Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Biggest Threat to the U.S. in 2015 Was to Its Civil Liberties

Americans' champions for justice? Not just now.

"The terrorists have already won" rings true if you view American life through the lens of civil liberties. This is especially true if you think the Constitution doesn't only apply when you like it. We don't especially like the Constitution much anymore if you think the 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments are not etched in stone the way the 2nd Amendment is.

Reliable Slate legal analysts Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern take a eyes-wide-open look at our civil liberties and come up with some pretty grim examples of where we went wrong in 2015.
Perhaps it’s almost understood in America that police brutality, the incarceration crisis, vote suppression, and other civil liberties sins are simply business as usual. Maybe that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to muster any real outrage as a year rolls to a close and we still face absurd breaches of our most basic freedoms. Still, what’s been bad in the past is still rather terrible in 2015, and we’ve invented some great new ways to ensure that U.S. citizens are neither very safe nor free. These problems go beyond idle election-year chatter about closing our borders to certain religious groups or creating national databases of Muslim Americans. We’re talking about actual betrayals of our liberties that happen every day, often without notice. Happy New Year!
Not the best year ever in my view, as well. The worst injustice I observed turns out to be the one Lithwick and Stern also choose to front their list. In the Supreme Court case Glossip v. Gross majority-opinion author Joseph Alito essentially ruled that while the use of the sedative midazolam in the lethal-injection cocktail Oklahoma wanted to employ might lead to some pretty horrifying and painful moments for the plaintiffs in the case, it's just too bad for them because they couldn't come up with a safer technique to get themselves killed, so screw them. That's some plum powerful adjudicatin', Joe!

At this point you might think I'm kidding, right? Sadly no. Read the article. Happy New Year indeed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Police Set to Institute New Policies to Prevent Shooting People. What Does That Say About the Old Ones?

The prosecutor said these cops followed proper procedure. Will Cleveland keep
that procedure in the rule book? If not, what does that say about the old system?.

In the realm of "What the hell were they thinking in the first place?", cops have shot and killed over 1,100 people in the course of 2015. We know this number not because it was "proper procedure" for law enforcement to keep such numbers but because the Guardian and the Washington Post, among other media outlets, chose to build and publicize a database in light of the infamous shooting of Michael Brown, the choking death of Eric Gardner, and the astounding accounts of police shootings getting reported across the nation this past year or so.

Do we get that? No one used to keep a proper count of police shootings until, what, the ubiquity of cell phones with video capabilities? Really? The answer, apparently, is yes. We do know that, in the wisdom of the U.S. Congress under pressure from the NRA, it was made illegal back in 1996 for the Centers for Disease Control to investigate shooting deaths as a public-health issue, a law that stubbornly remains on the books. Really?

And, like all previous incarnations of the clash over police force, the debate remains absent access to a crucial, fundamental fact.
Criminal justice experts note that, while the federal government and national research groups keep scads of data and statistics— on topics ranging from how many people were victims of unprovoked shark attacks (53 in 2013) to the number of hogs and pigs living on farms in the U.S. (upwards of 64,000,000 according to 2010 numbers) — there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year.
The government does, however, keep a database of how many officers are killed in the line of duty. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, it was 48 – 44 of them killed with firearms.
But how many people in the United States were shot, or killed, by law enforcement officers during that year? No one knows.
Officials with the Justice Department keep no comprehensive database or record of police shootings, instead allowing the nation’s more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies to self-report officer-involved shootings as part of the FBI’s annual data on “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement.
How was that "self-reporting" working out? Not well, apparently.

Okay. So we know that we didn't know enough to understand the scope of the problem of police-on-citizen violence, we can at least take solace in the fact that police are trained to use guns as a last resort. Except that we can't because they are trained to shoot to kill and shoot to kill quickly.

Tamir Rice was shot withing two seconds or less of police arriving on the scene. The prosecutor reported this past Monday that patrolman Timothy Loehmann had reason to fear for his life, thus justifying the shooting.

And yet, police, mayors, and other say there are "lessons to be learned." For example:
The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association said it was pleased by what it called the grand jury's "thoughtful decision." But Steve Loomis, the union's president, said the decision not to indict the officers was no cause for celebration.
"While there is absolutely no upside to this issue," he said in a statement, "there are lessons that should and will be learned by all."
And Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson feels his city needs to change its policies:
“This has caused the city of Cleveland, with the loss of a child at the hands of a police officer, to do a lot of soul searching,” Mr. Jackson said. “And in the midst of that soul searching we have made some changes.”
Don't worry, we're making changes we never thought of before.
Chicago has its own problems. Last year's shooting of Laquan McDonald has -- after more than 13 months -- led to the indictment of police officer Jason Van Dyke for first-degree murder after the officer was seen pumping sixteen bullets into McDonald as he moved away from the officer, a shooting that was originally ruled justified. And now another two unarmed Chicago citizens have been shot dead in the an incident this past week, prompting the already under-fire Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to look to make changes to police procedure:
A statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said Emanuel and Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante will have a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday to announce "a major overhaul" of the policy regarding how officers respond to incidents and the use of force.
The statement said the department will also begin to require every officer who "responds to calls for service" to be equipped with a Taser and trained to use it by June 1, 2016.
Alrighty then, as long as you make changes you could have made long ago, it's all good. Except that it's not. This same mayor and this same Chicago PD fought for nearly fourteen months to prevent the McDonald video from public viewing. When that effort finally failed and the video became public, only then was the officer quickly indicted.

We're left to assume that the reason police training and police procedures need to change is that the public is finally learning, through videos and statistics, the extent of police brutality that has been tolerated -- even accepted as a fact of life -- all these decades. As violent crime has fallen significantly, police deadly shootings have risen. Huh?

This whole thing stinks. We're getting a new peek at a very old problem, and politicians want "changes." What they want is to cover their asses. Grotesque in the extreme.

Salon takes a sober look at the Tamir Rice case and makes a grim -- and true -- assessment:
The decision to not indict officers in Tamir Rice’s death has understandably sparked outrage. But if the officers didn’t commit a crime, then the conclusion to be drawn is actually far more radical and serious: institutionalized policing practices and policies killed a 12-year old child. 
No amount of "soul-searching" can change that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our National Politics Says We Can't Fix Anything, We Can Only Tear Down

I know, this is an old picture with the original 16. But who among them
had a positive vision, other than "Obama and Clinton were the worst ever?"

The GOP candidates have been a nasty bunch from the beginning of this extended, distended presidential campaign. Their main message other than how much their Democratic rivals suck has been, essentially, we can't do anything positive to move our country forward. Here's a sample of GOP ideas:
  • Obamacare is a disaster and we need a free-market approach to healthcare. Trouble is, GOPers, Obamacare is a market-based approach to healthcare, and none of you has proposed a plan that moves us to better, more broadly available, less expensive healthcare for America.
  • We can't do anything about gun violence. In fact, what we need is more guns and more ammo. Can't do anything is not a strategy.
  • The financial sector nearly crashed the world in 2007-2008. Solution? Deregulate! (Who buys that but the rich?)
  • Our infrastructure is crumbling, and everybody knows it. We're in a period most economists identify as secular stagnation, which means we're stuck in a rut we can't get out of. So, here's a solution: Do nothing because infrastructure costs money. Instead, let's cut taxes!
  • We're in a broadly recognized period of growing income and wealth inequality. The GOP solution? Do nothing about minimum wage -- except repeal minimum wage laws -- and nothing about gender income gaps. Do nothing to counter stagnant incomes whatsoever. Wage increases are bad for business!
  • There's a global movement to counter climate change and global warming. GOP policy? Deny, deny, deny. (Denial is not a strategy, oops, I guess it is!)
  • We have roiled the Middle East and North Africa. Solution? Don't negotiate (e.g. Iran) but instead carpet-bomb while insisting that Muslims are bad, bad, bad. They hate us for our freedom? No, they hate us for our bombs.
  • Work for a breakthrough towards a Palestinian-Israeli settlement? No, it's Bibi now, Bibi forever.
  • Progress in sustainable energy? No, progress in oil and coal. (You're really being left in the dust here.)
  • What to do with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Reform it, meaning tear it down, cut it, nibble, nibble, nibble. Eliminating programs that work is not progress. It's a way to justify tax cuts.
  • Tax cuts made modest sense in the age of Reagan (but not with the massive spending Reagan undertook, duh...), but they were insane in W.'s age of war, war, war -- unpaid for, as we know. So, more tax cuts because plutocracy rocks? This tax-cuts-forever nonsense is just that. (And an excuse to cut "programs we can't afford anymore" except more defense spending for carpet-bombing.)
Turn all these negative policy non-prescriptions into something that moves the country forward in a positive way, and you've got Bernie Sanders. Yes, progressivism in the age of stagnation is a prescription for, er, fighting stagnation. More of that and less conservatism charged by isolationism, nativism, racism, and fear of the "other."

In other words, more Yes, We Can and less Hell, No, We Won't. We've been through this movie already, Now it's time for positive progress.

PS. Yes, I'll take Hillary if I can't have Bernie. We can only move so fast, I suppose.

These two are not antithetical, as you know.

Monday, December 28, 2015

No, Rubio Isn't the Rational Moderate Candidate

Okay, Marco, maybe you can be the candidate, but that doesn't make you less crazy.

Today's the day of the two Pauls. I already posted Paul Waldman's dismantling of today's GOP, and now it's Paul Krugman's turn. Krugman wisely points out that Trump and Cruz may be capable of blocking out most people's view of the GOP undercard, also known as the establishment candidates, but they shouldn't be allowed to obscure the fact that others -- for example, Marco Rubio -- have swung just as far right, in fact further right than even the notoriously unfortunate George W. Bush, the 44th most respected president in history.
The point is that while the mainstream contenders may have better manners than Mr. Trump or the widely loathed Mr. Cruz, when you get to substance it becomes clear that all of them are frighteningly radical, and that none of them seem to have learned anything from past disasters.
Why does this matter? Right now conventional wisdom, as captured by the bookies and the betting markets, suggests even or better-than-even odds that Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz will be the nominee, in which case everyone will be aware of the candidate’s extremism. But there’s still a substantial chance that the outsiders will falter and someone less obviously out there — probably Mr. Rubio — will end up on top.
And if this happens, it will be important to realize that not being Donald Trump doesn’t make someone a moderate, or even halfway reasonable. The truth is that there are no moderates in the Republican primary, and being reasonable appears to be a disqualifying characteristic for anyone seeking the party’s nod.
Marco, you may not be odious, but your policy prescriptions are, and people avoid realizing that at their peril.

Explaining the 2016 GOP Dilemma in Two Paragraphs

Marco, you can want it, but you can't have it.

I like Paul Waldman's commentary, wherever it pops up. Today it's in the Washington Post, and he gets to the heart of the 2016 Republican dilemma:
Believe it or not, the Iowa caucuses are just over a month away. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — establishment darling and the cognoscenti’s assumed front-runner — is heading to Iowa for a bus tour, bringing along a shiny new endorsement from Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, head of the special committee on Benghazi. Can you feel the excitement?
Probably not, which is why this is an excellent demonstration of Rubio’s problem, and the problem the GOP is facing as the actual voting approaches. While everyone waits for the voters to finally figure out that they ought to be supporting Rubio, the only candidate who at the moment looks like he might be able to defeat Donald Trump is Ted Cruz. From the perspective of the party’s fortunes in the general election, that would be sort of like being cured of your electoral syphilis by contracting gonorrhea.
Ouch, but yeah. Watch me not cry for him or Argentina.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

When Neoliberalism Runs Up Against Liberalism in the Age of Trump

Momento mori: All people -- and institutions and systems -- die. Not just yet, we hope.

Ross Douthat -- the smart, Catholic, white conservative that nudges up against making sense from time to time -- has another almost provocative column in the NYTimes today, warning us that the liberal economic experiment we North Atlantic countries have sustained for the past century might be on shaky ground.

In "Cracks in the Liberal Order," Douthat posits that the problems in the EU with its hints of disintegration because of economic disruption in the periphery and the growing nationalism and tribalism brought on by the North African and Middle Eastern refugee crisis -- and paralleled in the U.S. by the rise of Trump -- signals a moment when proponents of the North Atlantic world order might want to "hedge their bets" because the delicate balance between liberalism and Marxism may be at an end.
Here in the dying days of 2015, though, something seems to have shifted. For the first time in a generation, the theme of this year was the liberal order’s vulnerability, not its resilience. 2015 was a memento mori moment for our institutions — a year of cracks in the system, of crumbling firewalls, of reminders that all orders pass away.
This was especially true in Europe, where for generations the parties of the center have maintained a successful quarantine against movements that threatened their dream of continental integration — be they far-right or far-left, nationalist or separatist.
Douthat goes on to suggest that Donald Trump's appeal is an American corollary to the nationalism and separatism of Marine le Pen in France and the UKIP party in the UK, and I have no doubt he's right. But just as France and the UK have recently successfully fought off their far-right fantasists, so, too, is the U.S. likely to fight off our own. Trumpism is a symptom, not a cause, and neither is it a cure.

As for cures, or solutions, to this threat to the "liberal order" -- which, despite including the term "liberal," is essentially a social market economy, based on free enterprise and historically only lightly regulated -- Douthat sounds a warning, as usual, without a prescription for a cure.

It's nice, though, that he doesn't put forth any of today's leading conservatives as being that cure, which, in fact, might be the cause of his silence in that regard. Who among the GOP prospective leaders are prepared to help maintain that delicate balance, to avoid destroying civilization in order to save it? Nary a GOP candidate offers prescriptions that actually want a government or a system of taxation that could support even a stripped-down version that a Club for Growth might advocate. Other than insisting on paying for the world's largest military, none of the Republican candidates offer a budget that pays for much more than that destructive and expensive symbol of American dominance, which is our emerging carpet-bomb-them-into-submission foreign policy.

Here at home on the domestic front, the war is one against income inequality for which the Left is girding its loins but the GOP refuses to undertake. One might assume that even conservatives can note with caution the shrinking of the consumer class upon which a successful capitalism must be nurtured, but one would assume that at their peril.

In any event, we are at a cusp. Where Douthat offers little but a cautionary tale, his commenters offer plenty more. Here's one:
As is so often the case, Ross efficiently and articulately identifies an issue--in this case, the collapsing center--but then trails off into unpersuasive wishful thinking rather than confront the critical cause. The neoliberal concensus [sic] is facing new and massive resistance, from both the left and the right, because of growing inequality, the concentration of obscene wealth in the hands of an increasingly isolated yet incredibly powerful oligarchy. Around the world, people are frustrated and fearful, watching helplessly as their financial security evaporates and their children face a grim and deteriorating future. Neoliberal capitalism has followed its own logic and has devoured itself.
And yet another:
Ross, we miss Marxism. And I'm not a Marxist, nor will I ever be one.

And yet, with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the co-opting of Chinese communism, the capitalist west became triumphalist, complacent, and decadent, turning its back on the reforms that allowed it to withstand the Marxist critique in the first place.

Today, as ordinary Americans and Europeans get squeezed by the elites that control their economies and political system, and by the globalist system these elites have embraced, they seek scapegoats among the equally powerless - immigrants - and resort to a style of nationalism that has always been a refuge for scoundrels.

However, while the Marxist critique still lived, European and American elites felt compelled to soften the often brutal edges of capitalism, lest they too suffer the fate of Ayn Rand's father. But now that Marx's critique is gone, and with it the imminent threat of worker revolution, the impetus for reform has also vanished.

While Marxism still lived, capitalism could been seen for what it was - a flawed if realistic framework for economic relationships among equally flawed human beings. But with Marxism's demise, capitalism has assumed the status of a de facto religion, especially among that set that prefers to exploit religion as a means for keeping ordinary folks in their place, and out of the streets.

We were once forced to choose between Marxism and democracy; we may soon be forced to choose between fascism and democracy.
Yes, that choice between fascism and democracy is a real threat, which is why all our intellectuals should rally around solutions to income inequality and climate change. One threatens the extinction of functioning free enterprise and the other the extinction of everything else.

What needs to be examined closely if we are to really survive is the divide between Bernie Sanders' notions of social democracy and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz's antisocial and antidemocratic urgings. Sanders -- and to a lesser committed sense, Hillary Clinton -- wants to underwrite the work that supports the common good, while the drivers of the new conservative consensus want to disembowel the government needed to support any meaningful undertaking for the common good.

Regardless where any of us find ourselves on the political spectrum, we do seem poised not between liberalism and neoliberalism, but between democracy and fascism. The pronouncements of presidential candidates make that all too clear in this political season. That is frightening and a cause for cooler, and more broadly accommodating heads to prevail. (Note. Neoliberalism, despite its name, points to the laissez faire, free-market capitalism of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the austerity policies of Fredrich Hayek rather than, say, the Keynesian macroeconomics advocated by Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Joe Stiglitz, et al.)

I've said I believe Bernie Sanders is the best person for the job we as a nation need to undertake in this age of disintegration. But if Sanders is a bridge too far, then Hillary Clinton, despite the misgivings many harbor, is the right person nearest the center to build a consensus that can allow our shaky current social order to survive. Clinton is a center-left pragmatist. The GOP candidates are nowhere near the center. They've been fleeing it since the emergence of the tea party. In doing so, they've removed themselves from consideration. Who in our collective memory has led a centrist nation from the far, far right?

I hope this conclusion is supported in 2016. Otherwise, Ross Douthat is going to be writing columns about how things aren't nearly as bad as they seem, while still offering cautionary tales without paths to salvation.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Paul Krugman Offers a Happy Thought for Christmas

Paul Krugman and I have one thing in common: We were both inspired by Isaac Asimov's fantastic sci-fi classic, The Foundation trilogy. the word epic as applied to fiction is often hyperbolic, but not in this case. The story of the Foundation is epic indeed.

Permit me a bit of commercialism: Another of Asimov's classics is The Robots of Dawn, an amazing sci-fi murder mystery that was non-violent in the extreme. Most sci-fi relies on megadeath. After all, there'll be more people and better weapons in the future, so of course the mayhem and death has to be extravagant. Without giving the ending away -- you can't possibly guess from what I say -- The Robots of Dawn, a relatively long book, was a murder mystery without a murder, or a single death, but it's not anything you might think. Just read it.

It inspired me to write The Aliens of Summer, which I self-published, self-promoted, and actually achieved national distribution and okay sales. Not a blockbuster, but something I could be proud of nonetheless. It, too, is sci-fi, and it, too, has no violence or death per se. Thanks, Isaac, for the inspiration. You can purchase copies here at Amazon. Signed by me!

Back to Krugman: He's high on the possibility that we're back to making real technological progress after undergoing a letdown in which information got more plentiful and speedy, but physical progress had lagged. Physical tech is making a comeback:

Over the past five or six years, however — or at least this is how it seems to me — technology has been getting physical again; once again, we’re making progress in the world of things, not just information. And that’s important.
Progress in rocketry is fun to watch, but the really big news is on energy, a field of truly immense disappointment until recently. For decades, unconventional energy technologies kept falling short of expectations, and it seemed as if nothing could end our dependence on oil and coal — bad news in the short run because of the prominence it gave to the Middle East; worse news in the long run because of global warming.
But now we’re witnessing a revolution on multiple fronts. The biggest effects so far have come from fracking, which has ended fears about peak oil and could, if properly regulated, be some help on climate change: Fracked gas is still fossil fuel, but burning it generates a lot less greenhouse emissions than burning coal. The bigger revolution looking forward, however, is in renewable energy, where costs of wind and especially solar have dropped incredibly fast.
Why does this matter? Everyone who isn’t ignorant or a Republican realizes that climate change is by far the biggest threat humanity faces. But how much will we have to sacrifice to meet that threat?
I too watched with glee as Elon Musk blasted his Falcon 9 rocket carrying 11 satellites into orbit and safely landed the first booster for reuse. It was spectacular, all the more because an earlier attempt ended in disaster. SpaceX identified the problem and fixed it. Musk delivered. There's more to come.

By the way, a big theme of Krugman's column was the success in renewable energy. Musk is a leader here, too, with his Solar City company -- he's chairman -- and Tesla, which is not only a leader in electric cars but an innovator in battery technology. At this point, much is speculation, as Musk is investing big-time in a megabattery factory in Nevada. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Washington Post Thinks Ted Cruz Should Use His Children as Props, but Its Political Cartoonist Should STFU.

Ted Cruz campaigning.

Ted Cruz campaigning.

Okay. I've preserved this for all (Internet) eternity. WaPo's editorial chief Fred Hiatt has saved the U.S. from crass political commentary. Apparently rooting for every possible war scenario Hiatt can think of is not tasteless, but cartoonist Ann Telnaes mocking Cruz's use of his children in public is.

Fred Hyatt wants more war, and Ted Cruz wants to carpet-bomb ISIS. Birds of a feather.

Note. I just read a lot of comments on the Editor's Note in place of the cartoon. The main theme of the comments was Telnaes should be fired and so should Hiatt. Many commenters decried the "racist" use of monkeys to represent the children. Not one commenter realized that the use of monkeys was not meant as any attack on the children's character but an attack on Cruz's character for using his own daughters as an organ grinder might use monkeys. People are dense sometimes. Oh well.

So, on Conservatives, the Wall St. Journal and Fox News Haz Got Schizoid? Oh MGs!

Ted Cruz to the WSJ: What did I do now? Nothing, Ted. They just hate your guts.

Salon just ran a story full of holiday cheer, if you're a Dem, that is.
In this election, the right is clamoring for an “outsider,” if only to protest against an establishment that has taken them for granted. And this internal dissent has upended the Republican presidential race. Candidates like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz owe much of their success to this resentment.
It appears the GOP’s intrafamilial squabble has spilled onto the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
As Politico reported, the Journal has turned its guns on Ted Cruz, the ascendant outsider candidate. Cruz is a talented demagogue; he knows his evangelical base and he’s made every effort to woo them. Although a sitting U.S. senator, Cruz has positioned himself as the anti-establishment candidate, someone who will force the “Washington cartel” to deliver the goods to religious conservatives. This was clear enough in September when Cruz vowed to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood, a move he knew had no chance of succeeding.
The Journal has become increasingly critical of the Texas senator, and for very good reasons. It represents the establishment, and its editorial page studiously defends deregulation, supply side economics and interventionism, all of which are essential to mainstream Republicanism – they’ve never been particularly concerned with the culture wars.
Here's the deal: Ted Cruz has taken on the establishment in spades, mocking both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell for not having the guts to destroy our government to save it. And, while he's at it, he's slopping up all the evangelical love he can find. He's nailing down the religious crazies in his party. But that, according to the WSJ, is bad for business, at least the business end of the Republican Party, you know, the part the party that conned the religious conservatives so they could cut taxes and make the rich richer. Stop abortion, birth control, and same-sex marriage? Not so much.

Funny thing is that over at Fox News -- which, last time I looked, was also owned by Rupert Murdoch -- they're going wild for Ted Cruz. Check it out here, here, and here.

We knew the Republican Party was a big tent, filled on one side by the people that hate our Muslim president and on the other side by the people that hate our tax-loving president.

At least they're united in their hate. Now if they can only get behind one candidate, they could have a chance in 2016. Come on, News Corp., pick your candidate so we can really know why we hate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

FYI, Cruz thinks the WSJ is in the tank for Rubio. Could be. My prayer is that from this point on, the GOP primary season begins more and more to resemble Animal House.

In the end, who reads the WSJ? Business people, I would assume (Quora, the question-answering website, attempted to find out). Who watches Fox News? Oh, right. Or Fox Business News? I should have known.

The more you think of it, this guy has already won.

Holy Crap! Conservatives Don't Like Crap!

Clint having a conservative moment.

I sort of knew this before I read this article, but during this relatively repulsive Republican primary season it bears repeating:
In a 2008 study in the journal “Cognition and Emotion,” researchers at Cornell and Yale asked 181 adults from across the political spectrum about their views on a range of matters. Participants were asked to rate their agreement to statements like “I try to avoid letting any part of my body touch the toilet seat in a public restroom, even when it appears clean” and to indicate how disgusting they found situations like “You take a sip of soda and then realize that you picked up the wrong can, which a stranger had been drinking out of.”
Across most metrics — including partisan affiliation — there were no noticeable differences among demographic groups in their response to these statements and questions.
But this wasn’t true of all groups. Conservatives showed a statistically significant likelihood of reacting negatively to “disgusting” situations. (So did religious groups, but the researchers determined the finding about conservatives remained true even when controlling for religiousity [sic].)
Atrios actually singlehandedly cured me of my homophobia by his constant calling out people for thinking of sex as icky. (Sex is icky, but so is ice cream.) He was right, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that homosexual sex disgusted me, except, of course, lesbian sex, for some reason. (Okay, I know the reason.) Once I came to terms with the notion that sex was sex and who's with who is none of my business, things changed. Then I came to the next obvious conclusion that sex is sex and love is love, and it was still none of my business when I wasn't involved.

And that, my friends, was liberating. One inconvenient -- for a liberal -- kind of discrimination was removed from my portfolio. Lucky me.

Once you get the hang of this I'm-OK-you're-Ok thing, life mellows out (Eric Berne must have been a liberal). But the conservative frame on many things, often, is I'm OK, you're not OK.
In a paper published in 2014 in Current Biology, researchers at the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at Virginia Tech showed 83 subjects “disgusting” pictures of dead animal bodies, dirty toilets, as well as pleasant images such as pretty landscapes and babies playing together. The participants took a standard test to evaluate their political leanings.
Consciously, liberal, moderate and conservative participants showed no significant differences in rating these pictures, although conservatives “had marginally higher disgust sensitivity than the liberal group.” But things changed when the subject had their brains scanned using fMRI machines as they saw the images.
With a more than 90 percent success rate, the researchers were able to predict whether the participants were conservative or liberals based on how regions of their brains lit up while viewing the images. And it turned out that conservatives had a much stronger reaction to disgusting images than liberals. Reactions to other types of images were not predicted by political views.
Is this why conservatives end up conservative? Is this why
 I could go on and explore more dualities, but you get the point. The bottom line is that you can tell a conservative by how they react to the icky. One thing that's seems true, according to the MRI study, is that they were born that way. Who knew?

Is Clinton Trolling the GOP with Trump Charges?

Yeah, GOP, I'm talking to you...

The word troll, which originally meant fishing with a hook pulled through the water, has morphed in the Internet age to mean provoking an angry response with a comment, often placed in comment sections of online media. A interesting -- some might say pathetic -- offshoot is "concern trolling," in which you pretend to be sympathetic to a position someone is taking in a post or comment but your subtext is "you stupid fucking idiot for believing that, loser."

Greg Sargent noticed that Hillary Clinton, in taking Donald Trump to task for aiding ISIS by adopting his stridently anti-Muslim positions, is actually trolling the GOP and by extension their entire cast of candidates. Interesting:
Donald Trump continues to rage against Hillary Clinton over her suggestion during the Democratic debate that Trump has become “ISIS’s best recruiter.” Clinton argued that terrorists are using videos of Trump insulting Islam to “recruit more radical jihadists,” and Trump has demanded an apology.
The Clinton camp has since walked back the video comment, though her advisers continue to point to social media evidence of the broader claim that Trump’s rhetoric has become a terror recruiting tool. The Clinton camp has refused Trump’s demand for an apology.
Make no mistake: Both Trump and Clinton must be very happy to be embroiled in this spat. Indeed, the Clinton camp has cheerfully fed the flames of this fight, in what appears to be a concerted effort to boost Trump among GOP voters. The theory may be that Trump benefits among those voters if he is perceived as a chief antagonist of Clinton, thus helping him spread more intra-GOP damage.
[...] It’s hard to know whether the Clinton camp really believes this [that Trump is a viable candidate]. But one obvious possibility is that the Clinton camp is signaling to top supporters that they should publicly make the case that Trump now looks like a genuinely viable candidate to win the GOP primary. If so, this takes the Clinton camp’s trolling of GOP voters to another level: Hillary is attacking Trump because Democrats are afraid that he’ll become the nominee!!!
Yes, I can see that Trump's full-throated objection to Clinton's nasty characterization serves to incite his supporters to circle the wagons, strengthening his lock of the party base. So he imagines a clear win. Hillary, on the other hand, drives the point home that Trump is dragging his whole party down with his rhetoric.
But there may be a deeper rationale here, too. As I reported the other day, Democrats plan to increasingly make the case that Trump’s simplistic bluster and belligerence are forcing the other GOP candidates to dumb down their rhetoric to match his, thus revealing Clinton to be more prepared to lead in complicated and dangerous times than any of the GOP candidates.
I'm not sure I buy this. Sargent may be projecting. It also may be a form of Etch-A-Sketch prevention, that is, by etching into stone the GOP candidates' fall-in-line-with-Trump rhetoric as he drives his party further and further toward racism, nativism, and, yes, fascism. YouTube and oppo-research may do this automatically. You can bet Hillary's staff -- and the DNC -- are combing the GOP candidates' appearances and statements to capture quotes the candidates will hope to walk back later in the general. I'm afraid Mitt Romney's campaign wrecked that "pivot to the middle" tactic for everyone.

(Which is why Clinton is already campaigning from the middle. If anything, she'll move left -- slightly -- in the general to sooth liberals.)

One thing Sargent's thesis does is that it gives us two, intertwining threads: one, that the Clinton campaign is up to the task of smashing the GOP in the general, and, two, that it doesn't matter who the candidate is anymore, they're all so tainted by Trump's drive to the far right.

As a Democratic supporter (I'd be a raving socialist if I were a European), this gives me hope. Or solace. Not sure which.

Bonus concept: Dana Milbank, also of WaPo, examines the wholesale Republican abuse of the term political correctness and its variants.
The notion of political correctness became popular on college campuses a quarter-century ago but has recently grown into the mother of all straw men. Once a pejorative term applied to liberals’ determination not to offend any ethnic or other identity group, it now is used lazily by some conservatives to label everything classified under “that with which I disagree.” GOP candidates are now using the “politically correct” label to shut down debate — exactly what conservatives complained politically correct liberals were doing in the first place.
As in the Sargent observation, I partially disagree with Milbank here. His first notion, that the GOP has morphed the term to mean anything they hate about the Left, is all well and good, but he then misses the point that what the GOP has really done with the term is use it correctly when uttering false, outrageous, or absolutely un-American messages that cross the border into, yes, racism, fascism, and nativism.

The GOP complains that it's politically incorrect to say that we should monitor all mosques and refuse entry to the U.S. to Muslims, but their problem is that it is politically incorrect to say such things, except, oh well, it's not anymore because the First Amendment is for Christians. Didn't you know that? You must be politically correct!

Welcome to the new America? No, welcome to the new GOP, same as the old GOP, only just nastier, more racist, more Christian, and, if possible, whiter.

I guess they have changed. Holy crap.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hey, France, UK, and the USA: Don't Fear Terrorism, Do the Opposite.

I can't tell if this is an Islamic terrorist or what. But just to be safe...

The difference between the GOP candidates' selling fear, fear, fear as a result of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and the Democratic candidates standing firm against destroying our American values to save them is stark, crystal-clear.

If you want an isolationist, panicked, fearful country turning to Big Brother for protection and sealing off our borders -- and abandoning the very people we should help, refugees -- then by all means follow the hate-, fear- and war-mongering GOP leadership into the Hell of the New Paradigm, which is driven by Dick Cheney's one-percent doctrine.
The Cheney Doctrine assumes, wrongly, that there are two states of existence: We are either “safe” or we are not. The reality is this: Terrorism, even though it feels like it could happen anywhere at any time, is almost certainly not going to kill you or your family if you live in the United States. Take a look at all the terrible things that are more likely to befall Americans than being killed by a terrorist, and consider how we deal with those kinds of threats. Yes, you really are more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt. Knowing the level of the threat is necessary in order to properly assess the best response.
The link to the work "look" above is so important I repeat it here. It's a real examination of risk.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a host of Democrats (and, no doubt, a few Republicans) have spent much of their time in office trying to play down fears of terrorist threats and tamping down rhetoric that encourages attacks and/or discrimination against Muslims in our country -- not to mention misplaced abuse of and attacks on Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and others who are mistaken for Muslims. Such rhetoric and such actions are an abomination, an expression of the polar opposite of our most highly regarded American values.

It's plain as the nose on your face that Muslims in America have stopped many, many more attacks through tipping off authorities of suspicious activity in their community than they've perpetrated. Yes, San Bernardino was horrific, but it was perpetrated by American-born citizens and one mail-order bride from Pakistan and, mind you, employed legally purchased, American-made guns and rifles.

Since 9/11, the following people have been killed by terrorist attacks in the U.S.:
  • Forty-five have died in nine attacks by Jihadists.
  • Forty-eight have died in eighteen attacks by far-right-wing (white) terrorists.
By contrast, since 9/11:
  • 301,797 Americans have died from gun deaths.
  • 490,690 Americans have died in auto accidents. (Both numbers best approximations.)
So there you have it. The next time a Republican gets all hysterical about "extreme Islamic terrorism," just tell him or her to knock it off.

Sure, let's be vigilant and prepared, but let's end the hate and fear-mongering. It's useless. In fact, it's harmful to our health and contrary to American values.

If you're a terrorist, first Ted Cruz is going to carpet-bomb the crap out of you.
Then Chris Christie is going prosecute the hell out of what's left of you. Freedom!


Okay, this is not a matter of a lie but rather a matter of a liar writ large. To wit: The truth is an option in Carly's world, one she chooses judiciously, or something.

Simon Maloy of Salon goes full frontal on Ms. Fiorina, a move I applaud. It's hard to sort Republican liars by quantity -- the Donald's lies are yuuuge -- but Fiorina's are made larger by her doubling and tripling down.
Carly Fiorina is unique among all the candidates in the Republican presidential field for her visceral, aggressive hatred for anything resembling truth. Other candidates lie, of course, but they at least go to the trouble of dressing up their lies with weasel words and other forms of qualifying language that allow them to squirm their way out of fact checks. Fiorina doesn’t care about any of that. She makes firm, declarative statements that are unquestionably inaccurate, and when confronted with inarguable facts that prove her wrong, she insists against all evidence that she is correct and bristles at the very notion that anyone might challenger her. She does not care. She does not pretend to care. As far as Fiorina’s concerned, the fact that she said it is what makes it true.
Now, Carly Fiorina's biggest claim to fame is her stint as HP CEO, which was marred by how sucky it was. She made her rep at Lucent, the spin-off of Western Electric and Bell Labs from AT&T, whose ladder Fiorina had climbed. Tech historians might remember that Bell Labs discovered the transistor, among other things. The transistor literally changed everything, though America let Japan discover its many uses, giving Japan its famous leg-up. Sony emerged from this (and, oddly, eventually so did Intel).

Anyway, Carly made her reputation at Lucent, which crashed and burned shortly after she left for HP, and HP crashed and almost burned after Carly forced sucky Compaq down HP shareholders' throats. Heckuva job, Carly!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about her work at Lucent:
On the surface, Fiorina seemed to add 22,000 jobs & revenues grew from US$19 billion to US$38 billion. However, the real cause of Lucent spurring sales under Fiorina was by lending money to their own customers. According to Fortune magazine, "In a neat bit of accounting magic, money from the loans began to appear on Lucent’s income statement as new revenue while the dicey debt got stashed on its balance sheet as an allegedly solid asset". Lucent's stock price grew 10-fold.
Notice how Lucent's success was built on an accounting lie. Not long after, Lucent's "private bubble burst," and its stock, which at its peak reached $84, settled down at $0.55. Heckuva ride!

Carly then jumps to HP in 1999. In 2002, she leads the charge to acquire Compaq. By 2005, HP stock price has tanked, and she's fired.

So, the basis for her cred, was a failure, likely two, possibly four if you add her failed Senate run and her undistinguished stint with the McCain campaign in 2008. Carly was good at what, exactly? Climbing ladders, then getting fired? Maybe!

For a tech wiz (!), you'd think Carly Fiorina would have realized that after YouTube you can never go home again.

Uh oh. And about Planned Parenthood?

"Rest assured." She repeats that twice. I wonder if she told the board at HP that "Rest assured, our acquisition of Compaq will be good for us." In any event, Carly might have been wise not to take on Chris Cuomo of CNN:

At this point, Carly Fiorina is more than tripling down on her "misstatements." It's what she does. It's her M.O. Another tactic, some might call it Rovian, that Carly uses is to accuse others of her own sins:

Notice how she doesn't flinch when Chris Wallace points out she's basically making up the charges about the generals. Notice, too, that she conflates Petraeus's crimes -- he pleaded guilty and apologized -- with Hillary's "crimes," which at this point are completely unproven. But, hey.

Let's let Simon Lamoy have the last word:
I’m fascinated by this pathological commitment to dishonesty, and also by the treatment it receives from the press. Reporters tend to be gun-shy when it comes to labeling untrue statements from politicians as “false” or “lies” because it’s assumed to be a form of improper editorialization. But in an instance like this, there is no way to plausibly interpret what Fiorina is doing as anything other than lying. And yet, the press still dances around the unquestionable dishonesty on display here.
CNN reported on Fiorina’s stubborn mendacity with the hilarious headline: “Despite facts, Carly Fiorina stands by claim about retired generals.” ABC News reported: “Carly Fiorina Digs in on Claim That General’s Retirement Was Due to Obama Dispute.” Just call it false! Call it a lie! That’s what it is. The best headline I’ve seen on this story came from Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, who wrote: “Carly Fiorina Really Likes to Make Shit Up.” That’s an accurate, concise explanation of what’s going on here, and no one should hesitate to call Carly Fiorina a liar when there is no doubt that she’s lying.
It's what she does. She might think it makes her look resolute. I think it makes her look, uh, like a liar.

By the way, why was she in this race in the first place -- besides selling a book -- and why's she still in it? My guess -- probably a left-wing tactic! -- is that the Republicans needed a woman in the race as a counterweight to Hillary and to prove that Republican woman leaders exist, so she took one for the team. Heckuva job, Carly!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Libertarian Latino Nails the GOP's Latino Problem

I wonder what history that is going to be? Wild guess: Hillary 2016?

Cruising YouTube for old Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz videos, I came upon this one by featuring "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano. Reason is a libertarian magazine that I've read from time to time. I rarely agree with its slant because I find libertarians to be Republicans with the same goals but different M.O.s.

This video is different. What's surprising is how Arellano's analysis -- that Latinos hate both parties, are more closely aligned with libertarian views, but in the end are left supporting Democratic candidates because, well, Republicans have made it plain that they're no friend to the Latino.

Enjoy. It's well worth the watching.

OMG Somebody Noticed Obama Is Rational -- and Accomplished

If the Obama presidency were a football game, it'd be in the fourth quarter
with Obama leading the Republicans, 52-36. The winner? I'd bet on Obama.

I'm not surprised David Ignatius of the WaPo thinks Barack Obama is rational and cool as a cucumber. It's also not surprising that Ignatius thinks Obama is cool verging on cold, as in too removed to fight for his agenda. I get that but don't believe it. Obama fought for stuff and won a lot of stuff. So says Ignatius, after all:
Certainly this was a year in which the president delivered on the rationalist’s agenda, against intense emotional opposition. He achieved an Iran nuclear deal that was bitterly opposed by Israel and the GOP; a Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade rejected by much of his own party; a normalization of relations with Cuba that broke a national political taboo; and a climate change agreement that triumphed over a right-wing cult of rejecting scientific evidence.
This was a good year, you might conclude, for fact-based governance. But watching the swelling movement symbolized by Trump, you might think otherwise. It’s a paradox that Obama can have so many successes, and yet be seen by some at home and abroad as weak.
Obama’s political education has been expensive, for him and the country. He came into office believing that good ideas would prevail. He disliked the messy, boisterous work of salesmanship and retail governance. Perhaps he worried deep down that some of the opposition to his policies was rooted in prejudice against him as an African American. Perhaps he was right.
Perhaps? Ya think? And that list of accomplshments were just those of this past year. That would be a legacy all to itself. Add in healthcare reform, a reasonably managed economic recovery (yes, he did things, like going along with TARP, saving GM, getting the stimulus through, launching an expansion of alternative energy, tacitly supporting QE 1, 2, and 3), holding off assaults on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid other social safety-net programs, having a hand in guiding our nation to more inclusiveness (ending DADT, encouraging same-sex marriage, attempting to soften our hardened stance on immigration, refusing to pander to anti-Muslim fears), and trying to extricate our way out of Middle East wars and succeeding to an extent.

Sure, the Arab Spring, other than Tunisia, has been a series of catastrophes not of his own making -- with the possible exception of Libya, but the jury's still out on that one. Drone strikes as an alternative to boots on the ground has been uneven, and some may be right that assassination by drone as a tool of war is quasi-legal at best, though how we fight such an asymmetric war as we find ourselves in is challenging to say the least. I consider myself a pacifist, but in the current atmosphere I have trouble caring when Obama takes out al Qaeda and ISIS leaders from the air, just as the anti-death-penalty person that I am didn't lose any sleep over the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

I haven't gotten everything I ever wanted from any president in my lifetime, which goes all the way back to Harry S. Truman. I've liked a lot of what all the Democratic presidents did and most of what George H. W. Bush did. Eisenhower got the interstates going and warned against the military-industrial complex. Hell, in hindsight Nixon was a liberal, albeit an extremely paranoid and racist one. Only Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush epitomized the political and economic philosophies I deplore. St. Reagan got away with murder but W. not so much. Funny that.

Obama promised at his press conference yesterday to "leave it all out there on the field" in his final year. I don't doubt for a minute that he will, anymore than I don't doubt for a minute that the GOP will fight him to the last down. And I won't be surprised when he exits a winner.

The Anatomy of a Lie, Marco Rubio Edition

That's my view on the subject, but don't quote me.

An interesting exchange the other night had Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in a "Did not! Did so!" moment. Cruz wanted to bust Rubio for supporting a path to citizenship, or "amnesty," as he put it. Rubio equivocated until you couldn't tell what he supported. Of course, we all know he advocated for a path to citizenship in a bill he co-sponsored with the so-called Gang of Eight (when they're bipartisan they're called gangs).

Cruz, for his part, had advocated for making undocumented workers wait a long time before being granted green cards, which, um, is a path to citizenship, right? So, Ted, which is it? Ted then made a big deal yesterday of saying he never supported amnesty and never will, whatever that means. I tried seeing what the factcheckers of America think, and they don't know what to think because Cruz is sorta dodgy.

But back to Rubio. First, there's this WaPo article about how it's hard to tell what Rubio believes because he's generally Etch-A-Sketching his ass off.

Then there's this NYTimes article on how conservative sorta kinda remember Rubio's original position and are mad at him:
WASHINGTON — Senator Marco Rubio made a big bet on an immigration overhaul that failed — and he has been running away from it since. Now his past is catching up with him, stoking old grievances from conservative rivals who are reopening one of the most vulnerable episodes in his past.
The anger toward Mr. Rubio on the right has only grown in recent days as he has taken to aggressively questioning Senator Ted Cruz’s toughness on illegal immigration, a line of attack that some Republicans say they find disingenuous.
On talk radio, on the campaign trail and on television in states like Iowa, Mr. Rubio is suddenly facing a torrent of criticism from his own party unlike anything he has faced so far in the presidential race.
Oh no, how's he going to get out of this one!? Ted Cruz, who, let's not forget, has his own problems, has launched a counterattack. Even though Rubio's original bill was aimed at helping Hispanics to remain in the U.S., what Cruz is really concerned about is all the ISIS terrorists hanging out in Juarez waiting to destroy our way of life!

Of course, with talk like that, Cruz doesn't leave much freedom in our wonderfullest country of all time. San Bernardino changed everything, at least on the GOP campaign trail.

(We'll get over San Bernardino someday, just like we stopped being afraid of anthrax. Remember that?)

The people over at très conservative are exercised about Rubio's lies equivocations:
However, when the Gang-of-Eight bill rolled around, the Republicans involved were Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio AND John McCain. Furthermore, you cannot forget that many of Rubio’s establishment backers are behind him specifically because they are expecting him to break his word again and back an immigration plan similar to the Gang-of-Eight bill.
That’s all worth keeping in mind because Marco Rubio wants to be President and he’s promising to get tough on illegal immigration. If he’s telling the truth, he might be a decent candidate. If Rubio’s lying, it doesn’t really make much of a difference over the long haul whether you elect him or Hillary because his immigration policies would permanently cement liberals in power without securing the border or doing anything of significance to stop illegal immigration.
Put another way, if Marco Rubio becomes the President of the United States, the future of our republic depends on Rubio telling the truth this time after he already lied about the same thing to people who walked over broken glass to get him elected.
So now, are you ready to walk over broken glass to get Marco Rubio elected? Choose wisely because if Rubio becomes President and he’s lying about immigration again, it will be the end of the road for conservatism in America.
Ouch! Marco, what have you done? I think it's called suffering a serious smackdown on the road to the GOP nomination. After all, you just might signal the end of conservatism. That's not good for the GOP!

Here's Rubio getting YouTubed:

Marco Rubio got elected by pandering to the tea party, then once in the Senate he starts joining gangs. Now he wants to be the Republican candidate for president when his party has turned so far to the right he might just have to change his name to Mark Rube and insist he's not Cuban and he's not in favor of a path to being Cuban. Once he gets the nomination (fat chance now), he changes his name back to Marco Rubio and hopes he gets some love from the Latinos, who are so alienated by his shenanigans that they're as likely to vote for him as the conservatives, who are pretty alienated by his shenanigans, too.

Poor Marco. But that's what happens when your pander machine is running on all eight cylinders.

Some people busted Rubio back in real time. Here's Laura Ingram on Fox:

And here's Glenn Beck on the radio:

Wow, don't sugarcoat it, Glenn.

I can just see what the DNC is planning for Marco Rubio, should he get anywhere near the nomination. Still, there's hope for Rubio in the primaries. Donald Trump is proving that the GOP base is capable of believing just about anything. Just say it the right way, Rubio. Oh, right. That's what you've been doing that's gotten you in this mess.

Well, good luck then.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Anatomy of a Lie, Ted Cruz Edition

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): Lying then or lying now? Er, both?

Ted Cruz, while trying to slither his way to the White House, has run into a wall known as Florida Senator and 2016 rival Marco Rubio (who's floating a backstory nearly as preposterous as Cruz's). Rubio joined a Gang of Eight back in 2013 to cobble together a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship, something Democratic members of the Gang of Eight insisted upon.

Enter Ted Cruz, who inserts amendments that would limit undocumented workers to a "legal status" that fell short of citizenship but was indeed a form of amnesty. Amnesty has, over the past years, become very much a dirty word. Cruz avoids it like the plague and instead throws it around as a charge to knock rivals down a peg.

The trouble is he was for amnesty back in 2013 with his amendments. Was he lying then or lying now? A case can be made that he did both. William Saleton at Slate explains:
Cruz urged his colleagues “to roll up our sleeves and fix the problem in a humane way,” foreclosing citizenship “but allowing, as this legislation does, a legal status for those who are here illegally. That would be reform that a great many people across this country, both Republican and Democrat, would embrace.” You can watch Cruz’s remarks on his Senate website. He looks sincere.
Trouble was he wasn't sincere. And now that the conservative base of the Republican party see amnesty as anathema to all it stands for, Cruz can't even acknowledge that he was offering amendments to kill off a path to citizenship with an alternative known as "permanent legal status." Again, the trouble was permanent legal status happens to be a form of, yes, amnesty. Oops.

Solution? Admit that his whole gambit was meant to insert a poison pill that Democrats couldn't agree to, thus sabotaging the whole bill.

Get it? He lies to his colleagues back in 2013 that he could accept permanent legal status so that workers in America here illegally could come out of the shadows. Now, when that position has become untenable in 2015, he announces with great flare that he was never in favor of any kind of amnesty. Lying then or lying now?

That's easy: Both are true, true that he's lying in both cases. Will it work? It has in the past for Cruz, why stop now?

Marco Rubio is hellbent on making Cruz pay for this flip-flop. He might yet succeed. The only problem for Rubio is that he was clearly for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers in the bill he crafted with the Gang of Eight. His weak-tea approach to flipping is to say "the American people told us they need a secure border before considering changing the 'status' of undocumented workers." How long would that take? About ten years, or the amount of time for a President Rubio to occupy the White House, win a second term, and then move to greener pastures without giving amnesty to a single Hispanic. Neat trick, if you can pull it off.

Rubio's gambit is based on a lie, as well, the lie that the American people schooled our overly enthusiastic young senator just in time before he actually got his bill through Congress. Now it's "I was never for that." But of course he was.

Who's version of events is the truth? Rubio was for a path to citizenship, and Cruz was for a path to legal status. How do you get out from under that?

Just keep pointing fingers at each other, boys. Did you ever think that you'd both look like lying bastards? That's what you look like to me. But then the game has always been to see what you can get away with. Where Cruz has trouble is with the number of times he's accused others of lying. The junior senator from Texas famously stood on the Senate floor and openly accused his own Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of lying to the Republican Caucus. Nice trick, Ted!

William Saleton pounds in another nail:
On May 31, in a public discussion with professor Robert George at Princeton University, Cruz repeated his plea. Cruz said Democrats’ insistence on a path to citizenship was a “poison pill” designed to make the immigration bill unacceptable to Republicans. The Democrats’ devious strategy, he alleged, was to make Republicans vote against the bill so that Democrats could use it as a campaign issue. Cruz said his own amendments, by contrast, were offered in good faith: “I want to see common-sense immigration reform pass. But the only way to do so is to find a middle ground.” He told George, “I believe if the amendments I introduced were adopted, that the bill would pass. And my effort in introducing them was to find a solution that reflected common ground and that fixed the problem.”
Okay, truth-telling, sincere Ted Cruz! He wants amnesty! But wait, there's more. Here's Cruz in 2013:
 That outcome means those 11 million remain in the shadows, have no legal status. Whereas, if the proponents of this bill actually demonstrate a commitment not to politics, not to campaigning all the time, but to actually fixing this problem, to finding a middle ground, that would fix the problem and also allow for those 11 million people who are here illegally a legal status with citizenship off the table. I believe that is the compromise that can pass.
Legal status! Sounds like amnesty to me -- and perhaps to anyone within earshot. But, what's that you say, Sen. Cruz, today?
That was 2013. In the two years since, the Republican Party has become even more conservative. Rubio has renounced the 2013 bill, claiming to have “learned” that “the American people” won’t accept a path to legalization until our borders are secure. Cruz, too, has shifted to the right: He now opposes any legal status for undocumented immigrants. But unlike Rubio, Cruz denies having changed his position. Instead, Cruz claims that his own 2013 amendments were insincere.
Cruz’s shift has been documented by the Texas Tribune, National Review, Yahoo Politics,, and many others. A month ago, a Cruz adviser claimed that Cruz had used his amendments to sabotage the bill and kill it in the House. In the Republican presidential debate on Tuesday, Cruz said it was “not accurate” to claim “that I supported legalization. Indeed, I led the fight against [Rubio’s] legalization and amnesty. ... I have never supported legalization.” After the debate, Cruz’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, repeated that Cruz’s 2013 amendment was a “poison pill” and that Cruz “never supported a path to legal status.” And in a Fox News interview with Bret Baier on Wednesday, Cruz said his 2013 amendment was a hostile ploy:
What it doesn’t mean is that I supported the other aspects of the bill, which was a terrible bill. And Bret, you’ve been around Washington long enough. You know how to defeat bad legislation, which is what that amendment did. ... I introduced five amendments, a whole series of amendments. What they did is, they illustrated the hypocrisy of the Democrats. They showed that it was a partisan effort, and they succeeded in defeating the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill.
Cruz is sticking to his new story. “Let’s have a moment of simple clarity,” he told reporters on Thursday. “I oppose legalization. I always have, and I always will.” He said his 2013 amendment “laid naked the partisanship, the hypocrisy, and the lies” behind the bill. “By exposing the hypocrisy, by exposing their bluff, we won. We defeated amnesty.” Why, then, did Cruz feign sympathy in 2013? Brian Phillips, a Cruz campaign spokesman, has a simple answer: “We were not trying to let on our legislative strategy.”
No wonder colleagues in the Senate hate Ted Cruz so much: He's one slimy bastard, which from his perspective makes him presidential material. Hopefully, the American voter won't buy his line, unless they fall back on "He may be a liar, but he's our liar."

Just so we're clear.

Now another thing becomes clear: Rubio and Cruz, through these shenanigans, have shown their true colors to the Hispanic community you'd think they'd want to court. Could they be gearing up for their Etch-A-Sketch moment? How'd that work for Mitt Romney?