There's so much news being committed this week that we here at TWiA World Headquarters have to split this week's entry into two posts. Here's the first part of the week; the second part will be posted on Friday, as usual.
And as usual, tell some friends, click the links, and leave comments.
This Week in Buffoonery
The Republican field in the 2012 presidential race was often referred to as a circus, and the many Republican debates, with crowds candidates outdoing each other with absurdities, was somewhat suggestive of a clown car that had parked in the wings and emptied out onto the stage.
Of all the goofiness on display, no one was more absurd than Donald Trump, who should probably be in the Guiness Book of World Records under Biggest Ego, except that there is no scientific method of measurement that can confim it. Trump's presence in the race was not about running for office, since Donald Trump will never hold elective office in this country--it was about getting unpaid promotion for his TV show on all the networks and news channels.
Astonishingly, despite his complete lack of political seriousness, Trump can still get booked on political talk shows. This week, he appeared on "This Week," where guest host Jonathan Karl tried to get him to give up, finally, on the birther nonsense that was his sole issue in 2012. Trump, of course, was having none of it. The real comedy gold, though, came here:
KARL: Let me ask you this, Ted Cruz, born in Canada, is he eligible to be president of the United States?
TRUMP: Well, if he was born in Canada, perhaps not. But I'm not sure where he was born. I --
KARL: He was definitely born in Canada.
TRUMP: OK. Well, then you'll have to ask him that question. But perhaps not.
KARL: Ted Cruz's mother was an American citizen. He was an American.
TRUMP: Look, that will be ironed out. I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada.
Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Abbott and Costello, you guys have some real competition here.
Side Note: Speaking of Ted Cruz's parentage, this week his father preceded him onto the stage at an Iowa event, and said: "Socialism requires that government becomes your god. That’s why they have to destroy the concept of God. They have to destroy all loyalties except loyalty to government. That’s what’s behind homosexual marriage.” Also, apparently, what's behind the Affordable Care Act, as the woefully uninformed elder Cruz continued, "Obamacare is going to destroy the elderly by denying care, by even perhaps denying treatment to people who are in catastrophic circumstances."
At TWiA World Headquarters we believe that in some cases the apple can indeed drop plenty far from the tree. In this case, though, an extremist father has raised an extremist son, and that son has unfortunately become a US senator. Way to go, Texas.
This Week in Birtherism
Speaking of birthers (and of elected officials from Texas), this week congressman Blake Farenthold (R/TX) answered a constituent's question about President Obama's heritage with an incredible series of nonsequiturs:
“I think unfortunately the horse is already out of the barn on this, on the whole birth certificate issue. The original Congress when his eligibility came up should have looked into this and they didn’t. I’m not sure how we fix it.
“You tie into a question I get a lot, if everybody's so unhappy with what the President’s done, why don’t you impeach him. I’ll give you a real frank answer about that, if we were to impeach the President tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it. But it would go to the Senate and he wouldn’t be convicted.
“What message do we send to America if we impeach Obama and he gets away with what he’s impeached for and is found innocent? What do we say then is okay. Aside from the fact that it wouldn’t be effective, I think there’s some potential damage to society that would be done with a failed attempt at impeachment.”
The congressman might not understand a couple of things about the American system of government, and about the real world we live in:
1) The president was born in Hawaii--and even if he hadn't been, his mother was an American, therefore he's an American. But he was, and that fact is not in dispute except among the truly, dishearteningly ignorant among us.
2) The House would need a reason to impeach the president. According to the constitution, the president would have to have committed "treason, bribery, or high crimes or misdemeanors." Since none have even been seriously alleged, whether or not the House has the votes is irrelevant. That just means (even assuming Farenthold is correct, which is doubtful) that there are enough people in the House who are as unhinged as he is.
Once again, the real problem here is voters who elect to important offices people who have no qualifications for those offices, other than sharing a radical ideology with said voters. Electing the incompetent is a self-fulfilling prophecy--you don't believe government works, so you vote for people who are fundamentally unsuited to govern. Then, lo and behold, government doesn't work! Et voila.
This Week in Texas
As long as we're talking about people whom the good voters of Texas seem to feel are the appropriate respresentatives of their concerns, let's talk about Congressman Louie Gohmert, who was another guest on "This Week" this week (and to whoever's doing the booking on that show, you should seriously consider a career change, because the disservice you're doing to the national conversation is immense).
On the show, Louie said, "Well, I don't know. But I do think that even though we're one-half of the legislating body from which no spending occurs unless we agree, that is a position that allows us to force others to adhere to the constitution. We don't have to wait for the Supreme Court. We can force that. And we can say you're going to abide by the constitution whether the Supreme Court gets it wrong or right, we have the ability to force respect for the law, and some of us think that we ought to force them to do that."
No, he really did. He said that Louie Gohmert, not the Supreme Court, gets to decide what's constitutional and what isn't. He said that the way to "force respect for the law" is to ignore the fact that the Affordable Care Act is the law; Congress voted for it, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court validated its constitutionality. In other words, we get people to respect the law by breaking the law. And implicit in that is the idea that it'd be a good thing to deny 30 million or so people health insurance, because presumably not enough people are getting sick and dying and going bankrupt for Gohmert's tastes.
Texas, you sure can pick 'em.
This Week in Voter Suppression
On Monday Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, signed into law a bill described by the president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as "the single worst bill we have seen introduced since voter suppression bills began sweeping the country." Its main feature is a voter ID provision theoretically aimed at preventing voter impersonation (of which there were exactly two-count 'em, two--documented cases between 2000 and 2010), but including a host of other measures designed to limit access to the ballot box for certain segments of the population. Those segments primarily include minorities, the poor, and students, because the truth is that this is not at all about preventing nonexistent voter fraud and entirely about trying to keep people from voting Democratic. As we like to point out when discussing stories like this, if one party is trying to prevent Americans from exercising the most fundamental right in a democracy, that party doesn't have America's interests at heart, but its own. They should not be rewarded for that.
Side Note: Ohio Republicans tried to make voting harder after Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and again in 2012, but were blocked by Ohio voters and courts. Now they're trying again.
Side Note 2; Back in Texas: Because Texas officials are pushing redistricting that blatantly discriminates against racial minorities, Attorney General Eric Holder has asked courts to block implementation of that redistricting (as required under what's left of the Voting Rights Act). Texas's response--really, we're not making this up--is that they did not intentionally discriminate against racial minorities. They discriminated against Democrats, so racial minorities were only targeted incidentally, because many of them happen to vote Democratic. I know, it's hard to believe, but here are the words of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: "DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats....The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary."
Side Note 3: By the way, Politico, True the Vote isn't "a nonprofit that trains poll watchers and supports election integrity efforts across the country," it's an organized effort to suppress the votes of racial minorities through intimidation and inserting unnecessary complexities into voting processes, that can't be dealt with until elections are over. Nothing about what they're doing has anything to do with "integrity." Quite the opposite, in fact. They're a phony "grassroots" organization working toward the antipatriotic goal of keeping Americans from legally casting their ballots, and to treat them as anything less offensive than that is simply dishonest.
This Week in Keeping it Classy
Missouri rodeo gone bad. "They mentioned the president’s name, I don’t know, 100 times," a spectator reports." It was sickening.It was feeling like some kind of Klan rally you'd see on TV." Even if you don't like the person, respect the office, please. Respect the millions of voters who elected him twice. Respect yourself.
This Week in Murder
After a precipitous rise during the late 1960s/early '70s, and a peak in 1980, the murder rate in this country has fallen considerably. The number of people incarcerated has not (more than 1 out of every 100 Americans are in prison), but the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder are, at long last, looking at ways to address that.
Chart via Talking Points Memo.com
This Week in Completely Predictable
Whitey Bulger, found guilty? Quelle surprise!
Also, a judge in New York found that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactics are a violation of people's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and racial profiling to boot. Who could have known? Besides anyone.
This Week in Gun Safety
Three-year-old shoots his father in the butt. The father drove himself to the hospital, which must have been one of the most uncomfortable drives in the history of driving.
This Week in Last Week
Last week, we pointed out that Senator Rand Paul (R/KY) doesn't really understand much about economics, or as far as we can tell, about anything. This week, that theory was confirmed by Senator Rand Paul, who wrote an op-ed in which he used a lot of big names to demonstrate that he doesn't understand much about economics, or about anything. Or, as Matthew O'Brien writes in The Atlantic, "That couldn't be more wrong. But it's one thing to be uninformed, and another to be unempirical. Paul doesn't seem capable of processing information that contradicts his worldview. He saw the evidence that he was wrong about Friedman and QE, and ... just went on living his life like it didn't exist. Dogma won. The irony, of course, is that Milton Friedman was trying to save conservatism from people exactly like Rand Paul."
This Week in Fear Tactics
Senator Marco Rubio (R/FL) has boxed himself in on immigration reform. He was initially one of the highest-profile Republicans in favor of it. Then, presumably seeing how the Republican base was reacting to the possibility (hint: they don't like it) he started quietly trying to kill it. But that upset the Latinos the Republican party desperately needs to win over. Now he's found a third way--he's trying to scare everybody with the highly unlikely claim that if Congress doesn't pass a bill, the president will unilaterally legalize all undocumented immigrants.
Did we say "highly unlikely?" We meant "laughably preposterous."
This Week in Poetic Justice
Democratic San Diego mayor Bob Filner is now dealing with allegations of sexual harassment from 14 different women, and refusing all demands that he step down. Local Hooters restaurants are taking matters into their own hands and refusing to serve the mayor, because, they declare, "women should be treated with respect." They're right, and the mayor needs to go.
This Week in Bears
And here's an indiegogo crowdfunding drive for California Bookstore Day. What? There are bears in California. Even on the flag. (Thanks to TWiA Special Bookstore Correspondent Maryelizabeth Hart for the tip).