mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Stick A Fork In Ben Carson”: A Man Who Has Already Come To Grips With Failure

Two days before Christmas, Steven Ginsberg and Robert Costa of the Washington Post landed an interview with Ben Carson. It was conducted in Carson’s basement man-cave. The below ground-level setting is appropriate because the transcript reads like an obituary.

Dr. Carson laments virtually everything, from his annoying advisers who keep urging him to be more combative, to his inability to get mulligans for his many missteps, to the quality of the electorate, to the way the media twists his words, to the way his campaign has spent money. The overwhelming sense you get is of a man who has already come to grips with failure.

And that’s a failure in itself because the interview was supposed to demonstrate that he understands his campaign’s problems and is preparing to retool and make a big push before Iowa.

What struck me more than anything, though, is how there was no mention of any of the 13 ridiculous things that Ben Carson actually believes. The mistakes, insofar as they are detailed at all, are limited to foreign policy blunders, like his insistence that the Chinese have a large presence in Syria. But, arguably, Carson began to slip right around the time that it came out that he thinks the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain. It became increasingly clear that Carson doesn’t just have some far-right views on abortion and war crimes and the Holocaust and censorship, he actually has a borderline crazy belief system.

One wonders in this day and age how much this actually hurts you in a Republican nominating contest. After all, the guy in first place is the country’s most famous Birther. There are certainly areas where being an over-the-top bomb thrower helps you win support from the GOP base. Arguably, this was the way Carson won his initial popularity and support on the right. I assume this is what his advisers believe, too, and it’s why they’ve urged him to throw bombs not just at the president and his health care plan and reproductive rights, but at his Republican opponents.

Maybe his lack of foreign policy experience really is the best explanation for his precipitous fall in the polls. The only problem with that explanation is that Donald Trump should have suffered right along with Carson in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Maybe Trump’s bluster and bravado cover his lack of expertise better than Carson’s mellower act.

Whatever the explanation, Carson seems like a man who is already beaten before the first vote is cast. And he knows that he’s injured his reputation in the bargain.

Carson: A weak person isn’t selected by CNN and Time magazine as one of the 20 foremost physicians and surgeons in America. That was before they discovered that I’m conservative. A weak person doesn’t have all of these honorary degrees. Most people of accomplishment have one, maybe two or three honorary degrees at most. It’s the highest award that a university gives out. I have 67. That’s probably not indicative of a weak person who doesn’t get things done.

Costa: Has this campaign helped or hurt that reputation, that legacy?

Carson: Without question, it will hurt it. But it’s not about me. I’m willing to sacrifice that legacy and that reputation if we can get our country turned around. One person is not a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

If Carson thought there were the slightest chance that he’d win the nomination, he’d certainly not answer that question by saying that “without question” the campaign will end up hurting his reputation.

You can stick a fork in him. His presidential ambitions are done.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Foreign Policy, GOP Primaries | , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Role Of Black Women In The Democratic Party”: A Group That Doesn’t Get Much Attention In Our Political Discussions

We’re hearing a lot these days about the angry white base of the Republican Party. Beyond analysis of this group as the core of support for presidential candidates like Donald Trump, there are people who suggest that Democrats (like President Obama) need to reach out to them either to calm the waters of our political divide or as people who might be lured back into the Democratic Party.

There are occasions when people also refer to the base of the Democratic Party. Often it is assumed that this group is made up of the most liberal activists – in this election cycle, Bernie Sanders supporters.

But take a moment to look at some of the data in a report about a group that doesn’t get much attention in our political discussions these days: The Status of Black Women in American Politics.

First of all, the number of black women who turn out to vote is higher than any other demographic group – 70% in 2012. That number has been rising since 1996, so it is more than a response to the candidacy of Barack Obama. And no group votes more consistently Democratic than black women. Here are the figures since 1992:

1992 Bill Clinton – 87%
1996 Bill Clinton – 89%
2000 Al Gore – 94%
2004 John Kerry – 90%
2008 Barack Obama – 96%
2012 Barack Obama – 96%

As a comparison, in the above elections no Democratic candidate got more than 48% of the vote from white women.

But, perhaps you say that the issue for Democrats these days isn’t presidential elections, but midterms and off-year elections. The report points to the following example:

In the 2013 gubernatorial election in Virginia, 91% of Black women voters voted for Democratic winner Terry McCauliffe, while 54% of non- Hispanic White women voters voted for Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Some may suggest that this base of the Democratic Party doesn’t need to be catered to because they have no other place to go in our two-party system. There is some truth in that. Given the current status of the Republican Party, it is clear that they have no interest in wooing black women into their ranks. But when it comes to the future of the Democratic Party, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Finally, Black women represent a significant portion of the Rising American Electorate (RAE), an estimated 115 million eligible voters – and nearly half of the electorate – composed of unmarried women, people of color, and people under 30 years old. Black women sit at the intersection of these groups, representing just over half of the 26.9 million eligible Black voters and 19% of all eligible unmarried women voters (Lake, Ulibarri, and Treptow 2013). They also represent the most active and dependable contingent of the RAE, contributing to its growing influence and playing an essential role in building coalitions across RAE groups to influence electoral outcomes in future races.

Beyond all that, it is interesting to notice which groups in our political system continue to draw our attention and which ones are too often ignored. Black women are playing an increasingly active role lately in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Democrats who ignore that do so at their own peril.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Black Women, Democrats, GOP, White Women | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What The GOP Gets Wrong About ISIS”: The Positions Staked Out By Republican Politicians Are Crazy

As we come to the end of a year of terror—actually, of horror—and we enter a year of terrible campaigning by some horrible candidates for the presidency of the United States, one might wish the Republican front-runners would step back from the path of religious zealotry, racist paranoia and torture envy. But … no.

As the debates in mid-December and the sparring since have showed us, they are detached from many realities, but especially the reality on the ground in Syria, which I have been covering first-hand with frequent trips there since 2012.

So, now, back in the United States, I watch in consternation the nauseating spin about Radical Islam, carpet bombing, waterboarding, surveillance of everyone, blaming refugees. The Republican “strategies” for dealing with the so-called Islamic State sound like a laundry list of the monumental failures from the 9/11 decade.

Was it “political correctness” that knocked down the twin towers and kidnapped and tortured my friends? No, it was something much more sinister, and something much more sophisticated than these candidates seem to realize, or to be.

There is a reason, of course, for them to deflect questions about military tactics against ISIS. There are no easy answers, and even the difficult options are severely limited. No realistic proposal for tackling the jihadi group will play well with primary voters and all of the candidates know it. Presumably, this is why the Republican candidates have taken the discussion into the realm of paranoid fantasy and insinuation, where they seem much more comfortable.

Consider Donald Trump’s bizarre statement that “we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is.” Actually, we know exactly where the Islamic State is and have a good idea of where its main bastions are. We essentially already know what is needed to fight them.

The problem is that no matter how good our intel is, there is still the pesky issue of how to take and hold territory, which is a costly proposition. And while ISIS potentate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently conceded he’s been losing ground, but gradually, he figures that, up against the disorganization of his enemies, and the U.S. presidential campaign is a prime example of that, he will be able to get it back—and then some.

Then there’s the question of torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the notion that they could have prevented the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.

At a Council on Foreign Relations event Chris Christie said “it’s not a coincidence to me that this happened in the aftermath of restricting these programs and remember also demoralizing the intelligence community. That awful report that came out from the Senate Democrats at the end of last year was a complete political instrument that did nothing more than demoralize American intelligence officers all around the world.”

Using religious language like “Radical Islam” has also been touted as a Republican “strategy” for some time. Such words, one way or the other, have zero effect on the ground.

Ted Cruz’s anti-ISIS strategy is to rename the terror group, which results in a meaningless sound bite, not a strategy. You can rebrand a cancer however you like; the threat it poses will be unchanged. But the “Radical Islam” rhetoric plays well into a broader trend of advocating racial, ethnic and religious profiling by the general public. Cruz’s followers do not hear the word “radical,” as any spin doctor knows. They cut straight to “Islam” as the threat.

When asked if the American government should engaging in profiling, Jeb Bush’s answer was concrete and definitive: “Yeah, absolutely, that is what screening is. We should be profiling. Of course we should. This is Islamic terrorism. The Democrats have no clue about this, or they refuse to call it what it is. These are Islamic terrorists that are trying to take out our country and destroy Western civilization. If you start with that premise, which I think the great majority of Americans believe, then you have a totally different approach on how you deal with it.”

Yet when asked about his military strategy, Bush replied with a platitude: “The main thing we should be focused on is a strategy to defeat ISIS…. Leading the world, funding [the military] to make sure we have a military that is second to none and doing the job.”

When Republicans rally so strongly behind the anti-refugee hysteria, torture and religious rhetoric, it is because they need unifying issues that allow them to attack President Barack Obama and, by extension, Hillary Clinton.

According to Robert Y. Shapiro, a professor of government at Columbia University, the refugee issue is a convenient tool used by the GOP to criticize the Obama administration without confronting military realities.

“I think they want to keep the focus on the refugees since, first, they are a reminder of Obama’s perceived failure against the Syrian government and the conquests of ISIS,” says Shapiro. “Second, they are a reminder of the potential terrorist threat which is an issue on which the Republicans, since George W. Bush, have had the high ground over the Democrats. The current polls strongly reflect this.”

“It is a way of avoiding the tougher issue of what to do about Syria and ISIS,” says Shapiro. The political strategy keeps the focus on the the failings of the Obama administration and its longtime secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

If there is one thing Republicans agree on, in fact, it is that Obama somehow created ISIS. Yet when it comes to exactly why they think that, the reasons are vastly different and completely contradictory.

So, for instance, former New York (9/11) Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a recent Fox News interview that he believes ISIS is an “Obama creation.” According to Giuliani, ISIS rose to prominence because Obama refused to implement a no fly zone over Syria after the Assad regime’s chemical weapon attacks in 2013.

According to Trump, however, ISIS is a result of Obama’s weak personality and his intervention in Libya, which Trump says destabilized the region. Trump has also claimed that he believes Obama may have directly armed ISIS, and that America should support Russia’s intervention in Syria.

According to Ted Cruz, political correctness is to blame and Obama should try to ramp up the religious rhetoric.

According to Jeb Bush, ISIS is Obama’s fault because he drew down U.S. forces in Iraq, allowing the jihadis to fill the vacuum.

Rand Paul insists that Obama “armed the allies of ISIS.”

On the far-out fringes of the right (whose votes are coveted as well) there are the persistent conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that moderate Republican Sen. John McCain met with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, when he visited Syria.

If Obama is a dictatorial warmonger, a secret jihadi or, as Christie puts it, “a feckless weakling,” what Republican could come to his defense?

Yet none can say that Obama is not striking ISIS, because he is. GOP candidates cannot say that Obama has overstepped his executive authority, because this would be interpreted as opposition to the military campaign. The Republican candidates cannot advocate sending in ground troops, because that is an unelectable position.

No one is going to make waves by advocating a no-fly zone, because Hillary Clinton has been the most vocal advocate of an air exclusion area since the beginning of the conflict, long before any Republican candidates raised the issue.

Four years of contradictory statements and shortsighted posturing from the GOP with regard to Syria have made emotionally charged peripheral issues the safest bet when it comes to politicizing ISIS.

A review of Republican positions since the conflict began reveals broad opposition to Obama’s anti-Assad-regime plans and serious criticism of his executive actions against ISIS.

In 2014, John Boehner was quick to criticize Obama’s military actions as unauthorized, but became visibly uncomfortable when asked why he didn’t introduce an authorization to use military force. Numerous Republicans dissented when Obama said he intended to retaliate against the Assad regime for chemical attacks in 2013, and were largely responsible for staying his hand. With regard to military action against ISIS, many Republicans chose to avoid a vote on the subject so they could assess the success of the campaign before risking a position. This is hard to spin as a courageous stance against the Islamic State.

Before the Paris attacks and the current anti-refugee hysteria, the Republican contenders, especially Cruz, had focused their criticism of Obama on the fact that he refuses to equate the Islamic State with mainstream Islam. This is clever, up to a point, because it is vague and draws on a widely held belief among conservatives that political correctness and cultural sensitivity are largely to blame for their unhappiness. Thus Cruz proclaimed, incongruously, “It is not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama adminstration from stopping these attacks it is political correctness.”

Do the candidates really believe what they are saying about refugees? It is important to listen to the specific words that they and governors opposed to resettlement have been using.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knows that his biggest weakness is being perceived as soft on Obama, because he worked closely with the president after Hurricane Sandy. In interview after interview, Christie has deflected questions on his refugee scapegoating back to Obama, stating that he does not trust the President to vet the refugees.

During the GOP debates in Las Vegas Christie focused heavily on his involvement with minor terrorism cases as a prosecutor and the fact that he lived in New Jersey on 9/11.

Ted Cruz keeps the focus on buzzwords meant to energize his evangelical base. In a single interview with Sean Hannity, he repeated the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” 19 times. And since the Paris attacks, Cruz has also been sure to repeat the words “tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees” verbatim several times per interview.

Despite all the tough talk none of this rhetoric comes close to resembling a strategy, which is why the GOP has more to lose than anyone from a real debate on military tactics against ISIS.

The fear mongering has been successful turning conservatives against a vulnerable community that had no role in the Paris or San Bernardino attacks. According to a Yougov poll, support for accepting refugees has dropped from 39 percent among Republicans in early September to 17 percent now. The major GOP contenders need issues like refugees and religion to stay in the conversation because they have no clue how to beat ISIS.

In fact, the threat does not come from Obama, refugees, and civil rights, as opposed to from the actual Islamic State. The Republicans give the overall impression that they would increase U.S. military operation and that the Obama administration has no clear strategy. ‘In fact the Obama administration does,” say Shapiro “but it is a much slower long term one… leaving the fighting on the ground to the Kurds and Iraqi forces.”

Most of the actual proposals presented by GOP candidates are basically just variations on that theme.

On the ground in Syria, debates among the Republican candidates have sounded unrealistic if not surreal. It is obvious that ISIS can only be beaten through intelligent alliances and precise military planning. This should not be a great mystery given the fact that ISIS has been beaten before. In early 2014 Syrian rebels forced ISIS into a massive retreat from Aleppo province. I personally had the privilege of visiting parts of Aleppo that were recently liberated. This objective was achieved through military coordination among rebels factions who took heavy casualties.

It’s strange to hear politicians speak about ISIS as though it is some mysterious threat that will require America to change its identity. The leaders and fighters of ISIS are simply human beings, and in battle, they die.

When I hear politicians demonize Syrians and Muslims or advocate torture and carpet bombing, it shows how deep their lack of commitment to the actual fight is.

Syrians are the only people I have ever encountered who have actually stood up to and beaten back ISIS. The 2014 rebel offensive was the most significant blow that ISIS has ever been dealt and it didn’t magically occur when Ted Cruz uttered the words “Radical Islam.” It certainly didn’t come from preventing desperate refugees from settling in America. The biggest defeat ISIS has ever suffered came from Syrians who are the exact same religion and nationality that candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are so determined to turn into an enemy.

 

By: Patrick Hilsman, The Daily Beast, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, ISIS, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Murderous Minds Are Here To Stay”: Altering Gun Laws Isn’t An Absolute Answer, But It’s Change Within Our Control

What made a young couple walk into a health facility and start shooting people? It wasn’t our gun laws. It wasn’t the easy ability to purchase a weapon in this country.

If such things made people killers, all Americans would be killers. In that narrow way, gun advocates who bristle at any change after the San Bernardino killings are right.

No one makes you pull a trigger.

But if you stop the argument there, you’re being naive — as naive as saying no one makes you abuse drugs, no one forces you to drink and drive, no one tells you to give your money to phony investment advisors. Yet we have laws regarding all those things.

Laws, smartly written, address the dangers facing a society. The item in question should be less important than the threat.

But our biggest gun law was written 224 years ago, and it remains mostly about that — guns, and the ownership of them. It’s not about bad behavior, murderous thoughts or anything else that guns frequently exacerbate. We have been arguing over this law, the Second Amendment, for centuries.

But we don’t touch it. Because it’s part of our Constitution. Because it’s cherished by many. And because, supporters argue, it’s not the law that makes people put on vests, drop their baby at a relative’s house, then go on a mass murder spree and die.

That’s a sick mind.

And you can’t legislate against a sick mind.

Recently, the New York Times ran its first front page editorial in nearly 100 years. It called for the end of the “gun epidemic.” Before that, the New York Daily News, in criticizing lawmakers who offered prayers for victims but no new legislation, ran the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

Naturally, both papers were buried in insults, dismissed as “typical liberals,” and argued against with an avalanche of selected facts and figures that make the case for doing nothing — or for arming more Americans, not fewer. President Obama, calling for tougher gun laws, was shouted down by a well-practiced chorus of critics, who cynically noted, “How’s it working for Paris?”

But being loud and being right are two different things. It’s always easier to scream against change than to create it. Especially since what change would be 100 percent effective? If we banned every gun in the country, some criminals would still get their hands on them, or use bombs instead, etc.

But is that a reason to watch the next whacked out fundamentalist go freely into a U.S. gun shop, legally purchase guns designed for quick, multiple killings, then use them on fellow citizens to go out in a blaze of infamy?

Because you know it will happen again.

I don’t have a fast answer for this. Nor do I have the energy or stomach to argue with hate-spewing people who are so mesmerized by gun possession they won’t budge an inch. It’s pointless.

But I do take issue with those who refuse to accept that mass killings with assault weapons fall under the same category as a hunter wanting to go after ducks. Yes, we have had guns in this country since its inception, but we have not had other things: a media that sensationalizes violence on a global scale, a population that feels alienated, video entertainment that numbs you to murder and a Internet that can connect all these elements with warped minds that see death as a badge of honor.

I’m pretty sure if America in 1791 had IEDs, jihads and YouTube, our Second Amendment wouldn’t read the way it does. But we cling to words written 224 years ago in a world that changes by the blink. This fact remains: people without a previous criminal history can make their first bad deed a doozy with legally purchased American guns, and killing them once they do only speeds up what many of them hope for: a sensationalized death. This is not limited to Islamic fundamentalists. Mass shootings in Colorado Springs (three dead), Oregon (nine dead) and Charleston, S.C. (nine dead) — all in the last six months — had nothing to do with Islam.

We can leave gun laws untouched, but something else will eventually give: maybe surveillance on every home and business; metal detectors on every door frame; random interrogations, sweeping immigration reform, airborne snipers, rounding up of particular religions. All things that will make America look a lot less like America than if its people were a little less armed.

Our choice. But sick, murderous minds are here to stay. How easy we make it for them is the only thing we can control.

 

By: Mitch Albom, The National Memo, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Gunsense, Gunshow Loopholes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“2015: The Year Of The Crybaby”: Yo, America, Quit Lying To Yourselves

With a presidential election year coming, it’s tempting to call 2015 the Year of the Crybaby. Everybody’s a victim. Judging by TV and social media, roughly half the nation believes it’s being oppressed by the other half. Everybody’s throwing themselves a pity party.

There’s an awful lot of self-dramatization going on.

Everywhere you look, somebody’s getting fitted for a hairshirt.

I was first moved to this thought by an extraordinary “Voices” letter to my local newspaper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A fellow in Siloam Springs was offended by columnist John Brummett’s criticism of “extreme evangelical professed Christians in Iowa.”

Brummett thinks the Iowa GOP primary gives undue attention to people who think “that God forgives everything but liberalism.” This infuriated the reader, who proclaimed his constitutionally-guaranteed right to oppose “abortion, divorce, gay marriage, etc.” regardless of Supreme Court rulings. Should he lose it “these United States will cease being America.”

Sorry, friend, the First Amendment definitely guarantees you the right to obsess about other people’s intimate lives. But not to regulate them. Here in America, you can interpret God’s will any way you like. You just can’t make anybody obey.

That doesn’t make you a victim. It makes you a crybaby.

Ditto Donald Trump’s whining about “political correctness” while directing coarse insults toward his rivals. A woman using the bathroom is “disgusting,” but poor Donald’s the victim.

For most Republicans, it’s an imaginary threat. “In the telling of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly,” notes Paul Waldman, “conservatives live their lives in fear of the vicious mobs of liberals wielding political correctness like a nail-studded club.”

Poor little things.

Also on the subject of faking, check out Paul Farhi’s Washington Post article “Six Ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign,” particularly the embedded video showing the pompadoured billionaire in action.

If that doesn’t open your eyes, they must be sewn shut.

Elsewhere, upwards of half the people in America tell pollsters they’re afraid they’ll be killed by terrorists. This time last year it was Ebola.

Yo, America, quit lying to yourselves.

Alternatively, you could try emulating Grandpa, who went off to fight World War II with no good expectation he’d be coming back. And you’re scared witless by a ragtag band of religious fanatics in pickup trucks?

No you’re not. You’re just titillated by the melodrama. Which is why CNN and the rest keep feeding it to you.

Of course where I live, cows are a bigger threat than terrorists.

No joke. A friend almost got himself killed recently after thoughtlessly entering a stall with a newborn calf and its normally placid mama. He escaped with a broken and dislocated shoulder.

Storms blow trees across fences, black Angus cattle wander into dark highways, and bad things happen. Just not on CNN.

Of course the cultural and political left has its own share of melodramatists, whiners and scolds, many on college campuses. Rather like the fellow in Siloam Springs, student “activists” see themselves as morally incorruptible, and their opinions as graven in stone.

Have you seen anything about the great Oberlin College food fight? Students on the Ohio campus decided their cafeteria served “racist” food. Because the sushi was no good, protesters called it “culturally appropriative,” an insult to Japanese-Americans. Things got very heated. If Oberlin kids got their way, you’d have to hire a Neapolitan chef to order a pizza.

All we ever worried about was saltpeter in the mashed potatoes.

An insult to my Irish ancestors, come to think of it, for whom a boiled potato and a six pack constituted a seven course meal.

But there I go, making light of something grave. Normally, I take my cues from the critical race theorists at Salon.com, where they celebrated Christmas with an article entitled “The thought of a white man in my chimney does not delight me”: Let’s stop lying to our kids about Santa.

And no, I couldn’t possibly make that up. Along with meditations upon the orgasm, tirades against white folks are pretty much the formerly-serious website’s entire stock-in-trade.

But the real holiday bell-ringer was a Christmas Eve essay in the New York Times entitled “Dear White America” by Emory University philosopher George Yancy. The professor offers his own struggles to transcend sexism as a model for white men in their efforts to comprehend black lives.

“As a sexist, I have failed women,” he confesses. “…I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life.”

Yeah, well me too.

In theory, I’m totally against “objectifying women,” but Jennifer Lawrence still makes my ears buzz. Then too, my wife kind of likes me that way.

As for renouncing my putative “white innocence,” a modest demurral:

Give it a rest professor, I didn’t make this world any more than you.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Americans, Politics, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: