Monday, June 30, 2014

Gun nuts are terrorizing America

Wayne LaPierre, Jerad Miller, Cliven Bundy (photo: Reuters/Chris Keane/AP/Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
Wayne LaPierre, Jerad Miller, Cliven Bundy (photo: Reuters/Chris Keane/AP/Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

The Watershed Moment Everyone Missed

By Rick Perlstein, Salon
23 June 14
From Cliven Bundy defeating the cops to "open carry" movement's menace, the left's timidity has spawned a nightmare
ere is a truth so fundamental that it should be self-evident: When legitimately constituted state authority stands down in the face of armed threats, the very foundation of the republic is in danger. And yet that is exactly what happened at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch this spring: An alleged criminal defeated the cops, because the forces of lawlessness came at them with guns — then Bureau of Land Management officials further surrendered by removing the government markings from their vehicles to prevent violence against them.

What should be judged a watershed in American history instead became a story about one man’s racist rants. Even as two more Nevada lunatics, inspired by their stint at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, allegedly ambushed and mowed down two police officers and killed a bystander after crying, “This is the start of a revolution.” And now, an antigovernment conspiracy theorist named Douglas Cole recently shot at two police officers in Nevada County, California (though you may not have heard about that, because the New York Times hasn’t found the news yet fit to print).

Such actions are the logical conclusion of a movement that has been veritably sweeping the nation for years now. Early Tea Partiers began attending rallies with guns on their hips. “Open carry” advocates make a fetish of just this sort of brandishing of guns in public places, especially where they are most unwanted. The slogan “molon labe” — “come and take them,” the defiant cry allegedly uttered by King Leonidas I when the Persian army ordered the Greeks to surrender their weapons at Thermopylae — is everywhere on the right: molon labe T-shirts, molon labe cloth napkins for your next dinner party, sexy molon labe thongs, molon labe release-catches for your AR-15, available on from “MolonLabeLLC.”

The message implicit in such products was but rendered explicit by the “patriots” Jerad and Amanda Miller, speaking to reporters from Bundy’s spread back in April: “I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and push us around or something like that. I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re going to come bring violence to us, well if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”

It was the logic of some ultra-leftists from the 1960s: the intentional forcing of violent “contradictions” between citizens and the state, the better to spur revolution. It is, at the very least, a handy negotiating position: In Cliven Bundy’s case, it saved him about a million bucks in grazing fees he owes on land owned by taxpayers like you and me. Armed force trumped law. Armed force trumped politics. Which is, of course, for a citizen of a republic, the opposite of patriotism: The more people who believe that — and more and more are believing it every day — the more irrelevant the Constitution these people claim to revere becomes.

Now, as a historian, it has been my project to demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the fetishization of anti-constitutional insurgency as Constitution-worship on the right. I’ve written about the Minutemen, the early-’60s crowd of gun nuts who stockpiled weapons for the final showdown against the state they were sure was imminent once the Communists finally took it over, and slapped stickers on the mailboxes of perceived enemies reading, “Traitors, beware! Even now the crosshairs are on the back of your necks.” In 1966 authorities arrested their leaders and confiscated their stockpiles of tons of ammunition, bombs and even rockets. The right’s vision of sidearms as any patriot’s must-have accessory got a boost from the riots and increasing crime rates of the late 1960s. Inside the National Rifle Association, once mostly an anodyne gun-safety organization aimed at sportsmen, a faction emerged to take aim at any and all attempts at gun regulation, many of which they once supported. Laws, for example, aimed at banning the sale of guns by mail — the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine said that followed the “Communist line.” From there it was but a short distance to the conviction that gun-toting was a patriotic imperative — the better to beat back “those,” as Ronald Reagan wrote in Guns & Ammo magazine in 1975, “who see confiscation of weapons as one way of keeping the people under control.”

So what’s different now? Why is this language so prevalent, and why do so many on the far right seem so eager to act upon it? They haven’t changed. We have.

By “us,” I mean Democrats — though the kind of Democrats, to be fair, who decide party policy from Washington. Once upon a time, Democratic presidential candidates robustly argued for gun control — that, as the party platform put it in 1980 (the year the NRA made its first ever presidential endorsement, of Ronald Reagan), “handguns simplify and intensify violent crime”; Democrats support “enactment of federal legislation to strengthen the presently inadequate regulations over the manufacture, assembly, distribution, and possession of handguns.” Note no mention of machine guns, because back then the notion that there should be no barrier to their ownership would have seemed self-evidently ridiculous to most reasonable observers. It’s fascinating to read the series of “Doonesbury” strips from 1979 in which Garry Trudeau’s resident madman Uncle Duke, who covered his living room couch in land mines and owned a Soviet-made Makarov mortar for deer-hunting purposes, goes to work lobbying for the NRA. In response to Duke’s clichéd claim that “once you have gun control, the only people left with guns are criminals,” a congressman points out that even that would reduce the carnage, because “as you well know, almost 70% of all murders are committed among family members and over half of them involve handguns!”

Responds Duke: “Exactly! So look at it from the point of view of the victim! What if your wife were attacking you with a handgun?”

“I don’t follow, Mr. Duke.”

Duke’s answer reduces his interlocutor to confused splutters: “Well, wouldn’t you want to be in a position to return the fire?”

In 1979, this sounded so absurd as to be self-evidently satirical. Now, it just sounds like an ordinary day on C-SPAN — with congressmen, not NRA lobbyists, being the ones making the once-absurd “argument.”

In the interim, the mainstream of the Democratic Party simply gave most of the gun control argument away. Al Gore ran on a platform in 2000 that devoted about 250 words to gun control, including a pledge to push for mandatory child safety locks and a full background check and gun safety test before anyone could buy a handgun in America. Then, after Gore lost his home state, Tennessee, and other “border” Southern states, the geniuses running the Democratic Party decided to abandon gun control as an issue in order to court Southern white men (how’s that working out?). The gun-control portion of the platform in 2004 was slimmed down to 46 words. 2012’s version gave away the store: It affirmed, “We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms,” and asked only for “an honest, open national conversation about firearms” (yeah, the NRA is really interested in that), “effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system,” and reinstating the assault weapon ban and closing the gun show loophole.

In other words, there is virtually no countervailing power to the now-hegemonic acceptance that there’s nothing much to do about the proliferation of guns in America. Democrats, as usual, gave an inch. The right, as usual, took a mile. And now we face the consequences.

Bush paints what he imagines Iraq is like

The Borowitz Report

June 21, 2014

DALLAS (The Borowitz Report)—President George W. Bush unveiled his latest offering as an artist today—a painting of what he imagines Iraq looks like now.
Talking to reporters at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, the President said he did not read the news before composing his latest work. “I was never big on that,” he said. 
Pronouncing himself pleased with his painting of Iraq, Mr. Bush said he was getting to work on a new painting entitled, “The World’s Really Nice Climate.”

Illustration by Andy Borowitz.

Eastern AZ rocked by magnitude 5.2 earthquake

Contact: Michael Conway (520.209.4146 off., 520.971.3688 cell,

Tucson, Arizona.  A magnitude (M) 5.2 earthquake struck rural southeastern Arizona near Duncan, Arizona, on the New Mexico border just before 10 p.m. Saturday night.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s online tool “Did you feel it” received more than 2,300 “felt” responses, some from as far west as Phoenix and as far east as Alamogordo, New Mexico. Residents near Duncan and surrounding communities reported moderate shaking. There are no reports of injuries or significant damages.

Preliminary analysis of earthquake data from the Arizona Integrated Seismic Network operated by the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) indicates about a dozen earthquake events, including a probable foreshock of approximately 3.0M at 5:57 p.m. on June 28. The main 5.2M event was followed by at least 9 aftershocks, four of magnitude 3.0 or greater (attached map). The first aftershock, a 3.5M event occurred at 10:22 p.m. on June 28, a 3.4M aftershock occurred at 1:29 a.m. on June 29, and a third 3.6M at 7:33 a.m. on June 29. The latest measurable event, 3.3M occurred at 8:40 a.m. on June 29. Many smaller aftershocks undoubtedly occurred but have not been detectable by our seismometers. The earthquakes make a NW-SE trend extending for about 5 miles. All events were shallow, occurring less than 6-miles deep. Historical seismicity in this area, including the recent events, as well as the mapped Quaternary faults, can be viewed at the online interactive Natural Hazards in Arizona Viewer on the AZGS website [].

The largest historical earthquake in the southeastern Arizona – southwestern New Mexico – northern Mexico region was the M~ 7.5M event in May 1887 on the Pitaycachi fault of northern Sonora, Mexico, about 25 miles south of Douglas, Arizona. This is considered the largest earthquake likely to occur in this region. A  M5.5 earthquake occurred on August 17, 1938, near Buckhorn New Mexico, and M4.5 events occurred soon after in the Duncan and Clifton areas. In May 2010 and October 2012, small earthquake swarms, with earthquake events ranging from M2.0 to M4.1, occurred about 45 miles north-northeast of Duncan, in the Morenci-Clifton area of northern Greenlee County.

According to US Geological Survey probability models, the likelihood of a substantial M5.0+ earthquake within 31 miles of Clifton-Morenci area over the next 25 years is ~20%.

It is likely that small magnitude aftershocks will continue in the Duncan area for days or weeks. Most will probably go unfelt.  A larger magnitude event could still occur.  In the event of severe ground shaking, residents are advised to “Drop, Cover and Hold on”.

Online Resources.  The Arizona Geological Survey hosts a number of online resources relevant to earthquakes and earthquake hazards in Arizona:
·         Natural Hazards in Arizona  Active Faults | Earthquake Epicenters themes
·         Earthquakes in Arizona 1852-2011 – Time lapse video showing locations and magnitudes of earthquake events in Arizona. Length: 90 seconds.
·         Arizona is Earthquake Country – Forty-four page primer on earthquakes, earthquake hazards and mitigation in Arizona.
·         Great Arizona ShakeOut – Online earthquake preparedness information and drill.
·         AzEIN – Earthquake Preparedness page from Arizona Emergency Information Network

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Scottsdale second-best ‘foodie’ city in U.S.

TOP: A server prepares guacamole at The Mission, identified by as one of three restaurants that demonstrate the variety in Scottsdale’s dining options. Scottsdale was ranked as the second-best ‘foodie’ city in the country. (Photo courtesy the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau)

BOTTOM: The Mission in Old Town Scottsdale was named as one of the restaurants that best captures the city’s culinary offerings in rankings by (Photo courtesy Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Cronkite News Service 

WASHINGTON – Culinary enthusiasts in Scottsdale can take pride, as their city was named the second-best city for “foodies” in the U.S., according to a survey released Monday. 

The top-10 list from, a website that analyzes the nation’s most livable small to mid-sized cities, put Scottsdale just behind New Haven, Connecticut, as a home for creative cuisine. 

The rankings examined U.S. cities and their offerings in both dining and farmer’s markets, using accessibility to healthy foods, the availability of locally sourced products and the number of critically acclaimed restaurants and chefs.

Matt Carmichael, an editor for, said the site created a short list by analyzing the percent of income spent eating out per city, the access to healthy food, the number of farmer’s markets and how often people went to local restaurants as opposed to fast-food joints.

The editors then dug into those cities with some finer points, he said, such as restaurant awards or Yelp ratings, to cull the list down to the top 10.

“The science gets us to the short list … the data-driven portion,” Carmichael said. “And from there, we’re looking at other lists, and we’re looking at … the James Beard (Foundation Award) winners and that kind of stuff.”

Scottsdale has been home to a thriving restaurant scene for a long time, said Megan Doyle, community affairs coordinator for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. With more than 600 restaurants to choose from, both Valley residents and visitors have plenty of variety, she said.

“You can find fantastic seafood or sushi, or you can find Mexican food, or you can find vegetarian options or whatever it may be,” Doyle said. “We really have a great mix of everything here.” named three restaurants as great indicators of the variety Scottsdale has to offer, including Citizen Public House, ShinBay and The Mission, a Mexican restaurant in Old Town.

Brian Raab, who co-founded The Mission seven years ago, said restaurants can thrive in Scottsdale because it offers a historic atmosphere, spring training baseball, arts and culture and, above all, plenty of sunshine.

“It comes together for a great recipe,” Raab said.

And Arizona has relatively low prices for visitors, he added, making the restaurants appealing for anyone looking for a night out.

“We don’t have these huge budgets,” Raab said of The Mission, “and I think there’s some greatness that comes out of that.”

The data indicates which cities support local restaurants and have an interest in healthy food, Carmichael said. But most of the country has already embraced the foodie culture, with more people looking for new restaurant offerings and locally grown food.

“It would almost be easier to do a list of cities that haven’t decided to be a foodie city yet,” he said.

Though Scottsdale could not top New Haven for the best foodie city in the country, Carmichael said people shouldn’t be too concerned with how each city stood in the rankings.

“These are 10 great food cities,” he said. “But yes, we do have to rank them somehow. Because no one wants a list that’s alphabetical.”

 A list to sink your teeth into 

A new report by ranked what it called the 10 best cities in the U.S. for “foodies,” based on restaurants, farmers markets and other factors.

1. New Haven, Connecticut
2. Scottsdale, Arizona
3. Boston, Massachusetts
4. Asheville, North Carolina
5. Traverse City, Michigan
6. Berkeley, California
7. Boulder, Colorado
8. Burlington, Vermont
9. Omaha, Nebraska
10. Washington, D.C.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Evacuations ordered, San Juan Fire at 5K acres

AZDEQ Logo Header


UPDATE – San Juan Fire

LOCATION: North of Arizona State Highway (Hwy) 260 and south of the town of Vernon off of U.S. Hwy 260 (approx. 3 ½ hours from Phoenix). 

SIZE: 5,000 acres; 90 structures threatened. 

EVACUATIONS: Mandatory evacuations are in effect for the subdivisions of Red Cabin Ranch, Whiting Homestead, Carlock Ranch south of Bucklew Springs and Forest Service (FS) Road 61 and 2. Greens Peak Hideaway has not been evacuated as reported on June 27th, but has been issued a pre-evacuation notice. Apache County is requesting evacuees to go to the reception center at the Round Valley Middle School, 126 W. Second Street in Eagar, or if they choose to go to a different location to call the Joint Information Center at 928-333-3412. 

ROAD CLOSURES: Road blocks are in place at FS Road 271B, County Road (CR) 3140 at Carlock Ranch, FS Road 267 at FS Road 224, FS Road 117 and FS Road 96, and CR 3140 at County Road 3261. Visit the Apache County website for more information, 

INFORMATION: A community meeting will be held today, Saturday, June 28th at 6:00 p.m. at the Vernon Fire Department. Members of the incident management team will be present to discuss the status of the fire and planned containment efforts. For additional information, please visit the County website, or by calling 928-333-3412 or 311.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is in Stage II fire restrictions. Portions of the Sitgreaves are in Stage III fire restrictions. Fire danger remains very high. Visit the Apache-Sitgreaves website at For information regarding fire restrictions, visit Arizona Fire Restrictions at or Arizona Fire Prevention & Information (fire restrictions & red flag alerts) at 

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will continue to assess and track fire conditions. For information regarding the health impacts of wildfire smoke, visit the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) website for Wildfire Support, The Arizona Department of Health Services – Wildfire Smoke & Your Health website, has information regarding health affects of smoke from wildfires and wildfire safety.

Russell Brand: Fox more dangerous than ISIS'

Russell Brand. (photo: unknown)
Russell Brand. (photo: unknown)

27 June 14

omedian Russell Brand condemned Fox News as a “fanatical terrorist propaganda organization” during a heated, 10-minute tirade recorded on video and uploaded to the web this week.

The 39-year-old British stand-up comic-turned-actor is now making headlines for the video footage, which was uploaded to his personal YouTube channel on Tuesday this week under the title: Is Fox News More Dangerous than Isis?

Throughout the duration of the clip, Brand responded with sheer outrage to recent remarks made on-air by Fox host Jeanine Pirro, a former prosecutor, who said during a broadcast of her program last weekend that the United States should bomb Iraq en masse in order to eliminate the growing insurgency there that has cause an international crisis. 

“When they do these bombings, it creates more insurgents, that’s what creates them,” Brand responded. “Don’t think of a bomb as going down there and destroying stuff, think of it as like a seed that goes into the ground, and grows insurgents out of it, it creates more terrorism, doing it.” 

From there, Brand continued to counter Pirro’s claims by juxtaposing clips from the broadcast in question with his own responses. Whereas the Fox host said that any agreement reached between the US and Iran to remediate the insurgency would be on par with cutting “a deal with the devil,” Brand blasted her for alleging as much.

At one point, Pirro says during the episode that the group credited with the recent string of attacks across Iraq, ISIS, is a “fanatical religious terrorist organization.” 

"So is Fox News,” Brand fired back. “It’s a fanatical terrorist propagandist organization. This isn’t reasonable, is it? Like the way she’s talking? ‘Bomb them! Bomb them!’ She’s worse … She’s the savage, she’s totally espousing savage values.”

“It’s invective, just incendiary language, just volatile combative, angry language. That – I’m not being sensational – that is more dangerous than ISIS,” he added. “That’s attitude. That’s far-reaching. That’s affecting millions and millions of people.” 

Some, including Fox commentators, quickly came to Pirro’s defense as Brand’s remarks began to go viral. 

“If he feels that ISIS is harmless, he should go there and hang out with them. They would behead him faster than you could say Arthur. His worst movie,” Greg Gutfeld responded during a recent episode of Fox’s The Five program. 

Days earlier, RT caught up with Brand during an anti-austerity rally in London in which he again condemned the mainstream media, that time targeting BBC. 

“I think that the mainstream media likes to control the parameters of debate so important ideas never reach mainstream ideology. Because if people knew what was happening, they wouldn’t tolerate it; if people knew how exploited they were. Ignorance is a necessary ingredient for oppression,” he said.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Earth May Have Underground 'Ocean'

Three-quarters of the Earth's water may be locked deep underground in a layer of rock, scientists say. (photo: Blue Line Pictures/Getty Images))
Three-quarters of the Earth's water may be locked deep underground in a layer of rock, scientists say. (photo: Blue Line Pictures/Getty Images)

By Melissa Davey, Guardian UK
13 June 14

Scientists say rock layer hundreds of miles down holds vast amount of water

fter decades of searching scientists have discovered that a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, potentially transforming our understanding of how the planet was formed.

The water is locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite about 660km (400 miles) beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University in the US co-authored the study published in the journal Science and said the discovery suggested Earth’s water may have come from within, driven to the surface by geological activity, rather than being deposited by icy comets hitting the forming planet as held by the prevailing theories.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” Jacobsen said.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”

Jacobsen and his colleagues are the first to provide direct evidence that there may be water in an area of the Earth’s mantle known as the transition zone. They based their findings on a study of a vast underground region extending across most of the interior of the US.

Ringwoodite acts like a sponge due to a crystal structure that makes it attract hydrogen and trap water.

If just 1% of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.

The study used data from the USArray, a network of seismometers across the US that measure the vibrations of earthquakes, combined with Jacobsen’s lab experiments on rocks simulating the high pressures found more than 600km underground.

It produced evidence that melting and movement of rock in the transition zone – hundreds of kilometres down, between the upper and lower mantles – led to a process where water could become fused and trapped in the rock.

The discovery is remarkable because most melting in the mantle was previously thought to occur at a much shallower distance, about 80km below the Earth’s surface.

Jacobsen told the New Scientist that the hidden water might also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years. "If [the stored water] wasn't there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out," he said.

Martin touts ‘holistic’ plan to House committee

Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, center, told a House subcommittee that tight federal control of public lands has actually harmed the environment by forcing overgrazing in some areas and allowing growth of scrub forests in others. (Cronkite News Service photo by Matthew Seeman)
Cronkite News Service 

WASHINGTON – A Gila County supervisor touted the potential benefits of “holistic” carbon sequestration to a congressional subcommittee Wednesday, saying it could help ranchers and prevent massive fires at the same time.

Supervisor Tommie Martin was one of four witnesses testifying before the House Natural Resources subcommittee on how opening public lands to livestock would reduce levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and contribute to environmental improvement in several other areas.

All plants pull carbon from the air, but supporters of the holistic plan said grasslands have the ability to move it to their roots where it is ultimately stored in the soil. Letting livestock graze on larger areas prevents overgrazing in one spot and allows the growth of grasslands in their wake.

“There really is no downside to this approach,” said Steven Rich, one of the witnesses.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, welcomed the hearing, saying it represents a serious effort from the House to address climate change.

“It’s a bipartisan issue that affects the entire world, and Congress cannot afford to ignore it,” Grijalva said of climate change. But he raised several questions about the proposal, including its possible effect on water resources and how it might affect plants and animals on the federal lands.

Rich – president of the Rangeland Restoration Academy who said he was testifying Wednesday as a private citizen – described the process as a way to improve biodiversity in ecosystems. Research has shown that plants and soil organisms work together to capture carbon, he said, and livestock grazing improves the diversity of the soil.

This carbon capture process is a political “win-win solution,” he added, because it can fight climate change and revitalize ecosystems at the same time.

W. Richard Teague, a researcher at Texas A&M University, said the grazing process gives livestock more land from which to feed, and the livestock keep a check on plant growth.

“If you don’t have the grazer in there, you get the tall plants growing up, the leaves die and they self-shade,” Teague said. “And it shuts down your capture of energy, and it slows down your nutrient cycling completely. Your ecosystem fails to function.” 

Martin’s testimony described how carbon capture was working efficiently when her family first settled in Gila County on woodland that could be grazed, recounting her great-grandmother’s description of the land as full of grassy hills.

“She called it a pine savannah,” Martin said. “Today, it’s a tree-brush thicket with little to no grass. She said there may have been 30 trees to the acre. Today, there’s up to 3,000.”

Streams carrying trout have disappeared, Martin said, along with birds, bears and wolves. She said the ecosystem changed because the federal government took control of the land and failed to properly manage it.

Martin asked lawmakers to consider identifying 100,000 acres across the West to demonstrate possible gains from the approach, such as revitalized land, economic gains for ranchers and a decrease in the buildup of brush contributing to wildfires.

In an interview, she said that carbon sequestration can provide more opportunities than simple emission limits, but that Congress and federal agencies must open public land so ranchers may use it.

“It’s a federal problem, so there has to be a federal solution,” she said.

While some committee members were concerned with livestock overgrazing public land, Martin said current policies have already forced ranchers into overgrazing because regulations require ranchers to stay in a place for up to 90 days, even though land can be overgrazed in as little as five days.

“It’s not the cow,” she said. “It’s not the buffalo. It’s the human that is directing what they do and how long they’re there.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

GOP can no longer win a national election

Sitting duck. (photo: Geoff Holtzman)
Sitting duck. (photo: Geoff Holtzman)

Why Eric Cantor's Defeat Wasn't So Shocking

By Frank Rich, New York Magazine

Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: the tea party offs Eric Cantor; what Cantor's loss means for immigration reform; and the rocky launch of candidate Hillary Clinton.

Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, was ousted last night in his Republican party primary by an unknown economics professor named David Brat. Cantor's loss is one of the most shocking political upsets of recent years, not only because House leaders simply don't get ousted in primaries, but also because virtually no one in the national media seems to have considered the possibility that this could happen, much less predicted it. How the hell did Cantor lose? And what does this say about the state of the so-called GOP civil war?

Cantor’s fall, and the fact that no one in the mainstream press saw it coming, is yet another indication that the biggest political story since Obama’s 2008 victory remains baffling to many. How many times can one say this? The radical right — whether it uses the tea party rubric or not — has seized control of one of America’s two major political parties. The repeated reports of the tea party’s demise are always premature. Back in the fall of 2012, in the weeks before Obama’s reelection, I wrote a piece titled “The Tea Party Will Win in the End” making this case and arguing that signs seemingly suggesting otherwise (the tea party dropping to a 25 percent approval rating in a September 2012 Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll; the demise of Michele Bachmann) were utterly misleading. After Todd Akin & Co. were routed that November, the tea party was dead again. When a fresh round of tea-party obituaries started appearing this spring — hey, Mitch McConnell won his primary, the Establishment is back! — they, too, should have been ignored. In terms of the big picture, McConnell’s victory — achieved only after he hired Rand Paul’s campaign manager and moved further to the right — was as politically meaningless as Mitt Romney’s ultimately winning the 2012 GOP nomination. The two thirds to three quarters of 2012 GOP voters who routinely supported the candidates to Mitt’s right in primary season were the true indicator of where the party is.

Brat is an Ayn Rand conservative. Speaking with Chuck Todd of NBC News this morning, he wouldn’t even endorse a federal minimum wage. He is unambiguously opposed to immigration reform. He speaks in a populist tone. “Dollars don’t vote,” Brat said after his victory — a reference to the fact that Cantor outspent him by 26-to-1 but also a slam of the Wall Street and K Street financial and corporate elites who fattened Cantor’s campaign piggy bank. Cantor, meanwhile, was everything Brat is not: He is a favorite of the financial industry. He tried to play both sides of his party’s immigration divide by simultaneously claiming to be in favor of some kind of reform and yet doing nothing to advance a bill in the House. He may be an exemplar of right-wing villainy to liberals, but to his own party’s faithful, he was a squish.

If you listen to Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, or other voices of the grass-roots right, the base’s loathing of Cantor and possibly his primary defeat would not have come as a shock. If your sole sampling of Republican opinion is the relatively establishmentarian Fox News, you might have missed it. You certainly would have missed it if you think today’s GOP is represented by the kind of Republicans who swarm around Morning Joe, where Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are touted daily as plausible GOP saviors who might somehow get the nomination. The Times, meanwhile, ran Brat’s name only once in the past year, and was so dumbfounded by his victory that it ran a piece of analysis last night under the headline: “Why Did Cantor Lose? Not Easy to Explain.” It is quite easy to explain if you’ve been paying attention to the history of the American right since Barry Goldwater’s insurgents first took down the GOP Establishment a half-century ago. Or if you had simply turned on talk radio in the past five years.

A major survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that 62 percent of Americans favor providing undocumented immigrants with a way to become U.S. citizens. The president of the traditionally Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce said last month that if Congress doesn't pass immigration reform the GOP "shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.” Does Cantor’s defeat mean that immigration reform is now doomed? How will this play out in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries? Should Bush, Christie, and Marco Rubio just go ahead and cancel their exploratory committees?

The cliché du jour after Cantor’s defeat is that immigration reform is dead in Congress for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. This is not news. Immigration reform was dead long before Tuesday night’s election results; there were no credible signs that the Senate bill would move forward in the House, no matter what John Boehner, the Chamber of Commerce, or Republican corporate donors had to say about it. Immigration reform — a.k.a. “amnesty” — is the third rail of Republican politics. Rubio touched it, and immediately saw his presidential prospects downsized. Jeb Bush’s heartfelt declaration that migrating to America illegally may be an “act of love” assures that he will be booed by GOP primary voters much as Cantor was. Rand Paul has slyly kept on the side of the base — on this issue as on so much else — by voting against the Senate immigration reform bill even while throwing a few moderate rhetorical bones (America should be “more welcoming” to immigrants) to the pro-reform fat-cat donors who might write checks to his presidential campaign. This is yet another reason why Paul remains the man to beat in the GOP presidential field at this early stage.

The roll-out of Hillary Clinton's new memoir, Hard Choices, has been a little rocky. Most pundits have reviewed the book as a bland and cautious political document (in contrast to former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates' hard-hitting Duty), and Clinton committed what is likely the first gaffe of her 2016 presidential campaign by telling ABC's Diane Sawyer that she and President Clinton were "not only dead broke, but in debt" when they left the White House in 2001. Do Clinton's book, its reception, and her "dead broke" comment tell us anything about the viability of her potential candidacy? And, in the age of the Internet and its exhaustive political coverage, do candidate memoirs still serve any purpose at all?

It may have taken a village of ghostwriters to write Clinton’s book, according to Paul Farhi’s account in the Washington Post. The point of the exercise in the digital age is not that anyone beyond the political press might actually crack it open but to reintroduce a product to the political marketplace with a huge marketing rollout. Mission accomplished.

As for Clinton’s poor-mouthing of her circumstances to explain $200,000 speaking fees, it was an indication that she may be as gaffe-prone in 2016 as she was in 2008, when she cast herself as a brave survivor of Bosnian sniper fire. But this time around it may not matter. It also may not matter that a Clinton presidential campaign will once again be bereft of a driving cause or coherent vision. Or that her tenure as Secretary of State was so bland that even a sympathetic appraisal of her record (by Nicholas Kristof in the Times last Sunday) had to pad her résumé by saluting her prowess in persuading American ambassadors to use Twitter.

But, as I say, none of this may matter in 2016. The Democratic candidate, whoever it is, will be running against a party whose positions on immigration, gay marriage, voting rights for minorities, and a woman’s rights to birth control and abortion continue to drive away virtually every constituency except old white men. Whatever the results in the low-turnout 2014 midterms — where the disproportionate power of the GOP base may soon elect a Mississippi Senator who calls Hispanic women “mamacitas” — this is not a party that can win a national election. It’s hard to see how any Hillary gaffe could screw this up in 2016. If for some reason she decides not to run, we will know that Karl Rove was right after all and she should have her head reexamined.

The United States of Cruelty

Graffiti in Detroit. (photo: Getty Images)
Graffiti in Detroit. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

We are cheap. We are suspicious. We will shoot first. It does not have to be this way. Like Lincoln before us, it is time to do something about it.
while back, we noted the story of the toddler who was severely injured when, during a drug raid, a local SWAT team came busting in and someone threw a flash-bang grenade into his crib. Well, his mother has written a chilling first-hand account of what happened to her son, and to her, during their encounter with one of our insanely militarized police forces.
My husband's nephew, the one they were looking for, wasn't there. He doesn't even live in that house. After breaking down the door, throwing my husband to the ground, and screaming at my children, the officers - armed with M16s - filed through the house like they were playing war. They searched for drugs and never found any. I heard my baby wailing and asked one of the officers to let me hold him. He screamed at me to sit down and shut up and blocked my view, so I couldn't see my son. I could see a singed crib. And I could see a pool of blood. The officers yelled at me to calm down and told me my son was fine, that he'd just lost a tooth.
This didn't happen in Mosul. This didn't happen in Jalalabad. It happened in Atlanta. Keep this in mind.

In related news, up in Detroit, we discover that drinking water is considered to be a privilege, especially if you're poor. And, if you happen to be in arrears, it's time to pull yourself up by your thirsty bootstraps.
There are 323,900 DWSD accounts in Detroit. Of those, 150,806 are delinquent. Some of those delinquencies are low-income customers who are struggling to keep their utilities on, said some who work in providing assistance to those in need. "The need is huge," said Mia Cupp, director of development and communications for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. "There are families that have gone months and months without water." The group is among a handful of local agencies that provide assistance to those who need help with their water bills. The Water Access Volunteer Effort, a Detroit-based nonprofit, is another. Going without water can be dangerous, Cupp said. "You can only imagine, how do go to the bathroom? How do you take showers? How do you clean yourself?" she said. "You can't conduct the normal daily things that you would do." The organization has very limited resources. Cupp said the group raised about $148,000 during a charity walk; that money could go to helping people pay water bills.
There is a new kind of systematized cruelty in our daily lives, in how we relate to each other, and in how we treat our fellow citizens, and, therefore, there is a new kind of systematized cruelty in our politics as well. It is not as though there haven't been times in the history of our country in which cruelty was practiced for political or pecuniary advantage. It is not as though there haven't been times in our history when the circumstances in people's lives did not conspire cruelly against them, or when the various systems that influenced those lives did not conspire in their collective cruelty against their seeking any succor or relief. There was slavery, and the cruel war that ended it. There was the organized cruelty that followed Reconstruction, and the modern, grinding cruelty of the Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age that followed it. There were two World Wars, the first one featuring a new era in mechanized slaughter and the second featuring a new era in industrialized genocide. There was the Great Depression. There was McCarthyism, and the cruelty that was practiced in Southeast Asia that ended up partly dehumanizing the entire country. There always has been the cruelty of poverty and disease.

But there is something different abroad in the politics now, perhaps because we are in the middle of an era of scarcity and because we have invested ourselves in a timid culture of austerity and doubt. The system seems too full now of opportunities to grind and to bully. We have politicians, most of whom will never have to work another day in their lives, making the argument seriously that there is no role in self-government for the protection and welfare of the political commonwealth as that term applies to the poorest among us. We have politicians, most of whom have gilt-edged health care plans, making the argument seriously that an insurance-friendly system of health-care reform is in some way bad for the people whom it is helping the most, and we have politicians seriously arguing that those without health-care somehow are more free than the people who have turned to their government, their self-government, for help in this area. In the wake of a horrific outbreak of violence in a Connecticut elementary school, we have enacted gun laws now that make it easier to shoot our fellow citizens and not harder to do so. Our police forces equip themselves with weapons of war and then go out and look for wars to fight. We are cheap. We are suspicious. We will shoot first, and we will do it with hearts grown cold and, yes, cruel.

We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate. We set the best instincts of ourselves in conflict with each other until they tear each other to ribbons, and until they are no longer our best instincts but something dark and bitter and corroborate with itself. And then it fights all the institutions that our best instincts once supported, all the elements of the political commonwealth that we once thought permanent, all the arguments that we once thought settled -- until there is a terrible kind of moral self-destruction that touches those institutions and leaves them soft and fragile and, eventually, evanescent. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like hot blood, and we call it our politics.

Because of that, the daily gunplay no longer surprises us. The rising rates of poverty no longer surprise us. The chaos of our lunatic public discourse no longer surprises us. We make war based on lies and deceit because cruelty is seen to be enough, seen to be the immutable law of the modern world. We make policy based on being as tough as we can on the weakest among us, because cruelty is seen to be enough, seen to be the fundamental morality behind what ultimately is merely the law of the jungle. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like a cold river, and we call it our politics.

It does not have to be this way. After the greatest exercise of systematized cruelty in the country's history, Abraham Lincoln gave the greatest speech ever given by an American president, and in its greatest passage, he called hold, enough.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
On one of the cruelest nights of 1968—which was a very cruel year; indeed, a year the cruelty of which eventually would claim his own life—Robert Kennedy stood in the dark in Indianapolis and offered a similar gathering hymn.
And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
The time for camouflage is over. Cruelty is cruelty. It should be recognized as a fundamental heresy against the political commonwealth and wrung out of all its institutions. That is the only way out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

GOP: Obama needs to resolve Sunni-Shiite thing

The Borowitz Report

June 18, 2014
Posted by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Congressional leaders left the White House on Wednesday “deeply frustrated” that President Obama had not found a swift resolution to the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that began in the seventh century A.D.
After meeting for more than an hour with the President in the Oval Office, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed disappointment that Mr. Obama “came up empty” when asked for a plan to heal the rift between the two religious groups, which began in the year 632. 
“All we ask of this President is that he do one thing: settle a religious conflict that has been going on for a millennium and a half,” McConnell said. “What did he offer today? Nothing.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner acknowledged that there was a possibility that Obama might find a way to resolve the centuries-old Sunni-Shiite conflict, but the Ohio Republican was not optimistic.

“This struggle between Sunnis and Shiites has been going on for almost fifteen hundred years,” he said. “That means President Obama has had ample time to fix it.”

Photograph by Susan Walsh/AP.