Friday, February 23, 2018


Politico reports today that John Kasich is seriously considering a run for president in 2020:
John Kasich’s inner circle is gearing up for a possible presidential run in 2020....

And there’s one consideration driving their thinking perhaps more than any other: what some of his advisers consider the very real, maybe even likely, possibility that Trump doesn’t run again — by choice or not — or that the president becomes so politically hobbled by late next year that the political landscape fundamentally shifts in Kasich’s favor.

... his upcoming trip to Henniker, New Hampshire, will be his third to the state since he dropped out of the 2016 presidential contest.
I don't know what will happen to Trump between now and 2020, but I remain convinced that if he's alive and still in office, he'll run. He's extremely unlikely to have been removed from office by 2020, no matter what Robert Mueller discovers and now matter how well Democrats do in this year's midterms -- even if Trump is impeached, the likelihood that he'll be convicted by the Senate is infinitesimal, because it's mathematically impossible for Democrats to have 67 Senate seats after November. The tiny sliver of hope for a Senate conviction is that the Democrats could massively surpass even optimistic midterm expectations, in which case Republicans might run for the exits, concluding that they have to distance themselves from Trump to avoid the wrath of the voters. But even under those circumstances I think they'll hang tough, no matter what's discovered about Trump. (No, not even the pee tape will be enough to sink him -- his dalliances with a porn star and a Playboy model are barely having an impact.)

And he'll never quit voluntarily. What, and seem like a loser? It's unthinkable that he could bear that.

Even if he's out of office -- dead, impeached, jailed -- Republican voters will want a nominee who embodies Trump-style nastiness and hostility to the GOP's enemies. The most conventional figure they'll tolerate is Mike Pence, who could win favor as a man pledged to carrying on Trump's legacy. But if it's not Pence, it will be someone who angers liberals nearly as much as Trump does: Ted Cruz, Ted Nugent, Sheriff Clarke, who knows? But it won't be someone who, like Kasich, is branding himself as a healer.

But didn't Republicans choose conventional candidates in 2008 and 2012? Mitt Romney in 2012 was an angry, resentful man who clearly had a visceral hatred of Barack Obama and whose #1 promise was to curb-stomp Obamacare. In 2008, John McCain dug in his heels and fiercely defended the war liberals despised. Also note that the last men standing against McCain were Gingrich and Rick Santorum, while the candidate who hung on the longest against Trump was Cruz. GOP primary voters wanted own-the-libs candidates in those years, too. And they've only gotten angrier since then. If Trump has been felled by 2020, they'll be really angry.

The Politico story tells us that "Kasich has also heard from friends who see a real chance for him to become the first successful independent candidate," although there are doubts:
“I don’t think there’s an opening as an independent, and neither does he,” said [Kasick 2016 campaign adviser Charlie] Black, pointing to the filing fees and immense name recognition challenges that plague any non-major-party contender.
... Kasich’s team sees a path if Trump were matched up against someone it perceives to be too far left, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
I think an independent candidate who postures as both not-Trump and not-an-icky-lefty could theoretically win a surprising number of votes and eke out wins in some big states. Such a candidate would make the media swoon. (The "liberal" press will hate whoever the Democrats run in 2020, because the candidate probably won't be a bro or daddy.) Non-conservative voters who don't have strong political views might really be impressed. (A couple of my Boston relatives, both Democrats, had distrubingly positive things to say about Kasich in 2016.)

Kasich's problem is that the Kochs don't like him because he's not sufficiently hardline on Obamacare and unionized public-sector workers. Besides, the Kochs like Trump now -- he's doing just about everything they want. So Kasich will never be able to raise the money he needs for another race.

Give it up, John.


In the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, Kevin Williamson of National Review acknowledges and denounces what he calls "an epidemic of dishonesty on the right":
David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting “has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,” idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because — get this — he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident. Dinesh D’Souza joined in to mock the students as patsies....

Scott Baio suggested on Twitter that the woman presented as Charlottesville murder victim Heather Heyer was the same woman presented as Sandy Hook mother Vicki Soto. He posted pictures of them side by side, with the oh-so-innocent remark “Thoughts?” The implication — that the events in Sandy Hook and Charlottesville were some sort of hoax pulled off by a powerful and far-reaching conspiracy of wily political operators who could not be bothered to hire an extra actress to fortify their schemes — is poisonous, lunatic conspiracy-theory stuff....

Dinesh D’Souza should be ashamed of himself. David Clarke should be ashamed of himself, and not just for his ridiculous hat. And conservatives should be ashamed of them, too, and for bending the knee to Scott Baio, Ted Nugent, and every other third-rate celebrity who has something nice to say about a Republican from time to time. And we should be ashamed of ourselves if we come to accept this kind of dishonesty in the service of political expediency.
Thank you, Kevin. I'm no fan of yours, but I appreciate this.

But while you're condemning conservative dishonesty and conspiratorialism on guns, how about condemning the mother of all gun conspiracy theories: the near-universal belief among conservatives that every gun control advocate in America wants to confiscate all privately owned guns?

There's no evidence for this, just as there's no evidence for the belief that the passage of one gun control law inevitable leads to a "slippery slope" at the bottom of which is a total ban on gun ownership. (That hasn't happened in New York State or Connecticut, which passed tough gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. It didn't happen when the federal assault weapons ban was passed in 1994.) There are those who'd like to see the Second Amendment repealed, an idea whose supporters include a conservative New York Times op-ed columnist, but even he doesn't want all guns banned. Repeal of the Second Amendment is not what the vast majority of gun control advocates are demanding. And it's never going to happen, because the Constitution is, by design, extremely difficult to amend in the absence of overwhelming public support for a given amendment.

Most gun control advocates -- even the most outspoken teenage survivors of Parkland -- just want certain weapons banned and higher bars for gun owners to clear. They want -- we want -- what even large numbers of gun owners want:
According to data collected by Pew, the majority of gun owners, 77 percent, advocate ending the [gun-show background-check] loophole....

According to the Pew poll, among gun owners, 89 percent support a proposal that would prevent the mentally ill from purchasing a gun, 82 percent support barring those on the no-fly list from buying guns, 54 percent support a federal gun sales database, and 48 percent support a ban on assault-style weapons such as AR-15s.
The NRA and the politicians it backs are blocking all of these broadly popular proposals at the national level. But gun owners won't quit the NRA in protest of its absolutism, or vote against Republican politicians who legislate according to absolutist NRA principles, for a simple reason: They think we want to take all their guns. They hear this regularly from Republican politicians, from conservative pundits, and from the NRA itself. They believe it. And it's as crazy a conspiracy theory as anything said about crisis actors in Parkland or Soros involvement in the anti-gun youth movement.

So why not condemn this dishonesty, Kevin?

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Lead story at Gateway Pundit right now:

Lead story at RedState:

#1 "What's Hot" story at Fox News Insider:

Above-the-headline stories at the Drudge Report:

The Fox and GP stories, by the way, involve two different pro-gun survivors. They have a right to be heard. But the one on Fox who says "the media" won't listen is, um, talking to Fox -- which is the media.

On the right, the shooting is now irrelevant. The deaths are now meaningless. All that matters is: Our side is being persecuted by the evil libs. You gotta prioritize, I guess, and, apart from protecting the precious guns, demonstrating persecution by liberals is the right-wing media's #1 priority.


What's going on in this tweet from the NRA's video unit?

Here's a little more detail on the video from Vox's German Lopez:
“No one on this planet benefits more from mass shootings and motivates more people to become mass shooters than our mainstream media,” Colion Noir, a gun rights activist, declared in a video published by NRA TV on Thursday. “Sure, they love to get up in front of the camera and sell the lie that the mass shootings are all the NRA’s fault, and falsely claim that the NRA is a soulless organization selling guns to killers for profit. But all my years of watching these events play out have led me to one conclusion: The mainstream media love mass shootings.”

... Noir clarified that he doesn’t believe that people in the media actively want innocent people to die, but that the media purportedly has an interest in these mass shootings happening because they drive a lot of traffic and views to news outlets. He describes the shootings as Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Seinfeld, and Friends — in terms of ratings — for the media.

... Noir goes on to claim that all of this attention to mass shootings may inspire more mass shooters. “The shooters are the star. [The media] sensationalize everything about these killers,” Noir said. “And guess who’s watching? That’s right. Another lonely, ignored, mentally disturbed psychopath looking to make a name for himself. And you, the mainstream media, just put out the casting call for the next mass shooter.”
The overt meaning of this video is clear: Hey, don't say the NRA profits off murder. You know who really profits off murder? The MSM! It's standard I'm-rubber-you're-glue right-wing rhetoric, like the conservative claim that liberals are the real racists and anti-white racism is America's biggest racial problem.

But look at the tweet again. Do you think the phrase "casting call" was used by accident? The NRA knows how many people on the right believe that the Parkland shooting was fake and the participants were crisis actors. The NRA isn't going to endorse that lie outright -- heavens, the NRA is a respectable organization! -- but it can invoke the notion without literally endorsing it. It can compare school shootings to scripted fictional TV hits without coming right out and saying that school shootings are scripted.

Am I reading too much into this? I don't think so.


In last night's CNN gun forum, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch insisted that her organization cares deeply about keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. The Daily Caller reports:
... Loesch pointed to the failure of states to submit convictions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as a reason mentally ill and dangerous people are able to get their hands on guns.

“This individual was nuts. And I, nor the millions of people that I represent as a part of this organization that I’m here speaking for, none of us support people who are crazy, who are a danger to themselves, who are a danger to others getting their hands on a firearm,” Loesch said. “Do you know that it is not federally required for states to actually report people who are prohibited possessors, crazy people, people who are murderers?” ...

“How was he able to pass a background check? He was able to pass a background check because we have a system that’s flawed. The Sutherland Springs murderer was able to pass a background check because the Air Force did not report that record,” Loesch continued.
This morning, she followed up on Twitter.

But f preventing dangerous people from acquiring weapons is, in fact, an NRA priority, why doesn't the organization put all its muscle behind efforts to compel state reporting of risky people to the feds? Why doesn't it fight as hard for this as it fights to loosen gun regulations and block gun-control bills at the federal, state, and local levels?

In 2007, the NRA weakened a bill on this subject, the NICS Improvement Act:
The bill would resuscitate a failed government program that spent millions of dollars annually to allow persons prohibited from buying guns to regain the ability to legally acquire firearms. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be required to establish a “relief from disability” program to allow persons now prohibited from possessing a firearm because they have “been adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” to apply to have their bar on firearms possession removed. As a result of the bill, more than 116,000 individuals would be eligible to apply. States would also be required to establish such “relief” programs to restore the gun privileges of those with mental health disabilities in order to be eligible for potential grant money to upgrade records submitted to the NICS.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) used to run a similar program that, in addition to those with mental disabilities, even allowed felons to apply for “relief.” Annual costs for the ATF program ballooned to more than $4 million in 1991, with an average cost of $4,800 per applicant and 43 full-time employees dedicated to processing the applications. Congress shut down the ATF program in 1992 because of its high cost, inefficiency, and threat to public safety (among those re-armed with your tax dollars: kidnappers, rapists, and terrorists).

The bill also sets an arbitrary time limit for the VA to act on applications for “relief.” If the agency fails to act within 365 days, applicants can file a lawsuit asking a court to restore their gun privileges—even if Congress fails to provide the VA with the appropriate resources to process these investigations. Some prevailing applicants would be entitled to attorneys’ fees.
That bill was so unsuccessful that a new one was introduced this past fall. The Washington Free Beacon says,
It remains to be seen how effective the Fix NICS Act of 2017 could be, given the failure of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to ensure compliance with reporting requirements from federal agencies.
If the new bill is a good-faith effort to improve reporting and is likely to be effective, again, why hasn't the NRA fought like hell to get it passed between last fall and now, if it cares so much about this issue?

And let's not forget what happened last February:
President Donald Trump quietly signed a bill into law Tuesday rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun....

The National Rifle Association “applauded” Trump’s action. Chris Cox, NRA-ILA executive director, said the move “marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.”
No, the NRA is not our friend on this, no matter how many people Dana Loesch fooled last night.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I got a lot wrong in this post, but I was right to predict that Loesch wouldn't attack the students and parents. She faked a lot of concern she doesn't have, and pretended that the NRA cares about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people when it's never cared about that. I love the Parkland kids, but I wish one of them had known how much she was distorting her history, and the NRA's. Jake Tapper, the moderator, surely knows -- I wish he'd said something. But I assume he thought it was his job to moderate, not to weigh in.

This will be unpleasant:
The National Rifle Association will participate in CNN's nationally televised town hall Wednesday with students, parents and community members who were affected by last week's school shooting....

The NRA accepted CNN's invitation to participate in the town hall and national spokeswoman Dana Loesch will represent the organization.
Loesch is a nasty piece of work, but she's a pro -- I strongly suspect she'll have the sense not to attack student survivors or their parents. I assume she'll just devote all her airtime to demonizing people who aren't there to defend themselves. Among her likely targets will be celebrities who've given money to the upcoming March for Our Lives. (Expect the canned talking point that rich celebrities like George Clooney and Oprah have armed bodyguards, so why shouldn't ordinary Americans have ... um, armed teachers?) She might scapegoat video games and movies and TV, and have the gall to accuse the news media of sowing division. She'll definitely use the word "evil" a lot. She'll probably attack the godless secular culture (opening phrase of the recent New York Times profile of Loesch: "Dana Loesch has a biblical inscription tattooed on her forearm"). And she might try to take the moral high ground (yes, from people who've just endured a massacre of children) by bringing this up:
In [her] book, she recalled her grandfather standing on the porch one night with a shotgun in his hands. Ms. Loesch’s aunt had just arrived; her estranged husband had threatened to kill her.

“Looking back,” Ms. Loesch said, “I think I always wanted to know that I was safe.”
She's a professional propagandist. The other attendees aren't. She might find a way to bamboozle a lot of people with talking points that will sound reasonable because they won't be examined carefully in real time. Or maybe I'm wrong and she'll go feral, because, in her epistemically closed world, that will seem like the best way of owning the libs, even if it appalls every non-right-wing viewer. We'll see.


Conservatives have a lot of scapegoats for the shooting in Parkland, Florida -- inadequate mental health screening, video games, an FBI failure, or maybe they just think the whole thing was a hoax staged by crisis actors.

How can Rush Limbaugh distinguish himself from the pack?

He showed us how yesterday on his show: he blamed feminism for the shooting. Or, to be precise, a caller (who may or may not have been an actor, if news reports from a few years back are correct) blamed the shooting on feminism, and Limbaugh eagerly agreed.
CALLER: ... I think that feminism, modern-day feminism is the main problem, and I think that —

RUSH: Wait a minute. How so? How is feminism at the root of this brain washing? I happen to agree with you about it. I would phrase it a bit differently, but I agree. How is feminism at the root?

CALLER: Well, I think that women turning their back on God and Christian values and expecting schools or day cares to raise their children — and I think that feminism is what’s wrong with our economy. I think that, you know, the way kids are being raised these days. I think that feminism is the ultimate problem that we’re facing today.

RUSH: You mean as in the instance of the chickification of our culture, the demasculinization of men?

CALLER: Oh, yeah, that too. I really think that all problems stem from modern-day feminism.

RUSH: ... I think basically feminism is a bunch of people unhappy with human nature. They don’t like their assigned roles — by human nature.

Not by men, or not by earthly things. They just don’t like human nature, and they’re trying to change it, creating a bunch of artificial realities that they are forcing people to live in, and these artificial realities are in grand violation of human nature....

... I trace that back to ’69, ’68, 1970, in that period of time. The attack on men just for being men began intensely at that time.

Men became predators. Men became brutes, uncontrollable beasts who punished and abused. And it’s just mushroomed from there. And I think we’re actually living in a culture which has beaten masculinity out of a lot of guys. Remember, men... I get in a lot of trouble for saying this because people don’t understand what I’m saying. Men will do whatever they think they have to to get women, to get relationships. They’ll do whatever they think they have to.

It’s what makes the world go ’round. There’s nothing obscene about it. There’s nothing filthy about it. But it has become that with this intensification of modern feminism....

...a bunch of guys who are really nobodies — they’re ignored, they’re laughed at and made fun of — decide they want to be big guys, and so they go out and grab guns and start shooting people. And I think it is the lack of masculinity that makes these outcasts become even more vulnerable. It isn’t masculinity itself. This is 180 degrees out of phase, in other words.
So Nikolas Cruz killed seventeen people because feminists don't want men to be allowed to "do whatever they think they have to to get women." We should leave Harvey Weinstein alone (and Donald Trump, for that matter) unless we want innocent children to die.

Right. Got it.


Here's some personnel news from Florida:
An aide to State Representative Shawn Harrison of Florida was fired on Tuesday after claiming falsely that two students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were “actors that travel to various crisis when they happen,” a common far-right conspiracy theory after mass shootings.

Mr. Harrison’s district secretary, Benjamin Kelly, made the assertion in an email sent from his state account to a Tampa Bay Times reporter, Alex Leary. Mr. Leary ... posted a screen shot of the email on Twitter....

Mr. Kelly’s email referred to Emma González, 18, and David Hogg, 17, two seniors who have been outspoken in the days since the shooting.
And more personnel news -- this is from D.C.:
A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services has been placed on administrative leave after a CNN KFile inquiry while the agency investigates social media postings in which he pushed unfounded smears on social media.

Jon Cordova serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at HHS. A KFile review of Cordova's social media accounts found that he pushed stories filled with baseless claims and conspiracy theories, including stories that claimed Gold Star father Khizr Khan is a "Muslim Brotherhood agent" and made baseless claims about Sen. Ted Cruz's personal life....

In July 2016, Cordova shared a story that asserted without evidence that Khan, who spoke out against Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, was a "Muslim Brotherhood agent" and "a Muslim plant working with the Hillary Clinton campaign." He also shared another story that falsely claimed the Clinton Foundation paid Khan.

Cordova also shared unfounded and false stories that claimed Cruz, a Texas Republican frequented prostitutes, was involved in a sex scandal and was hiding various public records related to his birth and education.
What surprises me most about these stories is the fact that belief in conspiracy theories can still get a Republican fired or otherwise disciplined. We elected a birther president. I'd have thought that going after conspiratorialists would have been redefined as "political correctness" by now.

If this continues, how are future Republican governments going to staff up? Doesn't every low- and mid-level GOP operative now share at least a few conspiracy theories on Facebook? Ban conspiratorialists and soon you won't be able to hire anyone!

Maybe the taboo will just disappear gradually, by degrees. Call the Parkland survivors crisis actors and, regrettably, you've got to go. Say they're part of an FBI/Deep State conspiracy to seize all the guns -- hey, no problem! We have to open-minded about these things, don't we? And then eventually it'll all be acceptable, because freedom.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


The subscription-only newsletter Publishers Lunch reports that Mr. Yiannopoulos has acknowledged the inevitable:
Milo Yiannopoulos's unintentional comedy show/performance piece known as his breach of contract lawsuit against Simon & Schuster, seeking $10 million, has come to an end. Playing the final, brief role of lawyer, representing himself, Yiannopoulos discontinued his lawsuit with prejudice (meaning this is final) in a filing posted to the docket Tuesday, and dated February 15 by the parties.
But on Facebook, Yiannopoulos insists that he was the real winner, no matter what the LIE-beral media says:
After finally being able to personally review the documents that Simon & Schuster disclosed, it was clear to me that they wrongfully terminated my contract in bad faith.
So his point is proven, even though he's withdrawing his legal assertion of that point.
Based on the documents, I think they signed my book knowing they'd never publish it and then tried to make me walk away with excessive editing (you've all seen the manuscript!) and demands. In the end, they just nuked it and took their chances.
Why would Simon & Schuster do that? I would understand that claim if S&S engaged in "catch and kill" -- if, in other words, it bought the book in order to prevent its publication, the way the National Enquirer reportedly bought the story of Donald Trump's Playmate girlfriend. But when S&S dropped the book, the rights reverted to the author. He was free to pursue another book deal, or to publish it himself (which is what he did). And S&S allowed him to keep an $80,000 portion of the advance. That's suppression of a conservative voice, according to Yiannopoulos.
Having earned well over a million dollars from publishing my New York Times best-selling book Dangerous myself....
Er ... maybe. Sales of Dangerous were not great. It's possible that it grossed $1 million in revenue. Subtract the costs of manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, publicity, and so on, and I bet Yiannopoulos took in a lot less.
... it was always going to be hard to prove damages, as anyone who has ever hired a "damages expert" will know.
Yes, it's hard to cry poverty when you're claiming blockbuster sales, as Yiannopoulos did.
... Simon & Schuster will tell you they paid nothing in this lawsuit. That’s a lie. Not only did I keep the advance they retroactively claimed I owed back....
He didn't have to pay back money S&S had already voluntarily given him, so he's counting that as a cost to S&S.
... they have spent enormous funds on lawyers because they refused to admit they had done wrong.
Simon & Schuster is a division of CBS, a corporation that had revenues of $13.69 billion and earnings of $2.65 billion last year. I think the company can afford the cost of a few lawyers.
... Worse, Simon & Schuster is the publisher who proved we don't need them. Independently publishing my book was the most profitable thing I've ever done -- and now I have my own imprint, Dangerous Books, which will publish all my future titles and the titles of many other conservative authors too.
So far, Dangerous Books has published precisely two books -- Yiannopoulos's book and Fatwa: Hunted in America by Pam Geller. But as blogger Richard Bartholemew noted last November, the company was apparently terrible at getting good shelf placement for Geller's book in Barnes & Noble.
Anti-Islam polemicist Pamela Geller is upset with Barnes & Noble:
Eureka! @BNBuzz displays FATWA! Can you find the FATWA? No, seriously, can you find the one sole copy? Sheesh. (photo thanks Mr. Smith)
The Tweet is accompanied with a photo of a Barnes & Noble bookcase on which the spine of her new memoir FATWA: Hunted in America appears on the fourth shelf, sandwiched between multiple copies of two other titles also categorised as “Domestic Affairs”. Supporters are also grumbling that the book is not apparent in book shops.
At the time, Bartholomew wrote:
... the Dangerous Books website consists of nothing more than an advert for Dangerous and a newsletter sign-up feature; there’s no direct contact address or staff – nor is there any mention of Geller’s book. Meanwhile, the Dangerous Books Twitter account seems to be a half-hearted effort, with around 350 followers and just a couple of hundred Tweets – only two of which relate to Geller and her book, and one of these is a dud link to Yiannopolis’s website.
The Dangerous Books website link now gives you Yiannopoulos's website, which has one front-page story about the end of the lawsuit and nothing else about Dangerous Books. (There are references to George Soros, Antifa, and a "dead gay hooker found in Dem donor's home," however.) The Twitter account hasn't published an original tweet since late November and has had no activity at all since late December. (The last post was a James Woods retweet.) And that dud link is still a dud link.

If you click on the Dangerous site's "books" tab, you go to a link with the URL Here you can buy Dangerous, an autographed copy of Dangerous, Geller's book ... and that's it. There's no mention of forthcoming books from the imprint. (Amusingly, you can sort this three-item inventory by popularity, average rating, newness, price low to high, price high to low, on-sale date, and "featured." However you sort them, the order of these three items doesn't change much.)

Just go away, pal. Why continue to embarrass yourself?


As you probably know, the right is attacking the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived last week's massacre and are now calling for legislative action on guns.
Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich [is] claiming that Hogg is a plant because he is the child of an FBI agent.

Right-wing cable news channel One America News Network shared Wintrich’s post....

Hyperpartisan site True Pundit also ran with it....

Donald Trump Jr. liked tweets sharing the conspiracy theory.
Right-wing ex-congressman Jack Kingston said on CNN that the students' "sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda.... Do we really think 17-year-old on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally? ... Organized groups that are out there, like George Soros, are always ready to take up the charge, and it's kind of like instant rally."

On Twitter, he hinted that the rally organizing is Antifa's doing:

And now along comes Todd Starnes of Fox News, who blames the students' anger on the media and schools that are "indoctrination camps":
The mainstream media is cynically using a lot of traumatized teens from Parkland, Fla., in their latest shameful attack on President Trump and the National Rifle Association.

It's right out of the pages of "Rules for Radicals" -- turning innocent children into propaganda pawns to peddle a fake news narrative....

Honestly, we can't fault the kids. They have been through an unimaginable ordeal, and long before that, their minds were poisoned by liberals who believe there's something wrong with the Second Amendment.

So when you hear the youngsters spouting off about how the NRA should be destroyed and how NRA members are child killers -- take a deep breath and understand they have been brainwashed by government-funded indoctrination camps - pardon me - public schools.
Notice a common thread here? The smear merchants are avoiding direct attacks on the students. The sinister plots all involve outside agents who are using the students for their own nefarious ends.

As soon as I started watching videos of Emma Gonzalez's weekend speech and other media appearances by the teenage survivors, I assumed they'd be attacked by the right -- we all remember how opponents of children's health insurance funding smeared the family of Graeme Frost, a seventh grader who spoke up in favor of the funding, in 2007.

But the attacks on the shooting survivors aren't direct -- not even on Gonzalez, whose buzz cut I was sure would be the subject of endless ridicule on the right.

Did all of these smear merchants separately and spontaneously leap to the conclusion that the kids themselves are too sympathetic to attack? Did they all intuitively arrive at the same strategy -- attack them as innocents being used by evil men and women?

Or did word get around within the fever swamps that only indirect attacks would do? If we're going to get conspiratorial, that's the conspiracy theory I'm prepared to believe.


UPDATE: I guess Dinesh D'Souza wasn't copied on the memo.


The group Better Angels, which is praised by David Brooks in his latest column, operates on the naive belief that if liberals and conservatives engage in dialogue, we'll be able to break partisan gridlock and solve America's problems. It's possible that the dialogue sessions Better Angels conducts make the participants better able to listen and more empathetic. But even if the Better Angels diagnosis is correct, how would we compel every partisan American, or even a critical mass, to participate in such sessions? And if we did, how long would it be before the empathy wore off? And is partisan lack of empathy evenly distributed? Gallup tells us every year that there are far more self-described conservatives than liberals in America. (The rest of Gallup's respondents call themselves moderates.) This suggests that there are probably more angry, intransigent voters on the right. Our politics since 1980 suggests the same thing, as do cable-news and talk-radio ratings.

But Brooks is so determined to blame liberals for the lack of gun control in America that he misses the bothsiderist point of Better Angels. In his soft-spoken, concern-trollish way, he's part of what Better Angels sees as America's major problem -- he's an angry, blaming partisan.

Here's a description of a Better Angels dialogue session, from a link Brooks provides:
We sat in two concentric circles; the Democrats in the outer ring listening as Republicans shared their experience in the township after the election. Then we switched roles. The rules are simple, the inner ring speaks and the outer ring listens. Those in the outer ring are not to respond: no sighs, no eye rolls, and definitely no rebuttals.
Better Angels believes that both sides demonize and stereotype, and that both sides need to listen more, so both sides are treated equally in the sessions. Now here's the lesson Brooks draws from the work of Better Angels:
We greet tragedies like the school shooting in Florida with shock, sadness, mourning and grief that turns into indignation and rage. The anger inevitably gets directed at the N.R.A., those who support gun rights, and the politicians who refuse to do anything while children die.

... The people who defend gun rights believe that snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture. If we end up telling such people that they and their guns are despicable, they will just despise us back and dig in their heels.

So if you want to stop school shootings it’s not enough just to vent and march. It’s necessary to let people from Red America lead the way, and to show respect to gun owners at all points. There has to be trust and respect first. Then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns, and not some sacred cross in the culture war.
Better Angels says: Both sides are at fault. Brooks says: Liberals are at fault. Better Angels is handing him a bothesiderist take on the gun impasse, and he won't take it because he'd rather bash the left. I'm not even sure he realizes that he's distorting the message of the group he praises. If you're David Brooks, I guess the corollary of "both sides do it" is always "but liberals are worse."

On the issue of guns, Republicans have had uncontested control at the national level, and in most states, for decades. Conservatives complain about hurt feelings. Liberals complain about the actual laws on the books and the actual practices of gun owners. If Better Angels thinks every problem in America has a bothsides solution, that's naive. But Brooks believes that our gun problem is the fault not of the side that regularly pounds its opponents into submission, but of the side that's being pounded.

Pure bothsiderism would be less offensive than what Brooks writes.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Writing for the Daily Beast, Mike Barnicle says that President Trump won't defend America.
... Tuesday, ... Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats informed the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that “frankly, the United States is under attack.”

... The president, Donald Trump, did nothing. This is the first time across all the dust-covered years of our history, centuries filled with courage and honor, that the elected commander-in-chief chose to tweet instead of plan to defend the country.

Tuesday became Wednesday and the Senate used the time to prove ... that even an overwhelmingly popular policy—allowing thousands brought here years ago by their parents—could not gain approval....

The president, Donald Trump, did something. He poked and prodded open wounds. Pulled at scabs of intolerance and resentment....

Then on Wednesday, a school door opened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.... Within minutes, hallway floors were slippery with blood....

The president, Donald Trump, said nothing....

On Thursday, a nation’s eyes filled with tears....

The president, Donald Trump, appeared on TV. He forgot to use the word “gun.” ...

Friday ... in Washington, Robert Mueller ... announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian business outfits for conspiring to conduct cyber-warfare against the United States....

The president, Donald Trump, ... began to tweet, an activity that would consume him most of Friday, through the weekend and nearly all Sunday morning. His tweets became increasingly deranged.

He ended the week having done nothing to defend the country.
I disagree with Mike Barnicle: Trump did many things this week to defend the country. The country he defended, however, isn't America.

I don't mean that he defended Russia (although he did that as well). I mean that he defended the nation of FoxNewsistan. He defended the nation of Wingnut America.

Wingnut America thinks the answer to any problem with guns is more guns. By means of diversion and deflection -- talk of mental health and the FBI's failings -- Trump held the line for the cause of gun absolutism. (His aides are telling us now that he's prepared to back a tightening of background checks, but trust me, the ultras in Congress will block passage of any such legislation, and Trump won't do a thing to challenge them.)

Wingnut America is deeply suspicious of immigrants, and would be perfectly content (if not delighted) to see all the Dreamers deported. Trump and the hard-liners in his party did what Wingnut America wanted done this week on immigration.

And Wingnut America wants Robert Mueller, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Steele, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and every Trump-Russia reporter at CNN, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post to go to prison for (imaginary) collusion with Russia, not Trump or any of his current or former aides. Trump continues to make defending Wingnut America on these grounds his #1 priority.

So Trump really is an American patriot -- just not for the America most of us live in.


David Frum wonders whether the White House is doing nothing about Russian interference in the 2016 election because the president and others in his party want more of the same this year:
To what extent does President Trump—to what extent do congressional Republicans—look to Russian interference to help their party in the 2018 cycle?

Most observers predict a grim year for the GOP in 2018.... A little extra help could make a big difference to Republican hopes—and to Trump’s political survival.

Nothing has been done in the past 15 months to prevent that help from flowing. You have to wonder whether the president does not privately welcome that help, as he publicly welcomed help from WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016.

Trump’s own tweets reveal that among the things he most fears is the prospect of Representative Adam Schiff gaining the gavel of the House Intelligence Committee from the clownish present chairman, Devin Nunes. How far would Trump go to stop a dreaded political opponent, inside the law and outside?
Digby says she finds this puzzling:
I get that Trump is an imbecile who has no idea how politics are supposed to work. He learned everything he knows from watching TV. But other Republicans must know that it would have been so much better if they had at [least] pretended to be alarmed by this election interference and had put on a show to indicate that they were on top of the matter. But it really doesn't seem so.
But then she solves the mystery for herself.
They're all obviously more than willing to fight any attempts to stop another round of interference because they seem to be very sure that they are the ones who will benefit. And they have recognized that they can literally say anything and deny everything and their voters will not challenge them.

They already cheat with their vote suppression efforts and lies about voter fraud. If foreigners want to help them win elections by pushing out propaganda and stealing their opponents' proprietary documents and private correspondence, what's the problem? It's all for a good cause, amirite?
Republicans would be concerned (or at least would appear to be concerned) about Russian electoral interference if they felt that a significant percentage of the electorate was concerned -- or, to be precise, if they felt that the portion of the electorate that that they care about was concerned. Republicans generally don't care about the concerns of non-Republican voters -- they've gerrymandered their House districts, and many of their states are blood-red, so they don't need to trouble themselves with what the rest of us think.

Digby is right: Republican voters don't care about any form of electoral cheating that benefits Republicans. Their textbook example of rigged democracy is any contested election won by a Democrat. A Republican victory is categorical proof that the election in question wasn't successfully rigged.

They acknowledge that the 2016 presidential election was rigged, but they think it was rigged in Hillary Clinton's favor. She was defeated only because of their valant efforts to overcome the rigging. The election wasn't just rigged in her favor by the Russians and the FBI -- it was rigged by the media (which thwarts democracy every time a negative story about a Republican is published), by fraudulent voters (Republicans can never definitively demonstrate voter fraud, but they're certain it's out there), and by the very existence of a social safety net (giving citizens "free stuff" is, in Republicans' eyes, a distortion of democracy, because voters are helpless to vote against Democrats once they've benefited from government social services, which doesn't explain how Republicans have won so many elections in recent years, even in poor states like West Virginia).

Republicans equate democracy with Republican victories. When they don't win, they believe there is no democracy. They won in 2016, so whatever got them to victory is democratic by definition. Of course they aren't upset about Russian interference.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Ross Douthat thinks we can't find middle ground on guns because both sides are full of moral zealots:
The reason that mass shootings aren’t leading to legislative action is that we have a chasm between two sweeping moral visions, one pro-gun and one anti-gun, that is now too wide to be easily bridged by incrementalism.
No, that's not why mass shootings aren't leading to legislative action. Those of us who support gun control would take any crumb we can get at the federal level -- a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, we were willing to declare a small victory if we could get the Manchin Amendment, which expanded but did not fully universalize background checks for gun purchases, even as it loosened restrictions on interstate gun sales and made it specifically illegal for the federal government to maintain a gun registry. But even that was too much gun control for congressional Republicans. After the Las Vegas massacre, we would have settled for a bump stock ban, but Republicans said no again.

So how does Douthat characterize what he regards as an anti-gun moral fervor on the left?
The anti-gun moral vision regards America’s relationship to gun ownership as a kind of collective moral madness, a love affair with violence, a sickness unto death. Liberals increasingly write about gun ownership the way social conservatives write about abortion and euthanasia — it’s a culture of death, a Moloch devouring our children, a blood sacrifice to selfish individualism.
Many people on the left feel this way. But to some of us, gun ownership seems like a culture of denial of death. The gun culture insists that massacres are rare, that gun fatality totals are misleading because they include suicides (as if suicides aren't tragedies), and that "freedom" trumps all, even the mass slaughter of children. The gunners don't seem to revel in death as much as they deny that guns have anything to do with death.

And while mass murderers are certainly selfish individualists, the wider gun culture isn't really about individualism at all. It's about tribalism: the belief that gun cultists and their allies are the true Americans, and everyone else -- liberals, non-whites, Muslims, aliens, and even law enforcement and the government -- are the traitors within. The gunners don't believe we're in a war of each against all -- it's all of them against the rest of us.

One reason they can't accept responsibility for gun massacres that is that they see themselves are a force for absolute good -- yes, even when they're out in a field shooting beer cans with AR-15s. They believe that every gun sold makes America freer, and every sale thwarted brings us closer to tyranny.

It's impossible to compromise with people who think that way.


A billionaire GOP donor apparently just noticed that Republican gun policies kill people:
A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fund-raiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban....

Mr. Hoffman announced his ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. He wrote in the email that he would not give money to Mr. Scott, who is considering a campaign for the Senate in 2018....

“I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” he wrote. “Enough is enough!”
I'm impressed that Hoffman won't give to Scott in what's likely to be a tough Senate campaign against the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson -- or I would be impressed if I could find any evidence that Hoffman had given to Scott in the past. I see no contributions from Hoffman to Scott in Florida records or at Project Vote Smart. (Scott is a billionaire who put $90 million of his own family's money into his two successful gubernatorial campaigns.)

On the other hand, Hoffman gave more than $1 million to Jeb Bush's Right to Rise PAC for the 2016 presidential campaign. What kind of gun policies did he think he was supporting with that money? When Jeb was running for president, he boasted about his A+ rating from the NRA during his time as governor of Florida, a reward for his vigorous efforts on behalf of gun absolutism:
As governor, Bush signed a law requiring the state to replace land that is lost to development and since 2006, the state has added 159,000 acres open to hunting. Another law created a $5 million fine for anybody that tries to create a registry of legal gun owners in the state. And he touted "castle doctrine" and "stand your ground" laws that allow people to defend themselves with lethal force.
How oblivious was Hoffman to Bush's gun pandering? Well, it may be a coincidence, but Hoffman wrote a $5000 check to Right to Rise on the day Jeb tweeted this:

Why did thishappen now? The Pulse nightclub shooting in Hoffman's home state didn't give him pause? My guess is that he didn't find the victims relatable -- hey, they were just a bunch of Hispanic gay guys, right? Las Vegas? I bet Hoffman doesn't like country music. Parkland? Now we're talking. I bet he looks at the victims and survivors and thinks they could be his grandkids.

I probably shouldn't be so harsh. If this is a road-to-Danascus moment for a wealthy GOP donor, and if other plutocrats are inspired by his example, that's a good thing. But how could the problem not be obvious to him until now?

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Robert Mueller's indictment describes quite a plot: Russians making reconnaissance trips to America to refine their understanding of our political system and the ways it's vulnerable to propaganda, the use of fake identities and stolen Social Security numbers, the elevation of every candidate who threatened Hillary Clinton -- Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jill Stein -- and the online denigration of all of Trump's enemies, the use of fake offline political theater, like the scheme to construct a mock-jail meant to house a fake Hillary Clinton for an event in Florida....

Obviously, we have two problems: We need to determine how much involvement the Trump campaign had with this plot and we need to prevent the Russians from doing this again and succeeding. For now, punditry outside the right-wing media swamp generally acknowledges all this. But terrible mainstream takes are coming, so get ready.

I'm predicting that soon we'll be told by at least one mainstream pundit that the lack of action on the part of the White House should be blamed on Democrats and liberals -- our determination to find Trump administration crimes is making the White House dig in its heels and refuse to act on Russian election sabotage. Because we keep trying to portray Trump as an illegitimate, criminal president, he won't do the right thing. If we'd just stop, he'd be more likely to acknowledge that there's a threat to America and take action. So, really, the lack of action is all our fault!

How soon will we see this take on -- just a hunch -- the New York Times op-ed page? I give it a week, tops.