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September 25, 2015

john boehner, golf, whiskey, raised eyebrows


First of all, I've got a little restaurant snapshot thingieup at Flung Magazine. Flung is a neat little start-up, a travel mag, and I'm intending to write some more stuff for them. So feel free to click around while you're there.

And I've been a bit too busy to do some of the things I would have liked to do, like a fond farewell to Scott Walker, who I thought was a purely comic character even though he did fuck up Wisconsin irreparably. Oh well! Current events are current eventing all over the place, and that's notwithstanding the fact that the Pope's been bigfooting left and right here in my hometown.

But since I'm here: the news broke that John Boehner was retiring from public service when I was on the train, on the way to work. (As big news usually does.) And so then there's the rush to the desk and Twitter is the usual forest of Breaking News and wisecracks and there's me without my machete. And this is all kinda funny because the footage of Boehner crying yesterday? He is of course a divisive figure and he is of course a retrograde monster when it comes to social conservative issues, but I have long thought that he is one charming old coot, one that probably smells like golf and whiskey. In fact, there was a thought percolating in my head that I wished that Boehner would hurry up and retire so then I could like him unreservedly and ignore all the political baggage.

But it was not until I actually read the story about him leaving did I realize: we are right and truly fucked. With just the little squirts of news, I had been under the impression that he was not running for reelection, that he would serve out the term. And that's important, because we're staring into the business end of yet another government shutdown precipice, in a couple weeks. Boehner is outta there come the end of October. I guess there's a good chance that he can get a Continuing Resolution done with the help of House Democrats, but there is zero chance that the next speaker will be more moderate than Boehner, and there's still a whole lot of governing to do between now and the next election.

In case I'm eliding the point of all this: House Republicans have a nice big moderate caucus but those guys are easily bullied by the Tea Party wackos, who are knuckle-dragging and shouty and are about to get what they've always wanted: the gavel.

I've been joking for three or four years that Boehner would eventually get tired of trying to keep the lunatic fringe from driving the party right off a bridge on purpose and just light a Camel, mix one last martini and then disappear, into the sunset, with nothing but a fuck you in his wake.

Now that it's happened it's not very funny.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:06 AM

September 21, 2015

scary muslims: a dog whistle you can actually hear

Ben Carson got all the heat for insisting (and later confirming the insistence) that Muslims should be disqualified from holding higher office, and all-in-all it was a Sunday morning talking head-fest of Republicans running for president uncomfortably trying to find a palatable answer to the question, "What's all this you keep going on with the Islam thing again?" Which is a palatable answer they've had at least eight years to practice giving. (The NYT has a nice little explainer which gives you a little taste of all the candidate's flavors.)

And the thing unsaid is that all Ben Carson is doing is Saying The Thing Out Loud. I refuse to believe that Ben Carson, a board-certified neurosurgeon, is ignorant enough to so misread the Constitution as to see statutory reason to disqualify any religion of holding federal office. But on the other hand, for Ben Carson, and the types of folk who would vote for a person that says the things Ben Carson says, it just doesn't feel right. Republicans are scared of Muslims, just like they're scared of clocks, and rainbows. There's a pernicious little misplaced prejudice that runs rampant in these fellows, and Carson's thoughts are the blandest way to put it.

And it's useful to add that saying such thinking-to-self things out loud is not necessarily bad politics:

His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: "While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20."

But it's interesting, the ways this mania manifests itself. My favorite is Paul Rand, trying, failing to be rational about this:

"I try to see that as a separate thing, someone's religion," Mr. Paul said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I just think it's hard for us. We were attacked by people who were all Muslim."

It's just another version of what we've all heard before, that they hated us first, global jihad, etc. But also what we've heard is how this is such an outlier when it comes to how we treat the peoples that have actually attacked us. While we hate those of the Islamic faith for 9/11, we never hated Shinto adherents after Pearl Harbor, or Christians after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building twenty years ago. And for that matter, after 9/11 we did not begin to hate Saudis, even though the vast majority of the attackers were Saudi nationals.

It's almost trite to bring any of this up because it has been rehashed and we're all sick of it, those of us that are not trying to make political hay out of it, turning a dog whistle into an actual whistle. But no matter how boring it is to repeat, it remains true: the entire concept of a War for Civilization is a childish fiction concocted by bin Laden and then drank like Koolaid by gullible bigots. I wish there were a nicer way to put it.

(Oh, there's a nicer way to put it. Mr. President? But that's not even that nice.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:58 AM