Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Graybeard journalist Jeff Greenfield tweets:

It's amusing to me that Greenfield has been in D.C. for more than half a century and he garbles Steny Hoyer's name ("Stoyer"). If even he can't get the name right, do you think ordinary Americans have a firm grasp on who Hoyer is? Do you think they care whether Hoyer stays or goes?

Obviously, the key person here is Pelosi. Should she offer to step aside? While it would deprive Republicans of a favorite target, we know they'll just find a new one, or several. In fact, it's no longer clear that Pelosi is the #1 congressional target of Republican demonizers. This year that honor seems to have fallen to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who hasn't even won a general election yet. I guarantee that within 48 hours of Pelosi's announcement, right-wing disinformation channels will be announcing that Ocasio-Cortez plans to run for Speaker if Democrats win. (It's preposterous that a first-term member of the House would do that, but your right-wing uncle will believe the rumor.) If the Ocasio-Cortez rumor is discounted as implausible, we'll be told that Sandersite socialists intend to fully take over the leadership if Democrats regain the majority. There'll probably be a number of progressives actually proposing that, though other Democrats will have different ideas. The right-wing noise machine will ignore the latter group and declare that the progressives will triumph, then instantly turn America into Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the right will still have plenty of older Democratic women who can be portrayed as scary old witches: Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson in the House, not to mention Senator Elizabeth Warren (up for reelection this year) and, of course, Hillary Clinton, who gets dragged by the right (and the mainstream media) pretty much every time she leaves the house.

So sure, a move like this would suggest that Democrats are making a fresh start -- but the amount of invective from the right won't change. Also, the mainstream media will respond with a thousand stories about the Democrats' lack of a "deep bench" from which to replace the old leadership. So would it be of any benefit electorally?

Finally, as I've said many times, "drain the swamp" doesn't mean "root out corruption" or "get rid of entrenched power." It's Trump-speak for "eliminate anyone we disagree with." To Trumpers, young Democrats are "swamp creatures" just like old Democrats, because they're Democrats.


I generally like the work of Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman, but no, this is not going to happen:
What if Trump doesn’t run for re-election, either because he’s impeached, decides he’s had enough, or is so damaged by what Mueller unearths as to be rendered unelectable? Much of the Republican establishment, and even many Trump allies, have been contemplating a Plan B for months. “He could just decide, ‘I’ve made America great again. I’ve kept all my promises. Now I’m gonna play golf,’” said Roger Stone.
No he couldn't. Sherman himself describes "running for president" as Trump "doing what he loves most." Trump absolutely will not "decide he's had enough" -- it's conceivable that a Democratic House will impeach him (by a simple majority vote), but it's extremely unlikely that the Senate will muster the two-thirds vote to convict. I keep saying this, but I'll say it again: No matter what Robert Mueller reveals, Trump's approval rating among Republicans will not decline. He won't be Richard Nixon. Maybe -- maybe -- there'll be second-term fatigue if Trump is reelected. And certainly there ought to be enough anti-Trump feeling among non-Republicans to vote him out. But barring a health emergency, he'll be on the ballot in 2020.

And even if I'm wrong and he isn't on the ballot next time, this is nuts:
If Trump departs, another circus is waiting to come to town. Already, celebrities have been quietly positioning themselves. Mark Cuban has met with strategists, a source told me. And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has reportedly considered a run. “If Trump doesn’t run for re-election in 2020—which he will—then either Mark Cuban or `The Rock’ will be the G.O.P. nominee, and either one will win,” [former Trump aide Sam] Nunberg said.
No. Absolutely not. Neither Cuban nor Johnson will be the Republican nominee if Trump is gone. The Republican nominee will have to be a charter member of the Trump cult. That's what's working in Republican primaries now, as The New York Times notes:
SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota County Republican fair and rally last Saturday left little mystery about what is animating the party this year.

There was a “Trump Shop” outside the arena, selling T-shirts extolling the president’s dominance. There was a life-size cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump, both thumbs splayed skyward, greeting visitors inside. And there was a candidate for county commission whose brochure highlighted his ardent support for Mr. Trump in dramatically larger type than his vow to protect Sarasota’s “amazing beaches & parks.”

This Trumpian spectacle was an ominous sign for Adam Putnam, whose main appeal in the Republican primary for governor is to support the candidate “who puts Florida first and knows Florida best.”

Only last month, Mr. Putnam — the state’s agriculture commissioner and a genial conservative tabbed for political stardom since he won a state house seat at 22 — was ahead of Representative Ron DeSantis in fund-raising, local endorsements and opinion polls. But then Mr. Trump bestowed his formal blessing on Mr. DeSantis for the Aug. 28 primary.

Now, as Mr. Trump prepares to appear with Mr. DeSantis at a rally in Tampa Tuesday night, Mr. Putnam is facing a double-digit deficit in the polls and odds so long that even some of his admirers suggest he should stop spending money attacking his rival and begin pondering a comeback after the Trump era has passed.
Is there any limit to how much a Republican candidate should slobber over Trump? Apparently not, to judge from DeSantis's campaign:
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) milked his endorsement from President Donald Trump for everything it’s worth in the lead-up to a competitive gubernatorial primary next month, producing a campaign ad gushing with love for the President.

The ad is made up of various shots of DeSantis employing his children to convey his boundless adoration for Trump.

In one, he and his young daughter play with blocks as he tells her to “build a wall.” In another, he reads to his baby son from “Art of the Deal.” He mimes teaching his daughter to read from a Trump lawn sign and tucks his son into his crib, swaddled in a MAGA onesie with a Trump flag draped across the railing.

The familial scenes are overlaid with phrases like “Pitbull Trump defender.”

I'll say it again: Even if Trump is somehow removed from office before 2020, Trumpism won't die. If he's taken down, he'll be a martyr, and the next Republican presidential nominee will need to revere his memory and profess the True Trump Faith.

It could be Mike Pence or Tom Cotton or Mark Meadows. If it's a celebrity, it'll be a Fox News celebrity -- James Woods or Judge Jeanine would outpoll Mark Cuban or The Rock.

The faithful might leave the faith eventually -- but not between now and the next election.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Pundits and political observers can't figure out what the hell Rudy Giuliani thinks he's doing these days on President Trump's behalf. Most seem sure that he's only hurting Trump. (Wonkette: "Rudy Giuliani Just Lighting All The President's Alibis On Fire"; the Daily Beast: "Giuliani Knows ‘Collusion’ Isn’t a Crime—But Conspiracy Is and Trump Looks Guiltier Today.")

But Giuliani is out there solely to pump up the MAGA crowd, so it doesn't really matter what words he utters, as long as he radiates absolute certainty that Trump is innocent and the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt. Whatever he says will be interpreted as proof of Trump's innocence by the intended audience, no matter how we interpret it.

I'm reminded of a piece called "The President's Speech" in Oliver Sacks's book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Dr. Sacks observed a ward full of aphasics -- people who literally couldn't understand language -- who were watching a Ronald Reagan speech on TV and laughing. As Sacks noted, aphasics derive some meaning from speech -- they process the tone of what's said, even though they don't process the words. Sacks's aphasics were laughing because they heard falsehood in Reagan's intonation, even if the words he spoke were meaningless to them.

Trumpers are like that. Trump could say in 2016 that Mexico would pay for the wall and now insist that U.S. taxpayers should pay; he could say in 2016 that he'd go after the tax breaks of the rich and now say he wants to give the rich another huge tax cut via executive order. He can go from threatening Kim Jong Un with hellfire and damnation to being his best bud. It doesn't matter what he says -- all that matters is that what he says feels Trumpian and lib-owning. His fans will cheer him on regardless of the meaning of his words.

This works for Giuliani, too. When he speaks, all that matters is that he's defiantly pro-Trump and anti-Mueller. In a way, shocking his interviewers is good, even if he's shocking them by making Trump look guilty -- the Trumpers in the audience aren't processing the words, they're just processing the sense that lib journalists are being shocked (and thus owned) by a triumphant-sounding Rudy. He could acknowledge that Trump has done every illegal thing we suspect he's done and say the pee tape is real, and if he concluded his announcement with "And that's why the president is innocent and this is a witch hunt," the Trumpers would cheer. They're effectively aphasic. All they understand is the tone.


I don't know how you reacted when you heard about the secret meeting between President Trump and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, but the reaction in MAGA Land was pure whataboutism. The headlines at Breitbart and Gateway Pundit were nearly identical.

New York Times Upset over Threats Against Media; Ignores 500-Plus Attacks on Trump Supporters
Gateway Pundit took that a step further:
NYT Publisher Complains to Trump About ‘Potential’ Violence Against Journalists – Ignores Over 500 Violent Attacks on Trump Supporters
The Breitbart headline refers merely to "attacks," though the body of the story cites "538 incidents that include everything from attempted murder to harassment to threats to criminal vandalism to beatings." The Gateway Pundit headline says all the attacks were "violent," while the body of the GP story refers to "over 538 violent attacks."

Both sites are working from the same list. It's maintained at Breitbart, and it's here.

So what are some of these "violent" incidents? Here are a few:
2. July 24, 2018: Sen Cory Booker (D-NJ) Says Brett Kavanaugh supporters are “complicit in evil”

7. July 19, 2018: ‘New Yorker’ Kills Trump
That's a reference to a cartoon cover of The New Yorker in which Trump has fallen face first off his gilded elevator:

9. July 17, 2018: Uber Driver Refuses to Serve Black Conservatives Over MAGA Hat

15. July 13, 2018: Anti-Israel protesters harass Jared and Ivanka with loud speakers outside their home

17. July 11, 2018: ABC’s Terry Moran shames Fox News’s Shannon Bream for feeling threatened at SCOTUS protest

21. July 9, 2018: Far-left blog Talking Points Memo mocks Stephen Miller over report of confrontation with bartender.

32. July 7, 2018: New York Times editorial calls for Dems to “take a page from The Godfather” to “go to the mattresses” to stop Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

39. July 5, 2018: Founder of #WalkAway campaign refused service at camera store.

47. July 2, 2018: Cher accuses ICE of “Gestapo tactics.”

56. June 28, 2018: Reuters editor says Trump has blood on his hands for murder of five journalists in Maryland. He still has a job.

64. June 26, 2018: Comedienne Kathy Griffin attacks the Trump administration as “pro-Nazi.” Obviously, once you describe someone as a Nazi, you are calling for violence against them.
Um ...

Now, I'll admit that I'm cherry-picking these items. There are legitimate reports of death threats and assaults. In addition, every incident in which a member of the Trump administration has been harassed in a restaurant or shop is listed.

But when your right-wing uncle tells you there have been 500 incidents of violence against Trump supporters -- believe me, he will -- let him know that quite a few of the items on the list ("118. April 1, 2018: Trump golf course sign vandalized") weren't serious acts of violence at all.


I don't want to keep busting on The New York Times, but here we go again: The lead story in the online and print Times, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, concerns President Trump's threat of a government shutdown, in part over funding for the wall:
Congressional Republicans, already facing a difficult election landscape, confronted a prospect on Sunday they had worked feverishly to avoid: a threat by President Trump to shut down the government over funding for a border wall.

“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Left unmentioned is the fact that the wall was never supposed to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Here's what Stolberg writes:
From the very beginning of his term, Mr. Trump has seemed to court a shutdown over the wall, despite the deep objections of much of his staff and Republicans in Congress. Each time congressional leaders have reached a broad bipartisan agreement on spending, he has expressed anger that it does not include money for the wall and threatened to torpedo the deal.

He tweeted in the spring of 2017 that perhaps what the country needed was a “good shutdown” over that issue, among others....

Then, earlier this year, as Congress approved a catchall spending bill that had no wall funding, Mr. Trump briefly threatened a veto before signing it. But he said he would never sign such an omnibus bill again. His base was enraged at the time, with some core supporters saying Mr. Trump had essentially ceded the midterm elections by failing to insist on the wall funding....

Mr. Trump campaigned on a vow to build a “big, beautiful wall” at the nation’s southern border, and 19 months into his presidency, he is clearly frustrated at the lack of movement on his signature issue. Congress passed a measure in March that included $1.6 billion for more than 90 miles of barriers along the border with Mexico, but that sum is far short of the $25 billion the president would need to fulfill his campaign promise.
That's a lot of background on the issue of wall funding -- but one tiny detail is missing:

This basic fact appeared, as it should have, in stories from The Washington Post ("During the presidential campaign, Trump frequently promised that Mexico would pay for construction of the wall, but the Mexican government has refused to do so"), CNN ("his proposed wall, which he promised Mexico would pay for"), and AP ("Trump campaigned on the promise of building a wall to deter illegal immigration and making Mexico pay for it. Mexico has refused").

But Stolberg left it out, and no editor intervened to add it. Why? How could a top reporter write a detailed story about conflict over wall funding without reminding readers of that information?

Sunday, July 29, 2018


The bothsiderism in this New York Times story about the Georgia governor's race is awful:
... Georgia’s political middle, long the dominant force behind the state’s thriving commerce and pragmatic leadership, suddenly finds itself all but abandoned.

More starkly than in most midterm campaigns, the contest between [Brian] Kemp, the two-term Republican secretary of state, and [Stacey] Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the State Legislature, has come to mirror the disorienting polarization of the Trump era and expose the consequences of a primary system that increasingly rewards those who appeal to the fringes.
"Fringes"? Kemp is certainly appealing to them, promising to personally round up and deport immigrants in his own truck and vowing to "sign the toughest abortion laws in the country." Abrams is a mainstream liberal. She backs universal gun background checks and Medicaid expansion. The Times makes much of her advocacy for the removal of "the iconic carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson" on Stone Mountain, but the carvings are inextricably linked to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the early twentieth century and to mid-century segregationism. They're distasteful even to some Republicans in Georgia. There's nothing extreme or fringe-y about wanting them gone.

But the Times is so infested with bothsiderism right now that even guest op-ed writers from outside the world of politics pick it up. Here's a piece by two social scientists, Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman, in which it's argued that action on climate change is stalled because voters of both parties are suspicious of the other guys:
In 2014 and 2016, we conducted two national surveys of more than 2,000 respondents on the issue of climate change. We found that most Republicans agreed that climate change is happening, threatens humans and is caused by human activity — and that reducing carbon emissions would mitigate the problem.

To be sure, Democrats agreed more strongly than Republicans did that climate change is a concerning reality. And among climate skeptics there were more Republicans than Democrats. Nevertheless, most Republicans were in basic agreement with most Democrats and independents on this issue.
So why can't we all sing "Kumbaya" and solve the problem?
... our research suggests the problem is not so much that Republicans are skeptical about climate change, but that Republicans are skeptical of Democrats — and that Democrats are skeptical of Republicans.
In other words, both sides are to blame. And how exactly does that symmetry express itself?

The authors told their subjects that certain climate change approaches were supported by members of one party or the other. The result was this:
We found, in both studies, that our participants toed the party line. Republicans supported climate policies that they understood to be backed by Republicans and were neutral toward policies backed by Democrats. Democrats supported policies that they understood to be backed by Democrats more than they supported policies backed by Republicans.
Wait -- Republicans "were neutral" toward Democratic-backed solutions, but Democrats "supported" Republican-backed solutions, albeit less than they supported Democratic solutions? That doesn't seem quite parallel to me.

Later, we're told:
Our studies revealed a consistent, if somewhat surprising, pattern: Political disagreement was substantially smaller when it came to Republican-backed policies.

In particular, there was very little distance between Republicans and Democrats when evaluating a Republican-proposed carbon tax.
So Democrats aren't resistant to Republican solutions the way Republicans are to Democratic solutions? If that's the case, why was this presented to us in a bothsides way?

I don't know if this is a framework imposed by Times editors or merely internalized by Times writers -- but it might make good business sense, because the letters column suggests that Times readers believe progressives are either half the problem or all of it.

Here are eight letters to the Times written in response to an article and an opinion piece about increased progressivism in the Democratic Party. Of the eight letter writers, seven believe that Democrats are going way too far:
Democrats Brace as Storm Brews Far to Their Left” (front page, July 22) describes the desire by some to move the Democrats farther to the left. This may work successfully in some districts, but it is a misreading of the loss in 2016, and it’s magical thinking to see it as a strategy for 2018 and 2020 on a national basis.


... we may be more successful in rebuilding an American pro-democracy majority if we liberals can genuinely come to respect the many decent white people who are fearful because of the fierce pace of cultural and technological change many of us are experiencing.


Haven’t we learned anything from the extremism on both sides of the aisle that has polarized this country? Democrats can brace for a slaughter if they move far left. It may be fine for some local races, but a presidential candidate needs to appeal to a wide range of people, and both parties need to moderate if sanity is to return to Washington.


Having grown up in Manhattan as a lifelong Democrat, I have found watching the conversion of Republicans to a Trump party painful. Watching Democrats run to the far left has been just as painful. It leaves Americans with so many bad choices. Would it be too much to request a party with liberal social stances on abortion and civil rights while also showing some fiscal responsibility?


Re “Democrats Are Moving Left. Don’t Panic,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, July 24):

... Ms. Goldberg cites national polls showing broad support for various initiatives considered left-of-center. I happen to agree with many of those ideas, but the only poll that counts is in specific states and congressional districts in Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, rural Minnesota, Orange County in California, northern Florida and other areas whose voters are up for grabs this November, and who are unlikely to be grabbed by the left or the right.


Democrats should panic. Supporting fringe candidates is a big mistake. Michelle Goldberg clearly believes that the vision of the far left is best for America, but not enough people agree, and every time another wild-eyed, wealth-redistributing, Israel-bashing, Euro-loving, border-erasing uber-leftist is nominated, the Republicans pop a bottle.
Does the content of the Times shape this thinking on the part of its readers, or does it merely reflect it? Either way, it's a bothsider world, and progressives struggle to be taken seriously in it.

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Newsweek considers whether Donald Trump might soon cease to be of use to Russia, quoting Julia Davis, an expert on Russian propaganda:
The Kremlin, [Davis said], is “growing very frustrated because there's so many controls that are being placed on” Trump by Congress, starting with Russian sanctions, upgrades to the U.S. nuclear arsenal and beefed-up military aid to Ukraine.... And then there are the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections....

“They like to talk about him as weak and incompetent and just pretty much a clown,” Davis said of the Moscow analysts.... “They still think he might prove himself to do what he promised him to do. But if he goes down, I expect they would not skip a beat. They would jump in to help finish him off.”
And what would the Russians do?
Measures at Putin’s disposal include leaking a mix of real and fabricated details on Trump’s suspected debts to Russian bankers and oligarchs, said Milton Bearden, a legendary former CIA officer....

“Putin can continue to plug along with his best friend and watch how tribalism and divisions within American society continue to tear it apart,” Bearden told Newsweek. “However, if things start to quiet down here, Putin can begin to release whatever it is he might have on the president. It can be real information dealing with the money flow from Deutsche Bank, or it can be carefully fabricated information that looks genuine.”

“I can imagine a wide variety of scenarios,” John Sipher, another top former CIA Russia hand, wrote in March, including the Kremlin injecting “stolen or otherwise unverified” or “well-crafted forgeries” into the U.S. media to take down Trump or just fan political chaos in the U.S.
But "fan[ning] political chaos in the U.S." is how they helped elect Trump -- I'm not clear on how it would hurt him, unless it's economic chaos. (We're reading now that the Russians are focusing on hacks of the U.S. electric grid. Maybe that's more important to them now than anhything involving Trump.) Unless we've gone into a significant economic downturn, I think "political chaos in the U.S." will just make Trump's base love him more, if that's even humanly possible. (In America, no Republican is ever blamed for unrest, by either the conservative media or the mainstream press; the message is always that the unrest is precisely why we need Republican rule.)

Embarrassing information on Trump's finances that's genuine could hurt him, by I don't see the mainstream and lefty media falling for even skillfully crafted fake revelations, at least not for very long. There's still a belief in expertise in the center and left press; people who could spot the fakery would be heard and heeded, and the forgery would be discredited.

In any case, none of it, real or fake, would would persuade any Republican who isn't already a #NeverTrumper. That's just not how Republicans operate. And the release of damaging information on Trump, real or fake, would be regarded by the Trumpers as proof that Putin never worked with Trump at all. (Anti-anti-Trumpers on the left would second that.)

That may be how this ends -- with Russians publicly dumping Trump just to leave us arguing about whether they'd ever worked with him at all. If they release true dirt on Trump, they might help bring him down. But nothing else will work.

For now, though, why would they want to finish him off? No president will ever be as pro-Kremlin and pro-Putin as Trump. Even with his flaws and incompetence, he's their best asset.

Friday, July 27, 2018


Eugene Robinson writes:
If President Trump’s secretly taped conversation with attorney Michael Cohen reminds you of a crime boss and his consigliere, you’re not alone. Trump’s current lawyer and mouthpiece, Rudolph W. Giuliani, evidently agrees.

After CNN first played the tape on Tuesday, Giuliani went on Fox News and played down its importance, citing his experience as a mob-busting federal prosecutor: “How about 4,000 hours of Mafia people on tape? I know how to listen to them. I know how to transcribe them. This tape is crystal clear when you listen to [it]. I’ve dealt with much worse tapes than this.”

Spin-wise, this is the best they’ve got? That Trump and Cohen don’t sound as bad as the Gambino family? Yikes.
I think the deplorables actually like that comparison, subconsciously if not consciously. Trump, to them, is a Great Man, and this is one thing they think Great Men do: confer with fixers to make distractions go away so they can go on being Great. I think they like the idea that Trump has embarrassing assignations with strippers and Playboy models and requires legally suspect solutions to the ensuing inconveniences. This means he's an Ubermensch. It means he's living on a plane of glamour they'll never reach, though they'd sure as hell like to.

They probably feel the same way about the Russia story. They don't think Trump is Putin's poodle -- they imagine he's an International Man of Mystery huddling secretly with Vlad in order to save the world (because with Trump's great dealmaking skills on our side, how can the world not be saved?). When it's no longer possible to deny that Trump connived with Putin, what he did will be described to the faithful as his most skillful act of dealmaking yet. And they'll buy it. Not only won't the facts disillusion them, they'll probably consider Trump sexier once we learn the truth. He's operating on a loftier (and more mysterious) plane -- he can't be held to the same rules as mere mortals.


Matt Yglesias is obviously right:

But the Trump apologists aren't there yet. They're proceeding in a cautious, stepwise fashion toward that ultimate goal:
President Donald Trump wouldn’t “necessarily” be in “any legal jeopardy” if he knew about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, as claimed Thursday by his former personal attorney, according to The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel.

“I think the bigger point here is, is there a crime? And it obviously was not a crime for [Donald] Trump Jr. to meet with this Russian national and find out what she had to talk about,” Strassel said on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

“It’s also not a crime for [the president] to have had prior knowledge of it, either,” she told Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

“The question is, has [Trump] ever under oath said that he didn’t know? Was he in any situation where he might be viewed as having lied to federal law enforcement? I’m not really sure that’s the case,” Strassel added. “So it’s another potentially bad headline if it’s true. But I’m not necessarily sure it’s any legal jeopardy.”
So he lied about what we now know was a conspiracy by a hostile power to subvert our elections. But did he swear on a Bible before lying? That's what's important!

This echoes a talking point from earlier in the week:
President Donald Trump’s taped 2016 conversation with his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen on buying the rights to a Playboy model’s story of an alleged affair is “not illegal,” though it might be embarrassing, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Tuesday during an exclusive interview on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

“At the very worst, it might be embarrassing, but it’s not illegal,” Priebus (shown above) told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “One thing I have learned from being out of the sort of spotlight and the daily grind is that when you go back to Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio ... I have not found a single person who is swayed by any of these stories [that are] a massive financial boon to ... cable news, and especially a couple of other networks.”
The bar is so low we're going to have to send SEAL divers down to find it.

Meanwhile, FoxNews.com has decided that the most important story in America right now is this:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as an “incident” during her weekly news conference Thursday.

The outlandish slip-up about the deadliest attack on U.S. soil came during a discussion in which Pelosi criticized the Trump administration’s stance on immigration and its claims that the Democrats have been weak on border security....

“We have a responsibility to protect our borders. All of our borders. Let’s make no mistake about that. Democrats have been strong on that point. All of our borders,” Pelosi told the reporters.

“In fact, I said to some of you before, when we had the 9/11 incident and the commission was formed — and they made their recommendations — they made recommendations to protect America, but the Republicans would never take them up. And some of it was about our borders. The Republicans would never take them up,” she added.
Even President George W. Bush called 9/11 an "incident" once:
On September the 11th, 2001, our nation was confronted by a new kind of war. See, we're at war. This is a war. This isn't a single isolated incident. We are now in the first war of the 21st century.
And then-candidate Donald Trump referred to the Pulse nightclub massacre as an "incident":

As the news gets worse, so will the rationalizations and evasions. But the Trump enablers are undoubtedly saving a few rationalizations for later.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Writing for Time magazine, National Review's David French exults in the South's strong sense of cultural identity:
The idea of the South is very important to the people of the South, and it has been for a very long time.

In 2018, the South sees itself as economically advanced but culturally traditional. It’s proud of its industry and technology, but it’s also proud of its faith and its families. The majority of the people don’t hunt or fish or farm, but they feel connected to people who do. A Tennessee lawyer may never leave a paved road, but he’ll drive a truck that can haul hay. Even people who don’t own guns value the South’s gun culture. They may not have a firearm, but they will not tolerate a government that restricts their ability to defend themselves.

That’s the idea of the South in 2018. Southerners love God. They respect the traditions of faith and family–including manners and respect for elders. Southerners are connected to the land. They despise elitism. They’re suspicious of government but not averse to its help. And they are definitely proud of their region and its way of life–even if its day-to-day reality is no longer so distinct.

Ideologically, it’s a mess. Culturally, it’s coherent.
Does this accurately describe the South? I think it comes close to describing the white South. I don't know if other Southerners care quite as much about performing Southernness.

But that's what you have to do if you're a politician in the South, French says.
And so the smart Southern politician “culture signals,” sometimes to comically absurd excess. The GOP nominee for Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, made national news when he ran a primary-campaign ad that featured him “blowing up” government spending with an actual explosion, brandishing his pump-action shotgun to show his love for the Second Amendment, firing up a chain saw to “rip up” government regulations and starting his “big truck” just in case he needs to “round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.”

In another ad, he holds a shotgun as he makes a kid portraying his daughter’s boyfriend recite elements of his platform. And what were the two things that were most important if the kid wanted to date one of Kemp’s daughters? “Respect, and a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir.”

Kemp’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, was caught on tape complaining that the primary had devolved into a contest over “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.”

Cagle was wrong. And not surprisingly, he lost to Kemp in a July 24 runoff. The contest isn’t over who can be the craziest. It’s over who can be the most Southern, the most proudly traditional and the least politically correct.
What's amazing is that French, with a straight face, can say this is about not being "politically correct." What he's describing is a rigid code of behavior that pols and civilians alike feel compelled to master. Anyone who deviates from this code -- who expresses skepticism about effectively unrestricted gun ownership, for instance, or doubts the primacy of Bible Belt Christianity -- is made a pariah by the enforcement of these norms.

What is that if not a rigid form of PC, conservative style?


First there was this:
House Republican members of the conservative Freedom Caucus introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday -- the latest salvo in an ongoing back-and-forth between some in the GOP over the Justice Department's handling of the Russia probe.

The 11 lawmakers accuse the Department of Justice of "intentionally withholding embarrassing documents and information," and allege the agency hid investigative information from Congress, abused the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act and failed to comply with subpoenas, according to a statement.
Then this:
Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday firmly rejected an effort by House conservatives to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein....

“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or this term,” he said of impeachment. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
As I've been saying for years and years, this is how Republicans operate, and it's one reason they've dominated American politics for decades: They sell themselves to more than one niche market simultaneously, and each one believes it's voting for the real GOP. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who are spearheading the Rosenstein impeachment drive, are telling the ultras in the GOP voter base that they'll crush the Deep State, while Paul Ryan positions himself as the voice of reason, the adult in the room meant to reassure wavering right-centrists, especially in swing districts where the GOP is endangered. Ryan is also there to persuade the mainstream media that Republicans run a nice, respectable party whose members deserve to dominate Sunday talk shows, and who surely will someday muster the courage to make that awful Donald Trump behave like a gentleman. (It's very easy to persuade the MSM of this.)

Notice that the press is not responding to all this the way it would if something comparable were happening on the Democratic side. There's no talk of "Republicans in disarray!" Everyone seems certain that the party isn't completely in thrall to its most ideologically fervent members. That nice Paul Ryan has everything under control, so there's nothing to worry about. (Even all the media talk about the GOP being Trump's party now carries with it the suggestion that Republicans are in thrall to Trump, but they don't want to be.)


And meanwhile:
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is running for House Speaker, he confirmed Thursday. The announcement comes amid allegations from a number of former Ohio State wrestlers, who claim Jordan turned a blind eye to sexual abuse by the team’s doctor while working as an assistant coach at the university.
The impeachment effort is obviously part of Jordan's campaign for the job. And as Nate Silver notes, this may be the beginning of a race to the bottom:

I wonder if potential Speaker candidates are going to try to out-wingnut one another, the way GOP candidates for governor in Georgia did earlier this year:

Will it be "electorally self-destructive" to the party as a whole? Let's hope so -- but it'll probably be written off as behavior that doesn't truly represent the party (even though it does).


The oddest thing about this story is the background of the reporter under attack:
Reporter Kaitlan Collins [of CNN] said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine told her she was banned from a late-afternoon announcement in the Rose Garden involving Trump and European Union president Jean-Claude Juncker a few hours after she sought to question Trump during a press-pool “spray” in the Oval Office....

During the Oval Office event ... Collins sought to question Trump about the release of an audiotape involving then-candidate Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen in October 2016....

“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” Collins asked Trump as reporters shouted questions and White House press aides tried to usher them out of the room.

She repeated the question after Trump declined to answer. After receiving no answer, she asked, “Are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?” She also asked Trump if he is worried about what might be on any other tapes recorded by Cohen, and why Russian President Vladimir Putin had not yet accepted Trump’s invitation to come to Washington.”
Collins works for CNN now, but she used to work for the Daily Caller. At a news conference in February 2017, Trump expressed his contempt for mainstream media outlets by choosing to call on only reporters from the conservative press. One of them was Collins.
For his second straight press conference, President Donald Trump called on only conservative reporters, this time during a joint presser with the Canadian prime minister. By responding solely to friendly press, Trump avoided answering any questions about reports that national security adviser Michael Flynn may have violated federal law.

... Trump [called] on only ... Scott Thuman of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s WJLA, the Washington, D.C., affiliate of ABC, and Kaitlan Collins of The Daily Caller....

Collins ... failed to ask about Flynn but did question Canada’s security measures surrounding refugees....

Even Fox News’ national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, asked if the queries were “planted questions"...
Subsequently, Collins appeared on Fox and told Howard Kurtz that there was no reason for her to ask the question that might have been asked by, say, CNN's Jim Acosta:
“They’re offended because the question they wanted answered didn’t get asked,” the Alabama native stated. “I wasn’t aware that we were all supposed to go in there and ask the same question.”

“What’s the point of me being here if I’m going to ask the same question as Jim Acosta or Hallie Jackson?”
A few days later, the Caller's Facebook page featured the boast "Sean Spicer Calls On Kaitlan Collins 2nd Time." Collins asked about Trump's claim that paid protesters had disrupted a Milo Yiannopoulos event in Berkeley.
The Daily Caller asked the press secretary Friday if the White House would investigate the “professional anarchists and paid protesters.”

“I think we know who they are,” Spicer said. “I don’t know that we need to do an investigation.”
As a Daily Caller reporter, Collins was useful to the White House. Now she's at CNN. Now she's the enemy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Democrats apparently aren't in disarray in the heartland:
In three politically important Midwest states — including two that were key in deciding the 2016 election — President Donald Trump’s job approval rating is below 40 percent, and Democrats hold a sizable lead for the upcoming congressional midterms, according to a trio of new NBC News/Marist polls....

In Michigan, 45 percent of voters prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 36 percent want a GOP-controlled Congress (D+9).

In Minnesota, it’s 48 percent preferring the Democrats, to 36 percent backing the Republicans (D+12).

And in Wisconsin, Democrats hold a 47 percent-to-39 percent lead in congressional preference (D+8).

... the NBC/Marist polls ... were conducted July 15 to July 19, so mostly after Trump’s widely criticized July 16 press conference with Russia’s Vladimir Putin....
Yes, and the polls were also conducted a couple of weeks after the surprise primary win in New York by democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- a win that led a thousand pundits to proclaim that the Democratic Party is destroying any chance it has of victory in November by moving dangerously far to the left. Sure, Ocasio-Cortez's message will play in New York, but, you fools, don't you realize that it will alienate voters in the middle of the country?

Apparently not. Apparently voters in these three states either haven't paid much attention to Ocasio-Cortez's saturation media coverage or are aware of it and either like her or don't see her as the Only Democrat That Matters. She's on course to win -- and so, apparently, are Midwestern Dems who may or may not differ with her on an issue or two.

Sorry about your narrative, mainstream media. I know it meant a lot to you.


This New York Times story, co-authored by Maggie Haberman, is offered as a sign of President Trump's desire to live in a reality of his own making. That's true, obviously, but the story also tells us a lot about Trump's relationship with his nominal life partner.
On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times.....

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.
It's no secret that Trump loves Fox News, but ordering everyone to watch it -- particularly his wife -- is very, very Trumpian. I'm reminded of this:
Mr. Trump grew up with an influential role model for how to deal with women: Fred C. Trump, his powerful and unyielding father.

The elder Mr. Trump exerted control no matter how big or small the decision, as Ivana Zelnickova learned over dinner one night in the late 1970s. Her boyfriend, Donald Trump, had invited her to join his siblings and parents at Tavern on the Green, the ornate restaurant in Central Park.

When the waiter came to take orders, Ivana made the mistake of asking for what she wanted. Fred Trump set her straight, she recalled in a previously unpublished interview with Michael D’Antonio, the author of “The Truth About Trump.”
Fred would order steak. Then Donald would order steak. ... Everybody order steak. I told the waiter, “I would like to have fish.” O.K., so I could have the fish. And Fred would say to the waiter: “No, Ivana is not going to have a fish. She is going to have a steak.” I said, “No, I’m going to have my fish.” And Donald would come home and say, “Ivana, why would you have a fish instead of a steak?” I say, “Because I’m not going to be told by somebody to have something which I don’t want.”
When he was asked about this, Trump backed his dad:
Mr. Trump defended his father’s conduct. “He would’ve said that out of love,” he said. If his father had overruled her fish order, Mr. Trump said, “he would have said that only on the basis that he thought, ‘That would be better for her.’”
That would be better for her. I assume Trump feels the same way about imposing Fox on his wife.

The president sometimes does this to men as well, as Chris Christie acknowledged shortly after Trump was inaugurated:
... on the “Boomer and Carton” sports radio show ... Christie explained that, when asked how to order food at the White House, Trump pointed everyone else to the menu, but gave him special instructions.

“This is what it’s like to be with Trump,” Christie said. “He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’”

“He tells you what you’re eating?” co-host Craig Carton asked.

“Yeah, and I said, ‘We’re going to have the meatloaf?’” Christie answered. “And he said, ‘I’m telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous.’”
We know what Trump thinks of Christie. The word the alt-rightists and incels would use is "beta," or maybe "cuck." About the same as a woman, in Trump's estimation.

There's also this, from today's Times story:
The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel.
At first glance, this suggests that Trump isn't controlling his wife's TV viewing, at least once the plane lands. But does Melania even want "a TiVo-like streaming device" in her hotel room? It's the president who's called the DVR “one of the great inventions of all time,” presumably because he gets cranky when he's forced to miss an episode of one of his favorite Fox shows. I bet Melania would be content just to fall asleep to whatever's on, or just buy a movie.

Through a spokeswoman, Melania denies that hr husband controls her viewing:
Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV (any channel she wants btw)....
That's what you'd expect to hear from a loyal political wife married to a controlling sexist.


I'll leave it to others to do a deep analysis of the newly released Donald Trump-Michael Cohen tape from 2016. I'll just say that I'm amused by the care Cohen takes to try to conceal what he's discussing from anyone who might be listening to his conversations or taping them -- even though he's the guy doing the taping.

From the Washington Post transcript (emphasis added):
COHEN: ... Um, I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that — I’m going to do that right away. I’ve actually come up and I’ve spoken —

TRUMP: Give it to me and get me a [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

COHEN: And, I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with ...

TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?

COHEN: ... Funding ... Yes. Um, and it’s all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yeah, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff.
I've heard it said that real-life gangsters often behave the way gangsters do in movies and books because they know those movies and books and are trying to model themselves on their fictional counterparts. I think Cohen is doing that here. The instruction manual of choice, especially for white would-be tough guys, is The Godfather, but Cohen's efforts here remind me of a scene from Jimmy Breslin's 1969 comic Mob novel The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight:

The conventional wisdom is that "our friend David" refers to David Pecker, the Trump pal whose company, American Media Inc., publishes the National Enquirer. But there's an alternate theory:

If it's the latter, please note that Cohen won't even say the fictional surname out loud for his own recording.

Years ago, the kids used to call guys like Cohen "wankstas" -- wannabe gangstas. I think Cohen was always more of a gangster in his own mind than he's ever been in real life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


As you probably know, this happened today:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the top law enforcement officer in the country, repeated the words "lock her up" Tuesday that were being chanted, a rallying cry from Donald Trump campaign events calling to jail Hillary Clinton, and then laughed.

Sessions was addressing a conservative group's high school leadership summit in Washington, where he promoted free speech and conservative principles.
Before I watched a clip of this, I assumed that Sessions enthusiastically joined in the chant. That's not exactly what he did:
Sessions criticized universities for "coddling our young people" and "actively preventing them from scrutinizing the validity of their beliefs."

"After the 2016 election, for example, they held a 'cry-in' at Cornell. I hope they had plenty of tissues for 'em to cry on," he said. "They had therapy dogs at the University of Kansas. Play-Doh and coloring books at the University of Michigan for heaven's sakes. You know, give me a break. Students at Tufts were encouraged to 'draw about their feelings.'"

"Well I can tell this group isn't going to have to have Play-Doh when you get attacked in college and you get involved in a debate," Sessions told the crowd attending Turning Point USA's High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University. "I like this bunch, I gotta tell you. You're not going to be backing down. Go get 'em. Go get 'em."

Then chants of "Lock her up" broke out.

"Lock her up," Sessions said, chuckling at the brief interruption from the audience as the chant then grew louder.

"I heard that a long time over the last campaign," he said before continuing with his prepared speech.

I'll acknowledge that Scott Lemieux is right:
Students leading a “lock her up” chant represented an excellent opportunity to make the point that working against the election of Hillary Clinton is democratic politics; claiming that she should be thrown in jail although investigations have not revealed any illegal conduct is not. For the Attorney General to encourage the authoritarian perspective rather than the democratic one is disturbing.
But Sessions seemed a bit uncomfortable with the interruption -- not uncomfortable enough to discourage it, which would be the responsible thing to do, but uncomfortable nonetheless.

As CNN's story notes, "Sessions has assigned a federal prosecutor to look into various matters surrounding Clinton, but stopped short of formally appointing a special counsel earlier this year." In Trump Country, it's believed that he's an impediment to the absolutely necessary prosecution of Clinton. So I suspect that the chanters might have been expressing a sense of frustration with Sessions. I'm certainly seeing frustration in the comments at the YouTube page where I found the clip:
Hillary should thank her lucky stars Jess Sessions is the attorney general. Any other Trump nominee would have LOCKED HER UP...


Come on Sleepy Jeff wake up, even the kids get it.


MR MAGOO trying hard to get back into trump good book HAHA its going to take more than lock her up chant


Session.....WAKE UP!!! W A K E U P!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I guess there is hope when even high school kids know shes a criminal, Sessions needs to climb out from under his bed and take control of the DOJ
Sessions's material about colleges "coddling our young people" seemed to fall flat -- he was talking about the alleged hypersensitivity of anti-Trump students in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election and all his audience could think was: We don't care about a bunch of snowflakes -- WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO LOCK HILLARY UP?

Whatever the chanters' motivation, a responsible attorney general wouldn't have given them any encouragement. But I don't think Sessions was truly pleased by the interruption. I think it was at least partly a rebuke, and Sessions knew it.


AFP reports:
More than 200 environmental activists were murdered last year as government-sponsored killings linked to lucrative projects by vast agriculture multinationals soared, a global rights watchdog warned on Tuesday.

Global Witness said it had documented 207 cases where activists were killed while trying to protect land from development, often for the production of consumer staples such as coffee and palm oil, making 2017 the deadliest year on record for environmentalists....

The watchdog said it had found evidence that government actors -- soldiers or police -- were responsible for 53 of the deaths....

Global Witness' report on environmentalist killings documents harrowing crimes around the world against communities daring to speak out against big businesses and government-led development.

These include murder, but also death threats, intimidation, arrests, cyber attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits.
The folks at Free Republic think this is hilarious:
Were they visiting chiraq?


Somehow, I’m not feeling bad for them.


AGW heatstroke no doubt....


Don’t trespass on others’ land and refuse to leave.


It sounds like upping the bag limit was helpful.

The UN should increase it again, next year.


Gee that many are killed on a three day weekend in Chicago.


Like the joke about 1,000 lawyers chained under water, “it’s a good start”.


They musta pissed off Hillary somehow



“Record 207 environmental activists killed last year”

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is in the US.


“It sounds like upping the bag limit was helpful.”

Where can we get tags and is there a bounty?
But let's write a dozen more op-eds about left-wing incivility.


I don't want to address all the arguments made in the latest David Brooks column, which offers advice for the Democrats going into the 2020 presidential election. (You will no doubt be shocked to learn that Brooks advises Democrats to avoid socialism and fervent calls for racial justice.) I just want to quote one of his concluding paragraphs, and then talk about only part of that paragraph:
If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises: First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo? Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.
(Emphasis added.)

Really? We're back to believing that "the fever" will surely break soon?

Barack Obama thought "the fever" would break after the 2012 election. It didn't. Four years later, Republicans (with help from Putin, Comey, and an email-obsessed mainstream media) got the living embodiment of the fever elected president, while driving Fox News even further into the fever swamp and elevating other febrile media outlets to near-mainstream status. At this point, the fever is Republicanism, and it appears that at least 40% of the public has caught an incurable case of it.

It's true that by 2020 some Americans "will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility" -- many have felt that way since early 2017, if not earlier. Democrats need to find a candidate who can give those voters a sense that we'll soon enter into a post-hostility era. The 2020 Democratic candidate will have a tough challenge: appeal to the hostility-averse while also being tough enough to compete with the most hostile presidential candidate of all time. I don't know which aspirant can do both.

As a candidate in 2016 and as president now, Donald Trump hasn't found it necessary to claim that he wants to bring us together because his electorate doesn't believe non-conservatives are Americans. They'd been negative and hostile for years before he came along.

Trump's 2020 opponent will be at a disadvantage. Niceness and toughness will be required of that candidate. And once the election is over, no matter who wins, the hostility won't abate much at all. Many of us probably won't live to see the fever break.


UPDATE: In responding to this column, I didn't dig deep, but Yastreblyansky did. Go read.

Monday, July 23, 2018


There are calls for the resignation of Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative from Georgia, after his appearance on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series:
Spencer dropped his pants and repeatedly used the n-word in the episode of “Who Is America?” ...

“Representative Spencer has disgraced himself and should resign immediately,” said [Georgia House speaker David] Ralston. “Georgia is better than this.” ...

Cohen, who played an Israeli military expert, persuaded Spencer to take part in what he was told was a counterterrorism video. Cohen gets him to yell racial epithets and shimmy his exposed rear-end toward purported attackers screaming “USA” and “America” by saying it will ward off terrorists.
Spencer blames the incident on safety fears:
Spencer just texted his response to the episode to The [Washington] Post....

“In 2017 I received countless death threats in connection with my introduction of legislation involving the wearing of masks. The threats escalated to the point that my wife received threatening phone calls concerning her and my children. I was very afraid for my safety and the safety of my entire family.

"Then, on June 14th, a gunman opened fire at members of Congress on a baseball field. I knew people on that field. Now, the fears I already had became more intensified as the reality of my family being targeted by a similar, deranged, would-be assassin became even more possible. I was in such a poor state of mind that my wife and I also undertook marriage counseling with a licensed therapist during this time.

"Sacha Baron Cohen and his associates took advantage of my paralyzing fear that my family would be attacked. In posing as an Israeli Agent, he pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.

"My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class.’ ..."
Spencer's "legislation involving the wearing of masks" was actually a ban on wearing burqas in public. He withdrew the bill after widespread criticism. I don't know how many death threats he actually received after introducing the bill -- even one, I'm sure, would be frightening -- but if you watch Spencer's appearance on the show, you don't see a guy acting out of blind panic. He's a willing participant. He's not in a fugue state. He knows exactly what he's doing.

This reminds me of the "gay panic" defense that's used in courtrooms to this day, even by defendants who clearly aren't experiencing a moment of immediate terror (not that an encounter with an LGBT person is ever an excuse for violence).
In all but three U.S. states, anyone charged with murder can claim in court that they should be held less accountable for their actions because of their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s a defense known as the gay or trans “panic” defense....

In 2008, for example, Brandon McInerney shot and killed his 15-year-old classmate, Larry King, who occasionally wore makeup and high heels, at their school in Oxnard, California. McInerney allegedly teased King for weeks and vowed “to get a gun and shoot him,” according to the LA Times.

So when his trial started, McInerney claimed that King’s behavior made him feel “threatened” and invoked the LGBTQ panic defense. As a result, he accepted a guilty plea in exchange for 21 years in prison. The case could have landed him behind bars for life, but instead, he'll get out when he’s 38 years old.
Spencer might have been experiencing anxiety about threats after he proposed his racist burqa ban, but he wasn't feeling threatened or trapped at the moment the cameras started rolling. But his conservative constituents have heard so much from the right-wing media about the imminence of terrorism, and also about "the violent left," that many of them will probably believe he just couldn't help himself.

Spencer lost his primary earlier this year and will leave office after the last few months of his term -- but I bet he'll wind up back on his feet. I'm sure a lot of right-wingers believe fear literally made him yell racial slurs, talk insulting in fake Chinese, and drop his pants on camera.


Charlie Savage of The New York Times seems baffled by the outcome of the FISA document release:
When President Trump declassified a memo by House Republicans in February that portrayed the surveillance of a former campaign adviser as scandalous, his motivation was clear: to give congressional allies and conservative commentators another avenue to paint the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference as tainted from the start.

But this past weekend, Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision, which he made over the objections of law enforcement and intelligence officials, had a consequence that revealed his gambit’s shaky foundation. The government released the court documents in which the F.B.I. made its case for conducting the surveillance — records that plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump nevertheless sought to declare victory. In a series of early-morning tweets, he claimed without evidence that the newly disclosed files “confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts” to win approval to start wiretapping the former adviser, Carter Page, shortly after he had left the campaign amid criticism of his ties to Russia.
To Savage, what happened is obvious: We learned over the weekend that assertions made by Trump and his backers the Carter Page FISA application were incontrovertibly wrong -- and yet the president is claiming vindication. Why is he doing that? Doesn't he know that the evidence contradicts him?

Trump and his backers know that their target audience won't read the hundreds of pages' worth of material that was released. It's easy to control public opinion under those circumstances. But surely that's the only reason the Trumpers think they can get away with contradicting plain facts -- right?

But on the right, it's easy to get away with distorting facts that are in plain sight, even if getting to the truth doesn't involve hours of dull reading. Here's an example:

Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit has a story right now about an incident that took place outside a campaign rally for Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign. While Warren supporters waited to get into the rally, an opponent of hers, Trumpist independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, denounced the crowd through a bullhorn. After he'd repeatedly called them racists (Ayyadurai was born in India), a man emerged from the crowd and challenged Ayyadurai. Finally, he reached out an open palm and shoved the bullhorn into Ayyadurai's face.

Not a nice thing to do, and the man was taken into custody for it. But the headline of the Gateway Pundit post reads as follows:
Unhinged Elizabeth Warren Supporter Tackled, Arrested After Punching Her Opponent Dr. Shiva in Face (VIDEO)
The story repeatedly says it was a punch -- and includes video from the candidate's Twitter feed (the candidate also says it was a punch):
The liberal Warren supporter couldn’t control himself after Dr. Shiva was accusing the liberals of being the true racists and ended up punching the Dr. in the face.

The violent liberal was promptly tackled by a Shiva supporter then arrested by police.

Dr. Shiva said of the incident, “I will take a punch in the face ANY DAY for America & Free Speech.”

VIDEO of liberal getting tackled and arrested after punching Dr. Shiva: (language warning)

Watch the clip. It's not a punch. There's no closed fist. And yet GP readers and Ayyadurai fans now think Ayyadurai was punched.

That's how easy it is to tell conservatives that what they want to believe is the truth.

I've written about Ayyadurai and his troll candidacy before. He's a piece of work: He sues people who question his claim that he invented email (his most recent suit was tossed by a judge last year). He's running as a "real Indian" against (in his words) the "#FakeIndian."

If you watch a longer version of the clip above, it's clear that he's essentially a comments-section troll running for office in real life. There's no pretense of high-mindedness. He just chants "racist" repeatedly at the crowd, then, after the shove, chants "Lock him up" and "Wake the fuck up."

And even though it's highly unlikely that his injuries were significant, he's milking the incident for sympathy.

Fortunately, he's polling in the single digits. But he's what conservatism is now.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


A new NBC/Wall Sreet Journal poll was just released, and this set of numbers seems significant:

Democratic congressional candidates used to be seen as quite close to the mainstream. Now they aren't seen that way. What happened? And how worried should we be about it?

It's obvious what happened: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic congressional primary and instantly became the subject of a thousand media profiles. She's for single payer and free college tuition, and she'd like to abolish ICE.

I suspect the first two of those positions aren't seen as extreme -- in recent polling, a majority of Americans say they support single payer, and there's strong support for making four-year public colleges tuition free (even a plurality of Republicans are in favor).

No -- it's ICE. Even though ICE doesn't come off particularly well in the poll (38% of respondents view it positively, 37% negatively), "Abolish ICE" is a slogan that undoubtedly is being misinterpreted by many Americans as "Let's have no immigration enforcement whatsoever." (That's not what candidates who say "Abolish ICE" actually mean.)

On the other hand, how much benefit have Democrats gotten in the past from being seen as mainstream? A plurality of respondents regarded Democrats as mainstream in the summer of 2016 and the party failed to win either house of Congress the following November. Opinions were more or less evenly split on whether Democrats were mainstream in 2012, and the same thing happened.

Meanwhile, Republicans were seen as well outside the mainstream in both those years -- and they held Congress each time. So what's the electoral value of being seen as mainstream? (Also note that the Republicans aren't seen as mainstream now.)

"Mainstream" in this case might be a synonym for "too boring to inspire voters." So maybe it's good that Democrats aren't seen as mainstream anymore. We'll find out.


Hi -- I'm back. Thank you, New York Crank and (especially) Yastreblyansky, for some great coverage of a wild week.

I'm still catching up, but in the aftermath of the Putin summit I'm struck by the report in The Washington Post yesterday that President Trump was gobsmacked by the criticism:
Delighted with his own performance, he stepped offstage after his freewheeling, 46-minute news conference alongside Putin — in which he seemed to accept Putin’s denial of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies. The president felt he had shown strength, an impression buoyed by two friendly interviews he did with Fox News Channel personalities before boarding Air Force One to return home from the Nordic capital.

But roughly an hour into the flight, Trump’s mood darkened and grim reality set in as he consumed almost universally negative cable news coverage and aides began reviewing pages upon pages of printed-out statements from fellow Republicans lambasting the president....

Trump himself was flummoxed.... He ... was furious with the negative media coverage of a summit that he felt had been a clear success....

On Tuesday morning, Trump told friends he did not understand what the big fuss was about.
We can talk all we want about quid pro quos and kompromat, and we should, but this report confirms what I've suspected for a while now: that Trump expects his doting on Putin to be popular. There are, of course, quite a few reasons why Trump wants a second meeting with Putin before the midterms (and obviously there are many reasons why Putin would want one), but we mustn't overlook the fact that Trump wants to do this again because he expects excellent press coverage and wide popular acclaim. He's being a statesman! He's lessening global tensions! It's Nixon going to China in '72! Of course it will help the GOP in November!

Trump may be a blackmail victim, but he doesn't appear to be an anxious one; he doesn't seem to be planning these meetings like a poor schlub trying to scrape up the week's payment before the thumb-breaker arrives to collect. Trump is into it. After all these years, Trump has Stockholm syndrome. He's not just indebted to Putin, he's sincerely pro- Putin.

Trump and his family have been dealing with the Russians for so long, and he has such confidence in his detail-free style of diplomacy, that he believes magic will happen as a result of the meetings. And he can't believe that we don't see the same thing.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

For the Record: Pushback

Image by PhotoAtelier (I think).

There's a set of talking points floating around the rightosphere about how Emperor Trump can't possibly be Putin's puppet because look at all the ways he's shown his indepedence and pushed back against the Russian strongman's desires; I heard it on the radio yesterday, and again today from a Twitter wingnut with whom I have one of those civility relationships. So I prepared a response, as follows:

(These last two links should have come in the opposite order, Congressional sanctions first and Nikki Haley proposals second.)

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.