Saturday, March 31, 2018


Bret Stephens, victim of a fairly recent lynching in which he wasn't actually lynched, writes in defense of Kevin Williamson from his still-comfy perch at The New York Times:
Dear Kevin,

You had the right to remain silent. Now every word you’ve ever uttered, and every one you ever will, can and will be held against you.
Do you know when Williamson gave up his right to remain silent? When he starting publishing tendentious opinion pieces in an influential national journal of opinion as a full-time job. He gave up his right to remain silent by not being silent for a living. That was a long time ago.
I’m sorry to have to write you, for two reasons. Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you.
Yes, and I'm sure the people who've driven Kathy Griffin out of the entertainment business for an inappropriate Trump sight gag have watched hours and hours of her stand-up, including the many appearances she's done before U.S. servicemembers. Because we certainly required everyone who criticized her to have a deep familiarity with her oeuvre, didn't we?
... The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it. You believe “sex is a biological reality” and that gender should not be a choice. And you once boorishly described an African-American boy in East St. Louis, Ill., “raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.”

... I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet.
It was a series of tweets in which he was challenged and dug in his heels -- and after that, in response to a reporter from LifeSiteNews, he didn't back down.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews, the libertarian Williamson said, "I'm queasy about capital punishment in general, though I am not against it in all cases. And I do believe that abortion should be treated under the law like any other premeditated homicide."

"The question I was asked was, 'Do I really believe that abortion should be treated like murder.' The answer is, 'Yes.'"
And if it had been only the tweets, so what? This wasn't a "youthful indiscretion." Williamson was 42 years old and a veteran reporter and commentator. I'm sure there were those who called him a "public intellectual." Communicating is his job. Are we not entitled to judge a published writer on his published writing?

And now we come to this paragraph, in which Stephens negates his own argument:
... We also live in an age — another one — of excommunication. This is ugly because its spirit is illiberal, and odd, because its consequences are negligible. Should The Atlantic foolishly succumb to pressure to rescind your job offer, you’ll still be widely read, presumably at National Review. If you’re really the barbarian your critics claim, you’re already through the gates.
When did we not live in an age of excommunication? The first decade of this century, when the conservative grown-ups were in charge? I'm sure the Dixie Chicks, Phil Donahue, Dan Rather, and Eason Jordan would be surprised to hear that.

Beyond that, what Stephens seems to be saying is both Watch out, Kevin, you may be excommunicated and Even if you are fired by The Atlantic, your writing will always be welcome at National Review.

If that's the case, it means Williamson won't be excommunicated. Even if the howling liberal-fascist mob pressures The Atlantic to let him go, he'll still have a high-profile writing gig. Call that whatever you like, but it's not excommunication.

And, of course, it hasn't even happened. The Atlantic doesn't seem at all inclined to rethink its decision to hire Williamson -- just as The New York Times has never rethought its decision to hire Bret Stephens.

Come to think of it, the original "high-tech lynching" guy, Clarence Thomas, was never actually deprived of his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But to the right, it's mob rule even if the "mob" doesn't have any say over the rules.


Yastreblyansky has more.


Variety reports:
Laura Ingraham Says She’ll Take Planned Vacation Amidst Controversy

Laura Ingraham is taking avacation next week. Now the question is whether a controversy swirling around the host will go on hiatus as well.

The popular Fox News Channel host ... told viewers Friday night she would not appear on air next week as she took what she described as a pre-planned break around the Easter holiday with her children. Substitute hosts are expected to fill in for her on the program.
Ingraham, as I'm sure you know, took a cheap shot at Parkland gun control activist David Hogg and is now facing an advertiser boycott.

What's remarkable about this is that it's one of several times in the past year that Fox stars just so happened to have vacations planned when controversy hit.

May 26, 2017:
Sean Hannity is ... going away ... on a planned vacation....

... Hannity ... lost several advertisers this week after repeatedly pushing a baseless conspiracy [about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich] that was retracted Tuesday by his employer, Fox News Channel. Hannity took the second half of the week off, but before he did, he cautioned his Twitter followers not to worry:

April 11, 2017:
Bill O’Reilly ... told viewers during the last few minutes of his “O’Reilly Factor” broadcast on Tuesday night that he would take a few days off as part of a pre-planned vacation even as controversy swirled around him. He explained that he often takes vacation around the start of spring. “We all need R&R. Put it to good use,” he told viewers. He is expected to return to the air April 24.

“The arrangements, including airline and hotel reservations, for this vacation were made last October. The vacation involves a group of people, and the timing coincides with the period Mr. O’Reilly often takes off in and around his children’s spring break,” said Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for O’Reilly, in an emailed statement.
Oh, and there was this on April 27, 2017:
Jesse Watters, the Fox News host who took heat this week for making a joke about Ivanka Trump that was criticized as lewd, said on Wednesday that he would be taking a family vacation until Monday. The move came just three days after his show began airing in a new high-profile time slot.

Mr. Watters ... announced his upcoming absence near the end of Wednesday night’s edition of “The Five.” He will miss two days of the show’s first week in prime time....

A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the vacation had been planned before “The Five” moved to its new time slot....
Whoops! Sounds as if Jesse's vacation was just an excuse to get him off the air temporarily -- unlike the vacations of Hannity, O'Reilly, and Ingraham, which were absolutely pre-scheduled (even though O'Reilly went off the air for good shortly after his).

You see, Jesse, the real pros schedule their controversies so that they take place just before their 100% pre-planned holidays. You should learn from them.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Someone needs to explain to conservatives that Godwin's Law does not say it's mandatory to call your opponents Nazis in every political debate. That's what many on the right seem to believe, among them Cheryl Chumley of The Washington Times:
David Hogg would’ve made a good brownshirt

David Hogg, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high-schooler who seems to have set himself up as Laura Ingraham’s arch nemesis, has been making national television rounds of late, pretty much calling for adults to step aside and let the teenagers rule — because hey, who knows better how to run a country than a kid.

And now he’s demanding Ingraham of Fox News denounce her network — her employer — else he’ll keep up his call for advertisers to boycott.

Hogg would’ve made a pretty decent brownshirt back in the pre-World War II day. Those are the National Socialist party people who ran around Germany strong-arming and bullying and intimidating the general populace into accepting the goals of the Nazi organization.
So calling for a boycott means you're a brownshirt, Cheryl?

Well, here's something you wrote in May 2016:
Iowa pastor swears off NFL over Georgia religious liberty veto: 'Begun to throw away my NFL gear already'

Love this ... taking a stand on principle and for Jesus, regardless of how small to the human eye it might seem. No doubt, such goes over big in Heaven.

An Iowa pastor watching with alarm a governor's veto of a religious liberty bill in Georgia – a veto that came in part because of the NFL's thinly veiled threat to remove the state from its list of potentials to host an upcoming Super Bowl – has now fired back with a campaign of his own: He's sworn off one of his favorite fall-time past-times, watching football on television.

And he's hoping his NFL boycott carries weight with his congregation and beyond, and sparks others to do similarly.
And here you are again a couple of weeks earlier:
Franklin Graham on Target's Transgender Bathrooms: We're 'Sex God Created Us to Be – Male or Female'

A petition to boycott Target over its transgender bathroom policy has generated huge interest ...

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of the Christian international relief organization Samaritan's Purse, struck back hard on Facebook at Target over its recently implemented transgender policy, saying men who use women's bathrooms is a danger to the most vulnerable in society....

"Target is putting its shareholders – and its customers – at risk! Just since last Wednesday, [hundreds of thousands of] people have signed a pledge to boycott Target over its new bathroom policy that welcomes employees and guests to use the restrooms or fitting rooms that 'corresponds with their gender identity,'" he wrote. "Target certainly has the prerogative to make this decision, but it's proving to be bad for business. I'm glad people are standing up and letting them know this is wrong."

Sign up here ...
Here you are in 2014:
Conservatives launch boycott of Mozilla after gays press CEO to quit

Conservative activist Ben Shapiro is leading up an online charge of fellow political compadres to boycott the browser Firefox — an outraged response to the Mozilla chief’s departure from his CEO role due to gay rights’ protests.

Former CEO Brendan Eich ... announced this week he’s stepping down from the role over a flap generated by a $1,000 donation he made to a California campaign that sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state....

But now conservatives are striking back.

Mr. Shapiro has started a movement — complete with petition — to get as many Internet users as possible to “uninstall or cease using Mozilla,” he wrote on his website,, replacing his traditional news content with simply the call-to-arms, Raw Story reported.
In 2015, after a Subway worker cheered the deaths of two police officers on social media, Chumley reported on calls for a boycott of Subway and never described those calls as Nazi-like or fascistic, even though Subway had already fired the worker.

I've supported some boycotts over the years, but I know that if I back boycotts based on my own political beliefs, I can't categorically condemn the use of boycotts by people I don't like. Conservatives, I guess, don't care about consistency. Their boycotts are righteous. Ours are totalitarian.


UPDATE: I learn from the comments that the author says the piece is satire. If so, it's terrible satire -- it reads not as a commentary on bad journalism or upscale Clinton voters but as a genuinely godawful piece of reporting. Charlie Pierce thought it was real. Jamelle Bouie thought it was real. Philip Bump thought it was real. No reasonably intelligent adult ever thinks Gulliver's Travels is real. Unless the point is that we're the punch line, because we're gullible. Maybe I'm gullible, but Pierce, Bouie, and Bump aren't known for that. Maybe Wren just wrote a terrible satire.


Responding to criticisms that the mainstream press has dispatched far too many reporters to diners in rural America to take the pulse of Trump Country, Politico Magazine sent Adam Wren, an Indiana journalist, to do a mirror-image story about Clinton Country. I can tell you what's wrong with the story, or I can show you the illustration that accompanies it.

This is an accurate reflection of the story's bias. Everyone interviewed appears to be a current or retired white-collar worker or comparable professional. Only one is identified as non-white. The locations where they're interviewed check off every cliché of upscale whiteness. Remember, Hillary Clinton won 88% of the black vote and 65% of the Hispanic vote. She may not have won the white working class, but she beat Trump 53%-41% among voters making $50,000 a year or less.

These are the stops Wren makes along the way:
On a recent March morning, as a nor’easter walloped an idyllic Brooklyn street with snow, members of the Park Slope Food Coop ambled inside, shopping for bargains on broccolini and organic wheatgrass.

... SoulCycle ... in NoHo, the tony Manhattan neighborhood.

... Chelsea Market, an upscale, enclosed urban food court. Sort of like a food court you’d find at a mall in Indianapolis, except without Chick-fil-As or Wetzel’s Pretzels. In their places stood establishments such as Corkbuzz Wine Studio and The Green Table, which, according to its advertising, was “one of the city’s first farm-to-table restaurants.” It served “farmer’s market salads and daily soups, along with sustainably-raised fish, pasture-raised poultry and grass-fed beef.”

... a Rise and Resist NYC protest at Union Square Park in front of a Whole Foods.

... Bound for the din of D.C., a tribute headed for the gilded Capital, I planned to cafe-hop northwest up Connecticut Avenue, hoping to absorb the political sensibilities of the liberal intelligentsia in a town that voted 90 percent for Hillary.
Do I need to go on? Wren eventually travels "Past sylvan, townhouse-lined streets, over switchback roads near Rock Creek Park, where the driveways were filled by Audis and Teslas and Volvos and MINI Cooper Countrymans." I assume there aren't very many non-white Clinton voters with incomes under $50K here.

The interviewees include "a 45-year math educator and entrepreneur who described himself as 'upper middle class,'" "a real estate broker," "an editor at St. Martin’s Press, a book publisher headquartered in Manhattan’s Flatiron Building," "two men in their 30s who ... worked in education policy," "an energy consultant," and "a former hydrologist [and] his wife ... a retired attorney."

One interviewee -- the broker, whose name is Meghan Early -- tries to broaden Wren's horizons:
“First of all, I’m brown,” she said. Early said she knew Trump’s reputation from friends who worked on “The Apprentice.” “He’s horrible,” she told me.

Did she have empathy for Trump voters? Or was she angry at them? She wasn’t angry, she said, but “maybe they should come to Bed-Stuy and walk around the projects to see what my life was like.” I told her I was from Indiana, and had come here to do almost exactly that. She thanked me for listening. “I go off on tangents like this at parties. People are like, K, bye.” We said goodbye.
Wren, of course, didn't "come here to do almost exactly that." He doesn't do any reporting from Bed-Stuy. Early doesn't immediately offer to follow up with a tour -- but what's preventing Wren from hopping on the subway and seeing the neighborhood on his own?

The Trump Country stories Wren is imitating are invariably respectful toward the interviewees. Wren's story is different -- he has nothing but contempt for the people he meets.
... I ... found there was something more to the Trump hatred—a kind of closed-off complacency that also translated into how they treated me. The more I persisted, and closer I got to the beating heart of D.C., the more reluctant people were to talk to me on the record. The whole trip would leave a sour taste in my mouth over how difficult it is to perforate the Blue Bubble.
After a while, it becomes clear that he's primed to take offense. Wait for the payoff of this anecdote:
Hoisting one of the Impeach signs was 74-year-old Jackie Goldenburg, who lived on the Upper West Side. She asked me where I was from. “Indianapolis,” I told her.

“Do you like basketball?” she asked me.

“Basketball is fine,” I told her. The question—roughly the equivalent of asking a Texan how many heads of cattle he owns—reminded me of one of Clinton’s emails that the State Department released in October 2015, in response to FOIA request. “Are you still in basketball-crazed Indianoplace?” Clinton asked an aide, employing an intentionally derogatory spelling of the Hoosier city.

Perhaps sensing my amusement that she would assume I liked basketball—some East Coast liberal’s idea of how Hoosiers spend the entirety of their discretionary time—she told me something that surprised me. She, too, was from Indiana. She came here to New York City in the 1970s, from South Bend.
So he thought Goldenburg was asking him about basketball because she was an East Coast elitist who knew next to nothing about Indiana. In fact, she was from Indiana. His assumption was wrong -- but the contempt he'd felt for her geographic-bubble elitism, which existed only in his own mind, was too good not to include in the article.

Later, there's this:
One silver-haired man wearing a tweed blazer told me he’d prefer to enjoy his Friday evening rather than talk about Trump. Fair enough, but he was one of more than two dozen people who declined to talk with me for what seemed to me a pretty straightforward piece. In Trump Country, Trump voters’ disdain for reporters may be more choleric and louder, marked by raspberries blown at the press. But in Clinton Country, I found a quieter, more gentle disdain for journalists. They may not boo CNN at Trump rallies, but how dare you interrupt their Friday evening cocktail?
So not wanting to talk to a reporter over dinner or a drink is a special form of elitist rudeness? Really? I hang up on telemarketers -- does that mean I'm an upmarket enemy of the working class? And Wren admits that Trump voters have real contempt for the media. Yet he seems to assume that they all willingly cooperate when a reporter walks into one of their diners. Does it never occur to him that those reporters also get turn-downs -- maybe a lot of them -- and just don't think it's worth reporting?

This takes place at Comet Ping Pong, the pizzeria said to be the epicenter of the fictional Pizzagate child sex ring. Wren is offended when a waiter questions what he's doing:
While we talked, I noticed a shadow had fallen over part of the table. I became aware of a waiter standing, somewhat menacingly, behind the booth, his neck craned to hear our conversation.

“Do you know this guy?” He asked the table, glaring at me.

“No,” the three old friends said. I cringed.

“So you’re just interviewing them about Pizzagate?”

“Well, more so about how the president has done so far,” I said.

“And we’re quite willing to tell him about that,” Peggy told him.

“Just double-checking,” the waiter said, coldly.

“Am I posing a problem?” I asked the waiter.

“We’ve dealt with quite a lot of stuff about this,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “I feel bad about it.”

“It’s just a little alarming that you would come in here and talk about Pizzagate.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, sincerely, but reminded him that I was also a customer.

“I know that,” he said. “I would like you to stay a customer.”

He disappeared, and I continued to chat with my new friends.
Dude, people almost got killed over Pizzagate at Comet Ping Pong. Have some sympathy for waitstaff who are -- quite reasonably -- trying to prevent a mass shooting.

This is awful. The antidote to all those respectful Trump Country stories shouldn't be a contemptuous -- and demographically inaccurate -- Clinton Country story.


UPDATE: Yastreblyansky digs deeper.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly reports that a group of men accused of plotting to murder Somali refugees in Kansas are using the Fox News defense:
Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright are on trial in connection with their arrest in a FBI domestic terrorism sting just weeks before the 2016 election. Their defense attorneys, in turn, are putting the FBI on trial ― accusing the nation’s premier law enforcement agency of improperly targeting the three men due to their conservative ideology....

In opening arguments before a nearly all-white jury, defense attorneys argued that their clients were unfairly targeted by a biased FBI. Richard Federico, a federal public defender who previously represented Guantanamo detainees when he was a JAG Corps officer, skillfully weaved a narrative for jurors suggesting his client was a victim of a government conspiracy.

Federico said it was the FBI that plotted and conspired and targeted the defendants, hoping to make an example of them because of their political beliefs.

“Curtis Allen sits before you today because of what he thought, because of what he said, and because of who he associated with,” Federico said.

In a turn of phrase reminiscent of Trump, Federico said the defendants’ discussion of killing Muslim “cockroaches” amounted to “locker room talk.
The voir dire suggests that quite a few people in the jury pool respond to this argument:
One potential juror expressed concerns about honesty and corruption at the top levels of the FBI. Another in the jury pool had concerns about former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ― both Republicans ― and said he personally questioned the stability and integrity of the organization. A third person said he thinks many Americans are concerned about the decisions being made at the top of the FBI, and a fourth potential juror said he’d grown up wanting to be an FBI agent, but he now believes top bureau officials have engaged in wrongdoing. Yet another potential juror, a concealed carry supporter, said he held a negative view of the FBI due to recent events.
Reilly writes, "No prominent FBI detractors during jury selection made it into the final jury." But we don't whether any of the actual jurors share these beliefs but chose not to express them. If you wanted to be picked for this jury and you share these views, you'd probably keep quiet about them. Beyond that, I'm sure at least some of the jurors are conspiracy-curious, or at least suggestible. They may easily fall for this narrative.

There's nothing wrong with being skeptical about law enforcement when the skepticism is based on fact. I don't blame jurors who mistrust police testimony where there's a documented history of "testilying," or who doubt police narratives about violent confrontations when so many confrontations with the unarmed end in death.

But this FBI narrative is based on smoke and mirrors. It's as fabricated as Pizzagate or birtherism.

Reilly describes this as "a defense strategy that could’ve been culled directly from President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed," but it's more accurate to say that it could have been derived from the collected works of Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, and the rest of the gang at Fox. It's Fox that devotes hours a week to this fairy story.

So what generates boffo ratings for the billionaire Murdoch family just might free some terrorists someday -- maybe not in this case, but eventually, as more and more True Conservatives conclude that everyone in federal law enforcement is a "dirty cop," just the way the elitist Murdochs want them to.

When the social fabric in America frays beyond repair, the Murdochs won't suffer. They'll just tote up their profits and leave the rest of us to deal with the mess.


President Trump is traveling to Ohio today to talk about his dead-in-the-water infrastructure plan; after that he'll head to Florida. But for most of the past week he's been a recluse.
It’s quiet at the White House. Is it ... too quiet?

Trump-watching over the last few days, since about 1 p.m. on Friday, has been a strange experience. There are things happening, and even some big ones; the parade of occasional anonymously sourced West Wing stories continue. There are certain risks to writing this on a Wednesday afternoon, but this might be, as Josh Barro says, the first slow news week of the administration. Reporters, conditioned over the last year and change to a pace of news that rivals Mo Farah, are a little freaked out.
The news cycle has accelerated since that was published -- yesterday we learned about the firing of VA head David Shulkin and his replacement by the White House physician. But why the days-long lull?

Maybe this is the reason:
Hope Hicks plans to depart Washington by Good Friday, over a month after she resigned as the White House communications director on February 28.
Good Friday is tomorrow.

It's said that Hicks has been holding the place together:
Staffers are approaching the post-Hicks era with trepidation, unsure what to expect in what they describe as a lawless White House featuring a president who thrives on chaos and resents authority, process and order. Hicks even used her standing to shield others from the wrath of Mr. Trump's explosive outbursts, sources inside the White House say.

"She's the glue to the entire place," a White House source said. "She helps keep the White House from fracturing. I don't think people realize what's about to happen once she leaves."
But maybe it's more than that. Maybe Trump has just been in an emotional funk. Hicks seems to be one of the few people Trump actually likes.
“She’s the only person he trusts,” [a] source [said]. “He doesn’t trust any men and never has. He doesn’t like men, you see. He has no male friends. I was just with one of them the other day, someone who’s described as one of his closest friends, and he doesn’t know him very well. But a small number of women, including his longtime assistant back in New York, he really listens to them — especially if he’s not banging them. Because, like a lot of men but more so, Trump really does compartmentalize the sex and the emotional part.”
I don't want to ascribe too much human emotion to Trump, who's far too self-involved to feel emotions the way most people do. But it's possible that he feels ... something. I believe he's not sleeping with Hope Hicks. That's why I think he might have feelings toward her that approximate what normal humans experience as love or affection. (I don't think Trump has any feelings toward anyone he's ever slept with. That's why I don't think he's ever actually slept with Ivanka, even though he clearly wants to -- he likes her too much. He wouldn't like her if they'd had sex.)

Trump might just feel that he's being deprived of the pleasure of Hicks's company. That's selfish, but it may be the best he can do. Still, I wonder if what he's experiencing is the rough equivalent of what everyone else feels after a romantic breakup.

What do people do when they're having a bad breakup? They sit around for hours watching TV and eating junk food. But Trump already does that on a normal day. So if this is what's happening, it's probably hard for observers to tell.

Or maybe she was the only one who could persuade him to leave the Residence and start his workday (such as it is). If so, he might mope this way for as long as he's president, now that she's gone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


National Review's David French is leaping to the defense of The Atlantic, which has been widely criticized for hiring French's former colleague Kevin Williamson as a reporter and, presumably, troll. French writes:
Kevin was our much-beloved and much-respected “roving correspondent.” He’s supremely talented and undeniably provocative. He’s also incredibly prolific. He’s written millions of words, granted countless media interviews, and sent thousands of tweets (at least when he was still on Twitter). So of course he’s now subject to the unbelievably tedious “gotcha” exercise of angry progressives combing through that body of work, yanking the most irritating examples from the whole, and attempting to define Kevin entirely through a few paragraphs, a sentence here or there, or an ill-considered tweet or two.
The most famous of those "ill-considered tweets" was a series in which Williamson said that women who have abortions should be convicted of murder and executed by hanging. Williamson's defenders regularly dismiss this as a momentary lapse of reason by an otherwise thoughtful man who clicked the "Tweet" button too hastily in the heat of the moment. But as this story from the anti-abortion LifeSiteNews makes clear, after he'd had a chance to think about what he'd tweeted, Williamson affirmed that he wouldn't take it back:
Over the weekend, Williamson said on Twitter that "I have hanging more in mind" in response to a person who asked "have abortions get life without parole?"

When an abortion supporter Tweeted that "Williamson said that women who have abortions should be hanged," Williamson said "Yes, I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide."

... In a statement to LifeSiteNews, the libertarian Williamson said, "I'm queasy about capital punishment in general, though I am not against it in all cases. And I do believe that abortion should be treated under the law like any other premeditated homicide."

"The question I was asked was, 'Do I really believe that abortion should be treated like murder.' The answer is, 'Yes.'"
In defending Williamson, French resorts to whataboutism -- ineptly. He quotes a critical New Republic piece by Sarah Jones:
Williamson may be the perfect conservative columnist. His excesses are the excesses of a movement, and conservatives fawn over his attacks because they think he’s targeting the right people.
Oh yeah? says French. Well, what about ... what about ...

His whatabout example is The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates. Now remember, Williamson has said that all women who've had abortions deserve the death penalty. He's also (as Slate's Jordan Weissmann reminds us) "compared a black child to a 'primate' and a 'three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg' before likening his own trip through Illinois to Marlow’s journey up the Congo River in Heart of Darkness, all within the space of a single paragraph," in a story (not a tweetstorm) about East St. Louis, and he's also called trans actress Laverne Cox "not a woman, but an effigy of a woman,” and described Bernie Sanders as the leader of a "nationalist-socialist movement" (both of these, again, in stories, not tweets). These are attacks -- ad hominem/ad feminam attacks. They're slurs and slanders.

So what has Ta-Nehisi Coates written that's comparable? Let French explain:
This is what [Coates] said about the police and firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the desperate quest to save the men and women in the Twin Towers on September 11: “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.”

The first responders of 9/11. Not human.

And this is what he wrote in response to calls for nonviolence in the midst of the recent Baltimore riots:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
French really believes he's delivered the coup de grace. He addresses Sarah Jones:
I’d ask Ms. Jones — is it possible that progressives “fawn over his attacks” because “he’s targeting the right people”?
Here's the problem: Nothing French has quoted is an attack. In the first quoted passage, Coates describes his own feelings on 9/11 as a young man whose close friend Prince Jones had been killed by police while unarmed; he's saying that he feared -- not without reason -- that the police might someday attack him. (He went on to tell an interviewer, "That was a state of my raw emotion at that time. Later, I came to grips with the fact that each of the folks who died were individual humans with likes, dislikes, hates, loves, etc., and I was able to grieve for them.")

As for the passage about the Baltimore riots, it's not an attack either. It's an explanation of why a population subject to police violence is likely to react with civilian violence. Attack? No -- it's a diagnosis.

In French's view, Coates is black and angry, therefore he's on the attack. Williamson is white and angry, so his attacks get multiple mulligans. The equivalence is false. The whataboutism fails.


Roll Call reports:
The Virginia man who was arrested for threatening to kill Rep. Scott Taylor and two of his staffers is being held in custody during his court procedures because he is a danger to the community, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Wallace Godwin, 69, receives treatment for dementia and another degenerative brain disease diagnosed in June, his defense attorney said Tuesday, according to The Virginian-Pilot. He has declined treatment for mental health disorders.

Godwin has a concealed-carry permit in Virginia, according to court documents.

All weapons have been removed from his home, the defense insisted, but Magistrate Judge Robert Krask said the ease of obtaining another firearm and Godwin’s concealed-carry license made it likely he could get his hands on another weapon.

Krask ordered that Godwin remain in custody.
The threat wasn't subtle:
Godwin visited Taylor’s Virginia Beach office Thursday to discuss marijuana policy and after apparently becoming frustrated by the discussion with the congressman’s staff, according to the charging documents, said, “Scott is having an event this Saturday. I am going to get my shotgun and do something about this. I will just handle this myself.”

After making the threat against Taylor, the charging documents said Godwin pointed at two staffers in the room and said, “You two are next.”
Prior to that, there was this:
About a year before, Godwin found the congressman at his home, parked his vehicle so that it blocked Taylor’s vehicle and waited for Taylor to come outside....

According to prosecutors, Godwin also threatened to kill Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms one month before .
Under federal law, a person isn't allowed to possess a gun or ammunition if he or she has been judged to be a "mental defective" or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. But if you've checked into a mental health facility voluntarily, or been ordered to undergo outpatient treatment? That's state by state, as is losing the right to carry if you've made threats. In Virginia, threats won't automatically cost you the right to carry.

When I watched the CNN town hall on guns, I noticed that the NRA's Dana Loesch was trying very hard to convince us all that her organization is deeply upset whenever a person who's not mentally fit to own a gun has possession of one. Referring to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Loesch said:
The worst school shooting with -- with the murder in Virginia, this individual was court ordered to undergo mental health evaluations and he slipped through the cracks.

He would have never been able to purchase if this had been known. This is what I'm talking about, in terms of prevention and making sure that people who are dangerous should not have access to firearms without punishing law abiding Americans who want to be able to have that same right to defend themselves.
If the NRA really feels this way, then it should be clamoring for laws prohibiting individuals like Godwin from carrying guns. Funny, I see no evidence that the NRA wants Virginia laws tightened further.

Godwin shouldn't have a concealed carry permit. The Dana Loesch who pretended to be a decent, concerned citizen on CNN ought to be howling about the fact that he still has one. But that wasn't the real Loesch. She and her NRA colleagues don't care.


Many in the press are shocked:

Alex Jones and his conspiracy site InfoWars just can’t stop when it comes to David Hogg and other Parkland shooting survivors.

During his broadcast today, the far-right conspiracist ... played a short clip dubbing a Hitler speech over footage of Hogg at the March For Our Lives.

Yes, really.

That wasn’t the only Nazi comparison Jones made today. Earlier, Jones played a video depicting Parkland student Emma Gonzalez as a member of the Hitler Youth, complete with Nazi salutes, Hitler speaking and swastikas.

This isn’t the first time InfoWars has compared Parkland students to Nazis over their outspoken advocacy for gun control. A couple of days ago, the site claimed Hogg was channeling his “inner Hitler” during his March For Our Lives speech. (InfoWars and other fringe right-wing outlets pointed to Hogg holding his fist in the air as akin to a Nazi salute.)
Elsewhere, Mary Franson, a Republican state representative in Minnesota compared the Parkland kids to Hitler Youth.

Are you shocked? You shouldn't be. The false belief that gun control efforts in America mimic Nazi policy is so well established on the right that it has its own Wikipedia entry ("Nazi gun control argument"):
The Nazi gun control argument is counterfactual history argument claiming that gun regulations in the Third Reich rendered victims of the Holocaust weaker to such an extent that they could have more effectively resisted oppression if they had been armed or better armed....

This argument is prevalent and primarily used within U.S. gun politics. Questions about its validity, and about the motives behind its inception, have been raised by scholars....

According to gun rights activist Neal Knox, the Nazi gun control theory was first suggested by Jay Simkin and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) founder Aaron S. Zelman in a book they published in 1992. In it, they compared the German gun laws of 1928 and 1938, and the U.S. Congressional hearings for what became the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Wayne LaPierre and others at the NRA have been making the gun control/Hitler argument for years, as Bernard Harcourt noted in a 2004 Fordham Law Review article:

In a 2015 book, then-presidential candidate Ben Carson wrote:
German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler's regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior.

Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.
He made the same point on a couple of other occasions during the campaign. In response, Alan Steinweis, a professor of history and Holocaustr studies and the author of Kristallnacht 1938 (Harvard University Press, 2009), wrote:
Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933, but it was only in March 1938 that the Third Reich promulgated its Waffengesetz, or weapons law, which required police permission for ownership of a handgun. Other firearms were left unregulated. If, as Mr. Carson maintains, the Nazi regime made it a priority to disarm the German population, then why did it wait more than five years to issue such a law, and why did it limit licensure to handguns? Mr. Carson also fails to mention that the democratic Weimar Republic, which had preceded the Nazi regime, had passed its own gun law, which in some respects had been more restrictive than the later Nazi version....

The Jews of Germany constituted less than 1 percent of the country's population. It is preposterous to argue that the possession of firearms would have enabled them to mount resistance against a systematic program of persecution implemented by a modern bureaucracy, enforced by a well-armed police state, and either supported or tolerated by the majority of the German population. Mr. Carson’s suggestion that ordinary Germans, had they had guns, would have risked their lives in armed resistance against the regime simply does not comport with the regrettable historical reality of a regime that was quite popular at home. Inside Germany, only the army possessed the physical force necessary for defying or overthrowing the Nazis, but the generals had thrown in their lot with Hitler early on.
This and other attacks on the Parkland activists are surprising people who should know better. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan summarizes the response of right-thinking people in a piece titled "The Sliming of Parkland Students Shows the Spreading Stain of Media Polarization." But the "spread" of "polarization" (which, to her credit, Sullivan sees as worse on the right) started years ago. Don't we remember the attacks on Graeme Frost's family in 2007 after the 12-year-old publicly endorsed the S-CHIP children's health program? Have we forgotten Ann Coulter's words about activist 9/11 widows a year earlier?
Coulter writes in a new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," that a group of New Jersey widows whose husbands perished in the World Trade Center act "as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them."

She also wrote, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

... Her criticism was aimed at four New Jersey women whom she dubbed "The Witches of East Brunswick," after the town where two of them live.

They have spent the years since the 2001 terror attacks supporting an independent commission to examine government failures before the attack....
There's nothing new here. If you think it's new, you haven't been paying attention.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


For decades, gun absolutists have been telling us that even the most modest, incremental gun control laws mustn't be passed because passing them would the first step onto a "slippery slope" that would soon lead to nationwide confiscation of all privately owned guns and a ban on individual gun ownership. That's ridiculous, but most of the time the scaremongering works.

Oddly, the same people who have succeeded in blocking nearly every gun control baby step in recent years are now howling about a New York Times op-ed by retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens titled "Repeal the Second Amendment," which proposes something they can prevent without breaking a sweat:
For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation....

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

... Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.

That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform.
It's not going to happen, as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake explains:
Constitutional amendments require two-thirds of the House and Senate to be proposed, and three-fourths of states (38 of 50) to be ratified. In other words, Republicans who wouldn't even vote for a limited bipartisan background checks bill after Newtown would have to vote for this (provided Democrats don't suddenly gain historic majorities in Congress), and Republican-dominated states like Indiana, Missouri and/or Nebraska would likely have to ratify it.
Stevens, who twice calls this a "simple" solution, doesn't address the political difficulty of implementing it. That was addressed, however, by Bret Stephens in an October Times op-ed also titled "Repeal the Second Amendment." (Yes, it's odd that the best-known proponents of this idea are a former Supreme Court justice appointed by a Republican president and a right-wing op-ed columnist, whose surnames are homonyms.) In that op-ed, Bret Stephens wrote:
Repealing the Amendment may seem like political Mission Impossible today, but in the era of same-sex marriage it’s worth recalling that most great causes begin as improbable ones.
But same-sex marriage proponents changed a lot of hearts and minds in the years before Obergefell. By contrast, America hasn't begun to discuss Second Amendment repeal in any serious way. There are high levels of support for universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and other gun control proposals, but it doesn't that most Americans are willing to go this far.

More important, the small number of one-issue voters who won't tolerate even incremental steps in this direction will intimidate any Republican member of Congress or state legislator who considers this, as well as a significant percentage of the Democrats.

Why do we have these discussions? Why do we believe in "magic bullet" solutions to our problems? This reminds me of the call for the removal of President Trump under the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Many people like this idea because Trump could be removed from office by a simple majority vote of the Cabinet, which would declare him unfit for office ... except that Trump's own Cabinet is never going to vote to remove him, and even if it does, Trump can insist that he's fit and it will take a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to overrule him. (Impeachment in the House requires only a simple majority, although conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote.)

We want these things to be easy. They're not. If we want change, we need to do hard, tedious work, be patient, and expect setbacks. We need to pick away at current laws, and win a lot of tough elections.

Matt Yglesias makes a good point:

We could have been on our way to a Supreme Court that might issue a ruling like that, but then there was that 2016 election.... Oh well -- maybe in half a century.


I guess this report from Maggie Haberman shouldn't be surprising:
President Trump has stayed in touch with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who stepped down after allegations that he had abused his two former wives came to light, according to three people familiar with the conversations, and has told some advisers he hopes Mr. Porter returns to work in the West Wing.

The president’s calls with Mr. Porter have increased in the last few weeks....

The president has told the advisers he has talked with that he knows he probably cannot bring Mr. Porter back. But he has made clear that he misses the staff structure that Mr. Porter had helped build and implement, a White House official said, speaking on background because advisers were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly....

It was not immediately clear how many conversations Mr. Porter has had with the president since leaving, but one person familiar with the discussions said they have talked about trade and how to navigate granting exemptions to the tariffs Mr. Trump announced last week.
Is Trump sympathetic to a man who's credibly accused of spousal abuse because he's an abuser himself? I don't think it's exactly that. Trump clearly doesn't care about Porter's ex-wives -- but he has talked as if he cares about the reported suffering of women who've accused Bill Clinton of abuse. I don't think he cares about any of those women either -- but on the other hand, I don't think he cares one way or another about Bill Clinton. For Trump, everything comes down to one question: What's in it for me?

Haberman writes:
[Trump] often sees aides who are subject to public criticism as extensions of himself, coming under fire because critics want to attack him, and he has described the Porter situation in those terms to some people, those briefed on the discussions said.
Trump clearly lacks empathy for Porter's ex-wives -- but I'm not sure it's accurate to say that he has an unhealthy empathy for Porter. It would be easy to say that Trump can relate to a fellow abuser, and that he agrees with Porter that women sometimes have abuse coming to them. I think it's Trump simply wanting what he wants when he wants it. He liked working with Porter. Porter has been taken away from him. That's what matters. When Trump, at the time of Porter's dismissal, complained that Porter had been denied "due process," I think what he meant is that he, Trump, had been denied due process. It's all about him.

I suspect that Trump's expressions of sympathy for Porter are almost as fake as his expressions of sympathy for Clinton's alleged victims. With women, Trump is a pig, but I'm not sure he genuinely relates to piggishness in other men. That's because he doesn't really think about other men. All he thinks about is himself.

Monday, March 26, 2018


President Trump's approval rating still trails his disapproval rating by double digits, according to CNN, but that approval rating is inching up:
President Donald Trump's approval rating has rebounded to its highest level since the 100-day mark of his presidency, according to a new CNN poll....

Overall, 42% approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 54% disapprove. Approval is up 7 points overall since February, including 6-point increases among Republicans (from 80% to 86% now) and independents (from 35% to 41% now). Trump's approval rating remains below that of all of his modern-era predecessors at this stage in their first term after being elected....
This isn't the only sign that Trump is becoming slightly more popular. For much of last year, there was at least a 20-point gap between Trump's approval and disapproval ratings, according to Gallup's daily poll; this year, Gallup switched to a weekly poll, and the gap has narrowed to 16 or 17 points for the past five weeks. Also, there's been a slight but noticeable narrowing in the Real Clear Politics, Pollster, and FiveThirtyEight polling averages.

Why the improvement, however insignificant? It's clearly not because the public is in sync with Trump on the issues, according to CNN:
The President's strongest approval ratings on the issues come on the economy, the only issue tested where his reviews tilt more positive than negative: 48% approve and 45% disapprove. That isn't the case on foreign trade, however.... On trade generally, 38% approve of the President's work while 50% disapprove.

Trump's handling of foreign affairs merits 39% approval, with 53% saying they disapprove. The poll also found that 47% believe the President has been too easy on Russia so far, while 41% feel his handling of Russia has been about right....

A majority (54%) disapprove of the way the president has handled gun policy, while 36% approve....
So why the uptick, especially when it's clear that Trump is running a White House in chaos?

I think it's precisely because Trump is running a White House in chaos. Remember when he was elected and pundits explained that his voters might not like everything about him, but they liked the notion that he was going to go to Washington and start "shaking things up," "breaking some crockery"and "rattling people's cages"? I think that's what 40% of the country thinks he's doing now. He's under siege (from Robert Mueller, from Stormy Daniels, from news outlets that reproduce juicy stories his staffers relentlessly leak) and he can't control policy in his own administration (because he doesn't know what he stands for and doesn't understand any issue in depth), but his flailing as he tries to cope with all this is horrifying the media -- and the media recoiling in horror makes right-leaning voters think he must be doing the right thing. If non-Fox pundits are horrified, they assume, it can't be because Trump's White House is a runaway train with no brakes -- it must be because he's disturbing the status quo. That has to be good, right?

Trump is still disliked by a majority of the public. Strong disapproval of him (46% in this poll) is much greater than strong approval (28% in this poll). But if he wants to turn undecideds into supporters, it apparently makes sense for him to do as much crazy stuff as possible.


I don't think James Poniewozik's New York Times piece about Stormy Daniels gets everything right, but Poniewozik is on to something:
None of Mr. Trump’s many media antagonists have taken him on in quite this way, on his own terms, using some of the same tactics he did as a celebrity, candidate and president.

Others have come at Mr. Trump with indignation, righteousness and appeals to decency. Ms. [Daniels] swatted Mr. Trump with a rolled-up network newsmagazine.

Speaking to Anderson Cooper, Ms. Daniels was direct and conversational. She had playful one-liners. (“You didn’t even buy me breakfast,” she told Mr. Cooper.) She told a story. (Describing how she said Mr. Trump awaited her on the edge of a hotel bed — “perched” — she mimed his sitting position and bearing.)

But most important — most, dare I say it, Trumpian — she was unapologetic....

Ms. [Daniels] owned her story and her life. Yes, she’s stripped and had sex on camera for a living, a “legitimate — and legal, I’d like to point out — career.” Yes, she’s gotten job offers from her publicity: “Tell me one person who would turn down a job offer making more than they’ve been making.”

... [She] has used unshamability and quick-draw ripostes as a force field. When a critic on Twitter told her that “dumb whores go to hell,” she shot back, “Glad I’m a smart one.”
I don't think Daniels is particularly Trumpian. Trump tries to impress people with his brazenness, and wants us all to acknowledge that he's a genius. Daniels seems to want us to find her likable and decent, no matter what we think of her career.

What she seems to have in common with Trump is self-confidence. However, hers isn't grandiose -- she knows she's sharp-witted, but she isn't showoffy about it. (In a way, it's simplistic to say that Trump is self-confident -- he has delusions of grandeur and he's the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect, but he also has an addict's need for validation by others.)

The point is that she's self-confident enough not to be rattled by Trump -- by his goons, maybe, but not by Trump himself. She doesn't "come at Mr. Trump with indignation, righteousness and appeals to decency" in part because the last two would be inappropriate from an adult entertainer, but also because her primary reaction to him isn't rage or disgust. She's not intimidated. When she thinks about him, she keeps her wits about her. She's calm and collected.

If her response to Trump reminds me of anyone else's response, it's Barack Obama's. Trump might have rattled Obama, but Obama never showed that he was rattled. His deadpan delivery of those White House Correspondents' Dinner jokes was pure cool.

What makes this possible is charisma, or at least stage presence. Daniels has presence (and I'm not talking about her breasts). She commands the stage even modestly dressed and just talking. She has something and she knows it. So does Obama.

As I've said before, I disagree with that recent Philippe Reines op-ed in The Washington Post -- I don't think being like Trump is the way to beat Trump in 2020. An opponent who hopes to beat Trump will need stage presence, because a candidate who has presence will have a chance of being read as capable and powerful. The candidate should stay cool and be subtly witty, not boorishly Trumpesque. The point is to make Trump try to rattle you and fail. That makes him look desperate -- which is what didn't happen in the 2016 campaign.

Some of that was because the media was awestruck by him. Next to him, everyone else seemed diminished, from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton.

If you want to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, have presence, like yourself (not in a grandiose way, but in a calmly self-confident way), and never show that you're fazed by Trump -- in other words, be like Obama, and like Stormy Daniels.


In response to the Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes, Matt Yglesias writes:
Stormy Daniels’ 60 Minutes interview ... ultimately failed to shed light on the two most interesting questions posed by this entire imbroglio, presumably because Daniels herself doesn’t know the answer.

1. How many other sexual partners has Trump paid hush money to?

2. How many foreign intelligences services know about one or more of those women?

... for one reason or another Trump is clearly quite committed to trying to prevent his former partners from discussing their dalliances in public. He and his associates are willing to put cash on the line for this, threaten massive legal consequences, and perhaps even engage in acts of physical intimidation.

... precisely because a lot of people would be interested in embarrassing material about the president’s sex life — and because Trump, a very image conscious person, could be very worried about that interest — the existence of embarrassing secrets could well be a national security crisis for the country.
Would revelations about Trump's sex life be a national security crisis? Is that what Trump is worried about?

I'm not persuaded that a man who once said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes is necessarily worried about sexual kompromat, either foreign or domestic. That statement suggests that Trump has really thought about the nature of his appeal and the loyalty of his supporters, and knows that they'll cut him a lot of slack. I've said in the past that Trump's base would shrug off any detailed sexual revelation that didn't involve men or children. Some of you have responded that if he likes sexual submission, that's something he wouldn't want revealed. Maybe. In any case, if only certain deeds would shame him, it doesn't seem as if Stormy Daniels has any undisclosed revelations that will cause him problems -- she's said in the past that their sex was "textbook generic."

Here's an alternate theory: Trump will go to extraordinary lengths to conceal evidence of his sexual encounters because he's Donald Trump, goddammit, and he's not going to cede control of his image to a woman who's not his daughter or a trusted aide. I think it's possible that he insists on retaining power over this information as an assertion of his own dominance, not because he's afraid to be shamed. Over the years he's required many people in his orbit to sign non-disclosure agreements, including both of his ex-wives. It's what he does. In the sexual realm, he certainly hasn't seemed to worry in the past about being seen as a horndog or an unfaithful husband. He clearly never believed in the past that his non-consensual groping and voyeurism were things he had to conceal -- remember, he didn't just confess to being a groper on the Access Hollywood tape, he told Howard Stern on live radio that he peeked in beauty pageant dressing rooms. On these subjects, he literally had no shame.

So why the cover-up? If I'm right, it's because Trump believs it's fine for the public to hear about his sex life from him -- he's in control. But no one else has the right. Control is something he will not give up.

It's true that he was sufficiently concerned about the women who accused him of sex crimes during the 2016 to threaten lawsuits. But before he ran for president, maybe he just wanted control because he's a male billionaire and control is one of the privileges of his exalted station in life. And now that he's won the election, he may also not care about the risk of exposure -- he might still just want to maintain control, because how dare a lesser human being (not rich, female) try to wrest that from him.

So maybe he's not be afraid of exposure -- he's just asserting a privilege. Or if he is afraid, it might be fear of losing privilege, which would be a sign of weakness.


With Russia, I think different rules apply. There are business entanglements. I'm not sure Trump fears kompromat so much as he fears financial ruin. He fears men he knows have financial power over him. There may be sex involved, but it's possible that it's just money.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


The NRA isn't even pretending to feel the pain of school shooting survivors anymore:
... Colion Noir, a host on NRATV ... took to the airwaves on the eve of the Parkland teens-led March on Washington, telling them: “No one would know your names” if a student gunman hadn’t stormed into their school and killed three staff members and 14 students.

“To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like Blaine Gaskill had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names, because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story, the way they ignored his,” Noir said.

... The man he references, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy Blaine Gaskill, is the 34-year-old SWAT-trained officer who engaged a teenager who shot his ex-girlfriend at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland....

“They’re running Season 5 of their gun-control reality show, featuring the freshest cast of characters yet in their modern march on Washington — except this time for less freedom,” he said. “These kids ought to be marching against their own hypocritical belief structure.”

James Joyner of Outside the Beltway writes:
... attacking the teenagers themselves? That’s simply tacky—and a strategy sure to backfire on the NRA and its supporters.
Amanda Marcotte tweets:

Joyner and Marcotte are missing the point.

Lashing out at these kids wasn't a poorly thought-out blunder. Chest-thumping obnoxiousness is precisely what the right-wing base wants from the NRA (and the GOP). It's the reason Donald Trump beat seventeen other Republican candidates, and a major contributing factor to his general election turnout in 2016. It's what some right-wing pundits are honest enough to admit is the appeal of many of the things Republican politicians do.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne LaPierre delivered a defiant, inflammatory speech in which he denounced the media, videogame developers, and "monsters" running amok in our streets -- but his words about the victims and their families, however perfunctory, at least feigned sympathy:
The National Rifle Association -- 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters -- join the nation in horror, outrage, grief, and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.
That's not the NRA's style anymore. The organization's core audience (which is also the GOP's core audience) wants aggression, hostility, and contempt. It wants these things as ends in themselves -- sure, they're seen as a means of getting what the base wants, but they're also satisfying on their own. This hostility, whether from Steve King or Colion Noir, Donald Trump or Dana Loesch, is a major reason that male identification with the Republican Party has been rising in recent years, according to Pew. We know the NRA is selling apocalyptic fear these days -- but it's also selling "fuck you, leftists" as an antidote to that fear -- and as the rhetorical equivalent of blowing the crap out of some targets with an AR-15 at the gun range.

The Colion Noir video (and his other recent rants against the Parkland kids) may seem obnoxious to us, but that's okay with the NRA -- to the intended audience, obnoxiousness is the point.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


The New York Times reports:
President Trump decamped to his oceanfront estate here on Friday after a head-spinning series of presidential decisions on national security, trade and the budget that left the capital reeling and his advisers nervous about what comes next.

The decisions attested to a president riled up by cable news and unbound.... He seemed determined to set the agenda himself....

Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.

Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.
I'll repeat what I've said in the past: Trump doesn't believe he needs well-developed policy positions on anything because Trump thinks Trump is a genius -- and Trump's notion of intellectual brilliance has nothing to do with careful and thorough absorption of information. A genius is just a person with a high IQ (Trump thinks his is extremely high), and high IQ comes from good genes (Trump thinks his genes are excellent). I'm convinced that Trump thinks he's smarter than people who read and think and arrive at well-developed positions on issues as a result of their study -- if they're so smart, why aren't they rich? Trump doesn't need to do all that because he's smarter than the people who do all that.

The Times report reminds us that Trump is driven by a few pre-existing beliefs. We're worried that the staff is losing all ability to steer him away from trouble, but it can still be done, if barely:
The president, furious over the failure of Congress to pay for his wall on the southern border with Mexico, began Friday by threatening in a Twitter post shortly before 9 a.m. to veto a $1.3 trillion spending bill passed hours earlier by Congress. That raised the specter of another government shutdown at midnight, this one precipitated entirely by Mr. Trump.
We can assume that this panic was set off by Trump's top outside advisers:

By 1:30 p.m., Mr. Trump had begrudgingly signed the bill....

In the frantic hours before the signing, two senior officials said they were uncertain whether the president would veto the measure....

John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, in the meantime swung into action to pull the president back from the brink of a veto. Mr. Kelly summoned Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to the White House, aides said, to make the case for the military funding included in the bill.

In the Oval Office, Mr. Mattis; the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen; and Vice President Mike Pence ... told Mr. Trump that the military spending level in the bill was historic and urged him to sign. Mr. Trump finally agreed.
Military! Military good! More money for military! This is a simple, primitive notion in Trump's head. His aides reminded him of this simple notion and he was able to let go, at least temporarily, of all the other simple, primitive notions planted there at the crack of dawn by Doocy et al. Crisis averted.

It's the "reacting to the reaction" part of Trump's method that will save us, if anything does. Trump seeks out the opinions of the people around him (he thinks that's brilliance, but it's really a lazy man's substitute for reading), and it's still possible to talk him out of at least some of his most dangerous impulses, if you tell him that the safer course is even more Trumpian.

With John Bolton in the administration, we probably are on the brink of World War III, but I hold out a slim hope that Bolton's bellicosity will someday be in conflict with Trump's belief that he's a genius negotiator who can talk rather than bomb his way to glorious victory for America. Trump as a negotiator scares me almost as much as Trump with his finger on the nuclear button, but humiliation in negotiations with Kim Jong Un would still be preferable to mass death in a nuclear war. Let's hope the staff still has the skill to manipulate Trump in the direction of the somewhat less awful choices.

Friday, March 23, 2018


I hope fans of President Trump are disillusioned by what they're hearing about his sex life -- but they're unlikely to be upset with Trump if they believe Rush Limbaugh's version of events.

Here's what Limbaugh said on the radio yesterday:
... I’m gonna do this in what I think is the voice of your average Trump voter, okay? .... “Okay. So Trump had affairs with really beautiful women. Right? And maybe they were porn stars and Playboy models. So what!

“Good for him! Trump was a playboy himself. Everybody knows that, and what’s wrong with liking really incredibly good-looking, exotic women? Where’s the crime in that? Hell, Trump’s married three of them. What in the world is wrong with this? So what?” Is what I think the average Trump voter will say....

But let me tell you how this differs totally from Bill Clinton — and it matters. All of this sex, all these affairs with Trump and Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, whoever they are? All consensual, right? Yes, it was. It was all consensual. None of them are alleging any abuse. They’re mad they signed the NDA, but they’re complaining that they were mistreated, are they? Nope! You can’t say that about Clinton. Clinton’s sex was, in a lot of these women’s cases, unwanted.

And I gotta be very careful here, folks, but in the voice, again, of your average Trump voter, these women with whom Clinton was involved were, shall we say — you wouldn’t call ’em exotic....

Nobody knew who they were beforehand. They were not women putting it all out there. They weren’t in porn movies. They weren’t posing for Playboy. I think some of them tried in the Clinton aftermath, but they were not that beforehand. They were middle income working women that Bill Clinton attacked, in some cases stalked, harassed.

... Trump does not do this! Trump does not harass, he does not stalk, he does not abuse or any of that, like Clinton did. And it’s a big difference! Okay, so your average Trump voter, “Okay, so he paid them to be quiet. I can understand that. That’s just the price that Trump is willing to pay and that they were willing to accept to do the deal. So what? It was a transaction.”

That’s what I think the average Trump voter’s reaction to this is and is gonna be.
Is this what Trump supporters believe -- that every extramarital Clinton encounter was abuse or harassment, and none of Trump's encounters were? It's certainly what Limbaugh wants his audience to believe. This ignores Summer Zervos, the former Apprentice contestant who's suing Trump for defamation after he said that harassment and assault allegations against him, including her claim that he forcibly kissed and groped her, were a "hoax." It ignores eighteen other women who've accused Trump of sexual misconduct, including assaults and unexpected appearances in beauty pageant dressing rooms.

Many of Trump's accusers aren't "exotic" -- a word that's doing a lot of work in Limbaugh's monologue. On the one hand, Limbaugh seems to be using it as a code word for "slut." On the other hand, he seems to be suggesting that Trump was a glamorous high-end player and the women he's been with are the kinds of women who inevitably hook up with glamorous high-end players, whereas Bill Clinton sullied virtuous women just like you or your daughters.

This monologue suggests two reasons why right-wingers don't care about the Trump sex scandals. First, they're enjoying them vicariously -- they'd shag porn stars and Playboy models if they were rich. Second, as long as they think everything was voluntary, it's no concern of theirs, because nobody got hurt, right? (The names Melania and Barron never appear in Limbaugh's monologue.)

I'm happy that these stories finally broke. I'm pleased to see that they're making Trump nervous. But I'm sorry that we're hearing more about Stormy Daniels and than we are about Summer Zervos, and all the other women he pawed and peeped at without their consent.


President Trump just canned H.R. McMaster and asked John Bolton to be his national security adviser. Admirers and critics agree: If you're hiring Bolton, you're increasing the chances that the U.S. will get into a war. But one person actually believes that it's possible for Bolton not to be bellicose, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports:

Really? A Bolton who won't start wars? Isn't that like a male Trump who won't cheat on his wife?

But Trump really imagines that it's possible. And I think I understand -- Trump believes in governing strategies that are no more than catchphrases, and I'm sure the one he has in mind right now is "peace through strength."

That's what he thinks Bolton stands for -- and what he thinks he stands for, too.

It's the same simpleminded reasoning we hear when Trump talks about drug abuse: He says of drug dealers, "Toughness is the thing that they most fear." Just get tough and you solve all problems -- toughness always reduces threats.

Some people commenting on this appointment are suggesting that it reflects "foreign policy confusion." Doesn't Trump want to avoid international entanglements? Doesn't he want to negotiate with Kim Jong Un?

But Trump thinks "toughness" will prevent entanglements -- if we're "tough" enough, everyone will just be afraid of us and leave us alone and never do anything that upsets us. And as for negotiations, Trump thinks they're supposed to be handled through brute force and intimidation, the way (at least in his own mind) he's conducted all his business dealings, with the result that everything he's done has been a success and no one has ever had him at a disadvantage (except, um, all those banks he's owed money to for the past thirty years after all his bankruptcies).

So, yes, Trump wants peace. And yes, Trump hired John Bolton. To him that's perfectly rational.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


We've all heard that President Trump doesn't drink alcohol or do drugs. His pharmaceutical of choice, apparently, is chaos -- or at least what you and I would consider chaos. To him, it's a highly stimulating permanent war for his affections. Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman reports:
[Trump's] standoff with his chief of staff, John Kelly, appears to be resolved for the time being, with Trump having decided to return to the seat-of-the-pants decision-making that he believes won him the presidency. That doesn’t mean he has fully given up the idea of firing Kelly, though. One outside adviser to the White House said Trump has recently mulled the concept of creating a new West Wing structure without a chief of staff, one that would instead have four co-equal principals reporting directly to him.
Now, it's possible that this is just a lot of bunk from Sherman's unnamed outside adviser, whom we can now identify as Steve Bannon. We know this because Bannon was talking up the same idea today at the Financial Times Future of News conference.

But it's plausible that Trump would want a presidency in which there's no notion whatsoever of acting on behalf of the American people. It's easy to imagine that daily life in the Trump White House will eventually consist of nothing but a 24/7 contest to determine who strokes Trump's ego most effectively.

I guess that would essentially be the office-politics version of that Trump weekend in Tahoe:
In a ... report for The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow details an alleged affair Donald Trump had with former Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal, saying, among other things, that McDougal and the future president had sex during a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

This would be would be the same Lake Tahoe weekend that, according to other reports, Trump also allegedly began his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, is said to have tried to entice adult-film star Alana Evans into a threesome and allegedly tried to force his attentions on a third porn star, Jessica Drake.
Who loves me most?

In one terrible moment, King Lear demanded that his daughters compete for his affections. Trump, if Sherman and Bannon are correct, wants to do that with his staff on an ongoing basis for the next three -- or, God help us, seven -- years.