Stopping Power

Give me three 100 round drum magazines and I could hold my whole block hostage for a day. Give me thirty 10 round magazines and someone will be able to stop me.

– Daniel Hayes, “I Am an AR-15 Owner And I’ve Had Enough

This week’s featured post is “Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem“.

This week everybody was talking about Orlando

Much of the airtime related to Orlando was a simple outpouring of grief, as might happen whenever a large number of people die — in a medium-sized plane crash, say, or the collapse of an auditorium. The fact that so many of the victims were part of a very specific community — Latino LGBT in Orlando — made the story particularly poignant. If you are part of that community, you might know many of the victims, rather than just one or two. So in that sense it’s like when a plane crashes while carrying a high school French club to Paris, or when most of the Marshall football team was killed.

A second major angle on the story was to examine the killer himself and his motives. This is where the story starts to bifurcate depending on how people of different political views want to frame it. (I believe it shouldn’t bifurcate, as I explain in “Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem“.) You can tell this as a pure Muslim terrorism story: Omar Mateen came from a Muslim family, and his parents are Afghan immigrants. He has been to Saudi Arabia (apparently to do the hajj in Mecca) and the United Arab Emirates. In a 911 call made during the attack, he dedicated his killings to ISIS. (However, ISIS appeared to play no role in the attack, other than in the killer’s mind. The FBI had investigated his trips to the Middle East and found no indication that he received terrorist training.)

You can tell it as a violence-begets-violence story: Mateen was bullied as a youngster, and was a violent man before his attack on the Pulse nightclub. He abused his wives, and sought out a profession — security guard — that allowed him to carry a gun.

You can portray Mateen as a man struggling to deny his sexuality. Pulse was not a random choice. He apparently had attended the nightclub many times, and participated on gay dating web sites. The massacre can be presented as Mateen’s ultimate attempt to declare to the world that he found homosexuality abhorrent rather than tempting. A unique perspective on this interpretation is in two segments (here and here) where Rachel Maddow interviews Sohail Ahmed, a British gay Muslim who once contemplated terrorist acts and now campaigns against violent Islamism.

And finally, the Pulse massacre can be framed as just another mass killing, like Columbine or San Bernadino or Aurora or Sandy Hook. In some sense we don’t care why shooters keep doing these things; we just want it to stop.

If we’re going to profile Muslims, why not profile men?

and guns

Paul Ryan called for a moment of silence in Congress to honor the dead in Orlando, but Democrats decided that Congress’ silence on the mass-shooting issue was part of the problem.

In the Senate, Chris Murphy of Connecticut pulled off something remarkable: He used a filibuster to push an issue forward rather than shut it down. He held the floor for 15 hours until he got an agreement to hold two votes:

One would bar those on a terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms and the other would expand background checks.

It’s important to understand why this worked. An old-fashioned stand-up-and-talk filibuster is limited by individual stamina, so opponents can always wait you out. So as a forcing tactic, it can’t accomplish much by itself. What it does, though, is create drama and draw national attention. If that attention results in national outrage, then the Senate leadership may have to respond.

That’s what happened here. Murphy got a concession because he drew attention to an issue where the public is overwhelmingly on his side. (A PPP poll in Virginia shows an incredible 86%-7% split in favor of keeping people on the no-fly list from buying guns and an even larger majority in favor of universal background checks.) But apparently even that kind of majority will ultimately fail in the face of the NRA: Both measures are expected to lose today when the Senate votes. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is trying to stitch together a compromise, but even if it passes, the House will probably not vote on it.

An AR-15 owner explains why limiting magazines to ten bullets would make mass killings much harder.

MarketWatch columnist Brett Arends goes back to The Federalist to explain what the Founders meant by “a well-regulated militia”: a citizen army resembling today’s National Guard, which they hoped would avoid (or at least minimize) the need for a professional permanent standing army. The militia is “necessary to the security of a free State” because the Founders feared that a professional army might develop its own interests independent of the People, and so establish tyranny.

Today we have a professional army, anyway. Military matters have become so complex that no part-time soldiers could do it all. So you could argue that makes the Second Amendment null and void, like the parts in the Constitution about slaves and Indians being counted as “three-fifths” of a person in the Census.

But even if you still want to defend the Second Amendment, it should apply only to those who volunteer to join the “select corps” of their National Guard, undergo rigorous training to attain “proficiency in military functions” and perform the “operations of an army,” serve as ordered under the ultimate command of the president and be subject to military discipline.

and Trump

My intuition was telling me that Trump’s reaction to Orlando was disastrous, but my Trump intuition hasn’t been that good, so I was still worried. Fortunately, recent polls seem to bear me out: both the ones that ask specific questions about Orlando and the head-to-head match-ups, where Clinton’s lead keeps growing. (One poll that showed Clinton’s lead shrinking was comparing to a previous poll that I consider an outlier: Reuters has Clinton’s lead down from 14% to a mere 10.3%, which is still above her margin in most other polls.)

Republicans are still talking about getting rid of Trump at the convention, but I’ll believe it when I see it. One thing I’m not hearing so far is some large number of Trump delegates wanting to be free of their commitment to vote for him.

By far the best response to Trump’s banning The Washington Post from his campaign comes from the tiny York Dispatch of York County, PA. In an editorial “Ban us, you big baby“, they ask why they don’t deserve the honor of being banned too.

The Dispatch might be small by comparison, but our commitment to asking tough questions, pointing out inconsistencies, flagging outright lies, simply holding candidates accountable for their words and actions is second to none. … Now, we understand sitting out your campaign events means we might miss a serious, coherent policy speech. Let’s just say, we like our odds. … No, we’re pretty sure we can cover that circus just fine from outside the tent, with the rest of the journalists who refuse to be silenced.

Josh Marshall makes two points about Trump’s recent troubles:

Every candidate is dependent on good poll numbers for morale, fundraising and more. But Trump’s platform isn’t abolishing Obamacare or lowering taxes or kicking more ass in the Middle East. His platform is “winning.” So if he’s clearly not winning, it’s uniquely debilitating.


[T]he general election puts a bullshit based candidacy in direct contact with the reality based world. That creates not only turbulence but turbulence that builds on itself because the interaction gets in the spokes of each of these two, fundamentally different idea systems. You’re seeing the most telling signs of that with the growing number of Republicans who, having already endorsed Trump, are now literally refusing to discuss him or simply walking away when his name is mentioned.

Paul Krugman makes a related point: Republicans like Bush and Rubio fell so easily before Trump because (like Soviet leaders before the collapse), they can’t believe what they have to say. A bullshit-based system requires a master bullshitter, which is why the choice came down to Trump or Cruz.

The New Republic attends a Trump rally in North Carolina, where vendors hawk t-shirts saying “Trump That Bitch!” and “Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica!”. Things must have gotten worse since I stood in line (unsuccessfully) for a Trump rally in January. The worst I noticed then was “Hillary For Jail”.

AJ+ interviews a woman who was an undercover CIA agent in the Muslim world.

If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy.

Media Matters traces how years of anti-immigrant propaganda on Fox News and right-wing talk radio laid the groundwork for Donald Trump’s candidacy.

and Bernie Sanders

Sanders addressed his supporters online Thursday [video, transcript]. He has stopped talking about flipping superdelegates and winning the nomination, but is also not dropping out or endorsing Clinton. Apparently he will go to the convention seeking changes in the primary rules for future elections and in the Democratic platform.

However, when I imagine Clinton strategists watching this speech, I picture them totally confused about what they can offer Bernie, because his demands are not sharpening. Instead, he repeated virtually his entire stump speech. The implied answer to “What do you want?” is “Everything.”

Losing candidates don’t get everything. If they did, elections would be pointless.

If Sanders identifies parts of his agenda that are broadly popular among Democrats — the $15 minimum wage comes to mind — he might win those votes at the convention. But he can’t expect the convention even to debate a broad replacement of Clinton’s positions with his, much less to win such a vote. So where is he going with this?

Pundits are debating about Sanders’ “leverage”, and whether it is shrinking as former supporters like Senator Merkley and Congressman Grijalva defect to Clinton and progressive heroes like Senator Warren get enthusiastic about the Clinton/Trump match-up. Sanders’ intransigence is becoming an Andy Borowitz punch line:

Sanders acknowledged that continuing to fight for the nomination after Clinton is elected President would represent a “steep challenge,” but added, “When we started this race we were only at three per cent in the polls. Anything is possible.”

According to Vox, the Sanders campaign believes their leverage vanishes as soon as they endorse Clinton. But I don’t see it that way: What Clinton really wants from Sanders is an enthusiastic convention speech that tells his supporters they have a place in the Democratic Party and an interest in seeing Clinton beat Trump. They want him campaigning for the Democratic ticket in the fall on college campuses and other places where he is more popular than she is. That leverage stays in place until election day, unless he dissipates it himself, as he might be doing.

I’ve seen a lot of angst about whether the Democratic establishment will learn the right lessons from the surprising success of the Sanders campaign. I wish I saw more angst about whether progressives will learn from Bernie’s failure to win over blacks and Latinos. There’s not going to be any progressive revolution unless people of color believe it’s their revolution. They didn’t this time. What’s going to be different next time?

but you may have missed the good news on net neutrality

Two years ago, in what was widely reported as a defeat for net neutrality, the D.C. Court of Appeals threw out the FCC’s net neutrality rules, but for an interesting reason: It wasn’t that the FCC lacked the power to make such rules, but that the FCC’s power worked differently than the rules implied.

The gist of the court ruling is that the FCC has classified cable companies as information-services providers, but that its net-neutrality rules regulate them like telecommunications carriers. So the FCC’s net-neutrality rules can’t stand. But — and this is the observation that snatches victory from the jaws of defeat — it’s totally within the FCC’s current powers and mandate to just reclassify the cable companies.

It did that, and then re-issued its net neutrality rules. The re-issued rules came back to the same court, which approved them this time. Doubtlessly this will go to the Supreme Court, but so far the good guys are winning.

This is one of many issues that points out the importance of winning the White House: Obama appointed the FCC commissioners whose votes made the difference, and the ultimate decision may hang on which party gets to replace Justice Scalia.

Clinton and Trump have sharp differences here. Trump has tweeted:

Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target the conservative media

while Clinton supported the FCC’s decision.

and you might also be interested in

Yesterday was Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 when the abolition of slavery was announced in the last holdout state, Texas. As I’ve discussed before, that was far from the end of slavery, and abolition often only applied within the reach of occupying Union soldiers. But abolition deserves a holiday somewhere in the calendar, and this one is as good as any.

This week at its annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Conference (the U.S.’s largest Protestant denomination) passed a resolution against flying the Confederate flag:

We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.

Like many American denominations, the Baptists split over slavery during the years leading up to the Civil War. The Southern Baptists descend from the pro-slavery side of that split, but have moderated considerably since.

The resolution was originally proposed by a black pastor from Texas, and then sharpened by a white former president of the conference, who wrote:

I asked my brothers and sisters to strike the resolution’s language claiming that some people fly this divisive symbol out of a fond memory of their fallen ancestors, rather than hate. … At our denomination’s beginning, we took the wrong stand on the issue of slavery. We cannot undo what our ancestors did, but I felt we had a historic opportunity to show that we have repented of these ungodly attitudes. The SBC has officially and publicly apologized for our racist past, but words without action are cheap and hollow.

I’ve written about the flag before, and here’s where I come down on the fallen-ancestor thing: If you want to put an appropriately-sized Confederate battle flag on the grave of your great-grandfather who died at Vicksburg, I’m fine with it. But flying that flag from a flagpole, where the general public can see it, says something different: that the masters weren’t wrong when they revolted against the United States in order to defend their right to keep black people in slavery.

If that’s the message you want to send, well, it’s a free country. But don’t kid yourself that you’re really saying something else.

Governor Brownback’s huge tax cuts and other conservative policies were supposed to bring jobs to Kansas. Well, in this particular case, they’ve caused jobs to leave Kansas. The CEO of Pathfinder Health Innovations writes:

In the end, I believe the goals of the Brownback administration are going exactly to plan – starve the state of resources to the point where it just makes sense to turn over critical government functions to for-profit entities.

I can’t, in good conscience, continue to give our tax money to a government that actively works against the needs of its citizens; a state that is systematically targeting the citizens in most need, denying them critical care and reducing their cost of life as if they’re simply a tax burden that should be ignored.

It’s because of these moves that I have decided to deny Kansas revenue from Pathfinder’s taxes by moving our company to Missouri.

Paul Ryan is trying to provide a non-Trump policy center for Republicans to coalesce around. His web site at is putting out a series of issue papers under the heading “A Better Way“. Its healthcare proposal is supposed to appear Wednesday, but The Hill reports that once again Republicans will fall short of offering an actual, ready-to-vote-on plan that the CBO can analyze for costs and benefits.

House Republicans’ ObamaCare replacement plan will not include specific dollar figures on some of its core provisions, and will instead be more of a broad outline, according to lobbyists and aides.

Jonathan Chait explains why this is not surprising.

The Republican health-care stance combines rhetorical opposition to all of the cruel features of the old health-care system with denunciations of every practical measure in Obamacare required to fix them. The unspecified alternative allows them to promise that nobody will suffer from lack of access to insurance, but without committing to any sacrifices needed to make this happen.

So, seven years into the debate about ObamaCare, there is still no real alternative other than a return to the system that was bad and still getting worse in 2009.

The prospect of another Clinton administration should have us re-examining the good and bad of the last one. A budget surplus, low unemployment, and low inflation can make the late 90s sound like the Good Old Days, but Nicholas Kristof observes that welfare reform didn’t work out as well as he had hoped at the time.

Welfare reform has failed, but the solution is not a reversion to the old program. Rather, let’s build new programs targeting children in particular and drawing from the growing base of evidence of what works.

That starts with free long-acting birth control for young women who want it (70 percent of pregnancies among young single women are unplanned). Follow that with high-quality early-childhood programs and prekindergarten, drug treatment, parenting coaching and financial literacy training, and a much greater emphasis on jobs programs to usher the poor into the labor force and bring them income.

and let’s close with some intellectual humor

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  • Eric Albright  On June 20, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I wish I saw more angst over Clinton’s awful record and relative uselessness to the minority demographics which support Clinton by name recognition alone.

    “Mr. Sanders’ campaign has been successful. ‘The difference now between Hillary and Bernie’s African-American support is largely driven by a lack of information,’ wrote Harvard and Tufts graduate Larry Harris Jr. in The Huffington Post. ‘Black people need to know more about Bernie and more about the Clintons’ record.’

    • weeklysift  On June 21, 2016 at 7:10 am

      This is the kind of arrogance that worries me. If all progressives learn from Bernie’s poor performance among African-Americans is that those people are too stupid to know what’s good for them, then I despair of the problem ever getting fixed.

    • Guest  On June 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

      He’s got a point, Eric, angst alone isn’t going to cut mustard. Berniecrats need to face his dismal performance here head-on and I’d like to see the main lesson the left takes as “organize better.” When we take a look, Bernie didn’t put up atrocious numbers among the Black vote in a vacuum, he did so in a head-to-head match up against the Clinton machine. It is not arrogance to point out that simple Clinton name-brand recognition played a tremendous role this primary. The Clinton brand is a more powerful positive force among minority voters than it is a negative force among independents. There’s a chance it could have been the deciding factor – it’s hard to picture any other White establishment pro-corporate hawk doing as well as Hillary against Bernie (maybe Biden with Obama backing him?). Against such a non-Clinton candidate it’s not far-fetched to see Sanders being at least competitive for the Black vote, and if he was competitive there the primary would have been a landslide for him. Have to be better organized. Ok, put name-brand aside, what about policies? I have yet to see a credible rebuttal to the point made brilliantly by Michelle Alexander and others that Clinton having the Black vote in her pocket isn’t particularly well-earned. Organize better. It’s not sour grapes to point out that establishment media, including what was widely considered left strongholds such as the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and NPR, were crowning Hillary from the get-go, and dismissive of Bernie when they weren’t outright ignoring him. Organize better. The DNC wasn’t just putting its finger on the scales, it was sitting on them for Hillary. Organize better.

      The harder point to wrap ones head around, especially for Millennials who came of age in the Bush II years, is that many Democratic voters are just more conservative than progressive on a range of issues. For instance, recall the older Black vote was a key ally in the fight *against* marriage equality, as was Clinton herself until recently. Are there any silver linings here? The big one lies with the Millennials. The younger the voting block regardless of race the better Bernie performed, where below a certain age threshold I believe he won every demographic, including among the Black and Latino vote. Millennials seem to be even more left leaning than previous generations were at the same stage so that probably makes a difference going forward. And hey, we’d have to organize better even if Bernie won the White House. Equality, justice, and freedom aren’t given away by the establishment, they must be demanded at every turn.

  • Carol  On June 20, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    I love it when we always say: make the poor work! But where, pray tell, Nicholas, are the jobs these folks are supposed to work at? and oh, hey, how about some real child care? And how about a real safety net, such as one that doesn’t yank the rug out from under you the minute you cross an earning threshold?

    Kristof is the king of glittering generalities and mean-spirited liberalism.

    • weeklysift  On June 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Maybe I misread Kristof, but I believe when he’s saying “jobs programs”, he means that the government has to create some jobs.

  • Bolling Lowrey  On June 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Hillary embraces money and Wall Street; she makes no secret of that. Also her foreign policy motivations have been clearly allied to those of the neocons of Bush’s II’s Administration who gave us the Iraq debacle and ongoing wars in the Middle East. Those of us who support Bernie see a man who would lead the country in a better direction. Trump may be an unimaginable “head of state”, but Hillary certainly does not seem to be even a baby step in the right direction. Bernie is right to hold out. Look what happened to Howard Dean after the Obama election when Dr Dean had done so much to support Obama.

  • Bruce Agte  On June 20, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Mr Sift, your assessment of Sanders’ position smells of snarky Clintonian liberalism and impatience. You fail to mention that while both Clinton and Trump weaseled their ways through the primaries, Senator Sanders was remarkably consistent and simply inspiring, especially to the young. You seem to take a measure of glee in stating how poorly he did with blacks and latinos, while ignoring how well he did with young blacks and latinos. I find the Democratic Establishment’s continuing annoyance with Bernie to be delightful. I know I will never vote for Trump or Clinton, and I feel fine.

    • weeklysift  On June 21, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      When you lose, it’s important not just to pat yourself on the back for everything you did right, but to examine why you lost. That examination is what I wish I saw.

      Maybe all that needs to happen is for the older voters to die off and the newer ones to stay faithful to the vision. But you’d be surprised how often that strategy fails.

      I have a prediction: In the course of your lifetime, you will hear at least a hundred very well supported trends that separate young people from their elders, and which will completely change society when the rising generation comes into its power. Perhaps three of them will pan out. If you can successfully pick out which three, you can rule the world.

    • JW  On June 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      It’s interesting you would use the words “impatient” to describe Clinton supporters. Doug has written before about the fact that Hillary has been, in a sense, running this campaign for 20 years, developing relationships in the black and latino communities necessary to win their support (most recently: I would also direct you to his piece on how the top-down revolution of which Bernie is the figurehead is going about the process backwards (

      These are the views which inform his comments here, in my estimation. Bernie should be adjusting the goalposts now that the nomination is out of the picture–lay groundwork for establishing a coalition that can be counted on as a progressive influence in the Democratic Party and set up his unabashedly socialist successor. The “impatience” is really just that he sees the current tack as doing more harm to this aim than good.

  • Don Bishop  On June 20, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    A well-thought argument on limiting magazine size by a gun owner. The Colorado legislature actually passed a law limiting magazine size. The NRA supported a recall election that removed two Democrats from the legislature, and a manufacturer of gun equipment threatened to leave the state and move to Wyoming — I’m not sure if they actually did.

    In the Arizona shooting, the gunman was taken down while reloading by three unarmed citizens.

  • Abby  On June 20, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Can the Federal government put Kansas into Receivership? This would seem to be the sensible option.

  • JJ  On June 20, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    “the public is overwhelmingly on his side” “86%-7% split in favor of keeping people on the no-fly list from buying guns” “an even larger majority in favor of universal background checks” “will ultimately fail in the face of the NRA” “even if it passes, the House will probably not vote on it”

    Unfortunately, this illustrates why we need to change the way that we fund political campaigns. Polls show more than 85% of people support the change, but congress isn’t going to pass it because the NRA opposes it. Why? Because they are afraid of the voters in their districts who belong to the NRA? No. If more than 85% of people support the change, voters who oppose it are clearly a minority, regardless of whether or not they actually belong to the NRA. Congress isn’t going to pass it because the NRA has an extremely well-funded lobbying effort; because the NRA will spend huge amounts of money to put people in congress who vote the way the NRA wants them to vote; because the NRA will spend huge amounts of money to replace anyone in congress who doesn’t vote the way they want; because the amount of money that candidate can raise from people in their districts is tiny compared to what the NRA can spend.

    We need to change the way that we fund political campaigns, so that people in congress can get their attention back on people in the states and districts that they were elected to represent, rather than on the tiny fraction of wealthy people and special interest organizations that fund their political campaigns.

    There are many of us who consider money in politics the most pressing issue today. It distorts the entire process of government, and gets in the way of dealing appropriately with pretty much all of our other major issues – with gun control being one very obvious example. Organizations working on the problem include MAYDAY ( and Issue One ( Or check the #moneyinpolitics hashtag on Twitter.

    • weeklysift  On June 21, 2016 at 8:25 am

      The NRA certainly is a source of money, but its power is rooted in more than that. They represent a group of dedicated single-issue voters who are organized and politically active.

      What if they only represent 10% of the country? (I imagine a much larger slice agrees with them on some of their issues, but take the background-check polls as a lower bound on their influence.) If that 10% will vote the way they say, that’s something no politician can ignore.

      Particularly Republicans, who are counting on that 10% in the general election, and will have to answer to that 10% in their primaries.

      By contrast, I don’t believe that 10% of the country are single-issue gun control voters. A lot more than 10% support gun control, but it’s not a deal-breaker for most of them.

  • nosandwiches  On June 21, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    It don’t believe that the Hillary campaign understands just how disgusted a large number of Democrats and Democratically leaning people are with the classic style politicians who believe that they need to “play the game.”

    We yearn for authenticity. That’s what a lot of people say in Obama and what a lot of people see in Bernie and nobody sees in Hillary, even her own supporters. Did she offend you? Well she was just playing the game. She said, twice, that she was qualified to be president, and John McCain was qualified to be president, and Obama was just some guy who made a speech a while ago. But we need to forgive her endorsing the Republican and dismissing her fellow Democrat, because she gave him her “full-throated support: (I hate that phrase) after she conceded. It’s okay, you see, because anything goes when you are playing the game where only winning counts.

    I also have a real problem with her Southern Democrat views. To me, she seems so far to the right of the Democratic Party that it was not a far move to change from the Goldwater Girl to a Southern Democrat.

    Part of her playing the game is to claim she has all the positions of her opponent, only she knows the game so she can play it better. But against Obama, she had all the same positions and also against Bernie, she had all the same positions, even though Bernie comes from much further to the left of the spectrum. So how can that be? It’s because she is playing some damn game, not being an authentic human being.

    I don’t want her to fight for me. That imagery implies that she is against whatever I am against, and I don’t want to know what she is against–I want to know what she is FOR.

    Again, that is what I felt with both Obama and Bernie Sanders–that they ran their campaigns on what they were FOR and not so much on what they were against (Bernie with a twist her, by running on both.) A;; I hear from Hillary is what she is against and how she is going to fight for me, but the fight will be hard, so she won’t be able to do anything that the other candidates are for, because that’s not how politics work.

    It’s like the difference between someone who says gun control is the goal, and someone who says that’s a great idea, but it’s too hard to achieve, so elect me and I’ll just see what I can do. It’s not about empty promises, to me. It’s about whether or not someone sees a worthy goal and is passionate enough to try to work towards it. Not someone who’s only goal is “winning” and won’t even try to reach the worthwhile goal because they are already defeated by the system before they even begin.

    That’s more than my 2 cents. Not worth more than a nickel, but thanks for the venting opportunity.

    Comment away, my friends, but as I respect the fact that you will never change your mind about your passionate view, be advised that I’ve already heard your argument and considered it as well.

    • weeklysift  On June 22, 2016 at 7:20 am

      Last summer, I realized that I just couldn’t listen to Hillary with an open mind. Since I was planning on covering the campaign extensively in this blog, I saw that as a problem. So I decided I would make myself read all her books in chronological order, starting with “It Takes a Village” from back in the 90s.

      The first thing that hit me is that she really is writing these books, not farming them out to ghost writers. Don’t ask me how I know — I’m a writer myself; I believe I can tell.

      The second thing I came to understand is that she has a core, both personally and as a politician. The same person who wrote “It Takes a Village” wrote “Hard Choices” 20 years later, and she has the same values.

      Values, though, aren’t the same as ideology or programs. One of her core beliefs is that you work with what you have and you do what you can. So in different political environments she will be trying to do different things.

      Health care makes a good example. All her career, she has been trying to expand access to health care. If you gave her a blank sheet of paper and dictatorial powers, I suspect she’d install something similar to Bernie’s single-payer system. But at no time in her career has such a program stood a chance of passing Congress. So in 1993, HillaryCare was based on the managed-care model, which left more of the existing system in place. When even that failed to pass Congress, the question became, “Can we at least expand health care for children?” (Protecting children is another core value.) The answer to that was Yes, and so we have the S-CHIP program.

      My Hillary reading project didn’t cause me to vote for her in New Hampshire, because I hoped some early success for Bernie would shift the national conversation to the left and make more things possible. (I think that happened.) But it did make me content with Clinton as the eventual nominee.

      • Guest  On June 23, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        “(Reading Clinton’s own books) did make me content with Clinton as the eventual nominee.”

        There’s no good reason why it should, Doug. Why it did remains a head-scratcher. It’s not clear why we should accept a politician’s autobiography and their framing of their record therein at face value for our take on that politician. And that goes double for neoliberals/neoconservatives. Clinton in particular isn’t exactly well-known for truth-telling and transparency – she’s not given a press conference in over 200 days, won’t release her “Wall Street” transcripts, deleted thousands of government emails off her unauthorized private server, and those are just recent examples, the trend continues going back. There’s a reason Hitchens’ book on the Clintons was titled “No One Left to Lie To.” I still claim that this credulous acceptance of Clinton’s self-aggrandizing framing of the issues doesn’t make sense for the Sift.

        We don’t have to go back to Hitler and My Struggle for an over-the-top reductio ad absurdum here, we have Trump to fill that role (example: yes, the Donald’s record may seem a bit scattered, but if you read his books you can see he that he does have core values, he really does just want to make American great, etc). Surely an incisive, critical approach to a politician’s record, who they took money from, whose interests they really served, what they advocated and voted for, should FAR outweigh a dozen flattering autobiographies, ghostwritten or not.

        As a side note, if we are making a meaningful coalition on the left, maybe we should consider only being as comfortable with a given administration as the most tortured group of people living under that administration. To paraphrase the old trope, if you’re comfortable you aren’t paying attention.

      • weeklysift  On June 24, 2016 at 5:56 am

        Your point is not relevant to mine. What impressed me about Clinton’s books was not that they put her actions in a good light, though of course they did. What impressed me is that they demonstrated a consistent set of values over time, precisely the thing Clinton’s critics say she doesn’t have. She wasn’t trying to cast one image in 1996, another in 2003, and another in 2014. All three books are promoting the same set of values.

      • Guest  On June 24, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        Thanks for the reply, I’ll try to rephrase. That you were impressed by a politician’s autobiography enough to make that the foundation of your perspective on the politician at the expense of a critical look at the politician’s record is what has me confused. Is there any genre more self-aggrandizing that politician autobiographies?** Why accept it at face value? You concede that of course her books put her actions in a good light – might it be possible that the books also put her beliefs in a good light? If I’m a politician with Clinton’s record trying to pose as a progressive, talking up vague core values would be a tempting route to take. But on another level, there is often a disconnect between values, even self-reported values, and ones actions/record. Surely the record matters more when we are considering politicians. But fine, devil’s advocate, let’s put more emphasis on core values instead and further grant that Jon Stewart and other Clinton-skeptics on the left are wrong to infer an, at best, inconsistent set of values from Clinton’s seemingly inconsistent record. Fine, what do we have?

        “One of her core beliefs is that you work with what you have and you do what you can.”

        Really? That sounds a heck of a lot like an empty truism, not a core value. The whole thing is strange no matter how it’s cut. If we want a thoughtful, incisive, and critical take on a politician, as we’ve come to expect from the Sift, we would probably want to weight the actions/record of the politician higher than their supposed values. If we wanted to conjecture about a politicians supposed values, we risk being fooled by taking the politician’s autobiography as the be-all end-all on the matter. But even if we did take the most self-flattering take on those values seriously, in this case all we are getting is empty truisms. It doesn’t add up.

        **Do I hear a suggestion that internet comment sections may be a strong runner-up…?

      • JElc  On June 24, 2016 at 5:54 pm

        I don’t think you’re understanding what Doug is saying. His argument is that books written nearly 20 years apart exhibited a consistent set of values and positions. That is not something you can easily fake, particularly if you are trying to pander to the positions of the moment. Why would she consistently try to pose as a progressive for 20 years, when the most immediately advantageous thing during the 1990s, and probably 2006 would have been to lean more conservative or centrist?

        Moreover, that ‘truism’ explains why you find her record inconsistent: she limits her goals to what she thinks she can achieve and tries to make progress or minimize regress. That means even if she wants a single payer healthcare system she will work hard for something like obamacare because she has evaluated the political landscape and doesn’t see the prospect of anything better happening right now. She will even vote for something she doesn’t like, if she thinks the alternative is going to be worse.

      • Guest  On June 25, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        Thanks for jumping in to help. I understand what he’s saying, JElc, I just don’t get the fascination. At some point we’re better positioned if we let facts trump a politician’s propaganda about “core values”, whatever that might mean. But even if we restrict ourselves to core values in this case, the curiosities continue. “Work with what you have and do what you can” is so nondescript and hollow that you can easily attribute the value not only to every politician (even the really bad, horrific ones) but to every person and animal on the planet. It’s a vapid truism and, because it applies pretty much universally, it tells us nothing about the politician. In that sense, it actually fits Clinton nicely, as it has the appearance of good old pragmatism, which is apparently impressive, and can be retroactively applied as a cover for any and every action. To underline the absurdity, let’s consider that the contrary or opposite of this core value can be just as, if not more inspirational. Don’t limit yourself to work with what you have, invent, innovate, find new tools to match the problems we face; don’t just do what you can do, strive to do what you think you cannot, do something nobody has done before, etc. Maybe you are impressed that this core value of hers has stayed consistent over decades, but from here it seems pretty telling that that is the best she could come up with.

      • JElc  On June 25, 2016 at 9:22 pm

        Ok. So it honestly seems like you’re taking our statements in bad faith. “A consistent set of values and positions” does not equate neatly to “core values,” nor does it reduce to that one value “work with what you have and do what you can” and my post included 2-3 other points in the first paragraph that you ignored in favour of repeating your argument made above against core values.

        If you’re interested in engaging in dialogue, my points were:
        1) if Clinton is pandering to positions of the moment, why would her ultimate objectives (such as protecting children as Doug posted) remain largely the same across 20 years? Particularly when it was likely advantageous to espouse different objectives at different times during that period.
        My argument is that it is quite difficult to fake something like that, and the common threads that weave through her books tell us quite a bit about who she actually is.

        2) You say she is trying to pose as a progressive, but it would hardly have been the most advantageous thing to do in 1996 when the first of the books was written. So how does it make sense to assert that she has been faking progressiveness for her entire political career?
        My argument, obviously, is that it doesn’t. I think you can infer from her writing that she genuinely holds some, but not all, progressive positions.

        3) Is the value of making whatever gain you can actually that nondescript? Wouldn’t you say that there are differences between people who will pursue a tiny chance of achieving exactly what they want vs people who will take the smaller victory that they are confident they can achieve?
        My argument is that the value “I will take half a loaf because it’s more important to achieve something than it is to stay ‘pure'” is actually a quite distinct value that not everyone would espouse, and that understanding Clinton’s actions through that lens makes them more sympathetic.

      • weeklysift  On June 26, 2016 at 3:32 pm

        What I’m doing in this exchange is contesting your claim that “nobody sees authenticity in Hillary”. In fact that’s what I came to see.

        Authenticity should not be confused with consistent ideology or consistent support for specific policies, which is what Sanders has. Sanders, for example, has been for single-payer health care for decades, but has never managed to pass it. Clinton has been for a series of different healthcare plans, each of which was the best deal she thought she could get at the time to cover as many people as possible. HillaryCare didn’t pass, but ObamaCare and CHIP did.

      • Guest  On June 27, 2016 at 2:51 pm

        Not aiming for bad faith here, sorry if its reading like that. Actually, it feels a bit like the goalposts are moving, from consistent personal positions to core values to authenticity, but that’s fine. To your points:

        1) “if Clinton is pandering to positions of the moment…” “it was likely advantageous to espouse different objectives at different times…” This sounds awfully like what has been and is happening with Clinton.
        “My argument is that it is quite difficult to fake something like that” – I think this is totally wrong. The easy part is rationalizing seemingly conflicting positions or decisions with broad platitudes, the quite difficult part is walking the walk and being a steadfast champion of the left in America. “Protecting children” isn’t as empty as “work with what you have and do what you can” but it’s not far off. Who is against protecting children? I’m sure republicans fancy themselves the only ones really protecting children based on advocating a pro-life agenda. The Regans seemed intent on protecting the children by advancing the disastrous war on drugs. Simply saying you are out to protect the children, or that you are doing what you can do, tells us nothing about what we can expect from you as a politician. It’s the type of easy rhetoric that one can again and again fall back on, even across 20 years. Hillary was a vocal proponent of the CHIP legislation that Kennedy and Hatch wrote and rammed through, hurray for that, good on her. How many children have been slaughtered in all the wars and conflicts she has supported? How many children saw their homes torn apart by the draconian criminal justice policies she has supported? etc.

        2) She certainly has been posing as a progressive lately (I’m a progressive that gets things done!) but I’m fine by withdrawing that she has always done so, she did grow up a Goldwater girl after all, and there was nothing particularly progressive about her “super-predator” talk, etc.
        “you can infer from her writing that she genuinely holds some…” Again, I’m both skeptical that you can infer genuine beliefs/positions/values from a politician’s own self-flattering words, AND insistent that even if you could, there is often a gap between expressed beliefs and actions so we are better off considering the record over the rhetoric anyhow.

        3) You are fighting a strawman here that’s often propped up by the Clinton camp. Robert Reich explained why, specifically using the loaf vs half loaf language ( The point is not to reject a half loaf for purity’s sake, that’s silly, it’s that you shouldn’t come to the table asking for a quarter loaf to start negotiations. The loaf argument ends up not too favorable for Clinton, and it’s made even worse by the fact that she’s openly paid off by the wealthy and powerful elites who have been running the bakery for decades.

        To Doug’s point, I’ve not claimed that nobody sees authenticity in Hillary, in fact I personally do. Sure, many on the left can’t see consistency or authenticity in her case, and Jon Stewart on the David Axelrod’s podcast back in May is a memorable articulation of that view, but I don’t really agree. I think the Clintons have been authentically and consistently committed to maintaining and increasing their own personal power and influence, and to the neoliberal position, in the that order of importance. That lens might not make them more sympathetic, but it sure brings a lot into focus.

  • janinmi  On June 22, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for including the two Rachel Maddow interviews with Sohail Ahmed. I found them both enlightening and troubling; the connection between Islamist violence and anti-gay beliefs/feelings was one I would never have arrived at myself (knowing as little as I do about these topics). There is no single motive behind the Pulse shooter’s actions, and I believe it’s important to make that point as often as possible; encouraging lazy thinking by letting single-target arguments pass without response is both dangerous and undemocratic…dare I say, unpatriotic? Yes, I do so dare.

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