Saturday, September 19, 2015

They never thought he had a bomb . . . but they arrested him anyway.

This is a very disturbing post making the rounds and forwarded from Daily Kos, suggesting that the police in Irving, Texas did not actually think that Ahmed Mohamed had brought a bomb to school when they arrested him for bringing his home-made digital clock to school to show his teacher.

The implication is pretty ugly and the worst kind of racial stereotyping -- or else evidence of gross stupidity on the part of police.   Here's the post:
I said: it's sad they thought that kid had a bomb.
She said: they didn't think he had a bomb.
I said: yes, they thought he made a bomb and even called the police.
She said: They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim boy. They didn't think he had a bomb. . . .

But they didn't evacuate the school, like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't call a bomb squad
- like you do when there's a bomb. 
They didn't get as far away from him as possible
, like you do when there's a bomb. . . .
Then they waited with him for the police to arrive, and then
they put the clock in the same car as the police. . . . 

I said: Damn.....They never thought he had a bomb
It turns out that's right.   The police chief confirmed that they knew pretty quickly that it was not a bomb, but they arrested him anyway, put him in cuffs and took him to juvenile detention -- because they assumed he had tried to make a bomb . . . or that he had made a fake bomb to try to scare people.

Chris Hayes on "All In" on MSNBC Thursday night interviewed Irving police chief Larry Boyd.
BOYD:  "The officers pretty quickly determined that they weren’t investigating an explosive device. What their investigation centered around is the law violation of bringing a device into a facility like that that is intended to create a level of alarm. In other words, a hoax bomb — something that is not really a bomb, but is designed and presented in a way that it creates people to be afraid.”

HAYES:  “Right, but he never called it a bomb, rightHe just kept calling it a clock. I mean, it never came out of his lips, he never did something or started showing it around saying, ‘Look at this bomb I have.’ He said, ‘Look at my clock.'” 

BOYD:  “There definitely was some confusion and some level of information that didn’t come out immediately. [explaining that, in many cases, someone who would make a “hoax bomb” would not be likely to admit to doing so to police.] “With what they had at that time, they made the best decision that they had at that point in time.”
Does anyone have the slightest doubt -- if Ahmed had been named Joe and was blond and blue-eyed -- that this would not have caused a panic?   This is clearly fear-induced stupidity resulting directly from the Islamaphobic bigots brainwashing people into fear of all Muslims. 

What's wrong with this country?   Bravo to President Obama for countering this with a Tweet of praise to Ahmed and an invitation to bring his clock to the White House.

The best case to be made is that police are terrified that they will miss spotting a terrorist who will then blow things up and kill people.   But this requires a bit of judgment and common sense, or else you overreact and arrest too many innocents -- and seems to be the case here.   There is nothing scary or sinister looking about 14 year old Ahmed, and he never said or acted in any way suspicious.   He simply did the 14 year old nerd kid version of show and tell.


PS:  As the story expands, it seems that Irving has a level of prejudice against Muslims that has been amplified by the mayor's highly visible actions and words prior to this incident.   And her response to this incident was to praise the police for keeping the school and city safe.

Friday, September 18, 2015

22,600,000 watched Republican debaters' lies go unchallenged. This can't be good for Democrats

The CNN Republican debate drew 22,600,000 viewers Wednesday night.   And they have ten more debates scheduled.    Why does the DNC and its chair Debbie Wasserman-Scultz continue to insist on only three debates for Democratic candidates prior to the big primaries next March?

This cannot be good -- to let all those lies and distortions and demonization of Obama and Clinton and Sanders go unchallenged.


PS:  Fortunately, the medical establishment is responding to the Trump lie about a vaccine-autism link, which the two doctors on the stage failed to refute.    That rumor, which Sarah Palin tried to peddle in 2008, has been thoroughly debunked by medical science.   

When you have hundreds of millions in a routine thing like vaccinations -- there are obviously going to be some of those millions who will develop various kinds of problems that they would have got anyway.   Some will develop autism, some will die from congenital heart problems, some will grow up to be geniuses or sports stars or beauty queens.    None of it has anything to do with vaccines.

Huckabee, again, relies on dishonest pandering

The only former Christian minister on the stage Thursday night, Mike Huckabee, was also the most dishonest in the way he pandered to his right-wing audience.

Touted on Huffington Post Politics, as one of the 5 memorable moments from the debate, was Huckabee saying that Muslim detainees at Guantanamo prison have received more religious accommodation than Kim Davis in Kentucky.

Yes, detainees were allowed to grow beards because it is important in their Muslim faith;   and, yes, Kim Davis was put in jail for defying a court order that she says would make her violate her Christian faith.

But here's the difference -- and it makes ALL the difference -- that Huckabee does not even mention:  It deprives no one for Muslim detainees to have beards.   Kim Davis is an elected public official who abused the power of her office to prevent citizens of her county from obtaining a perfectly legal marriage license because of her religious beliefs.

Huckabee is wrong again in saying her faith is not being accommodated.   She has now been released from jail on the condition that she not interfere with deputy clerks in her office issuing the licenses.   She doesn't have to do it herself.  That is accommodation, period.  It is what she asked for originally, before she and her lawyer decided there was still publicity and fund-raising in pretending that she is not being accommodated.

What makes Huckabee's false link so disgusting and outrageous is that he never once mentions that her action was as an elected public official refusing to do her duty and refusing to abide by a direct court order.

She abused the power of her office to deny others their legal rights.  That is hardly comparable to wanting not to shave your own beard.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Conclusions from last night's debate

1.  It was an excruciating four hours of watching 4 and 11 people bash my people and the policies I support -- without a single voice to counter the distortions and lies.   More than once I wanted to turn it off in disgust -- or throw a shoe at the tv set.

2.  There was no one star, and no one bombed.   Several probably helped themselves with those already favoring them:   Rubio, Fiorino, Bush, Cruz, Paul.   Trump was probably the one who lost a bit because his lack of knowledge showed more.   Kasich, Carson, Huckabee, Christie, and Walker probably held what they had, although Walker certainly failed to stand out as he badly needed to do.    I doubt the order of polling will change much based on this debate, although expect Trump to decline a bit and Fiorino and Rubio may move up a notch, and Walker even further down -- and maybe out soon.

3.   In my opinion, the loser was Jake Tapper, the moderator, and his advisers who chose the questions and format.  About 90% followed this pattern:   "Candidate A, Candidate B said this about you (or, alternately, made this claim about X).  Tell him why he is wrong."   In other words, the whole question format was 'let's you and him fight.'   The format naturally turned it to ad hominem attacks far more than policy discussions -- such that other candidates eventually complained about the lack of substance in the format.   Only near the end, when some debaters stopped playing the game (notably Fiorino) and pivoted to real policy discussions, did it get interesting.

4.  Overall, it had only rare glimpses of substance that couldn't simply be dismissed as partisan distortions or errors of fact.   That, in my opinion, is the fault of the moderator and producers.   CNN grade:   C minus.    It galls me to admit it, but the Fox News team did a better job by far in the first debate.


Another showdown in Kentucky -- on health care

Yes, Kim Davis went back to her job Monday as County Clerk, where she says she will not interfere with the deputy clerks issuing marriage licenses;  but she also will not authorize them, and she questions whether they will therefore be valid.  But that is a showdown for another day perhaps.

The showdown I refer to here is in the Kentucky governor's race and it involves health care.  The candidates are Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat;  and Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin, who gave Mitch McConnell a good scare in the Republican senate primary last year.

Bevin is on a crusade to get rid of Kentucky's very successful health care system Kynect -- a major Obamacare success story that has earned national acclaim.   Under Gov. Beshear's leadership, Kentucky set up both a state-run insurance exchange and an expansion of Medicaid that together have provided affordable health insurance to more than 500,000 Kentuckians in the first year alone.

According to a Gallup poll, the uninsured rate in Kentucky fell from 20.4% in 2013 to just 9%.   Furthermore, Kentuckians like it.   And yet Bevin says he will do away with both the exchange and reverse the Medicaid expansion.   Beshear was quoted in ThinkProgress:  "It terrifies me. . . .  Matt Bevin is just going to take it from every single one of them — just because he doesn’t like the fact that President Obama was the one that got it passed.”

He has reason to worry.  Recent polls show a tight race between Bevin and Conway, who would continue the Kynect plan.   So, in a sense, the election is a referendum on health care, despite Kynect's popularity and success.

Bevin is a millionaire on a crusade who promises to “bring relief from Obamacare to the taxpayers of Kentucky. . . .  Closing Kynect would begin to free Kentucky from this financially ill-advised program and leave Obamacare management in the hands of the federal government.”

On the contrary, according to ThinkProgress, "As of now, the programs don’t actually cost state taxpayers anything. Kentucky received $264 million from the federal government for the development of Kynect, and private insurance companies pay for the system’s operation.

"As for the Medicaid expansion, the federal government currently pays the entire tab, and will continue to do so until 2017. After 2017, Kentucky will begin paying 2 percent of the cost of the expansion, which will increase yearly until the state eventually pays 10 percent in 2021. By then, the state estimates, the program will have saved enough money and created enough jobs to more than offset the cost."

Beshear says Bevin doesn't understand the system, and no one has yet pinned him down with the facts.    Bevin conflates the Medicaid expansion and the exchange where people buy private insurance.  “His statements in general just talk about Obamacare, and ‘we’ve got to do away with the whole thing,’ and he doesn’t really distinguish between the exchange and Medicaid.”

Bevin also preaches the Tea Party line on the 10th Amendment, claiming that state governments do not have to follow federal laws they don't like.    Bevin folds this argument into his rant againstfederal government overreach.”

A report from the year after the expansion of Medicaid found that 12,000 health-care related jobs had been created and estimate that to double over the next eight years.    
Data also show a staggering increase in preventative care services like physical exams, diabetes and cancer screenings, and flu shots -- in a state ranked as one of the sickest states in America just a decade ago.

In other words, the people of Kentucky would be stupid to elect Matt Bevin.  Unfortunately one of the strengths of the Tea Party seems to be its ability to incite and manipulate people's stupidity.    Kim Davis might get the publicity, but the governor's race in Kentucky should be the showdown story now.


thanks to Emily Atkin and Josh Israel at ThinkProgress for the background for this story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This debate is going to hurt the Democrats

The second Republican debate is not even half way over, and I'm already sick of hearing all the distortion, malignant insinuation, and outright lying being used to smear Democrats.   It's one thing to disagree with Democratic policies;  but, to resort to turning honest differences into gross lies -- things that have been publically refuted and disproven, and yet to keep repeating them as though they are proven facts -- is downright disgusting.

What I'm taking away at this point is this:   the Democratic National Committee has made a terrible mistake in scheduling so few debates.   Letting so much Republican distortion and lies go unchallenged and repeated is going to hurt the Democrats very badly.   Especially when the CNN moderator is making no attempt to correct the misstatements.


Obama throws down the gauntlet for tonight's Republican debaters

Just before the Republican 16 go before millions of television viewers in tonight's two debates, President Obama threw down a challenge by calling their anti-immigrant positions "un-American."
“This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are. Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else. . . .

“When I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care, I think that’s un-American.”
Dartagnan of Daily Kos summed it up:
"In one sentence the President managed to tie immigration, patriotism and religious faith together and frame it as an indictment of the Republican platform. With one carefully timed, barbed phrase he baited the entire Republican field . . . into responding, while turning the Republican meme of his "otherness" on its head and serving it up to them on a cold dish. . . .  

"America will now have the pleasure of watching the Republican candidates weigh in on the President's characterization of their entire hateful, anti-Latino and Hispanic crusade. It should be the first question asked in the debates.”

*   *   *
What a deft and clever challenge, so well timed.    After all, it used to be that conservatives claimed the "patriot" title and accused liberals of being un-American.   Coming on top of all the other defeats the president and the senate Democrats have been handing the Republicans, this feels like a final coup de grace.

Let's see how they handle it.


Bernie Sanders keeps hitting all the right notes

On policy issues and on being authentic, Bernie Sanders is my top choice.   I have withheld my total support, because I worry that he cannot win or, if he did, that he couldn't effectively govern in today's climate in Washington.   And, for the sake of the balance on the Supreme Court, we must elect a Democrat president.

But Bernie continues to hit all the right notes -- and week by week he is winning me over.   The latest came when he addressed the student assembly at Liberty University, which of course was not his natural political home ground.   Liberty U. was founded by the late Jerry Falwell and is ultra-conservative in social issues.

So what did Bernie, who is Jewish, tell them?   First, he was authentic and honest about his differences from conservatives, but he sought to find common ground and to appeal to their sense of morality as opposed to party line talking points.

As Samantha Lachman reported on his talk for the Huffington Post, Sanders began by saying he believes that it is "vitally important" for those who hold different views to have civil discourse instead of shouting at each other.   He acknowledged that he believes "in marriage equality and in a woman's right to control her own body.  But he went on to argue that on issues like income inequality, childhood poverty, youth unemployment and access to health care, he and religious conservatives should be able to find some common ground. . . ."

Sanders explained:  "When we talk about morality, and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much, and so many have so little."   And he quoted the Bible on doing to others what you would have done to you.   He noted those in the audience believe in "family values" and then argued that "It is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people, and, when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed is doing our country enormous harm."

While getting mostly polite applause, he seemed to hit a note of enthusiastic response when he answered a question to explain how he reconciles his views on abortion with his belief in defending the vulnerable.

Sanders replied that it is hypocritical for conservatives to demand less government intervention in every matter except reproductive rights"I do believe that it is improper for the United States government to tell every woman in this country the very painful and difficult choice she has to make on this issue."   And then he talked about Republican budgets that give tax cuts to wealthy people while cutting Pell grants for college students and nutrition programs for children.    He also address the question of war:   It should always be the last resort after diplomatic solutions have been sought.

Well done Bernie.   I predict you got a few votes there and made a few of the others think.   But, more important, your forthrightness, your attempt to find common ground, your framing inequality as a moral issue, and your absence of political spin influenced a lot more people like me who are just short of jumping on your bandwagon.


NOTE[I wrote the above based on video clips and transcript excerpts without having watching the entire speech and Q&A.   Now that I have watched it, I am even more impressed by Bernie Sanders.   He was terrific and touching.   Here's the link for the entire hour:  ><    The last 22 minutes are the Q&A.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kim Davis returns to work but does a Pontius Pilate

On returning to her office on Monday, Kim Davis spoke from the courthouse steps:   "If any [deputy clerk] feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice, and I will take no action against them. . . .  However, any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order."

Does "unauthorized" simply mean she is saying to God: "Don't blame me.  I wash my hands of this deed"?  Or is she saying that the license will not be legally valid?

At least one same-sex couple got a license on Monday and seemed unconcerned that it lacked Davis' signature.   They said it was valid to them.

And how would Davis respond, I wonder, to this letter to the editor in Monday's New York Times from Alan Daniels?

"Let me see if understand this correctly.   If a religious group tried to tell Christians who they could and could not marry, they would scream religious persecution.  If I don't allow Christians to tell me who I can and can't marry, they scream religious persecution.   How stupid do you have to be to not see the hypocrisy here?"


Netanyahu falsely claims "a fabulous victory"

Thanks to Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo for this:

"With AIPAC staffers grousing that Benjamin Netanyahu ruined their chances of blocking President Obama's deal with Iran and House conservatives trying to think of other ways to act out now that the battle is lost, advisors to Netanyahu are claiming that, despite appearances, he achieved a fabulous victory. . . . claiming that by opposing the deal they've won a big new security package [from the U.S.] for Israel."

Marshall then explains:  "a substantial military aid package" had been in the works long before the Iran nuclear deal emerged.   The White House had been offering to discuss it with the Israelis in hopes of making the Iran deal more palatable, but Netanyahu refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss it.

Marshal continues:  "[F]rom a certain hardball perspective, now that Netanyahu has suffered a crushing defeat, you might think the deal would be in doubt.  But it's not.  The White House has made that crystal clear. They'll get all of it anyway. But this is in spite of Netanyahu's antics not because of it.

"All the politics and geopolitics militate that the deal goes through. But it goes without saying that Netanyahu had more leverage to sweeten the deal a month ago than he does now. This is so obvious as to require no explanation. 

"In the short term, Netanyahu is likely to pay little additional price for these antics and this defeat. He may even gain some short term political advantage by cynically whipping up fear within the country - even as his top intelligence and military brass disagrees with his dire warnings. But a defeat it is. No question about it. And it's a big one."
*   *   *
Just think what conservatives would be saying if, instead of Netanyahu and Israel, we were dealing with Russia or Pakistan.   They would be screaming about how weak Obama is and how he is just appeasing our enemies, rather than acting in our own security interests.   To borrow from the NYT letter quoted above:   "How stupid do you have to be not to see the hypocrisy in this?"


Monday, September 14, 2015

Death from guns vs. death from wars

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff commented on the prevalence of gun violence in the United States.   We all know it's higher than other advanced countries by many times, but this comparison still surprises:

"More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in Americn history."

Here are the stats:   1,516,863 deaths from guns;  1,396,733 total war deaths from the Revolutionary War through August 2015 in the Middle East.    The AJC PolitiFact says the figures are correct.

"Deaths from guns" includes suicides, that's true.   But the point here is not so much the prevalence of murder vs suicides but the easy availability of guns as it contributes to deaths, suicides as much as murder.


Progress report on economic effects of Obamacare

Have Republicans stopped their dire predictions of the job killing, deficit increasing, and economy wrecking effect of the Affordable Care Act?    Someone should tell them the news.

Since President Obama took office, the unemployment rate has fallen from 7.8% to 5.1%, which is lower than it ever was while Ronald Reagen was president.     In the 2012 campaign Mitt Romney promised to get it down to 6% by the end of 2016.   So much for that.   Obama beat that by 0.9% and by 15 months.

Since that 2012 campaign, more 7,000,000 new workers have gotten jobs -- despite the fact that taxes on the upper 1% have gone up (due to the expiration of Bush tax cuts) and due to some funding for Obamacare.

In addition, the deficit has gone down, not up.

So, guys, isn't it time to pick another thing to be wrong about?   You've about used this one up.   What about gas prices?   Predictions are to be under $2.00/gallon by the end of 2015.   Really good economic news to be going into the 2016 presidential race.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

And then there were 16 . . .

Rick Perry has ended his campaign because he has run out of money . . . and supporters.  From front runner for several weeks in the 2012 race, Perry's current standing is just 1% in a Quinnipiac poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers released yesterday.

Some pundits are now predicting that as many as seven or eight of the crowd will be gone before the Iowa caucuses.  Starting at the bottom, this would include:  Gillmore (0%), Pataki (0%), Santoruum (1%), Graham (1%), Jindal (2%) and possibly Christie (1%) or Walker (3%), depending on how each does in the second debate this week.

We keep thinking that, once the number of candidates is reduced and the anti-Trump vote is not so divided, then he won't be such a front-runner.   But the combined poll percentages of those nine candidates above adds up to only 9%.

Look at it this way:  The non-politicians (Trump 27%, Carson 21%, and Fiorino 5%) have a cumulative majority of 53% -- against the 42% cumulative vote for all the politicians.

Interesting message there.    Of course -- I keep reminding myself -- it's still early.   Closer to the time, voters may start to consider things like general election electability and whether the person would actually be a good president.

Or maybe not.


Headline of the week: "Scott Walker Reverses The Position He Took On Taking Positions."

Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post took note of Scott Walker's continued ineptitude as a national candidate.  Repeatedly stumbling when asked questions by reporters, he tried declaring "hypothetical questions" to be unfair and refusing to say what he would do as president about this or that.

He had already declared that he would not respond to questions about his past record as governor.   So, as New York Magazine's Jaime Fuller put it, "[Walker] had found himself a 'secret cheat code that allows him to avoid all campaign questions.'   Fuller called that position, in itself, something of an achievement for Walker, "whose typical pattern has been to stake out a position on one day, only to reverse himself later."

But wait, there's more.  A few days later Walker reversed the position that he would not take positions by answering a question about Syrian refugees and saying that the U.S. should not take in Syrian refugees but instead concentrate on taking out ISIS.   Why does it have to be either/or?   He didn't say.   Linkins then wonders:
"Why not just provide this answer the first time? What was with all that tortured reasoning over the nature of hypotheticals when the actual answer to that hypothetical was a quick-and-dirty 'No'? . . . . or does Walker just need a few hours to think about his answers to questions?

"It's genuinely weird that Walker can't seem to get a grip on this . . . .  For the last two months [he] hasn't made a single policy pronouncement that he or his staff hasn't had to clarify or clear up within two hours.'

"I have an open question to any of the people who lost an election to this guy: How did you lose an election to this guy?"
Well put.   I have never had a favorable impression of Scott Walker.   As governor, he has been a nightmare for Wisconsin's economy, its schools, it's public service workers, and just about anything else you can name.   His only real claim is that he has won three elections -- and cut taxes, if you think that's a good thing.

Now add to that his ineptitude as a politician -- and the voters are starting to get it.   Walker was leading the pack at 18% among Iowa voters as recently as July.   Quinnipiac's most recent polling shows him in 10th place with just 3% of likely Iowa caucus-goers.

Walker should drop out before the Iowa caucuses if he wants to avoid a humiliating defeat in the neighboring state he was supposed to win.