Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, November 30, 2015

He's A Terrorist

The guy who took hostages and shot people at the Planned Parenthood clinic is a terrorist.  He engaged in violence that targeted civilians and had political aims ("no more baby parts").

There is an understandable reluctance on the part of news organizations to point this out, because to point this out is to acknowledge that the GOP is stoking the fears and animus of these far right terrorists.  Fox News is a mainline feed of lies and distortions about the America we live in, that creates a feedback chamber that motivates increasingly violent and strident extremists.

But that 3 year old from Syria is what has Ted Cruz terrified.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Falcons

They start 5-0.  They are currently 6-5.

This might be the most Falcon season ever.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Colorado Shooter

Have you seen his picture?  I suppose if his skin was olive, it would be easier for the wingnuts to call him a terrorist, but he's a terrorist. 

Given that he basically acted on the lies that Carly Fiorina and others were spreading, how can you exonerate the visciousness of GOP rhetoric from these deaths?  

More than a year ago, two NYPD cops were shot by a lunatic motivated by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. That was wrong then and drew condemnation from the left. 

When will Fiorina and others issue their apologies. 

Bridge Of Spies

Finally got around to seeing Spielberg's latest.  It was perfect, yet somehow not great.  Every shot, every performance was flawless.  It was Hanks and Spielberg doing what they do best.  Flawless.

And yet, this was not Lincoln.  Or Saving Private Ryan.  Or even Munich.  As good as it was - intelligent, warm, humorous, and of course humanistic - it somehow soared.

Still, worth the ticket just to see Mark Rylance's performance.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What The...?

About half of Americans fear that they or a loved one will be a victim of a terrorist attack.  That's the highest number since immediately after 9/11.

I suppose if you want to include deranged lunatics in the terrorism category, then sure, I guess it's possible.

But not really.

Murders are down, violent crime is down, few Americans are in war zones...objectively speaking, things are pretty good.

But Fox News and even real news are constant purveyors of fear and anxiety.  It's their business model.  And so we are reduced to a nation of quaking cowards.

Remember Ebola?


We went to the Salvation Army Thanksgiving food distribution.

My boys were amazing, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and working their tails off.  Over 300 families got a full dinner last night.  Maybe 1500 people.

When we signed up, I thought, Good.  As we scrambled to get out of the house, I cursed the hassle.  But I wouldn't have traded that for anything in the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Don't Do Stupid Shit

I have to admit some frustration with Obama's go-slow approach to Daesh/IS.  I think there is a forceful response that can be imposed at least on Mosul and parts of Iraq.  We owe Iraq that, and if we do use ground troops there, we can up our contribution to ultimately political settlement, which frankly is going to require a Sunni state between Shia Iraq and Alawite Damascus.

However, if there is a good counter argument to "doing something" it is in Russia's actions.  Since putting Russian forces into Syria, Russia has suffered a terrorist attack on an airliner, attacked all the wrong people and now they have created a crisis with Turkey that could lead to all sorts of nasty repercussions.

Putin has become a favorite on the right for his "boldness" and "tough talk."  This is roughly the same dynamic that has catapulted Donald Trump to front-runner status.  The impulse towards appearing strong ultimately makes one weak.  And the focus on words and imagery ("Why won't Obama say Islamic terrorist?") ultimately betrays a lack of real ideas.

Russia has little plan in Syria beyond propping up Assad, which is an end-state, but not a strategy.  So they flounder around, bombing the wrong people and then provoking an international incident with Turkey.  I have argued and will continue to argue that Putin's belligerence in Ukraine and Syria is a sign of his weakness at home.  His economy is in the crapper, he's isolated and he's floundering from one crisis to the next.

We can see how this plays out, but Syria is getting worse.  And it's getting worse because Russia is floundering around in there.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's The Politics

It's not a secret why Americans are freaking out over Syrian refugees.  Fox News and the Republican party have convinced their partisans that - contrary to the evidence - Obama is the worst president in history who secretly wants America to fail.

If you point out that it's much harder to get into the US than to Greece, that refugees are vetted over a two year period, that Americans are much more likely to be killed by a lunatic with a personal arsenal... it just won't matter.

Fear makes you impervious to facts.

Don't believe me?

How's that Ebola panic working out?

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Prostitute visiting, Syrian demagoguing, human shit stain David Vitter goes down to defeat in Louisiana.

After Jack Conway somehow lost to Teanderthal Matt Bevin in Kentucky, it was hard to be comfortable with Edwards' lead over Vitter.  But a combination of Vitter's personal awfulness and Bobby Jindal's complete failure to execute the office of being a governor was apparently the conditions needed to elect a Democrat in the Deep South.

Still, if Sam Brownback can win re-election and Bevin can win running against a successful iteration of the ACA, it does seem that it will take a perfect storm to elect a Democrat down there.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Conservative Politics Of Division

The current debate over how much to really, really hate Muslims is part and parcel of a bankrupt ideology foisted upon the world by economic elites, who mobilize rubes by appealing to racism and tribalism.

While some GOP elites are somehow shocked by the ascendancy of the "collection of mummified foreskin and cotton candy" that is Donald Trump, the fact is that this is their monster.  They created him.  Why?

They did it because the very rich want to be extremely, filthy, astronomically rich.  They just don't want to pay taxes at all if they can help it, especially taxes that go to help the poor.

Ever since Hoover, the main conservative argument has been that any sort of program to help the poor will result in a "culture of dependency." This is Paul Ryan's argument - himself a product of Social Security benefits - that the safety net is a hammock.  It seems so intuitive: If you give someone money, they won't work.

Except that's just not true.  Certainly after a point, welfare programs can be so generous that people would rather stay at home and watch American Ninja than get a job.  And this would matter if benefits were really that generous.  But they're not.  And people want to work.  They want a job.

But they also want to be able to eat and have shelter and all sorts of other perks.

This evidence won't make a damned bit of difference to conservatives, just like evidence of global warming, the efficacy of our refugee screening program or the failure of the Laffer Curve has not made a dent on their collective ideologically certainty.

The great crisis we have in America today is that half the nation has decided on a set of beliefs and then basically ignored the mounds of evidence that contradict it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How Racist Was Woodrow Wilson?

Dylan Matthews has a piece wherein he argues that not only was Woodrow Wilson unusually racist in terms of 2015, but he was unusually racist in terms of 1915. He notes that Wilson began re-segregating the federal workforce at the suggestion of his Postmaster General and Treasury Secretary.  So clearly, these men were also as racist or more racist than Wilson.  The head of the IRS in Georgia said the proper place for a "Negro was the cornfield."

Matthews points out that civil rights activists like WEB DuBois and Oswald Garrison Villard (a descendant of William Lloyd Garrison) were very critical of Wilson.  But that doesn't really put Wilson out of touch with his times.  If anything, DuBois and others were out of touch with the times.

The period from 1880-1930 were perhaps the worst for race relations in the country's history.  Contrary to popular opinion, Jim Crow laws didn't clamp down immediately after the Civil War.  It wasn't until the Populist movement sought to mobilize poor white and poor black farmers that the power structure of the South moved strongly to completely isolate black southerners.

This was the time period when county fairs held eugenics competitions to see which babies were most "Nordic."  They'd measure the head shape and the blueness of a child's eyes and award the happy couple for producing superior racial offspring.  Hitler actually borrowed from American eugenicists.

This was a time period when the Ku Klux Klan pretty much ran the state of Indiana, and Warren Harding - generally considered much better on race than Wilson - met Klan leaders in the Oval Office.  Wilson's adulation of Birth of a Nation shouldn't be considered without noting that it was popular among broad swaths of the American public.

Wilson's approval of the "Lost Cause" interpretation of Reconstruction was the dominant interpretation of the time.  William Dunning was at Columbia University - not Ole Miss - when he described Reconstruction as a crime upon the South.  Howard Beale wrote that Republicans only perpetrated Reconstruction so they could win votes from a naive and compliant black populace.  Reconstruction was seen as a crime committed upon the South as a way of balancing the scales against the Southern crime of secession.  "See, we are both wrong!  Now, let's all get along, and we'll forget the realities of race in America."

Matthews brings up Wilson's arbitrary defeat of a racial equality statement in the League covenant, but then notes that this was done to appease the British and their own racist policies.  He lauds Teddy Roosevelt in comparison, a man who called the entire Colombian legislature a "pack of dagos" and backed down from having Booker T. Washington to a formal White House dinner.  The same Roosevelt who caved to racist pressure over the Brownsville Affair.

You can make a strong case that the difference between Roosevelt and Wilson was that Roosevelt was forced to be more racist than he really was by political realities.  Wilson was a dyed in the wool white supremacist.  But you can't argue that political pressure was enough to make Roosevelt cave on his principles, and then argue that Wilson was somehow out of step with the times.

Wilson - like many educated Southerners - was a paternalist, believing strongly in black inferiority, but also in the responsibility of whites to take care of this "child-like" race.  So while his white supremacist views were ironclad and inflexible, he was probably towards the more enlightened edge of white Southerners - again, not saying much.

But was he notably out of step with an America that banned the Chinese from entering this country because of their race?  Or a country that risked going to war with Japan over racism in the San Francisco schools?  Or a country that stole and kept the Philippines because they assumed "brown people" couldn't grasp self-rule?

Wilson was a racist - unapologetic and vocal in his racism.  Students who are protesting at Princeton got that right.

But sadly, he was very much in tune with his times.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This Is Good, But Too Late

Read it, go look at the roll call vote to make it even harder for refugees to get here and then weep.

It's Called Terrorism For A Reason, Assholes

The ongoing freakout over admitting Syrian refugees is as depressing as it is inevitable.  It is part and parcel of the Trumpenproletariat's adamant and unfounded belief that the Mexican border is completely unguarded and illegal immigrants are streaming over it like orcs at Helms' Deep.  This is manifestly untrue, but that doesn't matter.

The argument is that Obama is just letting them in, except Syrian refugees go through an 18-24 month screening process, just like all refugees do.  Bring this up, and the response is that we simply can't trust government bureaucrats.  So, "He's not doing anything!"  Yes, he is.  "You can't trust him to do the things I want him to do!"  Nice reinforcing arguments.

To argue that this isn't a manifestation of the deeply rooted and seemingly growing racism of the GOP is dubious, in the extreme.  They were freaking out about Syrian refugees before Paris.  This is simply a target of opportunity.  Anti-Muslim bigotry has been part and parcel of the GOP base since 9/11.  This, despite the ongoing bloody toll caused by angry white men armed to the teeth.  More Americans have died at each others hands in the past week than died in Paris.  But any solution to that is politically impossible.  Demonizing a group that has evidently don't nothing wrong - that's racism.  It's demonizing them because of their group, not their actions.

The only proper response to this is the one Obama and Dannel Malloy have taken.  Obama is calling the bigots out on their cowardice.  Because if they won't cop to the racism, they have to admit to the cowardice.  If they won't admit they just hate Muslims, then it's because they are really fearful of a 3 year old orphan.  Malloy has made the moral case that the most American thing we can do is take in the suffering.

The consistent drumbeat from the Democrats should take is the one Booman suggests.  Point out that giving into quaking, pants wetting fear is un-American.  Point out that rejecting Syrian refugees is exactly what IS wants.  Point out that the attackers in Paris were likely radicalized because the French don't treat their Muslim population with respect, and if we want to make sure there are no Paris attacks here, we have to stop creating them through fear, hatred and naked bigotry.

But mostly go with the cowardice angle.  It will be fun watching the same people who fawn over Putin get called out for being the cowards they are, hiding behind tough words and empty actions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Bloody Arithmetic

The completely predictable reaction to the Paris attacks shows how successful terrorists can be at influencing those who are already prone to fear "others."

More Americans have died by gun violence in the last week than died in the Paris attacks.  If it was simply about the loss of life, then we would respond to the crisis of violence in America with the same sort of sweeping generalities and oppressive measure assholes like Donald Trump are throwing about.  He wants to close the mosques.  How many Muslims have committed acts of terrorism since 9/11?  How many White Christian Nationalists have?

If it was just about the number of people killed, the Paris attacks don't measure up.  It is precisely because they came from out of the blue that makes them scary.  And it is the fear that IS is depending on.  They are losing ground in Syria.  They are unpopular across the Muslim world.  They WANT a conflict of civilizations.  That's why they attacked Paris.

Similarly, if we assume that these radical takfiri groups can carry out a mass casualty event every four or five years, how many soldiers lives is that worth?

If the solution is to invade Syria, how many NATO soldiers die?  Are their lives somehow less valuable than the people who died in Syria?  I legitimately ask the question, because it's tricky.  They did - to a degree - volunteer to risk their lives.  But how many dead soldiers is it worth to defeat IS?

More Americans died in Iraq than on 9/11.  That wrought zero net positive change to the region.  Leaving aside the tens of thousands of injured, how do we reconcile the number of dead Americans in Iraq with the dead on 9/11?  Which was worse?

I've said for the last few years that Syria can't be our problem.  IS is trying to make it our problem.  While I am not reflexively opposed to going to war - real war - with them, because they really are that evil, I think we need to reflect on what those costs must be.

What is the value of each life lost?

UPDATE: If we do feel forced to escalate, this letter encapsulates my thinking:

Who Knew?

George Bush was apparently the compassionate conservative he said he was.  Because the rest of the conservative movement is composed of flaming hate mongers.

Notably not on the hate parade?  Condi Rice.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Apparently the great sin of Obama and the Democratic candidates for President is that they won't use the term "radical Islam."  This goes back to the bullshit about Benghazi and whether or not or when Obama used the term "terrorist attack."

I suppose this makes sense, as they are focused on the great power of words.  By demonizing Muslims as a group, they reinforce the "us vs them" narrative that drives so much of conservative politics.  Scary brown people - whether they be Mexican or Muslim - are all that conservatives need to keep their fear and panic warm and burning bright.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Does This Change Things?

I am presuming that last night's attacks in Paris represent an escalation by ISIS against the West.  And the West will respond in turn.  Perhaps Hollande will invoke Article 4 of the NATO agreement.  Perhaps we will go to war in Syria.

Charlie Pierce notes that this is the ongoing cycle of violence between "barbarians" and civilization and after we up the ante, the Islamist fanatics will up the ante again.

Maybe that's true.

Personally, I think a few NATO divisions with an American division or two can make short work of ISIS.  A Toyota pickup with a mortar in the back isn't much match for an M1A1 Abrams tank.  The caliphate - if NATO so chooses - can be wiped from the earth.  And maybe it's time for that.  Syria was sort of our problem, because our invasion of Iraq destabilized the region and created a refugee crisis that led to the Syrian civil war that led to ISIS.

But in a larger sense, Syria was not our problem.  ISIS was a local tragedy, but not a geopolitical concern of NATO, beyond our desire to degrade their ability to do anything.

I suppose the Paris attacks could change that.  And perhaps it is time.  Perhaps after bringing down a Russian airliner and killing Parisians in cafes and concert halls, ISIS has changed what they mean for the rest of the world.

I'm sure the Neo-Cons will crow about being right about ISIS.  No one ever disputed that they weren't violent thugs.  And I'm sure they will say that those Parisians would be alive today if we had just taken action in 2012.

I doubt that.  In fact, if we do move into Syria, I'm sure things will get worse from a terrorism front before they get better.

Friday, November 13, 2015

This Is Right, But So What?

Ezra Klein points out that things are much, much better than Republicans make them out to be.

But given the never ending drumbeat of alarmist and inaccurate bullshit that people who watch the news are fed, it's difficult for anyone to think things are better than they were.  And yet they are.

So running on an unrealistic picture of the economy and the world in general is all the Republicans have and it's probably enough.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's Yeat's World

The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

I got nothing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ben Carson Is Tired Of Running For President

That's the only reason I can think of to explain this.  Unless maybe he just relocated his soul.

Historical Illiteracy And Economic Innumeracy

Reading the transcripts of the debates is very painful for someone who teaches history and government.

Consider the following statement by Princeton and Harvard graduate Ted Cruz, that there were no boom and busts under the gold standard.  This is precisely the opposite of reality.  The gold standard guaranteed a deflationary episode every decade, as the quantity of gold failed to keep up with the demand for currency.  Bank notes - unregulated and produced by every random bank in the country - took the place of a managed currency.  I can understand Ben Carson not knowing this, but Ted Cruz is ostensibly an educated person.

There was some sort of bizarre exchange about bank bailouts that roughly followed along the lines of "I would not bail out the banks, because Dodd-Frank is bad and we need more regulations, except for the regulations in Dodd-Frank."  It was so freaking bizarre, I still have no idea what was said.

You had Trump inveighing against China exploiting TPP, when literally the only compelling argument for TPP is that it counterbalances China's growing influence in the Pacific Rim.

You had Rubio somehow saying that welders make more than philosophers, which took about 30 seconds of fact checking to go down in flames, yet had to be a prepared line, because....seriously, welders and philosophers?

You had the preponderance of candidates agreeing with Trump's toxic message of, "Your wages are too high" and coming out against minimum wage increases.

You had Trump promising some sort of ethnic cleansing campaign of Mexicans by referencing Operation Wetback, largely regarded by those who give a shit as one of the worst federal actions on civil rights and liberties since World War II.

You had Carson give an answer on Syria so incoherent that I defy you to read it and tell me what the hell he said.

You had Fiorina - who may have yet to say a factually verifiable thing in her entire campaign - complaining about Clinton's lying.

You had several candidates tout their incredibly regressive tax plans, including a VAT tax and a flat tax, that fly in the face of even a partisan accounting of balancing the budget.

And you had Rand Paul and John Kasich every once in a while interjecting some sanity and objective facts into the debate.  As a result, I expect their poll numbers to fall.

These people are insane.  And I mean that in the sense that they are psychotic.  They have no objective grasp of reality.  Or they do and say these things anyway, which makes them sociopaths.

God help us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Street Gangs With Badges

Ed at Gin and Tacos uses the above phrase to describe the police in reference to this video of police arresting a bunch of white college kids.

In some of the handwringing over recent protest actions by college students at Yale and Missouri, one thing missing is the idea of common cause.  For the students, especially at Yale, who are wrapped up in their own hurt feelings and their refusal to engage in dialogue with those they disagree with, they are missing an opportunity to create change.

Once you engage in "my victimhood is bigger than your privilege" you've effectively walled off the opportunity to create a true political movement.  You've, in fact, divorced yourself from politics in favor of group introspection.

The issue of police violence towards the population is a real issue.  I've been absolutely reamed out by a cop for driving 60 in a 55 on the Hutchinson Parkway.  I sat there and took it, because I didn't want to pay the fine, but I'm sure if I had said anything, I was going to wind up hand-cuffed by the side of the road.  This guy came to my window to pick a fight, and he knew he had the force of the badge to back him up.

And this is only going to get worse. As cops feel more and more under siege, they are going to lash out more and more at the civilian population.  Every citizen is going to be seen as a potential enemy.

In the video, there is a clear line between a few of the cops who are looking to de-escalate the situation and a few who are looking the beat the shit out of some people.  These were white kids who were playing music too loud.  And for that they got the shit beat out of them and tazed.

The libertarian impulses of many Americans could be strung together across party lines, if we allowed any cooperation across party lines anymore.  There are some who crave the authoritarian society that this sort of policing represents, but I doubt the majority of Americans do.

Rand Paul might have been a voice on this issue, but he's lost it.

Can Hillary Clinton reconcile BLM with white libertarians?  Or will she get shouted down for denigrating the the unique struggles of black people in America?  That's a key test for her and a key test for BLM.

Marshall On Carson

I've found Josh Marshall's analysis of Ben Carson's travails the best.  Try this on for size:

The issue is more that, seemingly without fail, every misperception or failed memory Carson invariably casts in the most self-glorifying and self-righteous light imaginable. As I suggested above, the most charitable reading of the Carson spectacle is that Carson is a sort of self-awareness Mr Magoo consistently or at least repeatedly misunderstanding or misremembering incidents in his own life and piecing them together or reconstructing them a narrative of his own awesome. Much like his predilection for confidently pronouncing on topics he knows absolutely nothing about, this is less a matter of failed memory (if we're to interpret this generously) than arrogance.
Here is the crux of the issue.  Carson has absolutely zero experience running anything larger than a hospital department.  He has zero experience in elective office.  His candidacy is ENTIRELY about his personal narrative and the fact that he is the African American conservative who embraces both the GOP narrative of self-improvement in the face of impossible odds and can attack Obama without getting labeled racist - and in fact inoculates Republicans from the charges of racism that have swirled around them since Obama was elected.
These stories puncture Carson's personal narrative and deflate his calm, soothing demeanor.
I've never felt like Carson was a serious presidential candidate, so much as a branding tour.  How much longer will he suffer the indignity of having his bullshit called out?  How long before the sorrowful press conference where he leverages his victimhood into a three book deal with Regnery Press? 

Monday, November 9, 2015


At this point it could become its own field of rhetorical study.

The key graph:

In each of these cases, you get the sense of a tiny kernel of truth which was told and embellished countless times until it congealed into its current fairly preposterous form, making up one part of the Ben Carson morality tale. To be clear, Carson's personal story is plenty laudable enough on its own. He was born into impoverished home, with a determined single mother with a very limited education and with determination and hard work he went to the country's best schools and became an accomplished surgeon. That's pretty good. But so many of the set-piece stories along the way sound like classic fish tales. Carson once had a two pound Largemouth Bass on his line and through a hundred retellings, it became a hundred pound monster that ate Carson's fishing partner and only got away after trying to devour Carson himself.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chait On The Partisan Divide

This is a really good piece.

The More I Learn About Ben Carson

The scarier he becomes.

What could be more terrifying than a President with an unwavering sense of his own mental and moral superiority?

God, Country And Yale

Here is an interesting run-down of a controversy at Yale over Halloween costumes.

No, seriously.

The issue can roughly be boiled down thusly: Halloween is a transgressive holiday in a lot of ways. Masks, pranks and so on.  And college students are at the age where they are both mature enough to know better and immature enough to inflict real cruelty on each other.  And kids at Yale are often ridiculously self-confident, especially those fifth generation legacy assholes.

So, someone sends out an email urging people to be sensitive when coming up with costumes, enough with the blackface.  A professor responds that we shouldn't require bans on behavior: students should feel free to make bad choices, but then be held socially responsible for those choices.  And also that students of color should take responsibility for pointing out to their peers why their costume might be offensive.  Students responded in ways typified by the line, "I don't want a debate, I want to talk about my pain."

I am broadly sympathetic to both sides of the debate.  Students need to confront things, not hide from them.  But minority students can often feel marginalized, especially at a place like Yale.  How would you like to be a black student in Calhoun College?  Why do we ask minority students to speak out against things they find insensitive?

But why shouldn't people be assholes if they want to be?  And if they are being assholes, isn't that the proper context for everyone to explore these issues?  If your friend comes downstairs in his OJ Simpson costume, isn't that an opportunity to point out that he's being a huge dick?  Of course, in many ways, he probably is actively trying to be a dick.  So, how do we deal with that?

It is critically important that young people learn emotional resilience and also empathetic sensitivity.  Bans on certain speech or behavior doesn't accomplish either of those things.  The minority student is expecting a level of insulation that the world simply doesn't provide.  And the frat boy asshole isn't learning why his costume isn't "just a joke."  But neither do you want a campus that pulls itself apart over freaking Halloween costumes.

I was at Dartmouth when the Review assholes attacked the shanties protesting apartheid (the night before MLK Day, no less).  It was tense and ugly.  At the time, I was aware of feeling that divestment was a waste of time and the Review guys were assholes.  No one really liked the shanties or the sanctimoniousness of those that lived in them.  But once the Review people attacked the shanties, I become a lot more sympathetic to them.  Not enough.  I can't say I understood apartheid well enough at the time to have a strong opinion against it.  Nor could I see into the future to a time when international sanctions and condemnations ultimately led to the end of the apartheid state.

But there was something profoundly educational about that ugliness, and certainly not just for me.  I worry that an effort to keep people safe will restrict those educational opportunities.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Expanding On Last Night's Post

The Politico piece on Carson's West Point story is only slightly a hack job.  What clearly happened was that someone - maybe Westmoreland, maybe not - told Carson he could go to West Point for free, because he was such a good student.  Carson took this to mean that he was being offered a scholarship.  We see this all the time with students who get a "letter of interest" from a coach and then think they are going to Harvard.  If the story tells us anything about Carson it is that seems to have a profound indifference to things that he is indifferent about.  He never really looked into West Point, so he thinks he was being offered a scholarship, when he was only being encouraged to apply.

The pyramid story is simply another reminder of his fringe religious fundamentalism and disdain for experts.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece out today further calling into question aspects of Carson's biography. (It's behind a pay-wall, so I don't know what it says.)

All politicians embellish and obfuscate.  You shape and mold your story as needed.

But politicians typically have a career in public office to point to as a record of their achievements and philosophy.  Carson is basically running on his biography.  His message is that he is a Christian, a staunch conservative not sullied by Washington, an African-American and has a remarkable life story.  Conservatives are clearly looking for an outsider this year, and they are tired of being called racist for opposing Obama.  Carson is - to paraphrase Sterling Archer - a unicorn.

But beyond the fact that he isn't Obama and isn't Jeb!, Carson has run on his life story.  His policy pronouncements veer from the unintelligible to the inane.  He has no expertise running a large operation of any kind.  The entire rationale for his campaign is his life story.

And so it matters that his life story is perhaps less heroic than he is making it out to be.  It matters that he endorses quack medicine.  It matters that he confuses pyramids with silos.

Of course, this entire campaign might be a grift anyway, so....

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a list that is only likely to get longer.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ben Carson Is Target Rich

So far we've got stabbings, pyramids and phantom West Point appointments. 

This is only the beginning. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Obama's Singular Failure

There is a theme developing at Vox that the Democrats are in crisis.  I guess I would say, yes and no.  Democrats have an easy path to the White House, a difficult but achievable road to the Senate and an impossible road to the House.  But they are withering on the vine at the state level, as noted by the tweet in the Vox piece.

Of course, the decline in absolute numbers for Democrats comes after a historic set of wave elections in 2006 and 2008.  But the real issue is that Obama has failed in the issue that launched his career: the idea of post-partisanship.

It was always a chimera, but Obama made that a goal of his, and he has failed.  If anything, America is more riven by the red-blue divide than ever.  This is not entirely his fault.  The GOP has basically adopted a position of being opposed to facts, science and evidence in their implacable hostility towards his agenda.

But the continued apathy of Democratic voters and the structural problems of the House districting process, may mean that there needs to be a Republican president - with all the crackpot economics we saw under Bush and continue to see in places like Kansas and Louisiana - to restore Democratic majorities to the Congress.

I have no idea how bad it will have to get in the red states before Republicans lose control there.  Nothing seems to have mattered so far.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Matt Bevin Wins In Kentucky

Despite trailing in almost every poll imaginable, Matt Bevin defeats Jack Conway.  In the end, Kentucky's "redness" won out.

The kicker is that Bevin will likely decide to wrest health care away from about 400,000 Kentuckians, if we are to believe what he has said in the past.  Either he goes back on his promise and maintains the popular Kynect program, or the voters of Kentucky will realize the consequence of electing Bevin in short order.


Watch the Kentucky and Louisiana governors races. Kentucky is kind of a mandate on the ACA. Louisiana a mandate on poor GOP governance. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Donald Shows His Cards

Trump is going after Rubio.

Increasingly, the idea that Trump is a Sleeper Agent Democrat looks more and more plausibl.