Monday, March 18, 2019

FOX ALREADY HAS DONNA BRAZILE FOLLOWING HOUSE STYLE

I saw the headline of the opinion piece in which Donna Brazile announces that she's now a Fox News contributor...



... and my first thought was:



I hope she's making a lot of money. I hope she demanded a lot more money at the last minute during contract negotiations. Since the recent Jane Mayer piece on Fox News in The New Yorker, many of the mainstream journalists and pundits who've been in denial about the poison Fox injects into our politics have had the sudden realization that Fox isn't really a responsible news outlet with a conservative skew. They know it's a sewer now, although too many of their colleagues still don't get it (and too many of the ones who now appear to see the light still believe everything will be fine again once Donald Trump is out of office). We have a long way to go, but even the increased attention to Fox's destructiveness leaves the channel vulnerable. Fox clearly had a sudden, urgent need for a new commentator to liberal-wash the channel on selected "responsible" Potemkin-village programming, so the rest of the channel's frothers can continue profitably rousing the rabble as usual. In other words, Fox needed Brazile more than Brazile needed Fox. I hope she had the self-respect to demand fistfuls of money.

But in the opinion piece, I see that Fox is already imposing house style on Brazile:



It's theoretically possible that Brazile voluntarily used the right's preferred name for the Democratic Party -- just to be civil, you know -- but I think that's highly unlikely. No Democrat ever says "Democrat Party," so I assume the "ic" was trimmed off by a loyal ideologue on the copy desk, just to show Brazile who's boss.

Brazile was hired to be a useful idiot -- a punching bag some of the time, a moderate brought on to bash progressives at other times. Maybe she realizes that, But I wonder if she knows she was subtly humiliated on her first day. She should be furious. I'm sure she's not.

THE MEDIA LEARNED NOTHING FROM THE SUCCESS OF TRUMP'S SHAMBOLIC CAMPAIGN

I have serious doubts about Beto O'Rourke, but it looks as if whatever he's doing is working:
Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential campaign last week, according to his campaign, outpacing his rivals for the Democratic nomination....

Mr. O’Rourke brought in $6,136,736 ... raising the sum entirely online and from all 50 states, the campaign said.

He narrowly beat the first-day haul of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $5.9 million after announcing his bid last month....
A BuzzFeed story by Molly Hensley-Clancy argues that while O'Rourke may have committed a number of gaffes in his campaign rollout, he's impressing a lot of voters who want something to believe in.
O’Rourke’s entrance into the presidential race unleashed a wave of cynicism and hard-boiled skepticism on insider Twitter and cable news.... There were groans on Twitter for everything from O’Rourke’s habit of jumping up on counters to his campaign website’s merchandise to a Vanity Fair cover story published the day before O’Rourke announced his run — summed up by a CJR reporter with, “why is he running this is so dumb.”

Across a breathtaking succession of stops throughout Iowa, from three different countertops, one podcast studio, and one truck bed, the first three days of O’Rourke’s campaign unfolded a world away. It wasn’t that Iowans hadn’t seen the skepticism about O’Rourke. It was that many of them didn’t much care....

They were entranced, they said, by his charisma, his oratory, and his particular style of campaigning — down-to-earth, personal, and relentlessly positive. Though few were willing to commit to voting for him, as is common this early in Iowa, many said they were convinced that he could deliver on the promise of unity that he offered at every campaign stop.

“I tend to agree with some of the stories ... but I look at him and he’s the only one that gives me that hope,” said Anne Phillips, a graphic designer who saw O’Rourke interviewed for a podcast in Cedar Rapids. “I want reconciliation, and he brings that to my heart. I sense in him that he can bring us back together.”
Hensley-Clancy's headline is "Twitter’s Insiders Are Skeptical About Beto O’Rourke. Iowans Don’t Seem To Care." Politico's David Siders cares, however -- as far as he's concerned, this was a "rocky rollout." But notice how Siders keeps having to downplay the excitement with which O'Rourke is being greeted. (Emphasis added below.)
A more disciplined candidate might not have been so sloppy, with months to prepare and adoring crowds waiting.

Yet there was Beto O’Rourke, wobbling on policy, offending women with a joke about child care, frustrating local Democrats with his high-handedness and picking bewildering fights with the press.

Four days into his presidential campaign, O’Rourke’s supporters are still stuffing themselves into coffee shops and living rooms across the Midwest to see the Democratic sensation as he motors east from Iowa to New Hampshire in a Dodge Grand Caravan. And O’Rourke by the weekend was moving deliberately to speak more specifically about policy, to hold more organized events and to mend his relationship with the media....

“For all the fanfare, the band was playing a pretty flat tune,” Dave Nagle, a former congressman and Iowa state Democratic Party chairman, said after watching O’Rourke address a large rally from the bed of a red Ford Ranger in Waterloo, Iowa. “There’s just no substance to it.”

... It was not a clean start to O’Rourke’s 2020 run. Though he benefited from nonstop media coverage and his own political acuity — thrilling crowds by addressing them from café countertops and delivering a passionate, widely viewed response to the mass shooting in New Zealand last week — O’Rourke’s opening act also laid bare disorder in his campaign.

... Hosts of multiple events in Iowa said they were informed unusually late about logistics, especially given the large crowd sizes O’Rourke could command.
The criticisms of O'Rourke are valid. He's extremely vague on policy. He's getting away with a Kerouac act that a female candidate, especially one with small children, couldn't. Some of his votes in Congress weren't progressive. What he said about the division of parenting labor in his marriage was sexist.

But whatever he's doing is working. Donald Trump had a sloppy, unstructured campaign in 2016, and while he had a lot of help -- from Russia, from James Comey, from the Hillary-loathing media -- he won the nomination and the election.

The lesson the media should have learned from that is that rigorous attention to campaign detail might not be the secret to electoral success. Inspiring large masses of voters might matter a lot more.

It's quite possible that O'Rourke will stumble, and the campaign problems raised in the Politico story might be the cause of his downfall. But the press predicted Trump's downfall every day for a year and half, and it never came. The media should at least acknowledge that the importance of proper form might be overrated, and that a candidate with celebrity dazzle might win even if his campaign breaks most of the rules.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

WILL THERE BE RABBLE-ROUSING FROM THE AMERICAN RIGHT OVER A NEW ZEALAND RUGBY TEAM'S NAME?

The Washington Post reports from New Zealand:
There were ... calls for the Canterbury Crusaders, a hugely successful rugby team, to change its name after the massacre because of undertones of religious hatred....

The weapons and clothing used by [Brenton] Tarrant in the [Christchurch mosque] attack carried numerous references to the Crusades, when Christian armies from Europe tried to seize the Holy Land from Muslims during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
According to local press reports, the change, which has been proposed before, might really happen now:
The Crusaders will consider changing their name following the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.

A statement issued by the Crusaders on Sunday night noted that the Super Rugby club "understood the concerns that have been raised" about the club's name.

"For us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community," the statement read. "What we stand for is the opposite of what happened in Christchurch on Friday; our crusade is one for peace, unity, inclusiveness and community spirit.

"In our view, this is a conversation that we should have and we are taking on board all of the feedback that we are receiving. However, we also believe that the time is not right now."
This isn't a long-established name like the Cleveland Indians or the Washington Redskins -- Reuters notes that "The Crusaders adopted their name 23 years ago when rugby went professional" in New Zealand -- but the fact that team management sometimes sends costumed Crusaders onto the pitch suggests a level of investment in the name.



Here's the logo:




If efforts to change the team name persist, I predict there'll be rabble-rousing against the change in the right-wing media, including Fox News. It will be described as part of a global epidemic of anti-Christian bias.

And if the name is changed, it's quite possible that the next white nationalist terrorist will wear Crusaders logowear during his attack. Even if that doesn't happen, the gear will catch on. The logo will start showing up among racists as the social media avatar of choice.

Changing the name will make the name and logo "politically incorrect" in an enticing way, but it would still be a good idea. I hope it happens.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

GARBAGE PERSON ANDREW KLAVAN THINKS NOW IS AN EXCELLENT TIME TO RELITIGATE "THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS"

I've been assuming that the right-wing habit of offering "thoughts and prayers" after every mass slaughter has been thoroughly discredited, as a clear attempt to shut down debate. But at the Daily Wire, Andrew Klavan responds to the New Zealand mosque massacre by defending the practice:
When tragedy or atrocity strikes — as it just did with the mosque shootings in New Zealand — thoughts and prayers are not just an expression of compassion. They are, more importantly and more wisely, an expression of humility and helplessness. They are a way of saying: “There is nothing we can do in the face of this wickedness but we stand in solidarity with the victims and ask God to comfort their families in their sorrow.”

Almost every other reaction is absurd. To suggest you have the solution to the eternal problem of evil in the form of addressing your pet peeve or of blaming and attacking your political opponents is disgraceful. It is to use the bodies of the slain for a soap box. It degrades you and insults the victims.
So according to Klavan, unless you have a plan for eliminating all the evil in the universe, there's nothing you can do about any societal problem. You can't, for instance, change the gun laws (which succeeded in reducing violence when Australia did it in 1996; New Zealand's prime minister now vows that her country's gun laws will change). You can't call out a global culture of white supremacists, or online communities where no one would dream of alerting the authorities after a credible announcement by a community member that he's about to commit an act of terrorist violence. You just have to shrug and whimper, in a state of "humility and helplessness."

And please note that Klavan himself is "us[ing] the bodies of the slain for a soap box" while criticizing others for the same offense.
It is likewise absurd to extrapolate from the murderer’s philosophy in order to condemn philosophies that may have something in common with it.
Klavan is obviously upset that his own strain of Islamophobic conservatism, which he shares with the president of the United States, is being blamed for the killings in New Zealand. I think it's an oversimplification to say flatly that Donald Trump was the inspiration for the massacre. The Southern Poverty Law Center has an excellent rundown on the shooter's likely influences, a number of which are unfamiliar to the general public.

On the other hand, when nearly every conservative in America is arguing that there's no daylight between the ideologies of Democratic progressives and Nicolas Maduro, I don't want to hear a conservative complain that right-wing belief systems are being unfairly conflated.
The clown who opened fire on the New Zealand mosques released a social media statement praising white supremacy, Chinese Communism, fascism, climate change alarmism and who knows what else. I find all these philosophies ridiculous and even dangerous. It’s therefore tempting to me to blame them for the actions of this unholy jackass. But that’s nonsense.
Calling Brenton Tarrant a "clown" is an insult to the dead and wounded, for whom Tarrant's actions were no joke; Klavan would never use that word in reference to a violent Islamiscist. In his manifesto, Tarrant praised the Chinese government (not Communism per se) for unstated but obvious reasons: China is not a diverse nation, and China brutalizes its Muslim minority. Tarrant's "climate change alarmism" is one of few aspects of his manifesto that's not morally repugnant. But as anyone who's read the manifesto knows, all of this is tangential -- the core of Tarrant's belief system is ethnic separatism. When Klavan and others on the right raise these incidental points in Tarrant's manifesto, they're trying to distract you from the central message.
We all have ideas and opinions but murderers should not be allowed to become part of our conversation.
But murder was one of Tarrant's key ideas. It's an idea that has to be part of the conversation, because there are people in our society who believe that the presence of Muslims in majority-white nations is an existential threat to which the only proper response is violence. I think the presence of these people in our society is a massive problem. Demanding that we not talk about them is an effort to distract attention from those who don't share their goals but do share their rage, including Klavan himself and the president.
We do not have to talk about any of these things today.
This is a variation on "Now is not the time..." -- the standard conservative response to any talk of gun control after a mass murder.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously wrote: “Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.” In the face of evil and unimaginable suffering, there is nothing wrong with having nothing to say. All we can do is feel for the victims and appeal to that great Heart of Righteousness we trust will triumph at the end of time.

My thoughts and prayers.
That's Klavan is sanctimonious mode. Here's Klavan last fall:



The Daily Wire published a video today called “Leftese Dictionary: J is for Jihad.” The video is part of a series that Klavan has dedicated to deriding the way liberals idealize concepts like diversity, intersectionality, and equality.... [T]o Klavan, the only thing Jihad means is “killing and raping people.”

“A proper reading of the Quran reveals that Jihad is a spiritual struggle during which a Muslim attempts to rise to a higher plane of consciousness by slaughtering unbelievers, raping their women, taking over their civilizations, and persecuting and oppressing them until they’re all dead. Thus, to oppose Jihad is to thwart the spiritual development of a religious believer,” Klavan says in the video....

Klavan concluded, “So really, when you think about it, it’s Jews and Christians who are the evil ones, and Muslims who are nice except for the whole Jihad slaughtering and raping people thing, which is very spiritual for the Muslim. For everyone else, it’s just being killed and raped, also known as Jihad.”
"In the face of evil and unimaginable suffering, there is nothing wrong with having nothing to say," Klavan writes now. But apparently this applies only when those responsible for the mass suffering are white.

Friday, March 15, 2019

IT MAY NOW BE IMPOSSIBLE TO DEPRIVE MASS SHOOTERS OF THE KIND OF ATTENTION THEY CRAVE

In the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre, there seems to be one thing on which nearly everyone agrees, across the political spectrum:






Whatever we do, we should draw as little attention as possible to the culprit and the content he's posted to announce his crime. Attention is what he wants, we're told. Don't give it to him.

But what if we're living in a new world in which it doesn't matter how much attention we give the shooter? What if the specific form of attention he and other mass murderers want is not ours to withhold?

It's widely believed that saturation media coverage of a mass murderer makes it likely that he'll become a model for the next wannabe. There's obviously some truth in that. But look at the people this shooter names as inspirations in his manifesto:



Anders Breivik, a white separatist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 and published a lengthy manifesto, is globally famous. Dylann Roof, the 2015 Charlotte Charleston church shooter, is notorious in America. The other names are little known outside their own countries: Traini shot and wounded six African migrants in Italy last year. Pettersson killed a student and a teaching assistant in Sweden in 2015, in a racially motivated attack. Osborne drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in London in 2017, killing one and injuring at least nine; his motive was anti-Muslim bigotry.

The New Zealand shooter also dug deep into history for inspiration:



Also:
... the shooter repeatedly references Oswald Mosley [in his manifesto]. Mosley was the founder of the British Union of Fascists, a political party in the 1930s that sought to return England to a state of “autarchy”, or complete financial and cultural independence from the rest of the world.... Mosley is not an entirely obscure figure, but he is also not a particularly prominent thinker in the 21st century right wing.
Multiple murderers don't need inspiration from mass media anymore. They can live in an online subculture where even obscure monsters are considered superstars.

And, of course, there's a similar subculture for angry incels/"men's rights" advocates/"men going their own way," with a pantheon of heroes some of whom were only briefly in the mainstream news.

If we don't name the shooters and we try to suppress the manifestos and the videos, they'll still get out, and they'll circulate among the aficionados. For the aficionados, a mass-murder video that lived on mainstream social media sites for only a few hours will remain world-famous.

Young mass killers know that their fame will live on in their subculture. They don't need to have their names in our headlines.

AFTER THE NEW ZEALAND MOSQUE MASSACRE, TRUMP PLUGGED BREITBART -- WHY?

This morning, President Trump finally responded to the mosque massacre in New Zealand, with a toothless tweet.



Last night, there was no response from the president, but he did tweet a now-deleted plug for Breitbart:



Why that, at this time?

Hard to say. The mosque massacre is the lead story at Breitbart right now. The reporting is reasonably straightforward. Was someone with the keys to Trump's Twitter account just trying to do a favor for Breitbart -- don't follow this story at CNN or the BBC, go to Breitbart instead?

Or were we being directed to the comments section of that lead story? Because at a time when authorities were reporting a horrifying casualty count, Trump's Twitter account was directing readers to a site where the community agrees with the shooter.

I'll post a few sample comments from that Breitbart comment thread, followed by excerpts from the shooter's manifesto.

Breitbart commenter:



Shooter's manifesto:



Breitbart:



Shooter:



Breitbart:



Shooter:



Breitbart:



Shooter:



A racist massacre took place last night, and the Twitter feed of the president of the United States directed readers to a site full of racism.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

IT'S HARD OUT HERE FOR A MILLIONAIRE

You may think the college admissions scandal proves that the rich have unfair advantages over the rest of us. Liz Peek of Fox News wants you to know that you're absolutely wrong:
Accusations that dozens of parents in some cases paid hundreds of thousands of dollars or over $1 million to get their kids into prestigious colleges by falsifying their SAT or ACT scores, or by misrepresenting their sports abilities, have been seized upon by leftists as further evidence that the U.S. skews in favor of the rich and famous.

But in some ways the story says just the opposite. If the children of well-known Hollywood actresses or rich business executives were automatically admitted to the school of their choice, they would not have had to resort to perpetrating these offensive frauds. The Key, the firm behind the alleged swindles, would not have been in business.
See? Elite schools don't admit rich people's children automatically, therefore there's a level playing field!
As she took the SATs, Isabelle Henriquez, daughter of parents charged by federal prosecutors, is alleged to have sat with a proctor who provided her with answers and helped boost her scores by 320 points, to 1,900 out of a possible 2,400

But despite the considerable jump, Isabelle’s test results would still have been too low to get her into Georgetown University. So authorities say that William Rick Singer, founder of The Key, also helped her create a phony claim that she was a top-notch tennis player.

To cap the deal, Singer allegedly paid one of Georgetown’s tennis coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars to award Isabelle one of the squad’s cherished spots, assuring her admission.
See? Perfectly fair. The poor as well as the rich had every opportunity to shell out six or seven figures to get a kid admitted to a top school.

And you know where all this misplaced anger at the rich will inevitably lead -- Venezuela!
Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are among those banking on an increasingly aggrieved electorate – voters who envy success, think they have been mistreated, and want the government to provide for them.

From there it is but a short hop to condemning capitalism, our economic system that rewards personal ambition and individual industry. And that leads to, possibly, the scariest message of all: that successful people and businesses have somehow gamed the system to their advantage. It is a claim that undermines the very essence of this country.

After all, calling someone a “millionaire” or “billionaire” is now a slur. How did that happen?
Gosh, I have no idea.
The real message to be gleaned from the college scandal is how far some parents will go to give their kids every advantage, and how little attention is paid by some to gifts that are ultimately much more important than tutors or flute lessons – like the good values of honesty, decency and integrity. A diploma without those things is worthless.
Yeah, you can have all the money in the world, but you'll never get anywhere without honesty, decency and integrity.


2020: THE AFFORDABLE LUXURY ELECTION?

At a time when even low unemployment can't quell widespread economic anxiety, it's curious how many presidential aspirants are identified with (small or large) upmarket indulgences. Howard Schultz -- I assume he's running -- is the candidate of $4 coffee. John Hickenlooper helped gentrify Denver's LoDo neighborhood by co-founding a craft brewery. Donald Trump sells a pricier brand of luxury -- but it's still pitched to the aspiring middle class, who may not be able to afford Mar-a-Lago dues, or the cost of an investment-grade penthouse apartment, but are able to shop at Trump Tower and stay at the hotels. Also, we'd be awash in Trump-branded products -- steaks, ties, bottled water -- if Trump weren't such a terrible businessman.

And then there's Beto O'Rourke, for whom affordable luxury has meant the option of spending years finding himself:
He and his El Paso friends Arlo Klahr and Mike Stevens formed Foss, the Icelandic word for waterfall, and after recording their first album, The El Paso Pussycats, organized a month-long tour, ... driving across the U.S. and Canada in a station wagon. It was a grand adventure, but also a lesson in scrappy survival....

After he graduated in 1995, O’Rourke and his friends moved to Albuquerque and rented a house formerly occupied by a Swedish ski team. They all shaved their heads and declared this their “Revolution Summer,” an homage to the D.C. punk scene of 1984. The idea was to live on part-time jobs and make art. They formed a band called the Swedes, donning motorcycle helmets and waving the Swedish flag onstage. “I didn’t want to make money, didn’t want to be in business,” O’Rourke says. “My dad was so disappointed. He took out [college] loans, he knew that I took out loans. I was like, ‘You know, I wanna make art. I wanna write. I wanna make music. I wanna create things.’”

The collective fizzled out, however... After briefly returning to El Paso ... O’Rourke went back to New York and started nannying for a wealthy family on the Upper West Side. In 1996, he and a group of friends from both Columbia and El Paso moved into a decrepit loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, across from a housing project. O’Rourke worked as an art mover for Hedley’s Humpers and for his uncle on a startup Internet-service provider, called El.Net, building the first Web sites for PEN American Center and the Committee to Protect Journalists. In Brooklyn, he and his friends threw parties, bashed out punk songs, and drank endless cases of Budweiser; on the roof was a trampoline and a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline.

O’Rourke ... describes the time as one of joyous indirection in which he surrounded himself with “some amazing artists and thinkers.” He read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, discovered Bob Dylan, deepened his devotion to The Odyssey, and went through bursts of enthusiasm for bands like Big Star and Guided by Voices....
O'Rourke is still a Kerouacian wanderer. He went on a solo road trip after he lost his Senate race in November. He's going on another road trip now that he's officially running for president.

In different ways, all of this -- higher-priced beer and coffee, Trumpian piss-elegance, the opportunity to be a slacker -- represents a level of prosperity that seemed attainable for much of America in the decades after World War II, and seems to be slipping away now for the people who took it for granted, and for their descendants.

We elected a really rich guy three years after the '29 stock market crash, but we didn't elect a guy who got rich selling small (Schultz, Hickenlooper) or large (Trump) indulgences to the mass public. We've elected young idealists, but they weren't as focused as O'Rourke is on the self. Maybe Trump and O'Rourke, in particular, represent what different groups of voters want within reach, as it seems to be less and less attainable.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

EVIL LIBERALS ARE COMING FOR YOUR TOILET!!!!1!!!1!!!!

David French has been bathed in praise for a National Review piece written after the release of offensive and embarrassing Tucker Carlson radio clips. In the piece, French denounces
the creation and sustainment of an outrage industry that spends millions of dollars (and countless man-hours) in the quest to destroy the lives and careers of the people it dislikes.
French rails against ideologues who spend their days
looking for that “gotcha” moment, the word or phrase that proves “the bad man really is bad.”
French sees fakery in the response to Carlson's old clips:
... no one is really hurt.... Instead, the atmosphere is one of vengeful glee. We got him now.
French regards this as a brutal form of eliminationist politics:
Once you pass the ideological threshold that renders you an enemy, you’re fair game.
I'd like to point out that everything I've quoted from French's piece is true about the right's response to a New York City advisory on ... toilets. The city is urging residents to limit what they flush down toilets to bodily excretions and toilet paper -- no wet wipes, no feminine hygiene products, no cooking grease. What the city hopes to do is prevent massive sewer system clogs called fatbergs, which damage wastewater treatment facilities, cause sewer backups, and damage the environment.

Here's a perfectly reasonable social media post on the subject:



Here's a longer video, with some appalling shots of actual fatbergs, narrated by the deputy commissioner who has the thankless task of coping with these problems:




Asking residents to give some thought to this matter doesn't seem like an imposition on the city's part. But the right hates New York City's mayor. So here's the New York Post in outrage mode:
Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken the concept of a Nanny State to a whole new level — instructing New Yorkers about what they can and cannot flush down their toilets.
Here's a post at Sean Hannity's website:
LIBERAL PRIORITIES: Forget Amazon, De Blasio Issues Instructions on Proper Use of NYC’s TOILETS

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio left millions of New Yorkers scratching their heads Tuesday evening; posting bizarre instructions for the proper use of toilets in apartments and houses throughout the nation’s largest city.
Here's the right-wing site The American Mirror:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is apparently concerned folks in the Big Apple don’t know how to properly use their toilets, so he’s offering a little advice.
What the city is telling residents is not very different from what Bob Vila says; also Popular Science and FamilyHandyman.com, as well as this Texas plumbing contractor and this plumbing and heating company in Georgia. Good Housekeeping agrees that feminine hygiene products shouldn't be flushed, as do the makers of Kotex and Tampax products.

In other words, this isn't a liberal conspiracy to control every aspect of Americans' lives.

The right-wingers admit that the plumbing problem is real -- the New York Post and American Mirror pieces quoted above go on to describe fatbergs in gory detail.

But the key point is in the headlines and ledes: Liberalism is evil. Liberals are insane totalitarians. They must be demonized. Their careers must be destroyed.

*****

UPDATE: A Twitter follower posts this:



Time-tested advice!


NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY CONTROL, CONSERVATIVES ALWAYS BELIEVE LIBERALS HAVE ALL THE POWER

The opening monologue from Tucker Carlson's show last night appears on the Fox News website under this headline:
Tucker Carlson: We're becoming an authoritarian society - and the group in charge is coming after Fox News
Savor that for a moment. Republicans control the White House, the Senate, the federal court system including the Supreme Court, and, even after the 2018 midterms, most state houses and state legislative chambers -- yet "the group in charge" of our society is an enemy of conservatism and is "coming after" Carlson and Fox News.

Who's "in charge" of American society, if it's not the mostly Republican government? According to Carlson, it's the people who make dissenters disappear:
Ever notice how certain people have started to disappear? Not vagrants or runaways, the usual missing persons. But fairly prominent, well-educated people with dissenting political opinions. One day you’re watching or reading them online. The next time you check, they’re gone. You can’t find their videos. They’re not showing up in your Facebook feed. Suddenly you can’t buy their books on Amazon.

You Google them to find out what happened and discover they’ve been banned. They’re being called dangerous extremists, bigots and Nazis. For the public good, they’ve been shut down. Disappeared.

You’re a little surprised to hear this. They didn’t seem evil or radical to you. They were just free thinkers, saying something a little different from the party line on CNN. You don’t complain about it, though. You don’t want anyone to know you were watching forbidden videos. There’s a penalty for that.
Who's he talking about? Milo Yiannopoulos? He was dumped by right-wing groups. A mainstream publisher also 86'd his book, but Yiannopoulos was free to publish it himself, which he did. It made the New York Times bestseller list. Want to buy it on Amazon? Here's the link.

Who else? Roseanne Barr? She was on TV, then she published something controversial, and now she's not on TV. No, wait -- that was Kathy Griffin. Actually it was both, wasn't it?

Go on, Tucker.
... It was only a matter of time before they came for Fox News. Of the top dozen news networks in the United States, only Fox has an alternative view. The other channels speak with one voice. They are united on every issue, every time. They’re in almost perfect sync with the priorities of the Democratic Party.
Which is why they loathe half the Democratic presidential candidates and most fresh ideas articulated by Democrats.
Fox News stands apart. The opinion shows on this channel have another perspective. You might consider that valuable diversity, something different in a sea of sameness. The left does not think that. They would like Fox News shut down tomorrow. The other news channels agree. They would like that too. They are trying to do it now.
I wish.
It’s worth explaining how the process of banning ideas works, the means by which so many voices have already been silenced. The first step is defining political disagreement as a mortal threat to the country. Something that’s dangerous. That’s the job of a group called the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization whose name intentionally masks its role as an enforcer for the Democratic establishment.
There's the big reveal. The group that's "in charge of" America isn't the GOP or the Federalist Society or the Koch network -- it's the SPLC! The SPLC is America's secret government.
Groups or individuals who challenge the official story on virtually any subject find themselves designated as a “hate group” by the SPLC. This is a handy way to crush your political enemies. By definition, hate groups don’t have legitimate ideas or positions. They spew only hate. You don’t have to listen to them or debate their claims. You can ignore everything they say. Your only duty is to suppress them. That’s the beauty of the SPLC: Once they call the people you disagree with a “hate group,” you can immediately move to shut them up by force. That’s what they do.
The SPLC hasn't designated Fox a hate group, but whatever.

Also:
That’s where Media Matters comes in. Media Matters is a George Soros-funded lobbying organization...
George Soros! Drink!
... whose sole mission is to punish critics of the Democratic Party. Media Matters often uses propaganda from the Southern Poverty Law Center to bully corporations, news executives and tech companies into punishing people it doesn’t like. Not surprisingly, the media love Media Matters.
So the SPLC and (((Soros)))-controlled Media Matters tell all the news organizations what to write and they all just write exactly what they're told, and...
This is the face of state media.
Yes, there it is. Fox News is a 24/7 propaganda channel for the president of the United States, but what power does that guy have? Surely not as much as the Southern Poverty Law Center and (((Soros))-funded Media Matters!

This is the worldview of the right. We could someday have a full-on fascist dictator in America, one who was suspending all civil liberties and putting people in camps, and the dictator's supporters would still be claiming to be weak and embattled, insisting that the terrorized, shackled, literally disappeared opponents of the regime were the ones with real power.

Carlson will survive -- hell, he's not even a top news story anymore, what with the college scandal and the questions about that Boeing plane. The careers of Dan Rather and Brian Williams suffered far more than Carlson's will. Fox as a corporate entity has never been attacked the government the way CNN has. But Fox and Carlson claim to be the real victims -- and every rank-and-file conservative in America believes that's true.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

THE RIGHT IS BLAMING THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL ON LIBERALISM, OF COURSE

Here's the biggest story of the day:
Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed in Boston on Tuesday.

The alleged scam focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment.

Authorities said the FBI investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children's chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow that to happen, and bribing college coaches to identify the applicants as athletes.
Charlie Pierce is disgusted, but he's one of many liberals who hope this teaches conservatives a lesson:
The whole scheme, as described in the indictment unsealed in Boston on Tuesday, is a master class in wealth and privilege. (The only small diamond amid the sewage is that it makes all those people who went to court arguing that their Caucasianism had been discriminated against through affirmative action look completely ridiculous.)



But that won't be the takeaway in right-wing America. To conservatives, the fault lies where it always does: with liberalism.

Here are some Breitbart comments:
How dare they try to bribe their spoiled rotten children's way into prestigious universities. This is Leftist entitlement mentality at its finest.

****

Yeah, look at the Occutards of Wall Street. Many of them were the ivy league children of wealthy leftists.

****

Like we always say, Leftist can't win/gain anything unless they cheat.

****

I seriously doubt this investigation and subsequent charges would have happened under a Democrat (or RINO) administration given that there are so many politically-connect Leftists in Hollywood. Just imagine how much corruption must exist there...

****

... the parents claimed THE BRIBE MONEY as deductions on their Federal Income Tax !
See how extreme radical liberals think ? We peons aren't paying OUR fair share.
You may think the ability of the wealthy to game the admissions system, through schemes like this or simply through legacy admissions, is the polar opposite of diversity efforts in admissions -- but to the right, it's all part of the same corrupt system. Another Breitbart comment:
As a parent of someone who is trying to get into college - I could care less. The entire system is already rigged, this is just a way that isn't run by the colleges themselves. Examples: racial preferences - the college picks lesser qualified candidates all of the time based on race; David Hogg is at Harvard - sorry, did they listen to him talk? The boy can't speak a sentence that doesn't include the f bomb; Obama daughter made it into Harvard - do we really think that it was on her intellect, or was it, possibly, because she is extremely connected; legacy students - again, a group of kids that make it because daddy or granddaddy made it; athletes - not a group famous for getting into college on the SAT scores... So, tell me why I should be upset because a small bunch of rich kids got into colleges that I have no hopes of ever being able to send my kids to (because there is no way that I could pay for such a thing), when there are already many large groups of similarly unqualified students that make it in all of the time?
Rush Limbaugh knows who's to blame:



That's an illustration from his website. On the air today, he turned left-blaming into a chant:
White Leftist Liberals from Hollywood Exercising White Privilege! One of the biggest scandals to ever hit elite American universities!

... this breaking news about these white, leftist liberals in Hollywood trying to game the admissions system at major American universities? Holy smokes, folks!

[The scheme] was run by a guy in California whose last name is Singer, who helped parents get their (I guess) hapless, unqualified white liberal kids into the schools through bribes.

... Wealthy, filthy rich, white liberal Hollywood actresses scamming major American universities, scamming the American taxpayer, scamming the IRS.

... “The children’s parents would allegedly pay a specified amount of money fully aware it would be used to gain college admission. The money would then go toward an SAT or ACT administrator or a college athletic coach who would fake a profile for the prospective” white, liberal children “regardless of their athletic ability, according to the charging documents.”

... when we go to the phones, people are gonna be talking about the rich white liberal Hollywood scandal.
Limbaugh blames liberals -- but he gets you coming and going: He also says that the evil liberals were left with no choice because they were the victims of ... liberalism:
Why go to all of this trouble? Okay. Let me run a theory by you. One reason that they may have had to cheat is that the left in this country has made so many rules to keep white kids out of college that there aren’t that many admission slots — at least not as many as there used to be — especially at the elite colleges. Affirmative action, any number of policies have limited the number of admissions for, primarily, white boys. White men are the ones that are attending college in lesser numbers than any other demographic, but it would also be true for white females.

So admissions are taken by minorities. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and in some cases... Not in the case of the Asians, but in some cases the people getting in have lower scores than others who are not getting in because of these policies guaranteed to ensure equity and fairness and equality. So because... You know, liberals corrupt everything they touch. They corrupt their own states, and then they leave their states and they come to states like ours here and start corrupting us! They bring their high-tax belief; they bring their Big Government belief.

They bring everything that they create and then flee. They bring it with ’em. Well, now, they have corrupted, in many ways, the American education system. More than just admissions policy, they’ve corrupted the curriculum and everything else. So now there’s just fewer opportunities for their kids to get in; so they gotta game the system.
Toxic liberalism is the disease and toxic liberalism is the treatment. Evil is everywhere and it's all liberalism's fault.

RIGHT-WINGERS: CARLSON GETS A PASS ON HIS OLD WORDS BECAUSE MEDIA MATTERS USED ... RESEARCH!

Media Matters has now released clips and transcripts of Tucker Carlson making racist remarks on a shock-jock radio show, a day after exposing Carlson's misogynistic and pro-pedophilia remarks on the same show. But according to conservatives, everything Carlson said should be ignored by the public -- not because the clips and quotes are fake (they aren't), and not because they're out of context (they aren't), but because they were discovered using (gasp!) research.

Here's Mike LaChance at William Jacobson's blog, Legal Insurrection:
These audio clips didn’t just fall out of the sky. The people at Media Matters went looking for them. They sat and combed through hours of audio looking for something to use to target Tucker and his Fox News show.
So these clips are fruits from a poison tree! They should be stricken from the record!

National Review's David French elaborates at length on the moral bankruptcy of using research to illuminate the character of public figures:
I don’t like what Tucker said, but here’s what is far, far worse for our nation and our culture than a pundit saying shocking things to a shock jock: the creation and sustainment of an outrage industry that spends millions of dollars (and countless man-hours) in the quest to destroy the lives and careers of the people it dislikes....

Here’s the way it works. If you’re a conservative or a Republican who attains any kind of prominence at all, then the hunt is on.... People will listen to hundreds of hours of radio shows or podcasts. They’ll watch tapes of cable news until their eyes glaze over. They’ll scan through hundreds of thousands of written words — letting the sum total of the person’s worldview and body of work wash over them — looking for that “gotcha” moment, the word or phrase that proves “the bad man really is bad.”
So no matter what Media Matters finds, we should plug our ears and avert our eyes. Some researcher dug it up! No fair!

Besides, if it's cherry-picked, then it can't be illustrative of character. What about all the hours Ted Bundy spent not killing people?

This isn't the only talking point intended to dissuade us from judging Carlson on his own words. Legal Insurrection's LaChance tells us that Carlson only said those horrible things because he wanted to be polite:
Media Matters released a segment of audio from an appearance Tucker made in 2009 on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” radio show in 2009. In the first part, he plays devil’s advocate in a discussion about the arrest of Warren Jeffs. Media Matters is clearly trying to imply that Carlson supports the sexual exploitation of children, which is absurd.

In the next clip, Tucker plays along with the hosts as they riff and joke at the expense of feminists and the implication is that Tucker is a misogynist.
So when Carlson was saying misogynist things, he was just "play[ing] along with the hosts." He was trying to show good manners. He wanted to be agreeable.

Of course, when his hosts expressed the opinion that Warren Jeffs was a sick pedophile, Carlson chose not to be agreeable -- he played "devil's advocate," according to LaChance. But that was probably also Carlson showing his manners. Good conversation sometimes requires a lively exchange of views, doesn't it? I'm certain Emily Post would agree. In any case, we're assured that nothing Carlson said reflected his own beliefs or opinions in any way.

But the key point is that anything archived should be completely out of bounds. It's just not fair to quote what a public figure said in public on a highly rated satellite radio show. If you had to research it, it doesn't count.

"DYING" REPUBLICANISM WON'T STOP BEING REANIMATED ANYTIME SOON

Corey Robin and Ross Douthat don't agree on much, but they agree that Donald Trump might be the new Jimmy Carter. Douthat writes:
Though personally the two men are ever so slightly different, they seem to occupy a similar space in the arc of political history — both outsiders who seized control of a divided, exhausted, yet still powerful political party, both men who tried to push their coalitions into a new ideological formation, both presidents who commanded legislative majorities but accomplished next to nothing with them.

The term that seems to fit them both is “disjunctive,” from the categorizations of the Yale political scientist Stephen Skowronek. As Carter straddled the old New Deal-Great Society liberalism and the age of Reaganism and neoliberalism to come, so Trump’s presidency is at once the seeming last gasp for the Reagan coalition and a possible doorway into a future where socialism and right-wing populism contend for mastery instead.
In early 2017, Robin, citing Skowronek, made the case for Trump as a "disjunctive" president presiding over a dying age of Reaganism. Now Douthat takes it a step further: If Trump is the new Carter, who could be the new Reagan, presiding over the beginning of the next political era? His answer: It might be Bernie Sanders.
... if you’re eagerly looking for the repetition or the rhyme, the 2020 primary campaign supplies an obvious figure: The Reagan to Trump’s Carter, the left-wing answer to the first movement-conservative president, can be only Bernard Sanders.

If you doubt me, consider the parallels. Like Reagan following his attempt to primary Gerald Ford in 1976, Sanders is coming off a near-miss insurgent campaign against an embodiment of the party establishment, who then went to an excruciatingly narrow general election defeat.

Like Reagan, Sanders is widely judged too old to be elected president; he is older than the Gipper, but just as Reagan’s age in 1980, 69, roughly matched American life expectancy at the time, so does Sanders’s age of 77 match life expectancy today.

Like Reagan, Sanders is widely considered too extreme to be nominated, and certainly too extreme to win: Some Democrats fear that his nomination would give oxygen to a third-party centrist (with Howard Schultz ready for that role) as Reagan’s prompted John Anderson to run as a liberal Republican; some Republicans hope that a Sanders-led ticket would help the unpopular incumbent sneak to re-election.
The more Douthat goes on in this vein, the more he seems to make sense.

But I don't buy it. It's not because I don't believe Sanders (or another progressive) can win in 2020. It's because I don't believe we're actually at a disjunctive moment. I think we should be -- it's been obvious for years that Reaganism doesn't deliver for ordinary people. But the power of big money and the propaganda notions that money has rammed into the national consciousness prevent a new order from gaining purchase.

Americans want higher pay, more affordable healthcare, more affordable college and child care. Americans want higher taxes on the rich. Americans don't want a repeat of the Great Recession, during which the wealthy suffered little, and after which the wealthy got all the pie.

But the party that's unashamedly committed to making the rich richer still commands the passionate loyalty of more than 40% of the population -- enough to win elections when the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and vote suppression are factored in. The GOP maintains this loyalty not because the 40%+ are pro-plutocrat but because well-financed propaganda carries the message that the other party favors crime, perversion, infanticide, white genocide, individual disarmament, and the economic policies of Venezuela. (It was Greece a few years ago, and it was the "surrender monkey" foreign policy of France a few years before that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the propaganda focused more on foreign policy than on economics.)

We can never get to the end of the Reaganite cycle because the scaremongering that keeps the plutocrats' preferred party in power, or at least in enough power to block anything truly transformative, is still widespread on the right, and also quite common in centrist discourse. We might elect Sanders or another progressive as president; Democrats, including progressives, might hold the House and even regain the Senate. But the plutocracy will fight to the last breath. Republicans will use every means at their disposal to block progressive policies. The old order is on life support, but at new order is smothered at birth every time.

Maybe it'll be different this time. Maybe we'll fight harder. But I'm not optimistic about big change, even if a big-change presidential candidate -- Sanders, Warren, whoever -- wins.

Monday, March 11, 2019

NANCY PELOSI DOESN'T WANT TO IMPEACH, AND I'M NOT SURE IT MATTERS

Nancy Pelosi, in a Washington Post interview:
I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
I'm going to take "unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan" as a huge asterisk. I know that doesn't impress many of you -- you think impeachment is important (necessary!) even if winning conviction in the Senate (by a two-thirds vote) is impossible.

I go back and forth on this. The last impeachment established, for the foreseeable future, the premise that impeachment happens whenever an emboldened party in Congress feels like impeaching a president of the opposite party, for any reason. Because I believe that a large portion of the U.S. population will continue to ignore objective reality in its assessment of Donald Trump, I think a failed impeachment could be assessed the same way, no matter how overwhelming the evidence looks to us. (I'd like to add "or to history," but I believe history is written by the victors, and I'm not at all convinced that's going to us.) A successful impeachment is worth it, even under those circumstances, because at least you drive the sonofabitch out of office. If the point of an unsuccessful impeachment is to establish that high crimes have been committed, I question whether that can be established if 40+ percent of the country doesn't believe the case.

But I don't see any evidence that Pelosi intends to shut down efforts by House committees to try to establish that Trump is unfit for office. Therefore, she's not the last word on this. I think those committees will uncover compelling, overwhelming evidence of Trump's criminality and contempt for the Constitution, and will reframe evidence uncovered by other investigators in a compelling way. What the country will do with this is anyone's guess.

I'd like to believe that Pelosi's words will lull Trump into believing that Democrats are giving up. That's certainly what Trump's ideological and intellectual peers in various right-wing comments sections believe. Here are the Breitbartniks:
You mean, you can't impeach him, as there is nothing to impeach him for, and you have to give up...

Tell the truth, Nancy.

****

And it looks like the verdict is in,,,
The Democrats have squat, nothing, nada.......

****

Doesn't Nancy know that there aren't ANY Impeachable offenses against Trump. Mueller is wrapping it up with ZERO offenses too.
But they've argued that there's no case against Trump when investigators are aggressive (the Judiciary Committee's sweeping demand for documents is seen as proof that Democrats have nothing and need to cast an even wider net to find fake crimes), and now they're arguing that there's no case against Trump in response to this. To them, Trump's innocence is a matter of theology.

Citizens of Red America will probably never believe what's in front of them, but I'd like to see it, and -- this interview notwithstanding -- I'm sure we will.

TRUMP IS THE FAVORITE IN 2020, AND THIS IS WHY

I'm back. Thank you, Yastreblyansky, Crank, and Tom -- excellent work once again.

I had a relaxing weekend, and I should be gleeful right now -- Media Matters has unearthed old radio braodcasts in which Tucker Carlson made light of the sexual exploitation of underage girls and made other dubious comments. We all know that Carlson works for Fox, and therefore nothing will happen to him except a few days of embarrassment. For a lot of people, that's enough -- but after all these years, I'm sick of the double standard. This would be career-ending for a commentator employed anywhere outside the right-wing bubble. A non-conservative news organization that didn't fire someone who'd said these things would be subject to days of harassment from Fox News -- dozens and dozens of segments over a period of a few days. The president and Republican members of Congress would weigh in. It would become the #1 news story in America.

Nothing like this will happen in Carlson's case. He won't be Jussie Smollett or Ilhan Omar. Fox will have his back, and it will blow over any minute now. So I can't enjoy the pile-on while it lasts. I know how it ends.

I'm also dismayed by a story that appeared on the front-page of The Washington Post yesterday. It's an awestruck response to President Trump's CPAC speech the previous weekend, which really was no big deal -- it was just like all his other pep-rally speeches, except longer. But the Post's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker used it to demonstrate two premises: that Trump is larger than life, and that -- although the authors would never admit that this is their point -- Trump is the real centrist in American politics.

The awe is palpable. Yes, according to Parker and Rucker, Trump is dishonest and a loose cannon -- but he's large and contains multitudes. (The headline is "The 10 Personas of Donald Trump in a Single Speech." The personas are: the Entertainer, the Fighter, the Victim, the Bully, the Expert, the Auditor, the Braggart, the Fabulist, the Rebel, and the Pundit.)
He lambasted and lampooned his rivals. He exaggerated and ballyhooed his record. He riddled his remarks with contradictions, shoddy statistics and falsehoods. And he embroidered it all with a fake Southern accent, curse words and bouts of extravagant pantomime.

For two hours and five minutes last weekend, President Trump dazzled his supporters and appalled his critics with a mind-spinning, free-associating performance that neatly encapsulated his singular standing as a polarizing cultural figure.
Note the awe: the speech was "a mind-spinning, free-associating performance that neatly encapsulated his singular standing as a polarizing cultural figure."

And note the binary: Trump "dazzled his supporters and appalled critics." This is how Trump, of all people, morphs in the media's telling into the real centrist in the presidential race. His critics hate him! His fans love him! He must be somewhere in the middle!

More:
The spectacle showcased Trump in his purest form, an unconventional politician who drives opponents to madness and acolytes to glee.
There it is again -- Trump as the man in the middle.
The businessman-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-politician inhabited multiple personas in the space of a single speech — often intertwined and at a dizzying clip — from entertainer to fighter, from fabulist to bully.
He's just ... larger than life, as Parker and Rucker describe him. Who on the other side is as compellingly outsize a figure as this?

He's unfazed by failure, the ultimate happy warrior:
Trump took the CPAC stage after a stretch of global failures: the collapse of nuclear talks with North Korea; record high trade deficits and signs of a slowing economy; a surge in illegal immigration; and an unbuilt border wall that is unfunded after a lost standoff with Democrats in Congress.

Yet Trump on this Saturday afternoon was positively buoyant.
He's a force of nature who cannot be contained:
His aides and confidants liken him to a whistling teapot, a pressure cooker that might explode if he does not blow off steam. For Trump, the platform was a release valve.
Here's another binary:
A commentary in the libertarian publication Reason described Trump’s turn on the CPAC stage as “Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great,” declaring that, if he can consistently re-create the dynamic, “his reelection is a foregone conclusion.” The left-leaning Salon website, meanwhile, described his remarks as “more like the delusional ramblings of someone hopped up on drugs or suffering a mental breakdown than anything resembling a normal political speech.”
He's more powerful than the Post's own fact-checking apparatus, because he is loved:
Little of what Trump said was factual — he made 102 false or misleading claims in the speech, according to an analysis by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker — yet to this crowd and millions of supporters around the country, his broader points rang true and carried the imprimatur of authority because he delivered them.
How great was Trump? He used ... hand movement!
He relied on his trademark gestures, from extending his index fingers and thumbs to frame his declarations of success to splaying his hands apart as if pulling taffy.
Ultimately:
It was the presidency as Vaudeville act — the commander in chief at Carnegie Hall.
Which is it? A grind-it-out performance in a sad little tank town, or the pinnacle of a showman's success, a night on the most presitgious stage imaginable? It's both, I guess -- Trump is a scrappy, hungry road dog and he also hit the big time.

I don't care how many lies the rest of the story enumerates. I don't care that the part of the story that describes Trump as victim makes him seem like, well, a whiny guy playing the victim card. Trump is portrayed here as a giant his critics can't kill. Parker and Rucker may be appalled, but they're also impressed.

This is what the eventual Democratic presidential nominee will have to run against: not just Trump, but the myth of Trump. It won't be easy, with the mainstream media printing the legend.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Timelines: A Buried Lede

Image via Irish Examiner.

Here's a peculiar one, brilliantly reported by Christina Willkie at CNBC (but not so well edited, the story is extremely hard to follow), about one of the more purposeless-sounding lies Paul Manafort told prosecutors when he was pretending to cooperate after the first trial, about the origins of a payment of $125,000 that went to one of his lawyers in June 2017.

The money was obtained, it seems, from an old comrade called Laurance Gay who Manafort had put in charge of the Tom Barrack–created superPAC Rebuilding American Now (where he seems to have done exceptionally well, raising $24 million, the best performance of any Trump superPAC, though three quarters of the money came from just four donors—wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon for $6 million; Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus for $5 million; Hollywood real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, not previously a well-known donor, though his experience in campaign money laundering goes back to 1991, for another $5 million; and the Arkansas poultry magnate Ronald Cameron, whose experience with campaign money laundering through his "Jesus Fund" is very extensive, for $2 million).

Gay got it from a company, Multi Media Services Corporation, or MMSC, which earned $19 million as the chief ad buyer for the Trump campaign, and whose silent owner turned out to be Tony Fabrizio, another old Manafort associate and the Trump campaign's main pollster, with whose company Gay had a slightly dodgy-sounding relationship:

Not that there's anything self-evidently illegal about this arrangement, Wilkie carefully insists, or any of the rest of the story as far as she knows, but in the same month when MMSC sent that $125,000 to Manafort's lawyer, it also sent reimbursements to Rebuilding America Now amounting to a very round $800,000, thought to be unusual (reimbursements from ad buyers to their clients are entirely normal, but they're normally in very specific amounts, like the $347,505 MMSC returned to Rebuilding America Now in early February 2017, and seven months after the election is an unusually long wait before paying them). And the total $925,000 in unusual payments MMSC made to Rebuilding America Now that June is remarkably similar to the $924,164.03 that Laurance Gay took from Rebuilding America Now in consulting fees and travel expenses in 2017 and 2018.

Although the PAC itself had stopped raising any money and appeared to be doing nothing to justify Gay's $35,000/month salary other than buying the occasional ad on Facebook inviting the public to agree that "Hillary should be behind bars" and "CNN sucks". (To say nothing of the nearly $10 million Gay must have earned in 2016 from Rebuilding America Now through his secret commission split with Tony Fabrizio.) You see what I'm saying?

While Paul Manafort, who had been desperate for money for some time but strangely took no salary for his own six months with the Trump campaign, definitely got some of this money for his lawyers, and lied about it to the Mueller prosecutors, which was one of the things that got them mad enough to end the cooperation agreement, and it was by interviewing Tony Fabrizio that the prosecutors learned the truth. I think Wilkie is trying to tell us that there might have been some illegal payments getting made to somebody in the money laundromat, and Mueller knows all about whatever it was.

But that's not all! That wasn't even the thing that got my attention, which was Fabrizio himself, and had very little to do with money laundering schemes but his activity as a pollster, which has garnered some high and specific praise:

Puritopian Centrists Unite!

Maurice "Snoopy" Miller: You got a problem over there, Foley?
Jack Foley: Yeah, I got a problem: this is the dumbest fuckin' shakedown in the history of dumb shakedowns.
--Out of Sight
Back in my early days on Twitter the No Labels account followed me, and I followed back. It's now Uniters.org and they unfollowed me at some point (probably after the first or third or twentieth time I mocked the shit out of them), but I'm still following them--maybe for the lulz, maybe out of sheer inertia, maybe a little of both.

Their schtick is about what you'd expect: a lot of both-sidesing, debt panic, and delusions about the popularity of their ideology (hint: "independent" is not synonymous with "moderate"), with the occasional expression of disgust at Trump--though it clearly pains them whenever they have to do so without also condemning the Democrats. But recently they have acquired a new distinction: they are the only Twitter account I have ever seen tweeting positively about Howard Schultz.

They really like Howard Schultz.

Of course they like Howard Schultz: he sounds just like them. (Craven defense of illegality on one side. Policy debates on the other. What a sad spectacle!) (One side is caging children, enacting white supremacist policies, and using the Presidency as a money-making scheme. The other side proposes a return to pre-Reagan marginal tax rates. Both sides extreme!) (Paging Yastreblyansky...)

There's a tremendous amount of illogic underlying this worldview, starting with the fallacy of the middle ground (what is the middle ground between dealing with climate change and denying it? between recognizing pregnant women as fully human and treating zygotes as "persons"? between governing for the common good and kleptocratic oligarchy?) and continuing with their identification of ideological centrism with "pragmatism". They really like to self-identify as pragmatists, but in reality these people are as rigid and ideology-bound as any Jill Stein voter. And so, when neither party meets every one of their ideological demands, rather than acting pragmatically (by supporting the party closer to their principles) they lean toward backing a no-hope vanity candidate (which can only disadvantage the party closer to their beliefs). (Any of that sound at all familiar?)

And so like Nader voters in 2000, like Stein voters in 2016, they're prepared to act out of puritopian petulance and throw the election to Trump if they can't get their way. With all due respect to Jack Foley, this the dumbest fuckin shakedown in the history of dumb shakedowns.

Cows, Gas, and Trump — a nearly free associative ramble. Or amble. Or emotional purge. Or something.

Yes, I'm getting into this. So kill me.
Irritability has been my default position for more decades than most of you who are reading this have lived, kiddies. All the same, I must say that I’m feeling more irked than usual these days. 

My teeth are gnashing. My head is about to explode. I’m ready to throw a chair through a window — preferably somebody else’s window. 

As case in point has been prompted by just one stinking issue of the New York Times — today’s issue. I'm talking about hamburgers.

I mean, trust defensive Republican strategists to take a more-or-less mild suggestion and blow it into a near-nuclear meltdown. In the past few days the hysterical right, from the Trumpster to Sebastian Gorka, have been raging that Democrats want to take away….No, not your guns. Not your so-called religious freedom to insult and exclude from public accommodation anybody you personally don’t like. Not even your God-given right to enjoy the next fatal and fiery NASCAR collision.

The Republicans are ramping up the hysterical notion that Democrats want to take away your hamburgers.

What sparked all this is a goal, propounded by Democratic Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, and Democratic Senator Edward Markey, calling for “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas admissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

Get that? "working collaboratively"  “as much as” “technologically” “feasible.” Hardly a demand to call out the dreaded, armed, and infamously murderous Hamburger Swat Squad.

I keep looking for buzzwords like “confiscate” and “hamburgers” in the OAC-Markey manifesto. Or even for a mention of sirloin, T-bones, filet mignons, flap steaks, well-marbled chunks of stewable chuck, or grandma’s pot roast. I find nada. Not even the forced purchase of Hamburger Helper.

What AOC and Markey are really  talking about, it would appear, is better agricultural management, and by implication, the problem of farting cows. It seems that cows emit a fairly significant dose of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere every time they fart or belch.

I’ll hazard a speculation that one possible solution might be to trap a good portion of those gasses and convert them into fuel which we could use in lieu of fracked “natural gas” to heat our homes and cook our, uh, hamburgers.

Overlooked in this brouhaha is the fact that we humans also emit our fair share of methane by farting and belching, and there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are cows.

Population reduction might make a considerable contribution to a less overheated planet, not only by eventually eliminating billions of daily farts and belches, but also because the fewer people we'll have, the less fuel we'll need, and the few farting cows to feed us.  Moreover, we’d better do something about population before Mother Nature does it for us. As somebody — I forget who — once remarked, “Nature is a hanging judge.”

But how can we begin?

I modestly propose that we start to ameliorate this situation by converting the biggest gas bags in government into hamburger, thus, uh, killing two birds with one stone. 

“Trumpburgers,” assuming they were the actual thing, might be the first product  in America with the Trump name on it that is both honest  and socially useful. Ditto all the other Republican gas bags (and a few iffy Democrats whose names I shall not mention here to avoid a digression into intramural outrage.)

This could turn into a game — not that I’m suggesting we have to play it — in which we nominate various Republicans, neo-Fascists, and other ethics-free legislators to be converted into various dishes, for the sake of diminishing gas emissions in the halls of Congress.

Oh what the hell, as long as I’m on the subject, I might suggest that Mitch McConnell might be converted into Mock Turtle Soup. 


Just sayin’.