Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Quote Of The Day: Charlottesville Nazi Trial Edition

I’m about to indulge in what the late, great Greg Peters called “lazy quoting of better writers.” Nobody does legal analysis better than Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick:

In no small part because the trial was not broadcast—listeners could instead dial in to a line capped at 500 participants—there was no platform to amplify and rebroadcast the Nazism that the defendants sought to display. To be sure, some of the white supremacists did their best to drum up publicity during the trial, appearing on each other’s podcasts and threatening to dox the witnesses, but for the most part, their racism as expressed in court was puerile and dumb (yawn-inducing references to Mein Kampf and dropping the N-word). While some of the defendants tried to liken themselves to Jesus Christ and other free speech martyrs, nobody will walk away from Sines v Kessler with the sense that the jury found them to be first amendment paragons. They were tagged, every one, as cut-rate Nazis, which renders them both unsympathetic, but more importantly, uninteresting.

Some of the most shocking days of the defendants’ antics at trial proved to be about as riveting as seventh period health class at a middle school. Even as they mounted a chaotic and undisciplined defense, they unerringly seemed to prioritize personal fame and branding over argument and analysis. In the end they achieved neither fame nor branding nor analysis. The message was ultimately both contained in the theater of public opinion, and condemned roundly by the jury. The jury saw them for what they were: sad little violent white men begging for relevance if nothing else. They failed even at that.

The Charlottesville Nazi civil case is an excellent argument for NOT televising trials. We were obliged to read about the uncivil antics of the defendants in this civil case instead of watching them. That led to muted coverage of the trial, which was a good thing. Who wants these cretins to have a forum for their bigotry and half-baked Nazi notions? Shock value is what televising the case would have provided. If you want shock value, watch Tucker Carlson.

I’m not always against televising trials, but prefer it be decided on a case-by-case basis. Cameras tend to evoke emotional responses both inside and outside the courtroom. They tend to inflate the importance of a given case. A recent example of this phenomenon was the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. It was a case with no precedential value in Wisconsin or anywhere else. The media coverage degenerated into another episode of Own The Libs Theatre. Unfortunately, the libs took the bait and made the case more significant than it should have been.

The featured image is of one of my legal heroes, Justice Robert Jackson as he gave the opening argument in the first Nuremberg Trial. That was a case about real Nazis, real war criminals, not the bargain basement Nazis who were found liable for damages in the Charlottesville civil case.

It remains astonishing to me that any American can style themselves a Nazi. We fought and won a war against the Nazis. The uncle I never knew died fighting them,

I have a theory as to why American losers are attracted to the biggest loser of all, Adolf Hitler. It’s all in the imagery. The Nazis were masters at staging epic, mock-heroic images. It’s all there in Triumph Of The Will, which was the apogee of Nazi propaganda at its most artistic. Goebbels, Riefenstahl, and Speer were masters of illusion and made that 1934 Nuremberg rally look like a lost part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

The Nazis gift for imagery is why the best way to learn about that horrible period in history is to read about it. The untutored viewer is apt to be sucked in by Nazi stagecraft despite all the images of the Holocaust out there. They’re so shocking as to be written off as fakes by your basic American Nazi even though the Nuremberg defendants believed them to be real. They were much smarter than modern American Nazis. Who isn’t?

I also think that the use of Nazi imagery by anti-Vaxxers and other wingnuts is part of their ongoing campaign to own the libs. What’s more outrageous than wearing a Yellow Star to protest COVID restrictions? Substance is meaningless to the pro-Trump extremist right, style is everything. Owning the libs is more important than the truth.

The last word goes to Robert Jackson with an argument for accountability and the rule of law:

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.

No Empathy For You, Lib

Woman holding sign in protest

This person will never be interviewed about her fears by the New York Times.

Last week I visited a couple I’m very good friends with, who live on the other side of the ridge from me. He’s a local politician (like many local politicians, he also has a day job), and she is an early-education expert who focuses on antiracist education and social-emotional learning.

Both of them feel anxiety about the current situation America is in. They feel it because they are figuratively in the trenches of this current political cold war. Conservative yahoos have more or less taken over the board he’s on after the last election, and he’s now the lone voice of reason. Since conservatives aren’t that into helping their constituents, the conservatives’ plans are not going to be good for the area. Given he is a local leader who gives a damn and works hard to improve his home region, he is very unhappy.

Just one look at what she does gives you an idea of her situation. Making all children feel welcome in school is apparently Ruining America, and since you can’t turn on the TV or computer these days without seeing a parent screaming “CRT!!!!” or a “centrist” column about how “wokeness” is dividing and destroying the nation’s freedoms (read: The Sacred Right to Be an Asshole that is so precious, apparently), she feels overwhelmed.

Bad times for good people, indeed, but it is very difficult to not think that many in the media, and the country itself, feel much more empathy for racists and authoritarian enthusiasts. There have been so many stories about Trumpers in diners and how “sad and forgotten” they feel, complete with all-American images of pensive folks staring out diner windows, that it’s become a punchline, a maddening meme of our moment.

What you will not find is much in the way of empathy for the people who see where our nation seems to be headed, and are terrified. They are equated as somehow on the same footing as the craziest of Trumpers.

One of the Good New York Times Columnists, Michelle Goldberg, lamented this on Total Political Nerd Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show in 2018. It is quite cruel to the people who are trying their best to make our country live up to its ideals, people who are terrified they might be a victim of future political violence, people who are protesting peacefully for justice, and compare them as somehow equal to those who are openly supportive of violence and autocracy.

It’s not just both-siderism, but clear hostility to liberals and progressives and open contempt for their legitimate fears. Former Atlantic Now New Yorker Word Slinger Emma Green, who really does write some good pieces, infamously embarrassed herself back in May when she browbeat liberals for still thinking there’s a pandemic going on. So quick to mock anxious people, because haha those silly libs, she ended up looking spectacularly bad as the summer progressed and the death rate rose.

While liberals and progressives are mocked and declared “just as bad” as conservatives, over and over again, you see empathy and benefit of the doubt offered to the worst offenders on the right. Future Fox News Star Kyle Rittenhouse got a headline about how he is studying to become a nurse, which Arizona State corrected and said he is a non-major student and not a nursing student. Which is great news, given we really don’t need any more people like Kyle in healthcare.

I think a lot of people in elite media find progressives and liberals hysterical and annoying, likely because many of them come from very comfortable backgrounds. This is despite our being correct more often than not, and the Reasoned Very Serious People in DC media turning out to be the ones tragically out of touch.

For example, Celebrated Beltway Journalist Jonathan Karl, who spent a good amount of time tsk-tsked and dismissed those of us who had our hair rightfully on fire about Trump, confessed in his new Trump book to being flummoxed by what he was seeing during the Trump years.

We could have told you, Jonathan, but you were too busy dismissing our concerns.

As I said before I think some of it is people in the media from comfortable backgrounds finding the left to be too shrill. I think some of it is what media critics like Jay Rosen refer to as a misguided attempt at non-bias. I just know that we do not see very many visits to places where liberals and progressives congregate to listen to their fears and concerns about what is happening to America in 2021. Little in the way of empathy for people who are scared right now. For reasons which are very real.

The last word goes to Marc Maron, who back in 2017 on The Tonight Show spoke for a lot of us about how terrifying Trump was and is.

They Are Not Going To Stop With Wokeness, Or CRT, Or…

idiot holding crt sign

Oh the irony

The rendering of garments was well underway from the moment that it became clear that Vegetable Lasagna Impersonator Terry McAuliffe would lose to Reasonable Trumpist Glenn Youngkin. The Reasoned Judgments rained down from on high, and as usual, The Wisened Centrists declared that Wokeness destroyed the Democratic Party.

Of course, they went into it with their opinions preset, no matter if McAuliffe won or lost. The default was going to be “wokeness” sunk the Democratic Party, come hell or Lee Atwater. And you bet long-diseased Lee Atwater’s influence hung heavy over all this.

Atwater was the architect of the heinous method of campaigning that became known as “the Southern Strategy.” As you can see at that link, it was based on racism, and allowing white people to be comfortable in thinking racist things, plausible deniability of sorts via code words.

Trump came along and for a while, it was out with nuance and “saying what you think,” which gave him wide appeal among the people who just want to should out how much they hate the non-whites without worrying about code words like “welfare moms.” It was high paradise time for them, a dream they never thought they’d see morph into reality. Then it got taken away from them, and now the Republican Party appears to be attempting to return to it.

But this is a different version of the Atwater strategy, one they’ve managed to make far darker. The stakes are much higher. The party as a whole is dedicated to undermining our democracy. Just take a look at Lynn Cheney’s record on voting rights. It’s not great.

This threat should be the main focus of our electorate, but we Americans have a mean, hateful side that is susceptible to a certain brand of racial bullshit, and Republicans know it. So, they hammered away at critical race theory, convincing people it’s a huge threat despite not knowing what it is:


This stuff is no doubt funny, but it’s also alarming and has Democrats panicking because this guy supported the winner in Virginia. So, in response, you get stuff on cable news like Semi-Skeleton James Carville seemingly suggesting that progressives get sent to re-education camps.

(An aside on Carville: He sure seems to deeply hate elements of his own party, as his face gets even more of that Pissed-Off-Skeletor look when talking about anyone to his left, much more so than when he is talking about Republicans.)

All this panic is despite the fact that we’re not sure what exactly happened in Virginia as yet. We also seem to not want to acknowledge happier things for Democrats like Georgia’s elections going well. Or that winning back-to-back New Jersey governor elections is tough for a party to pull off.

But none of this seems to matter, so we’re in deep about critical race theory. No surprise, as we keep getting suckered into these kind of fights. In the 1990s, it was “PC Out of Control.” In the early years of Obama, it was the Tea Partiers. Right now it’s critical race theory and “wokeness,” whatever that is. But this is not going to remain static.

Remember the same people that Democrats are supposed to bow before earlier this year claimed that Dr. Seuss was going to be canceled because a few books were pulled over questionable images. But the Grinch will grace your TV screens next month, and “Cat in the Hat” is still in libraries. Much ado about nothing.

This past weekend, Ted Cruz spent a lot of time attacking…Big Bird. Over supporting children getting vaccinated, you see. That makes Big Bird worthy of canceling, I guess?

The point is, if Democrats try to appease these culture warriors, it will never stop. Something new will always appear.  Instead, it would make more sense to attack these moments as invented hysteria designed to manipulate and divide us, and do it in a way that doesn’t alienate people. It is possible, you know, to talk about what is really going on and still listen to people, maybe discover that their concerns are real but are being manipulated into something else. Actually persuade voters and tell them what you are going to do to help them! And at the same time, not run the risk of alienating groups who turn out for you, election after election, because they hope you will fight for them and not cave.

They are not going to stop inventing new culture war fights. It’s all they got, as they are obviously not interested in governing. Time to face it head-on, fight it, and not cower to it.

The last word goes to the King of Monday Mope Music, the late great Elliot Smith:

 

Stay The Course

There’s no need for Democrats to act as if we’ve been mugged by reality. A small segment of the electorate spoke on Tuesday. There’s no need to panic. Since it happened on the West Coast, the political press has conveniently forgotten the ass whupping Trumpers took in the California recall election.

The press has a nasty habit of ignoring political events in my original home state of California:

  • The first modern media campaign was waged in 1934 against Upton Sinclair.
  • Celebrity politics got into full swing with the election of George Murphy and Ronald Reagan in 1964 and ’66, respectively.
  • The Jarvis-Gann tax-cutting initiative in 1978 foreshadowed the so-called Reagan Revolution.
  • Then Governor Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant policies led to California’s emergence as a blue state in national politics.

As you can see, the press has a tendency to think that important things only happen on the East Coast. It’s not the only thing they’ve been wrong about this week.

I concur with Eric Boehlert’s reaction to the media coverage of Tuesday’s results in his newsletter Press Run:

Democrats have been down this rocky road before. In November, 2009, just one year after Barack Obama’s landslide victory, Democrats lost both the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races. But that didn’t end the Obama presidency. The following year he signed Obamacare into law and in 2012 he won re-election with relative ease.

One thing that has clearly changed since then though, is the caterwauling political press, which is treating Tuesday’s two-race results like a political earthquake that has all but destroyed Biden’s four-year term. Rushing to use every conceivable, hysterical adjective to describe a three point-loss in Virginia as the equivalent of the Democratic Party’s permanent demise, the press has eagerly lost all perspective and seems to relish the assignment of burying Biden. (WashingtonPost.com Wednesday night posted no less than 15 articles and columns about the Democratic loss.)

The title of the piece says it all:

Virginia lesson for Democrats: The media are not your friend

The MSM has a masochistic relationship with the party of stupidity and sedition. After four years of abuse at the hands of the Impeached Insult Comedian, the MSM are still in thrall to the GOP.

What the GOP does best is lie. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign was based on the racist lie that CRT is taught in Virginia schools. Instead of calling them out on the lie, the press praised them for savvy messaging. They’re the cult of the savvy, after all. TM: Charlie Pierce.

Instead of panicking and listening to Lizard Man James Carville, Democrats should stay the course. 2022 already looked perilous, the small sample of voters who turned out on Tuesday is reflective, not predictive of that stark reality. Besides, Carville is a has been who hasn’t managed a winning campaign since 1992. He hasn’t been a man of the people since The War Room was in theatres. Carville and his wingnut wife Mary Matalin lived in a mansion on St. Charles Avenue for many years before moving to a two-million-dollar condo in downtown New Orleans. That’s a man who has his finger on the pulse of the great unwashed? Oy, just oy.

The lesson that Democrats need to learn is how to deal with opponents who incessantly lie and a press corps that enables them. The press aren’t calling GOPers out on their lies, so we must do it ourselves. It’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

I, for one, am tired of the panicking on the Democratic side every time there’s a reversal of any kind. It’s not what grown-ups do. It’s time to toughen up and stay the course. It’s what Republicans have been doing since 1980. That’s the only way Democrats should be more like Republicans.

Democrats need to stop fixating on the details of the sausage making and pass the Biden agenda.  We’re committed and should stay the course.

The last word is aspirational in nature. It goes to Mavis Staples:

Sacked On His Own Pretense

Aaron Rodgers

Did I do something wrong??!!

I’m still in a post wedding state of unaccustomed happiness. The snark will probably return next week. In the mean time this story came across my radar a couple of days ago and at least got the deeply buried snark vibe going a bit.

In the past few years my involvement with the National Football League has grown dimmer and dimmer. Can’t tell you exactly when it started, maybe when routine quarterback sacks were turned into occasions for dance recitals. My high school coach always said not to celebrate anything on the field, it makes it look like it’s the first time you did it. At any rate my passion for the game has ebbed to the point of total disinterest.

But this is America, where the NFL owns a day of the week (and is trying to buy another one) so it is hard to totally discount the organization. Like it or not you, as a member of the American public, can not help but be aware of at least some of the league’s goings on. Television networks, either those who currently show the games or those currently trying to get the rights to show the games, will make sure of that.

And so we come to what is now being referred to as the “Aaron Rodgers situation”.

For those who don’t know, Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. You might better know him as an insurance pitchman or a wanna be Jeopardy host. Or you might know him as the guy who dumped Olivia Munn for Shailene Woodley, a move which, in my opinion,  makes his judgement suspect.

Wednesday he tested positive for COVID. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his positive test brought the entire NFL under a viral microscope.

You see Rodgers earlier in the year had been asked by a reporter if he had been vaccinated. His reply was that he was “immunized”. The reporter, and thus the public he was feeding information to, took that to mean Rodgers had gotten the jab. Turns out he hadn’t gotten jabbed. Instead he claimed to have gotten an “alternative treatment”, a treatment he petitioned the league to accept as the same as vaccination. To their credit (and this is likely the only time I’ll use that phrase in the context of the NFL) the league said they would not.

Yet the league allowed Rodgers to act as if he were vaccinated. Vaccinated players don’t have to wear masks on the sidelines, can be within six feet of others, and generally act the way they would have acted pre-COVID. Unvaccinated players must be COVID tested nearly daily and basically follow all procedures that were in place before the vaccines became available. Rodgers has been seen prowling the sidelines sans mask and in close contact with other players and coaches. Again, reporters all did interviews up close and personal with him while admittedly unvaccinated players did their interviews from six feet away or even over Zoom. And why not, he had told them he was “immunized”.

All of this came crashing down after his post Halloween party (where he dressed as John Wick) COVID test showed him positive. Hope Shailene enjoyed her Keanu Reeves fantasy night.

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The Great Redemption, Part II

Michael F., Adrastos, and Cassandra have all done a wonderful job of relitigating the mess that was this week’s election results. Scroll on down for more. Although I will add that the media is seemingly all-in on all sorts of misinformation, as shown by this CNN report:

Around 50 gallons of milk a month probably sounds insane, but that is a family with two biological kids, and bless ’em, five adopted kiddos, so maybe. But the big issue here is in a country where the average family size is 3.15, is a family that is nearly three times that really a representation of the “middle-class?”

We’re really losing our minds here.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about today is the rather eerie parallels I’m seeing now to a terrible time in our history, a time that will probably not get a mention in Virginia public schools now. And that is the Redemption.

For those who don’t know (that’s okay, probably weren’t taught much about it in school), the Redemption was a period in America during and after the Reconstruction that featured a massive backlash to the newfound freedoms and rights offered to former slaves. The Reconstruction featured a lot of American progress on race. Around 2,000 Black men were elected or appointed to positions ranging from local ones such as county sheriff on up to U.S. Senator. Education for freedpersons resulted in the opening of institutions such as Howard University and the Hampton Institute.

What happened next was a white Southern uprising. The Ku Klux Klan came on the scene, unleashing a campaign of terrorism so extreme that President Ulysses S. Grant declared martial law in parts of the South in 1871-1872. But at the same time, Grant’s actions received criticism even in the North, and here Southern conservatives, then Democrats, saw their opportunity.

Less violent but no less deviant actions began in the form of voting rights abuses such as poll taxes and hiding ballot boxes. Pride parades, the bad kind, started up in Southern towns, and Blacks were run out of office (see the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 for an especially awful example). From the late 1800s into the 20th Century, those infamous statues of Confederates were put up in a campaign to intimidate Black Americans.

At the same time, a propaganda campaign like no other in American history was ongoing. Pop culture produced movies such as “Birth of a Nation,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “Song of the South” that furthered the idea of Reconstruction as a horrible time, and downplayed the cruelty of slavery. Think I’m exaggerating? See the horrifying scenes in “Birth of a Nation” of Black Congressmen acting like children, and Uncle Remus singing about how he misses the “good old days” (“Song of the South” took place right after the Civil War, so think about it).

The end result was basically the rise of a de facto Confederate dictatorship in the South right up into the 1960s, as nearly all offices were held by Southern Dixiecrats. This held Black Americans back not only in the South, but in the North as well, because Democrats like Franklin D. Roosevelt needed southern Dems to play ball so he could pass the New Deal. Since compromise in America is often done on the backs of Black Americans, things like anti-lynching laws never had a chance.

The echoes of these times reverberate through our current debates, so much so that the writer Te-Nehisi Coates, in his book “We Were Eight Years in Power,” finds deep parallels in the election of Obama and the immediate election of Donald Trump. The book’s title was the lament of Reconstruction-era Black politicians uttered as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of a quasi-Confederacy.

The election of Trump is a clear parallel to the first Redemption, and it’s clear we’re not done with that. Last year, in June, the death of George Floyd led to widespread protests. Polls showed support for the protests. Then the narrative turned its focus on the violent incidents, despite the fact that most were peaceful. Support eroded. Then, critical race theory (CRT), a term that most Americans never heard of at this time last year, reared its head.

CRT was perfect for a Redemption 2.0. It is vague, something that people could argue what it means. It involved an important subject, education. It also played well into something we don’t talk enough about…it’s not just white conservatives who are easy targets for this stuff. As Cassandra pointed out, CRT quite possibly flipped a lot of white women who voted for Biden to Trump. Like “Gone with the Wind” and “Birth of a Nation,” CRT is propaganda that is not really based on fact. It’s not taught in schools and arguments that it is sound suspiciously like attempts to ban anything about slavery and race in our nation from the schools (pundits like Bari Weiss, for example). Another thing is these days, this is not something limited to the American South (Northerners need to check their bias at the door as it’s not like say rural Wisconsin is enlightened these days). Very authoritarian, and very suspicious to a lot of decent Americans who are fine with learning about how racism has shaped our nation and how understanding this can help us move towards a truly multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

But of course, there are all sorts of roadblocks put up now to us reaching that. And unfortunately, it sounds very familiar.

The last word goes to the Drive-By Truckers, who put out a remarkable concept album about being liberals from the South, and this song hits hard on what that’s like.

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A Good Night For The Party Of Stupidity & Sedition

I agree with everything that Cassandra said this morning. Glenn Youngkin is about to make Virginia safe from Critical Race Theory and Beloved. It’s racism pure and simple. It’s what the party of stupidity and sedition does. Let’s move on from there.

I’m never sure how important these off-year Governor’s races are to the national picture. This year, they were nationalized because everything is right now. It was much easier to scare the shit out of white suburban women because of the grind of the pandemic. They just wanted a politer messenger than the Impeached Insult Comedian. On the stump, Youngkin was like a better version of Willard Mittbot Romney. Let’s call him Mittbot 2.0 and be done with him. To paraphrase an old and rather lame song: Youngkin get out of my mind.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Gary Puckett and the Union Gap; they were on the right side in the War of the Rebellion, after all. Youngkin ran as a de facto Confederate sympathizer. Hell, he’d replace CRT with Confederate Race Theory if they actually taught CRT in Virginia schools. The MSM’s response to the CRT lie was predictable: clever tactics by Team Youngkin. They haven’t learned anything from the Trump misadventure. The media continues to normalize the party of stupidity and sedition Ugh, just ugh.

I’m almost as angsty about the New Jersey Governor’s race. Phil Murphy is an excellent governor who should have swept to reelection. Instead, he’s locked in a close race with some Italian guy I’ve never heard of and hope to never hear of again. As of this writing, it looks as if I don’t need to learn his name. It should never have been this close.

There’s something local at work in Jersey: the last Democratic governor to be reelected was Brendan Byrne in 1977. That’s right, the Giants Stadium/Meadowlands guy. Byrne bucked the whole “out party wins in an off-year election” thing. It looks as if Phil Murphy is the Brendan Byrne of the 21st Century. Cue sigh of relief.

As far as I know, Brendan Byrne is no relation to David although this song title describes Team Youngkin’s mendacious approach:

Two disappointing statewide races shouldn’t be enough for Democrats to form a circular firing squad, but they will anyway. The inside the beltway press corps will insist.

Here’s what we learned last night:

  •  No state is permanently blue or red.
  •  Racism works best when it’s dog whistled.
  •  Trumpism Lite seems to sell in suburbia.
  •  Voters can be misled if a campaign appeals to their existing prejudices.
  •  Voters are sick of the pandemic.

Who isn’t sick of the pandemic? One reason it has receded is the Biden administration’s vaccination push. That’s been a two-edged needle as the anti-vaxxer crowd has grown louder. I wish they’d STFU but that’s not going to happen.  Dipshits gotta dipshit.

I revived the Harold Lloyd Safety Last image for today’s post. My pen name Adrastos means undaunted, which fits Harold Lloyd’s onscreen persona. Harold would keep climbing and refuse to jump off the building despite the hecklers below urging him to jump. They can go fuck themselves as can the party of stupidity and sedition.

I don’t know about you, but these results gave me the Blues Before and After. The last word goes to some guys from Jersey:

 

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Lies, Not False Claims

I was raised to mistrust euphemisms. My mother was a plainspoken Midwestern farmer’s daughter. She said what she meant and meant what she said. She rarely cursed but disliked the euphemisms for shit, “The word poop is cute. Shit isn’t cute.”

Mom was a courteous, polite, and kind person who wouldn’t tolerate bullshit or lies. The phrase “let the chips fall where they may” was made for her. She told it like is even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

I haven’t always lived up to her example, but I’ve tried. It’s gotten me in trouble at times but I, too, prefer to let the chips fall where they may. To be blunt, I’m blunt.

That brings me to the Washington Post’s great three-part article, The Attack. They weave together various strands of what happened before, during, and after the 1/6 Dipshit Insurrection. It combines original reporting with the known facts in a coherent and interactive fashion. It’s a story that was made for the internet.

As much as I hate to cavil about such a magisterial accomplishment, cavil I must. Throughout all three parts, the word lie is rarely used. Instead, they deploy variations on falsely claimed. It’s a phrase you might use when you catch someone you care about in a lie but using it in the context of the Dipshit Insurrection is like calling shit, poop.

Whose feelings are they trying to spare? The Impeached Insult Comedian? The insurrectionists? The My Pillow Guy? John Eastman? Fuck that poop shit.

A lie is a lie even when it’s called a false claim. The WaPo’s use of this particular euphemism doesn’t wreck the piece, but it undermines it. The Dipshit Insurrection was based on the BIG LIE that the 2020 election was rigged. The BIG FALSE CLAIM doesn’t work.

It’s time for the media to stop calling the shit that went down on 1/6/2021 poop. Shit is not cute, neither was the Dipshit Insurrection. A lie is a lie even when it’s called a false claim.

We have a four-headed last word from The Rolling Stones, Manassas, The Black Keys, and En Vogue:

Democrats Need to Be A.B.C.

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross in front of chalkboard with Always Be ClosingOne of the all-time great scenes in movie history is the infamous speech by a sales executive that was given to a beleaguered sales team in the film “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

In it, the sales executive, played by Alec Baldwin, unleashes a profanity-filled (and over-the-top) rant-speech that includes a slogan – A.B.C. This stands for Always Be Closing, and that’s what the Democrats need to do if/when they pass the reconciliation bill.

Many in the DC media are going to highlight what’s not in the bill and was cut, just like they didn’t really mention in the last few months what’s in the original bill and instead focused on THREE POINT FIVE TRILLION. The goal, it seems, is to portray “Democrats in Disarray” at all times. Therefore, it’s going to be a difficult lift to sell it, but Democratic politicians need to trumpet all the goodies as coming from them.

Yes, the entire original reconciliation bill would have been better, but there’s plenty of good stuff in the trimmed-down version. For families, there’s university pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, and that would expand access to 6 million children a year. In addition, the outlandish cost of child care for kids younger than 6 would be limited to no more than 7% of those earning up to 250% of state median income. There’s also the extension of the child tax credit through 2022 and it would be made permanent for the lowest-income families.

The home health care portion aims to not just improve Medicaid coverage for home care services for seniors and disabled persons, but also improve the job quality for those providing the caregiving. It also would extend the Affordable Care Act’s enhanced federal premium subsidies through 2025, greatly helping moderate-income Americans.

The climate change portion of the bill is substantial, with $555 billion in tax credits and investments focused on combating climate change. There is a vision of 300,000 new jobs created by a Civilian Climate Corps, a new version of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps. This is a big win for the Sunrise Movement, which has advocated for such a program.

There’s other stuff in there around improving our immigration system, child nutrition, and affordable housing. Overall, it’s a big switch from the days of Democrats trying to out-Reagen their Republican counterparts back in the 1990s.

None of this is a done deal. Homespun Tool of the Elite Joe Manchin has been doing a great impersonation of a 1990s conservative talk show host by immediately claiming the paid leave program would result in people inventing fake babies. Look, Joe, we get it. People like yourself deeply, deeply despise people who make much less money than you do, so you invent things that aren’t true.

If we can indeed get Joe Coal and his partner in crime, Pharmaceutical Company Shill Krysten Sinema on board, this would be a transformational bill. But if it passes, Dems have to toot their own horn about it, long and loud. We’ll have to overcome mediocre elements in our media, but we can’t be shy about letting people know who brought them the good stuff. The 2022 midterms, and likely the 2024 presidential election, depend on it.

The last word goes to The Old Crow Medicine Show, who speak for all normal Americans who want The Good Stuff.

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The DeSantis Delusion

Image by Michael F.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been called Trump’s Mini-Me so many times that it’s become a cliché. I try to avoid clichés, so I’ll skip the Austin Powers/Dr. Evil shtick. Like most clichés, it’s stuck because there’s some truth to it. Ron DeSantis rose to power by attaching himself to the Impeached Insult Comedian like a tapeworm. A gross image but true. At least it’s not a cliché.

I feel an early musical interlude coming on:

Unlike Todd Rundgren, Ron DeSantis is neither a wizard nor a true star, but many in the media think he is. One of the worst, indeed Trumpiest, governors in the country is being touted by some as presidential timber. Cue woodworm jokes.

Despite his disastrous performance during the pandemic, the DeSantis Delusion has been spreading like a viral infection. The worst example of this infection comes from a recent article at The Atlantic by a usually sensible pundit, Conor Friedersdorf hereinafter Con Fried. The title is scarier than any horror movie: Why Never Trumpers Should Bet on DeSantis Now.

DeSantis frustrates and disappoints me within normal parameters. He hasn’t yet frightened me, as Trump does, as being superlatively incompetent, divisive, morally degenerate, or authoritarian. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough put it last June, when COVID-19 numbers were failing and DeSantis was peaking in the polls, “We’re going from the political heroin to the political methadone.” However bleak the analogy, that’s a significant step toward recovery!

Say what?

DeSantis is the guy who cooked the Florida COVID books by firing the person in charge of compiling the numbers.

DeSantis is the guy who recently encouraged anti-vaxxer coppers (try saying that 5 times in a row) to come to Florida to spread the Delta variant.

Those are just two of many harebrained Trumpier than Trump schemes launched by the Florida Man.

My colleague Michael F wrote a post last June about one of DeSantis’ cockamamie/Trumpy schemes. The featured image comes from that post. I only steal from the best.

To be blunt, are you out of your fucking mind, Con Fried? I’m familiar with the non-Mini-Me clichés about the lesser of two evils and desperate times calling for desperate measures, but Ron Fucking DeSantis? Really, Con Fried? Is this for real or just contrarianism run amuck?

I realize that Never Trumpers are grasping at straws to remove the Kaiser of Chaos from the political equation but Ron Fucking DeSantis? Gimme a break.

I agree with New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait who recently wrote about the DeSantis Delusion:

Ron DeSantis is the patron saint of a segment of the conservative Establishment that has made its peace with Donald Trump largely by pretending he does not exist. DeSantis has followed their strategy of ignoring Trump’s lies and authoritarianism while cultivating his followers with more refined attacks on their shared enemies.

Ironically, however, DeSantis has moved far enough to the extreme that they have now been forced into the position of applying the same method to DeSantis that they used for Trump. They have constructed an imaginary version of DeSantis, lavishing praise upon the “Ron DeSantis” they created who shares all the positive qualities of the real-life politician of the same name, with none of his glaring flaws.

Isn’t it bad enough that the Republican establishment has a bad case of the DeSantis Delusion without spreading it to the Never Trumpers?

I’ve already compared the DeSantis Delusion to a viral infection, this perfects that analogy. I also like Chait’s Imaginary Friend imagery. It beats the hell outta the Mini-Me cliché. That cliché, however, is one reason why former President* Pennywise has come to hate DeSantis. He views him as a threat. I’m skeptical that he’s a real, as opposed to an imaginary, threat.

The scenario laid out by Con Fried and others in the throes of the DeSantis Delusion has two flaws:

First, DeSantis is up for reelection in 2022. He’ll need to win by a substantial margin to be a viable presidential contender.

Second, I doubt that DeSantis has the balls to challenge Trump in 2024. The entire Republican party has been spayed and neutered by 5 years of subservience to the Former Guy. DeSantis will only run if the Impeached Insult Comedian does not.

Con Fried has another delusion: that the Never Trumpers will act. Thus far, they’re all talk with a few teevee ads sprinkled in. It’s hard to imagine them mounting an effective challenge to Trump or forming a third party to siphon votes away from the GOP in 2024. Besides, third party talk is for losers and the deluded.

The DeSantis Delusion is just another symptom of the MAGA disease that’s infected our body politic. Con Fried and the Never Trumpers are like kids playing with fire. They’re the ones most likely to get burned by the beast that has destroyed conservatism as we knew it. What’s next? A Hawley, Cotton, or Cruz Delusion? Oy just oy.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

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Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Midnight Hour

Max Schreck as Nosferatu.

It’s been chilly the last few days in New Orleans; not Vermont or Minnesota chilly but it will do. Of course, we were subjected to a helluva storm before things cooled off. Cool air hitting muggy air tends to do that. The light show accompanying the storm would have been spectacular if it wasn’t so scary. I jumped a few time in response, but we didn’t lose power. It had to happen.

This week’s theme song was written by Wilson Pickett and Steve Cropper in 1965. It became a monster hit on both the R&B and pop charts shortly thereafter. It remains a classic as well as perfect for this feature, which goes live every Saturday at midnight.

We have three versions of In The Midnight Hour for your listening pleasure: the Pickett original as well as covers by The Jam and Roxy Music.

Now we’ve that waited til the midnight hour, let’s jump to the break. I suspect more music awaits us on the other side. Go ahead and jump.

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A Clarity Of The Current

This week, fellow First Drafter Cassandra wrote a piece about how angry people are right now – at the wrong stuff, due to being clueless about the current situation. This will continue that general theme.

Americans tend to not be very good at knowing what’s really happening. The public tends to have completely wrong beliefs about crime, child abduction, and American exceptionalism. These false ideas are driven by prejudice, bad information sources, and American mythology.

This is not good, because a shared, accurate sense of reality is vital for our democracy. We now, more than ever, need something that can be referred to as A Clarity of the Current.

A clarity of the current means bracketing out preconceived ideas based on nothing real at all, such as “it can’t happen here.” We know it can happen here. It already has. Remember all the people who strongly believed that America simply couldn’t elect Trump? We started with “Trump can’t possibly win the nomination” and then that level of bizarre blind faith continued right up to “Trump will just leave, there won’t be any violence.” And now, it doesn’t seem like enough Americans understand the threat that Republicans are posing to our very democracy.

We need to understand what’s really happening. Decent Americans can’t check out, and they need to realize what’s at stake. This isn’t “well, that’s just your opinion.” To those people, I say this: Think about how often you’ve been surprised by what has happened in politics over the last five year. Ponder the multiple times that conservatives have done something that if someone said to you 10 years ago that they would do, you’d dismiss it as hyperbole. And be honest.

It’s vital to pay attention now, to understand context, to be able to sort through everything that is happening. It means getting information from trusted sources, such as things that are not shared by your crazy Uncle Claude on Facebook. It means being a shrewd news consumer. It’s not the time to dismiss it as “oh, silly politics” or tell everyone that you’re too busy for the news (the majority of people who say this, if they were Pinnochio they’d be able to push a vending machine button with their nose at 1,000 paces).

Buckle up, buttercup, your country needs to you to pay attention. This doesn’t mean you have to doomscroll, but also don’t check out. People not paying attention is why the Virginia governor’s race is so close, why Biden’s approval is down, and why people are not hair-on-fire about the threats to our democracy poised by Republicans. It’s not all on our public, as many in the media are to blame as well.

News coverage often lacks context, downplays issues, leaves out key facts, and both-sides poor behavior by Republicans. This is a bad time for that, as there is so much misinformation muddying the waters. Everything is reduced to numbers and a horserace – the coverage of the reconciliation bill has been 24/7 THREE POINT FIVE TRILLION OMG OMG and  what it might do to Biden’s presidency and little about what is in it and how it would help Americans. Also, context about dangerous behavior by conservatives is often lost by exclusion, like when the Washington Post reported on political divisions in a Montana town as if it was both sides at fault, leaving out the fact that the area is a hotbed for white nationalists.

This will not do. The decent Americans who want our democracy to thrive must be aware of what is going on, of the deep threats, and be willing to accept that reality. I know that in some cases, people don’t want to believe that the nation they thought of as a beacon of freedom has such a deep threat to its system coming from within, nor do they want to think that their conservative neighbors hold potential to be violent tools of an authoritarian rule. So many stories of the rise of authoritarianism, from Hitler to Pinochet, include how these regiemes took hold thanks in part due to complacency among the populace, who refused to accept to could happen to them. We are in real danger of that happening, in some form, here.

We need to people to be awake…to have a clarity of the current.

The last word goes to the Manic Street Preachers…who knew this song would be so relevant to America 23 years after it was released:

The Threat Set

During the Trump regime my cable news habit was out of control. Teevee news has a visceral impact on viewers, and I felt it all too often. The only MSNBC show I watch regularly now is The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell who I recently called the last sane person on cable news. Lawrence is a calm and cerebral host who’s there to feed your brain, not your gut.

I’ve noticed lately how many stories involve threats, mostly of violence. It’s particularly dangerous to be an election official, a school board member, or a federal judge right now. There are so many threats that it’s hard to discern credible ones. This is some serious shit.

One of my specialties as a pundit is handing out nicknames. I’m running the phrase the Threat Set up the flagpole to see who salutes it. Not really. I tend to throw nicknames against the wall and see which ones stick. I think this one will stick because it evokes the Jet Set. The Impeached Insult Comedian, with his private plane and past patronage of Studio 54, qualifies as a member of the Jet Set. Few of his supporters do.

Back to the matter at hand. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said this about the Threat Set when she testified before the Senate Rules Committee this week:

“Two weeks after the election, armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted, Katie, come out and play. We`re watching you.

I never expected that holding this office would result in far right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband`s employment at a children`s hospital or calling my office, saying I deserve to die and asking, what is she wearing today? So she`ll be easy to get.

But what concerns me is near constant harassment faced by the private servants who administer our elections. We`re seeing high turnover among election staff and I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.”

As a woman, Hobbs is subjected to gross forms of harassment. The “Katie come out to play” thing sounds like something out of a Steven King novel. It’s something that this guy might say:

Image by Michael F.

Federal judges handling Dipshit Insurrection cases are feeling the heat as well:

A district judge said on Friday that defendants in Jan. 6 cases who push the conspiracy theory that the election was stolen are inciting threats to judges presiding over insurrection cases.

D.C. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said that he and other judges involved in Jan. 6 trials “are getting all kinds of threats and hostile phone calls” from people who “buy in on this proposition … that somehow the election was fraudulent.”

I’m relieved to hear that Trumpers aren’t gathering outside his house chanting, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.”

On a more serious note, this has got to stop. Threats that used to be laughable must be taken seriously because of the current political climate.

MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance had this exchange with Lawrence on The Last Word last night:

VANCE: You know, the distinction between just the very small number of federals judges who were tragically killed in the last century and the attack this century on a judge`s family is that those stemmed primarily from people who were upset about their individual cases or family members` cases.

What`s so troubling about the era that we`re in right now in Judge Walton`s comments is this is about people with a political agenda.

And those are the sort of risks that judges face in countries where cartels have influence or in the Philippines or even in Afghanistan, where two women judges were killed earlier this year.

The risk — and I`m not saying, for instance, that Donald Trump is directly responsible, but it`s the rhetoric and the level of political divide in this country that can fuel troubled people towards attacks that`s so very risky and troubling.

O`DONNELL: Well, I would say that Donald Trump is responsible for any attack on any federal judge who`s handling any of these January 6th cases, as the judge was talking about the threats are pouring in against them.

I agree with Lawrence. The Kaiser of Chaos has fanned the flames of hatred and poured gasoline on the fire like a modern-day Nero.

He may not be legally culpable but he’s morally and politically responsible for the Threat Set acting out his sick and twisted fantasies. Former President* Pennywise is a coward. He incites violence but lacks the courage to participate. He leaves that to the Threat Set.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

The last word goes to John Prine and Iris DeMent:

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Home Sweet Home

The NBC Evening News on Tuesday ended with a story about how Ken Burns wants there to be a National Home Town Day and about how he’s getting famous people to record stuff about how wonderful their home town is. The reporter asked him if he was doing this to alleviate “the divisiveness of social media” and he said it was.

This BOTH SIDES-ing of fascism is MADE FOR TELEVISION bullshit of the highest order.

There is no doubt that the United States is in the middle of a cold civil war, with hot skirmishes unfortunately breaking out. There is only one reason for this:  a large segment of the American public has become violently radicalized. I have a carefully curated Facebook feed of actual friends and family, and I don’t subscribe to any groups or lists or whatever Facebook is offering and I still see stupid fake memes designed to get people angry. And guess what? The people who are posting these memes are indeed angry. But they’re angry over some really stupid stuff.

Here’s the most recent one I’ve seen:

I cannot find anything to be outraged about in that photo. But everyone sharing it sure is mad about it. As for me? The idea that people posting videos about their home towns is a magic bullet that will heal the nation is so stupid that it makes me as mad as some people are over $3.00/gallon gas. Me? I’d LOVE to pay that little for gas.

Kalispell, MT is someone’s home town. Lisa Rein wrote about the clashes between Trumpers and residents in The Washington Post on Monday. Here’s a representative part of it:

Hostility over the November election, the coronavirus and social movements have left a trail of bad blood among old-school Republicans, backers of the former president, increasingly vocal Democrats and out-of-state transplants, convulsing everything from the school district and the public library to daily interactions.

This is no longer the place people here felt they knew, with its pride in a civil style of independence, not just from Washington but from animosity. Local businesses, politicians and ordinary people now find themselves navigating angry confrontations, and a nuanced political tradition of splitting tickets on Election Day has given way to partisanship that propelled a Republican sweep of races for governor, president and Congress in November for the first time in two decades.

The town is a hellscape. And it turns out that Rein left out an important piece of context:  the town has become a haven for white supremacists. I came across this piece by Dam Froomkin.

On Twitter, I complained of the extraordinary contortions Rein went through to make it sound like the “angry confrontations,” and “partisan recriminations” she describes are somehow everyone’s fault — that the “fracture” is an affliction the community is suffering from, rather than the direct result of right-wing zealots run amok.

And that was before I learned that the area has long been a notorious destination for white nationalists – a “cradle for sometimes-violent anti-government activity,” as the Associated Press put it in 2011 — which somehow never came up at all.

Rein briefly engaged with me on Twitter. I had suggested that she was avoiding the obvious, to which she responded: “Lol. Which is….?”

I asked: “Do you have a lot of examples of non-Trumpists behaving badly? Do you think anyone is at fault other than these racist, grievance-filled conspiracy-spewing bullies?“

She replied: “The story is nuanced as are the politics but thanks for reading :)-”

After I expressed my view that there was nothing remotely nuanced about either the facts or the politics,  I asked her if she felt  “under some obligation to turn in a ‘nuanced’ piece instead of one that flatly chronicled the destruction wrought by right-wing extremism?”

She replied: “Nope. I felt an obligation to tell the truth,” followed by the emoji for “grinning face with smiling eyes.” And that’s the last I heard from her directly.

Froomkin’s piece also linked to stories about how Kalispell has become a mecca for white supremacists and hosts a Who’s Who of those losers.

None of that important context is included in Rein’s story because it ruins the BOTH SIDES! trope. See, the problem isn’t the Trumpers banning books or prohibiting transgender girls from playing sports or following school board officials out into the parking lot or sending them threats. The problem is the people who speak out against fascism.

I’ll close out this discussion of the failure of the media with this epic fail from CBS News (translation:  “CBS News doesn’t know where La Palma is.”):

Welcome To The Party, Pal

Scene from DIe Hard "Welcome to the Party"

Many Americans need the equivalent of a dead bad guy landing on their cop car.

He won’t get the nomination, this is a joke campaign.

He won’t win the nomination. 

America would never elect someone like Trump.

He’ll have to change, the office of the presidency will change him. 

Tonight he became president. 

He’s pivoting (at least a dozen times over four years).

He’ll just disappear once he loses.

His supporters are all talk, there won’t be any violence.

And so on.

A lot of people, from the elite-iest of the DC media elite to your neighbor, were constantly and consistently wrong about everything Trump-related. David Brock, former conservative critter and now Democratic strategist, was one of them. Today, he wrote a mea culpa in the New York Times.

“Democrats now face an opposition that is not a normal political party, but rather a party that is willing to sacrifice democratic institutions and norms to take power.”

To quote John McClain in the movie Die Hard, “Welcome to the party, pal.”

Brock does more than sound an alarm many of us have heard for five years, he offers some potential solutions. These are good action steps, but I wonder how much we will do. There’s a lot of solutions that would fix our current democracy crisis, such as increasing the number of Supreme Court justices and scrapping the filibuster, but those are dismissed as “too radical.” Meanwhile, not doing anything is enabling the radical dismantling of American democracy.

I also worry that not enough people see what is happening. I still hear people wringing their hands about “divisiveness” and I fear that this is something that holds us back from facing certain realities about where conservatives are right now. And while it’s good to see people like Brock aboard with reality and demonstrating a clarity of the current, I worry there are still people who are not, who believe since Trump is no longer president, so there’s no longer any threat. I also am concerned we are going to live up to the old 1/3-1/3-1/3 cliche; one-third of Americans want an end to democracy, one-third are going to fight to save it, and one-third won’t care.

I hope not. There’s a lot of work to do, and whatever you did to fight back against Trump, you need to keep doing it.

The last word goes to a group of guys who want us to wake up.

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Manchin Fatigue

Image by Michael F

I woke up this morning with a less than earth shattering revelation: I’m sick of writing about Joe Manchin. I’m sick of seeing him on TV. I’m sick of reading about him. I dream of a Manchin-free news cycle. It’s an impossible dream. We’re stuck with him as long as there’s a Fifty-Fifty senate.

Yesterday, the Man of La Manchin dominated the news. Senate Republicans refused to allow debate on Manchin’s voting rights bill. So much for his assurances that at least ten GOPers would vote for cloture to allow the measure to be debated. I’m sick of Joe Manchin’s empty promises.

David Corn of Mother Jones published a piece about Manchin’s supposed two-stage plan to leave the Democratic party if he doesn’t get his way on damn near everything. Manchin denounced the article as BULLSHIT.

I’m sick of Joe Manchin’s bullshit. I also don’t believe he plans to become an American Independent. He says he favors tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. No GOPer in Congress today has *ever* voted to raise income taxes

Manchin says he supports a $1.5 trillion human infrastructure plan. The GOP’s topline is zero, zed, zip, zilch. Plus, Manchin sponsored the voting rights bill they shot down yesterday. The GOP favors voter suppression, not electoral reform.

This was also the week that the coal state senator came out in opposition to the climate provisions of the reconciliation bill that I call the RIF. Coal made Joe Manchin a wealthy man, so we shouldn’t be surprised. But he also voted for a budget resolution that included a $3.5 trillion RIF jampacked with climate provisions. That’s right, he was for it before he was against it.

Manchin seems stuck in the triangulating Nineties. He wants a work requirement for the child tax credit. This, too, is bullshit. He represents one of the poorest states in the nation. The child tax credit benefits the vast majority of his constituents except for the coal barons he loves so much. Speaking of the descendants of robber barons, former Democratic Governor/Senator Jay Rockefeller’s adult children came out in favor of the RIF arguing that West By God Virginia needs it, By God.

The Man of La Manchin styles himself as a man of action. He claims to seek bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. That, too, is bullshit. Every time he gets involved in major legislation, it fails, flops, fizzles. Remember the post-Newtown massacre attempt to pass gun control legislation? Manchin got a lot of favorable coverage that time too. The legislation failed but Manchin still took a bow for his efforts.

As you can see from the featured image, Michael F was the first at First Draft to call the senior senator from West By God Virginia, the Man of La Manchin.  It’s not only a brilliant pun, it captures the essence of the man as a legislator. He poses as a legislator who wants to get shit done. That’s, in his own words, bullshit.

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The War on Reality

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an active, longtime member in a politics forum that draws a mixture of liberals and conservatives. The community has moved with its parent forum to different hosts, and then spun off as a stand-alone forum after TFG was elected. It was a lively place which died because of staff indifference to updating the software, a glitch that meant no one could sign up for 4 years, and the wholesale retreat of every right winger over the summer of 2020 as the signs of TFG’s impending loss because visible.

The community has migrated back to a space on the parent board, which means that there is a fresh crop of right wingers to contend with. I have to say that there is one constant with these people, and that is that they are irretrievably stupid. If I had to compare their sheer stupidity to a natural phenomenon, it would be a black hole. Nothing intelligent comes out of them, and to get to close to them is to have all of the intelligence sucked out of you.

Still, it’s fun to toy with them because they say some unintentionally hilarious things. Plus if you get them mad enough, they end up getting suspended because instead of going for a simple insult like “stupid”, they have to go straight for sexual slurs and gendered insults. Some of the slightly smarter ones stick to sexist language which keeps them off the suspension list until one of the women mods comes across their posts and then they get a vacation. (Also imagine me earnestly responding to them and warning them that they are going to get suspended if they keep it up and their doubling down in response to my very good advice. Believe me, I have earned the title of Cassandra.)

So I’ve been reading today about the debt ceiling impasse and so of course I started a discussion about it. A flurry of wingers began responding to me, and when I brought the discussion down to the most basic level—what is the debt ceiling?—none of them could answer the question. None of them. But they could tell me that no politician cares about any of us and that they have plenty of money and if the US fails to raise the debt limit, all of those politicians would be fine.

This is the level of political discourse in this country—a chunk of Americans don’t think they need to spend any time at all learning about current events, but instead spend that time repeating stuff that isn’t true and which, because of its underlying nihilism, further decreases their desire to educate themselves about current events. So they ask less and less from journalists, and journalists tailor their work to this bunch of lazy nihilists.

If your audience will believe anything because they’re incapable of critical thought and disinclined to fact check their prejudices, then why spend time trying to educate them? Why not entertain them while feeding them a false narrative that they will happily internalize? For example if you’re The View, you invite Alyssa Farah, one of the biggest propagandists on the Trump administration’s paywall, on to sell her lies. And boom! an insurrectionist enabler goes mainstream.

The other propagandist who got a bunch of air time last week was Stephanie Grisham, who openly admitted that she just lied to all of us whenever she felt like it, and that she carefully managed TFG’s press appearances in order to maximize his propaganda push. All of this is being sold to us totally normal.

It’s not. The 1/6 insurrection is still ongoing. Those of us who are still able to think for ourselves have to double our efforts to make sure that truth is promoted and that lies are marginalized. Hillary Clinton addressed this this week:

I hope she’s right.

Aimee Mann gets the last word:

Guest Post: Trump’s Lawyer Wrote, Shared Coup Plan – See Page 37

Jamie O is back with some media criticism. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

-Adrastos

Trump’s Lawyer Wrote, Shared Coup Plan – See Page 37 by Jamie O

I hold a degree in journalism/communications. It’s served me pretty well. I have a good job as a science writer for a big university. It’s interesting work, as they say. My degree has also given me sort of an inside-baseball view of how journalists are trained, and to be honest, the training needs to be updated.

I say this because a lot of the DC media is covering politics as if it’s still the 1980s (when I was getting my degree, in fact). You are taught in journalism not to hold bias (or at least control it). You get a quote and information from each side of an issue, and that’s pretty much that. It was simple and good and if one person wouldn’t comment, you’d write “Sen. Reddnose declined to comment.” Then you hit the bar like any worthy hard-nosed journalist as you call it a day.

Problem is, that climate might as well included dinosaurs roaming Capitol Hill, as long ago figuratively that world is compared to this one. Conservatives have bulldozed the unwritten ethics, mores and traditions of American politics that once were the bedrock of our entire political system. For example, as the New York Times’ Ezra Klein has pointed out, Mitch McConnell broke no rule of the Senate when he refused to put Merrick Garland through the confirmation process. But he did break one of those “you can’t do that” sort of rules that our system relied on for decades. Since then, American politics has seen a lot of conservatives crossing a line you weren’t supposed to cross, erasing it, and then drawing a new one, then crossing that. This includes levels of lying that would be considered political death just 10 years ago.

Among the many issues with this is the media hasn’t really adjusted, despite the events of the last six years. The headline style of “Democrats see little risk of inflation but Republicans disagree” from the 1980s has evolved into basically “Experts say the world is round, but some disagree.” It demands a different sort of news coverage, one that acknowledges what exactly is going on, a clarity of the current. The most recent poster child for this is the Eastman Memo.

If you are not familiar with what the Eastman Memo is, It is a memo written by a former Trump lawyer that outlined a six-point plan for former Vice President Mike Pence to basically treat the Constitution like a woman that is not his wife (read: purposely ignore it) and toss the rightful 2020 election results. You can read it here.

This should have been a moment in American history where all DC journos were in a state of hair-on-fire, speaking-in-tongues urgency. After all, this is clear evidence of a president of the United States overseeing a literal coup attempt. Right? Well…as my link showed, CNN certainly covered it. Various columnists, such as the New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, and the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent covered it. But outside of that, there was limited coverage of the memo in the newspapers, and the network evening news programs ignored it.

It may be tempting to write this all off as no big deal, because they didn’t pull it off, right? On the other hand, it’s not like conservatives are apologetic about January 6. In fact, the GOP has been as suspicious as a teen stoner refusing to let his mom search his room about it. They certainly put enough effort into blocking the Congressional investigations.

This is all alarming because a lot of smart people are sounding alarm bells, including a former Republican, about the growing threat to democracy. Even more alarming, as was shown in this week’s Margaret Sullivan Washington Post column, network news types were pretty much “eh, no big surprise” about the memo. Which brings me back to my college journalism days…I had a professor one time tell us that her answer to people who complained that the media was full of bad news and very little good news was “when bad news is so common it stops being news, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

Are we there now? Apparently, many national news outlets say yes.

Media In Disarray

Media criticism was not my beat until recently. I left it to Athenae because at times it feels as if one is smashing one’s head against the wall. It’s that frustrating. They *should* know better but they stick to their old bad habits of both-siderism and refusal to call a lie a lie.

I hoped that lessons would be learned from the insane Trump regime and its even crazier aftermath. Apparently, they have not been. In the immortal words of John Hiatt:

I’ve already devoted a series of posts to the MSM’s Afghanistan coverage, so I shan’t go there again in detail. I did, however, find it bizarre that after years of ignoring Afghanistan, it became the only story that mattered for a few weeks. It was a typical media feeding frenzy. They’ve moved on to the missing blonde chick. Ain’t nothing that drives traffic like someone dying young and leaving an attractive corpse. Cynical but true.

The MSM is now focusing its attention on congressional Democrats. They’re trying to wring as much drama out of the situation as possible. Unfortunately, they’re getting it wrong.

The post title is a play on the media’s “Democrats in disarray” fixation. It’s yet another example of lazy journalism as the “disarray” really involves a dozen house members and two senators. There’s broad agreement among both Senate and House Dems as to the content of the reconciliation bill. The debate, such as it is, is over numbers and our old buddy optics.

There’s always panic and drama leading up to a vote on a major bill. The current problem is that the difficult Democrats are focused on positioning and optics, not substance. The House progressive caucus is simply exercising the leverage it has to ensure that the reconciliation bill will be voted on. Speaker Pelosi gets this even the media does not. Make that prefers not to. They want drama and disarray and it’s all Manchin, Sinema, and their cohort in the House have to offer.

The media is fixated on numbers, which are admittedly unprecedented. We’re used to thinking in terms of billions, not trillions. But Team Biden’s motto seems to be go big or go home. The latter is what will happen if both infrastructure bills are not passed. Think 1994 after the failure of the Clinton health care plan. That’s why this needs to happen, especially with the GOP in the hands of the lunatic fringe. The current group makes the Gingrich gang look like moderates. They were not.

The best thing any Democratic Congresscritter has said about the current impasse comes from Jim Himes of the Nutmeg Sate:

“When Democrats allow a debate to be only about a number, it’s like talking about a Christmas party and only discussing the hangover.”

A reminder that it’s Republicans who have run up the deficit and the national debt with massive tax cuts under Reagan, W, and Trump. Democrats have been obliged to clean up the mess and focus on austerity. That’s why so many national priorities have been ignored since 1980.

The current Democratic leadership of Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer are refusing to play the austerity game. That’s also bugged the media. We’re supposed to be the responsible adults cleaning up the Republican mess. They get to gorge on cake and ice cream while we’re supposed to eat liver and cauliflower. Fuck that shit.

The rhetoric began to calm down somewhat yesterday as negotiations continued.  I have a dream: that the Man of La Manchin and the Sinematic Senator will take a vow of silence. They have nothing to offer except for confusion. There’s plenty of that without their contributions.

The featured image comes from one of my favorite newspaper movies, His Girl Friday. The current MSM is neither as funny nor as charming as Walter Burns or Hildy Johnson. Walter, however, would thrive in the current media environment. Chaos was his middle name.

The last word goes to John Entwistle with a song featuring this chorus:

I’m gonna bring you down to my size
One of these days I’m gonna make you fall
I’m gonna bring you down to my size
Smash your head against the wall.

Pass the aspirin, I have a media-induced headache.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon about the rhetoric calming down. All hell broke loose several hours after this posted. Oh well, what the hell.

Book Review: The Afghanistan Papers

Before that twisted dame Ida blew through the Gret Stet of Louisiana, I pre-ordered The Afghanistan Papers and planned to  review it. It was in limbo for 10-12 days after its release before finally landing on my front porch. It was the first package I received after Ida put the debris back in Debrisville.

Because of this checkered history, I was reluctant to review it. Besides, I was in the middle of a fine biography of former CIA director Bill Colby, Shadow Warrior. Much of that book by Randall Woods is about Vietnam, counterinsurgency, and the delusions they inspired. It paired beautifully with The Afghanistan Papers, which is also about a lost war, counterinsurgency, and the delusions they inspired.

I was also on a roll before Ida turned my life upside down. The delusional and cliched media reaction to the fall of Kabul inspired some damn good writing if I do say so myself. And I do.

Now that I’ve spent 150 some odd words explaining why I’m reviewing The Afghanistan Papers, let’s get on with it.

The Afghanistan Papers began life in 2019 as an extended investigative piece in the Washington Post. Reporter Craig Whitlock did some digging, made multiple FOIA requests, and struck gold. The title is, of course, meant to evoke The Pentagon Papers as is the book’s extended title: The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History Of The War.

Whitlock’s book could also be called Wishful Thinking. That’s what characterized US government and military spin about the war. Starting with Team Bush and Rummy, the US saw what it wanted to see and believed what it wanted to believe in Afghanistan.

The war began as a 9/11 revenge mission that morphed into nation building. George W Bush ran against nation building in 2000. He also ran as a compassionate conservative who ended up favoring torture. Let it never be said that W doesn’t have a sense of humor: he appointed one of his father’s enemies, Donald Rumsfeld, as defense secretary. The results were not funny.

Rumsfeld is the main character in the first half of the book: issuing optimistic pronouncements that would have made Vietnam war planners blush. He showed only sporadic interest in Afghanistan after a second front was opened in the so-called war on terror in Iraq.

The Afghanistan mission was accomplished with the death of Osama bin Laden on May 11, 2011; yet we stayed until 2021. Then Vice President Biden advocated declaring victory and getting the hell out of there, but he lost the internal battle to the brass, Bob Gates, and Hillary Clinton. None of them wanted to leave because they were convinced that the Karzai government would collapse. They were right about that but wrong about staying.

Nation building in Afghanistan was based on false premises and wishful thinking. Afghanistan might as well have been an alien planet to American officials. We tried to impose centralized government on a decentralized tribal society. These misguided efforts and rampant corruption revived the Taliban as an alternative to what Afghans saw as a puppet regime.

Despite the Vietnam example, US leadership was convinced we could impose our will on a society so backward that Vietnam in the Sixties looks advanced in contrast. In addition to imposing our will, we kidded ourselves that things were going well in Afghanistan and covered up anything that disproved our delusional thinking. Those who say history never repeats were proven wrong again.

The most interesting bits in the book come from the accounts of Americans who served in-country, but didn’t buy the lie that things were going well. There’s story after story of how neither Afghans nor Americans understood one another. It was a bad fit that was bound to end badly.

The Afghanistan Papers is an absorbing and well-written account of a war that could never be won. Instead of accepting the bitter truths told by Craig Whitlock, the American MSM continues to be deluded about the war as they rant about our “chaotic exit” from that benighted country. War is chaotic. Lost wars are even more chaotic.

This war was lost when the Bush administration turned its attention to Iraq. The ensuing years were a waste of time, human life, and money. Victory was never possible. Stalemate or defeat were the only options President Biden was presented with in 2021. He chose to do something unusual: he told the truth about our Afghan misadventure. People don’t always want to hear the truth. In this instance, that was true of the media as well.

I give The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History Of The War 4 stars and an Adrastos grade of A.

The last word goes to Dusty Springfield: