How conspiracy-mongering and deliberate ignorance hounded Cecilia Lewis out of TWO jobs

Go read this long piece at ProPublica right now.

The GOP’s hysteria about critical race theory — which, again, is a graduate-level / law-school topic, not something EVER part of K-12 instruction — is completely unhinged, which is exactly the way the GOP likes it. The lie runs ’round the world while the truth is still lacing its shoes, and the Gish gallop of bullshit wins the day for them.

Their pantswetting fear of the 1619 Project and ongoing crusade to make absolutely sure no student is told the unvarnished racist truth of our country’s history is just another step down the road to an Orwellian Ministry of Truth.

I mean, it’s a stone cold FACT that the nation was founded on slavery. Slavery is IN THE CONSTITUTION. When slavery ended, the whites in power waited about 30 seconds before encoding a system of racial apartheid into the country’s laws that persisted until the 1960s. What came after is a legacy of structural racism that is STILL part of everyday American life. You cannot understand America without understanding — or at least trying to understand — the African American experience in this country.

Seriously. Go read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations and tell me he’s wrong.

The Republican party is opposed to acknowledging ANY of this. They are the white grievance party now; they openly court white nationalists and place them in positions of power. And their mass of amped-up numbskull followers rally around school boards and engage in ridiculous and vindictive campaigns like the one that caught Lewis.

SCOTUS to Constitution: Drop Dead

In Egbert v Boule, decided yesterday, the conservative majority ruled that Federal agents are allowed to invade your home and assault you with impunity just as long as you live within 100 miles of the coast or a US border.

Conveniently for law enforcement, 60% of the US population lives in that now Constitution-free zone.

ACLU coverage of the case here, not yet updated for the decision. I expect SCOTUSBlog will be on it before long.

Ken Paxton is a craven, evil, jackass

The new anti-trans opinion from the office of our criminally-indicted AG here in Texas directs the Texas Department of Child Protective Services to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Caught in this fascist dragnet are innocent families doing their best to raise their children with love, including the Briggle family in Denton. The Briggles are interesting here because, in the wake of some bathroom bill nonsense 5 years ago, they invited Paxton to dinner on the theory that perhaps actually KNOWING some trans people might matter. He even came!

Spoiler: It did not matter to Paxton. It does not matter to Paxton that trans children are at DRASTICALLY higher risk for suicide and self harm. It does not matter to Paxton or Abbott or any Republican that steps like ones they’re taking INCREASE those risks. No, none of this matters to them because they do not actually care about trans people one way or another.

All they care about is riling up their increasingly reactionary and dangerous base. They need an inflammatory issue to drive voter turnout, and the vanishingly small minority that is the trans community is a convenient target.

This is, I think, even WORSE than them being simply bigoted assholes. I mean, I think they probably ARE bigoted assholes, too, but the absolutely craven and monstrous disregard for the lives of real, actual people here is breathtaking, and it has real-world consequences.

If you vote for this man, or any of his cronies, you are dead to me.

This is positively soviet

The GOP really, really hates talking about racism, so in New Hampspire, it’s now illegal — at least in the classroom:

The New Hampshire state legislature passed House Bill 2, the Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education, earlier this year and Sununu signed it into law in June. The bill text says the law “prohibits the dissemination of certain divisive concepts related to sex and race in state contracts, grants, and training programs.” It goes on to describe “divisive concepts” as a number of different things, including ideas like New Hampshire or the United States being “fundamentally racist or sexist” or anything that indicates “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” The passage of the New Hampshire law was part of a broader trend that’s been playing out in red states as Republicans fear-monger about the academic framework called Critical Race Theory, manufacturing outrage about the concept for the better part of the past year.

Who Is Josh Hawley?

Well, the Times has you covered here.

Tl;dr? He’s a raging right-wing theocrat indistinguishable from the Taliban but for the flavor of religion.

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

**In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. ** Emph Added

Go read the whole thing.

Josh Marshall Lays It Out

You should go read this piece, which ends:

[T]he President isn’t really on trial here. His guilt is too obvious and established. The question here is whether the GOP, his party, will take any step to restrain an obviously bad acting President. The answer to that is pretty obvious at this point. But it’s that more than the President’s guilt that needs to be elucidated, proven. This may be a subtle distinction. But it’s an important one. Getting it right can, I believe, put right what seems intuitively out of balance in these proceedings.

Democrats are going through the motions of trying to convince their GOP colleagues, even if in practice they know this is not going to happen. They need to shift gears. This isn’t about convincing their Republican colleagues. It’s about showing them up, indicting them for the decision they have very clearly made. Frustration, outrage, befuddlement are all in their way expressions of weakness. Republicans are committed to defending President Trump at all costs no matter what he does. That’s not something to try change. It’s what you’re trying to demonstrate.

Steven Pinker, the Most Annoying Man in the World

This article summarizes very well my reservations about Pinker and his brand of “public intellectual.”

It begins:

You know, of course, what the most grating and infuriating human behavior is. It is not when another person is simply being unreasonable. It is when that person is constantly insisting that they are Just Being Reasonable, and wondering why you’re acting so crazy and irrational, while they themselves are in fact being extremely goddamn unreasonable. It is not when they are just wrong, but when they top it off by patronizingly explaining your own views to you, purporting to refute them, while not having the faintest understanding of what those views actually are.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is that guy. He thinks many people are very unreasonable, and makes sweeping claims about their irrationality and moral imbecility, but often doesn’t bother to listen to what they actually say. While insisting for page upon page on the necessity of rationality, he irrationally caricatures and mocks ideas he hasn’t tried to understand. Then, when the people who believe those ideas become upset, he sees this as further proof of their emotion-driven thinking, and becomes even more convinced that he is right. It is a pattern displayed by many of those who are critics of “social justice” and the political left. Pinker, however, takes it to an extreme: Nobody has ever tried to look more Reasonable while being so ignorant and condescending.

If you’re curious about Pinker, go read the whole thing.

Why the AR-15 is different, and what that means

So, this is where your favorite gun-savvy lefty explains some things.

Lately, we’ve heard a LOT about the AR-15, which is the civilian and semi-automatic version of the M-4 used by our military. The rifle is ubiquitous today; until recently, I’d bet 90% of America was within 20 miles of a store that would sell them one this afternoon. They’re not that expensive, and they’re absolutely terrifying — it’s not for nothing that they’re the weapon of choice for mass shootings.

The the AR-15 is really just one of a class of magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifles chambered for a particular bullet type (the proper term is “round” or “caliber”) usually abbreviated to “5.56”. The proper name is 5.56 x 45mm NATO.

It’s not an especially beefy or powerful round in the realm of rifle rounds; most folks hunt deer with far larger calibers. It’s relatively small size, though, makes it very, very well suited for rapid fire because it produces so little recoil (“kick”). Sure, you almost never see a fully-automatic AR used for crimes, but it hardly matters because a semi-automatic version will fire as quickly as you can move your finger.

That small round packs a tremendous punch — especially since it’s usually shot from a platform that allows or even encourages the shooter to keep firing.

So in this context, take a look at this piece by a Parkland area radiologist, speaking about the wounds from the MSD shooting:

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns.

This is from a radiologist with plenty of exposure to handgun wounds. They tend to be relatively simple and manageable, and if the bullet manages to avoid something critical like the aorta or the heart, the patients tend to survive:

In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?


Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

I have seen a handful of AR-15 injuries in my career. Years ago I saw one from a man shot in the back by a swat team. The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different from a low-velocity handgun injury. The bullet from an AR-15 passes through the body like a cigarette boat traveling at maximum speed through a tiny canal. The tissue next to the bullet is elastic—moving away from the bullet like waves of water displaced by the boat—and then returns and settles back. This process is called cavitation; it leaves the displaced tissue damaged or killed. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.

Let’s quantify this. Wikipedia can help; let’s compare the 5.56 to the most popular handgun round, 9mm.

Firearm ballistics are a complicated area that people LOVE to argue about, but the gist of the system boils down to the bullet’s mass and the amount of energy pushing it forward. The bullets are measured in grams (or sometimes another unit called grains); we talk about energy in terms of muzzle velocity and downrange energy. The difference, as the author notes, isn’t small:

  • A 5.56mm round involves a fairly tiny bullet (~ 3-4 grams, so more than a penny and less than a nickel) moving at about 900 m/s, and will deliver on the order of 1,800 joules downrange.
  • The 9mm pistol users a heavier bullet (7 to 8 grams, so twice as massive as the 5.56), but it’s moving far slower: usually the neighborhood of 350 or so m/s, so the energy delivered when it his something is also far lower (~ 500 joules).

An AR-15 is also engineered to shoot quickly, and shield the user from almost all the recoil. I’ve shot one several times; it’s very easy to shoot, and very easy to shoot quickly without losing the target. Frankly, it’s easier to stay on target with an AR than it is with most 9mm pistols.

This is why the wounds the Parkland physician saw were so much worse, and why mass shootings end with so many dead: because it’s easy to get a weapon that will fire very many of these very lethal rounds very quickly. And the NRA likes it this way.

Oh, one more thing: Gun violence is clearly a public health problem in the United States, but we don’t study it. Why?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the appropriate agency to review the potential impact of banning AR-15-style rifles and high-capacity magazines on the incidence of mass shootings. The agency was effectively barred from studying gun violence as a public-health issue in 1996, by a statutory provision known as the Dickey Amendment.

Why is it banned? Because the NRA doesn’t want it studied. Think on that.

This absolutely MUST win the prize for “best opening paragraph” this week

At The Daily Beast, re: Mr Page’s baffling testimony, in an article with the fanTAStic title “The Strange Pleasure of Seeing Carter Page Set Himself on Fire”.

Watching Carter Page immolate himself and incriminate a half dozen of his colleagues from the Trump-Putin 2016 campaign has been a strange, almost guilty pleasure. Profoundly disconnected, socially awkward, and reeking of late-stage virginity, he gives off the creepy Uncanny Valley vibe of a rogue, possibly murderous android or of a man with a too-extensive knowledge of human taxidermy and a soundproofed van.

The whole piece is a gold mine, actually:

The delta between Trump’s imagination of himself and the brand image that he desperately wants to sell is always wide; he’s the “billionaire” lout playing the Manhattan sophisticate who gorges on fast food. He’s a man with a lemur wig and a five-pound bolus of chin-wattle who think’s he’s irresistible to women. He’s the serially bankrupt master of the Art of the Deal. The TV talk show character who snuck into the Oval Office on a tide of Russian influence and now thinks he won on the merits.

The thing is, if it were me, I’d have stayed on “Mars”

Eight months ago, 6 faux-astronauts moved into a simulated Martian habitat in Hawaii as an experiment in closed-system living.

They emerged on the 17th, and the spin iO9 has put on it is “Hopeful Martians Emerge from 8-Month Experiment To Find Earth Horrific As Ever,” but you have to ask yourself: if you locked yourself away the day before Trump took office and only just emerged, isn’t everything pretty much exactly the shitshow you’d expect?

Don Lemmon is all of us

After Trump’s speech in Phoenix, Don Lemmon was a bit taken aback, and minced no words.

A transcript, in case the video link rots:

Well, what do you say to that?

I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts. Someone who came out onto the stage and lied directly to the American people. And left things out that he said, in an attempt to rewrite history. Especially when it comes to Charlottesville.

He’s unhinged. It’s embarrassing—and I don’t mean for us in the media because he went after us—but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States. A man who is so petty he has to go after anyone he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a six-year-old. His speech was without thought. It was without reason. It was devoid of facts. It was devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas. There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. ‘He did it, I didn’t do it.’

He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. A man who [is] clearly wounded by the rational people who are abandoning him in droves, meaning those businesspeople and the people in Washington who are now questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable. A man backed into a corner, it seemed, by circumstances beyond his control, and beyond his understanding.

That’s the truth. If you watch that speech as an American, you had to be thinking ‘what in the world is going on? This is the person we elected as the president of the United States? This petty? This small? The person who is supposed to pull the country together?’ It certainly didn’t happen there.

I remember thinking we were better than this, that there was no way we’d elect this guy. But the hard truth is we’re not, and we never have been.

Rebecca Solnit on Trump and the corrosive experience of wealth and privilege

Trump is the apotheosis of a certain kind of warping wealth and privilege. This essay is mandatory reading, and I suspect will become one of the keystone bits of analysis written in this era.

She ends:

The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence. He must know somewhere below the surface he skates on that he has destroyed his image, and like Dorian Gray before him, will be devoured by his own corrosion in due time too. One way or another this will kill him, though he may drag down millions with him. One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall. Another dungheap awaits his landing; the dung is all his; when he plunges into it he will be, at last, a self-made man.

The Fruits of Nonsense

*”The tree of nonsense is watered with error, and from its branches swing the pumpkins of disaster.”* – N. Harkaway

So, for 8 years, the Republicans have defined themselves by nothing so much as their foursquare opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Their opposition was never rooted in the actual policy choices of the bill. They’ve been very clear about that; their problem was always that it was Obama’s bill. (This is also the reason many progressives were disappointed with the bill, since it was crafted from the get-go to be at least marginally palatable to conservatives — you almost certainly recall that it was patterned on a successful plan implemented in Massachusetts by then-governor Mitt Romney.)

Over and over they voted to repeal it wholesale, secure in the knowledge that such a repeal would be unlikely to reach Obama’s desk, and that even if it did, he’d veto it, and that they didn’t have the votes for an override. It was political theater, with no regard for meaning or consequence because it was divorced from either notion by design.

Except the know-nothing base, cultivated over the years by the extreme elements of the party, actually became convinced that Obamacare was bad law. One may quibble with the specifics — it’s certainly not perfect, and certainly needs to evolve — but what isn’t debatable is that it (a) saves money and (b) results in a net increase in people covered by insurance. These are, normally speaking, good things.

Come November, of course, these particular dogs caught this particular car. And now they had a problem: they’ve been telling their idiot base that their first priority was to repeal this terrible, liberty-killing law for the better part of a decade, and that’s exactly what their base expects now (unaware, as they are, that such a repeal will disproportionately harm the working-class whites who make up that base). And now, with control of both houses and the presidency, they had to actually DO it.

Well, turns out, a party devoted almost entirely to watering the tree of error can produce almost nothing of consequence beyond Harkaway’s pumpkins of disaster. The raving nutbird looney portion of the party set its sights on not just repealing the ACA, but also on gutting other existing health care programs (again, because FREEDOM), and dug in their heels against an insufficiently awful bill. The moderates in the party, vulnerable at home to less-stupid constituents, understood that a bill responsible for actual, measurable harm would be a career-limiting move. The GOP, once famous for party discipline, can’t pass their own bill fulfilling one of their key promises of the Obama years.

Their failure here is an unalloyed good for America as a whole, though I wouldn’t look to this incredibly mean-spirited party to stop trying to fuck people over any time soon. More good news is something that analysts on both sides of the aisle have known for years: the longer we have the ACA, the more entrenched it will become, and the harder it will be to roll back.

What would be really neat, though fantastically unlikely, would be if the GOP could evaluate the actual ACA, figure out — based on empirical facts, not ideology — what’s working and what isn’t, and work together with the Democrats to improve it. That’s how Congress is supposed to work. But with this GOP — one that enthusiastically embraced Trump and white nationalism in the last year — that is of course entirely too much to hope for.

The ACA, and what it means as a microcosm of modern Republicanism.

Nobody really disputes that health care in the US, in 2007, had some serious issues with both cost and access.

The Obama administration attempted to address this in a way that, with a sane opposition party, might product bipartisan support: they chose a plan actually authored by Republicans (the Heritage Foundation), and that had been used successfully at a state level by prominent Republican Mitt Romney.

This, in retrospect, as a terrible mistake, because the GOP of 2008 defined itself not by any principles, but by being opposed to literally anything Obama or the Democrats wanted to do. Consequently, the ACA — despite being an objectively conservative, market-based plan instead of a more liberal approach — came to be painted as a horrible liberal plot to destroy American health care (remember all the babble about “death panels?”). It didn’t matter to the GOP that it was a market-based approach that focused mostly on insurance market regulation; what mattered was that it had been achieved by the Democrats, and therefore it had to be destroyed.

That being the case, the Republicans have made repealing the ACA a key goal, notwithstanding the effects of said, and, again, not because of any policy reason, but simply because it was a Democratic achievement. They were safe in making these noises when a Democrat lived in 1600 Pennsylvania, because no such bill would get signed. They could get credit for fighting tyranny, or whatever they told their rabid base, without having to pay the piper. Now, they’re on the spot: they have the power, and a good chunk of their low-information base expects this evil Obamacare law to get repealed.

And so the GOP is preparing to repeal it wholesale, and without having an replacement on hand. Doing so will end coverage for millions of Americans, and will cost the Federal government no small amount of money. The GOP knows this, which is why they’ve taken steps to prevent the Congressional Budget Office from tallying any such cost overrun. From Fox News, of all places:

Part of the challenge lies in the potential cost of repeal. Estimates vary wildly on how much an ObamaCare repeal would add to the deficit. It hinges on who you talk to and what metric they use. Various figures range from $350 billion to $1 trillion to $9 trillion over a longer period.

But one thing is clear: Republicans already prepped a provision to ignore internal congressional budgetary rules if the repeal is successful and explodes the federal deficit.

Efforts to defang the House’s quasi-official ethics watchdog office scored most of the attention early this week as the GOP advanced a “rules” package to govern the body during this Congress. But Republicans tucked a provision into the plan which bars the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) from counting a dramatic spike in deficit spending spurred by an ObamaCare repeal. Language in the resolution bars the CBO from tallying the cost of any ObamaCare repeal bill that bloats deficit spending by more than $5 billion over the next decade and $20 billion over the next four decades.

And, again: that’s from Fox News, hardly an ACA cheerleader.

This is what happens when politics becomes a game and not a means of governance. Since Clinton, the GOP has been a party that cared far more about winning than they did about policy and the society those policies create. As Bill Kristol noted back during the Clintons’ foray into health care policy:

But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse–much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for “security” on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.

Even 25 years ago, opposition to Democratic efforts on health care policy was positioned as game strategy, not as what was best for the country. This is because the Republican party has long since abandoned any pursuit other than perpetuating the Republican party.

Republicans clearly do not give one single damn about medical bankruptcy, or lack of coverage, or the shrinking middle class that is increasingly vulnerable to these problems. They are no longer a party of policies and ideas. In my life, the Republicans have mostly been the party of Fear. Fear the Russians, sure, but when the Cold War ended, they had a hard time finding something else to make us afraid of for a little while before deciding the right targets were minorities. Fear the gays. Fear the immigrants. Fear the muslims. Fear the transgender boogeymen hiding in the rest room to molest your daughters. There are no meaningful Republican policy proposals for the problems of medical bankruptcy, or lack of coverage, or for how the increasingly struggling middle class should handle high premiums and pre-existing conditions. (ProTIP: A HSA isn’t gonna help much when you earn $50K a year and need $200,000 worth of care.)

There are no great Republican proposals for how to address the increasing gap between rich and poor, in part because the Republicans seem to love everything about the 1950s except the tax rates, which they’ve been hammering downward for decades despite obvious signs that this is a very, very bad idea (see: deficit; infrastructure spending; state of education in the US; state of health care in the US).

What we get instead are policies pursued to please a right-wing base no matter the cost (like the ongoing assault on Planned Parenthood, which has produced a measurable uptick in infant mortality), or policies designed to inflame that base and vote (for example, bathroom bills), with utterly no regard for the real world effects. Our soon-to-be vice president, Mike Pence, has his own home-state version of this problem, as his resistance to needle-exchange programs in Indiana literally created an HIV explosion.

Republicans do not care about food insecurity in the US; instead, we get bills that insist on drug tests for welfare recipients (it will surprise no one to discover that there are almost zero positive tests in states with such laws, which as a bonus cost a whole bunch of money).

Republican solutions to homelessness involve busing them to other towns.

When asked about these problems, Republicans — like Kristol back in 1992 — wave their hands and mutter about tax credits and markets, but there will never and can never be a market-based approach to health care that covers everyone (or education, for that matter). And the older I get, the harder it is for me to believe that anyone outside of 18-year-old proto-Objectivists actually believe that a full market based policy system would actually work. I think they just don’t care what happens to the people who don’t end up on top.

And, as it turns out, enough voters agree — though not, of course, most of the voters — that we’ll get to see what happens when they get control, starting later this month.

(N.B. that none of this is about Trump. He’s a whole OTHER problem; this post is about the party, not the absurd candidate they embraced.)

Robert Reich just keeps being incisive; also, we are screwed.

From a post on FB:

To date, Trump has picked an Attorney General who doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act; a Secretary of Heath and Human Services who doesn’t believe in government-provided health insurance; a Treasury Secretary who wants to “strip back” the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to prevent another bank meltdown; a Secretary of Education who’s against public schools; and, now, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who doesn’t believe in the Fair Housing Act. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t think the Senate should confirm people who are on record as being against the laws they have a constitutional duty to implement.

Oh, and it gets worse. Trump’s pick to run the EPA is in the same vein, but worse; from a later post by Reich:

Trump has picked Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Here are 6 things you need to know about him:

  1. As attorney general of Oklahoma Pruitt is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry. A 2014 investigation by The Times found that energy lobbyists drafted letters for Pruitt to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, criticizing Obama’s environmental rules. The close ties have paid off for Pruitt politically: Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas company, was a co-chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s 2013 re-election campaign.

  2. Pruitt shares Trump’s view that Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, is a “war on coal.”

  3. Pruitt has been a key architect of the legal battle against Obama’s climate change rules — spearheading a 28-state lawsuit against them. A decision is pending in a federal court and is widely expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

  4. Pruitt shares Trump’s view that the established science of human-caused global warming is a hoax. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in National Review earlier this year.

  5. Pruitt also shares Trump’s view that the Paris accord, committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, should be canceled.

  6. Pruitt is well positioned to help Trump dismantle the E.P.A. altogether. Like Trump, Pruitt doesn’t believe the federal government has a role in setting environmental policy.

Reich continues:

Trump will be nominating the most radical right-wing cabinet in American history — including an EPA administrator who doesn’t believe in regulating the environment, an Attorney General who doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act, a Secretary of Education who doesn’t believe in public education, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who doesn’t believe in the Fair Housing Act, and a Secretary of Health and Human Services who doesn’t believe in public health insurance.

Six years ago, Colorado started giving out free long-acting birth control. You’ll never guess what happened next.

Check it out:

WALSENBURG, Colo. — Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?

They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

Turns out, to reduce both abortion and unwanted pregnancies, the best approach is unfettered access to birth control. How about that? Approaches like this don’t just make fiscal sense — obviously, it’s cheaper to provide low-income people with birth control than it is to cover an unplanned pregnancy and all that follows — but also empower women. It’s a giant win across the board.

Consequently, it should not surprise you that the Colorado GOP is opposed to this program and has fought to kill it or undermine it on completely specious grounds.

Given that the program has had an enormous effect on reducing abortion in Colorado, you’d think that anyone with a pro-life mindset would embrace it. Color me utterly shocked that this hasn’t happened! I mean, it’s almost like abortion isn’t the point for these people, isn’t it?

Honestly, I think sometimes Republicans actively seek the most ignorant thing they can say.

“Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said on a radio show Thursday.

The logic that Dems favor Muslims/terrorists over gays is coming down from the very top of the GOP 2016 ticket. Donald Trump, in his first major speech after the weekend’s tragedy suggested that Hillary Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community.”

“She can’t have it both ways,” Trump said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.”

More at Talking Points Memo.

Friendly reminder: Cops can steal your cash for no reason. You probably can’t get it back.

An Arkansas court has ruled that the $20K taken from him during a traffic stop — during which he was not even ticketed, let alone arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime — will not be returned.

Back in July 2013, Guillermo Espinoza was travelling with his girlfriend to Texas, when they were pulled over by the Arkansas State Police. During the stop, a drug dog alerted to a computer bag. Inside, police found $19,894 in cash, which they promptly seized. No contraband was found during the stop.

Although prosecutors in Hot Spring County never charged Espinoza with a crime, they filed a complaint to forfeit his cash in civil court. Espinoza challenged the forfeiture, arguing that “the stop, search and seizure by law enforcement officers was unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional” and violated the Fourth Amendment. He also submitted paychecks and tax filings to show that his seized cash was “lawful earnings,” and not drug money. “The state should not be permitted to profit from its own wrongdoing,” he added.

The courts disagreed, because (presumably) they prefer not to give up money once they have it, especially when the victim in this case of literal highway robbery lacks the resources to force true accountability.

As predicted: More law enforcement overreach

The illegally collected NSA eavesdropping data will soon be used for normal policing despite earlier assurances that the information was being collected only for “national security” reasons in “terrorism” cases.

As wise people have been pointing out since, well, 12 September 2001:

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

Remember my post about Mississippi?

Well, Talking Points Memo has noticed the same thing:

The economy in Mississippi is different from those many other states that have recently addressed legislation impacting the LGBT community. The state, which has one of the lowest GDPs in the country, is not home to any Fortune 500 companies, lacks a significant tech sector, and has no major pro sports teams.

With relatively nascent LGBT movement, Mississippi was not ripe for the kind of backlash the country has seen recently in Georgia and North Carolina, where Atlanta and Charlotte house major national corporations, more established LGBT communities, and cosmopolitan attitudes. Mississippi has no major metropolitan area.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a LGBT advocacy group that does work in Mississippi and North Carolina, told TPM that Mississippi lacks the “nexus where the corporate world meets the political world meets the cultural world” that exists in states like Georgia and North Carolina.


“The political climate in Mississippi remains quite conservative on the whole. We are seeing increasing levels of support for LGBT issues around the kitchen table and anecdotally in families, but when you look at, say the public discourse say around the Confederate flag issue, I think that’s a very accurate barometer of how conservative the rhetoric and discourse in the public square continues to be in Mississippi,” Beach-Ferrara told TPM.

Just how fucked up IS North Carolina?

The “small government” Republicans in the state legislature have passed an omnibus “hate bill” in response to a Charlotte ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination that produced whole host of horrors in addition to rolling back those protections:

But the legislation introduced and passed into law by the General Assembly yesterday didn’t simply roll back that ordinance. It implemented a detailed state-wide regulation of public restrooms, and limited a person’s use of those restrooms to only those restrooms that correspond with one’s “biological sex,” defined in the new state law as the sex identified on one’s birth certificate. (So yes, by law in NC now, transgender porn star Buck Angel (look him up) will have to use the women’s room…isn’t that precisely what these lawmakers are actually wanting to prevent?).

But the legislation didn’t stop there. It also expressly pre-empted all municipal and county ordinances or policies broader than the official state anti-discrimination statute, which does not include sexual orientation or gender identity among the list of prohibited bases of discrimination. So that effectively wipes out local LGBT anti-discrimination protections in numerous NC cities (and, ironically, wipes out the protection of discrimination based on “veterans status” in Greensboro and Orange County (Chapel Hill)).

But wait, there’s more. The legislation also expressly states that there can be no statutory or common law private right of action to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination statutes in the state courts. So if a NC resident is the victim of racial discrimination in housing or employment, for example, that person is now entirely barred from going to state court to get an injunction, or to get damages of any kind. The new law completely defangs the state’s anti-discrimination statute, rendering it entirely unenforceable by the citizens of the state.

But wait, there’s more! The legislation also prohibits municipalities and counties from passing a higher minimum wage than the State’s. Not that any municipality or county had done that…but in case any of them were thinking about it, that’s now prohibited, too.

The GOP is, absolutely, the party of discrimination and hate. They don’t even try to hide it anymore.

My favorite part is the reference to a “Writ of Duh”

Over at the Atlantic, Garrett Epps explains the metric smackdown the tantrum-throwing Alabama Supreme Court was just handed by a unanimous SCOTUS. It’s a thing a beauty:

The Alabama Supreme Court has had a rough week. On Friday, the court issued a one-sentence order admitting that “Erm, um, well, urm, okay, fine! Whatever! We really don’t have the authority to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges. Are you people happy now?” The order came accompanied by 170 pages of bloviation, which read a bit as if Robert E. Lee had tried to spin General Orders No. 9 as a strategic victory.

Monday, in a different but related matter, the U.S. Supreme Court piled on by in effect issuing what I’ll call a Writ of Duh in a same-sex adoption case.


[I]n another case, the Alabama court on Friday took 170 pages to discuss the unremarkable proposition that a state court can’t disobey, set aside, ignore, fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate a judgment of the United States Supreme Court. Here’s the entire operative part of the order: “IT IS ORDERED that all pending motions and petitions are DISMISSED.” Most of the other pages are occupied with sour grapes. Chief Justice Roy Moore (who lost his job once before when he defied an order of a federal court in a different case) was, as always, convinced that the world is eager to hear his views on a variety of subjects. He in his wisdom really thinks Justice Anthony Kennedy is a bad, bad judge for writing the Obergefell decision. Justice Tom Parker (founder of the conservative think-tank that brought the challenge) concurred specially to denounce the Supreme Court’s “despotism and tyranny.”

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, “tyranny” usually translates as “making me recognize the rights of people I don’t like.”


“This is the downside of building party identity around a package of calculated nonsense and comically unrealizable goals.”

Josh Marshall at TPM explains the GOP’s Trump problem in terms of the idea of technical debt, thereby endearing himself to many geeky Heathen.

The deeper causes of the recent trends in the GOP go deep into the society and culture of the American right and American society generally. But Republican elected officials have increasingly coddled, exploited and in some cases – yes – spurred their voters’ penchant for resentment, perceived persecution, apocalyptic thinking and generic nonsense.

Why we still need health care reform

Joe Biden’s son Beau died last year from a brain tumor. He was, at one point, concerned that cognitive damage would force him to resign his office, which would have made him unemployed and uninsured. It is no secret at this point that the Vice President and the President are close friends, and their relationship included frank discussions of Beau’s health, and the challenges that might arise, and how they might meet them, including the idea that they’d sell their house to pay for Beau’s care. (Remember, Biden is probably the poorest man to ever be Vice President.)

President Obama would have none of it, and told Biden he’d pay for it if need be.

So, two things.

First, it’s great that the Vice President has a rich and powerful friend who could have helped his family.

Second, how incredibly fucked up is it that even someone in Beau Biden’s position would have needed this kind of help just to get care?

Single payer. Now.

(h/t: sp0ka.)

No, I’ll bet Dick Cheney doesn’t think a Muslim ban is Un-American

I saw this today at Talking Points Memo:

Screen Shot 2015 12 08 at 8 51 57 AM

There’s zero chance this is a principled stand by Cheney. Make absolutely no mistake here, and remember that Cheney is a guy who thinks torture, indefinite detention at the will of the state, and invading unrelated countries in response to nonstate terror attacks are all fine and dandy.

No. This is about trying to ice Trump, because now the GOP establishment is well and truly terrified because he keeps not going away. If Trump is the nominee, they’re fucked, because most people won’t vote for this preening fascist blowhard, and the Democratic nominee wins in a walk. If Trump survives long enough in the polls to contemplate a third party run, their base is split and they’re fucked, because without every single angry reactionary white vote, the Democratic nominee wins in a walk.

Here’s the thing, though: This is a bed the GOP made. I’ve been making this point for a while, but the most succinct formulation of it is probably from Wil Wheaton on Twitter:

The GOP’s been laying the foundation for Trump since Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagan’s Welfare Queens. None of this should be a surprise.

If you spend 40 years building your politics on fear and hate of the Other, you shouldn’t be surprised if you eventually get a candidate like Trump that’s willing to say and do horrifying things to please the increasingly agitated core.

Let’s not be afraid. Let’s be Americans.

Let’s talk about refugees, because God knows everyone else is.

The collective freakout on the right about the idea that we might, maybe, accept a few thousand displaced women and children (which they are, mostly) is perhaps the most embarrassing and depressing excess of the modern American GOP yet. It is horrifying in its lack of empathy and logical inconsistency. It is terrifying in its xenophobia and appeal to fear as a transparent politial ploy. It is so ridiculous that, if it weren’t for the fact that people will die as a result, it would be goddamn hilarious.

It is also absurdly predictable that it seems the same folks apoplectic about the prospect of gay marriage are just as adamant that the refugees should stay away. These supposed Christians would cherry-pick Old Testament law (as they’re all presumably wearing blended fabrics and enjoying shrimp) to deny legal protections to their gay brothers and sisters while Christ was completely silent on the subject — but now that we have a situation that Jesus preached about repeatedly, they ignore Him (which isn’t entirely surprising; these folks are also typically opposed to social programs designed to aid the needy closer to home).

We are certainly not a Christian nation in any legal sense, but we do seem to enjoy thinking of ourselves as guided by Christian principles, at least in terms of charity — or, at least, that’s what we might say we aspire to. Except we aren’t, really, not when it counts. We are anti-Christian in our treatment of the needy, in our acceptance of those different from us, and in our willingness to choose lengthening our own tables instead of strengthening our doors when our neighbors are in need. “I got mine, you get yours” isn’t a Christian mantra.

Jesus taught very specifically on this subject, and with some frequency. The most famous instance is the parable of the Good Samaritan, taken from the Gospel of Luke (10:29-37):

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

There are no weasel words here. He is quite clear.

Remember, too, what He says in Matthew 25, which is even more explicit about what He expects of His followers:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

My point here is not that we should govern our nation according to the words attributed to Jesus because he was divine. We are not and should not be a theocracy. However, we have for pretty much our entire existence as a nation been the place that refugees came. Diaspora after diaspora have found homes and lives here when no such options existed for them in their homelands. They made us a stronger nation, because we are not homogenous. Even our origin story is about refugees — a fact that should be particularly clear this week.

God bless President Bartlett. Sure, he’s not a real President, but what he says above goes to the heart of who we should all want America to be. Reagan famously spoke of us being a “shining city on a hill,” a beacon of freedom and hope for those all over the world — but what sort of beacon can we really be if we’re too terrified to accept those huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

We have always struggled to live up to who we said we wanted to be, even from our beginnings in 1776. But we wrote them down, so we can keep referring to them: the idea that all people are created equal, and that all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is why our doors must remain open. We should be the example state, not the counter-example. We have spent much of the last 14 years in a state of perpetual freakout, but it’s time for that to STOP — not in the least because terrorism isn’t really a danger for Americans (statistically, bees are a bigger problem). By giving in to the baser impulses of fear and xenophobia, we do ISIS’ work for them; let’s not do that. Refuse to be terrorized, least of all by women and children.

I get that this isn’t easy with so many on TV telling you to be afraid. Remember that it’s easy to get people to pay attention to you when you say there’s danger, especially when you pin it on people who are different. Be strong. Be critical. And remember the point of terrorism: it’s right there in the name. Refuse to become the anti-foreigner freakout nation that ISIS wants to goad us into being. Every time a middle-eastern refugee puts down roots in the US, opens a small business, and raises his family here, it’s better than a thousand bombs when it comes to destabilizing and eradicating those jackasses. Every time we prove that we mean it when we say all people are created equal, and that all of us deserve the pursuit of happiness, we prove their worldview is a lie.

The shitstorm in the Middle East today will not get solved without bullets, I fear, but it also cannot be defeated by violence alone. We have to show people a better option. It’s an ideology based on poverty and despair, and my bet is that we can show folks a better path by embracing those in need, taking them to our collective chest, and making them part of our great American experiment.

I’ve said much of this before, in various Facebook comments in the past few weeks, but what really set me thinking this morning is a long piece in the October 26 New Yorker called “Ten Borders.” It’s the story of a young man’s protracted, difficult journey from Syria — which was collapsing around him — to Sweden, where he’s been welcomed as a refugee. What he endured to get there, and the risks he took, are staggering. Seriously, take the time to read it. You were probably born in a country that stayed safe, after all.

There are a few bits I want to share directly, though:

When Ghaith arrived in Sweden, an immigration officer recorded his fingerprints, ran the data through an E.U. database, and confirmed that he had not previously been processed in Europe [Note: this is about the Dublin Regulation]. “You are now under the custody of Sweden,” she told him. “Sweden will take care of you.” Ghaith subsequently attended an orientation session to learn, as he put it, “what Sweden owes to me and what I owe to Sweden.”


On the bus, Ghaith scrolled through music files on his phone. The Swedish national anthem started up, loud enough to turn heads. “I listen to it each morning,” Ghaith said, proudly.


An hour later, six more of Ghaith’s friends—all Syrian refugees whom he knew from law school or from Jdeidet Artouz—showed up carrying a grill, a bag of charcoal, and a three-foot hookah. They stripped to their underwear and prepared to go swimming. These were friends for life, Ghaith said, though he otherwise cared little for Syria anymore. Once his wife arrived, they would have children and he would raise them as Swedes. He didn’t care if his kids spoke Arabic. He added, in broken English, “I worship Sweden.”

And, finally:

Around the same time, Austrian authorities found an abandoned poultry truck with seventy-one dead refugees inside. Ghaith said that he couldn’t help but feel lucky: “I made it, while thousands of others didn’t. Some died on the way, some died in Syria. Every day, you hear about people drowning. Just think about how much every Syrian is suffering inside Syria to endure the suffering of this trip.” He paused. “In Greece, someone asked me, ‘Why take the chance?’ I said, ‘In Syria, there’s a hundred-per-cent chance that you’re going to die. If the chance of making it to Europe is even one per cent, then that means there is a one-per-cent chance of your leading an actual life.’”

Can you, as an American, read these words and be proud of how we are comporting ourselves during this crisis? I cannot. I am not. We are being ruled by small, petty, venal jackasses screaming on TV about how giving aid and comfort to victims of ISIS will somehow endanger us. It’s embarrassing and ridiculous. Fuck fear. The last 14 years have been a never-ending stream of fearmongering bullshit, and in the wake of it we have done terrible things that are absolutely anathema to the values we SAY we hold dear. Let’s fix that.

Virtually everyone who will read these words is descended from someone who left their original country and came to the US seeking a better life. That is, in a very literal sense, who we are. It’s what we’re made of. Let’s return to being that. It can only make us better.

Do not let the terrorists change who we are any more than they already have.

But how can I change what politicians are doing? What difference can I possibly make?

Glad you asked. Turns out, governors can’t close their states. Refugees are coming to your state, almost certainly, but will need help integrating and settling in. (If you’re local to me in Houston, this goes double — Houston is historically a popular refugee destination; it’s something that makes our city so awesome.) You can literally be the welcoming, helping hand by calling the folks at Refugee Services of Texas. Odds are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re pretty damn well off compared to folks escaping war with the clothes on their backs, right?

Joining or helping to start a Welcome Team seems like a great place to start. Let’s help them out. (h/t to Autojim for locating this organization.)

(Confidential to the “but terrorists!” crowd: according to stats from CATO quoted by John Scalzi, we’ve accepted 859,629 refugees since 2001. Of those, THREE have been convicted of planning terror attacks, and none actually happened. For perspective, 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.)

Sometimes it’s not just Mississippi in a general sense that’s embarrassing. Sometimes it’s very specific.

Oh, good lord:

Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson announced on Friday that he has named former federal judge Charles W. Pickering to serve as his Mississippi state chair.

You may recall that Pickering made the news in the previous administration when President Bush tried to appoint him to the Fifth Circuit in 2001. This put him under enough of a microscope that troublesome things he wrote in the 1960s — e.g., a brief on how to amend the state’s anti-miscegenation statute to withstand Constitutional challenge — came to light. Politics ensued, and much was made of a 1994 case that could be turned in such a way to make it look like Pickering was soft on cross-burning (which is not a completely fair representation of the case, but all that’s public record easily read; draw your own conclusions). He got filibustered — probably more because of his pro-life position (and well done Dems for doing so) than his supposed racism — but eventually made it to the bench as a recess appointment until 2004, when he retired.

Anyway: The point here is not that Pickering is a racist. He’s not.

I mean, I’m sure he’s got racist ideas — he’s a 78 year old white guy from rural Mississippi; that’s a cohort not known for its progressive opinions on race — but his resume also includes taking actual personal risk in opposing the Klan (he required FBI protection at one point), so the national picture of him as a guy two steps away from burning crosses himself is egregiously unfair, and that ought to be obvious to anyone who even bothers to read his Wikipedia article (linked supra), or any coverage of his career not written with an axe to grind.

Moreover, my lay understanding of his bench career (aided a little by certain other family lawyers) is that he was broadly respected by folks across the political spectrum, and generally considered to be a better than average judge. Had he been a pro-choice Republican, my guess is there would’ve been no filibuster; because he was a conservative lawyer in the 1960s who wrote some stupid things, though, there was the material there to manufacture outrage and make the filibuster easier to pull off.

However, I don’t have to resort to research to know that Charles Pickering isn’t a firebrand racist, and to therefore draw the reasonable conclusion that of all the nutty things Carson has done, this isn’t one of them.

I know this because I know Charles Pickering personally. Charles is my cousin.

Specifically, he’s my grandfather’s first cousin, though because my great-grandmother was one of many siblings spread over many years, he’s about the same age as my mother. (I think this makes him my first cousin twice removed, but nobody knows what that means.) I’ve been in his house a hundred times, most recently in March after my grandfather’s sister Ruth died and we had a wake of sorts for her there (pics, if you’re curious, here; this one is of him).

Despite what ThinkProgress and other organs have written, Charles Pickering is a decent man. He’s got terrible politics, though, that are filtered through an apparently severely right wing and somewhat fundamentalist lens — which is to say that he’s a GREAT hire for Carson. The baffling thing here, and the thing that’s frankly embarrassing, is that my bright, intelligent cousin has been taken in by the bumbling goofball Carson.

This isn’t new. At the wake I mentioned above, I was seated close enough to him at lunch to hear him extolling Carson’s virtues to one of Ruth’s sons-in-law, an accomplished businessman and French national who, I assume, is with us in the rational world shaking our heads at the freakshow that is the GOP primary. (I’ve never talked politics with Patrick, but my assumption is that he makes me look like a Republican.)

So the tl;dr here is that:

A. The progressive coverage of this is lazy and reductive about who Charles actually is, which is kind of darkly hilarious — think about it: if indeed my cousin were a lifelong bigot and segregationist, why on EARTH would he be working to put another black man in the White House?

B. How the hell does someone like Carson convince smart people to help him and vote for him? It’s fucking depressing.

C. I am, once again, in the position of being embarrassed by something in Mississippi. Sigh.

I love John Oliver.

Nothing about what these assholes are trying to do is going to work.”

He continues:

France is going to endure and I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck. Go ahead, bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloise cigarettes, Camus, camembert, madeleines, macarons, and the fucking croquembouche. You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friend.

Having trouble understanding right-wing logic? Try this.

The GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowlege pulls lots of threads together in one place. Worth your time.

A sample:

Fifty years ago, if a person did not know who the prime minister of Great Britain was, what the conflict in Vietnam was about, or the barest rudiments of how a nuclear reaction worked, he would shrug his shoulders and move on. And if he didn’t bother to know those things, he was in all likelihood politically apathetic and confined his passionate arguing to topics like sports or the attributes of the opposite sex.

There were exceptions, like the Birchers’ theory that fluoridation was a monstrous communist conspiracy, but they were mostly confined to the fringes. Certainly, political candidates with national aspirations steered clear of such balderdash.

At present, however, a person can be blissfully ignorant of how to locate Kenya on a map, but know to a metaphysical certitude that Barack Obama was born there, because he learned it from Fox News. Likewise, he can be unable to differentiate a species from a phylum but be confident from viewing the 700 Club that evolution is “politically correct” hooey and that the earth is 6,000 years old.

And he may never have read the Constitution and have no clue about the Commerce Clause, but believe with an angry righteousness that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

Go read the whole thing.

Does the FBI actually chase any real bad guys?

The FBI has a long post-9/11 history of ginning up plots to foil; the pattern is generally “find an inept loner who may have said something weird online, and then entice him to take part in a ‘plot'”. The issue is, of course, that (a) the aforementioned loner is typically the only non-cop involved; and (b) in the absence of the fabricated plot, it’s exceedingly unlikely that these inept doofuses would have ever become involved in any domestic terror efforts at all.

But, hey, the Feds get headlines, and people get promoted, and in the absence of real plots people might start to wonder why we spend so much money on security, so it keeps happening. (As has been previously noted, if you’re in security, the absence of existential threats is itself an existential threat.)

Well, now we have something even worse. Turns out, that Chinese professor at Temple they arrested was never actually doing anything wrong, and the FBI could have known this from day one had they bothered to check their own evidence.

Temple University physics professor Xiaoxing Xi made headlines back in May, when he was indicted for allegedly sharing “sensitive” information with colleagues in China about a piece of laboratory equipment used in his superconductivity research. Xi maintained his innocence from the start. On Friday, he was vindicated: the U.S. Justice Department dropped the charges against him, with a vague statement about new information coming to light.

This “new information” came in the form of several sworn affidavits from leading scientists confirming that schematics Xi sent to Chinese scientists had nothing to do with the proprietary device. Apparently nobody involved in the investigation thought to run their case past knowledgeable scientific experts before bursting into Xi’s suburban home with guns drawn, ransacking his house, and leading him off in handcuffs in front of his wife and daughter.

I mean, come ON people! If you’re going to drag a man’s name through the mud, you have an obligation to be RIGHT.

Confused about the Iran deal?

Josh Marshall has you covered, at least until more is known.

This paragraph says volumes, imo, about the nature of right-wing objections:

There’s a lot of Iran pony thinking going on about what would be cool if we could have everything we want. But as much as I fear what a Republican president might do on the Iran front, I think going to war with Iran is highly unlikely. Stiffening sanctions won’t happen because even if we stiffened sanctions, Europe and Russia and China won’t. So all the folks saying it’s not good enough or it’s a disaster or whatever else are basically saying we should hang tough and let the Iranians do whatever they want. Indeed, adopt a maximal line of confrontation short of war, which will empower hardliners and make it more likely the Iranians will take the step from being a nuclear threshold state to an actual nuclear weapons state. It is the elevation of self-satisfaction over tangible results and reality.

Remember that the Republicans whining about this deal would likely whine about ANY deal with Iran that didn’t include the enthusiastic religious conversion of every single man, woman, and child in Iran to Presbyterianism. They’re incapable of looking at anything generated by this Administration and not dismissing it as un-American, anti-Christian, and possibly socialist, even when the plan in question was written by Republicans in the first place, so it’s not as though these people are arguing in good faith.

Happy Pride Week Indeed

Love Wins.

Ten years ago, Mrs Heathen and I used a quote from Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall’s opinion in the 2003 case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. It’s as stellar today as it was when she wrote it in 2003:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, marriage provides an abundance of benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. Without question, marriage enhances the welfare of the community. It is a social institution of the highest importance.

Marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

It seems weird to me, in the Roberts era, to celebrate three major court victories in a week, and yet, here we are in a week with King v. Burwell, the fair housing case here in Texas, and Obergefell.

Let’s do more of this


Confederate flags were reportedly burned and buried on Monday in several southern states as part of a movement to get rid of the flag and its offensive historical context.

A good start.

More DEA Criminality

Imagine you’re a small business owner, and one of your employees ends up needing to be a DEA informant. His handlers entice him to take one of your company trucks, fill it with weed, and haul it back to a place where they can bust the buyers.

Bad shit happens. Your driver is killed, and your truck basically destroyed in a gun battle with Mexican gangsters.

I wouldn’t even be blogging this if the next step weren’t obvious, but: clearly the DEA is refusing to take responsibility for the truck or the death, and a judge has backed them.

The government argued that it is neither culpable for the damage nor under any obligation to inform the owner of any property that it wishes to use in its operations, because “clandestine.”

No statute, regulation, or policy “specifically prescribe[d]” or prohibited the course of action Patty alleges the DEA agents followed. The DEA derives its authority from the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801, its implementing regulations, and various executive orders…

In this case, Task Force Officer Villasana submitted a similar declaration. He states that the DEA’s decision “to proceed with such an operation is entirely discretionary, and not mandated by any statute, rule, or policy.” Whether and how to conduct such an undercover investigation and operation is “necessarily discretionary in nature.” Villasana did not try to give advance notice to Patty that the Task Force would be using his truck because of operation’s covert nature, the risks of injury and potential for damage if something went wrong, and the uncertainty about whether other individuals (including Patty) could be trusted.

The business owner’s attorney summarized it thusly:

A federally deputized corporal from the Houston Police Department decides to pay your small company’s driver to drive your truck to the Mexican border, load it up with illegal drugs, and try to catch some bad guys. He knows that the driver is lying to “the owner” – although he doesn’t know your name or identity and doesn’t bother to find out. The bad guys outwit the cops. Your company’s driver is killed. Your truck is riddled with bullet holes.

Query:   is our federal government liable to pay for the damages to you and your property?

Answer:   Nope.

The DEA and the court have taken the position, apparently, that the government can come and take your stuff, fuck it up, and bear no responsibility afterwards if they say “clandestine operation” enough. You’d think the Takings Clause would have something to say about this, you know?