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

AWAY FOR A BIT

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.

CNN REPORTER DISCOVERS TRUMPERS LIKE TRUMP, DOESN'T BLAME LIBERALS

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

TELL ME AGAIN ABOUT THAT REPUBLICAN "DEEP BENCH"

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.

WILL YIANNOPOULOS BE BROUGHT DOWN BY PEDOPHILIA ADVOCACY? MAYBE, BUT I DOUBT IT. (updated)

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

MEET ONE OF THE "MODERATE CONSERVATIVES" WHO, SHOCKINGLY, ISN'T OFF THE TRUMP TRAIN

Progressives have been protesting Donald Trump since his inaugural and -- bafflingly -- huge segments of the Trump electorate haven't switched sides and joined the resistance. What's wrong with the left? Why haven't the minds of millions of Trump voters been changed already? It's been a whole month!

That's essentially the argument of "Are Liberals Helping Trump?," a New York Times story by Sabrina Tavernise. Instead of asking whether it's a difficult task to change minds across the ideological divide in a highly polarized electorate, Tavernise accuses Trump opponents of engaging in ideological thuggery:
But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism — the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.
Tavernise draws this conclusion after interviewing three "moderate conservatives" (wow, huge sample size!). Let's meet one of them:
“The name calling from the left is crazy,” said Bryce Youngquist, 34, who works in sales for a tech start-up in Mountain View, Calif., a liberal enclave where admitting you voted for Mr. Trump is a little like saying in the 1950s that you were gay. “They are complaining that Trump calls people names, but they turned into some mean people.”

Mr. Youngquist stayed in the closet for months about his support for Mr. Trump. He did not put a bumper sticker on his car, for fear it would be keyed. The only place he felt comfortable wearing his Make America Great Again hat was on a vacation in China. Even dating became difficult. Many people on Tinder have a warning on their profile: “Trump supporters swipe left” — meaning, get lost.

He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”

“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.
Tavernise suggests that Youngquist's support for Trump was lukewarm, and was largely a reaction to Trump opponents. Let's take a look at what he posted on Facebook a week and a half before the election and see if that's really the case:
The election has hit a boiling point for me. I am a #NeverHillary supporter more than ever now. I am convinced Hillary and her team are running one of the most crooked campaigns in history. Hillary’s past as a public servant contains so much shadiness. If you only watch/read CNN, NYT, Washington Post and NPR, you may think that Hillary has made only a few less-than-poor decisions. The mainstream media has been a huge force in this campaign painting Hillary as an angel. I do not trust Hillary and her potential administration in the White House. Below is just a brief list of Hillary and her campaign's shadiness.

McAuliffe/Dr.Jill McCabe/FBI Investigation
Getting debate questions ahead of time (Donna Brazile)
Treatment of Bernie
Anti-Catholic campaign emails
Hillary explaining about how she has a Public vs. Private position
Nonstop pay to play
Clinton Foundation accepting millions from awful human right countries
Huma
Weiner Investigation connections
2nd FBI Investigation 11 days before election day
Obamacare/HillaryCare - premium hikes
"Deplorables"
Scott Foval
Obama's homie Robert Creamer (340 WH visits)
Bill Clinton & everything there...
Benghazi (blame it on a youtube video)
33,000 Emails
BleachBit
Hammers
Desire for "open borders"
Dirty Campaigning (Project Veritas videos)
Inciting riots in Chicago at Trump Rally
Mainstream media & HRC campaign conspiring
Received subpoena & then deletes emails
Hillary's questionable health
Bill Clinton (getting disbarred, lying etc etc)
Murder of Seth Rich

Trump may not be a saint but I am going to cast my vote for him. I am pushing to have an outsider in the White House. I can’t stand the corrupt career politician such as Hillary. Everyone laughs when Trump says "She has bad judgement." Can anyone prove that she does have good judgement? Can she be trusted with our country's security concerns!?! Can any Hillary supporter defend her on that!?! DC needs change and Trump/Pence is the answer I believe for the next 4 years. Trump is not the most polished figure out there (that may be an understatement) but he sure is a hell of a lot better than Hillary. I am hopeful that Trump & Co can turn this country in the right direction. Economy, healthcare, security... Make America Great Again!
Benghazi? Check. Emails? Check. Suspicions of Huma Abedin that go unstated because, well, it's just so obvious why she's a problem? Check. Invocation of James O'Keefe videos? Check. Assumption that the mainstream media and the Clinton campaign were "conspiring"? Check.

There are a couple of pro-Sanders items on Youngquist's list -- but, of course, we know that the Trump campaign (and its official and unofficial surrogates) exploited Democratic primary tensions to help Trump. And please note the last item on Youngquist's list:
Murder of Seth Rich
Click on the #NeverHillary hashtag in Youngquist's post and you see, among other things, this:



There's still no evidence that Rich's death was anything but a street crime gone lethal. Rich's father is certain that he wouldn't have leaked the emails. He was planning to take a job with the Clinton campaign. And rumors that he was the leaker were stoked by Wikileaks.

If you're wondering about the image above, the tell is in the reference to gun control. This wasn't the work of a progressive.

Youngquist isn't a "moderate" voter. He's someone who binged on fake and semi-fake news throughout the campaign, almost all of it from the right. Eventually he parroted the talking points for his Facebook friends. The anti-Trump movement largely consists of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, someone Youngquist despises, yet Tavernise thinks he might have joined the resistance by now if the anti-Trumpers hadn't been so darn mean.

Oh, and did I mention that Youngquist attended Trump's inaugural? Seriously -- Tavernise thinks that someone who attended a presidential inaugural might turn against the president within a month of that event? It's not as if she doesn't know about his attendance -- there was a story about it in the Times. She wrote it.

One of Tavernise's other "moderates" is Jeffrey Medford:
Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way.
A conservative Republican small-business owner from South Carolina "should be a natural ally for liberals"? Really?

The other is Ann O'Connell:
“I don’t have a problem with protesting as long as it’s peaceful, but this is destroying the country,” said Ann O’Connell, 72, a retired administrative assistant in Syracuse who voted for Mr. Trump. “I feel like we are in some kind of civil war right now. I know people don’t like to use those terms. But I think it’s scary.”

Mrs. O’Connell is a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton twice. But she has drifted away from the party over what she said was a move from its middle-class economic roots toward identity politics. She remembers Mr. Clinton giving a speech about the dangers of illegal immigration. Mr. Trump was lambasted for offering some of the same ideas, she said.

“The Democratic Party has changed so much that I don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said. “These people are destroying our democracy. They are scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics. It strengthens people’s resolve in wanting to support President Trump. It really does.”
O'Connell says she voted for Bill Clinton twice. Notice which Democrat we're not told she voted for, even once. She thinks protesters are worse than terrorists, but, more important, she's angry at the Democratic Party. I don't care about her voter registration. She's effectively a Republican. She might come back to vote for Jim Webb or Joe Lieberman, but that's not going to happen. She's lost to us

All of these people are on Team Democrat Hater. None of them will come around to the anti-Trump movement -- no matter how nice we are.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

DEEP THOUGHTS FROM DONALD TRUMP ON COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTERIOR DECORATION

Politico acquired an audio recording of Donald Trump speaking to the assembled guests at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, back in the early days of the transition. The key revelation -- that Trump invited guests to "come along" while he was interviewing potential cabinet members -- is unsettling enough:
“We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump told the crowd, according to an audio tape of his closed-press remarks obtained by POLITICO from a source in the room. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government."

"We’re going to be interviewing everybody — Treasury, we’re going to be interviewing Secretary of State,” he continued. “We have everybody coming in — if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable….so you might want to come along.”
But I'm struck by what Trump said about David Schutzenhofer, the club manager at Bedminster, whom he chose to decorate the White House.
TRUMP: And are we all liking David? And tell me, where is David going next week? Where are you going next week?

SCHUTZENHOFER: The White House.

TRUMP: To the White House. [Applause.]

David is going to prepare the White House so it's in good shape so we can immediately start working on ISIS and various other things. [Cheers.]
Schutzenhofer -- a golf club manager -- is going to make it possible for Trump to "start working on ISIS." By redecorating. Trump apparently couldn't focus on ISIS otherwise.

In case you think perhaps Schutzenhofer's area of expertise extends into the foreign policy realm, here's his bio on the website of Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he's an adjunct professor in the International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Professor Schutzenhofer began his career in the hospitality industry as a teenager and has managed numerous private clubs in the New York Metropolitan area since 1989. He studied culinary arts and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Johnson and Wales University, Providence Rhode Island in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management and a Masters of Science Degree from New York University Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Travel.

Prof. Schutzenhofer is an 18 year veteran in club management holding positions at Scarsdale Golf Club, Hartsdale, New York, Orienta Beach Club, Mamaroneck New York, Forest Hill Field Club, Bloomfield New Jersey, Navesink Country Club, Middletown, New Jersey and is currently the General Manager and Executive Director at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump sees this man and his thought is: I can't really fight ISIS until David completes his work, can I?

Well, recall this detail from a New York Times story about Trump's early days in the White House:
For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.
Oh, but I'm sure that was only because he needed excellent window covering options before he could give ISIS his undivided attention.

SILLY LIBERAL -- NOTHING IS LEGITIMATE UNLESS A REPUBLICAN IS ON BOARD (updated)

I have mixed feelings about this New York magazine cover story:



To some extent, it's the usual breathless worship of McCain:
It was not yet two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and McCain had already become the fiercest Republican critic of the new administration. While party leaders like Paul Ryan were contorting themselves to defend even Trump’s most ill-conceived executive orders, McCain had been, for a member of the president’s party, on fire: He had criticized Trump for banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, for his failed first mission in Yemen, for his suggestion that he might lift sanctions against Russia; he even took diplomacy into his own hands, reaching out to Australia to assure the country of our continued friendship after Trump had bizarrely confronted its prime minister in their introductory phone call.

... he has watched as allegations about Russian involvement in the election — and possibly in American foreign policy — picked up steam, and as Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national-security adviser after revelations that he improperly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador (and then lied to the vice-president about it). To McCain, these are red-line issues. No matter how much he likes the prospect of deregulation, the compromising of America’s sovereignty was pushing him closer to the barricades.
On the other hand, McCain is portrayed as a Republican first and foremost:
McCain is not a Republican in Name Only; he is a true believer, an elder of the tribe. He does not exactly relish being deemed the loyal opposition....

McCain shook his head at the notion that just because he had the temerity to criticize the president, congressional Democrats thought they could recruit him to their cause. “These are the same Democrats that shredded me in 2008,” he said. “I get along with the Democrats, but please, I’m not their hero. They’re trying to use us. We will work with them, but have no doubt, their agenda is not our agenda.” ...

“The Democrats are just off the reservation. They’re crazy the way they’re behaving,” McCain said to [Supreme Court nominee Neil] Gorsuch. “As for hearings, I’ve never seen anything like this. Just keep your flak jacket on. Steady as she goes.”
My first reaction to this was similar to Atrios's:




But that's how this works in the Beltway and the elite media: We as citizens can mount all the "resistance" we want, and we can hold congressional Democrats' feet to the fire until they're voting with us, but disgust with Trump doesn't become legitimate until it's endorsed by at least a few Republicans, because nothing becomes legitimate until it's endorsed by Republicans.

I don't think a focus on McCain necessarily "sucks all the air out of actual opposition" -- we have to keep fighting our fight until the Kewl Kidz are forced to take us seriously -- but in the meantime, if this is what it takes to make the Kidz believe that Trump is bad news, let's accept it and work with it, knowing full well that McCain will be a GOP loyalist at many, many key moments. We have to become a bigger movement than they're expecting. But for now this might help.

I've always felt that insider journalists lean culturally liberal -- they work in big Eastern cities, so they're cool with reproductive rights and LGBT rights and gun control and DREAMers and all that. These journalists occasionally become enamored of a progressive-seeming politician (e.g., Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign). But they turn up their noses as soon as a politician tries governing as a Democrat -- e.g., Barack Obama in 2009 and beyond -- even if, as in Obama's case, the politician isn't all that far to the left. As Josh Marshall says, D.C. is permanently "wired for Republicans."

The insiders never like Democrats in the actual act of presidenting or legislating. So they'll never respect the resisting Democrats in Congress as much as they respect the fitfully resistant McCain. I wish it were otherwise, but those are the rules.

So let's accept this and work with it. I suspect it won't amount to much -- McCain and sidekick Lindsey Graham will stand up for foreign policy traditionalism while all the other Republicans continue to suck up to Trump -- but if I'm wrong and McCain someday helps persuade enough Republicans to approve a serious investigation of Trump's fifth-columnism, there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, it won't be enough, and most of the time he won't be with us. But we have to just keep fighting our own battles.

****

FYI:

Friday, February 17, 2017

DOES THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WANT TO DO ANYTHING WITH THE PRESIDENCY BESIDES YELL AT THE TV?

Courtesy of Business Insider's Natasha Bertrand, we seem to have an explanation for the apparently false National-Guard-as-deportation-force story:
The White House quickly denied an explosive Associated Press report published Friday morning that said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was seeking to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops to round up and deport immigrants living in the US illegally.

"It is false," the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said, according to a pool report. "It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants."

"I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted," Spicer added.

An AP reporter, however, replied that the wire service had asked the White House for comment multiple times before publishing the report, which was based off of a leaked DHS draft memo....
This seems to be a pattern for the Trumpers:
1. Wait for a draft memo of a proposal to be leaked to the press.
2. Refuse to comment when asked about the draft.
3. Wait to dispute a story's accuracy until the story is published.
4. Accuse the press of never having sought comment to begin with.
Bertrand quotes a number of reporters who've noticed this pattern. She also quotes the press secretary to Congressman Keith Ellison, who's noticed it, too.

The Trumpers are so determined to demonstrate bad faith on the part of the mainstream media that they're floating fake stories, refusing to comment on them, then saying they were never given a chance to deny them. But why? How does this help them accomplish any goal connected to governing? Do they even care about governing? Look, I don't want them to do any of the things they say they want to do in the governing realm, but I understand why this right-wing writer is frustrated (in response to a now-deleted and subsequently updated tweet by the president that's part of the press demonization campaign):





Do the Trumpers even want to do any of those things? It seems that they just want to pound on the press --or maybe it's just the president. The most powerful job in the world, and all he wants to use it for is, in effect, yelling at the TV. Bizarre.

DO REAL FASCISTS FLOAT TRIAL BALLOONS?

Almost as soon as this report broke, it was denied by the White House:
The Trump administration considered a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Staffers in the Department of Homeland Security said the proposal had been discussed as recently as last Friday.

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico were included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The denial:
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday the document was "not a White House document."

"There is no effort to do what is potentially suggested," he said. Spicer called the AP report "100 percent not true, adding that there was "no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants."

So what's going on? The Moscow deputy bureau chief for Bloomberg Businessweek thinks it's eleven-dimensional fascist chess:



But if that's how this was meant to work, you'd think the Trumpers would want it to hang in the air a little longer before issuing a denial. And you'd think they'd want to clear the news cycle a bit, to give it some breathing room. We still haven't stopped talking about yesterday's Trump press conference; this got wedged in between that press conference and what could be another Lenny-Bruce-shortly before-his-death moment, Trump's appearance today at Boeing, which is happening as I type.

Also, why propose a deportation force (authoritarian) and give governors an opt-out option (wussy)?
Governors in the 11 states would have had a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo....
There's no way the Democratic governors of California, Oregon, and Colorado are going to say yes, and I'm not sure about the Republican governors of purple New Mexico and Nevada. It's as if the Trumpers want to come off as jackbooted thugs, but nice jackbooted thugs -- jackbooted thugs who say "Please."

It's my opinion that this would be very popular among white voters across the country, including some now-wavering moderate conservatives. So why not just do it? Get it written, get it vetted, get it done? I think it's because there's a crazy-idea shop in the West Wing (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller), but there's no one who's skilled at putting policies into effect, which requires a minimal ability to interact with other human beings and coordinate with those other human beings on implementation. So the White House executive-order-and-memorandum shop is basically a federally funded version of a regular column at a wingnut online news site -- heavy on extreme ideas, but with not much skill at follow-through.

This might still happen. I just don't know why it isn't happening already.

THE "GROWN-UPS" IN CONGRESS AREN'T IN CHARGE EITHER -- THEY'RE TOO BUSY SQUABBLING

The undisciplined preadolescents in the White House are the biggest impediment to an extreme-right transformation of America, but it's also true that Republicans in Congress can't agree on detailed plans to destroy all the things they've been promising to destroy for years. We know they've spent years promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, only to discover that all their healthcare ideas would horrify the public. But they also can't agree on a key element of the tax overhaul they want so much, as Politico reports:
Paul Ryan showed up to Senate Republicans’ weekly lunch on Tuesday hoping to salvage a controversial pillar of his tax reform plan that would change how imports and exports are taxed. “Keep your powder dry,” the House speaker pleaded.

The next day, Sen. Tom Cotton took to the Senate floor to slam Ryan’s so-called border adjustment tax, saying “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”

“Many other senators share these concerns and we most certainly will not ‘keep our powder dry,’” Cotton went on, without naming the speaker in his speech.

The sequence was an ominous sign for a linchpin of Ryan’s tax plan — and perhaps for the prospects of tax reform happening at all. The border adjustment tax would generate more than a trillion dollars over a decade; there’s no obvious way to replace that money, which is needed to help pay for a steep cut in corporate and income taxes.
I assumed that with a Republican in the White House they'd have no qualms about running huge deficits in order to slash taxes for corporations and the rich, but it seems that some of them actually believe their own talking points about deficits and debt. So they're trying to offset the huge cut in revenues -- and Republicans don't like the method Ryan has chosen.
Many Republican senators say privately they detest the concept, fretting that it will hurt their in-state retailers like Walmart, which is headquartered in Cotton's state of Arkansas. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), sources said, has warned Trump and Ryan that border adjustment won't likely have the support needed to clear the Senate....

That’s not to mention Ryan’s issue in his own chamber. A handful of Ways and Means Republicans — including some with close ties to Trump — are fretting that retailers slapped with an import tax will ultimately pass the cost onto consumers.
So this is another dog-that-caught-the-car issue for Republicans, just like Obamacare. But do you know who actually likes the border adjustment tax? Darth Vader himself:
Ironically, the speaker seems to have a strong ally in Bannon, the ex-boss of Breitbart News, which attacked the speaker mercilessly during the campaign.
Well, of course he likes it. Recall what I told you last week: Bannon is a believer in the generational theories of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who foresee a crisis point for America in which citizens will need to suffer in order to reach the Promised Land. They've written:
... new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention.
And Bannon said in 2010, foreseeing this moment of crisis:
“We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don’t have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you.”
So he has no problem with a tax that will passed on to consumers. The president presumably has no idea that this tax or the tax he proposed during the campaign, a levy on imports, will be passed on to consumers. And congressional deficit hawks don't want either.

So the GOP dysfunction is at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. To me, that's a relief.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

WHAT YOU SAW AT TODAY'S TRUMP PRESS CONFERENCE IS MODERN CONSERVATISM

So this happened today:
After stewing in anger during four rocky weeks in the White House, President Donald Trump had his say Thursday.

He spent 80 minutes in an impromptu East Room news conference shredding his critics, relitigating the election, bragging about his crowds, crowing about his accomplishments and denying, deflecting and obfuscating a series of mushrooming bad stories that have dogged his presidency and depressed his approval ratings....

In Trump style, the news conference was heavy on braggadocio....

"There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time," Trump said, reading a list of his own accomplishments.

He said his administration is a "finely tuned machine" ...
More:
Before the hour-plus session was over, Trump had told a reporter from a Jewish publication that his question about rising anti-Semitism was very unfair and to sit down....

He ripped into CNN repeatedly.... The president also lashed out at “fake news” repeatedly, even while spewing falsehoods. He said he’d had the biggest electoral landslide since 1984. Not true.... He then said he’d been given “misinformation” about the size of his electoral win.
Shorter Trump today:



But that's what conservatism is now -- angry white people saying "Respect ME, dammit!" and insisting that everyone who doesn't agree with them deserves to be harangued or intimidated into silence.



Whether it's white working-class voters demanding an end to "political correctness" and Mexican and Muslim immigration, or alt-rightists harassing opposition voices on the Internet, or billionaires describing progressive protesters as Hitlerian, the message is: Those people are the scum of the earth, and they should just shut up forever. I'm talking now. Listen to me. Listen only to me and my allies.

During the campaign, many concerned political observers asked, "What does conservatism stand for now?" This is what it stands for. It stands for I have the floor, so you just shut the hell up.