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“Not All Birthers Are The Same”: No, Ted Cruz ‘Birthers’ Are Not The Same As Obama Birthers

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday released his birth certificate, seeking to put to rest questions about whether the Canadian-born senator is qualified to run for president in 2016.

Immediately, parallels were drawn to President Obama’s 2011 release of his own birth certificate, which also was meant to end lingering questions about his eligibility to be president.

And for the few in the birther community, they see hypocrisy. Why are the media not denouncing those who question Cruz’s eligibility in the same way they have denounced the so-called “birthers” who continue to question Obama’s?

The reason? Because about the only thing these two situations have in common is that they involve a birth certificate and a presidential candidate.

Questions about Cruz’s eligibility have everything to do with interpretation of the law; the questions about Obama’s eligibility had everything to do with a dispute over the underlying facts — more specifically, conspiracy theories about whether the president was actually born in the United States, as he claimed, and whether he somehow forged a birth certificate that said he was born in Hawaii.

In Cruz’s case, nobody is disputing the underlying facts of the case — that Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and a mother who was a United States citizen. As we wrote back in March, that makes him a U.S. citizen himself, but it’s not 100 percent clear that that is the same thing as a “natural born citizen” — the requirement for becoming president.

Most scholars think it’s the same thing, and the Congressional Research Service said in 2011 that someone like Cruz “most likely” qualifies to run for president. But to this point, there is no final word from the courts, because while foreign-born candidates have run — including George Romney and John McCain — none of them has actually won and had his eligibility challenged.

Obama was also born to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, meaning if he was in fact born outside the United States, the situations might be parallel. But birthers weren’t making a legal argument about Obama; they were arguing the facts about where he was born and accusing him of perpetrating a massive fraud.

Some will accuse the media of instituting a double standard when it comes to these two cases because Cruz is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat. But nobody is accusing Cruz of lying about his past as part of a vast conspiracy to become president.

It’s just not an apples-to-apples comparison.

By: Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Birthers, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Powerful Legacy”: Positive Steps On Stop And Frisk, Drug Arrests

For all who believe in colorblind justice — and want to see fewer African American and Hispanic men caught up in the system — there are two recent items of good news: a judge’s ruling ordering changes in New York’s “stop-and-frisk” policy and Attorney General Eric Holder’s initiative to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison.

First, stop-and-frisk. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having a hissy fit over U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s finding that the policy amounted to “indirect racial profiling.” On his weekly radio show, he wouldn’t even say Scheindlin’s name, calling her “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing. In an op-ed for The Post, Bloomberg went so far as to accuse Scheindlin of being “ideologically driven.”

If and when Bloomberg calms down, I’d like to ask him the fundamental question posed — not in these words, of course — by Scheindlin’s ruling: Would it kill you to stop and frisk some white guys, too?

Blacks and Hispanics make up about half of New York City’s population but were targeted in 87 percent of the 532,911 “stops” last year under Bloomberg’s policy, which encourages police to detain and search individuals if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person “committed, is committing, or is about to commit” a crime. The reason most often cited for a stop is that the individual made “furtive” movements.

In nine out of 10 cases, the person is stopped — and sometimes frisked — but no evidence is found of any offense. Bloomberg argues that this kind of proactive policing actually prevents crime, and he credits stop-and-frisk for making New York the safest big city in the country.

I’m all for safe streets. I’m also aware that there is no consensus crediting stop-and-frisk with any impact on the crime rate, but I’m willing to accept the premise that an active police presence can deter criminals. My problem is that African Americans and Hispanics are being singled out disproportionately for these arbitrary searches.

Bloomberg says this is because most violent crime occurs in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, with black and Hispanic victims. By all means, police should continue walking and cruising these beats. But the numbers indicate that African Americans and Hispanics are being given too much stop-and-frisk scrutiny — and that whites are being given too little.

According to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union, blacks and Hispanics who are stopped are more likely than whites to be frisked. But just 2 percent of blacks and Hispanics who are frisked are discovered to be carrying weapons, while 4 percent of whites who are frisked have weapons. So if the aim is to find illegal guns, police should frisk more whites.

Why such fuss over a few minutes of inconvenience and indignity? Because blacks and Hispanics who come into contact with the criminal justice system for any reason are more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted than whites and are likely to serve longer prison sentences.

More than 26,000 stops were made last year for alleged marijuana offenses, for example; 61 percent were of African Americans and only 9 percent were of whites. But surveys show that whites are equally or more likely than blacks to be marijuana users. Police don’t find white potheads because they’re not looking for them.

We know that nationwide, according to federal figures, African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested, charged and imprisoned for minor drug offenses. Once young black and Hispanic men enter the criminal justice system, too often they become trapped in a loop of incarceration, release, unemployment and recidivism.

On the national level, Holder has taken direct aim at this vicious cycle with the announcement last week that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders will no longer face federal charges that carry long mandatory prison sentences.

Holder is giving new instructions to federal prosecutors and also supporting legislation that has received bipartisan support in the Senate, where some conservatives now see excessive prison terms as a waste of money.

“We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and to forget,” Holder said in a speech to the American Bar Association. President Obama is expected to make prison reform one of his priorities this fall.

Ending the presumption that African American and Hispanic men are beyond redemption would be a powerful legacy for the first black president and the first black attorney general to leave behind.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Stop and Frisk | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“G.O.P. Purity Control”: The Right Wing Is Back To Denouncing Every Utterance That Strays From Absolute Rigid Orthodoxy

After losing the 2012 election the G.O.P. engaged in a bit of soul-searching, and talked publicly about changing their image, if not their policies. That phase is definitively over. The Republicans are back to denouncing every utterance that strays from an absolutely rigid right-wing orthodoxy, and even ones that really don’t.

Take, for example, the agonies of Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who is running for re-election in Kentucky. He is far to the right on every issue and was at the forefront of the stonewall opposition to President Barack Obama that has paralyzed Congress. And yet a right-wing group has announced its intention to run ads against him ahead of the 2014 primary, where he faces a Tea Party challenger.

Mr. McConnell, in their estimation, has failed to oppose health care reform with sufficient vehemence. Just last week, he had the temerity to point out that shutting down the government will not actually stop reform from going into effect. As if that was not appalling enough, Mr. McConnell admitted that “there are handful of things in the 2,700-page” health care bill “that are probably are OK.”

Mr. McConnell went on to say that the bill was the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years” and that “we need to get rid of it.” But what he actually said or where he actually stands seems to make no difference to Republicans out there on the Tea Party fringe.

At least Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, might sympathize with Mr. McConnell’s plight. It was widely reported last week that he called Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign talk of “self-deportation” by illegal immigrants “racist.”  Actually he said that the discussion “hurts us.” In the gap between the comment and the clarification, there was a blizzard of outrage on the right wing corners of Twitter and the rest of the Web.

In another sign of the intense pressure on Republicans to prove their bona fides, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas on Sunday released evidence indicating that he is really and truly American. I mean he gave the Dallas Morning News his birth certificate proving that he is a “natural born American” — and therefore eligible to run for president. Mr. Cruz was born in Canada (not quite Kenya, but definitely not the U.S. of A.). But his mother was an American citizen, meaning he never had to go through a naturalization exercise.

How bizarre that Mr. Cruz felt he had to do this. Of course, the way the Republicans are going, by 2016 merely having lived in the socialist haven north of this country will probably be enough to knock him out of contention.


By: Andrew Rosenthal, The New York Times, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“They’re Both Opportunists”: Julian Assange Loves Rand Paul’s Playtime Politics And His “Very Principled Positions”

Julian Assange, who back when he roamed the earth freely used to do things like show up on the steps of St. Paul’s to protest the wrongs of capitalism, has now apparently placed his faith in the man who is arguably the capitalists’ single biggest lickspittle in Washington, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). In and of itself, this is only mildly interesting. But Assange’s admirers on the left are so seduced by his oppositionalist posture and his desire to stick it to the man (as long as the man is the government of the United States) that they seem willing to follow him off any cliff, maybe even the cliff of voting for Paul in 2016. It’s a jejune politics, and ultimately a politics of leisure. No one whose day-to-day life is materially affected by the question of who is in office has time for such silly games, and therefore, no one who purports to be in solidarity with those people should either.

In an interview over the weekend with Campus Reform, a conservative college students’ group and website, Assange offered up a range of choice thoughts, none more interesting than this one: “In relation to Rand Paul. I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attack on WikiLeaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial killing.” And then this: “The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress. It will be the driver that shifts the United States around.”

Assange also praised Matt Drudge in the interview, saying Drudge “should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship” of the mainstream news media. Drudge, it should be recalled, didn’t break any “censorship” at all. Conspiracy theorists of left and right have always had trouble distinguishing between censorship and editorial judgment, and it was Newsweek’s judgment (long before current ownership, I note) in January 1998 that its Monica Lewinsky story wasn’t ready for print. Drudge simply “reported” on that fact—or rather was spoon-fed it by disgruntled internal sources. The Lewinsky story was getting around, and so it’s a near certainty that Newsweek, or someone, would have published it soon. But Assange elevates Drudge to hero status.

It’s true that the Pauls do take one principled position, their anti-war stance. That’s one more than some people, I guess. But they get way too much credit for it, and for their supposed “libertarian” posture. Rand Paul is not a libertarian at all. A true libertarian supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry and the right of women to make decisions about their bodies. Paul is against same-sex marriage to such an extent that he compared it with interspecies marriage earlier this summer. And he’s not merely anti-abortion rights; he’s thrown in with the “personhood” movement, which would essentially grant the rights of personhood to fertilized eggs and represents the extreme wing of the anti-abortion rights movement.

What does Assange make of these positions? And what does the Assange of the St. Paul’s anti-banking protest make of Paul’s strident free-marketeerism to the extent of insisting that businesses have the right to discriminate against black people if they want to? We’ll never know, I suspect. If ever compelled to address these points, he’ll probably say they’re side issues dredged up by people devoted to the status quo—a standard and boring “fight the power” line.

I should say I’ve never admired Assange. His is the kind of black-and-white, moral absolutist thinking about politics one should grow out of after graduate school. He put American and other lives at risk with some of his 2010 leaks of classified military material. Into the bargain he may have sexually assaulted two women—innocent until proven otherwise on that one, but nevertheless it hangs out there and is part of the reason he’s holed up in that Ecuadoran Embassy.

He’s a bad actor. But at least once upon a time he was a somewhat consistent bad actor. Now he’s just an opportunist, as much an opportunist as Paul himself. Here’s what “the libertarian aspect” of the GOP is going to bring to America in the thankfully unlikely event it is to succeed at the ballot box. First, taxes so low on the wealthy as to be nearly nonexistent (actually, in some ways the most interesting of Assange’s weekend remarks were those equating taxation with “violence,” which puts him in the company of nutcases like Alan Keyes). Second, the end of any kind of business regulation. Severe cuts to all programs for the poor. These are the only issues, after Paul’s anti-war stance, on which his libertarianism is consistent. It is interesting indeed to learn that Assange agrees.

That’s why these seemingly left-wing anti-establishment types should never be trusted. These are just playtime politics, luxuries for the leisure class. If you want a real left-winger, I say stick with Marx. At least he understood that politics is chiefly about economic relations. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is sending you down blind alleys, knows little about politics to begin with, and should be shunned by anyone who claims to be anywhere on the broad left side of the spectrum.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s All Academic Governor”: Chris Christie’s Debate Phobia Won’t Win Him GOP Support

“We are not a debating society. We are a political operation that needs to win.”

Thus did Chris Christie offer one of the most pregnant statements yet in the ongoing Republican argument over the party’s future. At the risk of sounding like one of those “professors” the New Jersey governor regularly condemns, I’d argue that these 15 words, spoken at a Republican National Committee meeting in Boston last week, raise more questions than they answer. Here are a few.

How do you decide on a winning strategy without debating it first? What is wrong with debating differences on policy and philosophy that people in political parties inevitably have? Don’t the voters expect to have some idea of what a party and a candidate believe before they cast their ballots — and doesn’t that imply debate? Doesn’t the phrase “political operation” risk implying that you are seeking power for power’s sake and not for any larger purpose?

There is also this: Isn’t Christie himself engaged in an important debate with Sen. Rand Paul over national security issues? There’s nothing academic about that.

One of two things is going on here: Either Christie knows he’ll need to have the debate he claims he wishes to avoid but doesn’t want to look like he is questioning fundamental conservative beliefs, or he really believes that the “I can win and the other guys can’t” argument is enough to carry him to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination he shows every sign of seeking. The latest signal came Friday when, under pressure from pro-gun activists, he vetoed a weapon ban he once advocated.

His target audience, after all, is an increasingly right-wing group of Republican primary voters who are unforgiving of ideological deviations. The last thing Christie needs is the sort of debate that casts him as a “moderate.”

Let’s stipulate that Christie is far less “moderate” than either his fans among Democrats and independents or the hardest-core conservatives seem to believe. Simply because Christie was nice to President Obama after Hurricane Sandy — at a moment when New Jersey needed all the federal help it could get — lots of people forget how conservative the pre-Sandy Christie was.

In 2011, he went to the summer seminar sponsored by the Koch brothers in Colorado, heaped praise on them and said, among other things: “We know the answers. They’re painful answers. We’re going to have to reduce Medicare benefits. We’re going to have to reduce Medicaid benefits. We’re going to have to raise the Social Security age. We’re going to have to do these things. We’re going to have to cut all type of other government programs that some people in this room might like. But we’re gonna have to do it.”

If I were on the right, I’d be taken with Christie’s skills at making conservative positions seem “pragmatic” and “practical.” Candidates who are perceived as dogmatic or highly ideological rarely win elections.

But here’s the problem: You can’t run as a pragmatic candidate if your party won’t let you. For Christie to win, he will have to convince the grass-roots Republicans who decide nominations that the party’s steady march rightward is a mistake.

Surely Paul, Ted Cruz and others among Christie’s potential opponents won’t let him slide by without challenging him hard — yes, “debating” him — about what he really stands for. Christie needs something more substantial than “You guys are losers,” even though he would relish saying it.

Mitt Romney’s experience in 2012 is instructive. He was a relatively pragmatic governor, especially on health care, and could have been a more attractive candidate than he turned out to be. Yet the dynamics of a Republican primary electorate that is short on middle-of-the-roaders pushed Romney away from his old self and toward positions that made him less electable. Faced with opponents to his right, he was reactive and drifted their way. In the end, it wasn’t clear who Romney was, other than the candidate who spoke derisively about the “47 percent.”

Those who understand how a “political operation” works know that genuine pragmatism requires a defeated party to engage in rethinking, not just repositioning. Bill Clinton laid out a detailed program and a set of arguments as a “New Democrat.” George W. Bush spoke of “compassionate conservatism” and challenged at least some of the most reactionary positions held by congressional Republicans.

Winning reelection this November by the biggest possible margin will buy Christie time. But eventually the debating society will beckon. He’ll have to be very clear, if not professorial, about the argument he wants to make.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 18, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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