Wednesday, February 28, 2018

TRUMP'S GUN TALK TODAY WAS A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

The president betrayed his allies today, but he's still a conservative:
President Trump stunned Republicans on live television Wednesday by embracing gun control and urging a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation that has been opposed for years by the powerful National Rifle Association and the vast majority of his party.

... He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict gun sales from some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.

At one point, Mr. Trump suggested that law enforcement authorities should have the power to seize guns from mentally ill people or others who could present a danger without first going to court. “I like taking the guns early,” he said, adding, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Is he becoming a Democrat again? No, not really.

You have to remember where Trump comes from. Here in New York City, even tough law-and-order guys are pro-gun control. Rudy Giuliani was when he was mayor in the 1990s. So were all Giuliani's police commissioners. Before that, in the 1980s and late 1970s, so was an earlier pugnacious mayor, Ed Koch, a Democrat who occasionally acted like a liberal but spent much more of his time in office bashing liberals.

In New York during the Giuliani years, gun control at the local and state levels and support for nationwide gun control were seen as components of a law-and-order approach to governing, in a Trumpian way. Giuliani and his police commissioners talked about "getting guns off the streets." A big part of that was stop-and-frisk, until its decline started (under court order) late in the mayoralty of Mike Bloomberg. Bill de Blasio, a stop-and-frisk opponent, is mayor now, but I'm sure Trump looks back most fondly on the Giuliani years. The mayor was a hard-ass and a racist, but he was anti-gun. That's what Trump is remembering when he advocates gun control. The disregard for due process on gun seizures shouvld be a tell. Trump appreciates gun control, but not in a liberal way.

RESPECT FOR IDEOLOGICAL OPPONENTS IS A ONE-WAY STREET, PART MCMXVIII

CNN's Gary Tuchman and Mark Hertling did a segment on the AR-15 a couple of days ago...



... and, of course, the response on the right was pure contempt. Here's the teaser for a story at the Daily Caller:



The story itself has the headline "CNN Correspondent Has the Shooting Stance of Seven Year Old Legless Child."

Hey, remember that David Brooks column about how we need to show respect to gun owners, because our failure to do so is the reason we're in a gun stalemate? And remember all the pundit finger-wagging before that about our lack of respect for Trump voters? I guess the need to show respect goes only one way.

Tuchman, presumably, is not a gun expert. He's probably not a gun owner. He may never have shot a gun in his life before this. I don't care. The report may not have been award-winning journalism, but all the snickerers and smirkers probably looked just as awkward the first time they picked up a firearm.

This is mild criticism by the gunners' usual standards. The gun community regularly mocks even victims for getting the nuances wrong. That's obnoxious. If you have a family member who was killed by a defective Takata airbag, no one asks you to be an expert on automotive technology before your outrage and grief can be taken seriously. No one asks you to have expert knowledge of the chemistry and physics of incendiary devices if you're angry because one of the Boston Marathon bombs blew off your leg. But if you're grieving a shooting victim and you're upset about guns, you'd better not get your terminology wrong.

This isn't the only gunner mockery the CNN segment has inspired. In the segment, Mark Hertling says the following:
“Now, those are single shots. If I wanted to fire this on full semi-automatic, all I do is keep firing.”
Okay, this was not accurate -- a weapon is fully automatic or it's seni-automatic; it can't be both. Hertling wasn't weighing his words as carefully as he should have. Naturally, this was deemed to be hilarious on social media, and in a video posted by Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire. Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire said this in the video:
"He said, 'Okay, now I'm gonna go full semi-auto," and 'full semi-auto' is a contradiction in terms. There are guns that are fully automatic -- that's when you pull the trigger once and a gazillion bullets come out -- and then there are guns which are semi-automatic, where you pull the trigger once and one bullet comes out. And you can hold it down as long as you want -- it's just going to be one bullet that comes out.
Knowles then added:
So what CNN is obviously trying to do, very dishonestly, is conflate the two things. That's why they always say it's 'military-style weapons.' This is not what they use in the military. I assure you of that.
Nowhere in the segment does Hertling say that this weapon is identical to what's used in the military. (He says, correctly, that it visually resembles the military M-4 and is appealing to civilians as a result.)

Here's that Daily Wire expert who's lecturing Hertling on the difference between civilian and military weaponry:



Here's the life experience that led him to this moment:
Michael J. Knowles (born March 18, 1990) is an American actor, author, conservative political commentator, columnist, and podcaster.

Born in Bedford Hills, New York, Knowles began training as an actor with the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, as part of its Advanced Teen Conservatory. He then attended Yale University, graduating with a B. A. in History, and winning the Seymour L. Lustman Prize for contributions "to the artistic and cultural aspects of the life of the College."

Before graduating from Yale, Knowles participated in the web series, "Never Do Business with Friends" and "Survive." Upon graduation, Knowles participated in various short films and web series, as well as appearances in television shows, such as The Knick and New York-based films, such as "Clipped Wings" and, "They Do Fly."

After moving to Los Angeles, he acted in the TV Pilot, "Blend In," the TV movie, "I'm Back," and the comedy, "Hollyweird."

In 2016, Knowles was invited to join The Daily Wire, beginning as regular guest and cultural correspondent for "The Andrew Klavan Show" podcast. In 2017, Knowles released a book called Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide. Containing 266 empty pages, it became a Number 1 best-selling book on Amazon...
Hertling is this guy:



Here's his story:
Mark Phillip Hertling (born September 29, 1953) is a former United States Army officer. He served 37 years in the U.S. Army and retired after serving as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army, serving in that position from March 25, 2011 until November 4, 2012, and retiring from the Army in December 2012. During his time as a U.S. soldier, Hertling served in Armor, Cavalry, planning, operations and training positions, and he commanded every organization from Platoon to Field Army. Most notably, he commanded the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division and Task Force Iron/Multinational Division-North in Iraq during the troop surge of 2007 to 2008....

Prior to his final posting as the USAREUR Commander, Hertling commanded the Army's 1st Armored Division from 2007-2009, and he was the first Deputy Commanding General for Initial Military Training (IMT) from 2009—2011....

As the first Commander of IMT, Hertling was responsible for integrating the initial training of approximately 160,000 officers and enlisted soldiers entering U.S. Army training every year at 27 installations across the United States.... IMT revised the Army's Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and developed further training in rifle marksmanship, combatives, values instruction, first aid, and cultural training....

... during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm ... Hertling was wounded in action....
I'll stop there. I highlighted one point for emphasis.

Hertling has acknowledged the incorrect terminology.



He was also mocked for saying in the segment that in rapid-fire mode you're unlikely to hit your target (in this case, at least, the mockery came from a former Green Beret).



Do I have to respect gunners? Let me know when they start respecting us.

ON GUNS, FOX GIVES UP

It would have been reasonable to expect Fox News to be leading the pro-NRA fight right now, but I'm looking at the news channel's websites and it appears that Fox has retreated to its happy place.

Here's the front page at FoxNews.com right now:



And here's the front page at Fox News Insider:



Earlier this morning, it was this:



The gun thing isn't working. The right is trying its usual mental health distraction, and many on the right are trying to build a new Benghazi out of law enforcement failures and missteps. ("Parkland Stand Down?" is the title of a video posted by the right-wing pollster Rasmussen, and the incident is being directly compared to Benghazi by NRATV.) National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke is calling on pro-gunners to go after survivor David Hogg. And there is still quite a bit of Parkland coverage at Fox.

But it's clearly being downgraded as a story. The right-wing memes aren't connecting the way they used to. Democrats and liberals aren't cowering in fear. Wayne LaPierre delivered a red-meat speech to the converted at CPAC, but he's less visible elsewhere, and Dana Loesch, before her red-meat CPAC speech, mostly pulled her punches on CNN.

Most of corporate America seems to be sick of the NRA -- and today we're learning that Dick's Sporting Goods, a major national gun dealer, won't sell assault-style rifles anymore, won't sell high-capacity magazines, and won't sell any gun to a person under 21 even if permitted by local law. Dick's has risked offending the gun absolutists in the past:
This is not the first time Dick’s has made changes in response to a school massacre. In 2012, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dick’s removed assault-style rifles from its main retail stores. But a few months later, the company began carrying the firearms at its outdoor and hunting retail chain, Field & Stream.

This time, Mr. Stack said, the changes will be permanent.
The company survived that. If corporate officers have concluded that it will survive this -- and still presumably sell a profitable quantity of goods to gun owners -- there's a clear perception out there that suburban outrage over gun violence outweighs any anger on the gun absolutists' part. Rupert Murdoch (who is, of course, from a country that significantly tightening gaw laws after a massacre) might be thinking along similar lines, and Fox might be tiptoeing away from this story as a result.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

OH GREAT, THE ATLANTIC IS NOW PUBLISHING DAVID FRENCH'S GUNNER B.S.

I guess National Review doesn't offer David French enough opportunities to hold forth about the wonderfulness of guns and the gun culture, because he now has an essay at The Atlantic on the same subject. I won't attempt a point-by-point rebuttal -- I'll limit myself to a few words about this:
It’s a myth that gun owners despise regulation. Instead, they tend to believe that government regulation should have two purposes—deny guns to the dangerous while protecting rights of access for the law-abiding. The formula is simple: Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill make our nation more violent. Law-abiding gun owners save and protect lives.

Thus the overwhelming support for background checks ... and the openness to solutions—like so-called “gun violence restraining orders” that specifically target troubled individuals for intervention....

Many gun-rights supporters were appalled to learn after the Sutherland Springs shooting that the military was systematically underreporting disqualifying convictions to the federal background check database. Under pressure, the military has added more than 4,000 new names in just three months.
Yes, the gun community cares so much about removing guns from the mentally ill that the only gun bill passed by the GOP Congress and signed by President Trump overturned a regulation meant to deny guns to severely mentally ill people. The NRA response: "Promise Kept."

And I'd be more impressed by the gun community's "overwhelming support for background checks" if the NRA hadn't spent years fighting to the death to prevent universal background checks. The gun community might support universal checks, but it never expresses that opinion with its wallet, by denying dues money to the NRA, or with its vote, by opposing politicians who won't support background check expansion.

And while it's swell that the military has provided a few thousand new names to the feds since Sutherland Springs, why hasn't a bipartisan bill to fix the system been passed in the months since that massacre? Why isn't the NRA demanding swift passage? Why isn't the gun community doing the same thing?

Because Republicans in Congress are playing games with the bill, just as the NRA wants, and there isn't a peep of protest from the gun community:
HOUSE SPEAKER Paul Ryan on Tuesday would not commit to bringing up a clean version of a bill to strengthen the gun background-check system if the Senate is unable to pass a version already approved by the House.

"We obviously think the Senate should take our whole bill, but if the Senate cannot do that, then we'll discuss and cross that bridge when we get to it," the Wisconsin Republican told reporters.

In December, the House passed the bill called "Fix NICS," which offers incentives for states to improve reporting to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System....

But the House tied the bill to another measure that would allow reciprocity of concealed carry permits across state lines. That proposal is considered a non-starter in the Senate, where Democrats who oppose the legislation have the ability to block it.
House Republicans have linked background check reform to the requirement that anyone who has a concealed-carry permit -- which in blood-red states is pretty much anyone with a pulse -- must be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in Times Square, with New York State unable to do a goddamn thing about it.

I don't care if the gun culture thinks that's a swell idea. The gun culture knows that there aren't enough votes for that in the Senate. If the gun community really cared about closing the loopholes that made Sutherland Springs possible, it would accept this reality and support a clean bill to fix NICS.

But the gun community cares much more about drawing a line in the sand, and making liberals cry. David French, I'll believe your pals are acting in good faith when that's no longer the case.


NO, I DON'T BELIEVE DONALD TRUMP STOPPED A MUGGING IN 1991

After the president said he would have rushed into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School to stop the shooting there even if he was unarmed, a number of media sources noted that Trump hasn't exactly display a lot of heroism in his life. The best roundup is from Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post, who notes the time Trump told Howard Stern he recoiled from the blood when an elderly Mar-A-Lago guest fell off a stage (an incident also discussed on Lawrence O'Donnell's show last night); Rosenberg also discusses Trump's anxious response when someone rushed the stage during a campaign appearance, his fear of an eagle who was brought into his office for a photo shoot, and, of course, his avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War, among other moments of non-bravery.

Meanwhile, right-wingers are citing this 1991 story from James Rosen of the New York Daily News (not the James Rosen who worked at Fox News -- this one went on to work for McClatchy):



You can click to enlarge or read the text here. Here's an excerpt:
When he saw "a big guy with a big bat" bashing another fellow, Donald Trump did what any self-respecting billionaire would do: He ordered his driver to pull over.

"I'm not looking to play this thing up," Trump said yesterday. "I'm surprised you found out about it."

Witnesses said Trump, with Marla Maples tugging at his arm to try to stop him, leaped from his black stretch limousine Monday evening during the assault on Ninth Ave. near 45th St.

Brutal-looking

"Someone in the car looked over and said, 'Gee, look at that, it's a mugging,'" Trump said. "I said to my driver to stop the car because it was brutal-looking."

Trump was at first reluctant to discuss his daredevil deed, but then he warmed to the task.

"The guy with the bat looked at me, and I said, 'Look, you've gotta stop this. Put down the bat,'" Trump said. "I guess he recognized me because he said, 'Mr. Trump, I didn't do anything wrong.' I said, 'How could you not do anything wrong when you're whacking a guy with a bat?' Then he ran away."
The first thing that leaps out is that even before we're told the details, we're told (a) that Trump is shocked, shocked, that this is going to make the papers, and (b) that he didn't want to brag or anything, but, okay, twist his arm, he'll tell you all about it....

In all likelihood, something vaguely similar to what Trump described actually happened. This was certainly a high-crime period in New York City; a mugging in Hell's Kitchen wouldn't be surprising. The reporter found an eyewitness who was willing to be quoted by name, and she said the incident took place. Unfortunately for Trump, she portrayed him as a tad less heroic than he portrayed himself.
Kathleen Romeo, a 16-year-old student at St. Michael's Academy in Manhattan, said cries of "There's Trump!" went through the crowd of onlookers.

"A lot of people were surprised that he got out to see what was happening," Romeo said, adding that the bat-wielder ran off just before Trump actually appeared and that Trump, "just looked around and went back into his limo."
However, a second witness -- unnamed -- said Trump really was courageous:
But another witness, who asked not to be identified, said, "There was a guy with a bat, hitting a guy over the head, and Trump yelled, 'Put that bat down. What are you doing?' The guy dropped the bat, came over and started talking to him."

Trump said the bat-man delivered at least "five or six good whacks" before Trump interceded.
Was the witness named ? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

Trump was at a financial low point at this time -- and his own mother had been mugged a month earlier. I assume he came upon the incident after the danger had passed. He saw a publicity opportunity, made contact with the press (perhaps using of one of his PR experts, John Miller and John Barron), encouraged one witness to hype his role, and got the good story he wanted. (The New York tabloids considered Trump stories too good to check in that era.)

The story goes on to say the police were never called. A truly upstanding citizen would have given the cops a description of the perpetrator -- especially if, as Trump claims, he was face-to-face with the perp long enough to have a conversation.

The right, of course takes all of this on faith. Here are a few headlines from the past 24 hours.

* The Daily Caller: FLASHBACK: That Time Trump Took Down A Mugger In Action

* RedState: Would Trump Have Rushed In To Stop School Shooter? (Well, He Did Stop A Mugging In ’91)

* Sparta Report: Libs Wrong Again. Trump Would Have “Run In There”

Snopes asks, "Did Donald Trump Stop a Mugging in 1991?" Answer: unproven. I'd say Snopes is being charitable.

SUSAN SARANDON DIDN'T HAVE A POINT, DID SHE?

Paul Krugman writes today:
A funny thing is happening on the American scene: a powerful upwelling of decency. Suddenly, it seems as if the worst lack all conviction, while the best are filled with a passionate intensity....

You can see the abrupt turn toward decency in the rise of the #MeToo movement; in a matter of months ground that had seemed immovable shifted, and powerful sexual predators started facing career-ending consequences.

You can see it in the reactions to the Parkland school massacre. For now, at least, the usual reaction to mass killings — a day or two of headlines, then a sort of collective shrug by the political class and a return to its normal obeisance to the gun lobby — isn’t playing out. Instead, the story is staying at the top of the news, and associating with the N.R.A. is starting to look like the political and business poison it should have been all along.

And I’d argue that you can see it at the ballot box, where hard-right politicians in usually reliable Republican districts keep being defeated thanks to surging activism by ordinary citizens.

... I think it’s all one surge. The #MeToo movement, the refusal to shrug off the Parkland massacre, the new political activism of outraged citizens (many of them women) all stem from a common perception: namely, that it’s not just about ideology, but that far too much power rests in the hands of men who are simply bad people.
Krugman doesn't ask the question, but I will: Does this mean that Susan Sarandon had a point in March 2016 when she told Chris Hayes, "Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode"?

To some extent, I think she did have -- but not enough to justify Hillary Clinton's defeat and Trump's election.

On the subject of #MeToo, I know it's been argued -- most prominently by Maureen Dowd -- that the Weinstein revelations might never have surfaced if Clinton had won. ("If Hillary were in the Oval, would some women have failed to summon the courage to tell their Weinstein horror stories because the producer was also a power behind the Clinton throne?" Dowd wrote last fall.) I don't buy it. We know that The New York Times and Ronan Farrow were pursuing the Weinstein story long before the 2016 election -- sooner or later, one of them would have had enough to publish. We know that Weinstein had less success in Hollywood in the period leading up to the stories' publication -- it's much more likely that his declining clout, rather than any worries about his status as a Democratic donor, made victims more willing to speak out. And he was still seen as a big man in Democratic circles after the Clinton defeat, yet the articles appeared. I think he would have been exposed anyway.

Would there have been more pushback with Clinton in the White House? I think the details in those stories were so appalling that it would have been suicidal for Clinton to push back. Democrats would have abandoned him no matter what.

As for Trump, I think he would have been a presence even in defeat. It matters a lot that a confessed sex criminal is in the White House, but in defeat he'd have tried to become Clinton's top tormentor, undoubtedly returning to his regular perch on Fox and Friends to attack the president and deny her legitimacy. His rise to power gave the #MeToo movement fuel it wouldn't have had otherwise, but I think he'd still be on the scene, a shameless groper, and I think that would have inspired anger.

Parkland? It may just be that the circumstances were right. We like fresh faces in America; the activist survivors are young, well-spoken, unbowed, and determined to use their grief to make change right now, while we still can't turn away. America's gun lust aimed at the wrong target population. That could have happened even if Hillary Clinton were president, because the gun laws of America would still mostly be dictated by Republicans and the NRA.

The Parkland kids, of course, are mostly white -- let's not forget that Black Lives Matter started (under President Obama) with a very similar determination to use grief for social change. Immigrants, minimum-wage workers, and the the LGBT community also stepped up their activism during the Obama years. You don't need a right-wing monster in the White House to fight against injustice, and even to make that fight central to the American political conversation, and because those kids would have a real instinct for striking while the iron was hot.

I think the Trump presidency made America more responsive to politcized anger -- although maybe what I mean to say is that it made straight white non-conservative older people responsive in ways they weren't. But is it worth it? Trump is launching so many attacks on so many fronts -- immigration, climate change, business regulation, the social safety net -- that the increases in activism probably can't counter all the damage he'll do.

I'm happy that more people are engaged, and maybe it's partly Trump's doing. But I'd still rather have slightly less activism and no Trump.

Monday, February 26, 2018

STUNT RUNS IN CALIFORNIA ARE ALL THE RAGE FOR WINGNUTS

Should you take this seriously?
"Clueless" star and former Fox commentator Stacey Dash is running for Congress in California.

The actress and outspoken Republican filed paperwork Monday to run in California's 44th district, which is currently represented by Democrat Nanette Barragán.
No, we shouldn't:
The district, which includes Compton, Watts, San Pedro and North Long Beach, has long been represented by a Democrat. It overwhelmingly voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, 83%-12%.
The Cook Political Report gives this district a rating of D+35. This is the 12th most Democratic district in America, out of 435. Dash is not going to win. In this district, she'd lose even if she hadn't said on Fox that Democrats have a "plantation mentality" that keeps African-Americans "on entitlements," that President Obama didn't "give a shit" about terrorism, and that “there shouldn’t be a black history month” because there isn't a white history month. This a publicity stunt.

But Dash isn't the only wingnut stunt candidate looking at a California run. Radio bigot Michael Savage is considering a run for U.S. Senate, with a platform he sums up in three words: Borders, Language, Culture. (Did that sound better in the original German? Undoubtedly.) The first two points in his platform are:
Seal the borders, build the wall like a citadel, deport illegal aliens.

English is the only language permitted on government documents, including ballots used for voting. Again: English only voting.
Yeah, that'll go over well in California. (It actually could go over well in some parts of California, which is why I won't be surprised if Savage is the top vote-getting Republican in the primary, assuming he goes through with this. But everybody runs in one primary in California, and with two strong Democratic candidates in the race, it's not clear that any Republican will be among the two candidates who make the general election. But if Savage outlaps all the other right-wing hopefuls, that will another sign of conservatism's apparently irreversible crazification.)

(Do I have to remind you what a terrible person Savage is? He's advocted killing 100 million Muslims. He said that President Obama "wants to infect the nation with Ebola" and wanted to use the government to "fight a war against white people." He thinks autism is "a fraud" and "a racket." And I'm scratching the surface.)

Dash and Savage seem intent on running, but I haven't heard anything about this rumored stunt run since early January:
Is Hollywood star James Woods plotting to run for Governor of California? If conservative activist Melanie Morgan and legions of supporters have their way, the answer is a resounding yes. Morgan, who is behind the newly launch petition to push Woods to run says, “Californians deserve a choice in this year’s crucial election and it’s a mistake to allow Gavin Newsom to cakewalk right into the governorship without a fight.”
Melanie Morgan, you'll recall, attempted to pile on Al Franken when he was accused of sexual improprieties by asserting that she'd been non-sexually harassed by him. (She claimed that after a joint TV appearance he made unwanted phone calls to her to argue policy.) Morgan's candidate, of course, has been accused by actress Amber Tamblyn of unwanted sexual advances when she was 16 and he was in his early fifties. The rest of his love life is equally embarrassing. Apart from that, you know the drill: He thinks liberals want to tear down the Iwo Jima monument, he predicts that a makeup-wearing young boy will grow up to murder his parents, he called President Obama "a threat to the integrity and future of the Republic" and an "abomination."

But Woods is only an amateur liberal-baiter. Dash and Savage do it for a living. They could both use a career boost. That's why they seem serious about running.

ONLY ONE PARTY'S INNER STRUGGLES OVER IDEOLOGY ARE NEWSWORTHY, APPARENTLY

This, I gather, is a big story:
In a sharp rebuke to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democratic Party has declined to endorse the state’s own senior senator in her bid for reelection.

Riven by conflict between progressive and more moderate forces at the state party’s annual convention here, delegates favored Feinstein’s progressive rival, state Senate leader Kevin de León, over Feinstein by a vote of 54 percent to 37 percent, according to results announced Sunday.

Neither candidate reached the 60 percent threshold required to receive the party endorsement for 2018.
Feinstein is more centrist than many California Democrats; also, if she wins another term, she'll be 91 years old at its conclusion. So I understand why there might be a lot of Democrats who think it's time for a change. And the rival some in the convention prefer is the Democratic leader in the state Senate, not some wild-eyed extremist outsider.

Furthermore, California's electoral system, which requires all candidates for an office to run in the same primary, with the top two vote-getters proceeding to the general election, could result in a Democrat-vs.-Democrat contest in November, given the low poll numbers of Republicans seeking the seat. If that happens, the de León-Feinstein battle will ultimately be decided by voters. So what's wrong with that? Yet this story plays into a "Democrats in disarray" narrative.

On the other hand, here's a story from the GOP side that's getting a lot less attention:
Utah GOP Passes New Rule That Could Eject Romney From Ballot

With Orrin Hatch retiring, erstwhile GOP nominee and onetime prominent Trump critic Mitt Romney seemingly has a clear path to becoming Utah’s next senator. But a hard-right faction within the state’s Republican Party has taken a drastic step that could derail him.

Over the weekend, the faction passed a bylaw that allows Utah Republicans to expel any candidate that qualifies for the ballot via signatures — the route Romney plans to take.

Utahpolicy.com reports that Utah Republican Party chairman Rob Anderson, a relative moderate, is attempting to fend off repeated challenges to his leadership by a group of aggressive right-wingers in the party’s Central Committee. While they don’t have the numbers to oust him outright, they are able to pass bylaws over his wishes.

On Saturday, they passed one dictating that to get on the ballot, Republicans must follow the state’s current nomination laws, which don’t currently allow signature-gathering as an option.

And, the new bylaw says, if a candidate does follow that route to the ballot, they “immediately” lose their membership.
California Democrats had a convention and failed to endorse the incumbent senator for reelection -- but Utah Republicans had a similar gathering and voted to block their party's former presidential nominee from even appearing on the primary ballot.

It's not clear from the reporting whether this is intended as an assault on Romney or just as an attack on the party chairman. It's also not clear whether this would violate state election law. (By the way, we're told that "56 other GOP candidates in the state, including the sitting Senate president, have also announced their intention to gather signatures." So they're all imperiled as well.)

Imagine if Hillary Clinton wanted to run for office in New York State and left-wingers at the party convention were powerful enough to pass a bylaw preventing her from running as a Democrat. This would be a massive story. Many fretful thinkpieces would be written about the dangers of progressive purity and the self-destructive nature of the Democratic Party.

But it's the Republicans, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

DONALD TRUMP'S CULT OF THE AMATEUR

Yes, the president is really weighing the idea of putting his own pilot in charge of the FAA:
The president’s personal pilot is on the administration's short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Trump has told a host of administration officials and associates that he wants John Dunkin — his longtime personal pilot, who flew him around the country on Trump Force One during the campaign — to helm the agency, which has a budget in the billions and which oversees all civil aviation in the United States.
Staffing the government with relatives, cronies, and unqualified subordinates is what happens in banana republics, of course. But there's another factor at work here:
Dunkin has told people that when he used to fly Trump around on his private Boeing 757, they'd often find themselves stuck on the tarmac with delays. He'd tell Trump that none of this would happen if a pilot ran the FAA.
Trump loves this sort of thing. He thinks everything that's bad in America can be corrected by a really smart guy like him who sees (or is made aware of) a simple, obvious solution all the supposed "experts" miss. Solving problems doesn't require knowledge or hard work -- you just have to pick up on the one detail thagt the people who've been in charge for years haven't noticed, and then all difficulties will magically vanish.

We can see this in another Trump brainstorm we learned about last night:
In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for drug trafficking offenses. And President Trump loves it. He’s been telling friends for months that the country’s policy to execute drug traffickers is the reason its drug consumption rates are so low.

"He says that a lot," said a source who's spoken to Trump at length about the subject. "He says, 'When I ask the prime minister of Singapore do they have a drug problem [the prime minister replies,] 'No. Death penalty'." ...

* He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they'll die if they take drugs and they've got to make drug dealers fear for their lives.

* Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.
Okay, this solution came from a fellow head of state. But it's classic Trump: it's simple, it's crude, and Trump believes it's the magic bullet that will eliminate America's drug problem.

And there's also this:




Trump went on to use the phrase "gun-adept teachers" in his speech at CPAC. He loves this idea. "Gun-adept teachers" will kill 100% of the bad guys in their classrooms, because they're gun-adept and they're teachers. They'll never hit an innocent bystander. They'll always be able to outgun shooters, even if the shooters have more powerful weapons already drawn and they're just concealed-carrying a pistol. No complex thinking needed -- ATTACKS WOULD END!

Trump is often compared to Jerzy Kozinski's Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, but I often think of him as the title character of the 1980 film Simon, written and directed by Marshall Brickmann, who collaborated with Woody Allen on the screenplays of Annie Hall and Manhattan. In Simon, an evil think tank brainwashes a man into believing that he's an alien from another planet. He goes on to become a messiah figure of sorts, making many pronouncements about how modern life can be made better.



Trump is a right-wing version of that guy.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

I'M SURE DAVID BROOKS WILL WRITE A STERNLY WORDED COLUMN ABOUT TRUMP'S CIVILITY

Here's a Politico headline that David Brooks should find deeply troubling:
Trump urges national unity, investigation of 'the other side' amid Russia probe
The president is calling for national unity even as he's attacking "the other side"? Yes:
Saying there were "no phone calls, no meetings, no collusion," President Donald Trump on Saturday pushed for an investigation of "the other side" amid the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, while claiming "we need intelligence that brings our country together."

"A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but on the other side. And somebody should look into it, because what they did is really fraudulent and somebody should be looking into that ...," Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro....

Trump added that the blame for not stopping "Russian meddling, if you want to call it that" in the 2016 presidential election rests with President Barack Obama, since he was in office when Russian interference occurred. But he added: "We should all be on the same team. We should all come together as a nation."
So he attacked Democrats and expects those rebukes to lead to a unified nation? Surely that will inspire a rebuke from the man who wrote this:
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....
On Jeanine Pirro's show last night, Trump insisted that Americans need to come together four times over the course of three and a half minutes:



In between these calls for unity, Trump attacked Democratic congressman Adam Schiff repeatedly, and also attacked Democratic senator Mark Warner former Democratic president Barack Obama. Where's the respect for Democrats on all points, David Brooks? Shouldn't you write a finger-wagging column about this?

Brooks probably believes that Trump should respect the process. He's not a big Trump fan, and I'm sure he'd concede that Congress and the special prosecutor should be allowed to investigate irregularities in Trump's campaign unimpeded. But would he chide a Republican for routinely attacking Democrats? Doesn't that count as incivility?

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network has an op-ed in The New York Times today that attempts to explain why evangelicals admire a president who's a libertine (and, he neglects to add, probably a sex criminal, a crook, and a traitor). Brody's rationalizations aren't particularly enlightening, but I'd like to take a shot at the question.

Other Republican presidents have given evangelicals a great deal of what they want, but none seemed quite as willing to give them everything on their wish list as Trump appears to be. The other Republicans either didn't support all of the religious right's agenda or felt that its full implementation would conflict with their goal of maintaining widespread public support.

Even more than previous Republican presidents, Trump is untroubled if liberals and moderates oppose him. In the case of the evangelical agenda, it's not that he viscerally supports it -- it's that he knows evangelicals are valuable allies and, after years and years of getting nearly all of his information and political notions from Fox News, he knows that whatever liberal hate, he supports enthusiastically.

But he also believes that everyone should unite around this agenda that has very narrow support. This belief is based on two ideas: first, that Trump should be able to make everyone defer to him (that's his personality -- he's been a bully all his life) and second (an idea Trump got from Fox), that anyone who won't get with the narrowly partisan conservative agenda simply isn't an American. To Trump, "We should all come together as a nation" means "Everyone should come around to my opinion, and if you won't, you're hostile to this country."

Isn't that what politicized right-wing evangelicals believe? That America is a Christian nation (or perhaps a Judeo-Christian nation) and that anyone who won't acknowledge that and defer to the religious right's worldview is a bad American?

So of course evangelicals like Trump. My way or the highway -- it's a shared belief system.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

NO TRUE GUN OWNER: THE MYTH OF A BENIGN GUN CULTURE THAT HAS NO TIES TO KILLERS

At FoxNews.com, Frank Miniter has published an opinion piece titled "America Has Two Gun Cultures: Don't Blame Law-Abiding Gun Owners for Murders." He writes:
... the truth that is many in the media refuse to cover the truth about guns and the gun cultures in America. They don’t want to admit there are two wildly different gun cultures in our country. One is the freedom-loving, gun-rights culture that upholds the responsible use of guns for hunting, sport and self-defense. The other is the criminal culture that thrives in the places where government restricts gun rights.
This is "no true Scotsman" reasoning: Members of the gun culture are law-abiding; if a gun owner is found not to be law-abiding, and is in fact found to be a rage-disordered mass murderer, then the only possible conclusion is that he wasn't a true member of the gun culture.

But, of course, there isn't a separate mass-murderer gun culture. The typical mass murderer acquires his weapons from the same dealers who sell to law-abiding gun owners. Rules custom-tailored to suit the preferences of the "respectable" gun community -- sell unlimited numbers guns of virtually any kind to anyone of legal age who passes a background check, skip the background check at gun shows and online, saturate much of America with venues where guns can be purchased -- offer a remarkable level of convenience for non-criminal gun owners at the cost of making it ridiculously easy for those with violent intent to buy anything they want. It's like removing speed limit signs in a school zone because surely good, decent people will know better than to speed there, and then absolving yourself of responsibility when some people don't.

Here's an example of how the "good" gun culture creates loopholes violent people can exploit:
On Wednesday, during CNN's town hall with survivors of last week's mass shooting at a high school in South Florida, National Rifle Association representative Dana Loesch lamented the holes in the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, or NICS.

"This madman passed a background check. 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," Loesch said on stage. "It is not federal law for states to report convictions to the NICS system. It is not federally mandated. That's the big question, and I wish that this network had also covered this more."

In fact, it was the NRA that led the effort to block the federal mandate, by financing and arguing the US Supreme Court case that let states off the hook. The 1997 decision in Printz v. United States threw out part of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and made it optional for local courts, police departments and states to submit background information on residents.
It's clear that authorities failed to flag Nikolas Cruz as a person who needed extra scrutiny. But the "good" gun culture tells us that there's nothing odd or unusual about a person buying gun after gun in a short span of time. (Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock did the same thing.) The "good" gun culture says it's normal, if not admirable, to show off one's large arsenal online. The "good" gun culture says that guns are virtuous and therapeutic. ("American Sniper" Chris Kyle was killed by a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was believed likely to benefit from a few recreational hours at the gun range. The gun range is where he killed Kyle.)

What's more, the propaganda of the "good" gun culture inspires those who want to commit violent acts. The "good" gun culture says that societal wrongs can be righted with a gun. If you have a gun, this culture says, malefactors will get their just deserts. If you're a bullied kid or a resentful ex-husband, you've heard that rhetoric. You murder because you're looking for what you consider justice.

Sorry -- the good and bad gun cultures can't be separated. There's only one gun culture in America.

Friday, February 23, 2018

JOHN KASICH THINKS HE COULD BE THE 2020 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE. THAT WON'T HAPPEN.

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.
But:
... 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.

HEY KEVIN WILLIAMSON, WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF RIGHT-WING DISHONESTY...

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

WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE REAL VICTIMS?

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.

HOW TO IMPLY THAT MASS SHOOTINGS ARE FALSE FLAGS WITHOUT SAYING "CRISIS ACTOR" EVEN ONCE

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.

ON BACKGROUND CHECKS, THE NRA PRETENDS TO BE OUR FRIEND

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'M GUESSING THAT DANA LOESCH'S DEBATE PARTNER WON'T BE IN THE ROOM

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.

LIMBAUGH: THE DAMN WOMEN'S LIBBERS SHOT ALL THOSE KIDS IN FLORIDA

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.


HOW CAN THE GOP SURVIVE IF ITS OFFICIALS ARE HELD TO THESE IMPOSSIBLY HIGH STANDARDS?

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

MILO YIANNOPOULOS: I TOTALLY WON THE LAWSUIT I DROPPED

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 https://dangerousboutique.com/product-category/books/. 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?

YOU KNOW WHAT LOOKS ORGANIZED AND COORDINATED? THE RIGHT-WING SMEAR CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE PARKLAND KIDS.

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.