Monday, February 27, 2017

Modest Proposal

Dr. E.W. Prichard, an ex-naval surgeon who settled in Scotland as a G.P., convicted of murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poison, the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow, in 1865. He may have killed a servant-girl as well.

Now that we're going to get rid of the Dodd-Frank fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their customers' best interests—I actually heard some Republican hack on the radio saying that the rule was a limitation on consumer freedom of choice ("But I might want to choose an investment adviser who will use me to push up the the price of a stock that's going to collapse so he can make more for the firm, or himself, by shorting it!")—

Now, I say, maybe we should think about applying this in some other places. I notice that was a big part of the Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act too. When Obama said "If you like it you can keep it," he wasn't thinking about all the ordinary Americans who prefer their insurance to suck up their premiums and never give them any payback unless a motorcycle accident turns them into paraplegics. Obama thought we'd like to get rid of those in favor of plans that give you preventive care without a copay. And worried about poor people who couldn't afford any insurance instead of Silicon Valley libertarians who don't need insurance because they know they're immune to cancer. (Nobody's immune to cancer.)

Anyway, why don't we start licensing physicians who decline to take the Hippocratic Oath? What about my right to choose a doctor who doesn't mind doing a little harm? Harmful physicians could probably cut costs a lot, which is so important in health care for poor people, in line with the Ryan proposals.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Annals of Derp: Point of parliamentary privilege

Illustration by Ken Priebe for his poem "The Parliament of Owls", a very nice lyrical treatment of collective animal nouns.
A little fake news from Jazz Shaw of the aptly named Hot Air website:
This is a story which would never take place in the United States, at least not yet and not with the official permission of the government. The European Union has obviously become increasingly alarmed over trends in popular sentiment rippling through their member countries. This started with Brexit, but has more recently cropped up with the candidacies of Marie Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Clearly such rabble rousing is not to be tolerated in the largely socialist paradise so something had to be done. The solution? The EU has passed new rules which will allow them to cut the broadcast of any “hate speech or offensive material” and then purge such speech from the official record. (Associated Press)
One of the reasons this sounds so alarming is the unclarity of the writing (and Le Pen's name is "Marine".) The official record of what, Mr. Jazz?

That's the key: It's the official record of debates in the European Parliament, the elected body that governs the EU, which, like other parliaments, has an absolute and unquestioned right to set the standards of acceptable speech inside the body and to suppress unacceptable language—including, obviously, the houses of Congress in the United States, where we're all familiar with the idea of representatives' remarks being "stricken from the record" or having their "words taken down".

It's the European Parliament that's passed the rules, not "the EU" (Jazz wants you to picture those faceless bureaucrats taking time out from emitting rulings on acceptable cheese shapes or whatever the current urban myth is to levy censorship on the particular countries, though he probably knows nothing of the sort will happen), doing something all parliaments do. And it's in response to a series of incidents like:
  • English MEP Godfrey Bloom (UKIP) interrupted a speech by German MEP Martin Schulz (SPD and with any luck chancellor after the coming elections) by singing "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" in a debate of November 2010;
  • Polish MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke (Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic) said that "the minimum wage should be destroyed as we would be treating 20 million young Europeans like niggers" (he later explained he had meant to say "negroes" and put the blame on his poor command of English and an earache) in a debate of July 2014—he had also told the parliament that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust and that women are prevented by evolution from being too intelligent;
  • Greek MEP Eleftherios Synadinos (Golden Dawn), who described Turks as "dirty and polluted" and "like wild dogs" in a debate of March 2016
The parliament already had the power to remove members from the house for such offensive behavior, or expel them altogether, and used it in these cases. The new rules are issued in the hope that it will help make such extreme measures needed less often, through a kind of prior self-restraint.

And that's pretty much it. The rightwing noise machine (drawing, as it often does, from the anti-Europe Telegraph and Sputnik) is whipping up this scandale du jour like a giant meringue, out of practically nothing, as if to create a fog while the relations between the Trump political-entrepreneurial enterprise and the Russian rulers become clearer.

Incidentally, a 1997 study by Kathleen Hall Jamison for the Annenberg Center found the peak use of "taking down words" in the history of the House of Representatives since World War II was in 1946 and 2005, both times when Republicans had taken over the House during a Democratic presidency, suggesting either that Republican rule inevitably brings incivility, or that Republican leadership is more likely to use this form of "censorship" to silence Democrats than the other way around.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chair and chair alike

I'm so old (as we say on the Twitter) I remember when the self-denominated progressive faction was looking on Labor Secretary Tom Perez as a kind of savior against those terrible corporate Democrats, maybe ten months ago—when somebody was talking him up as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton. Didn't work out, but that's another story. But Perez did have a very progressive reputation: "The most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace headed agriculture," howled Breitbart before he'd even been confirmed. Bankers hated him for fighting racial discrimination in housing mortgages at the Department of Justice, and the representatives of capital (such as Sam Batman writing for The Hill) for his work at Labor:
Secretary Perez and his staff shattered records in 2016, for the output of major rules and for the magnitude of regulation last year. For instance, DOL imposed nearly $46 billion in regulatory costs in 2016, according to the American Action Forum’s [presumably deeply deceptive] RegRodeo tool.
In addition, the agency published more than 40 million paperwork burden hours on individuals and businesses. For perspective, it would take more than 20,000 employees working full-time, or 2,000 hours annually, to complete DOL’s regulatory imposition last year.
So it's been strange to watch in his contest against Rep. Keith Ellison for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee how he's been treated by some members of that same self-denominated progressive faction as a reactionary and a plutocrat, Matt Stoller at The Intercept actually denouncing him for his "bank-friendly record" (in winning a case against banks that had unlawfully foreclosed against veterans Perez only won a judgment of $123 million without putting anybody in jail, including Steven Mnuchin, now Donald Trump's treasury secretary, so I'm sure those veterans will never forgive him for merely getting them their money back), and others mysteriously claiming he might be under the malignant influence of the "centrist" or Liebermanian or plutocratist DLC, or Democratic Leadership Council—apparently unaware that that organization expired, unlamented, in 2011, and had very little influence for some time before that.

The funny part from my own personal point of view isn't that I didn't back him last summer (I didn't have anything against him other than not knowing whether or not he'd ever had any political experience—turns out he's won election to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland, in 2002). It's that I did back Keith Ellison for the VP nomination, of all people, though he wasn't running. There's even some evidence.

I really meant it, too. I've long liked Ellison, partly just because he's black and a Muslim and a really successful politician in white Minneapolis, which is a pretty remarkable combination, and he was always my favorite of the active congressional Berners (including Bernie himself); I just thought he was in better touch with reality and had a wider range of things he knew how to talk about. As a vice presidential candidate he'd have offered a way of inviting the Berners back into the fold who'd be an exceptionally good candidate in his own right.

When it comes to the DNC race, I had no such strong feelings; I was happy when Ellison seemed to be the front-runner and equally happy when Perez decided to challenge him, with the sense that whoever won would be great. But this badmouthing of Perez as if he were the incarnation of Count von Bismarck has not made me feel very good.

The DNC chair has nothing to do with policy formulation in any case. The job is mostly about money, secondarily about political strategy (Howard Dean really made this part of the job because he turned out to be so great at it, at least for that one season, but I'm afraid that his successors haven't done as well). If Obama didn't want a member of the Sanders insurgency to be at the executive top of the party of which Obama is still the titular head, I think he was entitled (he didn't lose the election). As symbols, the team of Perez as chair with Ellison as vice chair will be far better than just one of them with the other sent out in the cold. The two of them knew far better what they were up to than their supporters sometimes did. This is a pretty good outcome.

So stop kvetching about it. There are so many enemies out there, we don't need to make any new ones.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wretched Access

I. F. Stone not deciding what to wear to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, via
Just a note on the CPAC massacre of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Politico, CNN, and whoever else was barred from Sean Spicer's press gaggle, presumably because they are the outlets developing the most damaging stories on the new administration, to punish them, and outside the issue of whether this development represents the coming of fascism, not to say that it doesn't—

—to say that what this is a blow to in particular is access journalism, the (obviously false) idea that you can get the information your readers need by huddling in a room with all your competitors hearing what the press secretary wants you to hear.

Showing up for the gaggle, being in the reception line for the soup Sean Spicer is dishing out, because it you might get your question noticed is playing their game. I can't understand complaining, as people like David Sanger always did, that Obama was closed to the press because he didn't like to do gaggles and because he preferred his own photographer to 300 photographers watching him play with the dog, when in fact Obama was available to give really detailed interviews on policy, even to relatively stupid people like Chuck Todd and enemies like Jeffrey Goldberg, which provided a far more precise and elaborated view of his views than any herd conference could possibly have obtained.

The most pernicious habit in Washington political journalism is the addiction to access, which leads the papers to pull punches on stories for fear they might not get invited to the next party. This is not how effective journalism is done. As everybody knows, No More Mister Nice Blog's titulary grandfather deity, and literal grandfather to one of the blog's most beloved participants, I.F. Stone, hardly ever met any powerful people but mostly sat in his office reading and making the occasional phone call, and his work was more important than that of a thousand Chris Cillizzas and Mike Allens.

I'd like to express the hope that today's disinvitation signals some kind of moment in which access journalism begins to decline, and serious journalism of the kind that got the Timeses and Guardian into trouble begins to come back into its own. That's good trouble. If you know you're not getting invited to the next party, why not let it all hang out and tell us what you know, not from spokesman cocktail parties but from traditional legwork and the Google?

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Eve of Deconstruction

Image by Todd McLellan.
Philip Rucker's Bannon interview, in the Washington Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said.
So it's easy to laugh—obviously my first instinct. As in, too bad Jacques Derrida is dead, he would have made such a great Secretary of State. Or maybe Commerce, or the head of Faith-Based Programs.

Because it seems superficially obvious that Bannon meant to say "destruction" and used the four-syllable word instead because he's an ignorant asshole. They chose Scott Pruitt, opponent of environmental regulation (and as we now know clearly bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry) , as head of the Environmental Protection Agency because they want to destroy the EPA, and Betsy DeVos, opponent of public education, as Secretary of Education because they want to destroy that Department. They picked anti-labor agitator Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor, though that didn't work out, and they chose Rick Perry, who explicitly announced in 2012 that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, though he famously couldn't remember it in one debate, as Secretary of Energy (but after he accepted the job, he had an orientation and found out what it is the Department does, and now he apparently thinks it's OK). Tom Price, who worked tirelessly through three congressional terms to throw 30 million people off of health insurance and onto the mercy of charity hospitals, is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Ben Carson, who thinks public housing programs create a "dependency culture", is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, one of the few people alive to openly oppose the Voting Rights Act, was selected to run the Department of Justice. If these people weren't picked to destroy the agencies they're to head, what were they picked for?

And then when he does pick a candidate who's nominally on board with the department's mission, Trump may do everything he can to undermine it, making Secretary of State Rex Tillerson look like an impotent fool and upending decades of policy formation on Israel and Palestine, using John Kelly's Homeland Security to make our country less secure by manufacturing new enemies out of the otherwise well-disposed populations and governments of Mexico and the seven countries of the Muslim ban that supposedly isn't a Muslim ban, while the cabinet officials in question may helplessly snort and disagree. If they didn't mean to destroy these agencies, what did they mean?

But then again, as Vincent Leitch put it in his 1983 monograph, "deconstruction celebrates dissemination over truth, explosion and fragmentation over unity and coherence, undecidable spaces over prudent closure, playfulness and hysteria over care and rationality," so maybe there's something deeper involved.

Any of that sound familiar?

Don't Trump and his cell phone enthusiastically celebrate dissemination over truth every morning? When he broadcasts his alternative facts about a rising crime rate, or the Swedish rape crisis, or the failing New York Times, or Governor Schwarzenegger's TV ratings? Or at a press conference when he rejects questions from CNN ("Fake news!") and takes them instead from Breitbart News ("[With] all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election, what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?”) or the Christianist Broadcasting Network or Townhall?

Isn't it a favoring of explosion and fragmentation when Trump starts scratching at the European Union and NATO, even as his top-ranked lieutenants disagree and suggest you shouldn't pay any attention to him? Isn't it a rejection of "prudent closure" when instead of reading about what's going on in the Muslim world or Chicago he demands to just stop everything, "until we find out just what in the hell is going on"?

Isn't "playfulness and hysteria" the most exact description of the Trump administration you've seen so far?

I'll tell you the truth right now, I'm not crazy about deconstruction as an intellectual methodology. I belong more to the party the young Derrida was opposing, the "structuralists" who believed there's an underlying coherence to culture even when you can't see it, and I prefer the old Derrida, a sweet liberal and extoller of friendship, to the young intellectual terrorist out for revenge (apparently he failed his baccalauréat and entrance exam for the École Normale Supériure more than once). And I've always been really annoyed by the conservative habit of decrying postmodernism and confusing it with "cultural relativism" or "moral relativism" without realizing that the conservative habit of kneading and shifting facts like a cat making a comfortable bed is exactly the kind of postmodernism they complain about.

Because it's such a deeply postmodern and indeed deconstructive thing to turn the obvious upside down and say, for example, like Arthur Laffer, that lowering taxes will raise government revenue, and then "demonstrate" it by drawing a curve on a napkin of what it would look like if there were any evidence it was true, which there never has been, just like Derrida's weird assertion that written language is older than spoken language and appealing to entirely irrelevant passages from Plato to show that it's true. Trumpism just carries that Derridean playfulness of traditional conservatives to amazing extremes.

And what I'm thinking is that the Trumpian program is a larger Derridean effort to deconstruct political life in the sense of turning it upside down, inverting its sound and meaning so that the sound of the words is their weight and value, and their meaning disappears, "under erasure" (sous rature). Trump and Bannon turn policy into criticism ("Bad!" "Sad!" "Fantastic!" "Pathetic!") and criticism into war. Discourse is action and action is discourse, as Trump fails to make decisions and watches television all day, in his possible but uncertain bathrobe.. Trump proclaims the instability of the sign and the ephemerality of the object! Trump turns it all upside down, to shake our perceptions and reinforce our uncertainty. Trump is the king of deconstruction, a couple of decades after it went out of fashion.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Jacksonian Authoritarianism in Action

Trump's notion of limitless executive authority has been pretty clear for a while now. His attacks on judges who ruled against him are a clue, for starters. The Trump administration actually argued in court that his executive orders are not subject to judicial review, and in a comment that would make David Addington blush Stephen Miller asserted that "The president's powers here are beyond question."

Obviously, the courts disagree. But now we're seeing the strategy for getting around the judiciary: make it irrelevant to the practical result.

The other day the DHS released revised guidelines for immigration enforcement:
It can take years after an immigrant is apprehended for that immigrant to get deported, because immigration courts are massively backlogged. The executive order signed by President Trump lays out a possible solution: sending people back “to the territory from which they came” while their cases are still pending in immigration court.

Basically, it’s a “deport first and ask questions later” strategy.

Under Kelly’s memo, immigration officials would use the “deport-first” strategy for any immigrant apprehended crossing the border who they didn’t think was likely to try to cross illegally again. And the memo directs DHS, as well as the Department of Justice, which runs the immigration courts, to increase its capacity to hear deportation cases over videoconference. That way it can hear cases of people after they’ve been sent back.
The Hill has more details:
For the first time, agents in the interior of the country will be allowed to start expedited removal proceedings for immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the country for more than two years. The process does not require a court order.

That power was previously restricted to officers within 100 miles of U.S. borders, so they could quickly detain and remove immigrants as they entered the country.

“The memo contemplates a massive expansion of people being removed from the country without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress....
The rationale for this:
Immigration enforcement agents felt hampered by Obama’s guidelines, Spicer said.

Trump “wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say, you have a mission, there are laws that need to be followed.”
I'll let Detective Vargas respond to that one:
We saw the beginnings of this approach right after the first executive order, when CBP agents were simply ignoring court orders requiring them to observe due process. What the DHS proposes is essentially the same thing on a mass scale. For most people who get deported without due process, it won't matter what the courts ultimately say; the damage will have been done.

A judge can order you not to break a glass. A judge can sanction you if you break it anyway. But a judge can't put the pieces back together.

That's the calculation Trump (or Bannon/Miller) is making on immigration. Expect to see the same approach applied across the board, on everything from regulatory (non-)enforcement to sabotaging the ACA. This is their blueprint for an executive branch operating effectively outside the bounds of judicial review.

It won't go away that easy

Obamacare won't be riding into the sunset, Republicans will. Image via EvilSpeculator.
I've long been convinced Republicans would not be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act because they don't have any ideas for that promised replacement—they can't come up with any ideas virtually by definition, because the parts their constituents want to keep are dependent on the parts they're committed to getting rid of—but I haven't been smart enough to see how it works out in a practical sense, in the sausage-making process. This is now coming clear, in a series of Tweets by the genial young Matthew Chapman, a Texas video game designer who's turned out since the election to be one of the great Twitter ranters.

It starts with the Congressional Budget Office, which must review the budgetary consequences of the repeal. Apparently they've done this with a Ryan-sponsored proposal:

(Topher Spiro runs health policy analysis at the Center for American Progress.)

It's going to cost hundreds of billions to get rid of it, as you probably knew already. Which doesn't mean much on its own, since as you also already knew, Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president.

But in an almost evenly divided Senate there are no ways of passing it.

Since no Democrat will vote for repeal, they can't use the normal procedure, in which the Democrats would kill it with a so-called filibuster (refusing to close debate and move to a vote). Instead, they must use the budget reconciliation process, for which (according to the Byrd Rule) the bill either has to be budget-neutral, or contain a sunset provision, where the new law expires after some fixed period and the older law comes back into effect, and the deficits are pushed out by mathematical manipulation into the fictional time after the law expires (this is what happened with the Bush tax cuts that led to the famous Fiscal Cliff massacre of 2013). So it's back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile insurance companies have to know by April whether the ACA is going to continue to exist or not so they can start devising their policy offerings for 2018. Since Congress isn't going to be able to manage repeal by then no matter what, they'll have to put it off for at least a year while Ryan attempts to whip up a Plan B. And Republican congresspersons continue getting more and more spooked by constituents' unexpected affection for the law. And the problem of how you get rid of the thing in a budget-neutral way or a way you can successfully pretend is budget-neutral (that's what the sunset provision really is) remains as insoluble as ever.

Stay tuned, but I don't think it's ever going to happen.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's not the same

Washington, September 12 2009. via Fox News.
I'm seeing a lot of traffic on the Twitter, including from some distinguished journalists, drawing an equivalence between these town hall meetings where Republican legislators are getting screamed at and the Tea Party agitation of 2009-10, much of it with the optimistic view that this could augur one of those big waves in the 2018 elections:

Or even pessimistic, worrying that protesters are making themselves obnoxious, and nobody likes that:

And for counterpoint the breezy Cillizza dismizza:

And then there's this:

It struck me there's an enormous difference between these protests and those of seven or eight years ago, in that these are about reality.

The Tea Party was complaining about taxes going through the roof and masses of Mexicans invading our country when taxes had in fact been going down for years and Mexicans had started migrating in the opposite direction. Not that most of them were lying, I think they really didn't know. They hadn't gone to the trouble of putting two payslips together and figuring it out, and they didn't live in places where there were any Mexicans, and they didn't know what they were talking about, just what Rush and Sean were telling them, and our beloved mainstream media didn't seem to know either—the Chris Cillizzas and Adam Nagourneys who don't feel they're being paid to know anything about real life since how does that impact the horse race anyway?

This week's town hall protesters, in contrast, are talking about access to lifesaving medical care and Donald Trump's tax returns, and it carries a certain conviction. Anyway it feels a lot different to me.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Donald Trump got your goat? Keep calm and ridicule on.

Sometimes the best defense against the menace of Donald Trump is not protest, but ridicule. At least that seems to be what thousands have decided in western Europe.

While we Americans, with the exception of most of the late night comedians, fume and rage at this blithering idiot, Europe seems to have developed a sense of humor about it all.

Take the case of the “attack” — an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.

Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.  I won’t go into that just now.  

But what is interesting is, how after a few moments of bewilderment in Sweden,  Northern Europe reacted to this nonsense. One word describes it. Ridicule. And it wasn’t just limited to the Swedes.

In neighboring Denmark, the Danes jammed their tongues firmly into their cheeks and organized an event called, “Pray for Sweden.” 

The Danes announced on Facebook:
“After the terrible attack on Sweden, to which attention was correctly drawn by President Trump, the Nordic countries now stand together.” “We invite all citizens to walk past the Swedish Embassy on Friday 17.00, in honour of our Swedish brothers and sisters.” 
The announcement was viewed by more than 250,000 people and 3,000 of them expressed an interest in coming. They were encouraged to bring fake flowers and then post about it afterwards on social media, thus spreading the ridicule of Trump.

The ridicule quickly spread to Germany where The Postillon, the German equivalent of The Onion, published a report about Ikea, the Scandinavian furniture manufacturer. Donald, if you’re reading this (fat chance!) pay attention. Here’s a way to wall out Mexico economically: 

The Scandinavian furniture maker has offered the USA a practical, ready-made solution with “Börder Wåll”. All they need to do is pick it up in a van from the nearest IKEA branch and put it up where they want it to go. 
Totalling US $9,999,999,999.99, “Börder Wåll” is significantly cheaper than a conventional wall. Estimates suggest that a conventional wall would cost between US $15 and $25 billion. 
However, assembly requires two people: one person can hold the wall while the second screws it together”, it states in IKEA’s offer. 
The basic model of the wall is 33ft (10 m) tall and 1,954 miles (3,144 km) long, although the height and length can be extended as desired.  
IKEA has already announced that it will design other products in the next few weeks that will be compatible with “Börder Wåll”.  
According to inside sources, this includes products such as the “Gåwk” watchtower and the “Råtåtåtåtåtå” spring-gun.
Not quite willing to let it go with that The Postillon also has run a headlined story that “Trump wants to deport American Indians to India.” And somebody caught The Donald’s ignorant voice perfectly with this tweet:

You gotta love Northern Europe for bringing Trump down by laughing him up. Alas, if Trump goes on as he has for too much longer, he will also makes the United States the laughing stock of the planet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Goodbye for now -- I'll be away for the rest of the month. While I'm gone, the relief crew will be here with news and opinions on the latest infuriating doings. Stop by for all that, and I'll see you on March 1.


During the presidential campaign, CNN's Jodi Enda interviewed a lot of Republican voters. Some of them were extremely wary of Donald Trump when the primaries began -- and yet now they're generally very positive about him. Why does Enda believe this is the case? Unlike Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times, Enda doesn't raise the possibility that Trump is a hit with Republicans because those evil liberals are so mean and nasty in their protests and online criticism. Enda strongly suggests that Trumpers simply like Trump:
In the beginning, they didn't care for Donald Trump.

"Trump's a buffoon," David Searles said before casting a vote for Marco Rubio in the New Hampshire primary.

"He scares me," Rebecca Meyer said before settling on Ben Carson in South Carolina's primary.

"He's not presidential," Gail Francioli said after backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich in that state's primary.

Yet like nearly nine out of 10 Republicans nationwide, Searles, Meyer and Francioli supported Trump in the general election. And like the vast majority of Republicans, they support him still.
Tavernise argued that Trump's solid support is the result of "moral Bolshevism" among progressives -- for instance, we post "Trump supporters swipe left" on dating sites, which, of course, is just what Stalin would have done. But Enda reminds us that Trump already had solid Republican support on Election Day, before anyone ever saw a demonstrator in a pussy hat. She quotes interviewee after interviewee who was wary of Trump a year ago but likes him now for the simple reason that he's saying and doing things they support:
"I'm ecstatic! It's a breath of fresh air," Judy Griffin exclaimed when I asked her about the nascent Trump presidency. "The country was going on a near-death experience collision. Political correctness was about to strangle us all." ...

Griffin, formerly the director of development for a Christian school, described herself as "very conservative" and "very pro-life." She said she wants Trump to take on ISIS because "you have to confront evil." She also wants him to rebuild the military, reduce the national debt and bring back jobs -- things she criticized former President Barack Obama for failing to do....

[Gail] Francioli offered a substantial list of subjects on which she agrees with Trump. "He's going to increase the military, going to protect this country, build a wall, border control, Obamacare," she said. "He's bringing jobs back." A regular participant in church-led marches outside an abortion clinic, she added that she expects Trump to place further restrictions on the procedure....

[David Searles] favors Trump's push to roll back regulations that Searles said have "stifled" businesses, including the software company that hasn't been stable enough to give him a raise in 10 years.

Internationally, Searles said he is optimistic that the US will "have a stronger presence on the world stage." He appreciates Trump's tough talk.

"I felt that the Obama administration was preoccupied with not offending people..."
Trump attacks the media. How does that resonate with his voters?
Like many Trump supporters, Housel is not troubled by negative news reports about Trump. In fact, she shares his assessment that journalists are not always honest (though she said she felt sheepish about saying that to an actual journalist).

"I was raised as a young girl not to trust the media," she said. Housel told me that her father, an Army veteran, offered this cold counsel: "If you're ever in a wartime situation, shoot the guy with the camera and then the enemy."
Yeah, I could see how a person raised that way might respond to Trump.

Enda's interviewees still have a few problems with Trump. But they agree with him on issues. It's not as if they would suddenly reject him if protesters would just lay down their pink hats and picket signs. They want a freeze on immigration from Muslim nations. They want judges picked by the Heritage Foundation. They want what he's promising them.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Former Saturday Night Live comic Joe Piscopo might run for governor of New Jersey:
Mr. Piscopo is hoping to parlay his Jersey credentials and rising political profile — he campaigned for President Trump, and his radio show focuses on conservative politics — into a long-shot bid for governor as either a Republican or an independent in a state where Democratic voters vastly outnumber Republicans.
And Laura Ingraham might run for Senate in Virginia, where she's currently neck-and-neck with another non-politician:
Former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and radio host Laura Ingraham are polling dead even in the Virginia Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Friday.

The two would face off in a Republican Primary before challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who recently concluded his bid for vice president under Hillary Clinton.
And both Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are being talked about as possible Senate candidates in Michigan:
... musician and conservative activist Theodore Anthony “Ted” Nugent won’t rule out a bid for the U.S. Senate....

Nugent said he would have to decide if his candidacy would “provide meaningful upgrades and improvements in the American quality of life for the most productive and truly needy amongst us.” ...

Nugent would be the second rocker to have his name floated in all the chatter about the upcoming election. Kid Rock has also been named as a possible candidate. Wes Nakagiri, a county co-chair of Trump’s Michigan campaign, told The Daily Caller there is movement behind the scenes to get Kid Rock to enter the race.
I keep hearing that the Obama years were devastating for Democrats, who reportedly have no "bench" of candidates for future elections. Republicans, we're told have a very deep bench. So why all the possible stunt casting? I know that running a non-politician media star worked for Republicans in the 2016 presidential election, but that was only with the help of Putin, Assange, Comey, and a lot of vote suppression.

Quinnipiac says that Ingraham would lose a general election to Kaine by 20 points (and Fiorina would lose to him by 21). I haven't seen general-election polling in the other races, but even with Republican governors, Michigan and New Jersey don't seem to have developed a lot of GOP talent. Then again, the Republican bench in the 2016 presidential primaries actually appeared deep, but we see how that turned out for the politicians in the field.

Meanwhile, Democrats already have candidates ready to run in November for 45 seats held by Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates. Two years ago, they challenged only 21 Republicans. I haven't heard that any of these people are celebrities. They're just citizens. Maybe bench strength is shifting.


Milo Yiannopoulos is Having A Moment right now -- he has a book in the works, he just set off a riot at a scheduled campus appearance, his Bill Maher appearance just aired and went viral, and he's gearing up to be the keynote speaker at CPAC. Oops -- but this just happened:
... on Sunday morning, less than one day after the controversial announcement about the CPAC speaker lineup, video surfaced of Yiannopoulos allegedly defending pedophilia in the past.

“We get hung up on this sort of child abuse stuff,” Yiannopoulos is heard saying in a video, acknowledging that he has a controversial point of view, “to the point where we are heavily policing consensual adults.”

“In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents,” he added.

“It sounds like molestation to me,” an unnamed person tells Yiannopoulos in reply, likely an interviewer. “It sounds like Catholic priest molestation to me.”

“But you know what? I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him,” Yiannopoulos replied....
This is on an episode of the Drunken Peasants podcast. But wait, there's more:
In an interview with comedian Joe Rogan in 2015, Yiannopoulos discussed his sexual relationship with “Father Michael,” which he allegedly had as a teenager at age 14.

During the interview, he even tried to normalize pedophilia.

“So you’re saying you’ve never seen a 15-year-old girl, at any point in your life, that you thought was hot?” Yiannopoulos asked.

“Yeah, when I was 15!” Rogan replied. “I’m not retarded dude.”

“No, when you were 25 or 30, you’ve never seen girls you thought were hot?” Yiannopoulos asked again.

“No, I thought they were little kids!” Rogan said.

Later, Rogan called “Father Michael” a “terrible person” for allegedly having a sexual relationship with Yiannopoulos when he was a young teenager, but Yiannopoulos tried to downplay it.

“It wasn’t molestation,” he alleged

“That’s absolutely molestation,” Rogan shot back.
Yiannopoulos defended himself on Facebook in a post titled "A Note for Idiots," in which he wrote:
I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst.
But in the Drunken Peasants clip he talks about "this arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent" and makes clear that he doesn't consider sex between a man and a teen to be pedophilia:
You're misunderstanding what pedophilia means. Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody thirteen years old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty.
Will Yiannopoulos's career as a professional troll survive this?

After elements of the right embraced Camille Paglia many years ago, her career didn't suffer from the revelation that she'd written this:
As far as [Allen] Ginsberg's pro-NAMBLA stand goes, this is one of the things I most admire him for. I have repeatedly protested the lynch-mob hysteria that dogs the issue of man-boy love....

Allen Ginsberg was the apostle of a truly visionary sexuality.... Ginsberg's celebration of boy-love was pure and sinless, demonstrating the limitations of Judeo-Christian paradigms of sexuality.
And this:
These days, especially in America, boy-love is not only scandalous and criminal but somehow in bad taste. On the evening news, one sees handcuffed teachers, priests or Boy Scout leaders hustled into police vans. Therapists call them maladjusted, emotionally immature. But beauty has its own laws, inconsistent with Christian morality. As a woman, I feel free to protest that men today are pilloried for something that was rational and honorable in Greece at the height of civilization.
Yiannopoulos is clearly trying to attain a higher level of superstardom than Paglia ever was. (In the Bill Maher appearance he refers to himself as a "pop star.") And Paglia has never tried to brand herself as a purely right-wing figure. But those quotes didn't hurt her at all on the right.

It's possible that right-wingers will see Yiannopoulos as a bad ally because support for pedophilia is one of the charges they love to level at Islam. And it's possible that right-wingers will remember their "traditional values" moral code, which they set aside when a thrice-married pussy-grabber seemed likely to be a more effective vanquisher of liberals than their usual pols.

But the right's history with Donald Trump makes clear that "family values" are dead, except when applied to non-conservatives. Yiannopoulos expresses contempt for gay people and (especially) trans people, which makes him useful to the right.

I think Yiannopoulos will suffer a setback or two. Maybe he'll be dumped by CPAC this year. (UPDATE: He's now been disinvited.) But his following is conservatism's new base. They won't abandon him. They'll buy his book. They'll watch his inevitable return appearances on Maher's show. They'll show up for his campus speeches, as will Black Bloc-ers trying to shut him down. Yiannopoulos will continue to infuriate liberals, which is the right's prime directive. If he needs to, he'll keep gaslighting us with regard to his past pedophilia remarks, until the right believes he was never a pedophilia advocate. ("Fake news"!) He'll survive.

(Paglia quotes via Atrios.)


UPDATE: Here comes the gaslighting, in a new post on Yiannopoulos's Facebook page:
I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim.

I would like to restate my utter disgust at adults who sexually abuse minors. I am horrified by pedophilia....

I do not believe sex with 13-year-olds is okay. When I mentioned the number 13, I was talking about the age I lost my own virginity.

I suppose it's possible that Yiannopoulos's career will really suffer as a result of this. If it does, I fully expect him to orchestrate some sort of moment of transformation -- treatment for substance abuse or sex addiction would be my guess -- after which he'll claim he's emerged a changed man. This will happen only if he can't continue to find an audience for his right-wing trolling. If that con no longer works for him, he'll try to reinvent himself as an apolitical, famous-for-being-famous wit and raconteur, a Monti Rock III for the 21st century. (Ask your parents, kids.) He'll probably wind up being the center square in a 2030 reboot of The Hollywood Squares.