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U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity during an interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. Earlier on Tuesday, Paul initially announced his candid
And just think, it's only April. Of 2015.
Rand Paul's off-the-cuff joke about being glad his train didn't stop in Baltimore was poorly received by many. Luckily, Rand Paul has a group of official Black Friends who can explain to him why these things keep happening.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paul spoke for about an hour with black advisers who told him what they were hearing. The Republican presidential contender told them he understood the concern and expressed regret for his words.

"He said 'OK, I understand what everyone is saying, you're right. I shouldn't have said it that way,'" said Elroy Sailor, a senior adviser and director of strategic planning for Paul. "He recognizes that people listen and hear things differently. Certain words resonate with different constituencies.'"

Not a breakthrough, perhaps, but you have to admire the patience of his "advisers." Yes, perhaps hold off on casual jokes about violent protests in an American city after another unarmed black American inexplicably wound up dead at the hands of a local police department. Just for a day or two, so that it does not clash so obviously with your campaign platform of pretending to give a shit about these things.
Paul, who declined to be interviewed for this story, spent years forming this group of black advisers. The process began shortly after he bombed during a 2013 speech at Howard University. His tone was lecturing as he offered a history lesson on Republicans to some of the nation's brightest black students. Some accused him of "whitesplaining" politics.
I have to say, being one of Rand Paul's official black friends, one of the people he reaches out to after one of his many gaffes in his apparently long and arduous journey to eventually someday not piss off black people, sounds like the worst job you could ever wish on someone. Then again, having to talk to Rand Paul about any other subject sounds equally terrible. We may not have perfect lives, you and I, but at least we won't have to talk policy with Rand Paul today.
There are big doubts that Paul's efforts will pay off politically. In Louisville, there's skepticism about Paul among traditional civil rights leaders, who see him as an opportunist.
What, just because what he says seems to depend entirely on who he's talking to at the moment, or because all his high-minded talk about civil rights almost never quite seems to make it into any actual action on those issues? Yeah, go figure.
Former Arkansas Governor and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee addresses supporters during the third session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012.  REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: PO
American Taliban
It's the season for Republican presidential candidates to fluff evangelical conservatives. This means exceptionally blowhardish speeches delivered to packed rooms of unapologetic theocrats, speeches in which we all get an earful of just what the candidates would do to the rest of us—the insufficient believers—if they were put in charge. For one thing, Mike Huckabee says, we'd make it clear who's really in charge around here.
"I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that -- the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God," he said. "When it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created."
And whose interpretation of God should we exclusively listen to on these weighty subjects? Yours or mine? Oh, yours and yours alone?

Yeah, piss off.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) smiles as he confirms his candidacy in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech at Liberty College in Lynchburg, Virginia March 23, 2015. Cruz, a conservative firebrand who frequently clashes with leaders of hi
Makes Sarah Palin look like an intellectual.
Speaking to members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the media, Cruz pointedly attacked the president for repeated missed opportunities to lead on race issues since he came into office.

"He's made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions -- that have divided us rather than bring us together," the Texas senator said. […]

Cruz could offer no specific examples on what he could do as President to address the tensions among minority communities when he was pressed.

We can safely put this one in the presidenting while black category. What has Obama done to inflame racial tensions? When has he even mentioned them, other than after an overt example of those tensions burst into the news cycle, as it has so many times over these years, in an impossible-to-ignore way? Just how mild-mannered would Barack Obama have to be, about racial tensions, before Ted Cruz would grant that he was not "inflaming" people?

To her credit, CNN's Dana Bash pressed him again on what the holy hell Cruz might be going on about. He did not do well.

"I think he has not used his role as President to bring us together. He has exacerbated racial misunderstandings, racial tensions, from back at the beer summit to a series of efforts to pit Americans against each other," he said. "And part of the problem is the way he advocates for any given plan is to paint ... is to build a straw man of the opposition and then vilify caricatures."
Oh yes. However did American race relations survive the "beer summit." Truly an apocalyptic moment, that one.

I truly hope this glorious dumbass manages to stay in the race long enough to stink up more than a few debate stages. Nothing damages conservative philosophy quite as bad as having one of the head yokels say what he really believes.

Ikeita Cantu holds a sign supporting same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court before the court hears arguments about gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. The nine justices of the Supreme Court began on Tuesday to hear arguments on whether the
Oh no, the horror. And so on.
If you've been waiting for some exceptionally knot-brained member of Congress to opine that Baltimore's real problems stem from the rights Gay People Have These Days, wait no longer. The prize has been claimed by Rep. Bill Flores.
Yesterday on “Washington Watch,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hosted Rep. Bill Flores,
Yes, the anti-gay designated hate group has their own news show, and Republican members of Congress willingly appear on it. Why, you ask?
I believe that speaks for itself.
to discuss the anti-marriage-equality rally outside of the Supreme Court that both had attended that morning.
I wonder if they took two cars or if Tony Perkins just strapped Flores to his roof like a Romney family dog. Oh—the interview part? Yeah, let's hear it. Show us what you've got, knot-brain.
"Look at what is going on in Baltimore today, you see the issues that are raised there. Healthy marriages are the ones between a man and a woman because they can have a healthy family and they can raise children in a way that’s best for their future, not only socially but psychologically, economically, from a health perspective. There is nothing like traditional marriage that does that for a child. Each of us have a mother and a father and there is no way to get around that."
So the problem in Baltimore is not, as Rand Paul says, that the poors have bad fathers. The problem is that the gay people are taking all the fathers and so nobody else can have any. Or something—the mechanism is unclear, but it has something to do with gay people wanting to be gay, that's all we know for certain.

I have to admit, he's pretty good at this. If this career in Congress doesn't work out, Flores might be able to find a career as a talk show host for a designated hate group himself.

People clean up Pennsylvania avenue in Baltimore, Maryland April 28, 2015. Baltimore erupted in violence on Monday as hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and at least 15 police officers were injured following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody. The riots broke out blocks from where the funeral of Gray took place and spread through much of west Baltimore. REUTERS/Eric Thayer - RTX1ANRK
A brief roundup of today's news from or about the Baltimore protests:
  • President Obama addressed Monday's protests during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe.
    [T]here’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement -- they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  [...]

    [T]he violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

  • Baltimore schools were closed Tuesday, posing problems for poorer students that rely on those schools for their meals.
  • There will be a police-enforced curfew tonight and from 10 PM ET to 5 AM ET. The curfew is expected to last through the week.
  • The Baltimore Orioles announced that tomorrow's game against the White Sox will go forward without fans in the seats: the game will be closed to the public.
  • Police Commissioner Anthony Batts says his department will present its report on the death of Freddie Gray to prosecutors by this Friday. Gov. Hogan has requested that the preliminary autopsy report on Gray be released "as soon as possible."
  • Community volunteers gathered today at a badly fire-damaged CVS to assist in clean-up efforts.
  • A "tone-deaf" move by Whole Foods attracted online scorn.
  • David Graham highlights "the absence of legitimate authority" in the city.
  • Conservative pundits need to stop quoting Martin Luther King Jr. This goes doubly if the pundit works for Fox News.
Rand Paul at a campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa for his father, ahead of the Ames Straw Poll.
Oh, he's so funny.
Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) weighed in on the turmoil in Baltimore on Tuesday, standing with police and blaming the violence on a lack of morals in America.

"I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I'm glad the train didn't stop," he said, laughing, during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

The tireless campaigner against government abuses then blamed the riots in part on "the breakdown of the family structure" and "the lack of fathers" in those neighborhoods, presumably because after such a stressful train trip he picked up Pat Buchanan's luggage by mistake.

As an aside, we weren't able to find any scheduled trains between New York and Washington that do not have a stop in Baltimore. But perhaps we missed one.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland  February 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4RBW7
I really have nothing to say here. The thing speaks for itself.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday said Democrats had gone to extremes in their persecution of Christians.

“Today’s Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians in today’s Democratic Party,” he said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Waukee, Iowa.

“There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate continued.

“It is heartbreaking,” Cruz argued. “But it is so extreme, it is waking people up.”

An actual Republican candidate for the presidency, ladies and gentlemen, frothing about liberal fascism in America and the extreme persecution of Christians like he's the physical embodiment of a far-right conspiracy-book-of-the-month club.

He thinks he should lead the country. He wants to wake people up, and set things right again.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity during an interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president during an event in Louisville, Kentucky, April 7, 2015. Earlier on Tuesday, Paul initially announced his candid
I really wonder whether the Republican base can stomach what Rand Paul is selling.
Mr. Paul said flatly that it had been a “mistake” for the United States to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. And he suggested that the situation in Libya had deteriorated because of the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Both are fair points, mind you. He can get away with criticizing intervention in Libya by blaming it on Hillary Clinton (not Barack Obama, because Barack Obama is not running for anything):
[H]e called the 2011 overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi — which he labeled “Hillary’s war,” referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state at the time — an “utter disaster.”
But his condemnation of the Iraq War is still a touchy subject in Republican circles, where the notion of shock and awe-based democratizing of the region is still the dominant theory of foreign policy. This is the party in which Dick Cheney is still looked upon as a savvy military and foreign policy mastermind. This is the movement that continues, against all odds and common sense, to ask Bill Kristol how he would handle things.

Curiously, these rejections of military interventionism (one limited in scope, the other massive) came in a Rand Paul meeting with Jewish leaders that was intended in large part to patch relations with supporters of Israel who have been alarmed at what Paul's theoretical non-interventionism (including past proposals to end foreign aid to all nations, Israel included). He needs to reassure those voters that while he is not a neoconservative ultra-hawk of the sort usually demanded by the base, his non-interventionism is vague and noncommittal enough to not be scary. It's not clear he's making headway on that part.

“Clearly Senator Paul does not pander,” said Michael Fragin, a Republican who attended the gathering and hosts a weekly radio show about politics in New York. “Telling this audience that the Middle East was better off with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi in power shocked me. It was a rambling and incoherent expression of foreign policy that puts him closer to Bernie Sanders than anyone in the G.O.P.”
That isn't the line you want to hear, if you're one of Rand Paul's strategists, so we can expect that Paul will be staging another one of these in the near future. Opposition to the Iraq War may simply not fly among the hard-right base, especially now that the other conservative candidates have sought to establish their own foreign policy credentials based not on whether we should next bomb Iran, but how soon and how much.
Supreme Court Justices Elana Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor
No. Only Thomas and Scalia may decide gay marriage cases. Thus sayeth the empty cardboard boxes.
I see that conservative activists will be satirizing themselves this week. Well, it is more efficient that way.
Religious leaders are calling on members of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing to recuse themselves from the blockbuster gay-marriage case that the court will begin considering on Tuesday.

Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, told reporters he’s filing a motion with the Supreme Court calling for the recusal of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Ginsburg and Kagan have officiated "so-called homosexual wedding ceremonies," says Lively, which is disqualifying.
“In my personal view they have committed an unparalleled breach of judicial ethics by elevating the importance of their own favored political cause of gay rights above the integrity of the court and of our nation.”
Conspicuously absent: Calls for the court's religious conservatives to recuse themselves because their churches have preached against such ceremonies. That is not disqualifying, you see, because Scott Lively says so.
He and more than a dozen leaders of anti-gay-marriage groups stood behind a wall of empty cardboard filing boxes stacked on the steps of the court on Monday morning.

The boxes — 60 in all — were there to "symbolically" represent 300,000 restraining orders that Faith2Action President Janet Porter said will be delivered to the Supreme Court and to Congress to keep the justices from ruling on gay marriage.

I don't know that stacking up five dozen empty boxes meant to "symbolically" express your ideological concerns is a wise public relations move. As an accurate depiction of your arguments, however? Truly a spot-on effort.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) listens to a question at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa,  March 7, 2015.   REUTERS/Jim Young  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4SG2Z
Good luck with that.
Republicans are already extremely alarmed at how their presidential primaries are shaping up. Ex-congressman and current Fox News talking head John LeBoutillier notes that in the past, the Republican establishment held enough control over funding to ensure that their preferred candidates would enter the primaries well-heeled and the self-described "conservative" candidates were shut out:
It was always the conservatives who were underfunded. [...] And thus the primary outcome was preordained: After the initial dustup-up in Iowa and perhaps South Carolina, the establishment money wore the conservative(s) down and ultimately prevailed in a war of attrition. [...] That is not going to happen in the 2016 election cycle.
(Strange formatting omitted because the author apparently entered his op-ed column in Excel spreadsheet form.)

Ah, but this year the self-described conservatives are awash in money. Swimming in money. Got money coming out the ears.

[W]e are about to witness something we have never before seen: A full-on, well-funded-on-both-sides, nuclear war inside the GOP pitting the establishment (mostly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) versus the Tea Party (Cruz, Ben Carson and others) versus the neo-cons (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio) versus the libertarians (Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul) versus the hybrid (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has both establishment and Tea Party support). [...]

Do you know what that means?

It means thanks to the collapse of campaign finance reform, Republicans have gotten the dream landscape they worked so hard for? A land where any upstanding wealthy person can choose the candidate that will kowtow to their needs the most efficiently, and single-handedly turn them into a national contender? A land so awash in purchasable candidates and Americans wealthy enough to purchase them that competing wealthy people, each wanting national policy to hew to their own vision and none other, battle each other for control of the party on the presidential debate stage?
It means that campaign consultants will have plenty of money to do what they do best: going negative!
That's what I said.

Anyhoo, the dramatic reveal here is that having competing wealthy Americans each backing different Republican "contenders" (I use the term loosely here) means that every last sodding crackpot now has at least one sugar daddy capable of funding their smear campaigns against all the other candidates. And that, my friends, suggests that the primaries are very quickly going to turn into a total bloodbath. And Serious Republicans, the ones who have watched Ted Cruz and Rand Paul enter the race, are eyeing the cash those oddballs are raking in and realizing that they're powerless to stop that bloodbath from happening.

Thank goodness. And here we were worried that the slow collapse of our representative democracy was going to be boring.

Miner Rick Barclay appears in video interview conducted by 'Oath Keepers' militia group
A mine owner in Oregon was having a dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over his paperwork. His solution? Summon the ready nationwide movement of heavily armed "patriots" that so deftly protected Cliven Bundy from having to follow the same laws as everybody else. What could go wrong?
Among those who have come to the mine is Arizona militiaman Blaine Cooper, who made a video widely seen on YouTube urging Patriots to make their way to Oregon.

They’re calling it a “security operation” largely because owner Rick Barclay insists that the BLM is notorious for burning down miners’ cabins in the backwoods, and he believes they’d have destroyed his mine if he had not called for help. Cooper was last seen leading a group of anti-Obama protesters outside the White House, including several who demanded the president be hung.

While the militia forces have been very thorough in their "protection", blocking off a public road leading to the mine and forming camp nearby, our hero of the insufficient paperwork appears to have had second thoughts as to why he did this thing. Perhaps.
In an interview with the Medford Mail-Tribune, he denounced the scene near his mine: “What you’re seeing is mostly a spectacle caused by social media and ‘keyboard commandos’ whooping it up.” He seemed eager to draw a curtain on the drama.

“As soon as I get my court arrangements made, the Oath Keepers are leaving,” he said. “It’s OK. It’s going to be OK.”

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013How will American companies respond to fatal Bangladesh factory collapse?:

The death toll has passed 300 in the industrial building collapse in Bangladesh; workers had been ordered to go to work or lose wages even though there were visible cracks in the walls and floors of the building. There's plenty of blame to go around in Bangladesh, including the owner of the unsafe building, the owners of factories located in the building who ordered work to continue, and authorities at every level. The American and European companies whose brands are being found in the wreckage of the building also deserve a look:

Activists combing through the rubble in Savar, outside the capital, Dhaka, have already discovered labels and documents linking the factories to major European and American brands, like the Children’s Place, Benetton, Cato Fashions and Mango.
Just as Walmart initially denied having contracted with the Tazreen factory in which a fire killed more than 100 workers in November, Benetton is denying any association with the collapsed Rana Plaza. That's the thing about networks of subcontractors: they give you plausible deniability. There's also a question of how companies that had subcontractors in Rana Plaza will respond: After the Tazreen fire, some companies paid compensation for the victims and their families. But not Walmart or Sears. Walmart also continues to refuse to join a plan to fund fire safety and other upgrades in the Bangladeshi factories that manufacture its goods.

Bangladeshi workers have been protesting dangerous conditions, but rather than making real safety improvements, their government has put down the protests.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West listens to a question at a campaign stop with guests at SCORE South Palm Beach, a resource partner to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in Boca Raton, Florida October 18, 2012. West faces Democrat Patrick Murphy in a
Allen West was at one point a genuine congressman from the unfortunate state of Florida, aka Future Atlantis, but he lost his seat after he proved too embarrassing to be even a Republican member of House, which is saying something. Undaunted, however, West has since moved on into a new semi-lucrative career of being a Republican has-been who continues to have strong opinions on things.

Like, for example, that the reason so many football players are getting injured these days is because of a lack of prayer in schools.

The former Republican congressman talked about a secular group that wanted the University of Tennessee to stop public prayer before football games. He then recalled how when he played football in high school, a pastor held a prayer before every game and, on top of that, they didn’t even have all the heavy-duty gear that modern players currently wear.

“I don’t remember catastrophic injuries,” he said. “I don’t remember anyone getting carted off that field, paralyzed. See, there’s something about the power of prayer.”

Sounds conclusive to me.

Let us all now quickly return to our own semi-lucrative careers of ignoring Allen West, at least until he, too, announces a presidential bid. He's still more qualified than Ted Cruz.

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