights" websites, but if the reports coming from those who knew him are to be believed, he spent 14 years visiting therapists.

To my mind, if we are going to say that any kind of "culture" was responsible for Rodger's rampage ... then we might want to examine the impact of mainstream therapy culture rather than obsessing over the fringe misogyny culture he might have dabbled with.

We know a handful of things about Rodger. One is that he visited therapists. Another is that he was full of self-regard, was incredibly self-obsessed, and was utterly outraged when people, especially women, didn't treat him with the love and respect he felt he deserved.

It is possible that these two things are connected, maybe even intimately connected. For one of the main, and most terrifying, achievements of the modern cult of therapy has been to churn out a generation of people completely focused on the self and in constant need of validation from others; a generation that thinks nothing of spending hours examining and talking about their inner lives and who regard their own self-esteem as sacrosanct, something which it is unacceptable for anyone ever to dent or disrespect.

... Therapy culture has created a new army of little gods made fearsomely angry by any perceived insult against their self-esteem. It has generated groups of people who, like something out of the Old Testament, think nothing of squishing things that offend them or hurt their sense of self-worth. It has made a whole new anti-social generation whose desire to protect themselves from emotional harm overrides the older human instinct to engage with other people and be tolerant of their differences. When Rodger says "I am a living god," he is speaking, not from any kind of wacky religious script, but from the mainstream bible of therapy.
So the therapy that Dr. Helen thinks castrating feminists denied Rodger was actually what made him kill people, and what turned him into a sociopath. (According to O'Neill, human history apparently contained no sociopaths -- "people who ... think nothing of squishing things that offend them or hurt their sense of self-worth" -- until the development of psychotherapy.)

In an case, it's all liberal culture's fault, as usual.


Bonus idiocy, from Dr. Helen's PJ Media colleague Bryan Preston:
Basically, the killer was a rich kid who was frustrated that he wasn't richer, connected to an industry obsessed by beauty that has its deeply ugly side too. Rather than work to achieve whatever his goals were, he felt entitled to own the world, setbacks led to more frustration, and he lashed out with deadly force. We could talk about the values we're no longer teaching our kids, that we're no longer even allowed to teach them. We could talk about mental illness treatment, in the context of a government that prioritizes abortifacient mandates and gutting the Bill of Rights while neglecting healthcare for veterans. But instead, we’ll all become familiar with the killer’s details and we'll fight about guns again. Even though even the most radical Democrat surely knows by now that they’re not getting our guns, period. Not gonna happen.
So: Rodger was concerned with money, not sex (pay no attention to what Rodger actually said, obsessively, about sex). Rodger actually should have had better mental health treatment, but President Obama -- who has a hand in everything! -- was so busy killing VA patients and mandating that Catholic employers provide sex pills that Rodgers couldn't see a shrink. Oh, and the bit about "the values we're no longer teaching our kids, that we're no longer even allowed to teach them"? That's probably a reference to telling kids that gays are evil. (Yeah, I'm sure things would have gone much better on Friday night if Rodger had internalized that message as well.)

Oh, and don't you dare take our guns. Never forget that.

I don't know what Joan Walsh is thinking here:
... in a few years, the GOP will lose the galvanizing and unifying issue of Barack Hussein Obama. It may be that some of the decline in the popularity of the Tea Party "brand," even among even Republican voters, relates to that: More people recognize that hate him or not, the president won two elections, and he's (probably) not going anywhere, rumblings about impeachment notwithstanding. Meanwhile, GOP voters know, because the GOP establishment has spent a lot of money telling them so, that the Tea Party cost Republicans control of the Senate. "Tea Party" no longer conjures up brave patriots in bright costumes, but losers who've cost the party elections, and whose Obama hatred not only failed to vanquish Obama but tainted the entire party with a toxic smog of racism.

So the shrill and amateurish nihilism that came to be associated with Tea Party politics has been rejected, while the Tea Party's political and policy demands have mostly been met....
She's trying to explain losses by tea party candidates in recent primaries and the decline in the tea party's popularity according to polls, even among Republicans -- but is she really implying that "shrill ... nihilism" is going to cease being a Republican unifying principle, or that once the GOP doesn't have Barack Obama to kick around anymore, it will permanently retire the strategy of rallying the base around the idea of kicking Democrats around?

That's not going to happen. Maybe race gives Obama-hate an extra bump, but the GOP voter base is always organized around hate -- hatred of Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as much as of Obama, and in the Bush years, when hatred of powerless elected Democrats wasn't enough, hatred of seemingly powerful celebrities as a substitute: Michael Moore, Dan Rather, Barbra Streisand, Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks. The GOP's "galvanizing issue" is always hatred --- that never changes, and it won't change for the foreseeable future. The only thing that will change is the identity of the enemy. (And yes, if Hillary Clinton doesn't run, the GOP will find a way to turn Martin O'Malley or Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand into the worst person on earth.)

A few years ago, Fox News told the rubes that the noblest haters wore the brand "tea party"; that's not true anymore. Chamber of Commerce types as well as Koch-funded organizations bankrolled tea party candidates; that's not true anymore. And, yes, more mainstream Republicans have internalized every tea party idea except shutdowns and default. So of course the tea party is in decline. But Republican nihilism isn't, nor is rallying voters around hate. It won't change.

Monday, May 26, 2014


At a time when high-minded citizens of the right blogosphere are self-righteously attacking liberals for trying to put the Elliot Rodger killings in a political context, let me just point out that Joe the Plumber has heard the calls for gun control by one shooting victim's father and has responded on his on blog with this message:
I'm not talking here about the three tragic murders Rodger committed by stabbing before his driving and shooting spree; I speak now only to the families of the gunshot victims in Santa Barbara:

It's a tragedy.

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But:

As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights.

I posted a screen shot not because I think Wurzelbacher is going to take the post down -- he won't -- but because I wanted to be sure you saw the "Enter to win the Family Gun Package Giveaway!" ad embedded in the post, just above Wurzelbacher's exhortation to the grieving father, Richard Martinez: "your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights." Here's a screenshot from the post describing Joe's Family Gun Package Giveaway (enter by May 31!):

Yeah, that seems like a tasteful thing to be advertising right now.

In his post about the Rodger killings, Wurzelbacher goes on to write:
As a father, husband and a man, it is my responsibility to protect my family. I will stand up for that right vehemently. Please believe me, as a father I share your grief and I will pray for you and your family, as I do whenever I hear about senseless tragedies such as this.

We still have the Right to Bear Arms and I intend to continue to speak out for that right, and against those who would restrict it – even in the face of this horrible incident by this sad and insane individual. I almost said "Obama Voter" but I’m waiting for it to be official.

I noticed the mainstream media have stopped the practice of immediately reporting the psycho maniac is a conservative Tea Party Republican Christian. Guess they're sick of having to hide being wrong every time when it comes out the whacko votes Democrat?

Mr. Martinez and anyone calling for more restrictions on American's rights need to back off and stop playing into the hands of the folks who merely capitalize on these horrific events for their own political ends.
Right, because no one on the pro-gun said would ever turn this into a political issue. Right, Joe?

I have serious questions about efforts to attach trigger warnings to works taught in schools. I agree that some people have post-traumatic stress reactions to material the rest of us can tolerate, but I think warning advocates often want to put labels on anything unpleasant, or any depiction of a moral outrage, regardless of whether it's likely to trigger post-traumatic stress in the vulnerable. Is that really how triggers work for the traumatized?

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, there was a story by Jeneen Interlandi about a new role-playing therapy for PTSD victims. Interlandi's story follws Eugene, an Iraq War veteran whose PTSD is triggered most profoundly by an incident in which he killed a young man who failed to stop at a checkpoint. The young man turned out to be unarmed. Eugene saw the grief of the young man's mother when she discovered the body, and this still haunts him.

Interlandi watched Eugene go through a couple of role-playing sessions led by a researcher named Bessel van der Kolk. This happened in group sessions, with various members of the group playing participants in the incident. Van der Kolk asked Interlandi herself to play the dead man's mother, and she did so.

Some time later, Interlandi contacted Eugene and asked him whether the therapy had helped him. He said it had -- temporarily. Then his PTSD was triggered again.

By what?
... he was trying to figure out what triggered the relapse. He thought it had something to do with a painting he saw. He attended an Asian art fair earlier in the week, and an Arab dealer was selling some contemporary paintings; most of them were of soldiers, but one was of a woman. She looked like me, he said. He remembered staring at it and freezing up.
A mother whose grief weighs on Eugene is played by another woman in a therapy session, and then Eugene sees a painting that resembles the substitute grieving mother and his PTSD returns full force. If you're crafting trigger warnings, how do you warn against something like that?

This reminds me of Dark Avenger's comment in response to my earlier post on trigger warnings:
In my limited experience(caution, one anecdote does not equal data) people who have had trauma in their past or PTSD due to bad life experiences get triggered by very specific things, not mentions of a subject/topics related to their trauma.

Ex: My mother survived 18 months in a civilian concentration camp run by the Japanese Imperial Army in Shanghai, China. She could talk about some of her life there without emotion, other subjects, there were still strong feelings that came to the surface when she spoke of them.

I once left a short-wave radio on, and I didn't know the frequency was one used by Japanese radio stations/ham operators as well as the program I had been taping by a timer-controlled cassette recorder.

Well, she heard Japanese coming out of said SW radio, and as she stated, "It scared the shit out of me." It immediately took her back to the camp, psychologically speaking.

It was one of the few times I really saw her in a rage. She knew that it was an accident on my fault, but it still didn't lessen her reaction to it....
I suspect that people who craft trigger warnings focusing on large injustices ("Trigger warning: racism; rape culture") do so because it serves as a substitute for being able to vanquish the large injustices themselves. Fighting injustice is hard, and you can never succeed outright -- but you can place large neon warning signs around depictions of large injustices and feel you've accomplished something.

But does that serve the needs of trauma survivors, or does it serve your own? I'm not sure.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


We're learning that Elliot Rodger, the self-pitying 22-year-old who killed six people in Isla Vista, California, on Friday night, was steeped in "pickup artist" culture. Slate's Amanda Hess explains what that means, quoting the most famous of Rodger's YouTube videos:
Rodger calls himself the "perfect guy" and a "supreme gentleman" who's been overlooked by women who prefer "obnoxious brutes." Then he lays out his plans to "enter the hottest sorority house of [the University of California, Santa Barbara], and ... slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there." To "all those girls I've desired so much," he says, "you will finally see that I am the superior one, the true alpha male."

Rodger's language is familiar to anyone who's spent time exploring the Pick-Up Artist or Men's Rights Activist communities. Rodger was a "Nice Guy," a man who feels he is entitled to sex based on positive personality traits known only to him.... He aspired to be an "Alpha," the most attractive, dominant man in his group, but felt he's been wrongly dismissed as an inferior "Beta." Pick-Up Artists, by the way, refer to women they would like to have sex with as their "targets."

Rodger was also allegedly a member of, a website for men who feel they've been tricked by the Pick-Up Artist pyramid scheme, which takes men's money and promises to teach them how to have sex with women. (And not just any woman, but one who scores at least a 7 on the PUA decimal rating scale of female attractiveness.)
It's not clear to me whether Rodger felt tricked by the pickup artist culture or just failed by it -- he clearly accepted its analysis of the nature of male-female relations wholeheartedly.

Pickup artist culture describes the way men and women relate to one another the way Fox News depicts the interaction of political forces in America. In each case, Both PUA culture and Fox News tell their followers that there's no place for compromise and negotiation, because the enemy (women for PUA, liberals and Democrats for Fox) are embodiments of pure evil who have all the power because they've rigged the game. In each case, the enemy can't be reasoned with -- it must be conquered. Both cultures attempt to persuade their followers that enlightenment makes ordinary people into superior beings, and the form the enlightenment takes is understanding that a state of war exists, a fact that seems self-evident, but the naive masses insist on denying it, presumably because they're under the enemy's sway.

Fox News and the rest of the angry right-wing media create a larger democratic culture in which the rest of us can't find negotiating partners because the followers of Fox feel they must conquer us or be conquered. The PUA culture is (I hope) less pervasive in the dating sphere (I'm married -- I don't know how bad it really is), but its followers can't be reasoned with, either.


PUA culture is creepy in other ways as well. The pseudo-scientific categorization of both men and women reminds me of the pitiless introduction of "efficiencies" engaged in by "turnaround artists" of the Bain Capital variety -- PUAs don't want to be sexually "inferior" and don't want to pursue the sexually "inferior," as they define the term, just as efficiency-minded takeover executives instantly want to jettison the parts of any company that don't generate significant profit. And yes, in PUA culture both genders are held to high "standards," as Amanda Hess notes:
When news of the shooting broke, PUA Hate members attempted to absolve themselves by critiquing Rodger's sex appeal ("Short lower third and gay midface, with zero brow ridge," one decided), ridiculing his mother's looks, and scrambling to assert authority among themselves. ("Only high-T guys should be allowed to give advice here. Nich, can you add that as a rule?" one poster said). Another poster suggested that Rodger was such a Beta that no one would care if he’d murdered people. "Nobody gives a shit about some socially deprived, narrow-clavicle twink with a delusional sense of self. He's a poser," he said.
Rodger himself took this sexual rank-ordering in explicitly racial (and racist) directions, despite his own mixed ancestry:
According to the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center], Rodgers posted comments [at PUA Hate] in January, beginning with "Saw a black guy sitting with 4 white girls," causing him to admit his frustration over white women socializing with minority men:
Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were extremely rage-inducing.

I passed by this restaurant and I saw this black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls. He didn’t even look good.

Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with 2 above average White Girls!!!

What rage-inducing sights did you guys see today? Don’t you just hate seeing these things when you go out? It just makes you want to quit life.
... Rodgers also wrote that Asian men could never date white women, leading a commenter of Asian descent to post a picture of himself with a white woman.

Rodger dismissed the photos as fake, writing: "Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You're just butthurt that you were born as an asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You'll never be half-white and you'll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge."

Rodgers had previously noted, "My father is of British descent, and my mother is of Asian descent, so that makes me a Eurasian."
Rodger's love/hate relationship with PUA culture seems like Fox viewers' love/hate relationship with America. Rodgers wholeheartedly believed in the PUA ordering of the sexual universe -- except that his obvious "Alpha" status was being ignored by the gratuitously cruel world of women. Similarly, Fox News rightists love America -- but they hate so many things about America, particularly the Democrats, liberals, non-whites, gay people, feminists, "takers," and so on who (in their eyes) thrive in America while not recognizing the superior morality and patriotism of the right.

Ultimately, it seems that these people are lying to themselves about their deprivation. PUAs don't really want sex (much less love) and rightists don't want their idealized America. What they really seem to want is the war.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


You may already know about this:
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown revealed new details about Friday night's drive by shootings in Isla Vista during a Saturday morning news conference, including a new death toll and a possible link to an ominous YouTube video....

Witnesses described seeing a black BMW speeding through the streets, spraying bullets at people and various targets....

Deputies found the suspect inside the BMW dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Brown said he did not know if the suspect was shot and killed by deputies or if the wound was self-inflicted....

In total, the sheriff confirmed seven people were killed, including the gunman; seven others are hospitalized either with gunshot wounds or traumatic injuries -- one with life-threatening injuries; there are nine separate crime scenes....

Word on the street quickly spread about an ominous YouTube video posted by a young man who identified himself as Elliot Rodger, titled "Retribution." The nearly seven minute long rant blasts women who've ignored or rejected him over the past eight years and warns that he will "punish you all for it."...
I'll post that video below, though I wonder if it'll be taken down soon. In fact, it's one of several videos posted Rodger on the same subject, many of them yesterday. In addition to "Elliot Rodger's Retribution," there's also "My reaction to seeing a young couple at the beach, Envy," as well as "Life is so unfair because girls dont want me" and "Why do girls hate me so much?" Rodger's black BMW is featured in many of these videos. (UPDATE: "Retribution" is gone from Rodger's YouTube page, but the other videos, oddly, are still up there -- the links still work. I've substituted the LiveLeak version of "Retribution.")

Rodger is the son of Peter Rodger, a filmmaker best known as the director of a documentary called Oh My God, which is an attempt to answer the question "What is God?" (Among the experts consulted in the film are Ringo Starr, Seal, snd Hugh Jackman.) Rodger was also an assistant director on The Hunger Games. In addition, he's a photographer whose work includes arty nudes.

I know what the NRA crowd is going to say about this: Nine separate crime scenes? In California, a gun control state? That's what you get when there isn't a good man with a gun around. (Right, because it's really easy for a good man with a gun to stop a shooting who's driving around trying to kill people.) The right in general is going to blame Hollyweird. (Because, y'know, there are no incidents of this kind anywhere else in America.)

But after we endure all that, I'm dreading the reaction of Ross Douthat. Now, maybe he'll decide that the story is just too tawdry for a man of his refinement. But if he does weigh in, I fear he'll focus on something Rodger says at about 0:53 in the video above:
I'm 22 years old. I'm still a virgin. I've never even kissed a girl. I've been through college for two and a half years -- more than that, actually -- and I'm still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I've had to rot in loneliness. It's not fair.
Is Douthat going to go there? Is he going to say that we wouldn't have had Elliot Roger cruising around with a gun if there weren't so much of that awful pressure on campus to have sex? Is he going to call for a return to in loco parentis and parietal rules?

But hey, maybe these folks have a point. Maybe we should do as both the gunners and Douthat propose -- we should have a gun free-for-all in all fifty states, and we should bring back a culture of enforced chastity for young people.

Hmmm ... do you think that's the right combination? Do you think there'd be a reduction in the number of suicidal mass murders if we had more weapons, plus increased pressure to maintain sexual purity?

Let me think....

Friday, May 23, 2014


I saw this earlier today:
Joe Scarborough said Friday that he doesn't understand what evidence Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has to back up his claim that opposition to President Barack Obama's signature health care law is driven by his race.

"I must say, I have been behind closed doors with thousands of conservatives through the years. I have never once heard one of them say in the deep south or in the northeast or in South Boston, 'Boy, I really hate Obamacare because that black president' -- no, I've never heard anybody come close to saying that," Scarborough said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And I have spoken to some wildly right wing groups. I have never heard it once."

Scarborough was reacting to a tense exchange between Rockefeller and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) Wednesday during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on health care. Johnson took offense when Rockefeller suggested that some of those who oppose the Affordable Care Act don't like the President because he's "of the wrong color."
Now, remember: I'm a guy who thinks that the next Democratic president is going to be under such merciless assault from wingnuts that the hatred is going to be impossible to distinguish from Obama-hate -- and that's true even though the next Democratic president will almost certainly be white. Right-wingers hated Bill Clinton. They hate Hillary Clinton. They hate Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They will hate Elizabeth Warren or Martin O'Malley or Andrew Cuomo or Brian Schweitzer if one of them is the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate rather than Hillary, and the hatred will only increase if one of them actually becomes president. And they will continue to hate Obamacare even if a future Democratic president and Congress modify it so it's significantly different from the current system.


If you tell me that race is the furthest thing from the minds of at least some Obamacare haters, you're not really paying very close attention.

It didn't take me very long to find these:

(Source; source; source; source; source.)

Surprised, Joe? You shouldn't be.

Also going viral on the right is this, from
Al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo treated better than our vets

... Here's another secret the White House doesn’t want you to know about the VA. Al Qaeda detainees get better medical treatment than our veterans.

Say what?

Yes, it’s true. I know because I served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005-2009 and visited Guantanamo Bay Naval Base over 30 times during those years.

Despite the fact that Al Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 terror attacks, killing 3,000 people in America, the admitted co-conspirators and their roughly 150 fellow jihadists at Gitmo have approximately 100 doctors, nurses and health care personnel assigned to them.

Doctors and medical personnel are at their beck and call. Got a cold, a fever, a toothache, a tumor, chest or back pain, mental health issues, PTSD? No problem, come right on in. Military doctors are waiting to see you.

The VA and Gitmo eligible patient-to-health care provider ratios speak volumes.

While the Gitmo ratio is 1.5 to 1, for America's 9 million veterans receiving VA health care and 267,930 VA employees, the ratio is 35 to 1...
The author is this is J.D. Gordon, a former Navy commander who now "serves as senior adviser to several Washington-based think tanks."

Gordon goes on to say:
The VA is a classic example of big government gone wild.
You know what I would refer to as "a classic example of big government gone wild"? Guantanamo. And, for that matter, the Bush/Cheney foreign policy that created it -- a foreign policy that was in place when Gordon worked for the Department of Defense, which, last time I looked, was part of "big government."

Now, some would argue that health care at Gitmo is first-rate only if you overlook, y'know, the force-feedings, or the reports of doctors participating in torture, or the whole indefinite-detention-without-trial thing, which can't be good for the prisoners' mental health. But it has been said that the medical care at Gitmo is excellent apart from all that -- in fact, the White House boasted that detainees get better health care than U.S. servicemembers:
In every case, enemy combatants held here receive medical care that is "as good as or better than anything we would offer our own soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines," the general in charge of the U.S. detention facility here said.
Typical of the Obama years! This general is proud of that!

... Oh, wait -- that wasn't from the Obama years. The date on that Defense Department news release was February 18, 2005.

But if Gordon is a typical conservative who thinks government screws up everything it touches, and he thinks Gitmo prisoners have excellent medical care, I'd like to ask him: Who does he think is providing the medical care at Gitmo? The private sector? Clearly not! The Gitmo prisoners can't choose their own doctors! If they need medical care, they have to appeal to a government bureaucrat! Right-wingers complain that Obamacare is a government takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy -- but the government controls 100% of the economy at Gitmo!

My belief is that the Bush administration put a decent health care regime in place at Gitmo, as part of a failed effort to paper over the obvious moral bankruptcy of Gitmo's existence. It's quit possible that, within the obvious constraints, the system works. If there's good health care at Gitmo apart from the obvious abuses, that would just prove that government doesn't screw up everything it touches, and doing a good job is just a matter of having the will to do it.

Well, we see this sort of illogic all the time. The people who say government is always incompetent also believe that government is brutally efficient at destroying capitalism and making people dependent on social programs so they'll always vote for the party that provides those programs. If government is so incompetent, why isn't it screwing that effort up? Why isn't the effort to create a nation of lazy takers instead creating a society of hyperambitious Republicans? Why is government only incompetent sometimes?

On Monday, at a forum in Manchester, New Hampshire, Dr. David Pook explained why he participated in the development of the Common Core educational standards:
The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society, I've been given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn.
That got a few jeers, but the rest was listened to respectfully:
And as a result, I think it's really important that all kids have an equal opportunity to learn how to read. I think I had decided advantages as a result of who I was, not (inaudible) of mine. And when I walk into places like Roberto Clemente High School on the West Side of Chicago, I think it's really important those kids learn how to read just as well as I had the opportunity to read. And in creating an equitable educational opportunity for all kids, I think this is actually the greatest civics lesson we could teach our kids.
This guy is now the embodiment of evil on the right, because a group called Campus Reform posted a video of this statement under the title "VIDEO: Teacher Says He Helped Write Common Core to End White Privilege."

(A word about Campus Reform: it's a project of the Leaership Institute, a group formed to "train conservatives." It was founded by Morton Blackwell, the guy who handed out Purple Heart Band-Aids at the 2004 Republican convention to mock John Kerry.)

Fox Nation is pushing this, as are Glenn Beck's Blaze and NewsBusters.

Now, maybe you don't like Dr. Pook either, or Common Core. But he's being attacked for an earnest effort to improve lousy schools.

And while he's being chided for wanting to end white privilege, he's also being attacked for hating black people. Thus, Breitbart quotes an writer named Kimberly Morin:
As Morin observes, the leftist thinking behind "white privilege" actually does a disservice to minority and lower income students.

"This man believes that minority kids aren't as smart as white kids so the standards have to be lowered in order for them to be able to read," she said.
Pook thinks kids will learn if their schools are good enough, so this, obviously, is the pretty much the opposite of what he said.

Pook is easy for the wingers to attack because, as Campus Reform notes, he teaches at the fancypants Deerfield Derryfield School, which, we're told, costs $28,535 a year, is 91% white, and doesn't follow the Core standards itself. But a school that's succeeding presumably has decent standards already. And the people who are attacking his employer's elitism are the same people who, when you propose taxing the rich or raising the minimum wage, rush to the defense of the wealthy, proclaiming that "no poor person ever gave me a job."

And wait -- it's bad that the Deerfield Derryfield School is 91% white? So right-wingers support racial quotas now? Besides, the school is in New Hampshire -- which is 94% white. So the school is more diverse than the state.

Here's the video for your Two Minutes' Hate. Fire up the telescreens.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


A couple of days ago, I noted that right-wingers are finally focusing on problems at the Veterans Administration, but not out of any concern for veterans -- no, the message of the VA scandal is that Obama sucks, according to the right. He's slow to act! The mainstream media is blaming him! The important thing for all Americans isn't to improve health care for veterans, it's to hate Obama!

A related right-wing talking point emerges in this op-ed by right-wing Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien. According to O'Brien, this scandal isn't about veterans' health care -- it's about Obamacare:
Where VA has taken veterans, Obamacare is leading all Americans

... [One] conclusion is probably just dawning on those Americans with the wit to see it, because so very few of us have had a brush with a medical system of which government is the sole proprietor: Putting a government bureaucracy in charge of one's health is a gamble likely to end badly.

And yet, if Obamacare stands, that is precisely the gamble each and every American eventually will take.

There is no better predictor of the course of a single-payer medical system in the United States than the VA system, because it is a single-payer system.

If an enrolled patient needs something done, he or she applies to the government-run system for approval; waits until the government-run system is ready to act; accepts the government-run system's solution or, if dissatisfied, appeals to that same government-run system for relief. Because the bureaucracy pays the bill, the bureaucracy makes the decisions -- when or if treatment will be given, and whether or not the patient has been well enough served....
(Good thing there's never any such bureaucratic sclerosis at private insurance companies or health care providers, amirite?)

O'Brien is far from the only right-winger pushing the "Yeah, veterans have it bad, but hey, what about that Obamacare?" line. At National Review, John Fund wrote, "No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population." Sarah Palin wrote, "until we elect leaders who'll buck the march to socialized medicine known as Obamacare, America’s health care system will go the way of the VA." The editorial page of the New York Post told us that "A look at the VA hospitals would have been more than enough to anticipate the massive problems that keep popping up as we try to implement ObamaCare." Rush Limbaugh said, "Folks, here we have a little microcosm of where we're all headed with Obamacare."

Veterans, schmeterans. Who cares about them? Certainly no one on the right. Right-wingers' eyes are still on the prize, and the prize is Obamacare repeal. (And, in the nearer term, the defeat of Democrats in 2014 and 2016 as the result of Obamacare-driven voter rage.)


In response to all this, Ed Kilgore writes:
... the longer the VA scandal stays in the public eye, the more we will hear arguments the VA should be broken up and its services privatized with federal regulations and subsidies replacing federal bureaucracies -- creating a system much like the one contemplated by Obamacare, as it happens. But at the same time, we’ll be told Obamacare itself is a failure because it involves the government in guar[an]teeing heath care.
Yeah, if the right ever stops electioneering long enough to address the VA's problems, the principal recommendation will obviously be "less government!" But I don't think the right will stop at recommending a system like Obamacare. If right-wingers do offer policy proposals for veterans' health care, I think they'll just repurpose their wish list for the health care system in general: vouchers, private insurance that can be purchased across state lines, and so-called tort reform limiting patients' ability to sue. They'll sell that last one as a way to keep "nuisance lawsuits" from harming veterans in need of care. And they'll sell the whole package as a demonstration project for the health care utopia we could all have if Obamacare is repealed.

Look for efforts in this direction sometime in 2015 if the GOP win control of both houses of Congress. And look for it to pass in 2017 if Republicans win the White House.


UPDATE: Oh, I almost missed this headline from The American Spectator's blog: