Archive for the 'House Red: Politics & Current Affairs' Category

What Ordinary Iranians Think

Sanctions, western misunderstanding and religion: 100 Iranians share their views, edited by Matthew Holmes and Maeve Shearlaw. The Guardian, 30 March 2016.

Interesting piece today in The Guardian. Brief comments by 100 ordinary Iranians from inside the country and across the diaspora. I have taken time this morning to read only a few. This one in particular caught my eye:

‘There are Iranians who think like Noam Chomsky or Bernie Sanders’

The world’s view of Iran is so wrong. We are a very diverse people, with millions who believe in the traditional aspects of Islamic culture and we have millions whose views are probably like any other girl or boy in London. There’s even a minority whose views are just like Noam Chomsky or Bernie Sanders. — Morteza Meybodi, Meybod

 

Last Week on the Campaign Trail: Foreign Affairs and National Security…and it’s not pretty

Foreign affairs took center stage on the campaign trail last week as Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz paid obeisance to wealthy Jewish-Americans at the hardline pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) while Bernie Sanders made his Israel speech at a campaign event on the same night. Trump and Cruz named their top foreign policy advisers. Clinton generally locked up the Democratic Party establishment on foreign affairs and national security, leaving Bernie Sanders…well, maybe Comrade Bernie will give me a call.

The terrorist attacks in Brussels gave Trump and Cruz additional opportunity to spew anti-Muslim venom when they were not spewing venom at one another in the contretemps around their wives in a Republican Party contest that plays like something scripted by the writers at Saturday Night Live or The Onion.

Hillary Clinton

The candidate touts her foreign policy experience and accomplishments as secretary of state, when she

worked to restore America’s leadership in the world, after it was badly eroded by eight years of the Bush administration’s go-it-alone foreign policy…. from building a global coalition to impose crippling sanctions against Iran, to brokering a ceasefire in Gaza and protecting Israel, to supporting President Obama’s decision to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and much more [emphasis mine]. (Clinton campaign website)

Along with her experience, Clinton has a reputation for preparation and attention to detail. She is without question a sharp cookie. During the 1992 presidential campaign I found myself thinking that it was too bad her husband was the candidate. She struck me as the more impressive of the two. Yet there is that vote on Iraq in 2002. (n.b., Fred Kaplan, Hillary Clinton Told the Truth About Her Iraq War Vote, for perspective and context that puts her vote in a better light without absolving her of responsibility for what turned out to put her on the wrong side of history, as they say). There is the email kerfuffle, blown up and milked by her enemies for all they can get out of it but nonetheless troublesome. It is not too much to ask what the heck she was thinking. While experience is important, it is not everything. As Bernie Sanders likes to remind us, judgment matters.

Parenthetical observation: Yes, even intelligent people can do things that leave us scratching our heads. My own resume is littered with poor choices and foolish moves that leave me scratching my head. On the other hand, I am merely your oft humbled scribe. Hillary Clinton wants your vote  for president.

The Clinton campaign website and her speech to AIPAC stake out consistent neocon policy. Clinton equates Israeli interests with American security and strategic interests.

Since it was founded in 1948, Israel has become the largest single recipient of U.S foreign assistance — a total of $121 billion, almost all of which has been in the form of military assistance. (Journalist’s Resource).

Under a Clinton presidency, not only will this level of military aid continue, it will be ramped up. She requested increased military assistance for Israel every year of her term at State and promises more of the same to maintain Israel’s position as the dominant military power in the region. It is worth noting that Bibi Netanyahu credited “unprecedented” security cooperation between the two countries during her time as secretary of state.

If there is anything from Clinton to suggest that she will rebut the Netanyahu regime’s presumption that it should hold veto power over American policy in the Middle East, I have yet to find it. She could almost be running as the Likud Party candidate.

Alongside this embrace of Israel comes tough talk and saber rattling on Iran that would do Trump and Cruz proud. She pays lip service to diplomacy, yet emphasizes that her approach to the nuclear agreement with Iran will be “distrust and verify” while “bolstering deterrence and aggressively confronting Iran’s unacceptable [elsewhere labeled “malicious”] behavior in the region.” Her call to “condemn actions that set back the cause of peace” is one-sided, directed solely at Palestinians, ignoring the occupation, settlements, and other obstacles to peace from the Israeli side.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

Trump and Cruz tell us they will achieve foreign policy objectives and provide for national security via torture and bombing carpets. It turns out that Cruz either does not know what the term “carpet bombing” means or does not care. He uses it because it makes for inflammatory rhetoric, a penchant for which he has in common with Trump. The difference is that Trump tends to be more effective.

Trump’s speech to AIPAC is riddled with inaccuracies and provocations. He repudiates the nuclear agreement with Iran and repeats the fabrication that the U.S. will “reward” Iran with $150 billion as part of the deal. “Trump’s statement makes it sound like we’re cutting Iran a $150 billion check. In reality, the money is already Iran’s to begin with, just frozen under the many economic sanctions levied against the country.” (Linda Qui, No, Donald Trump, we are not giving Iran $150 billion for ‘nothing’). He seems blissfully ignorant of Daesh’s antipathy toward Shi’a Muslims as he invokes the bugaboo of generic “Islamic terrorism,” ignoring Daesh’s vicious and widespread campaign against Shi’a Muslims, including the bombing of mosques and attacks against other civilian targets.

Trump has identified himself as his own primary resource on foreign policy. This is not reassuring.

In a fantasy world of foreign policy, we could be good friends with Putin. Principles get in the way of cozying up with dictators. So does information. But Mr. Trump has found a way around that. He simply has none. (Danielle Pletka, senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, quoted in Damian Paletta and Beth Reinhard, “Foreign-Policy Plans Get Sharper Focus”)

The line-up of foreign-policy advisors Trump named a few days ago did not impress.

“I don’t know any of them,” said Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former official in the George W. Bush State Department. “National security is hard to do well even with first rate people. It’s almost impossible to do well with third rate people.” (Michael Crowley, Trump’s foreign policy team baffles Republican experts)

The Cruz team of Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen, Elliot Abrams, and Lt. General Jerry Boykin may be even worse. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Gaffney one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes, a distinction he earned.

Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy. In 1988, he founded the neoconservative turned anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy.  He favors congressional hearings to unmask subversive Muslim conspiracies, and was even banned from far-right Conservative Political Action Conference events after accusing two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood [emphasis mine]. (SPLC)

Ledeen is a former Reagan administration official involved in the Iran-contra affair who calls for regime change in Iran. Abrams is another Iran-contra alumnus. As part of the Reagan team, he also had his fingers in some unsavory anti-communist activity in Central America that included human rights violations and violations of international law. Abrams graduated to the Bush administration, where he played a major role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, of which he noted, “We recognize that military action in Iraq, if necessary, will have adverse humanitarian consequences.” (Adrienne Masha Varkiani, Meet The People Behind Ted Cruz’s Terrifying Foreign Policy Plan). Last but not least, Boykin is former undersecretary of defense for intelligence in the George W Bush administration and presently a senior executive at Family Research Council. Like Gaffney, he believes that American government has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Col. Pat Lang offered this pithy assessment of the Cruz team:

Oddly, I know all these men. Where did I go wrong?  Ah, too much time inside the Beltway!…

These four men collectively summon up images from the history channel, and they are not good images.

Cruz identifies Iran and ISIS (Daesh) as responsible for the worsening security climate, as if the two are allies instead of the mortal enemies they are. A Cruz administration would recognize an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and locate the U.S. embassy there, as would Trump. Like Trump, Clinton, and to a degree even Sanders, though Bernie’s take is more nuanced (in a more positive sense of this term than it is customarily given these days), Cruz posits an intimate link between Israel and U.S. national security issues. The opening of Cruz’s AIPAC speech sums up his stance:

“Let me say at the outset,” the Texas senator said as he took the stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual gathering, “Perhaps to the surprise of the previous speaker [Trump], Palestine has not existed since 1948.”

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has the twin advantages of offering a levelheaded alternative to both the neocon worldview and the Trump-Cruz collection of third-rate, vitriol-spewing, fear-mongering pinheads. By way of example, take these comments from his campaign website:

The U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides. The Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and hold accountable those who have committed terrorist acts. The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. Both sides must negotiate in good faith regarding all other outstanding issues that stand in the way of a durable and lasting peace in the region. In the meantime, strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.

Sanders and the other candidates are united in calling on Sunnis in the region to take the lead in providing ground forces for the fight against Daesh. This is one of those common-wisdom numbers that sound good until inconvenient details get in the way. Col Lang pours cold water on the strategy:

The notion that a pan-Sunni armed force can be created for the re-conquest of Iraq and IS controlled Syria is a fantasy. Why? Answer: There are no Sunni dominated countries who either have the forces needed or who are willing to deprive themselves of the homeland presence of what are in essence internal security forces. The idea that Saudi Arabia with its puny actual combat power could be the core of such a force is known to be ridiculous by all with a modicum of actual knowledge of the region. Any such force would inevitably be a screen for the employment of major US ground forces to do the real fighting.  The US citizenry will not accept such a thing. The US government appears to be living in a world of its own dreams and group think.

Sanders is good on principle, which is not to be taken lightly. However, there is nothing here or elsewhere to indicate that he has any more clue than anyone else as to how to bring about desired ends. Nor does he tell us who he might bring onto his team to implement his program.

A problem for Sanders is that Clinton has effectively locked up the foreign-policy establishment on the Democratic side.

One expert said the system helped ensure loyalty for Clinton by creating “the illusion of inclusion.”

“Even though you’re one of hundreds, you feel like you’re part of the team,” said one prominent think tank scholar. (John Hudson, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Massive Foreign-Policy Brain Trust)

Unscientific Conclusions

Hillary Clinton is less likely than Trump or Cruz to do anything truly boneheaded in the international arena. She is more likely to be incrementally boneheaded. This is at best only somewhat reassuring. Her AIPAC speech could almost have been delivered by Trump or Cruz. That the qualifier is in order is some indication of just how far out where the buses don’t run one must venture to find the two Republican candidates and the latrines they are busy digging.

Sanders makes much of the vote on Iraq. He got it right. Clinton got it wrong. On that vote Sanders took a principled stand counter to public opinion and establishment wisdom He also failed to influence the debate. It is disturbingly easy to see this scenario playing out as a hallmark of a Sanders presidency.

There is more to the election that foreign affairs and national security. The candidates’ positions here leave me no more sanguine about the country’s prospects than their platforms on the domestic front. As I have said before, I wish I could feel better about Hillary Clinton. I wish I could be as enthusiastic for Bernie Sanders as others are. Part of my dilemma comes down to being persuaded by people like Molly Ivins and Tony Judt that politics is about fighting for incremental progress that will make a difference, maybe only a terribly small difference, but a real difference for the better in the lives of concrete, individual women, men, and children, and the never-ending struggle to keep even those modest gains from being rolled back.

Some friends on the left will not vote for Clinton under any circumstances, and perhaps would find reason not to vote for Sanders because he is not a real socialist. With them I differ on the grounds that a Republican president, whether Trump or Cruz or some variation more palatable to the Republican establishment, say, John Kasich or Paul Ryan, will do their best to roll back what incremental progress has been made during the Obama presidency, and more if they can pull it off, with a terrible effect on the lives of many people. Principles matter. They are not to be lightly put aside even on pragmatic grounds. Nor should they be allowed to paralyze us into inaction when at best they can be only imperfectly realized.

Maybe the challenge is to retain high-mindedness while accepting the necessity of incrementalism, to acknowledge that often we must settle for incremental change without settling for settling.

Quote of the Week

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, you had Ted Cruz saying, what we need to do is send more security into patrolling basically neighborhoods where Muslim Americans live.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I have spent the last week so repulsed by Donald Trump, I had forgotten how ugly Ted Cruz could be, but he reminded us this week. (PBS Newshour, 25 March 2016)

References

Candidate Websites

Hillary Clinton
Ted Cruz
Bernie Sanders
Donald Trump

AIPAC Speeches

Ryan Beckwith, Read Hillary Clinton’s Speech to AIPAC, TIME, 21 March 2016

Ted Cruz: I could not find a transcript of Ted Cruz’s AIPAC speech and could not bring myself to watch to the youtube video. Those interested may refer to Katie Glueck’s Politico account of the speech listed below under Articles and Commentary.

Bernie Sanders Outlines Middle East Policy (just not at AIPAC)

Donald Trump

Articles and Commentary

Juan Cole, Hillary Clinton goes full Neocon at AIPAC, Demonizes Iran, Palestinians, Informed Comment, 22 March 2016
Michael Crowley, Trump’s foreign policy team baffles Republican experts, Politico, 21 March 2016
Katie Glueck, Cruz courts AIPAC, swiping Trump in process, Politico, 21 March 2016
John Hudson, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Massive Foreign-Policy Brain Trust, Foreign Affairs, 10 February 2016
Human Rights Watch, US: Endorse Goldstone Report on Gaza, HRW, 27 September 2009
Louis Jacobson, Ted Cruz misfires on definition of ‘carpet bombing’ in GOP debate, Politifact, 16 December 2015
Journalist’s Resource, U.S. foreign aid to Israel: 2014 congressional report, 2 March 2015
Fred Kaplan, Hillary Clinton Told the Truth About Her Iraq War Vote, Slate, 4 February 2016
Pat Lang, Two Systems, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 18 March 2016
Lang, The Cruz Team: Abrams, Gaffney, Boykin and Ledeen, SST, 19 March 2016.
Lang, In Re Syria, SST, 10 February 2016
Damian Paletta and Beth Reinhard, “Foreign-Policy Plans Get Sharper Focus,” Wall Street Journal, 18 March 2018 (available online by subscription only)
Ed Pilkington, Ted Cruz campaign’s anti-Muslim propagandists called ‘terrifying’, The Guardian, 25 March 2016
Linda Qui, No, Donald Trump, we are not giving Iran $150 billion for ‘nothing’, Politifact, 17 March 2016
Southern Poverty Law Center, About Frank Gaffney Jr.
Conal Urquhart, The Goldstone report: a history, The Guardian, 14 April 2011
Adrienne Masha Varkiani, Meet The People Behind Ted Cruz’s Terrifying Foreign Policy Plan, ThinkProgress, 17 March 2016

Yet Another Ugly Turn

An ugly campaign season took yet another ugly turn last week when opponents of the demagogue Donald Trump chose to go beyond protest and sought to deny Trump’s supporters the right to assemble and Trump the right to speak. There is more to this than just blockheads out for violence, of which each side has its share.

Some believe that the moral imperative to stand against Trump compels them to disrupt rallies and prevent speech. This is a dubious tactical move even if it were otherwise defensible because these actions provide a patina of legitimacy for Trump’s ludicrous claims that his supporters are an oppressed group and his opponents, most notably “the communist” Bernie Sanders, are responsible for any and all violence. Even Trump has a right to speak, however despicable that speech might be, however clear the imperative to stand against Trumpery. We all lose if it comes down to pitting our mob against theirs.

We give credit where credit is due. Marco Rubio is a generally unimpressive public figure. I do not know that Trump is much worse than Rubio and Ted Cruz. Today Rubio said it well in a CNN interview:

You know, you can’t just say or do whatever you want. This is not about political correctness. This is about rules of civility and a way that society talks to each other. And let me ask everybody this, do we really want to live in a country where everybody hates each other? (quoted in Laughland, “Donald Trump deflects blame…”)

We can and should speak and stand for our values. We can and should vote for a better candidate even when we have reservations about that candidate. We can and should support legislation and regulations that prohibit people from putting principles of bigotry and discrimination into practice. We do not have the right to dictate what others may think and say.

References

Oliver Laughland, Donald Trump deflects blame from all sides after weekend of chaos, The Guardian, 13 March 2016

NPR Staff, ‘This Can’t Go On In Chicago,’ Says Anti-Trump Protester, NPR, 13 March 2016

Keith O’Brien, Inside the Protest That Stopped the Trump Rally, Politico, 13 March 2016

Is Trump strictly speaking fascist? Loosely speaking? Does it matter?

Charges of racism, sexism, elitism, and fascism should be leveled with discretion. They are trivialized by indiscriminate use, while quibbling over labels may distract us from matters of genuine import even when the charge is legitimate.

Juan Cole’s recent post on Donald Trump, How the US went Fascist: Mass media Makes excuses for Trump Voters, is a case in point. The invocation of fascism and comparisons to Mussolini are not required for the indictment that Cole lays out against Trump, his supporters, the Republican Party, and the mass media. The indictment is damning regardless of whether the wave Trump rides is fascist in a technical sense.

Donald Trump should have been kicked out of the Republican Party the moment he began talking about violating the Constitution. The first time he hinted about assaulting the journalists covering his rallies…. When he openly advocated torture (‘worse than waterboarding’)…. When he began speaking of closing houses of worship…. He has solemnly pledged to violate the 1st, 4th and 8th Amendments of the Constitution, at the least….

Then there is the mass media. As Amy Goodman has pointed out, corporate television has routinely pumped Trump into our living rooms. They have virtually blacked out Bernie Sanders….

This is how the dictators came to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Good people remained silent or acquiesced. People expressed hope that something good would come of it. Mussolini would wring the laziness out of Italy and make the trains fun on time.

On the other hand, maybe Cole is right to invoke the specter of fascism. Maybe there is within the country a drift toward a dark and dangerous politics that should be acknowledged. Whether Trumpism falls wholly or only in part under the rubric of fascism is a lesser point.

Is Trump really all that much worse than Ted Cruz or Mario Rubio? All three hew to the party line calling for ipso facto opposition to anything Obama puts forth. Cruz is to the far right of the far right and widely disliked even by his Republican colleagues in the Senate. That he would be a disaster is self-evident to the Republican and old-line conservative establishment. While Rubio may no longer be the golden boy that establishment once envisioned, he remains their last best hope. Young, handsome, Hispanic, able to come off as reasonably intelligent, he projects a veneer of respectability that is beyond Trump or Cruz. The powers that be on the right hope that in the general election he would be able to appeal to voters for whom Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are anathema, Bernie because he is a socialist devil, Hillary because she is, well, Hillary the she-devil.

It does not require close scrutiny to detect that Rubio’s rhetoric is no less demagogic than what is spouted by his opponents, his proposals on the economy, taxes, the environment, and foreign policy—feel free to add anything I may have omitted—facile, half-baked, and not infrequently outright dangerous. For details I refer you to Matthew Ygelsias, Why I’m more worried wbout Marco Rubio than Donald Trump and a post by Cole that calls Rubio out on misstatements and falsifications about Israel and Palestine: Rubio’s 7 Fallacies on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Can Bernie or Hillary defeat Trump, Rubio, or Cruz in the general election? Some of it may come down to which party can best coalesce around one candidate after a bitterly contested primary. My thoughts here are altogether off the top of my head, with no data or disciplined analysis to back them up. I can see the Republican establishment going whole hog for Trump, or even Cruz, much as they would prefer a Rubio candidacy, because for them Vince Lombardi’s axiom is the bottom line: Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. For the Democrats, Hillary’s followers strike me as more likely to fall in line behind Bernie than the other way around. This would be a necessary but not necessarily sufficient condition for the inauguration of President Bernie. Bernie’s backers tend to be younger, more disaffected, more passionate, and more antithetical to Clinton than her supporters are to Sanders. It would be no surprise if a goodly number of them were to sit out a Bernie-less election on the grounds that Clinton is the candidate of an establishment that encompasses both parties. The election will be a challenge for Hillary even with Bernie and his people solidly behind her. Without them, it is difficult to see it. Let us hope that my pessimism turns out to be unwarranted.

Postscript

Trump has now been endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is such a blockhead that his own daughter booted him out of France’s far-right National Front, which he founded. Le Pen has said that the concentration camps and gas chambers were a mere “detail” in the history of the Second World War and that Ebola could could solve Europe’s immigration problem in three months. Duke, for his part, presents Trump as a champion of that oppressed minority European Americans.

 

Madeleine Albright said what?

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.—Madeleine Albright, calling on women to support Hillary Clinton at a rally in Concord, New Hampshire

This sounds like something from a Saturday Night Live sketch. Yet Albright indeed said it. It turns out she has been using the line for years.

Hillary Clinton defended Albright, pointing out this is an expression of feelings that grew out of Albright’s own long fight for equality. Fair enough. Clinton goes on to say, “Good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days! People can’t say anything without offending somebody.” Also fair enough, as far as political correctness goes, but political correctness is not the issue here. The issue is the absurd suggestion that women should support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman and the implication that for a woman to support Bernie Sanders is an act of betrayal.

Is there a special place in hell for men who don’t help each other, thus I should support Sanders? Does the principle hold for Hispanics, who thus should support Marco Rubio? For blockheads who… ah, but this line of thought is of little use with the Republican field.

Clinton’s loyalty to a longtime supporter and a person of accomplishment in her own right is admirable. Her unwillingness to denounce a proposition that would be unacceptable if used to call for men to support a male candidate, for blacks to support a black candidate, or for whites to support a white candidate is ethically dubious and from a tactical standpoint obtuse. This is the kind of thing that leads many people, and not just Clinton’s enemies, not only those inclined to sexism, to question her integrity and character. That she either cannot see this or does not see fit to acknowledge it calls her judgement into question as well. Surely she could find a way to tactfully disavow the statement without throwing Albright under the bus. Why can she not this once bring herself to take the high road?

Contrast Clinton’s reaction with Bernie Sanders’s unequivocal denunciation of a group of male supporters who have made “callous and sometimes misogynistic comments about Clinton”:

“I have heard about it,” he told CNN. “It’s disgusting. Look, we don’t want that crap.

“Anyone who’s supporting me and doing sexist things, we don’t want them. We don’t want them. That is not what this campaign is about.”

Tom McCarthy, Albright: ‘special place in hell’ for women who don’t support Clinton, The Guardian, 6 February 2016

Alan Yuhas, Clinton defends Albright and Steinem apologises as sexism claims dominate Democratic race, The Guardian, 7 February 2016

memo from the editorial desk

Minor edits were made to this piece after it was posted. The revisions were by way of reflection and elaboration on the issues. Nothing substantive was changed.

* * * * *

More Scenes from Tilikum Crossing Running Route. The photos are unedited. Many could do with some cropping.

l’affaire Malheur: denouement; or, a single episode in a long, tedious saga?

The fiends at the editorial desk have advised your oft humbled scribe that this site is not devoted exclusively to coverage of l’affaire Malheur. Fair enough. Nonetheless, certain developments should not pass without comment.

The events of Tuesday, 26 January 2016, did not close out the affair. Far from it. We witnessed only the conclusion of one episode in an ongoing saga as the drama shifts now to the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland.

Meantime, the propaganda machine is cranked up full bore. Paramount leader Ammon Bundy reportedly called his wife from the back seat of a police car to put the word out that Finicum was murdered while cooperating with police officers. Next came characterizations, by Bundy’s attorney and others, of the affair as a peaceful protest, you know, the takeover of a federal building and property by armed blockheads, accompanied by death threats against the local sheriff, stalking of the sheriff’s wife, who felt compelled to leave town for her safety, threats against the sheriff’s elderly parents, hacking into government computers and accessing credit card info and personal data, using federal equipment to build roads and expand a parking lot on a wildlife refuge, these geniuses blithely videotaping themselves committing crimes, etc.—yes, peaceful, these disciples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

The murder meme buggers credulity. The authorities at all levels, federal, state, and local, were at evident pains to avoid violent confrontation that would give people opportunity to martyr themselves. The past month witnessed militants sporting firearms wherever they went, bizarrely allowed to come and go pretty much as they pleased, indulging in radical, sometimes violent rhetoric that rejected the legitimacy of the federal government and expressed willingness to kill and be killed. Video shows Finicum speeding away after the truck he drove and a jeep carrying Ammon Bundy and others were stopped on a highway in rural Oregon while en route to the town of John Day to promote their cause. Those in the Bundy vehicle were arrested. One passenger emerged from Finicum’s truck and surrendered to the authorities. After a few minutes Finicum took off, swerved when he came to a roadblock, nearly hitting an officer, and crashed into a snowbank, whereupon he emerged from the truck with his hands first in the air. There is no audio, so we do not know what was said. Finicum and officers reportedly exchanged shouts. He twice reached inside his coat, where he had a handgun. It is not clear that he pulled out the gun before he was shot. Two rifles and another gun were found in the truck after the passengers surrendered. Ryan Bundy was wounded in the incident, though it is not clear exactly how that happened. Some accounts reported an exchange of gunfire, but I have not seen this corroborated. There are so many stories flying around that I could have missed it.

Those of us who did not already know ought to have learned in the past few years to be wary of official accounts of shootings by law enforcement. Under the circumstances I am sympathetic with the police officers. They should not be expected to wait for Finicum take out one of their number before responding. It is not as if he had no opportunity to surrender.

Assorted militia people, self-styled patriots, so-called sovereign citizens, and sundry other bundyista sympathizers do not share this view. Social media outrage is being ramped up. Lost in all this is the case of the Hammonds, the two Harney County ranchers sentenced to prison for arson on federal property. The injustice done the Hammonds is rooted not in federal land ownership, policy, and regulation but in mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, under which the Hammonds were sentenced to a prison term that is arguably out of line with their crime, with judicial leniency not an option.

The militias, sovereign citizens, and their sundry spiritual kin may be a small percentage of the population, but they are armed and tend to be angry, their world view shaped by religious and political mythologies that seem just silly to those of a different mindset, yet form the basis of sincere and deeply held beliefs. Not a few are delusional. One suspects that they will continue to do their part to make the country ungovernable. In this they are not alone.

Ah, ça suffit. Next up, some other topic altogether. We have two pieces more or less in progress and a third in mind: the library as refuge for the homeless, conflicts of interest in the funding of health care research, and Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, which I saw today for the second time. Again I was enchanted.

References

Kelly House, FBI releases video footage of LaVoy Finicum shooting, OregonLive, 28 January 2016

Sam Levin, Oregon militia standoff: One dead after Ammon Bundy and others arrested, The Guardian, 26 January 2016

Nathan Rott, Finicum’s Death Changes Tone Of Occupied Wildlife Refuge In Oregon, NPR, 28 January 2016

John Sepulveda, Explainer: The Bundy Militia’s Particular Brand Of Mormonism, Oregon Public Broadcasting, 3 January 2016

Sovereign Citizens Movement, Southern Poverty Law Center

Jeffrey Tayler, It’s the Mormons and the Kochs: The secret roots of white, male Bundy rage, Salon, 10 January 2016

Les Zaitz, Oregon standoff: Bundy occupation leaves scars behind, OregonLive, 30 January 2016

Malheur Theater of the Absurd

Who knows what would happen if it was me and my native brothers took up arms and occupied a federal building or even that refuge out there? What would happen? Do you think the government would let us … go back into town? And eat? Get supplies? And have people out there bring us wood and keeping us warm? — Jarvis Kennedy, sergeant of arms of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council (OregonLive, 19 January 2016)

The political class remains bafflingly silent as the insurrection in southeastern Oregon enters its fourth week. With the authorities, federal, state, and local, at considerable pains to avoid a violent confrontation, Barack Obama may feel that public comment from the White House would only inflame the situation. While this is an arguable point, there comes a time when it is irresponsible for the president to ignore outright criminal actions and continued defiance of federal authority.

A search of the transcripts for the Republican presidential debate on 15 January and the Democratic debate on 17 January turned up no mention of Malheur. Republican candidates did comment during the early days of the rebellion, although with the notable exception of Donald Trump, quelle surprise, they were careful not to do so forcefully. Trump stated forthrightly, “You cannot let people take over federal property. You can’t, because once you do that, you don’t have a government anymore.” (Joan McCarter, Daily Kos). Lest Trump be given too much credit for sensibility, we note McCarter’s report at Daily Kos that a Trump campaign official, New Hampshire Veterans for Trump co-chair Jerry DeLumus, is a Bundyista.

Where is Senator Lindsey Graham, who has a penchant for waxing apoplectic on the subject of national security? A gang of Constitution-waving felons, petty criminals, thieves, bigots, tax scofflaws, and general blockheads (Faces of the Malheur occupation, The Oregonian/Oregon Live) who could not pass a seventh-grade civics exam have occupied federal land and buildings, accessed government computers and records, including credit cards and personal information on government employees, built roads and expanded a parking a lot on a wildlife refuge, used government equipment to tear down fences so cattle can graze freely in the refuge, and offered armed “protection” for ranchers who defy the law of the land by refusing to pay fees for their cattle to graze on public property. They deny the legitimacy of the federal government and in effect call for its destruction. How is this not a national security issue?

Guys in camouflage play soldier, no doubt in deadly earnest, as they blow horns, provide armed security for Maximum Supreme Leader Ammon Bundy and other spokesmen for the group, and patrol the perimeter on horseback. Two young girls, sisters ages eight and nine, are at the occupied refuge with their parents. Is it too cynical to speculate that they may be there as a shield of innocents to deter the authorities from using force to end the occupation? One can imagine how the situation will be exploited, and not just by the Bundyistas, should harm come the girls’ way. (Peacher, Militants Bring Young Children…)

The only arrest to date of which I am aware is of Kenneth Medenbach, who in quite an exhibition of hubris, arrogance, and stupidity stole a truck from the refuge and drove it thirty miles to a Safeway in Burns to pick up groceries. A second stolen vehicle was also found in the Safeway parking lot. Medenbach was arrested on suspicion of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Suspicion? The second driver seems to have eluded the authorities by going into the Safeway before they arrived on the scene, a development that is, shall we say, puzzling. These guys do not appear to be masterminds.

Meantime, local residents and others in Oregon and across the Northwest have taken a stand against the Bundyistas in town meetings and organized protests. The opposition includes hunters, environmentalists, Portland Audubon Society, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Native Americans, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Oregon governor Kate Brown and Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter De Fazio have called on federal law enforcement to bring the occupation to an end. These heartening developments are tempered by reports that blockheads continue to make their way to Malheur to join the insurrection and antigovernment groups and low level so-called conservative political figures have taken up the cause.

At present there is no end in site. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported this morning that the Bundyistas believe that they can gain recruits and support by drawing out the occupation. The two most likely outcomes are both undesirable. Either it ends with violence, or an accord is reached that allows the Bundyistas to claim a propaganda victory and encourages them to do it over again in another locale, in which case there will be violence down the road, maybe sooner, maybe later. If there is a third way, I do not see it.

memo from the editorial desk

Minor edits were made after this piece was initially published. The gist is unchanged.

References

Alison Flood, Ursula Le Guin blasts coverage of Oregon militia’s ‘Right-Winged Loonybirds’, The Guardian, 21 January 2016

Jerry Headley, Malheur Occupation: Who Has A Claim To This Land? 6 January 2016, KUOW.org (Seattle)

Sam Levin, Locals demand Oregon militia leave refuge: ‘It’s time for you to go home’ The Guardian, 20 January 2016

Levin, Oregon militia could face more than 10 years in prison, legal experts say, The Guardian, 14 January 2016

Martha Marks (board chair of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship), Protecting Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is conservative, The Hill, 19 January 2016

Joan McCarter, Donald Trump says he’d end the Oregon standoff just by telling the Bundys ‘You gotta get out’ Daily Kos

Geoff Norcross and John Sepulvado, How Militants May “Indict” Non-Believers, OPB, 22 January 2016

Rallies in Portland, Eugene, other NW cities implore Malheur occupiers to go home, OregonLive, 19 January 2016

Faces of the Malheur occupation: Meet the militants and their visitors, The Oregonian/Oregon Live, 9 January 2016

Amanda Peacher, Bend Protesters Rally Against Refuge Occupation, OPB, 15 January 2016

Peacher, Militants Bring Young Children To Stay At Occupied Refuge, OPB, 22 January 2016

2016: A Wild Opening Week

With the new year we step, or stagger, into the second half of the second decade of the century. Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana, as the late Townes Van Zandt used to say.

The year is off to a wild start. Armed blockheads kicked it off by occupying Malheur National Wildlife Headquarters in southeastern Oregon. They defy duly constituted authority, federal, state, and local, while flaunting their firearms, flashing copies of the US Constitution, and styling themselves patriots with a remarkable absence of any sense of irony. I believe the technical term for this is insurrection : an act or instance or revolting against civil authority or an established government.

To date the authorities have acted with restraint and caution, seeking to avoid a violent confrontation. It could go without saying that there is reluctance to criticize an attempt to get a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately, restraint only encourages individuals of a certain mindset to believe there will be no consequences for open defiance of the law and even taking up arms against the federal government. We have seen this before with the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada. Père Bundy is a sorry scofflaw who owes the federal government some $1.2 million in unpaid grazing fees. As of the end of 2015 Bundy continued to graze his cattle on federal land and had not the paid the fees (Bundy standoff, Wikipedia). Is it any wonder that the Bundy boys et al. seem to have concluded that they can up the ante at Malheur with impunity?

The gang at Malheur has reportedly been joined by a contingent from the Idaho branch of militia blockheads, among others. There are reports that journalists have witnessed them driving a government vehicle and, more seriously, accessing government computers. It seems that they are allowed to come and go at will. Harney County sheriff David Ward has received death threats, his wife has been followed home, and his elderly parents harassed. No excess of imagination is needed to contemplate the howls from Republican—and certain Democratic—quarters if these were Muslim, black, or radical environmentalist blockheads. No opportunity would be lost to excoriate Barack Obama for weakness and inaction.

Meantime, US ally Saudi Arabia beheaded Saudi Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other prisoners accused of terrorism in the kingdom’s largest mass execution since 1980. The executions provoked condemnation by Muslim leaders and outrage on the streets in Beirut, Bahrain, Baghdad, Pakistan, and Indian Kashmir. Protesters in Tehran tossed molotov cocktails that started a fire at the Saudi embassy. In retaliation Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran and gave its diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave the country. US and European response to the executions has been, shall we say, tepid.

Far from the least surprising development of the year’s inaugural week was the expression of certain sentiments by Monsieur Charles Koch with which I am in substantial agreement. This came in the context of his bemoaning the Koch brothers’ lack of influence with the Republican presidential candidates.

Koch said that if Trump was successful with his proposal to require all Muslims entering the U.S. to register with the government, then “well, then you destroy our free society.”

“Who is it that said, ‘If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least’?” he continued.

Koch then went on to attack Cruz’s proposal to carpet-bomb ISIL. “I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot,” he said. “Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.”

Koch said that there are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and asked, what “are we going to do: go bomb each one of them?”

Credit where credit is due, well said, Monsieur.

Robert Service’s biography of Leon Trotsky caught my eye last weekend while at the library on the lookout for something about François Truffaut. Finding nothing on Truffaut, I checked out the Trotsky. As is usual with good biographers, Service provides a wealth of social, cultural, political, and historical background along with personal detail of the kind I find fascinating. It turns out that young Trotsky was a fiercely competitive croquet player. Wrote Grisha Ziv, a comrade during Trotsky’s Siberian exile 1900 – 1902:

He had a remarkable passion for croquet, perhaps partly because the character of the game – more than any other – gave special latitude to the expression of his natural cunning, imaginativeness and resourcefulness. And it was here, as in every other place and in every matter where the opportunity arose to show his individuality, that Bronstein [Trotsky’s family name] was organically incapable of tolerating rivals alongside him; and the winning of victory over him at croquet was the surest way of making him into your worst enemy.

I get a kick out of this sort of thing and pass it along in hope that others will also. Ciao.

References

Eliza Collins, Charles Koch bemoans lack of influence over 2016 race, Politico, 8 January 2016

John M. Glionna, Oregon sheriff has received numerous death threats since militia takeover, The Guardian, 7 January 2016

Libby Nelson, An expert on right-wing terrorism explains the militia movement behind the Oregon takeover, Vox, 5 January 2016

John Sepulvado, Explainer: The Bundy Militia’s Particular Brand Of Mormonism, OPB, 3 January 2016

 

thinking about Paris, San Bernadino, and the way forward, such as it is…

Today we are all French. Tomorrow? We shall see. I wrote these words two days after the Paris attacks. Three weeks have passed. And San Bernadino.

Paris elicited an outpouring of sympathy, sorrow, outrage, resolve, and calls to action, much sincere, but not all, for there was also an outpouring of bluster and pandering to fear, ignorance, and bigotry. Republican presidential candidates relished the opportunity to take potshots at Barack Obama, aiming to score points with a base that has never accepted the presidency of a black man, a base that will presumably dictate strategy and tactics until one of their number seizes or stumbles into the party’s nomination. Demagoguery is nothing new in political affairs, as Plato noted a few years back. It remains unsavory.

A Politico headline proclaimed that on terror we are all right-wingers now, adopting the line of the hard right that only they can be counted on for national security, while liberals and progressives, lumped together in an indistinguishable blob, will be weak, appeasers, unwilling to take the necessary steps to safeguard the country. This kind of thing I would expect from National Review. It is regrettable that Politico does not hold itself to a higher standard.

The “clash of civilizations” theme is popular, accompanied by declarations that this is war, us against them, a fight to the death. In what sense Daesh is to be considered a civilization is generally unexamined. For too many the underlying assumption is that the civilizations in conflict are those of Islam and the Christian West, notwithstanding that the Christian West has been notoriously secular for some time.

Juan Cole argues that Daesh is more akin to drug cartels and narco-terrorists of the Global South than an entity we would dignify by designating it a state, even of the rogue variety. He puts Daesh’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi down as “a minor Iraqi academic, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, who would not have gotten tenure in a good Islamic-studies program. The rest of the Muslim world falls down laughing at his declaration, made while flaunting a Rolex, that he is a caliph, a successor of Harun al-Rashid.” Daesh is not a state, much less a civilization, but a “band of human traffickers, rapists, drug smugglers, and looters.”

As for the individuals who perpetuated the murders in Paris:

The young men recruited by the late petty thief Abdelhamid Abaaoud were, it should go without saying, not soldiers; they were delinquents outfitted with bombs and machine guns instead of stilettos. They were marginalized people, the people discarded by the sluggish capitalism of Belgium or France, given no purpose in life by their squalid environs, humiliated by quotidian racism, denied the dignity of productive labor, and, in the case of Belgium, poorly educated by a mediocre state-run school system. (Cole, ISIS Want a Clash of the Civilizations)

In other words, they were primed for “radicalization,” to use one of the day’s buzzwords.

None of this is to minimize or deny the threat posed by Daesh and those influenced by it to commit heinous acts. At issue are the strategy and tactics that might have a shot at being effective in countering such people.

An old college pal tells me he doesn’t have time to worry about foreign terrorists when he’s surrounded by domestic assholes. The point is well taken. Demonizing Muslims, a fashionable pastime in certain quarters, will not harm Daesh or make us safer. Ted Cruz’s blather about bombing the desert until the sand glows is just infantile, and his call for more tolerance for civilian casualties in the war against Daesh is despicable. In effect the argument goes that we should be more like terrorists, who “have such utter disregard for innocent life.” There is a salient point to be made here, albeit not the one that Cruz has in mind. Too many of us accept the illusion perpetuated by certain political and military figures, self-styled authorities from the think-tank realm, and members of the punditocracy that military operations can be sanitized, conducted without harm to innocent civilians and, maybe more importantly, without placing American troops in harm’s way.

The gun cult endorses an armed citizenry as the front line of defense, as if one should not leave home without body armor and kalashnikov. Restrictions on intelligence gathering and surveillance, especially of Muslims, should be rolled back or lifted altogether, under the illusory assumption that we have the means to sift through the data and ferret out what is useful if only we amass enough of it. As William Burroughs noted, sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts.

That people are fearful is understandable, though I think apprehension is probably more appropriate response than outright fear. There are many ways harm is more likely to come our way. That said, all it takes for a mass killing is a disaffected individual, of which there are many. Guns are plentiful and easy to obtain, as is information about making explosives from ordinary materials. No strategic mastermind or infiltration by faux refugees is required. Attacks such as those in Paris aim to provoke a backlash against Muslims living in the West, which will in turn make them a target for recruitment. Blockheads who traffic in anti-Muslim xenophobia play into Daesh’s narrative. Meantime, we might ask how, or if, we should distinguish attacks with a connection to Daesh, however tenuous, from the mass shootings that happen here almost routinely.

Those who blame Obama for the rise of Daesh ignore or conveniently forget the group’s provenance as al Qaeda in Iraq in the chaotic aftermath of the US invasion and botched occupation. The group’s roots that go back to allegiance, and sometimes rivalry, with al Qaeda, and before that the “Afghan Arabs” among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, supported and funded by the Saudi and Pakistani governments and the CIA.

Obama, his advisers, and others, Hillary Clinton among them, get it wrong time and again when they encourage, and in Syria insist on, the overthrow of autocrats and dictators with not even a hazy notion as to what will follow, secure in the baffling and naive belief that democracy in the Western style will miraculously bubble up as if from an underground well of yearning for Enlightenment values and Western-style institutions once the old autocratic regime is taken off  the board. Iraq and the Arab spring show how treacherous that path is.

There is broad consensus that Daesh must be driven from territory it occupies in Syria and Iraq, thereby delegitimizing its claim to the caliphate and making it less a magnet for those susceptible to radicalization. There is also consensus that while this will take more than bombing, a massive US ground presence on the order of Iraq in 2003 would be counterproductive. The usual neocon chorus featuring the indefatigable tenors McCain and Graham has hit on the magic number of 10,000 US troops as a sine qua non to provide leadership and support for an indigenous ground force of 70,000 or 100,000, whatever the number, that will somehow coalesce out of the multitudinous groups and factions presently at odds with each other as much as with any defined opponent.

I believe it was on Thanksgiving that I heard an NPR report about David Cameron’s appeal to Parliament for Britain to join the fray. An “expert” with a British accent opined that a coalition of opposition groups and the Syrian army could, with Western aid, defeat Daesh and out of that victory would be born a new, united Syria. Alas, I did not catch the expert’s name and was unable to locate a transcript or audio of the news piece. It is possible that I missed some subtle point that would have rendered the scenario less implausible. As it is, this sounds like something from a man who could do with an adjustment on his medical marijuana prescription, maybe lower the dose. Have we learned nothing from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Arab spring? Have we forgotten the US/Saudi Arabian project to inspire Muslims for jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan and how that came back to bite us? Where do they get these “experts”?

Pat Lang throws cold water on the “notion of a regional ground combat force that would in their field of dreams go to Syria and Iraq and destroy the Islamic State,” a fantasy of both the Obama administration and Democratic and Republican presidential aspirants. (The army that will never be…).

We are burdened with the conviction, indeed, the imperative, that something must be done. No one offers a roadmap apt to get us anywhere near a desirable outcome. The greater the confidence with which any political leader, military strategist, think-tank expert, or pundit pushes a specific strategy or tactic, not a doubt in his military mind, the more dubious we should be. Whatever the way forward, it figures to be long, difficult, and ugly.

Recommended Reading

Jason Burke, The story of a radicalisation: ‘I was not thinking my thoughts. I was not myself’, The Guardian, 26 November 2015

Juan Cole, ISIS Wants a Clash of t he Civilizations: Let’s Not Give In, The Nation, 25 November 2015

Emma Graham-Harrison, Passport trade raises doubts over Paris attackers’ identities, The Guardian, 15 November 2015

Michael Hirsh, On Terror, We’re All Right-wingers Now, Politico Magazine, 14 November 2015

Laila Lalami, To Defeat ISIS, We Must Call Both Western and Muslim Leaders to Account, The Nation, 14 November 2015

Pat Lang, The army that will never be…, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 6 December 2015

Jacqueline Lopour, The scariest thing about Islamic State? Its kinder, gentler side, Reuters, 27 November 2015

Charles P. Pierce, There Is Only One Way to Defeat ISIS, Esquire, 14 November 2015

Lydia Wilson, What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters, The Nation, 21 October 2015

Graeme Wood, What ISIS Really Wants, The Atlantic, March 2015

Russia and Turkey’s foreign policy objectives in Syria (by CP), Sic Semper Tyrannis, 26 November 2015

Open Season on the Campaign Trail

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. —Samuel Johnson

In our time the same can be said of political correctness. Last week supporters of Hillary Clinton fired off the dread charge of sexism against the Sanders campaign after Comrade Bernie’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, cracked that they would consider Clinton for vice president on the Sanders ticket. As reported by Politico, Christine Quinn, who sits on Clinton’s New York Leadership Council and does fundraising for her campaign, Jess McIntosh, communications director for EMILY’s List, and EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock took umbrage.

Said Quinn, “Seriously? Seriously? The absurdity of that statement almost merits no response. How arrogant and sexist can you be? It’s not OK to let people with a long progressive record get away with being sexist.”

Schriock described the comments as “condescending insults by a team who knows better.”

It does not take the second coming of Woodward and Bernstein to dig up John Heileman’s first-person account of Weaver’s offense in Bloomberg Politics, of which Heileman is co-managing editor. The setting was a hotel near the Des Moines airport late one night after a Sanders speech in Iowa. Weaver and two other members of the Sanders brain trust were reflecting on what Clinton’s changes of position on various issues might say about her character. Heileman asked Weaver “if he thought that made her, as some longtime Clinton critics argue, a craven hypocrite and opportunist?”

“A craven hypocrite?” Weaver replied, grinning slyly. “That’s a little bit harsh, don’t you think?” Then he added, with a chuckle, “Look, she’d make a great vice president. We’re willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We’re willing to consider her for vice president. We’ll give her serious consideration. We’ll even interview her.”

Weaver’s remark is a lame, half-jesting, not particularly clever put-down of Clinton as a candidate. As Heileman explicitly notes, Sanders’s advisers are confident he can win the nomination. They think Clinton continues to be a weak candidate, her recent showings in the Democratic debate and before the House Benghazi charade notwithstanding. One can imagine Weaver uttering the exact same words about Joe Biden if he had decided to enter the fray.

Quinn, McIntosh, and Shriock do their cause a disservice by trivializing the issue with a charge that is at best a reach. The honorable course for Clinton would be to disavow the spurious attack on Sanders. I do not anticipate that will happen. It seems far more likely that Clinton and her supporters will continue to play the woman card and the “sexism” card to deflect legitimate questions and criticisms about her positions, her principles, and her candidacy. I write this with a measure of sympathy for Clinton, who throughout her career has been subject to outright lies, slurs, and calumnies that rank with what Barack Obama has endured. Even so, it ought not be too much to wish for better from her.

We give credit where credit is due. The right has conducted a world-class marketing campaign to sell the myth that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Republicans are in high dudgeon over supposed meanness shown them by CNBC moderators at last week’s debate. Ezra Klein’s analysis of Republican cries of foul is on the mark:

Cruz’s attack on the moderators was smart politics — but it was almost precisely backwards. The questions in the CNBC debate, though relentlessly tough, were easily the most substantive of the debates so far. And the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks — but that’s because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.

Joshua Holland in The Nation makes the case that questions posed to the Democratic candidates during their debate on CNN were as tough and hard-edged as anything the Republicans got from CNBC. The Republican pose to the contrary is just that, a pose, political posturing, pandering to the biases of their own band of blockheads, nothing more.

References

John Heileman, The Sanders Brain Trust’s Plan to Beat Hillary Clinton, Bloomberg Politics, 28 October 2015.

Joshua Holland, Why Conservatives Are Decrying ‘Media Bias’ in the Presidential Debates, The Nation, 29 October 2015.

Annie Karnie, Clinton allies shout ‘sexism’ at Sanders, Politico, 30 October 2015.

Ezra Klein, Ted Cruz’s best moment of the Republican debate was also completely wrong, Vox, 28 October 2015.

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