Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Your President* Speaks: The Daily Constitutional Crisis

It’s no secret that Donald Trump thrives on conflict, chaos, and crisis. It’s also no secret that normal people find the constant chaos exhausting. I’m only marginally normal but find myself waking up and wondering what shit has hit the fan over night. Some days it’s a crazy tweet, other days it’s an interview. Whenever the Insult Comedian is interviewed by the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, the bats in his belfry come flying out.

Haberman wasn’t the only Timesperson involved in the interview but she’s the one with the knack of summoning the demons. Timing is, of course, everything. Even by the standards of the Trump presidency* it’s been a crazy few weeks: things are not going well in Trump World and when that happens, shit meet fan.

This time around there is *some* method in the president’s* madness. Events in the Trump-Russia scandal are moving at warp speed while the attempt to destroy the ACA is creeping along like a slug that’s been stepped on. The White House is issuing empty threats to Senators who are less and less afraid of the Orange Menace every day. It’s not unusual for a real president to want to change the subject but they rarely move on to an even more damaging topic. Ain’t nothing real about the pouty POTUS* on display today. Pouty POTUS*? I feel a new nickname coming on: POUTUS. I’m not sure if it requires an asterisk. The dumb fucker pouts constantly.

We begin with a comment inspired by his Parisian sojourn:

Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?

Uh, POUTUS, it was Louis Bonaparte aka Napoleon III whose government laid out the street grid of which you speak. One would think Trump would like him since he was elected and then became Emperor/Dictator. Of course, he finished “a little bit bad” too. I bet the Insult Comedian has never heard of Napoleon’s nephew Louis. It would involve reading a book.

Next up is a comment about his unsupervised visit with Putin:

We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

Adoption is Putinspeak for sanctions. They talked about something substantive with only Putin’s translator present. Btw, Karl Rove said he wouldn’t have taken that meeting. That’s right, Team Trump is worse than Karl Fucking Rove.

Constitutional crisis, come on down:

TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

HABERMAN: Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, Sessions screwed up and did the right thing by recusing himself. He was following DOJ rules. Imagine that. Second, Trump refers to himself in the third person as the president* The only recent Oval One I can recall doing that was Tricky Dick. You know, the only president to resign in disgrace.

The bit about Rosenstein is classic Trumpian projection. Trump is a New York Republican who lost his home state 59-37 and did even worse in NYC. One would have thought Rosenstein would be his political soul brother. I guess not.

Next up is the part of Your President* Speaks in which American history is misinterpreted.

And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting.

The FBI has always been part of the DOJ and its director has always reported to the Attorney General. The president has always had the appointment power. One reason Mark (Deep Throat) Felt insisted on anonymity is that he was bypassed by Nixon to replace Hoover and didn’t want to come off as a disgruntled office seeker.

It’s time for Trump to threaten the Special Counsel:

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that.

He didn’t definitely say he’d fire Bobby Three Sticks but the implication is clear.  Trump wants Mueller to keep his hands off the Trump crime family. We’ve had some phony Saturday Night Massacres in the past 180 days. Firing Mueller would be the real deal.

In a normal administration, we would have awakened to the news that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein had resigned. To say that this is not a normal administration is a grotesque understatement. Normal presidents care about the appearance of impropriety and would never meet with a Russian president without a sidekick of some kind. Even the Lone Ranger would have brought Tonto along, but not Johnny Depp’s Tonto with the dead bird on his head. Hmm, maybe Trump should try that. Imagine a dead bird atop the dead nutria he has atop his head. It would be a fashion sensation, y’all.

That concludes this epic edition of Your President* Speaks. I haven’t even included Trump’s recent tweet storms. Twitter is ephemeral. The New York Times is the newspaper of record. Maggie Haberman is the Trump whisperer. The poor dear.

Look Who Just Showed Up, Everybody!

It’s the anthropologists of Real America, again, making sure we hear from a guy who carries Grover Norquist’s bags around! 

In 1997, Patterson was riding in a car that was hit by a drunk driver, and the bones of his left arm were shattered into several dozen pieces. After six surgeries, he suffered permanent nerve damage, decreased arm mobility, and no future as a closeup magician. Having acquired his G.E.D., he enrolled in classes at the University of Miami. The quality of Patterson’s writing impressed an instructor, who persuaded him to apply to Columbia. The year that Patterson turned thirty, he became an Ivy League freshman. He majored in classics. Every night, he translated four hundred lines of ancient Greek and Latin. In class, he often argued with professors and students.

“The default view seemed to be that Western civilization is inherently bad,” he told me. In one history seminar, when students discussed the evils of the Western slave trade, Patterson pointed out that many cultures had practiced slavery, but that nobody decided to eradicate it until individuals in the West took up the cause. The class booed him. In Patterson’s opinion, most people at Columbia believed that only liberal views were legitimate, whereas his experiences in Grand Junction, and his textbook lessons from magic, indicated otherwise. (“States of mind are no different than feats of manual dexterity. Both can be learned through patience and diligence.”)

“Look, I’m a high-school dropout who went to an Ivy League school,” Patterson said. “I’ve seen both sides. The people at Columbia are not smarter.” He continued, “I went to Columbia at the height of the Iraq War. There were really legitimate arguments against going into Iraq. But I found that the really good arguments against going were made by William F. Buckley, Bob Novak, and Pat Buchanan. What I saw on the left was all slogans and group thought and clichés.”

Patterson graduated with honors and a reinvigorated sense of political conviction. For the past seven years, he’s worked for conservative nonprofit organizations, most recently in anti-union activism. In 2013, the United Auto Workers tried to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where Patterson demonstrated a knack for billboards and catchphrases. On one sign, he paired a photograph of a hollowed-out Packard plant with the words “Detroit: Brought to You by the UAW.” Another billboard said “United Auto Workers,” with the word “Auto” crossed out and replaced by “Obama,” written in red.

In Patterson’s opinion, such issues are cultural and emotional as much as economic. He believes that unions once served a critical function in American industry, but that the leadership, like that of the Democratic Party, has drifted too far from its base. Union heads back liberal candidates such as Obama and Clinton while dues-paying members tend to hold very different views. Patterson also thinks that free trade, which he once embraced as a conservative, has damaged American industries, and he now supports some more protectionist measures. His message resonated in Chattanooga, where, in 2014, workers delivered a stinging defeat to the U.A.W. Since then, Patterson has continued his advocacy in communities across the country, under the auspices of Americans for Tax Reform, which was founded by the conservative advocate Grover Norquist. “So now I bust unions for Grover Norquist with a classics degree and as a former magician,” he told me.

He’s a flack. You sent a reporter to the Real America, NewGoddamnYorker, and you found a GOP flack with a funny backstory, and you used him as an example of why Trump won. You let him say a thousand words that all boil down to racism (unions were fine until black people and brown immigrants started to benefit) and this is how Trump is transforming rural America? This asshole lives in Washington DC, no matter where he came from, and he’s paid to push a line you’ve bit on. Nice job.

The entire piece is an exercise in how to let white people avoid saying “racism,” perhaps best exemplified in this paragraph:

Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.”

That’s not loaded language at all when you’re a white lady talking about a candidate who campaigned on promises to boot illegal immigrants from the country.

These people similarly seem really nice:

The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”

If you think this is new, you must have slept through the last 40 fucking years. Republican legislators have been making their bones attacking journalists and universities for DECADES. Until recently, they didn’t have a compliant media machine of their own to amplify their resentments, whip them up to turn on their neighbors white and otherwise, and suppress the votes of those they thought were looking down on them.

For as long as there have been public universities and newspapers, there have been assholes attacking them as anti-American. Once upon a time, though, we didn’t mount expeditions into the assholes’ native territory with the aim of understanding the people who wanted us dead.

In Grand Junction, it was often dispiriting to see such enthusiasm for a figure who could become the ultimate political boom-and-bust. There was idealism, too, and so many pro-Trump opinions were the fruit of powerful and legitimate life experiences. “We just assume that if someone voted for Trump that they’re racist and uneducated,” Jeriel Brammeier, the twenty-six-year-old chair of the local Democratic Party, told me. “We can’t think about it like that.” People have reasons for the things that they believe, and the intensity of their experiences can’t be taken for granted; it’s not simply a matter of having Fox News on in the background. But perhaps this is a way to distinguish between the President and his supporters. Almost everybody I met in Grand Junction seemed more complex, more interesting, and more decent than the man who inspires them.

Maybe they did. But if you are truly so dim as to think that they wouldn’t seem more complex, more interesting and more decent TO YOU because YOU’RE A WHITE GUY, I have a membership to Mar-A-Lago to sell you.

They seemed better than the man they voted for? Too bad. They voted for him. I don’t care if they’re racist and uneducated in real life or if they have a bunch of graduate degrees and ten black friends, because they voted for racism and stupidity anyway.

They don’t want people looking down on them? They can fix that really easily by BEING BETTER HUMAN BEINGS.

This whole story is a mess, and the only interesting aspect of it is the idea that voting for Trump is performative, something done not to improve anyone’s life but to make the voter feel powerful and good in a world that tries to snuff such feelings out. I wonder if anyone’s ever made that point before. 

A.

Malaka Of The Week: David Brooks

I am an anomaly among veteran liberal political bloggers. I have never written about David Brooks. The man known as Bobo has long been one of Athenae’s favorite targets. I almost called him her whipping boy but I have sworn off bondage jokes after an incident involving this Zappa song:

In any event, Brooks has written a column so silly that even I have taken notice. And that is why David Brooks is malaka of the week.

I’m late to the whole sammich column debate, but suffice it to say that one of the things Bobo thinks is wrong with America are foreign ingredients:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

We are well and truly through the looking glass. Malaka Bobo thinks that Italian meats that have been eaten for years by his swarthier countrymen are an indicator of decline. Really, Bobo? Trump is president* Mitch McConnell is trying to destroy Medicaid and prosciutto is the problem?

If David Brooks weren’t such a white boy, he’d know that many Americans, including the working class types he’s suddenly so solicitous of, have been eating ethnic foods for years. Sure, yuppies are into it but so is the average Italian Giovanni in Jersey, not to mention Cajun oil rig roughnecks and their demon boudin. Somebody should bop Bobo in the bean with a baguette and knock some sense into him.

The best thing I’ve seen about the sammich mishigas was a meaty post by Charlie Pierce who has been mocking Bobo for years:

Moral Hazard, the Irish setter owned for photo op purposes by New York Times columnist David Brooks, stood dripping and shivering in my foyer. I half-filled his dog bowl with Jameson and he took it down in several big gulps.

 “I had to get out,” he said. “It was starting to get crazy down there. Master’s off the rails and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. He walks around, day and night, mumbling to himself, saying weird stuff about community and prosciutto. People are starting to wonder. Douthat, the former houseboy, jumps into closets now when he sees him coming and Stephens, the new one, hides behind the sofa. Nobody wants to listen to 15 minutes on how Edmund Burke’s Reflections warned us against radicalism and balsamic vinegar. I mean, OK, hear it once and it’s interesting but around the third time, you want to talk about hockey.”
I’ll be doggone if I can top that but I’m glad to hear that Malaka Bobo has a commoner as a pal. It could explain why he’s so down to earth and in touch with white working class Trump voters. #sarcasm. I hope Breakfast for Bobo involves strictly American ingredients although I suspect we’d have to gritsplain a Southern breakfast to this pompous fool who thinks that croissants and cappuccino are ruining the country. And that is why David Brooks is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to the late Warren Zevon who knew a good thing when he tasted it unlike that silly billy Bobo.

UPDATE: It turns out that I wrote about David Brooks in 2014: Bobo’s Weed Screed. It was strictly a one off deal. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

This Entire Story on Jim Acosta is Bullshit

Remember during the heyday of the Daily Show, when reporters would anonymously carp at the supposed freedom Jon Stewart had to call bullshit on bullshit? The stifled contemptuous jealousy with which they talked about him and his team? “Oh, he’s a comedian, not a journalist, and he’s on a cable network, not at an august publication run by someone with a numeral after his name, so he can question authority and we can’t, woe is helpless little us.”

Here we go again. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post is JUST ASKING if maybe Jim Acosta treating the White House with skepticism is rude: 

Acosta’s remarks aren’t just blunt; they’re unusual. Reporters are supposed to report, not opine. Yet Acosta’s disdain has flowed openly, raising a question about how far a reporter — supposedly a neutral arbiter of facts, not a commenter on them — can and should go.

Really? It raises a question? All by itself? Nobody raised that question? Nobody who wants to be named, anyway? That’s okay, just put the question in the headline and pretend it came from God himself. No worries.

A curious sidelight to all this has been the relatively tepid support Acosta has received from his fellow White House journalists. Only a few have publicly spoken out in support of him. There have been no walkouts or calls for boycotting the briefings (although Acosta has suggested “collective action” to get the cameras back). The White House Correspondents’ Association has confined its agitation to behind-the-scenes negotiations with Spicer and several short, general statements.

So Acosta put himself out there, calling bullshit when he smelled it, and nobody else in the cowardly White House press corps jumped to his defense, so that automatically makes … Acosta questionable? HOW? What the hell kind of morally bankrupt construction is this? Is someone only right about stuff when everybody validates their point of view? Is he only correct if more than six other reporters back him up? Is that how you determine who’s on the side of the angels and who’s going to hell?

I’m really confused about this, Paul Farhi, because I’m old enough to have gone to journalism school and been taught about a trade that specialized in holding power to account. Nobody mentioned a popularity contest among our peers, and let’s be honest, most reporters fucking hate each other anyway. The good ones always have half a dozen enemies in the business.

Jim Acosta is not proven right or wrong by counting how many of his colleagues like his tone of voice. Even if he was, if you read the entire story, Farhi doesn’t even quote anyone who’s all that mad at Acosta. Farhi quotes Spicer, who of course is going to shit-talk Acosta, and he quotes Fox:

In fact, the pushback against Acosta from some quarters of the media has been more striking. On a recent Fox News segment, for example, former Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry said Acosta’s on-air commentary had “crossed the line” into opinion.

Henry then burst into flames, as is customary when irony flips the switch on the XM42.

How exactly is it striking, Farhi, that a Trump-friendly network thinks bullshit-opposing journalists are just de trop? Wouldn’t you expect Fox to say that anyone not actively licking the president’s boots must be some kind of communist traitor somehow? Isn’t that what they’ve spent the past two Republican administrations saying? Is this NEW for them somehow?

This is my favorite part of the story, though. It’s the SECOND TO LAST PARAGRAPH WHICH DISPROVES THE LEAD.

In fact, Acosta didn’t go easy on Trump and Spicer’s predecessors; his questioning of Obama press secretary Josh Earnest and Obama himself was often highlighted in conservative media accounts and in Republican National Committee emails. During the IRS scandal, for instance, he asked Earnest whether the White House’s claim that it had lost important emails was like saying “the dog ate my homework.” He also pressed Obama on his characterization of the Islamic State as “the J.V. team” and the president’s contention that he hadn’t underestimated the terror organization. “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” Acosta asked.

So … the entire premise of your story is bullshit, then? Acosta has said nothing provably false or even all that inflammatory, Acosta’s boss is really happy with his work, Acosta’s main critics are administration officials and one Fox jackass, so … why didn’t you spike this piece of shit? Why is it out there with a vague … this raises questions and shadows are swirling in the ether of nothingness in which disembodied observers might opine that we can’t ever know the truth?

What’s the good of keeping democracy from dying in darkness if you’re just going to drown it in stupidity?

A.

Want to #Resist, Rich Liberals? Buy Some Fucking Newspapers

This was rightly roasted all over the place this week: 

Bigger government handouts won’t win working-class voters back. This is the fallacy of the left, believing that voters just need to be shown how much they are getting in government benefits. In reality, these voters see themselves as being penalized for maintaining the basic values of hard work, religion and family.

And I made the point myself that “Democrats” like Penn have no idea where the center is in this country and no financial incentive to find out. If they can cash in without providing any kind of data, why would they do the work necessary to prove their (bullshit) hypothesis?

Move to the center, Democrats! Because if you nominate a war hero, he certainly won’t be characterized as a traitor! If you nominate a woman so hawkish she makes Angela Merkel look like a pacifist, she certainly won’t be derided as weak! If you run a biracial constitutional lawyer whose ideas would be right at home in the Eisenhower administration, he’s certainly not going to be called a secret Muslim terrorist sympathizer!

This idea that the appeal of the GOP to the average voter is about substance is just adorable. We could go back in time, nominate Bernie Sanders, he could talk nonstop about manufacturing jobs and Real Americans in the Rust Belt, and by the time wingnut media were done with him he’d be That Socialist Jew and he’d have had to denounce every single black friend he’d ever made.

If the future of the Democratic Party is conversion of Republican voters, nobody is ever going to be good enough.

My biggest problem with that Penn piece and this WTF nonsense is that what Democrats need isn’t another retooling by somebody’s fucking cousin who’s a brand ambassador. They don’t need to call abortion icky or abandon whatever the fuck these rich white tools think is “identity politics” this week. They don’t need a white man with a Southern accent and a picturesque farmer/coal miner background (though if we wanna run Jimmy again, I’m game if he is).

They need their own fucking printing press and they should go buy one. Plus a few dozen TV stations and some local radio networks. Maybe save some media execs from themselves.

Without those things, it doesn’t matter if Democrats move left, right or center if there’s a 24-7 media machine screaming that all Dems including YOUR SENATOR INSERT NAME HERE is a pinko commie babykilling fairy peacefreak who wants to give secret welfare to black people by raising your taxes.

It doesn’t matter how many “Rust Belt correspondent” anthropologists big papers parachute in to gawk at the rubes and come up with euphemisms for racsim. They’ll never be able to convince people that “the media” aren’t the bad guys when the only media people consume is anti-Democratic, anti-dissent, anti-media media.

It’s not like there aren’t properties for sale. Good, profitable properties (I will NEVER fucking understand shuttering a profitable business, never in my life) that are doing important work in places where Americans desperately need a voice for public education, organized labor, a living wage, alleviation of poverty, universal health care and all the things we claim are so important to us every four years.

So maybe some of the people who will shovel cash at Penn and this WTF bullshit can wheel their barrels full of money just a little farther down the street and buy themselves the message they know isn’t getting out. It didn’t matter in the last half-dozen elections, presidential and otherwise, that Democrats across the board DID have policies and priorities to fix health care, to retrain American workers, to raise the minimum wage, to provide public education. Nobody heard a word they were saying.

You let Republicans do all the talking and people are going to vote for Republicans every time.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Garden Of Earthly Delights

The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

The first week of July is when it really heats up in New Orleans. The air is thick and smacks you upside the head when you venture outside. The pace of life slows to a crawl and Oscar and Della can be found sprawled out on our wood floors hoping to cool themselves. Nice work if you can get it.

Later today, I’m going to the silliest annual event in New Orleans. It’s a non-violent running of the bulls thingamabob. The “bulls” are roller girls wielding soft paddles. I do not run. Dr. A and I hang out with our friend Cait and the child army of darkness whilst her husband Dave runs. We all sweat. It’s minosas and donuts for me, y’all. Perhaps I should take a Spank paddle to liven things up:

This week’s theme song is inspired by our Boschian theme. You may have noticed that Hieronymus Bosch’s prot0-surrealist The Garden of Earthly Delights is the featured image. There will be more Bosching about later but I will never head to the mountains and drink Busch beer. You say Busch, I say Bosch. Let’s call the whole thing off. Stop me before I quote Ira Gershwin again.

Back to the theme song. It comes from XTC’s Oranges and Lemons album whose cover was featured of a Wednesday in 2014. That feature was sidelined this week but will return next Wednesay: bad scout’s honor. Welcome to the garden of earthly delights, y’all.

I have another Boschy song for your listening pleasure. It was written and recorded by that self-described “awful little man,” Graham Parker.

Now that we’ve listened to some late-Eighties alternative rock, you deserve a break today. OMG, I sound like Ronald Fucking McDonald. That simply will not do.

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Quote Of The Day: Dahlia Lithwick Edition

Slate’s crack legal writer Dahlia Lithwick has offered the White House press corps some unsolicited advice. She covers a Supreme Court that holds no news conferences and doesn’t allow cameras in the courtroom. She essentially advises the White House press to zip it and stop playing into the administration*’s hands by making demands that they don’t have to agree to.

Dahlia offers some semi-tongue-in-cheek tips to her White House counterparts. This is my favorite:

Sketch artists. Kudos to CNN, which has already sent in longtime SCOTUS sketch artist Bill Hennessy to draw the White House gaggle. Sketches lend a certain dashing aura of criminality and generalized thuggery to the proceedings and have the added benefit of enraging White House spokespeople, who believe they deserve better than line drawings and colored pencils.

That’s bound to result in Gum Spice pounding the podium and Spawn of Huck getting all pouty. Of course, Spicer might *want* to look like the Dapper Don instead of Melissa McCarthy in a bad suit.

The wisest piece of advice offered by Ms. Lithwick is this closing passage in which she urges nerdiness upon the WH press:

Be a nerd. Most Supreme Court correspondents know that if they want careers in television they should shift to covering the weather. For the most part, we are not creatures built of gotcha questions, Sunday morning grandstanding, or good hair. This is a press corps of nerds and wonks, and nobody has ever joined this beat to become famous. As a result, it is the kindest, most ego-free workplace I have ever known. We file our stories, eat dinner, and go home. As competing cults of personality have come to tower over the news in America, ask yourself why you aren’t a charter member of the Cult of Jess Bravin (Wall Street Journal). That guy works harder than anyone, doesn’t expect cameras to follow him around, and never believes he is the story. Unless Supreme Court justices are selling their autobiographies, you are unlikely to see them interviewed on camera, and when they do give lengthy interviews, they never say anything of substance.

This is, in short, an Oliver Twist–style press corps, accustomed to getting nothing and grateful for it. These folks learn to love the footnotes instead of the glamor. At a moment when we are stuck with a president who is solely a creature of celebrity culture, maybe a White House press corps made of anonymous dorks and dusty worker bees could be a breath of fresh air. There’s gold in them there footnotes. Life without TV cameras is still worth living. Life without a dorky, diligent press corps is not.

It’s hard to imagine the preening popinjays of teevee news with empty bowl in hand asking for “more sir.” It is, however, a helluva good image. I’ve been known to sling the odd Dickensian reference myself.  Team Trump lends itself rather well to Oliver Twist: Trump is an orange variation on Fagin, Slumlord Jared is an inartful take on the Artful Dodger, and Steve Bannon is perfect casting as the thuggish Bill Sikes. It’s bound to be a bigger hit than the show they’re staging right now, which is bombing mightily. I guess I shouldn’t say bomb with North Korean missiles in the news.

That is all.

 

Back To The Nineties

There’s so much news going on that it’s hard to prioritize. We all need to learn how to multi-task. The Russia scandal and health care are at the top of my list but Trump’s attack on the press, the election commission farce, and his delusional foreign policy *are* important too. It’s like a teevee drama with an A story and B story; only in this case we’re up to E and counting. So it goes.

Today’s focus is on the big story about Russia broken by the Wall Street Journal last week. It takes us back to the Nineties because it involves one of the creeps behind the so-called Arkansas project, Peter Smith. If the fucker were still alive, I’d demand he give me back my name.

I’m quoting TPM’s account of the story because I’m not about to give any money to Rupert Fucking Murdoch:

In the midst of the 2016 campaign, a veteran GOP opposition researcher who said he had ties to ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted hackers hoping to obtain emails that he believed Russian operatives had hacked from Hillary Clinton’s personal server, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Peter W. Smith reached out to computer security experts in the hopes of gaining access to the email trove and explicitly outlined his connection with Flynn in his recruiting emails, according to the report.

Smith was one of the dickheads who spent most of the Nineties in what Charlie Pierce calls “the pursuit of the President’s penis.” He was a close associate of David Bossie who, in turn, is a close associate of Steve Bannon. That’s right, there’s a B3 taint to the whole enterprise. Here’s Josh Marshall quoting a follow-up story:

As you may have heard, this evening The Wall Street Journal published a major follow-up to its story from Thursday which described the work of a GOP money man and oppo research guy, the late Peter W. Smith, who was trying to get hacked emails from Russia and held himself out to be in contact with disgraced Trump advisor Michael Flynn. On its face, the big new break in this follow-up story is a new document from Smith. The document is from what is described as a package of recruiting materials Smith was using to enlist cybersecurity talent in his operation. The document listed key officials in the Trump campaign. These were apparently people Smith claimed he was in touch with or working with, though precisely how or why they were mentioned is not entirely clear.

Here’s the key passage from the Journal article

Officials identified in the document include Steve Bannon, now chief strategist for President Donald Trump; Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and now White House counselor; Sam Clovis, a policy adviser to the Trump campaign and now a senior adviser at the Agriculture Department; and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was a campaign adviser and briefly was national security adviser in the Trump administration.

Notice the name Kellyanne Conway. Her husband, George, was also neck-deep in the Arkansas Project shit: he served as offstage counsel to Paula Jones. Things keep circling back to the Nineties, y’all.

I’m not sure how the Peter Smith angle will play out. He’s done his final smear: he died shortly after speaking to the WSJ for their blockbuster story. If true, the story ties freelance shitbirds like Smith to the shitbirds who were at the center of the Trump campaign and now have offices in the West Wing. Btw, the WSJ story was partially based on the account of a British cyber security maven named Matt Tait who wrote about his dealings with Smith. The plot continues to thicken. Stay tuned.

In other Nineties throwback news, the president* tweeted a video of him taking down CNN, pro rassling-style. The source was a notorious Reddit bigot. You’ve all seen it but here we go:

The video was edited from an appearance Trump made at Wrestlemania XXIII. Who knew the wrestling malakas did the whole pretentious Roman numeral thing?

The mind reels at the notion of the president* tweeting a fake video of fake wrestling to attack what he likes to call fake news. This, however, is bait the MSM should NOT take. It’s part of Trump’s dominance and submission world view: if one takes the bait, one is playing in the Insult Comedian’s house. Just say no, y’all.

The wrangle over press pressings is another way Trump demeans the media as a way of asserting his alpha-malakatude. They should ignore it. Very little news has ever been made when the press secretary of the day spins the media on behalf of their boss. In fact, some of the best recent White House reporting has been done by the NYT’s Maggie Haberman who mostly works out of the New York office. She works her sources instead of attending Gum Spice and Huckabee’s awful spawn’s press briefings. It’s called reporting, y’all.

There’s a fresh outrage every day, so it’s hard to know how to deal with them. I like what Charles Blow said in the NYT this morning about the hijacking of the presidency by Trump and his wrecking crew. Here’s Blow on the blowhard:

Every now and then we are going to have to do this: Step back from the daily onslaughts of insanity emanating from Donald Trump’s parasitic presidency and remind ourselves of the obscenity of it all, registering its magnitude in its full, devastating truth.

There is something insidious and corrosive about trying to evaluate the severity of every offense, trying to give each an individual grade on the scale of absurdity. Trump himself is the offense. Everything that springs from him, every person who supports him, every staffer who shields him, every legislator who defends him, is an offense. Every partisan who uses him — against all he or she has ever claimed to champion — to advance a political agenda and, in so doing, places party over country, is an offense.

We must remind ourselves that Trump’s very presence in the White House defiles it and the institution of the presidency. Rather than rising to the honor of the office, Trump has lowered the office with his whiny, fragile, vindictive pettiness.

Everything about Trump is horrible: his policies and his persona. It’s the world we’ve been plunged into by his electoral college victory*, which is looking more suspect every day. He’s dragged us kicking and screaming back to the Nineties with his crazy rhetoric and WWE-style braggadocio. Everyone needs to exercise editorial control and decide which of his outrages merit attention and which should be allowed to shrivel and die in the shadows.

Your President* Speaks: The Failing NYT’s Book Of (Trump) Lies

Yeah, I know, it’s a list of lies but the original Book of Lies is an infamous occultist manifesto of sorts by the satanist Aleister Crowley. Given that the current administration emits a strongly sulphurous aroma, it stuck me as appropriate.

It took a long time for the Gray Lady to finally stick the liar label on Trump but better late than never. There are 232 presidential*  lies listed so I’ll post two per month for a total of twelve lies, not steps:

  1. JAN. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.)
  2. JAN. 25 “Now, the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive.”(Official aerial photos show Obama’s 2009 inauguration was much more heavily attended.)
  3. FEB. 3 “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” (There is no evidence of paid protesters.)
  4. FEB. 16 “We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won bigger margins in the Electoral College.)
  5. MARCH 4 “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” (There’s no evidence of a wiretap.)
  6. MARCH 29 “Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong. Now worse!” (It didn’t apologize.)
  7. APRIL 12 “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.” (NATO has been engaged in counterterrorism efforts since the 1980s.)
  8. APRIL 29 “We’re also getting NATO countries to finally step up and contribute their fair share. They’ve begun to increase their contributions by billions of dollars, but we are not going to be satisfied until everyone pays what they owe.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)
  9. MAY 4 “Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters.” (Polls show most Americans do care.)
  10. MAY 12 “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” (Clapper said he wouldn’t have been told of an investigation into collusion.)
  11. JUNE 4 “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” (The mayor was specifically talking about the enlarged police presence on the streets.)
  12. JUNE 5 “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” (Trump signed this version of the travel ban, not the Justice Department.)

Good on the failing New York Times for publishing a list that poses the eternal question: Who are you going to believe, the Insult Comedian or your lyin’ eyes?

Emojis, Journalism, and Why Being Cute Isn’t Work

We’re all clowning on this dumbass today, but I want to point out a few things:

It’s not just the sociopathic detachment that says a smiley face is for people losing their health insurance, getting kicked out of their nursing homes, or having their chemo suspended. It’s that in addition to being monstrous, it’s bad journalism. It does not accomplish what journalism is meant to accomplish. It doesn’t adequately inform the public. (I know, but wiser-than-thou cynicism is not a plan.)

This has bothered me for a long damn time, the “pants on fire” and “four Pinocchios” and “our truth-o-meter says” trend by which we rate politicians’ statements. When we put a fucking cartoon character next to things the president of the United Goddamn States says out loud in front of God and everyone, we’re conveying that this is only worth a snippet of your attention, that you can put a stamp on it and forget it.

It doesn’t tell us what the motivation is for lying, who profits by the lies, who is likely to be hurt. It doesn’t cover the patterns and histories and relevant constituencies of the lies, or their consequences. It’s imprecise, and it’s lazy.

We’re also assuming that these “ratings” have any effect on the politicians whatsoever. Now I don’t subscribe to the idea that calling someone out has to change them to be “worth it;” that way a madness of calculating your own influence lies. You call someone out because you see bullshit and you have a voice (and a camera). But I think we seize on these “ooh, his policy proposal was rated PANTS ON FIRE” and assume it’ll leave a mark. It hasn’t. It won’t. This isn’t holding liars accountable. It’s just putting them in categories and sticking a sticker on the boxes.

So if it doesn’t inform the public, it doesn’t hold liars accountable except in the most academic sense, it’s imprecise, AND IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A FUCKING MORONIC SECOND GRADER WHO HASN’T LEARNED THE CONCEPT OF EMPATHY, why are we still doing this, journalists? Knock it off.

Schmucks.

A.

Someone Told People to Resent Others

This thread is worth reading, referencing as it does the ongoing “resentment politics” that have devastated Scott Walker’s Wisconsin:

As I keep saying, people do not independently come to the conclusion that all minorities are T-bone buying welfare cheats dragging on the system and burning down the ‘hood. Someone TELLS them that. We can’t just accept that outlook as the reality and address it with policy without squarely facing who is pushing the message and how they are doing it.

Because until we counter the voices yelling at them through their speakers, it won’t matter if Democrats DO come out strongly in favor of Medicare for All, if they remind people they were the only ones who gave even half a fuck about reining in rapacious health care companies, if they run ads every other second touting free community college and support for organized labor. It won’t matter if they all turn into St. Bernie Sanders, or for that matter St. Hillary Clinton as she was instead of as she was portrayed. It won’t matter if we run Obama 12 more times.

So long as there is a chorus of wingnut dickbags on Fox and talk radio (and talk radio, in Wisconsin especially, is a mental cancer) telling them Democrats want to give all your hard-earned money to lazy black women who are having too many babies, that will always drown anything else out. So long as cable news continues to poison the well of public discourse and define the narrative as “politics is broken, everybody is bad, just give up,” so long as local papers run four pages on a good day and three of those are syndicated columns talking about “Washington” being the problem, the only thing people are going to hear is what Republicans want them to hear.

It’s understandable, sure, to my fellow palefaces. Give me a choice between studying and shooting heroin, I’m gonna show you my veins. I know these people, I meet them on the regular, and you do not have to dig very far under the surface to find the jokes about people getting fat on soda and public assistance while they, the virtuous, just marvel at the destruction of their neighborhoods by “those” elements.

They side-eye every low-hanging-pantsed dude they see on a trip to the mall because THAT is who they picture taking everything away from them. It’s all one thing. They don’t separate their contempt into rural vs. urban vs. black vs. white boxes. I’m not making a joke. You can’t counter vagaries like that with specifics of policy.

You have to counter it with entertainment and right now we have no show.

A.

Never a Dollar for Journalism

OMG, are all these nonprofits doing journalism too expensive for the MAGICKAL FREEMARKET ™ to bear? 

Nonprofit news organizations are staking out Chicago for hot national stories—and increasing the competition for funds. ProPublica is setting up a regional bureau here, and others, including the Marshall Project and Chalkbeat, are mulling a move into the Chicago media ecosystem.

All are drawn to critical stories—on crime, finances, education and other issues—engulfing the city, and philanthropic sponsors, such as the McCormick Foundation, are giving the organizations millions of dollars for what they see as the evolution of journalism. Still, there are fears that some media could be squeezed by the multiplying outstretched hands, despite the nonprofits’ collaborative rivalry.

Yeah. Those greedy nonprofits, outstretching their hands for the journalism money of which there is clearly not enough: 

Departing can be very sweet sorrow in corporate America, according to securities filings by Tribune Publishing that detail recent severance and other deals.

Former CEO Jack Griffin will receive $2 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was ousted by new key shareholder Michael Ferro last month after Griffin convinced him to invest $44 million in the company.

That is in addition to $3.2 million in total compensation received by Griffin in 2015, according to the filings in advance of the company’s annual meeting. His tenure generally saw a sharp drop in stock price, feuding with the then-publisher of his largest paper, the Los Angeles Times and a dismal performance in luring digital-only subscribers (the company’s papers have a combined total of 88,000, compared to about 1.1 million for The New York Times alone).

Other executives shown the exit with Griffin did rather well, despite the sharp industry decline impacting the company’s major properties, including The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant and Baltimore Sun, among others.

Sandra Martin, the former chief financial officer, will get a severance equal to her $367,500 salary and unpaid incentives bonuses for the previous year, an a prorated incentive bonus for this year. Her total compensation last year was $1,004,755.

There was a similar farewell package for Denise Warren, the former head of the company’s digital operation, whose base pay was $336,539 but had total compensation of $1,151,200 last year.

Meanwhile, Austin Beutner, the former Los Angeles publisher who was dismissed last year after wrangling with Griffin, received severance that includes a lump sum equal to his base pay of $675,000. His total compensation in 2015 was $1,924,806.

The SEC documents also indicated that Tony Hunter, until recently the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and now the president of “national revenue and strategic initiatives,” earned $1.4 million last year after earning $2.1 million the year before.

That compensation, by the way? A total of more than $13 million, or nearly as much as PRO PUBLICA’S ENTIRE BUDGET. That’s right, supposed media companies paid their top executives — who presided over epic failures on every level from subscription losses to branding flops — almost as much to get the fuck out as Pro Publica paid everybody to do journalism. Yet somehow I’m supposed to worry we’re gonna run out of money here?

The problem we have in journalism isn’t a lack of funds. It’s a lack of funds for journalism. There’s always a million or two laying around when you have an asshead exec you need shitcanned but somehow when it comes time to pay reporters to spend night after night after night at crime scenes we get long wanky pieces about how expensive it all is and oh my GARSH we just might run bankrupt because of the 66 cents we pay him.

Let’s have another blogger ethics panel, though. Let’s invite another know-nothing old centrist pundit dude to wax nostalgic for a time before iPhones, when every kid had a paper route and everybody read the funnies to each other on Sunday. Let’s keep solving problems that don’t exist by creating aggregator networks and website re-launches and worry, worry, worry that nonprofit journalism is somehow suspect.

Wheel another barrel full of cash to the guys cooking the books. That’ll solve everything.

A.

WHO CAN KNOW THE TRUTH ANYWAY?

Being right doesn’t matter when there’s a “partisan divide:”

But to Trump, many Republicans and a broad constellation of surrogates and conservative media outlets, the takeaway is much different: exoneration.

“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,” the president tweeted early on the morning after Comey’s testimony.

That point of view has ricocheted across the conservative media world, both organically and in coordination with a hastily organized rapid-response operation at the Republican National Committee. The result is a parallel narrative — reinforced by the president himself on Twitter and at a Friday news conference — that spun Comey’s testimony as a clear victory and, publicly at least, cast aside any potential dangers that may lie ahead.

That Trump’s fans will defend him to the end of time isn’t really, you know, a thing that matters. John O’Neill has been carrying Richard Nixon’s luggage for four decades now and shows no sign of stopping, and the strength of his devotion makes him no less a son of a bitch who is going to hell.

If the marker of ultimate truth these days is the inexplicable size and duration of a fan club we’re going to have to replace the U.S. Constitution with a Seinfeld VHS tape and half a bag of kale chips.

I also love the passive language that persists in letting everybody involved here off the hook. That “point of view has ricocheted” and the “result is a parallel narrative,” which has apparently developed all by itself OH WAIT:

On Friday morning, a segment on “Fox & Friends” about the reaction to Comey’s testimony bore the headline: “Mainstream Media Misfire.” Minutes later, Trump, an avid viewer, sent a Twitter message of praise: “Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!”

“Comey gives early Christmas gift to GOP,” tweeted conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

So instead of characterizing the story as “party-run media push false narrative through coordinated attacks on FBI director,” we have a “parallel narrative” that has “resulted” as if by magic. We don’t get to this meat until halfway through the story, and the headline just erases it all in advance.

The starkly different interpretation of Comey’s testimony on the right provides another illustration of the deepening national divide over Trump, whose approval ratings are mired in the mid- to high-30s amid the Russia probe and other controversies and whose agenda has bogged down in Congress with relatively few major accomplishments so far.

So between six and seven out of ten people in America think Trump is a miserable failure, and we characterize this as a “deepening divide.” Between two equal opposites. This is why I can’t have complete contempt for Trump’s ordinary fans. If this is the story being sold by the liberal media, what on earth are they hearing from Fox?

By the way, Trump’s fans? The ones we’re told in the headline agree with the Republican operatives’ version of events?

They’re not quoted in the story.

Not a one.

A.

The Environment Is For Pussies

When did not wanting to strip-mine Mt. Rushmore become a tacit offer of same-sex fellatio?

The answer? AS SOON AS IT NEEDED TO BE FOR REPUBLICANS TO MAKE BANK.

The president himself said it on Twitter, in a message aimed not at anybody in real life but

And the thing is, like most of what came out of Trump’s mouth during the campaign, of course it seems sensible to care more about Pittsburgh than Paris, more about yourself than the rest of the world. I myself like the polar bears fine, and I recycle and take public transit to work, but environmental causes aren’t my nearest and dearest, so if you ask me if I should take away somebody’s job for a polar bear of COURSE I’m gonna say no. Those furry fuckers have claws, let them fend for themselves.

But come on. Do we really not know this by now? This isn’t about jobs. If it was we’d be building factories to manufacture solar batteries and funding scientific research like we pay for soccer stadiums. Cities and towns across America would be competing to offer the best programs for environmental research in their public universities, and making the results part of our cultural heritage so that no one company could own them. If this was about jobs we would spend on jobs like we once spent on the WPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority and the interstate highway system and the Marshall Plan.

If this was about creating jobs or literally anything else we cared about at all, we’d pretend it was a ground war in the Middle East and we’d fund it forever.

This isn’t about jobs, and to keep arguing that yes, the GOP wants to burn down the world but the Democrats need to be less faggy about it is a dumbassed (and not a little homophobic) waste of our time.

So let’s not climb down in the muck with them and argue that we came to fuck fat-bottomed big-tittied American girls also, just as much if not MORE. We will fuck them more! Harder! Possibly we will recycle the bottle of beer we break off to jam into our own foreheads to prove our manliness, but we’ll still cut ourselves just to show you our red blood! Look at the size of our trucks!

Let’s not do that. It’s gross.

Worse, it’s ineffective.

Let’s dismantle the propaganda network that says this is what we have to talk about in the first place, that this is the only way to have an argument. I’ve gotten just absolutely full up the past year on listening to people I mostly agree with talking about how Democrats and liberals and city elites look down on “working people.” Let me ask you this: Who told those working people Democrats and liberals and city elites look down on them? 

Who said, you are forgotten, and the Republican Party will remember you?

Who said, you’ve been counted out, in favor of the environment, and we’ll count you back in?

Someone must have. I doubt Middle American white people just all woke up one day and intuited that all universities and large cities are full of egghead liberal treehuggers who hate them. That sort of seems like the kind of thing a 24 HOUR “NEWS” NETWORK ON TV AND TALK RADIO would have to tell them.

So we can change our messaging all we want. We can talk about how if we see a polar bear, we’re gonna beat it senseless and then bite its dick off in a show of manly dominance. We can go up to the ice shelf and stage Burning Man.

Or, in the opposite direction, we can propose policies (we had a presidential candidate who did quite a bit of that, actually, in our recent past) that will help the ever-loving shit out of working poor people, stuff like free college and higher minimum wages and strengthening organized labor and rebuilding public schools and oh yeah, a health insurance plan to at least help a few people not go bankrupt.

It’s not gonna matter until we break the stranglehold Fox and its cowardly enablers in cable news have on information in this country. Nothing we’re saying is getting out NOW. What’s the point of continuing to re-write the position papers if it’s all gonna come down to who’s yelling the loudest. Anyone who wants anything lasting to change has gotta fight like hell not just to change politics but to change who talks about it on TV.

I don’t see any other way out of this. Do you?

And if you do, can you tell the polar bears? They’re getting kind of freaked out.

A.

Profanity = State Sanctioned Violence Against Minorities

Every time I think we’ve reached Peak Both Sides, another mountain rears up in the distance: 

But now it isn’t just Mr. Trump. In their new “resistance” mode, Democrats have become just as nasty. Tom Perez, the Democrats’ new national chairman, has already earned notoriety for his use of profanity at rallies. At some of them, he has trouble speaking because the anti-Trump heckling is so loud.

Does no one have an editor anymore? Doesn’t someone in the newsroom say something like, hey, I read your piece, and I was just thinking that the power differential is so vast between “heckler at a rally” and PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FUCKING STATES that applying laughably malleable “standards” to both is like asking your 8th grader and your dog to do math homework and getting mad when Fido pisses on the long division? I mean what the SHIT.

Whoops. More profanity. It’s just like I herded two dozen foreigners into a concentration camp with my filthy word hole.

For those of you not lucky enough to live through this during the early days of both the Iraq War and liberal political blogging, this was the entirety of the argument against us: Yes, you may be right, but you are right in a way that makes me feel bad, so therefore you are wrong. Because you smell. Hippie.

Like there were entire protests that got invalidated because someone wore the wrong T-shirt.

It was infuriating then and it’s infuriating now, for lots of reasons the very least of which was that nobody was chiding wingnuts to stop burning Obama in effigy and making birth certificate jokes and waving Confederate flags around because it would make THEM look bad, albeit for actually being bad, not for being right. Just fuck these people, is my point. Fuck them for a lot of things, but mostly for only being able to get offended by the word fuck.

A.

Journalism Wants the Status Quo More Than the Truth

Something an editor told me once, when we were digging into a story about public malfeasance:

“It is always worse than you think it is.”

At the time, the story we were in the middle of, I thought it was pretty bad.

“Always. It’s always worse.”

He was right. Every story’s an iceberg; for every single sharp thing you see there are a thousand others below the surface waiting to gouge holes in your boat.

I thought of that when I read this thread today, about Trump and Russia, though to be honest it could be about Trump and just about any other thing:

A lot of people will say “biased” instead of “hesitant” and some of that’s true, but mostly it’s “lazy,” instead of “hesitant.”

See, if there are two parties, and they’re both equally righteous but just disagree about the role of government, then when you’re doing A Politics Story you call them both, and you get Both Sides, and you’re done. You’ve done your job, and you get to go home. It’s not about political bias, it’s about ass-covering. Have you seen journalism lately? There are six reporters left and three of them cover People and the other three cover Stuff, while their 57 corporate imagineer synergizers write memos about feeding content into a fucking funnel. Things are not good, so if there’s an easy way to get out of every week alive, generally people are gonna take it.

We’ve Offended Everyone So We Are Good, which kind of worked as long as you genuinely had two parties who disagreed about the fundamental role of government. We haven’t had that since about 1964, however, but it was getting worse slowly. If you were the kind of white, middle-class, generally male kid who went to journalism school, you saw things getting worse slowly, until 2016 when everything got a lot worse very fast.

And by that point the laziness had become paralysis, on almost every journalistic front. You know depressive avoidance behaviors, how sometimes you don’t do the dishes and you spend three days walking past the pile of dishes and it just keeps getting bigger and you feel worse and worse and less and less capable of doing the dishes and why are you such garbage why can’t you do the dishes and you spend hours more worrying about the dishes than it would take to do them? Like that, but a whole industry. A whole country, unable to wrap its mind around what it had elected.

Every story out now is the result of one or two or six people overcoming that just-keep-walking impulse and doing the damn dishes. Taking the fiction that makes it possible to go home at 5 and have a drink and exist in the world absolutely apart until every ugly machination on the part of the GOP is exposed and raw and of COURSE it’s all just too outrageous, that’s how things usually are under their skins. What made journos skeptical wasn’t reluctance to believe the breathtaking scope of Trump’s venality. What drove their skepticism was a sober assessment of the amount of work it would take to prove it, weighed against a desire to get away on the weekends.

When you get right down to it, journalism as an industry wanted the status quo more than it wanted the truth. That’s not a condemnation; all our systems are made up of people and people are what inertia eats. It makes it all the more laudable that there are journalists who are able to overcome the desire to sink into the couch for the next four years binge-watching Call the Midwife, because this is gonna get worse than we can even imagine.

It always does.

A.

GOP Impulse Control Blues: Greg The Goon & The Insane President Posse

Trump spawn and Greg the Goon. Photo via the Toronto Star.

A venerable expression of disputed origin that I’ve been using for years has become a cliché or truism. There’s a reason for that: “a fish rots from the head down” is true. It certainly applies to the Republican Party whose members have gotten crazier and crazier since the Insult Comedian became its bull goose loony. One wouldn’t think that impulse control would be a problem for candidates and office-holders, but it is in the New Gilded Age. Trump sets the tone for his party.  It’s an ugly and discordant tone; not unlike skinhead thrash metal complete with guttural vocals. Tremendous. Believe me.

I suspect you’ve all heard about the special behavior exhibited by Montana special election candidate/rich Republican malaka Greg (The Goon) Gianforte. He assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last night. Jacobs’ offense was asking a question about Trumpcare. Gianforte does not like the Guardian because they wrote a piece about his ties to Russian companies. (Why is it always Russia with these fuckers?) Greg the Goon has been charged with misdemeanor assault for body slamming the bespectacled journalist. He should be charged with rampant mendacity as his campaign’s account is contradicted by a Fox News crew’s account:

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Montana, according to an account published on the Fox News website. After Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, Acuna wrote: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.

“Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

That’s right, Fox Fucking News; the home of Sean Hannity’s falling ratings. I wish I could say I was surprised that many GOPers defended Greg the Goon. Said defense inspired a brisk rejoinder from Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson. Here are the first three tweets of a 12-part tweet storm:

Yeah, you right, Rick. The president* has brought the WWE mentality to national politics. Only the impulse control impaired party practices it. You guessed it: the GOP. It’s not very grand of them is it? G should be for goon from now on.

It’s a pity that Greg the Goon may still body slam his way to victory. The downside of early voting is that 50% of the ballots have been cast. The race, however, has been tightening and Montana has election day registration. The assault cost Greg the Goon some newspaper endorsements. The Missoulian don’t play that.

Greg the Goon isn’t the only Republican having impulse control issues. The GOP’s bull goose loony, president* Trump has them as well and in a more lethal form.

I am referring, of course, to Trump’s propensity to leak classified information whilst in the throes of braggadocio. In addition to his Oval Office exploits with the Russian Foreign Minister and GRU Rezident/Ambassador. Trump bragged to fellow insane President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philipines about submarine positions. This is a big no-no: loose lips sink ships, especially subs. Submarines by their nature are stealthy. It would be a mistake for Trump to tell the leaders of Britain, France, or Japan let alone a member of the Insane President Posse.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is pissed off at Team Trump for leaking details about the Manchester bombing including the name of the alleged bomber. May plans to admonish Trump but it’s unlikely to have any impact. One doesn’t learn impulse control at age 70. Besides, Trump never listens to women even Brexiteering ones.

We’re at a depressing stage in the history of the Republic. One of our major parties is in the hands of a leader who reflects all of its worst qualities. The few diehard Never Trump GOPers are not office-holders but people like Rick Wilson, Ana Navarro, Evan McMullin, and David Frum. Congressional Republicans are content to be pro-Trump as long as they think he’ll sign anything they send to him. The good news is that scandals like the Russian affair have a way of paralyzing government, especially when the Insult Comedian’s specialty is making things worse.

I’ll give Peter Gabriel the last word with a song from the PG3 aka Melt album. Greg the Goon certainly had a meltdown last night as well as no impulse control whatsoever.

At the risk of being branded a last word liar, I came up with the second part of the post title after it was written. The piece was too tight to disrupt, so here it is. Greg the Goon & The Insane President Posse is a helluva band name innit?  I see them riding off into the sunset on their pygmy ponies after checking out the dental floss bushes. You really didn’t think I’d do a post about the place Gus McCrae always called Montany without mentioning Zappa did you?

Oh, the Courage of the GOP

They’re going to finish this, one way or another, and then we’re gonna let them do it again.

Really, Nixon should have died in federal prison, and that should have been the end of that party.

Really, murdering Central American schoolchildren and nuns in order to fight an illegal proxy war should have resulted in the GOP being thrown on the trash fire of history.

Really, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghans and lies to the entire world about why, that should have caused decent people to turn away from the word “Republican” in disgust.

Really, turning the entire mechanism of federal government into a way to interfere in the Schaivo family’s tragedy should have been enough. Shutting down that same government to oppose health care for poor people, stealing a Supreme Court seat from the first black president, letting their surrogates call that same president illegitimate, promoting Sarah Palin as a real person, I could go on. Any one thing, in a sane world, should have been the end of it.

But we let them up off the mat. We said BUT HER EMAILS and UNLIKEABLE and WHITE WORKING CLASS OPPRESSION, and we said BOTH SIDES and SINCERELY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEFS and we let them be a real party again.

They’re gonna get rid of Trump and it’ll be like it never happened. It’ll be amazing how much it never happened. People will say “Donald Trump” and it’ll be like us Internet grandparents saying “George W. Bush is not our lovable great-uncle, stop it” and “John Yoo should be in chains” and everybody’s all, “Why can’t you let any of that go, God.”

I mean, just look at this shit:

Like others in Congress, Comer would have a week at home on recess to reconnect with his voters. Typically, a recess is a time for town halls. But this time, most members were not holding any. Comer’s plan was different — to hold four over the next three days.

“The perfect storm,” one aide told him, even as Comer’s Twitter feed showed video clips of a few other members facing angry crowds and stumbling to explain themselves.

“Everybody is ducking for cover right now,” he told her. “Everybody’s had the same advice for me — cancel them.”

But he wasn’t going to.

Wow, he’s going to do basic constituent services. Oh, the bravery. Let’s anoint this fucking guy like he’s Shackleton at the Pole.

He cleared his throat and then started talking about the most controversial thing he had been involved with so far, his vote to repeal the ACA. He said the ACA had deepened the problems in Kentucky by opening up such wide access to Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income Americans. He said so many had signed up across the state that nearly 1 in 3 were now covered under that program — and receiving free coverage. Some of those people, he said, desperately needed that help. But many were feeding off the system.

I’m so glad we’re humanizing this racist piece of shit.

The second town hall was in a county where Trump had won 85 percent of the vote. This time, there were no protesters, and Comer went in through the front door of the courthouse. He was cheered when he walked up to the lectern, and when he said, like Trump, that he wanted to make America great again, he saw 75 people leaning in, listening, not ready to pounce.

So he told his favorite Trump story. Two months earlier, he had flown on Air Force One with the president on the way to a rally in Louisville, and hours later he was returning to Washington in the same plane — only this time, with an invitation to join Trump in his private office. “Yes sir,” Comer said he told the president, and there he sat for 1 ½ hours, across from Trump and right next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as Trump talked about his plane and his election victory and his health-care plans. The plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, and Trump had another invitation for Comer: Did he want to take the Marine One helicopter back to the White House? Did he want to see the Oval Office?

“Why hello, poor constituents! Let me brag about how Trump let me near him to talk about the size of his electoral dick! Doesn’t that prove we’re all right to take your health care away? SHORE DOES!”

He looked out the window and started talking about the differences between being a politician in Kentucky and in Washington, of civilities and incivilities. “We used to ride together, go to O’Charley’s, go to LongHorn,” he said of the Democrats with whom he served in Frankfort, the state capital. “That never happens in D.C.”

I wonder why.

He rolled up to the last town hall, in Calhoun, population 763. He shook hands with some police officers and the county executive, and soon was standing in front of 75 people. “Trump won this district by 55 points,” he was saying, when a woman interrupted to say, “That’s very sad.”

I don’t know what’s sadder, that a Trump victory somehow proves he’s not a disaster as if terrible people never succeed in this country, or that this douche thinks it’s a defense of anything.

But hey, let’s keep pretending Trump is some kind of outlier, and the rest of the sensible Republican party — these people who talk about government handouts and “turning around” a country with 5 percent unemployment and (finally, some form of) universal health coverage just because it was led by a black guy — is just trying to sincerely gauge whether people still love Trump and, by extension, themselves.

Jesus H. Tits, we really don’t want to get better, do we?

A.

Le Sigh

I know that Pepe Le Pew is in bad odor in many quarters, but he still cracks me up. He’s a cartoon skunk who sounds like Charles Boyer, y’all. He’s not real. One of Monsieur Le Pew’s catchphrases was, Le Sigh. And that’s what I did when I checked on the French presidential election yesterday. In this case, it was le sigh of relief that Emmanuel Macron defeated the malodorous Marine Le Pen. How do you like that? I’ve gone from Le Pew to Le Pen. They’re both stinkers, but only one is dangerous and it ain’t the toon.

Watching CNN cover the results gave me a mild headache. Instead of talking heads who knew something about either French politics or foreign policy in general they had political consultants and even a former aide to that legendary Francophile Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Yeah, I was being sarcastic there. CNN’s coverage inspired this tweet:

I make no bones about being an expert. I know something about French political history but my French is at the Pepe Le Pew level: rudimentary at best, stinky at worst. I do, however, know that every country has its own distinctive politics and the equation used by many before the election was nuts: Brexit + Trump = Le Pen for le populist wave win. Merde.

That formulation conveniently skipped the poor performance by Gert Wilders’ far right party in the late Dutch election. Populist nationalism is not a contagious disease. Each country has its own strain; in France, the Le Pens are associated in the public mind with xenophobes, collaborators, Holocaust deniers, and Vichy Fascists. Besides, Le Pen blew it in the final teevee debate. Bigly:

In the end Ms. Le Pen failed to “undemonize,” spectacularly. She failed during the course of the campaign, when her angry rallies drew the Front inexorably back into the swamp from which it had emerged. And then she failed decisively in one of the campaign’s critical moments, last week’s debate with Mr. Macron, when she effectively “redemonized” herself and the party, as many French commentators noted.

It was an hourslong tirade against Mr. Macron, laced with name-calling and epithets, and woefully deficient in substance. She appeared lost on subject after subject, fumbling on one of her signature issues — withdrawing from the euro — that is opposed by a majority of French. Something essential about Ms. Le Pen, and the National Front, had been revealed to France.

Mr. Macron, on the other hand, demonstrated a quality that French voters, unlike many Anglo-Saxon ones, have long found essential in their successful candidates: cool mastery of the critical issues confronting the country. Where Ms. Le Pen repeatedly lost herself in the weeds, Mr. Macron sailed right through them. Whether he will now be able to translate that knowledge into action is another question.

Word. There will be two rounds of parliamentary elections in June and Macron’s new party needs to elect some deputies or else he will be le screwed and Vichy Fascism will make a comeback in 2022. Le Pen did receive 34% of the vote in this rout, which is nearly double her father’s performance against Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off. The Le Pens aren’t going anywhere. They’re playing the long game.

The biggest difference between our late election and Sunday in France is that the establishment right did NOT support Le Pen. They supported the Republic and democracy against the Vichy Fascist threat. In contrast,  the American establishment right made a pact with the orange devil. I almost said “sold their souls” but they’re souless stinkers. Has anyone ever seen Mitch McConnell’s reflection in a mirror? I thought not.

I must admit to saying “I told you so” yesterday on social media. Every election is not about America. France is not America, and America is not France. Vive la difference. Vive la France.

That concludes this inexpert post about the French election. Hey, at least I resisted the temptation to call it Pepe Le Pew meets Marine Le Pen.

All this talk of Le Pen and Le Pew has given me le earworm:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Be That Way

Mon Oiseau (My Bird) by Orville Bullman.

The bastards did it. Bastards is too polite a word: the fuckers did it. I’m referring to the vote to strip healthcare away from 24+ million Americans. It’s going to complicate things for people with employer based plans as well. And the House passed it without proper vetting, public hearings, or even reading a bill that’s a procedural and substantive atrocity. In the past, the Senate has been where bad and/or controversial legislation goes to die BUT it won’t happen without public pressure. Pick up the phone and call your Senator to either support a no vote or excoriate them for a potential yes vote.

We return to our regularly scheduled Odds & Sods programming with this week’s theme song. Don’t Be That Way was composed by Benny Goodman and Edgar Sampson as an instrumental for Benny’s big band. Mitchell Parrish’s lyrics were written later. The first version is by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. The second is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I somehow missed marking the centennial of Ella’s birth on April, 25th. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

It’s hard to top Ella and Louis, so we’ll go to the break and regroup.

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