Thursday, May 31, 2018


Here's a quote from Jonathan Swan's latest Axios piece, which tells us that President Trump repeatedly pressured Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal in the Russia investigation, and also pressed him to investigate Hillary Clinton:
“It’s not just payback; it’s punishment. It’s never enough to win. There’s never too much blood. There’s never too many guts on the floor. That’s his mentality. If you give him a paper cut he'll never forget that paper cut.”

— Source who talks frequently to Trump
Swan also writes:
Much of [Trump's] desire for investigating Clinton and Barack Obama comes from a desire for retribution, sources who have discussed the matter with Trump told me.
It's not just Trump -- the entire conservative movement feels exactly the same way. That's why Trump is the most beloved figure on the right since Reagan -- because he wants to cause liberals intense pain, just like conservative voters (and their heroes in the media).

Which brings me to Samantha Bee. If you didn't watch the sketch from last night's show in which she attacked the administration's immigration policies, it's a shame -- it was a solid, smart piece of work. And then we came to the end:
“Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we’ve seen this week,” Bee said. “You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c*nt!”

“He listens to you,” she added. “Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to fucking stop it. Tell him it was an Obama thing and see how it goes, okay?”
You're all going to slam me for saying this, but Jeet Heer has a point:
Samantha Bee picked the worst moment to insult Ivanka Trump....

Bee’s comments would be provocative at the best of times, but were especially incendiary given that actress Roseanne Barr recently lost her sitcom after sending out a racist tweet....

By insulting Ivanka Trump at a moment when the political right was looking for tit-for-tat retaliation, regardless of whether the joke would have been productive or appropriate under any circumstances, Bee made the wrong joke at the wrong time.
What Barr tweeted was incontrovertibly racist, and it was appropriate that she was fired. By contrast, "cunt" in the context of Bee's monologue was just a vulgarism, from one woman to another. It's a vulgarism that appears on numerous Trump-related items. It's a word Trump White House guest Ted Nugent used years ago in reference to Hillary Clinton. It's a word that, in acronym form, was the name of an anti-Clinton organization formed by Trump pal Roger Stone during the 2008 campaign. It's a word Trump himself used in reference to former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, according to Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury.

And yet it was clear that this was coming, because within hours of the cancellation of Roseanne Barr's show, the right was looking for a non-conservative scalp. Attention was first focused on Bill Maher, who once joked that Trump seemed to have descended from an orangutan. The attack on Maher didn't work -- comparing white people to non-human primates is clearly not historically linked to bigotry. But it was obvious that the right wanted blood, and would use all of its narrative-shaping resources to demonize the first left-leaning comic who walked into the ambush.

I'm not saying that progressive comics should curb their anger. I'm saying that this was a strong, intelligent seven-minute piece that nevertheless would have given the right no opening -- but then it wrapped up with the word "cunt" (and a joke about Trump's sexual interest in his daughter, which for some reason right-wingers aren't attacking -- perhaps because they know it's on point?).

It was predictable that Bee would be the target if she used this word in this way at this time, and it might have made sense fore her to weigh the value of keeping her show on the air for the foreseeable future against the possibility -- no, the likelihood -- that this one naughty-word joke could sink her entire career. Was that one joke worth the risk? And wasn't the risk foreseeable?

I'm not saying, "Liberals, censor yourselves." I'm saying, "Liberals, don't give the bastards an opening."


The obvious point to be made about President Trump's promise to pardon Dinesh D'Souza is that he's telling those involved in the Russia investigation that they'll be in line for pardons, too, if they remain loyal to him. The obvious point to be made about Trump's suggestion that he might pardon Martha Stewart and commute the sentence of Rod Blagojevich is...

Vengeance is also involved:

But in addition, all this is narcissistic. To make another obvious point, here's Trump with a presidential power that's supposed to be all about generosity and charity, and he uses it almost exclusively on his own behalf. In the cases of D'Souza, Joe Arpaio, and Scooter Libby, he used it to try to satisfy his unslakable thirst for praise from his base. He pardoned Jack Johnson after his nemesis, Barack Obama, chose not to, and did so presumably to win the praise of a celebrity advocate for Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, and possibly in the hope of winning more black votes for the GOP in 2018 (and himself in 2020). Also, Johnson was wrongly convicted of a sex crime, and Trump probably believes he's being wrongly accused of sexual offenses as well. Stewart and Blagojevich, of course, were Celebrity Apprentice guest stars. So it's all about Trump.

You may be familiar with the story of Matthew Charles. He was convicted of selling crack cocaine to an informant in the 1990s and sentenced to 35 years in prison; he was released from prison in 2016 when sentencing guidelines for crack and cocaine were changed by the Obama administration, but he's subsequently been ordered back to prison to finish his sentence because he's classified as a "career offender" as a result of a prior stint in a state prison. By all accounts, he's turned his life around -- he has a steady job and relationship, and he does regular volunteer work at a food pantry.

Among those asking Trump for clemency in Charles's case are quite a few conservatives -- Tomi Lahren, Candace Owens, Ben Domenech, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and others. The Federalist wants Charles to be set free. So does the president's new pal Kim Kardashian.

But not a word about Charles from Trump. Pardoning Charles doesn't induce liberal tears the way helping out Arpaio, Libby, and D'Souza does. It doesn't get back at his enemies. It's not a slap in the face for Obama. It would just be an act of compassion. Hey, why bother with that?


We just learned that the hurricane death toll in Puerto Rico last year was massive, and the press assumes we don't care:
On Tuesday, Harvard researchers published a study estimating that approximately 5,000 deaths can be linked to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The same day, ABC canceled Roseanne Barr’s eponymous show Roseanne after Barr sent a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama. Cable news covered Barr’s tweet and her show’s cancellation 16 times as much as the deaths of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

... The May 29 broadcasts of MSNBC combined with the network's flagship morning show the next day spent 21 minutes discussing the findings. CNN followed with just under 10 minutes of coverage, and Fox covered the report for just 48 seconds.

By contrast, cable news spent over 8 and a half hours discussing a tweet from Barr describing Jarrett, a Black woman, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes and the subsequent cancellation of her show.

It's easy to say that the press's indifference to the plight of Puerto Rico is because Puerto Rico is Hispanic. But if we're comparing disasters, Katrina's most visible victims were black, yet the coverage was extensive. And in the Roseanne Barr story, there's a black target and a white villain.

(On the other hand, New Orleans was a cherished playground for comfortable white Americans, although not the parts of New Orleans that took the greatest hit from Katrina. Puerto Rico is a much less beloved tourist spot.)

The coverage of Katrina was anomalous. In retrospect, it resembles the coverage of Vietnam and Watergate -- in all three cases, the media seemed to be discovering the government's capacity for misconduct as if for the first time. And in all three cases, comparable subsequent events weren't covered with the same sense of outrage -- the Iraq War wasn't really covered as a debacle until long after it clearly was one, and Iran-contra was covered as if it couldn't possibly be as bad as it sounded.

Katrina happened at a moment when there began to be widespread acknowledgments of George W. Bush's failings -- after the failed attempt to privatize Social Security, after the unpopular intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, and after two and a half years of failure in Iraq. By contrast, much of America already thinks Donald Trump's presidency is a horrorshow (and the rest of America thinks Trump can do no wrong). When Trump malignantly neglected Puerto Rico, there was no "America lost its innocence" moment. (See also Vietnam and Watergate.)

And note that Trump has diverted attention away from Puerto Rico simply by not bringing it up. He feuded with the mayor of San Juan briefly, but since his visit to the island on October 3, 2017, he's barely mentioned it. He's tweeted about Puerto Rico only once since the visit, and that was the following day.

Like many other terrible things the Trump administration has done -- on immigration, deregulation, court-packing -- the betrayal of Puerto Rico happened in the shadows.

That's no excuse for inadequate coverge, of course -- the news media should have pursued the story anyway. But the media pays more attention to effective manipulators of the news cycle. Trump is one. Roseanne Barr is another. So of course she got more coverage.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Ben Shapiro is really pushing this idea hard today:

Shapiro has positioned himself as a right-wing #NeverTrumper, so we're expected to believe that what he means by this is "You say that conservatives are horrible, ignorant extremists and conservatives will rally around a horrible, ignorant extremist." But -- at the risk of repeating what I've said before here -- why isn't this true of Democrats?

Here's what your side says about us every day.


So where's our Trump? Why haven't we dumped all the left-centrists and conciliators and reachers-across-the-aisle and begun rallying around a candidate who says all Republicans are subhuman, addle-pated, criminal-minded scum?

We've had people in our party who were somewhat Trumpish -- Alan Grayson, Cynthia McKinney -- but they've been pushed to the margins (although Grayson keeps trying to make his way back to the mainstream). Hell, we could have embraced Roseanne Barr herself back when she positioned herself as a lefty.

But we didn't. We take a lot of abuse from the right. Somehow, we manage not to rush into the arms of conspiracy-minded demagogic bigots.


The New York Times reports, unsurprisingly, that in March of last year President Trump urged Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal in the Russia investigation. Buried in the middle of the Times story is a detail that piqued the interest of Lawrence O'Donnell and John Heilemann on O'Donnell's show last night:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: John Heilemann, we've noticed that Jeff Sessions has real friends among Republicans in the Senate. They certainly behaved that way during his confirmation. They got him through the challenges to his confirmation testimony, which some people thought included perjury. And here's another piece of the New York Times reporting tonight, which I think contains a new fact that maybe we believed but did not quite yet know. It said, "Mr. Trump complains to friends about how much he would like to get rid of Mr. Sessions but has demurred under pressure from Senate Republicans who have indicated they would not confirm a new attorney general." Now, John, I have not heard any Senate Republicans say that out loud publicly, but apparently they have said that to the president, they wouldn't confirm a new one.

JOHN HEILEMANN: Lawrence, I gotta say, sometimes you and I are in sync, because when I read this story, it was one of the things that jumped out at me. I thought, "That's a separate news story."

O'DONNELL: Yeah, it is.

HEILEMANN: That's a front-page story in The New York Times: Senate Republicans tell Trump if he gets rid of Sessions that they won't be able to confirm anybody else. Again, all of us have assumed that something like this was going on, but it's not been reported this way. And, you know, Jeff Sessions has a lot of Republican friends, and, weirdly, because of the stance he's taken, and because of the way he's upheld the institutional integrity of the Justice Department on this issue, he's got a lot of friends in the Democratic Party right now, too. Trump realizes there's almost no one in the Senate who would vote for anyone else, and so Jeff Sessions's job -- as much as Trump obviously hates him, and obviously wants to get rid of him, has announced it to the world -- Jeff Sessions may be the safest man in Washington, D.C., right now.

Do you believe this? According to the story, Republicans in the Senate "have indicated" that a Sessions replacement can't get confirmed -- but does that mean it's true? Is John Heilemann right to say that "there's almost no one in the Senate who would vote for anyone else"?

I know that senators are loyal to Senate colleagues and ex-colleagues. I know that there's pent-up resentment of Trump among Republicans. And I realize that if Sessions were to be fired now, it would hard to confirm a replacement -- in less fraught circumstances, it's difficult to get a major appointee confirmed this close to an election.

But I don't believe that Republicans would rebel. They don't want Trump firing Sessions because they want to avoid a constitutional crisis -- but if it were a fait accompli, would they dare to alienate their own voter base by defying Trump? In what other high-profile situation have they done that? Even if a few of them intended to take a stand, Trump would tweet and Fox hosts would fulminate, and resisters in the Senate would become sworn enemies of MAGA Nation.

And even if a few Republicans were willing to take the heat, it's possible that a handful of Democrats would make confirmation a real possibility. Imagine if Trump had fired Sessions in January of this year. Would Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly have voted no on a replacement? They all voted to confirm Gina Haspel as head of the CIA, as did three other Democrats. Why wouldn't they be gettable again?

I'm glad the president believes he could never get a replacement for Sessions confirmed. But that doesn't mean it's true.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


As of 10:00 tonight, there seems to be a systemwide Disqus problem, so commenting is down. I hope it'll be restored soon.

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY MORNING: Comments are working now.


The firing of Roseanne Barr appears to be one of the rare moments when even the conservative press acknowledges obvious racism. When was the last time this happened? The Dylann Roof massacre?

On Fox, the hosts of The Five were critical of Barr:
The hosts of Fox News’ The Five opened with a segment blasting Roseanne Barr for the racist tweet that got her show cancelled.

Jesse Watters said, “What a dumb thing to think and then to say on Twitter.”

Dana Perino noted how through her Twitter account, Barr screwed over all the people who worked on her show. Greg Gutfeld noted that Twitter “can ruin a career faster than a string of felonies” these days....

... as far as Watters is concerned, “I just don’t see her ever coming back to something like this.”
Another Fox host was also critical:
On "Outnumbered Overtime," Fox News contributor Jessica Tarlov said Barr's tweet was an example of "blatant racism."

"Roseanne Barr is a racist," Tarlov stated, pointing out that Barr has had a history of making anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter.

She noted that before the cancellation announcement, comedian and "Roseanne" consulting producer Wanda Sykes said she was leaving the show over Barr's racist remark.

"That's the importance of people standing up and saying, 'I will not participate in something that espouses those values and those views,'" Tarlov said.
And even Tomi Lahren won't defend Barr:

It's not just Fox personalities. Breitbart's John Nolte thinks the cancellation was justified:
Comparing a black person to an ape, as sitcom superstar Roseanne Barr did to former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett on Tuesday, is a blatantly racist act and one that justified ABC’s decision to fire her and cancel her hit TV show Tuesday afternoon....

Barr was not being crude or anti-PC or edgy. Barr wasn’t poking the “snowflakes” or pushing the boundaries of free speech. She publicly attacked a black woman with a racist slur.

Therefore, the rage and hurt over this is not manufactured because what Barr did was both outrageous and hurtful....
But these audiences for these commentators are not with the program. Here are some of Nolte's commenters:
Saying "all black people look like apes" is racist. Saying someone you don't like who you think has course features an ape is not racist. For all you know, she would have called a white person the same thing. The political correctness Nazis won't quit.


Valerie Jarrett is most assuredly a criminal, one of the top crime lords of the Obama syndicate. Valerie Jarrett should be in prison along with that purple-lipped, Muslim-loving, sexually-perverted freak Obama. When Obama puts on that dress and pretends to be "Michelle," he looks like Chewbacca stuffed into a sundress. Roseanne, we love you. You have a right to free speech just as much as those nasty liberals. You will be picked up by a better network and agent!!


But she definitely has simian features. I just saw a clip of her on TV. So is the whole Planet of the Apes series of movies racist from the leftist and black viewpoint?
And here are some of Tomi Lahren's commenters:

And in response to Jessica Tarlov of Fox:
The totalitarians think they're having their day. Jessica Tarlov, the Juan Williams of "Outnumbered" has no idea what racism is. Valerie Jarrett is bad news all the way around - She is MusBro connected, dual Iran/US citizenship and vindictive as hell towafrd anyone who disagrees with her Sorosian world view.


People on the Left woyld say the same about Fox & Friends....
I'm pleasantly surprised that Fox and Breitbart have conceded Barr's racism, but their audiences don't. The right-wing media will need to drop this story altogether or start making it a story about liberal evil soon.


Wow, that was fast:
ABC canceled its hit sitcom "Roseanne" on Tuesday after the show's biggest star, Roseanne Barr, went on a racist Twitter rant....

In one of the tweets, she wrote, "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj."

Barr was responding to a comment about Valerie Jarrett, a top former aide to President Obama.
Nobody could have foreseen this!

Between the initial tweet and the cancellation, many people joked that Barr would now be considered not so much a bigot as a brave intellectual heretic.

I think even James Bennet's New York Times op-ed page and Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic were too bien-pensant to defend Barr on this (or on her "Chelsea Soros Clinton" tweet). But now I expect the conversation to switch to "left-wing censorship" -- even though calls for the show's cancellation didn't just come from the left.

I don't know who would want to advertise on Barr's show now. It's understandable that ABC would want to be rid of the show. But this business decision will be blamed on free-speech-hating progressives:

The blaming could conceivably be limited to the right, but I assume it's going to be taken up by centrists who should know better, and by conservatives writing for non-conservative editors who should also know better. Roseanne Barr wrote an awful thing, something she's done frequently in the past with no consequence. But it's all going to be our fault.


I'm grateful to Julie Davis and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times for telling their readers that President Trump's "spygate" talk is irresponsible conspiratorialism:
As a candidate, Donald J. Trump claimed that the United States government had known in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks. He hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice who died in his sleep two years ago, had been murdered. And for years, Mr. Trump pushed the notion that President Barack Obama had been born in Kenya rather than Honolulu, making him ineligible for the presidency.

None of that was true.

Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win — a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.

Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.
But why is it believed? Davis and Haberman quote Erick Erickson:
Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative website RedState, who once described Mr. Trump as a “walking, talking National Enquirer,” said the president’s invented stories also speak to the public’s desire to have an easy explanation for events it cannot control.

“A lot of people really want to believe a conspiracy because it’s a lot easier to think a malevolent force is in charge than that our government is run by idiots,” Mr. Erickson said in an interview.
But "our government is run by idiots" is also "an easy explanation." It's the easiest explanation for everything that's wrong with America, or for everything conservatives don't like, and it easily elides into "our government is run by malign forces that want to do harm to everything I love."

The most important preacher on this subject was Ronald Reagan. He used to compare government to a baby with a perpetually full diaper:
“I’ve never seen a temporary tax. Government is like a baby—it’s got an alimentary canal at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”
He liked to say that "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." And in his first inaugural address, he spoke about the nation's economic woes and said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Ever since, his fans have trimmed off the first four words of that sentence. To them, it's an absolute truth: government is not the solution to any of our problems; government is the problem.

Government is the innocent baby that can't help itself. Government is the well-intentioned helper that's just going to screw everything up. Therefore, government is always the problem.

But Reagan was in government. Didn't that make him the problem? Nope. Republicans have gotten around that notion by suggesting that they're not really part of the government -- they're a rebel force fighting the real party of government, the Democrats. More recently, some Republicans have argued that other Republicans are part of the evil government party -- the others are RINOs or, more recently, swamp creatures -- while their accusers are genuine anti-government forces (who happen to work for the government too, but never mind).

It's a baby step from "government is always the problem" to "government is full of evil people conspiring to thwart the will of Real Americans." Erickson is wrong, but he pointed us in the right direction.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Axios reports on some frank talk by our corporate overlords about how screwed the rest of us are:
... executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further.

... This was rare, candid and bracing talk from executives atop corporate America, made at a conference Thursday at the Dallas Fed. The message is that Americans should stop waiting for across-the-board pay hikes coinciding with higher corporate profit; to cash in, workers will need to shift to higher-skilled jobs that command more income.

Troy Taylor, CEO of the Coke franchise for Florida, said he is currently adding employees with the idea of later reducing the staff over time "as we invest in automation." ...

The moderator asked the panel whether there would be broad-based wage gains again. "It's just not going to happen," Taylor said. The gains would go mostly to technically-skilled employees, he said. As for a general raise? "Absolutely not in my business," he said.

John Stephens, chief financial officer at AT&T, said 20% of the company's employees are call-center workers. He said he doesn't need that many. In addition, he added, "I don't need that many guys to install coaxial cables."
So much for Paul Ryan's claim that, as a result of "corporate tax reform" in the 2017 tax bill, "on average, American families will see a wage increase of at least $4,000 annually" -- although...

This comes as The New York Times reports on the massive wage gaps between CEOs and their average workers:
A Walmart employee earning the company’s median salary of $19,177 would have to work for more than a thousand years to earn the $22.2 million that Doug McMillon, the company’s chief executive, was awarded in 2017.

At Live Nation Entertainment, the concert and ticketing company, an employee earning the median pay of $24,406 would need to work for 2,893 years to earn the $70.6 million that its chief executive, Michael Rapino, made last year.

And at Time Warner, where the median compensation is a relatively handsome $75,217, an employee earning that much would still need to work for 651 years to earn the $49 million that Jeffrey Bewkes, the chief executive, earned in just 12 months....

“It’s grotesque how unequal this has become,” said Louis Hyman, a business historian at Cornell University. “For C.E.O.s, it’s like they are winning the lottery year after year. For a lot of Americans, they don’t have any savings. When they lose their job, they lose everything.”
In many cases, the gap is effectively worse, because companies outsource their labor to countries where the pay is low and the workers aren't actually employees, so they don't show up on payrolls.

I suppose the CEO-worker gaps will narrow when the replacement of lower-wage workers with robots really kicks into high gear -- mid-level employees may keep their jobs while other workers lose theirs, so the pay gap will narrow. (But unemployment will skyrocket.)

As this goes on, some commentators blame the surviving white-collar workers, as is done in a recent Atlantic cover story titled "The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy." Sorry -- I blame the rich. Upper-middle-class people may have a disproportionate share of what's left after the really rich take what they want, but the upper middle class doesn't shape the economy. The superrich shape it. They're the ones who lobby for the laws and policies that decide how the world works.

I hope politics can mitigate this, but I fear it may be too late for a political solution -- the rich have too much money and too much power, and democracy is unresponsive to the rest of us. The non-rich are urged to fight among ourselves -- white vs. non-white, native-born vs. immigrant, union vs. non-union, Fox viewer vs. "cultural elitist" -- when we should recognize a common enemy and act accordingly. At this point I can't see a significant reordering of the way things are without violent social unrest, and I see no sign that that will happen anytime soon. For now, massive inequality is here to stay.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


This is from a New York Times story about the president's war on law enforcement:
Sam Nunberg, a former campaign adviser, said the president should not fire [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein or Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, because “they’re perfect foils.” They and James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by Mr. Trump last year, have become symbols of the “deep state” that Mr. Trump says he is fighting.

“They have given us every single talking point that we have needed,” Mr. Nunberg said. “All I need to do is quote them. Their mind-set is they know better. It’s this gilded Washington, ‘we know best and you’re just not smart enough to understand.’ ”
I've been thinking that Trump won't fire Mueller (or Sessions or Rosenstein) until after Election Day because he believes congressional Republicans will react badly (even though they won't) or because he thinks doing so would rally the Democratic base, and thus might help elect a Democratic majority in the House and possibly the Senate. But you'd think that might not be enough to restrain Trump, given his impulse control problems and constant need for immediate gratification.

Here, however, Nunberg offers something that, to Trump, would be a positive reason to show restraint: the notion that Trump benefits from the presence of Mueller, Sessions, and Rosenstein. I can easily imagine Trump accepting this argument. In his Fox-bubble world, I'm sure it seems that everyone hates those guys.

If Republicans hold Congress, all these guys will be gone within a week -- reason enough to fight hard for a Democratic takeover of at least the House. But in the meantime, Trump may believe he's helping himself by keeping Mueller, Sessions, and Rosenstein around. He may not be completely crazy -- relentless attacks on the process have improved his favorable ratings. Let's hope his decision to use them all as Twitter foils means that Mueller has plenty of time to unearth the truth.


CNN reported yesterday on Elizabeth Warren's efforts to "defang" the "Pocahontas" slur:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has quietly waged a months-long, behind-the-scenes effort to put "Pocahontas" in the past.

President Donald Trump has used the slur since the 2016 presidential campaign to skewer her claims -- passed down through family stories, Warren says -- of Cherokee and Delaware ancestry.

Warren delivered her most forceful rebuttal yet during a speech at the National Congress of American Indians in February. The speech opened a new chapter of Warren leaning into her heritage -- a move that could help her defuse a political landmine ahead of a potential 2020 presidential run by building goodwill with Native American leaders who could validate her claims and vouch for her advocacy on issues important to their communities....

Since March, Warren has met 16 times with Native American groups and tribal leaders, at times bringing up the issue in those meetings. Warren also attended Cherokee Day in Washington and toured Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.

Warren has also signed onto 13 bills directly affecting Native American tribes in the last year and in April introduced a bill that would provide $800 million annually to tribal governments as part of a 10-year, $100-billion package to fight the opioid epidemic.
Why does Warren think this will solve the problem? The right-wingers who mock her by calling her Pocahontas don't do it because they care about Native Americans, any more than the right-wingers who mocked Rachel Dolezal for being a white woman who claimed to be black did so because they cared about black people. (Yeah, we all mocked Dolezal, but I'm focusing on conservatives now.) Right-wingers believe that Warren knowingly lied about her heritage and gained employment advantages as a result. (If you want to sift through the evidence, The Washington Post has a good explainer.) To the right, this is everything wrong with liberals: We hate white people even if (or especially if) we're white, and we think non-whiteness is so awesome we created a system that discriminates against white people -- a system Dolezal and Warren took advantage of. Really, that's what the right believes -- and not just the right, but some people who aren't so far to the right.

The CNN story tells us that Warren has dealt with a related digital problem:
Warren's digital team solved a problem that had lingered since at least June of 2016: The anonymous owner of the website had, since Trump began using the nickname, redirected visitors to Warren's campaign homepage.

In the weeks following her speech at the National Congress of American Indians, Warren's camp began to automatically send all traffic that came from to a new landing page. It features a video of her February speech and urges the anonymous owner of to "point their website to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center instead." The website goes on to detail the captivity and sexual violence the young Native American woman known for her association with the Jamestown colonial settlement faced.
If you go to now, you land here, and can read this:
The story of the real Pocahontas is quite different from the myth that has been twisted by powerful people over the generations. When Pocahontas met John Smith, he was almost 30 years old – and she was about 10 years old. Whatever happened between them, it was no love story.

In her teens, Pocahontas was abducted, imprisoned, and held captive. Oral history of the Mattaponi tribe indicates that she was ripped away from her first husband and raped in captivity. When she later married John Rolfe, he paraded her around London to entertain the British and prop up financial investments in the Virginia Company. She was about 21 years old when she died, an ocean apart from her people.

Even today, violence continues to devastate Native communities. More than half of today’s Native women have experienced sexual violence.
I think Warren imagines that if she's attacked as Pocahontas by a political opponent -- maybe this year by independent Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, who was born in India and calls her a "fake Indian" in campaign advertising, and eventually by Donald Trump -- she'll turn the attack around by saying something along these lines.

I hope it works. I suspect it will work in Massachusetts, where there's a highly educated electorate, and where Warren seems likely to be easily reelected this year. But will it seem like a schoolmarmy lecture to some voters in two years? That seems to be the subtext of a lot of the contempt for female Democrats we've seen recently, even among self-styled liberals (and certainly among men in the mainstream media) -- that they're humorless and bossy. The resentment is clearly gendered -- in a recent poll, Warren's favorable/unfavorable rating among Massachusetts women was 61%/28%, while among men it was 44%/46%.

Sponsoring pro-Native legislation and educating us about Pocahontas and Native women's problems might appeal to some voters, but I suspect that Warren can't really put this behind without ascertaining whether her ancestry claims are true. I think a lot of voters would understand if her family stories turned out to be incorrect -- many white (and black) Americans believe they have Native blood, some of them erroneously.

If you're thinking that this might not come up as an issue in a presidential race, or might matter only to voters who'd never vote Democratic anyway, I'll remind you of how Swiftboating helped derail John Kerry's campaign, and how Al Gore's campaign was also partly derailed by trivial issues of supposed dishonesty -- did he really say he invented the Internet? did he say he was responsible for cleaning up Love Canal?

If Warren were a Republican and she won her party's presidential nomination, conservative media would rally to her defense. But the "liberal media" won't rally to Warren's. She has to deal with this herself, and she'll need to do more than she's doing now.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


The election was a year and a half ago, but Gateway Pundit is still obsessed with Hillary Clinton's health.
Hillary Clinton Dons Heavy Coat and Scarf in Sweltering 90° Boston Heat

What is Hillary Clinton hiding?

On Friday, Hillary Clinton stepped out into the sweltering Boston, MA heat in a heavy coat and scarf.

According to various weather reports, it reached nearly 90 degrees in Boston on Friday.

Hillary Clinton received the Radcliffe Award at Harvard on Friday.
It was a few degrees below 90 in Boston and Cambridge and the humidity was low. In New York City, which is warmer than Boston as a rule, it was quite warm yesterday, but not even close to midsummer stickiness.

Now, I wouldn't have worn that much clothing even in weather like that. But Clinton may have her reasons. We know she's taking the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin), which many people say makes them feel cold. Also, she was at Harvard for an indoor event. It surely wasn't 90 degrees in the building. Maybe she gets cold in air conditioning.

But no -- there must be a more sinister explanation.
Now that we are heading into the summer months, it is obvious Hillary is hiding something with her bulky clothing.

Hillary Clinton has been spotted many times recently wearing a heavy coat and scarf strategically placed to hide what appears to be a back brace.

I have no idea what that is. It could have been Photoshopped by a Hillary-hater, like those photos that allegedly show Michelle Obama with a penis.

And if she's wearing a back brace, so freaking what? In 2016 they told us she was at imminent risk of death, or suffering from dementia. Now what? Blood thinner chills? Loss of bone density? That's a scandal?

She's not the president. She holds no public office. She's never going to run for anything again. Will these people ever let it go?


I see a lot of progressives online howling with rage about this segment from Chris Hayes's show about the systematic separation of asylum-seekers and their children by U.S. immigration agents. The anger is justified, but if you expect that a broad cross-section of America will share that anger, I'm afraid you're giving Americans too much credit.

At Crooks & Liars, Red Painter writes:
Chris Hayes had an extensive segment on his show on Friday discussing the "despicable" ICE policy of tearing children away from asylum-seeking parents as they enter the United States. He starts by highlighting that these are not immigrants crossing the border illegally - these are people who follow normal channels to seek asylum.

Kids as young as 18 months are being taken from their parents and handed over to - who knows? ...

And why? To punish the asylum-seekers. Plain and simple.

... ICE recently admitted that it lost almost 1500 kids!!! LOST. Cannot find them. Have no idea where they went....

Of course it's America. Republican voters are a minority of Americans, but they control all levels of government except in a few liberal enclaves, and they believe in an ethnically homogeneous country (never mind the fact that many of the ethnic groups in this supposed monoculture were once hated ethnic minorities).

Also, conservatives don't feel compassion unless they can imagine themselves, or people like themselves, suffering the way the people they've been asked to care about are suffering. They reject same-sex marriage until they learn they have gay children. They're indifferent to police brutality directed at black people because they're white and the police are always nice to them. They'd never go to another country and seek asylum, so why should they feel sorry for anyone who's in that situation? Surely it can't be that bad in their home countries, right?

And at least the beginning of the conservative ascendancy in the Nixon era, the myth of America has been that we were a generous, welcoming country, but, as a result, everyone on the planet tried to take advantage of our generosity, so it's a luxury we can no longer afford. This is a paradox of conservatism: Right-wingers believe that this is the greatest country in the world, and yet they accept without question the notion that we mustn't overtax our scarce resources by providing health care to every American, or by doing an adequate job of building and maintaining our infrastructure, or by extending a helping hand to foreigners who are suffering. These are typical nationalist ideas, but in America they're not in any way mitigated by the national myth of our unsurpassed greatness and power.

Don't say, "This isn't who we are." It is who we are.

Friday, May 25, 2018


The Washington Post reports on the level of discourse in the White House on the subject of immigration:
The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with senior adviser Jared Kushner and [Stephen] Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration....

Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he were at a rally, he then read aloud a few made-up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, such as rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later.
This is precisely how immigration has been discussed for years in the wingnuttosphere, even before Trump -- as a series of anecdotes carefully curated to make undocumented immigrants seem unspeakably evil. In this White House discussion, Trump made up the names and the crimes, but I'm sure his aides fed him real news reports for his campaign rallies. That's how right-wing websites and TV and broadcasts discuss immigration: Look, here's an illegal who committed a crime! Here's another one! And another one!

It doesn't matter to right-wingers that the data doesn't match the perception created by the anecdotes. To them, the rate of crime by the undocumented must be tremendously high -- otherwise, why would there be so many anecdotes?

I think you could pick any group of Americans -- left-handers, people born in Indiana -- and if you made it your life's work to compile and publicize every story about crimes by members of that group, you could persuade credulous people that the group was excessively criminal-minded. My legal first name is Stephen. What would it look like if someone decided to draw attention to every crime committed by people named Stephen, in order to demonstrate that people named Stephen need to be banished from this country? Let's Google it and see what we come up with.

L.A. Times, May 3, 2018:
A sex offender who led police on a wild pursuit from Los Angeles to Kern County in a motor home with his two children was arrested Thursday, authorities said.

Stephen Houk was detained in Barstow around 4:30 p.m., more than 100 miles from where police last saw him, according to Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department....

Houk was wanted on suspicion of evading, child abduction, child endangerment and weapons violations after he allegedly pointed a revolver at his wife during a dispute Tuesday morning in Santa Clarita, authorities said.
CBS News, May 17, 2018:
A man described as an estranged ex-boyfriend and former business associate of the woman killed in a Southern California office building explosion has been arrested on suspicion of possessing an unregistered destructive device, the FBI said Thursday. The arrest of Stephen Beal, 59, followed a search of his Long Beach residence by authorities, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a statement., April 12, 2018:
A convict who escaped from an Oklahoma prison in 1981 was arrested Thursday in Houston.

Stephen Michael Paris was taken into custody by U.S. marshals Thursday morning at his workplace.

"Mr. Paris has been an escape convict for the past 36 years," said Richard Hunter, chief deputy, United States Marshal for the Southern district of Texas., April 22, 2018:
... Kauai local surfer and fisherman Stephen Koehne [was] arrested for extortion, robbery and terroristic threatening....

According to police, Koehne was arrested after he and several others posed as rescuers for people trapped by the flooding on Kauai. “The boat operators would pull up on the shore and invite people onto the boat, with the idea they would carry them over to by where the St. Regis Hotel is, to get them to a place of safety,” said Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar. Then, when they were about 200 yards offshore, the would-be rescuers demanded money before going any farther.
WIS TV, May 4, 2018:
A murder suspect wanted out of Sumter County and arrested by Richland County is believed to be connected to the body found in Lake Marion that has been ruled a homicide.

Stephen Wayne Stinnette, considered "extremely dangerous" was seen in the Two Notch Road-Parklane Road area initially before being reportedly taken into custody.
KABC, April 17, 2018:
Authorities arrested a homeless man in San Bernardino County who is suspected of causing the 2013 Silver Fire, which burned more than 20,000 acres and destroyed about 60 structures.

Stephen Patrick Medlock, 53, was arrested on March 8 after authorities received a warrant by Cal Fire investigators looking into the Silver Fire.
This is just a collection of random crime stories, except that all of the suspects are named Stephen. It doesn't tell us anything about the character of other people named Stephen, and it doesn't prove that people named Stephen are more prone to commit crimes than people with other names.

But this is how conservatives talk about undocumented immigrants -- they cherry-pick the worst stories about these immigrants, and when they've recounted enough stories of this kind, they persuade one another that those illegals are really evil.

And now we have a president who bases his policies on this kind of thinking. It's appalling.


Yesterday, NRATV posted a YouTube video in which one of its spokestrolls, Colion Noir, accused news organizations of encouraging school shootings. Noir appeared to advocate censorship of the media.

Can anyone tell me the last time a mass school shooter left a manifesto, a comment on social media, or a video where they said they were inspired to commit their atrocity ... by a firearm. Name one. I'm sure you can't and neither can I.

Because as much as the media love to pivot the conversation after a mass school shooting to gun control, the pen is still mightier than the sword. These kids aren't being inspired by an innate hunk of plastic and metal laying on a table, they're inspired by the infamous glory of past shooters who they relate to ... and no entity on the planet does a better job whether directly or indirectly, of glorifying these killers, and thereby providing the inspiration for the next one ... than our mainstream media.
After a montage of televised massacre coverage, Noir says:
It's time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings, because it is killing our kids. It's time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common sense limitations on our mainstream media's ability to report on these school shootings.

... Pass a law stopping the media from reporting the killer's name or showing his face.

You can still report on the shootings ... we just need reasonable laws that place limitations on the glory and fame you give to these killers and their twisted motivations...
But this was a trick. A couple of minutes into the video, Noir reveals the con:
You know that feeling of anxiety that shot through your body when I said the government should pass laws to limit the media's ability to exercise their First Amendment right.

That's the same feeling gun owners get when they hear people say the same thing about the Second Amendment. Hearing me advocate for the government's ability to limit anyone's First Amendment rights, including the media, should anger all of you watching this video, the same way it should anger you when anyone tries to use the same limitations on the Second Amendment.
Tess Owen of Vice News was fished in. Either she didn't watch the video to the end or she and her editor decided it was good clickbait -- in a post that's still up, she wrote:
The National Rifle Association is calling for outright censorship as news of yet another school shooting dominates national headlines.
Quite a few folks on Twitter also failed to watch the video to the end.

Noir was amused by the "too long, didn't watch" response to his stunt:

There's no excuse when a professional news organization blunders this way -- Vice should acknowledge the error and take the post down. The tweeters who missed the twist at the end of Noir's video should delete what they posted about it.

But have Noir and the NRA asked themselves why this stunt was effective? If people are willing to believe that the NRA would happily gut the First Amendment, maybe it's because that seems very much in character for the organization.

We all remember the NRATV video from last year in which Dana Loesch accused liberals and the news media of fomenting insurrection.
They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse “the resistance.”

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.

And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

And the one from early this year in which Loesch flicks a lighter next to a copy of The New York Times. (After placing her toe right on that line, she says, "You know, I don’t even have to do this. You guys are doing a good enough job burning down your reputations all by yourselves.")

Even in the current video, Noir makes it perfectly clear that he'd prefer silence from the mainstream media.
Attention seeking in this country is at an all time high and if social media has proven one thing, it's that there are people out there willing to do anything for attention, even if it means slaughtering classmates they hate but letting the ones they like live so that they can tell their story to every mainstream media news outlet who are itching like fiends to be the FIRST to do a deep sea dive into the killers' background.

As they see it, they get to leave a legacy of carnage, and the higher the body count the better—and we all know Wolf-Blitzer will be right there with the death toll counter keeping score.
The first part of Noir's video, in which he accuses the press of being mass shooters' accomplices and issues a call for censorship, is much more passionate and heartfelt than the part in which he claims to care about defending the First Amendment as well as the Second.

And maybe that's why this video was posted to YouTube and Twitter, but doesn't appear on NRATV's own website. Were liberals taken in by the first part of this video? Yes -- but it appears that NRATV didn't want its own followers to have the same reaction. I'm sure many fans of Noir, Loesch, and the NRA also believe what Noir says in the first part of the video, and would happily have left it at that.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


The most Trumpian thing the president said today about the cancellation of his planned summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un:
I have spoken to South Korea and Japan and they are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden — any of the costs associated by the United States in operations, if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.
So Trump may blow up the world, or at least the Pacific Rim, but, dammit, he's not going to pay for it! Pacific Rim countries will pay for their own nuclear war! (Which he might start.)

As he once said on the campaign trail:
It’s called OPM. I do that all the time in business. It’s called other people’s money. There’s nothing like doing things with other people’s money. Because it takes, the risk, you get a good chunk of it and it takes the risk.
Though as Yastreblyansky says:


I have mixed feelings about the national anthem protests that the National Football League is now working to shut down. On the one hand, I unreservedly support efforts to draw attention to police brutality in America. On the other hand, what's happening with the anthem protests is what happened when Occupy Wall Street's encampment in Zuccotti Park continued into the late fall of 2011: Americans stopped talking about what the occupiers were protesting and talked instead about how they were protesting. The authorities tried to shut the occupation down, the occupiers resisted -- and gradually it began to seem as if the occupiers mainly wanted the right to occupy. That's about where we are with the anthem protests. We're talking about the protests themselves. We're not talking about police misconduct.

The Zuccotti Park occupation was forcibly ended, and the Occupy movement was effectively dead after that. But we're still talking about inequality, and Occupy deserves a great deal of credit for that. Government policy on this issue is regressive, with isolated exceptions, but much of the public heard Occupy's message and remains receptive to it.

That's what we have to hope for in the case of the NFL protests. I don't think they've been nearly as effective -- the early days of Occupy got us talking about inequality, whereas the NFL kneelers mostly set off a conversation about kneeling itself -- but if they've helped to draw anyone's attention on police brutality, we have to sustain that focus. That's what's important, not whether this particular form of protest survives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


A young Atlantic writer named Elaina Plott informs us that the conversation on guns has changed after the Santa Fe massacre:
In the wake of mass shootings in America, Republicans and Democrats migrate to their respective marks as though urged on by a stage director. They read from their respective scripts, Democrats amping up their calls for gun control and Republicans stressing the need for more effective mental health care.

Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, in which a teenager murdered 10 people at Santa Fe High School, appeared to represent a break in that script.
I'm ignoring the bothsiderism of that lede and focusing on the assertion that the usual GOP "script" after a mass shooting consists exclusively of Republicans talking about mental health. That strikes me as an oversimplification, to put it mildly. But go on, Elaina. Tell us what's different now.
Conservative pundits and lawmakers alike have floated several different reasons behind the shooting, from trench coats to the school’s excess of doors to ADHD medication. The array of diagnoses suggests a couple of things: one, that Republicans remain steadfastly unwilling to consider the merits of gun control, even as the number of mass shootings steadily climbs; and two, that as many Americans demand a more immediate response to gun violence from Washington, Republicans feel pressured to reach for new causes, however incongruous they may seem.
What? Republicans are "reaching for new causes" (or alleged causes) for school shootings? And these "new" scapegoats include trench coats and prescription drugs?

Yes, that's what Plott is saying -- Republicans have never talked this way before.
National Rifle Association president Oliver North offered [a] potential cause: Ritalin. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, North said with regard to mass shootings, “We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease.” He said that American youth are “steeped in a culture of violence,” and ADHD medication exacerbates that violent culture, he argued....
Elaina, have you been paying attention? Republicans have been blaming school shootings on prescription drugs at least since Sandy Hook. Here's Jerome Corsi with a 2012 World Net Daily articled titled "Psych Meds Linked to 90% of School Shootings." Tennessee congresswoman (and possible future U.S. senator) Marsha Blackburn blamed Sandy Hook on meds in a CNN interview a month later. In 2015, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry suggested that meds led Dylann Roof to kill nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.
Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt suggested that teachers stay vigilant about identifying “the creepy people” in their schools. What’s Hewitt’s tell-tale sign for a “creepy” person? Trench coats. “To the teachers and administrators out there, the trench coat is kind of a giveaway,” Hewitt said on his popular talk-radio show on Monday. “You might just say, ‘No more trench coats.’ The creepy people, make a list, check it twice.”
Plott treats this as a new idea. She makes no mention of the fact that trench coats were (erroneously) scapegoated after the 1999 Columbine massacre; many kids at the time were subject to trench coat bans in schools.
And then there was Texas Senator John Cornyn, who tweeted a Wall Street Journal story about the killer—highlighting the father’s quote that his son was “a good boy” who had been “mistreated at school.” After a barrage of angry replies, Cornyn attempted to clarify the tweet: “Not sending a message, crediting claim, or excusing murder,” Cornyn wrote. “Just noting the fact he said it. That is what news does.”
Bullying? Does Plott really believe no one's ever blamed school shootings on bullying before? That Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied was one of the most persistent myths about Columbine.

Plott writes, in horror:
Perhaps the most notable aspect of these responses, taken together, is that they didn’t come from fringe figures. Cornyn is the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, for example, while Hewitt has long been one of the right’s most prolific commentators.
Yes, it's shocking! No Republican senator in the past ever engaged in this kind of blame-shifting!

Um, well, maybe Senator Jeff Sessions did after Columbine when he said this about school shooters on the Senate Floor, in his capacity as chairman the Senate Judiciary Committee' Subcommittee on Youth Violence:
They are able to hook into the Internet and play video games that are extraordinarily violent, that cause the blood pressure to rise and the adrenaline level to go up, games that cause people to be killed and the players to die themselves. It is a very intense experience. They are able to get into Internet chat rooms and, if there are no nuts or people of the same mentality in their hometown, hook up with people around the country. They are able to rent from the video store ― not just go down and see “Natural Born Killers” or “The Basketball Diaries” ― but they are able to bring it home and watch it repeatedly. In this case, even maybe make their own violent film. Many have said this murder was very much akin to “The Basketball Diaries,” in which a student goes in and shoots others in the classroom. I have seen a video of that, and many others may have.

In music, there is Marilyn Manson, an individual who chooses the name of a mass murderer as part of his name. The lyrics of his music are consistent with his choice of name. They are violent and nihilistic, and there are groups all over the world who do this, some German groups and others. I guess what I am saying is, a person already troubled in this modern high-tech world can be in their car and hear the music, they can be in their room and see the video, they can go into the chat rooms and act out these video games and even take it to real life. Something there is very much of a problem.
Plott writes that this strange and unprecedented wave of GOP scapegoating is something that "even fellow Republicans find unnerving." But the only Republicans she can find who are upset are strategist Steve Schmidt and former RNC chair Michael Steele, both of whom are persona non grata in the contemporary Republican Party. (Both, however, were in good standing when Republicans first began this sort of blame-shifting.)


I'll tell you a little bit about Plott. She's young. She was a William F. Buckley Fellow at National Review. Before signing on with The Atlantic, she wrote for Washingtonian, where one of her pieces was titled "I Was a Teenage Ann Coulter Fangirl!" In it, Plott talks about her excitement at seeing a Coulter appearance at Yale -- and then a sense of letdown a couple of years later when Coulter began promoting Donald Trump.
Idols lose their luster, and at some point we grow up and the curtain is jerked back and we wonder whether they changed or we did. What I mean to say is that Ann Coulter was once inextricably tied to my vision of conservatism and the Republican Party. And when those two institutions broke down this year, with the advent of a nominee who seems devoted to neither, I was jarred to see Coulter proudly tout her role in the crackup.

... I don’t have a great answer as to what changed my mind. Though I can remember every detail of times I’ve listened to and watched Coulter in the last several years—sitting on the couch watching Fox News after school, staring up at her behind a podium in that college auditorium—I don’t have the faintest idea of what she said. It was never about what she said, after all. It was about the hair, the dresses, the rhetorical shutdowns. But when there’s a Republican presidential nominee amplifying her words, and to such frightening influence, those gaps in memory vex me. Did I really just never listen?
If, in Plott's fangirl years, it never occurred to her that Coulter was a hatemongering rabble-rouser -- if that never dawned on her until the Trump campaign -- then I guess she wasn't listening, just as she hasn't been listening all these years as her party-mates blamed mass shootings on everything except guns.


At first glance, the result in this Kentucky state legislative election seems like a big deal:
... Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House....

Brenda tried in the Republican primary election for the 71st House District seat to capitalize on teacher anger against legislators who backed a controversial pension bill in this year's law-making session. It was Brenda's first bid for public office.

Shell, a farmer who has occupied the seat since 2012 and had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as a potential rising star in the GOP, played a prominent role in handling the pension bill in the legislature.

The measure sparked a backlash of frustration by thousands of teachers who held protests at the Capitol.
New York magazine's Eric Levitz thinks this "could transform the GOP."
... a recent analysis of public opinion data by the political scientist Larry Bartels found that “a majority of Republicans endorse government efforts to regulate pollution, provide a decent standard of living for people unable to work, and ensure access to good health care.” That finding is buttressed by the past two years of polling on the Republican rank and file’s views about supply-side tax cuts (they’re against them) and federal spending on health care (they want more of it), and validated by Voter Study Group data showing that more than 70 percent of 2016 voters held left-of-center opinions on economic policy.

To this point, GOP officeholders have paid little price for defying their voters’ preferences on fiscal policy....

But Brenda’s victory is, nonetheless, potentially transformative.....

If economically progressive Republicans start to contest the party’s fiscal agenda — from inside its own tent — the GOP could quickly become a less reliable mercenary in the one percent’s class war.
But we have no reason to believe that Brenda is "economically progressive." Nor do we have any reason to believe that about the Republican voters who chose him.

I'm not expressing skepticism because Brenda is culturally conservative. Yes, on his campaign site he boasts about his Christian faith, opposition to abortion, and support for the Second Amendment. It's possible that someone could be all those things and be economically progressive -- I've long wondered what would happen to America if blue-collar cultural conservatives rediscovered the economically progressive ideas many of their forebears had eighty or a hundred years ago. (They seem to have discovered right-wing nativist populism instead.)

I question whether Travis Brenda is economically enlightened at all. As Levitz notes, "Brenda did not run on a promise to transform his state’s fiscal priorities, only to restore its public workers’ pensions."

I suspect that Brenda, who calls himself "a lifelong conservative," is doing what conservatives often do when an issue hits home for them: He's become liberal on that issue alone, because it matters to him. It's comparable to Dick Cheney's endorsement of same-sex marriage a decade ago -- yay for him, but he became enlightened only because it was an important issue for his lesbian daughter. Apart from that, it's unimaginable that Cheney would have expressed the same opinion.

Brenda doesn't like the GOP fiscal policies that led to pension cuts for people like him. But if he's elected, will he recognize that conservatism's obsession with tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, is causing harm to ordinary Kentuckians who aren't counting on government pensions? Or will he continue to assume that tax cuts are good, that the particular benefits he wants can be painlessly restored by cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse," and that the suffering of others as a result of right-wing economic orthodoxy is just fine?

I shouldn't jump to conclusions. Brenda may understand the problem better than I think he does, or he may begin to understand it once he's in office, assuming he wins the general election. For now, however, even though this is a timely warning to mainstream Republicans that they should stop putting the squeeze on public education, it might not change Republican thinking very much at all.