Daily Archives: 19 Dec 2015

Even Sane Candidate John Kasich Is Crazy

John KasichThe Democrats are having a debate tonight and almost no one will watch it because, well, the Democrats are having a debate tonight. But it got me thinking about the Republican debate last Tuesday. The most shocking thing about it was not Cruz or Christie or Trump; it was John Kasich. He’s the “sane” one. He’s the governor of a bluish state. And thus far in the campaign, he is the only one that is a simulacrum of a human being. But I guess that isn’t working, so he’s decided to be like the others. And so he said, “Frankly, it’s time we punch the Russians in the nose.” That’s crazy.

There are so many things wrong with this. First, of course, is that it is a really bad idea. This is an excellent way to start World War III. And I don’t know what’s so terrible about what Russia has been doing. The country is awful, of course. But is it any worse than the United States? It is just pushing forward with its interests. In fact, its foreign policy seems a lot more clear headed than ours. I see that Ukraine is in its sphere of influence. I don’t see how Iraq ever was in ours. Yet when we decided to go to war with it, Russia didn’t think it was time to punch us in the nose.

“Frankly, it’s time we punch the Russians in the nose. They’ve gotten away with too much in this world.” —John Kasich

But Kasich’s statement is also bad politics. He clearly does not understand the Republican base. It’s best to think of it as a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t want to start a fight with someone who can punch back; it wants to pound on defenseless targets. We managed to “win” the Iraq War in less than a month and a half. And now we bomb wedding parties via remote control. These are the kinds of fighting that Americans, conservatives most of all, want to be part of.

Kasich seems to think that what the Republican base wants as their leader is someone who is strong. But that isn’t true. They want a leader who will say the things that they think need to be said. Russia isn’t in the news. The focus hasn’t been on Ukraine in some time. And most people are confused about what Russia is doing now in the Middle East, but they know that they aren’t on the side of ISIS. What’s more, my pick for a strong president is Barack Obama. But again, getting things done, making sure that the US gets its way, these are not things that Republican voters care about. Republicans want to hear some bellicose fool proclaim, “We’re number one!” And they don’t care about much else.

So John Kasich wants to start World War III because, “They’ve gotten away with too much in this world.” He’s the “sane” one. But there he is, without the sense God gave an amoeba, calling for a provocation with the only country on Earth that has a similar number of nuclear weapons to us. We don’t know how exactly he would go about punching the Russians in the nose. But provoking another powerful country because we don’t like what they are doing is a long way past stupid; it is crazy. I hope to hear far more sense from the Democrats tonight.

Afterword: Kasich Isn’t the Only Crazy One

I know that Chris Christie was talking about shooting down Russian planes. But he isn’t the “sane” candidate; he’s the candidate who shut down a bridge to spite a local politician.

NYT Creating Talking Points for Republicans

James ComeyKevin Drum had a good catch, Strike Two For Pair of New York Times Reporters. For a while now, we’ve been hearing conservatives going crazy with this story that the San Bernardino shooters had been all over social media about their desire for jihad. What’s more, this is part of the war on political correctness: the reason that the government just stood back and let these people murder 14 was because we didn’t want to profile them or be similarly insensitive. Great talking point for the Republicans! The problem is that according to FBI director James Comey, it isn’t true.

The story came from an article in The New York Times by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston, Visa Screening Missed an Attacker’s Zealotry on Social Media. Reporters get things wrong from time to time. But Apuzzo and Schmidt where also the guys who brought us the completely bogus, Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email. As Drum noted, “In the end, virtually everything about the story turned out to be wrong. Clinton was not a target. The referral was not criminal. The email messages in question had not been classified at the time Clinton saw them.” It’s hard to image that this is just dumb luck.

These two articles both provided the Republicans with major ammunition against the Democrats. One attacked Clinton and the other Obama. But ultimately, as we saw in the Republican debate, “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” is now a single thing in conservative parlance. I know better than to think that these reporters have an ax to grind. They’re just looking for that Pulitzer. So either they are very bad at their jobs, which is a stretch, or they have sources that have an ax to grind. Is there any other possibility? Nothing else seems reasonable to me. You have to look at the effect of the false revelations, which include Ted Cruz saying this at the debate:

It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn’t monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate. She made a public call to jihad, and they didn’t target it.

What seems especially strange is that The New York Times would publish another blockbuster article from the same reporters without being extra careful. But I think this is indicative of a more fundamental problem at the paper of record. Both articles were based on anonymous sources without a lot of justification. In the first article, it was “senior government officials.” In the second, it was “law enforcement officials.” There are fine distinctions here. There was a core of truth in both articles. The government was looking into the Clinton email. And Tashfeen Malik may have sent private messages about jihad. So maybe the Apuzzo-Schmidt sources are just kinda-sorta informed on these things and The Times is just really desperate for a scoop.

But after Judith Miller, you have to wonder. It would seem that reporters for The New York Times are not very good at spotting when they are being used. Of course, in Miller’s case, she was basically a Bush administration mole. She was clearly keen on the war and more than happy to work as a propagandist. I don’t know what’s up with Apuzzo and Schmidt. Apuzzo has won a Pulitzer, but of course, so had Miller. The New York Times only employs people who have good resumes. The question is whether they employ competent people — either as reporters or editors.

Afterword

The New York Times has not printed a retraction. And it is possible that James Comey is wrong. But it is likely that he isn’t and that the paper will print a retraction. At this point, there has been almost no press on Comey’s statement — unlike the original, apparently false, report.

Morning Music: Hawaii Five-O

Morton StevensThere is a major character in my first unpublished novel, Jason. And he is the main character and narrator of my second unfinished novel. The only description of him I ever provided was that he had a Jack Lord haircut. (Writing tip: don’t over-describe your characters!) But that wasn’t based upon my experience with the show Hawaii Five-O. Rather, it referred to an amazingly smart and erudite junkie I once knew. I don’t know the show that well. But I certainly know the theme.

Okay, I admit it: it isn’t a great melody. It’s the kind of thing that I would play on guitar for a solo. It’s almost exclusively in the minor pentatonic scale. It’s very surf music, which is doubtless what the composer, Morton Stevens, was going for. But I most like the brass arrangements. Also there is a nice counter melody that is arranged for flutes and something else that I can’t quite place (clarinet or oboe, maybe). Anyway, it sounds great.

Anniversary Post: Bill Clinton Impeachment

Bill ClintonOn this day in 1998 was the Bill Clinton impeachment by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. It was for perjury and obstruction of justice. Basically, he lied about an unfortunate little affair that he had with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It showed bad judgement on Clinton’s part. But I wonder just how many men — especially of the kind with the inclination to become president — would have done any different. My guess is that it is damned few. And that’s especially true of the Republican men who impeached him.

Two charges that failed in the House were a different instance of perjury and “abuse of power.” This is pretty interesting, I think. On the one substantive charge of abuse of power, it failed even in the House — and by a big margin: 148-285. I’m not sure what they were thinking. But even then, there were clearly 148 votes to convict Bill Clinton (or any other Democrat) of anything that they could. These are the dead-enders. The strange thing is that I don’t think there are really many more today.

But what did they think they were getting out of this? The Clinton impeachment wasn’t going anywhere. They knew they didn’t have 67 votes in the Senate to remove him from office. He was a lame duck. It seems very much like the 50+ votes to repeal Obamacare. This seems to be where all that started. It was as though accomplishing anything wasn’t important. The Republicans had come to Washington to make themselves feel better. They were going to take a stand and let the world know that they didn’t like Bill Clinton. But it is bizarre, because everyone already understood that.

At the time, I was a libertarian, but I didn’t understand why conservatives had such a problem with him. He seemed like another John F Kennedy to me. And in terms of politics, he was vastly superior to George HW Bush. But there has always been much more tribalism in the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Clinton would have been fine with them if he had had an “R” after his name. As it is, Clinton gave the nation a couple of conservative wet dreams that a Republican would never have gotten. Only Clinton could destroy welfare that actually worked.