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Does the DNC cyberattacker weigh 400 lbs? Or is it the cyberattacker’s bed that weighs 400 lbs?

Asked by Holt what he would do to prevent cyberattacks, Trump replied: “As far as the cyber . . . we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC [Democratic National Committee]. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. . . . Maybe it was. . . . But it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Trump’s night of sniffles and screw-ups, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, today

For nearly two days now I’ve wondered why Trump thinks the body weight of the DNC cyberattacker could be relevant to the issue of who the attacker might be.  I’d thought that possibly the point was to exclude Putin, who, I’m guessing, is about 180 lbs. of solid muscle.

But after reading the quote in Parker’s column rather than just recalling it from memory, I think Trump was talking not about the weight of the cyberattacker but instead about the weight of his or her bed.

Which presents the question of why Trump thinks the weight of the cyberattacker’s bed could be relevant to the issue of who the cyberattacker might be.  I don’t even have a working theory on this.

____

UPDATE:  Reader Warren, who is helping me solve this riddle, thinks the problem is not Trump, but Parker.  He offered this, in the Comments thread:

Warren / September 28, 2016 8:08 pm

The problem is not Trump, but Parker, who did not place the commas where they should have gone: “It also could be somebody, sitting on their bed, that weighs 400 pounds.”

Commas make the difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.”

I responded:

Beverly Mann/ September 28, 2016 8:37 pm

Well, this is true. So, do you think my original theory is right that Trump thinks the body weight of the DNC cyberattacker could be relevant to the issue of who the attacker might be because if the attacker weighs 400 lbs., he or she could not be Putin?

Warren will get back to me soon, I’m sure, given the importance of this.  The NSA thinks Putin is the cyberattacker, but they reached that conclusion before Monday night’s debate, and based upon this new evidence they may have jumped the gun.

Updated 9/28 at 9:03 p.m.

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Do Canadians and Scandinavians Really Not Work and Really Have No Children? (This is a rhetorical question for Kathleen Parker. Or maybe not rhetorical; you decide.)

Socialism has always appealed to the young, the cure for which isn’t age but responsibility. This usually comes in the form of taxes and children, both of which involve working and sacrificing for the benefit of others, the extent of which forms the axis upon which all politics turns. That Sanders never outgrew his own socialist-rebellious tendencies — We’re going to have a revolution! — is vaguely interesting, but not his best recommendation for commander in chief, among other presidential roles.

What Steinem, Albright, and Clinton don’t get about millennial women, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, today

Okay, well, taxes and children, and healthcare insurance premiums and healthcare bills not covered by insurance, and day care and college costs for those children—all of which involve working and sacrificing for the benefit of others.

The extent of which forms the axis upon which all politics turns.  Well, post-trickle-down, Great-Recession, stagnant-wages, wildly-escalating-healthcare-and-college-costs, Citizens-United, politics anyway.

At least that seems to be the main message of this presidential primary election season. Although the message is encrypted and therefore indecipherable to a good many political opinion writers.

A fun parlor game for me (okay, I don’t have a parlor, so I play this game usually sitting in a rocking chair in my bedroom, laptop on my lap) has been reading the contortions that center-left or center-right political columnists employ by way of pretending that Bernie Sanders is a Communist, and trying to guess whom they think they will convince.  Most fun of all to read are the Washington Post’s cadre, and Kathleen Parker has been especially prolific in the last week.  A few days ago, in a column titled “The fight over Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees is ridiculous,” she wrote:

Unfortunately, the Democratic base has been electrified by the notion that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. To this zero-sum interpretation of income inequality, a friend always responds: How many poor people has Oprah created?

None, I’m sure.  But if Oprah were currently taxed at the rate she would have been during the Reagan administration—not to mention the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon ones—there likely would be far fewer poor people in this country, some of them, for example, having been able to afford to get a college degree at a public university funded primarily through taxes rather than by tuition and legacy donations that dramatically impacted admissions into the freshman class.

Actually, the Democratic base has been electrified by the notion that higher taxes on the wealthy will give them (and many others) a shot at entering or remaining in the middle class. And of having access to health care without fearing bankruptcy or having to forget about paying their kid’s college tuition this year. And of being able to afford good child care and be able to get the roof replaced.

That Parker never outgrew her own Commie-baiting tendencies is vaguely interesting, but not her best recommendation for another Pulitzer Prize.

Then there is Ruth Marcus, a Yale University and Harvard Law School alum, who in a column about Sanders late last month said that the proposition that “helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth,” and the proposition that “the deck is stacked against everyday Americans and we need to focus on breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy,” are mutually exclusive.  In referencing a recent poll by the self-styled centrist group Dumb Way—er, Third Wayshe wrote:

Given the choice of a candidate who promotes “helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth,” or one who emphasizes that “the deck is stacked against everyday Americans and we need to focus on breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy,” voters chose the growth message over the deck-stacked argument, 66 percent to 21 percent.

Because of course proposals to break up Wall Street banks and to raise taxes on the wealthy have nothing to do with helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth.  Those proposals are just for the sake of breaking up Wall Street banks and raising taxes on the wealthy.  As a hobby.  And if I had gone to Yale and Harvard I’m sure I would see this.  But I didn’t, so I stupidly think proposals to break up Wall Street banks and to raise taxes on the wealthy have everything to do with helping Americans get ahead with more skills, more jobs and more wealth.

Shows you what I know.  Silly me.  I even thought that Scandinavians and Canadians work and have children.  Instead it turns out that Scandinavians and Canadians are children. Who will grow up one day and finally begin working and having children of their own.  At which point they will no longer need healthcare.  Or want to avoid bankruptcy if they do.

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FOLLOW-UP TO: “Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy”

[Rubio] turned a question about his finances into an opportunity to retell his compelling family narrative, and then, into even sweeter lemonade: “I’m not worried about my finances, I’m worried about the finances of everyday Americans who today are struggling in an economy that is not producing good paying jobs while everything else costs more.”

Nicely played. But there are legitimate issues involving Rubio’s personal and campaign finances. At some point, “my father was a bartender” isn’t going to be a sufficient answer, especially if the debate helps turn this into Rubio’s moment, and Rubio’s nomination.

This strange, worrisome GOP race, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, today

—-

A common refrain about Rubio is that he’s a man in a hurry.  A refrain that I trust is about to become common is that he also is a man on the take.  Which he is.  Pure and simple.  This spade needs to be called a spade, and will be, whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders—or a massive swell from the news media of the sort that, finally, is occurring in the wake of Wednesday’s debate calling all but one member of the entire cast (Kasich was the exception) grifters, scam artists, fraudsters, liars on a truly grand scale—that begins it loudly enough to be heard.

Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy, me, yesterday

According to a post-debate NBC News/SurveyMonkey post-debate poll of 3,387 Republican or Republican-leaning registered voters, including 1,226 who watched the debate, there is … virtually no change in the status of the various the respective candidates from their pre-debate status.   With the exception of Cruz, who has bounced to third place.

Trump and Carson tie at 26 percent, Cruz has 10 percent, Rubio 9 percent, Jeb Bush 5 percent), Fiorina 4 percent, and the other four tied at 2 percent.

In the comments thread to my post from yesterday, AB reader William Ryan and I had this exchange:

William Ryan

October 31, 2015 11:00 am

Lets all face the fact Marco Rubio is not presidential material. I think if I read correctly this morning in the Daily Kos. com they did call him a liar. Please go see and read that story about his personal financial situation . This guy to me is too young and inexperienced that makes him in my mind’s eye very unpresidential material. He needs much more experience in lying and should take lessons from the Clintons.

Beverly Mann

October 31, 2015 12:22 pm

I beg to differ, William. It sure looks like Rubio has had loads of experience lying. And loads of experience doing shady things under the radar.

The radar now has him in its sights. Can’t wait till he gets the nomination and the Dems start running ads with adult children of bartenders, maids and other blue collar workers, who have mortgages, retirement funds and college tuition funds without having exchanged government favors for salaries for themselves and their spouses paid by billionaires, and without arranging for nine-figure government contracts in exchange for massive financial but quiet political support, and who didn’t improperly use an organization’s credit card for personal travel and home-improvement projects. Or who get by without luxuries or retirement funds or college tuition funds, because their jobs don’t pay enough to allow it.

One thing that struck me about the my-father-was-a-bartender excuse is how really demeaning of people who come from working class families it is. If you’re from a working class family, you’re entitled to act unethically because, y’know, how else can you support your family in style?

Another thing that struck me is something really obvious: That Rubio wants to further undermine collective bargaining, is against raising the minimum wage, and wants to end government assistance in making healthcare insurance available. Because those things make us weak as people, see.

I’m guessing that some Republicans had a similar reaction to mine.  Minus the Medicare-and-Social-Security-make-us-weak-as-people part, since that wasn’t mentioned specifically at the debate.

As Steve Benen wrote on Thursday (I linked to it also in my earlier post), Rubio’s big moments all came in what were patently memorized lines and responses.  And Benen appears to be on to something.  Here’s an excerpt:

RUBIO: No Jeb, I don’t remember – well, let me tell you. I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.

If it was boxing, someone would have intervened to stop the fight. It was the confrontation everyone knew was coming – Jeb telegraphed his punch for days – but the intended target knew exactly what to say. It led to headlines about Rubio being “spectacular.”

And to a degree, the gushing praise is understandable. Rubio looked as if he’d practiced that soliloquy in front of a mirror for hours, and then delivered his scripted lines nicely. Later, the far-right Floridian referenced entitlements – Rubio is on record condemning Medicare and Social Security for “weakening us as a people” – and said to laughter, “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

It’s the sort of quality that impresses debate scorers: candidates who memorize their carefully crafted lines and hit their marks are seen as the “winners.”

But it’s also true that we saw two very different Marco Rubios last night. The scripted senator excelled, dazzling pundits and earning hearty audience applause. The unscripted senator struggled in ways careful observers shouldn’t overlook.  [Italics in both sentences in the original.]

I suspect that we’re actually in a post-political-consultant period in presidential campaigns, in that sizable swaths of the electorate is repulsed by, or at least resistant to, the packaged, scripted crescendo lines that so many politicians think is the ultimate in campaigning.  But most of political journalists haven’t quite caught on yet. Kathleen Parker, who’s a Bush cheerleader, writes today:

While Bush’s attempted takedown [of Rubio about Rubio’s Senate attendance record] may be a worthy discussion — at what point are missed votes a firing offense? — Bush’s jab boomeranged. Just minutes after he had identified his central weakness as not being able to “fake anger,” Bush attempted to fake anger — or at least disgust. In an odd little flourish, he tossed a little leftover red meat to the fragment of the GOP base that still hates all things French.

“The Senate,” he said, “what is it — like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

Like, not really. Although France officially has a 35-hour workweek, French Ambassador Gérard Araud tweeted, “The French work an average of 39.6 hours a week compared to 39.2 for the Germans.” And Fortune magazine reports that French workers are about as productive as Americans.

No “fact” goes unchecked these days.

Though not exactly crucial to the global flow of things, this speck of a moment was nonetheless revealing. Bush’s snark attack obviously wasn’t spontaneous and came across like a committee-produced “laugh line.” Someone apparently forgot to cue the audience and it collapsed like a Roquefort souffle.

Parker’s exactly right about Bush, but missed the same point about Rubio.

Trump and Carson don’t memorize scripts written for them by consultants.  So, tacitly, they won the debate.  Just as Bernie Sanders’ appeal is based somewhat on his own refusal to memorize scripts and zingy soundbites prepared for him by consultants.  In dramatic contrast to Clinton, who’s downright addicted to zingy soundbites prepared for her by consultants.

Clinton has the advantage of being extremely familiar to, and popular with, older Democrats, especially female ones.  And her campaign, unlike Trump’s and Carson’s, is based on normal, coherent policy proposals, in addition to the ad nauseam I AM WOMAN! theme of it.  Unlike Trump and Carson, Clinton’s not crazy. She’s just wedded—welded, I think—to an outdated mode of campaigning for president.  I don’t think she can change that.  And it’s one reason why I think that in this election, Clinton is not the Democrat in the race who has the strongest potential general election appeal.

I just don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.  Y’know?

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The Bizarre Attempt to Present Bernie Sanders As the Democrats’ Donald Trump

Stranger things have happened in American politics, but the sudden surge of Democratic/populist Bernie Sanders and Republican/populist Donald Trump puts one in mind of alternate universes.

And I don’t mean Miss Universes.

Both men are holding second place in some polls behind Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, respectively. And both are steadily ascending in the polls at a greater pace than anyone could have predicted — or imagined.

Sanders, a socialist running on a platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, drew his largest crowd of the season — nearly 10,000 — in Madison, Wis., last Wednesday night. The anti-establishment candidate, who wants to break up big banks and redistribute wealth, makes President Obama (and Clinton) look like robber barons by comparison.

— The unexpected rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Jul. 3

Stranger things have happened in American political journalism, but really, it’s not a shock that political pundits equate Sanders and Trump.  Not all political pundits.  Just some of them.  Several, actually; Parker’s piece is one of three or four commentary or analysis pieces I’ve read in the last few days that suggests not simply that the surge of attention and poll recognition is, in each case, unexpected, but that these two both are on the crackpot fringe.

Since Trump is appearing mentally unhinged, Sanders must be borderline-crazy, too.  After all, neither is part of his respective party’s establishment, and therefore, necessarily, both are extremists.  And equally so, since they both rose dramatically in their party’s polls during the same short period of time.

Yup, reinstituting the Glass-Steagall Act separating deposits-and-lending banks from investment-banking-and-derivatives-speculation financial institutions, and federally insuring only the former, is just like accusing Mexican immigrants of bringing drug traffic to this country and raping American women!  Not to mention babbling incoherently. The resemblance is striking, although not to me.  Especially since Glass-Steagall was in fact the law for forty-six years until its repeal in 1999.  During which time this country had several Communist presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Elizabeth Warren may send shivers up the spines of most Americans, but a majority of Americans probably would vote for her as a presidential candidate.  Especially since she would be running against a Tea Party Republican or a George W. Bush Republican.  As will the eventual Democratic nominee.  Whether it’s Clinton or Sanders.

And while, in the opinion of many of the targeted wealthy, Parker among them, raising taxes on them to levels above those enacted under George W. Bush, and reinstating meaningful estate taxes to, say, inflation-adjusted 1960s levels, should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, including the ones who aren’t wealthy—at least the ones who don’t like safe and modern infrastructure and access to college by the non-already-upscale—it doesn’t appear, judging from poll answers, that these policy proposals would be deal-killers for a nominee who proposes them.

And while single-payer Medicare-for-all-type healthcare insurance—another of Sanders’ proposals— would solve, once and for all, problems such as these, it’s likely that most Americans shutter at the thought.  Especially those who think Medicare itself is socialized medicine and want it repealed.  And all those Democrats who considered Ted Kennedy and extremist because he fought for decades for single-payer healthcare insurance.

First among those Democrats being Claire McCaskill, who as a Clinton surrogate told an interviewer last week that Sanders couldn’t win the general election—against Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush—because he’s an extremist.  Luckily for her—and for Clinton—McCaskill wasn’t asked which of Sanders’ proposed policies she, and Clinton, thought a majority of the public would consider extremist.

And which of Walker’s, Rubio’s or Bush’s she thought a majority of voters wouldn’t consider extremist.  Rubio’s proposal to repeal the estate tax completely?  Walker’s to effectively end collective bargaining in the private as well as the public sector, and his attempt to turn Wisconsin’s state university system into a lightly-funded job-training apparatus?  Jeb Bush’s Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for his brother?  (Glenn Hubbard for Treasury Secretary!)  Every single one of the Republican candidates’ Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for Jeb’s brother?

Ah, I know!  It’s their completely-deregulate-the-financial-services-industry plans!  And as a bonus, their Koch brothers’-dictated environmental policy proposals.

The point here being that while the claim of a mirror-image symmetry between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is preposterous, an analogy of that sort between Sanders and Walker, Rubio and Bush would be pretty close to spot-on.  And this is so even though those three rose in the polls weeks and even months before Sanders and Trump did.

Don’t think so, Ms. Parker?  Strangely enough, it is.

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In Response to Kathleen Parker’s Praise of Jeb Bush’s Ugly Christian-Crusade Sleight of Hand

I just updated a post of mine from Monday titled “Jeb Bush Accuses Sheldon Adelson of Lacking Moral Fiber.  Or of Being a Closet Christian. (Not sure which, but it’s one or the other.)”, in refutation of Kathleen Parker’s assist to Bush in his bizarre, sleight-of-hand Christian Crusade.

Bush’s speech was a deeply ugly religious assault, a claim to religious and moral superiority and to the gracious bestowing of its truths even upon nonbelievers.  By an utterly stupid politician. It needs to be recognized for exactly that.

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Jeb Bush Accuses Sheldon Adelson of Lacking Moral Fiber. Or of Being a Closet Christian. (Not sure which, but it’s one or the other.) — [UPDATED]

Jeb Bush’s graduation address last Saturday at Liberty University is absolutely breathtaking, and I’m betting that it will backfire significantly.  Whatever the religious views of the likes of the Koch brothers, those folks surely will recognize that a candidate who throws down the Christian-moral-superiority gauntlet and accuses non-Christians of lacking a moral compass, or of borrowing one from Christians, is unlikely to appeal to a majority of voters in a presidential election.  And that anyone so brazenly craven as to invite religious strife in this country in an attempt to garner his party’s nomination for president will trigger revulsion in a substantial percentage of the public.

So beyond the pale are his comments that they disqualify him as a potential commander in chief. This guy’s dangerously lacking in the judgment and temperament required for the job.

Anyway, Marco Rubio must be smiling about it all.  Bush just lost the Jewish Republican vote, in Florida and elsewhere.

What a vile candidate.

—–

UPDATE: Reader Jack and I exchanged the following comments in the comments thread to this post today:

  Jack

May 13, 2015 12:25 pm

“No place where the message reaches, no heart that it touches, is ever the same again. And across our own civilization, what a radically different story history would tell without it. Consider a whole alternative universe of power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal, achievement without grace, and it’s all just a glimpse of human experience without the Christian influence.”

I’m curious to ask where exactly is it that this “whole alternative universe” is located? Has Jeb not noticed that the past two thousand years or so have seen a persistent and constant series of the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man in spite of the existence of organized religion, both Christian and otherwise? And does the name Torquemada ring a bell from the past? What part of human history demonstrates that organized religion of any form serves to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

  Beverly Mann

May 13, 2015 1:38 pm

What part of human history demonstrates that organized religion of any form serves to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Modern political history, Jack! Notably, the part about obsessively trying to keep many millions of Americans who have or had no access to medical care from having, or now that they final do have it, keeping it. And the part about barring people (including kids) on public aid from paying for admission to a swimming pool or movie theater, and people on food stamps from using the program to buy seafood or steak.

Then, of course, there’s that matter of police officers arresting people for being black, and maybe giving some of them “rough rides” in the backs of police vans while shackled and leg-ironed. And arresting kids, shackling and leg-ironing them, and sentencing them to prison for school fights or petty shoplifting. And of course there’s also that little matter of funding your town’s and county’s government with obscene fines and court fees for minor traffic violations.

And then there are those state and local government contacts with private prison companies in which the government agrees to keep each of the prisons full or mostly full and to pay the company as though operating the prisons at full capacity even if, heaven forbid (pun intended), a prison here or there is not quite at full capacity. (THIS is something that I didn’t know about until I read a jaw-dropping article about it a few days ago.)

So, obviously, Jack, you’re just unaware of modern American history and the role that Christian values play in it.

In the speech, Bush attempts a remarkably obvious sleight of hand, conflating Christianity’s precepts of compassion—e.g., “The last shall be first, and the first last”; “‘unalloyed compassion, such genuine love, such thorough altruism,’ as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Christianity.”—with actions that are unrelated to compassion and are claimed as the free exercise of religion.  Such as—and Bush does make clear that he has these specifically in mind—the claimed right of people who own secular businesses to discriminate at will by invoking some supposed dictate in the bible, or invoking religious dogma as an excuse by a secular corporation’s shareholders to exempt itself from a mandate of law.

I have not read or listened to the speech, and took those quotes in that preceding paragraph from a column by Kathleen Parker in today’s Washington Post, which is titled “Jeb Bush’s eloquent defense of Christianity.”  Presumably, then, Parker knows of instances in which Christianity is being attacked by liberals as too compassionate—as just going toofar with that “the last shall be first, and the first last” thing. In which event I respectfully ask that she specify what, exactly, she has in mind.

Bush doesn’t defend Christianity, much less does he do so eloquently. He erects an elaborate strawman.  He accuses non-Christians and non-religious Christians of attacking Christian tenets of compassion, in the service of advancing both his own political ambitions and an obscenely uncompassionate political ideology; an aggressive lack of compassion is its very hallmark.  There is indeed an attack an attack underway by a segment of America against unalloyed compassion, and altruism, and in fact any semblance of human decency.  But it’s not non-Christians and non-practicing Christians, nor liberals, who are at its vanguard.  And, seriously, there probably aren’t very many people who will be fooled about that.

Bush is currently in the speedy process of exposing himself for the ridiculous idiot that he is, and the so-called establishment Republican kingmakers (billionaire donors, of course) soon will be on the hunt once again for a new hope.  The Kochs will prop up some new puppet and hope that New Hampshire cooperates.  Maybe it will.  And maybe the candidate will avoid insulting the character of many Americans and the intelligence of most Americans.

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The Campaign-Finance Transparency Canard … In All Its Orwellian Splendor

For the reasons explained above, we now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Jan. 21, 2010

I should have foreseen it on Monday.  That was the day that the Washington Post published a high-profile article by Matea Gold, one of the Post’s national political reporters, headlined “Big money in politics emerges as a rising issue in 2016 campaign.”  Five of the Post’s other national political reporters contributed to the piece, two of them reporting from New Hampshire.

By “it”—that is, the thing I should have seen coming—I mean the Orwellian attempt by Republicans to blame campaign-finance laws for the billionaire co-optation of politicians instead of on, say, the Supreme Court’s dismantling of those laws.

The thrust of Gold’s article is this: Historically, the general public laments the influence of large campaign-finance donors—those who contribute directly to campaigns or parties, and those who run or contribute to ostensibly independent PACs and, now, SuperPACs—most people cite specific substantive policy concerns such as the state of the economy, rather than the influence of large donors, as their main political concerns, because, well, most people don’t connect government policy to who’s paying for the policymakers’ elections.  But now, because of the clear, well-known effect of Citizens United (and McCutcheon v. FEC, whose name and specifics most of the public does not know, but whose effect the public does know, albeit under the rubric of Citizens United), large swaths of the public are, finally, connecting the dots between government policy and campaign-finance practices, whatever the guise.

Uh-oh.  Much of the public is now not only onto the Koch brothers, but recognizes that the Koch brothers and others who are nearly as wealthy are effectively the puppeteers to the candidates for national public office—and may soon become aware that that is as true of elections for state government.  All three branches of it.

Not to worry.  Republican pundits Ed Rogers and Kathleen Parker have the answer.  Which they’ve wasted no time in laying out in their respective forums in the Washington Post forums, Rogers in his blog there surprisingly honestly titled “The Insiders,” Parker in her syndicated column.

Rogers, a longtime high-profile Republican political consultant inside and outside Republican White House administrations, and now (to quote the bio line at the bottom of his blog posts) “the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991,” announces in both the title and the body of a blog post yesterday that he is “embarrassed by our campaign finance system.”  Yup.  The first paragraph of his post reads:

I’m embarrassed by our campaign finance system. And as a long-time participant in the system, for me to get here, it must be pretty bad. So-called “campaign finance reform laws” have created a surreal world where the official campaigns aren’t where the campaigning is being done. I can’t say it any better than the recent article “Trading Places” in the National Journal. Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher, who wrote this thoughtful piece about the impact and increasing necessity of super PACs, said, “[SuperPACs] pose an existential threat to the old order. The campaigns themselves may soon become subordinate; as Mitt Romney demonstrated in the 2012 primary, a candidate can win without an effective campaign but not without an effective super PAC.” How can the public interest be served in a world where an unaccountable super PAC is actually bigger than a candidate’s formal campaign?

It can’t, Rogers concludes.  But not because a few exceedingly wealthy people are dictating candidate campaign platforms—they hold their own private primaries these days—and, of course, actual government policy by those whom they sponsored as candidates.  Uh-uh.  No, Sir. No, Ma’am.  No how. No way.  It’s because of a lack of transparency regarding who is funding whose SuperPACs.

And whose fault is it that this system has developed and is having the effect that it’s having?  The drafters and supporters of the post-Watergate and 2001 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance statutes!  Without which we would have had no commandeering of candidates, elected officials and (consequently) of government policy!  Uh-uh.  No, Sir. No, Ma’am.  No how. No way.

If extremely wealthy individuals could donate unrestricted amounts of money directly to campaigns and parties, and have to identify themselves as doing that, the public would also be entitled to transcripts of these folks’ phone and in-person conversations, and email exchanges, with their candidate-proxies/elected-officials, see.

Problem solved!  Or it would be, if only we would just kill the remaining campaign-finance restrictions before the Supreme Court does, and require it all to be … transparent.

Rogers’ post reminds me of those old children’s black-and-white game book puzzles in which the object is to find the obscured animal in the thicket of the drawing’s foliage.  He’s now, finally, after many decades as a participant in the system, embarrassed by that system, because of how very bad it now is.  But it’s the campaign finance reform laws—the so-called ones, not the real ones—that have created a surreal world where the official campaigns aren’t where the campaigning is being done.

Yes, that’s right.  You probably thought that the Supreme Court’s literally spontaneous campaign finance “reform” law announced under the auspices of First Amendment jurisprudence in January 2010, and “enhanced in the name of freedom by the court’s majority last year in McCutcheon v. FEC, striking down most of the McCain-Feingold law, played some role in creating a surreal world where the official campaigns aren’t where the campaigning is being done.   But it didn’t.  Uh-uh.

We know that, because although Rogers admits that it is only now that he’s finally embarrassed about our campaign-finance system–13 years after McCain-Feingold was enacted but four years after the Supreme Court decimated that statute–he’s embarressed by the system propogated by McCain-Feingold, a system that is now a quaint memory.  The embarrassment is totally unrelated to the Supreme Court’s nullifiçation of most of the statute.  Which explains why he doesn’t mention Citizens United, much less McCutcheon. He doesn’t mention the Supreme Court and Citizens United, at all.

So there.

The animal figures in the drawing are really, really obscured.  But he assures us that they’re there.  The campaign-finance laws left standing for now, he complains, are quickly rendering the campaigns themselves subordinate.  As Mitt Romney demonstrated in the 2012 primary, a candidate can win without an effective campaign but not without an effective super PAC.  So, how can the public interest be served in a world where an unaccountable super PAC is actually bigger than a candidate’s formal campaign? he asks.

But by design, he’s asking the wrong question.  So I’ll ask the right one, which is: How can the public interest be served in a world where a handful of billionaires puppet campaigns of others for public office and have secret, direct access to the candidates and who direct campaign positions the goal of which is to ultimately dictate government policy?  It is not, and it cannot.  And that’s true whether unlimited money goes directly to a candidate or party, or both, or whether instead it goes to a SuperPAC.

The demand for transparency is largely a canard, a way to render false assurances that the problem is entirely or mainly secrecy of the identity of the benefactors.  We know who the Kochs are and whom, and what, they support, because they’ve been open about it.  Same with Sheldon Adelson and Tom Steyer.  So what?

Parker’s column today is worse than Rogers’ post, but because of its obvious Orwellian feel will just prompt shrugs, I’d guess.  She writes, in a piece titled “Mr. Hughes Goes to Washington”:

Setting aside for now the debate about security, let’s turn our attention to [gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes’] proclaimed mission of shining a light on our corrupt campaign finance system and his urgent plea for reform.

We tried that, Mr. Hughes, and it created an even bigger mess. [Italics in original.]Today’s salient political adage goes like this: Behind every successful politician is a billionaire — or several.

We did indeed try that, Ms. Parker.  And for a decade or so it worked reasonably well.  But, see, that decade saw the Democrats take control of both houses of Congress from the Republicans as well as the election of Barack Obama.  So although the Supreme Court majority initially killed most of McCain-Feingold in order to allow corporate CEOs to use shareholder money to support Republican candidates directly and indirectly, what we have as a result is less the influence of corporate money than the purchasing of federal, state and local government policy by a billionaire.  Or several.

It turns out that it’s the “several” part that Parker, and probably Rogers, finds problematic.  Parker dedicates much of the remainder of her column to Hillary Clinton’s call last week for mandated transparency in campaign finance in its various forms, because, well, transparency has not been Clinton’s strong suit.  Clinton has a pretty broad base of large donors, apparently. Anyway, Parker writes:

This tells us two things: Transparency polled well in focus groups; Clinton is adept in the art of political jujitsu.

Campaign finance reform is indeed on many minds, if only in greater America. Beyond the Beltway, people like Doug Hughes choke and spit when talking about politics and politicians. The notion that a few rich people can determine who leads this essential nation is a sour, cynical-making joke that borders on the criminal.

As noted in the quote from Citizens United that opens this post, Justice Kennedy and four of his colleagues beg to differ.  But Parker and Kennedy agree on the elixir.  Parker continues:

There’s nothing free about paid-for elections — unless everybody knows where the money came from. [Italics in original.] Ever since the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, generally known as “McCain-Feingold,” our two-party system has been on life support. If in pre-reform America, too many wealthy people were donating large sums to candidates, at least we usually knew who they were. In post-reform America, too many are still giving large donations — but in the shadows.

As one philanthropist put it to me, “Money will always find a way.”

Funny, but I wasn’t aware that the two-party system was on life support between 2002 and 2010, although I guess it might have appeared that way to someone who liked the idea of a one-party system as long as the one party is the Republican one.  (I am not such a person.)  I’d argue instead that the two-party system’s demise, as Parker and Rogers seem to mean it, came not as a result of the enactment eight years earlier of McCain-Feingold but instead from the rise of the Tea Party and therefore as a result of that Supreme Court opinion that cannot be mentioned in polite company.  Or in Republican pundits’ commentary.

Nor am I aware that money always finds a way in the other democracies. The other democracies in the world–the actual ones, and there are a number of them–manage to ensure that it doesn’t.

Left unexplained by these folks, and by others, possibly including Hillary Clinton, is why they believe that the purchase of candidates’ platforms and, ultimately, of elected officials’ policy positions is pernicious only when done via SuperPAC; the purchase of candidates and entire parties is fine, because, see, we know that Republicans audition with the Kochs, and we know these brothers are billionaires many times over, but that would be unimportant if only the brothers could make direct payments to the campaigns and parties.

Hillary Clinton may be adept at political jujitsu, but suffice it to say that she has no monopoly on it.

I do accept Parker’s characterization (however unwitting but by her own terms accurate) of Kennedy & Friends’ actions as bordering on criminal, though. And that money does find a way in this democracy.  But only in this democracy.  By resounding democratic majorities of 5-4.

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Mainstream Journalism As Just Another “Ism.” (The fallacy of the belief that the modern mainstream media has actual standards)

(Reuters) – Employers tried the carrot, then a small stick. Now they are turning to bigger cudgels.

For years they encouraged workers to improve their health and productivity with free screenings, discounted gym memberships and gift cards to lose weight. More recently, a small number charged smokers slightly higher premiums to get them to quit.

Results for these plans were lackluster, and healthcare costs continued to soar. So companies are taking advantage of new rules under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul in 2014 to punish smokers and overweight workers.

—  How your company is watching your waistline, Kathleen Kingsbury, Reuters, Nov. 13, 2013

May I suggest that Ms. Kingsbury’s employer, Reuters, use a cudgel to get her and her editor to actually think about whether what they offer their news-media subscribers doesn’t contradict itself within the very same piece?  (Reuters is what was known for a century or so as a newswire service and is now just known as a news service; like the AP and UPI, it was historically, and now still mainly, a news-gathering service that publishes only through major-media outlets that subscribe to its services.  Such as Yahoo News, which is where I read it three weeks ago.  Thus, the reference to “their news-media subscribers.”  Okay, okay, I’m a journalism pedant.  I even know that Reuters is pronounced Royters, not Rooters, and that unlike AP and the old UPI it is a British import.  Thanks, Dad!)

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