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Pictured: NY Times Columnist Ross Douthat. He once wrote that the Times Square Mosque opponents had a morally correct case. People, for some reason, continue to take him seriously.

Earlier last year, I was wondering if 2014 was going to have another “9/11 Mosque” and what it might be. Remember that? Remember that supremely critical issue that Republicans made an enormous deal out of right up until the day after the election, where all interest in it petered out? I thought ISIS was initially going to fill that gap, but no. It was ebola, which truly has to qualify as just about the stupidest overreaction to a nearly nonexistent health risk ever. Until the election ended, at which point, the efforts made by qualified professionals became perfectly adequate, no need to fear.

As always, attacking the “mainstream media” needs to be done with some care, as there are still plenty of people in that apparatus doing fine work. But a systematic view shows an alarming susceptibility to right-wing fearmongering that Democrats need to confront at key times. Unfortunately there are still far more Bruce Braleys in the Democratic Party than Elizabeth Warrens, i.e. people who seem to have Sorkinian views of the media outnumber the pragmatists. But that’s changing.

The thing that it’s important to remember when reading neocons and Washington Post-style liberal hawks acting oh-so-angry about Pres. Obama opening up Cuba is that they don’t really care much about human rights or democracy or any of that. That’s just spin, obviously. What really makes them mad about a Fidel Castro, or a Hugo Chavez, or an Evo Morales, or a Vladimir Putin or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the idea that someone is allowed to talk shit about American policy and values, possibly even to deal us some modest setbacks, and get away with it. That’s the bitter pill for these people. Castro was in many ways the role model of this–the originator of a trend that the others have in various ways adopted, and that they get this reaction out of these people has helped each one out at home. To so many of these folks, the idea that Fidel Castro could “get away” with the crime of remaining in power for nearly five decades despite our wishes, denouncing the United States and engaging in (mostly) mildly disruptive activities against it–the Cuban Missile Crisis I tend to blame more on Kennedy, and the twin decisions of the Bay of Pigs and wimping out over Berlin giving the Soviets the impression that he was incompetent, weak and unstable–plus surviving a bunch of oddball assassination attempts. This is a grievous insult to their pride. They simply can’t bear it.

Because they are five years old, mentally speaking.

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Carly Fiorina is going to run for president. Seriously.

I have no comment, but I feel like this chart needs to be posted:

A record of success!

A record of success!

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I’d vote for this hair.

Someone makes an unironic case for Donald Trump for president. You know, of the United States. And it is awesome:

First, let’s address the “experience” issue. Give me a break. We currently have a president whose political experience includes a relatively short time in his state’s legislature and less than a full term in the U.S. Senate. I think the results of the last six years make that “experience we can’t believe in.”

This argument makes no logical sense. If you want to argue that Obama was unprepared to be president, the conclusion is that we should be electing more experienced people to the presidency, not less. “Obama wasn’t experienced and therefore he sucked, so experience is irrelevant” is less like logic than like words thrown together at random. Also, at least get the fucking slogan right. Yeah, remember Barack Obama’s world famous slogan, “Experience we can believe in“? It was the other guy who talked about experience a lot. Then he picked a hockey mom with some form of aphasia as his running mate. Moving on:

Of course, today Trump has multiple business interests, the vast majority of which have been wildly successful. Always a hands-on businessman, he has dealt with virtually every aspect of life — from business negotiations to being, for many years, one of the nation’s most visible television personalities.

I personally hate the linguistic construction of a range where it’s not a range. If you’re going to put “from ___ to ___” in something you publish, those blanks better be filled by numbers, or some other recognizable sequence, like days of the week, letters of the alphabet, something like that. I hate it because it’s lazy writing that implies a sequence so frequently where none exists: there’s no relationship between being a businessman and a TV presenter, and that’s not granting the premise that these two roles comprise all aspects of life. As for the first part, what failed casinos? Which bankruptcies? What’s that, Atlantic City is dying? “Wildly successful” is a bit too strong there.

During his hugely successful career, Trump has dealt with government, including government regulations, public policy and big-name politicians. He is adept at dealing with media and certainly knows how to handle a crisis.

One could point to his sensitive work on the foremost public policy issue of our time: the exact location of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate.

If Barack Obama was considered qualified by a lapdog national media in 2008, then Trump is “uber qualified” in 2016.

See, I tend to remember the question of Barack Obama’s experience being extensively, if not always effectively, questioned during the 2008 campaign, both by the media and his opponents. Given the weakness of the Republican Party and of Hillary Clinton among primary voters, these concerns were not (to use one of my word-hate terms) game-changers. In retrospect, and I say this as someone who voted for him twice, he wasn’t ready. But not in ways that people at the time said. McCain immolated his experience argument the moment he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, and Hillary Clinton wrongly seemed to think that this ad had something to do with experience rather than being a plain old ad hominem attack on Obama’s character:

The real problem was that Obama had zero understanding of his opposition. He looked at his work with Republicans in the Illinois Senate, his work with two senior Republican Senators on specific issues, and extrapolated too much from it. There was no small measure of arrogance to it too, but he legitimately believed that the culture wars had reached a turning point and that, with some hard work, he could end them altogether and bring about a new, cooperative era of politics. He was right about there being a turning point, but wrong about the direction, and so he built his strategy around things that were impossible. Had Obama won his 2000 House race, say, it’s quite likely he would have had a much more realistic picture of his Republican opposition, though I take it as a given that he would have voted for the Iraq War were he in Congress then and thus would never have become president. (Anyone want to disagree with that after the past six years?) Anyway, this is to say that the issue was very much a live one. It just turned out not to be disqualifying in 2008. Moving on, this might well be the biggest stretch:

Trump probably comes the closest these days to having Reagan’s star quality, mixed with conservative beliefs. He has the ability and the willingness, as did Reagan in his breakthrough moment during New Hampshire’s 1980 primary campaign, to remind folks that he “paid for this microphone” and will darn well be heard. (Interestingly, and by coincidence, both Trump and Reagan were stars at one time for the same company — GE.)

At this point, every Republican comparing themselves to a Reagan of the mind is simply par for the course. But it strains credulity to compare a former two-term governor with a strong record of accomplishment and who consistently demonstrated the ability to work with a wide variety of interests (and a man who damn near primaried a president in 1976) to a guy whose political career consists of pretending to consider running for president quadrennially since the 1990s. Yes, Reagan had great communication skills, but Republicans increasingly seem to be falling into the trap that has ensnared liberals for decades, the Sorkinian trap which says that all we need is a frontman with the right charisma and eloquence that will just SPEAK THE TRUTH and cause scales to fall from everyone’s eyes. It’s feel-good loserspeak, nothing more, and Reagan’s ability to deliver a good speech was only one element of his political skill set. If it were all he had, or all that were needed, then he would have introduced GOP presidential nominee Guy Vander Jagt in 1980, not the other way around. But even if it were not, in what universe would Donald Trump be considered the most plausible contender for this job? And anyone who knows Reagan’s movie career knows that “starpower” is a cruelly ironic way to describe a guy who was washed up during his prime.

Anyway, he goes on to argue that Trump would force other presidential hopefuls to address the issues they “normally don’t have to face” in debates, like conspiracy theories about jobs reports, even more American troop presence in Iraq, and China tariffs. You know what, I agree with this guy. Trump should run. I’d love to have him raise these issues in Republican debates, I think that would be really great for him and for his fellow Republicans. It’s too bad nobody cares about his phony presidential runs anymore.


Kevin Drum makes the case that Democrats actually got some decent concessions out of the so-called “Cromnibus” funding bill, and that all in all it might have been a reasonable compromise. This is a good question:

I understand that trying to defend a messy, backroom bill that trades some dull but responsible victories for a bunch of horrible little giveaways isn’t very appealing to anyone. And who knows? Maybe Democrats were afraid that if they crowed too much about the concessions they’d won it would just provoke the tea party wing of the Republican party and scuttle the bill. The tea partiers were already plenty pissed off about the cromnibus, after all.

Still, shouldn’t someone have been in charge of quietly making the progressive case for this bill? It wouldn’t have convinced everyone, but it might have reduced the grumbling within the base a little bit. Why was that not worth doing?

The obvious answer is that if the Tea Party wing thought that this bill was even less good for them than they think it is, they’d go even more ballistic. Still, while this is tactically sound, strategically it’s simply not realistic for Democrats to swallow endless bitter pills and expect their base not to be depressed and demoralized, and then to not be there on election day. There’s a hint of Braleyism here: Democrats seem to expect the voters to be grateful for them for being so darn responsible and grown-up, which is insane. You gotta do the work. Republicans are good at spinning symbolic victories into major victories, and significant defeats into nearly insignificant losses (or, more frequently, they simply ignore them). It’s important for political movements to feel like progress is being made and everybody is working together. Democrats (Obama very much included) seem to be utterly unaware of this. There is often this sense that the media will sort it all out for them. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Democrats think being defensive and weak is going to win over the hearts and minds of Americans, and yet, it’s what they do, year in, year out.

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I had serious doubts about creating an adult movie about a Bible story that basically only children can take seriously. There are plenty of stories from the Bible that stand up to at least some scrutiny, but the Noah story is simply not one of them. The notion that all species of animal could fit on a small ark, that they could in and of themselves repopulate their populations, that they wouldn’t eat one another on board, that they’d be able to live after the flood in ecosystems completely wrecked are but a few of the holes in this particular story, which I’ve long argued would be a better ground zero for atheists to use rather than the not-quite sacrifice of Isaac. If you wanted to mount an argument that the Bible was written by human beings with very limited understanding of the universe–which one would expect a plausible deity to have–this is the story.

So I don’t really think it’s very good movie fodder, but “improving” the story with big CG battles, sub-Lord Of The Rings touches and tired Joseph Campbell bullshit is one of the more uninteresting ways to take the story. And they warp the most interesting part of the story for me, which is the “apparent madman who has information about the future, shares it and is ridiculed” bit. In this version, Noah is protected by magical rock people, so no faith is required and no skepticism on the part of the people is possible. So rather than being about closely-held faith, it’s about epic quests and battles and all that bullshit:

Does anyone else not get the aura around Darren Aronofsky? I liked The Wrestler and large parts of Black Swan, but I’ve seen more bad stuff than good from him.

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It’s all academic at this point, but I’ll just reiterate that the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” idea is simply not an answer to the problem of torture during the Bush era. It worked for South Africa because, as heinous as Apartheid was, it was the duly passed law of the land. So you couldn’t try those guys under the laws they followed, and you couldn’t try them under laws passed since then, because typically democracies don’t allow ex post facto trials*. So, in that situation, the TRC concept (or something like it) was in fact the best option. What members of the Bush Administration did was actually against the law, back then and today. There’s a much simpler process to deal with that sort of thing–trials. And in any event, this TRC solution would require buy-in from the entirety–not just the handful of Republicans like John McCain and Justin Amash who oppose torture measures, but the entire party, including all plausible presidential candidates–of a Republican Party that has not often proven itself to be inclined to make deals with Obama, or to reevaluate Bush-era security policy, or to be united about much of anything other than opposing Obama. Which is to say that Bernstein’s thinking here is incorrect. There was never any deal to be made here, and even if there were it probably wouldn’t work. Trials were, and remain, the only real answer.

Not that it matters at this point–a Hillary Clinton Administration is certainly not going to take action that Obama’s wasn’t–but the trial solution would have obviously been the best option. Yes, Republicans would have criticized every aspect of it, but in that case they would have been fighting the legal system, rather than just the media. And sure, this would undoubtedly have made the next Republican president investigate their Democratic predecessor for lawbreaking, but that is a feature and not a bug to me. If presidents actually had to worry about being arrested after leaving office for breaking the law, they damn well wouldn’t be so blase about it.

* Unless you happen to be a Nazi middle manager, obviously.

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