Friday, March 16, 2018


You know, some of the new groups aren't bad.

• It takes a fuckton of chutzpah to warn against "Borking" CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, as National Review's Rich Lowry does today. Actually that whole use of Bork's name to imply persecution is ridiculous, since Bork himself was clearly nuts and unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. But Lowry sinks even lower, talking about America's torture of enemy combatants in the Bush years as if it were an unfortunate necessity rather than a straight-up war crime. Haspel has been accused of supervising the torture of Abu Zubaydah; he may not have been part of her portfolio (though she is more credibly accused of destroying evidence of CIA torture, either to preserve herself or her colleagues, or both). But Lowry defends Zubaydah's torture at length nonetheless:
The enhanced interrogations were brutal. Zubaydah was struck, placed in stress positions, confined in small boxes and repeatedly waterboarded. During one session, he became unresponsive. By any standard, this was extreme and right up to the legal line.

The CIA didn’t learn of any planned attack in the U.S.; it did become confident that Zubaydah wasn’t holding back anything about one. From his capture to his transfer to the Department of Defense on September 5, 2006, information from him produced 766 intelligence reports.

In the cold light of day, we would have handled all of this differently. The Bush administration shouldn’t have been as aggressive in its legal interpretations. We should have realized that we had more time to play with, and that the program itself would become a black mark on our reputation overseas and such a domestic flashpoint that we would basically lose all ability to interrogate detainees (droning became the preferred alternative).
"Right up to the legal line"; "become confident that Zubaydah wasn't holding anything back"; "aggressive in its legal interpretations." This is the language of manicured depravities -- euphemisms common in the Abu Ghraib era and, apparently, primed for a comeback. It's odd that, a while back, some people were saying Trump is so bad he made them miss Bush. They'll get a chance to test that theory soon!

James Hohmann:
Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing Fox News contributor John Bolton as a potential successor.

A leading contender to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is Pete Hegseth, the co-host of “Fox and Friends Weekend.”

The president named CNBC analyst and former host Larry Kudlow to replace former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser on Wednesday.

Heather Nauert, a former co-host of “Fox and Friends,” got promoted on Monday from being a spokeswoman for the State Department to acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs

...Trump’s plot to poach from green rooms is an additional proof point that validates two important themes I’ve written about: Trump has debased the value of expertise and supercharged the celebrification of American politics.
Trump's grift in general is like a monkey-see reflection of conservative values, true to their horrible essence but dumbed down for mass appeal, so I take this as his distillation of the Right's endless culture-war caterwauling that liberals have all the artsy people to make their values look good, and it's no fair and conservatives have to "take back the culture" to redress the balance, even if they have to tell fart jokes to do it. It makes sense that their debased idea of "culture" would be asshole TV presenters appointed to top government offices.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


So when Putin poisoned his latest victim in the UK, I thought I was making a joke:

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles appeared on his “TruNews” program on Friday to suggest that the recent mysterious poisoning of a former Russian spy was carried out by someone with ties to Hillary Clinton in order to cover up information about the Trump-Russia dossier.
There are also several rightwing/Russian front sites peddling the Hillary-did-Skripal story, and your senile Aunt in Pennsyltucky, your burnout friend in Oregon, and your old school buddy who's been living in a survivalist treehouse since election day 2008 have probably told everybody on their mailing lists. That's why Trump has been so reticent to acknowledge even the possibility Putin did it -- - he doesn't want to upset the crackpots; they are, after all, his base.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Looks like Conor Lamb took what had been a 20-point-Trump-victory district in 2016 and turned it into a Democratic victory in PA-18. The spin from the brethren: This is good news for John McCain Donald Trump!

The idea is, since Lamb ran as a moderate and talked smack about Nancy Pelosi, he was the actual "not anti-Trump" Republican in the race -- notwithstanding that there was a Republican running named Rick Saccone, and his party and their conservative cat's-paws dumped over $10 million into his cause and sent Trump to campaign for him just to (fail to) hold a "safe" district.

You knew the White Working Class Whisperer herself had to get in on this action:

Zito laid the groundwork when the jig was clearly up, not only pumping the moderate-Democrat angle -- praising the "older, white" Dem party operatives who picked Lamb and prevented "primary voters, who tend to be to the most ideologically extreme wing of their party" from nominating Vladimir Lenin IV -- but also, and I gotta say I'm impressed by this, declaring Saccone a victim of the elites:
And fourth, the establishment Republicans have embarrassed themselves with public hissy fits about Lamb's challenger, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone — his lack of fundraising polish and his panache. You have to wonder if their bitterness towards this Western Pennsylvania candidate — whose military and diplomatic experience are impressive on paper and manifest in person — is deeply rooted in their persistent resentment of Trumpism.
Yeah, it had to be that the polished-and-panachey, chardonnay-swilling Republican elite stabbed Saccone in the back -- not that voters nationwide have proven themselves sick to death of Trump and are throwing off whatever vestiges of it they can lay their hands on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Things at The Federalist are weird -- well, they always are, but lately nearly all the writers are spiking Stella Morabito levels of dysfunction. That's what happens, I guess, to junior debate club kids trying to exert moral authority in the Time of Trump -- their internal gyroscopes go kerflooey with the strain, and their thinkholes emit weird monsters of broken logic. Take D.C. McAllister -- always terrible, true, but usually in the ordinary wingnut "You're The Real [Fill In The Blank]" manner. But this week she's outdone herself. Take in the hed and dek:
The Return Of ‘Queer Eye’ Could Be A Win For The Right Kind Of Tolerance
If we focus only on how we’re different and demand approval of those differences, we will never live peacefully with one another.
Sounds like a temporizing, come-let-us-reason-together thing, doesn't it? It even has "Tolerance" in the title, and starts with McAllister talking about how she likes those queer-eyed guys:
Each of the original Fab 5 was a delight to watch, and the new Fab 5 doesn’t disappoint. Fashion savant Carson Kressley was my favorite in the original, and Antoni Porowski takes the prize in QE 2.0. He’s the handsome food guru with a sweet, almost shy, smile and authentic empathy that reaches out and grabs your heart through the camera.
Grrrl! Then she gets to an episode where the QE guys have to work with a Trump voter, which sounds like the sort of Lesson In Love and Life that makes ratings soar and me vomit. McAllister seems to be down with the yay-tolerance theme: "'Queer Eye' says it wants to bring some civility and love to our country again. Who can oppose that?" But then:
However, as I watched the series, two feelings wrestled within me — an appreciation for the positive, open dialogue and a creeping sense of being manipulated.
Grrrl, I know, this is ratings bait bullshit, let's ditch this Very Special Moment, binge on Ben & Jerry's and watch Berlin Alexanderplatz!

Then McAllister had something to get off her chest -- a deep-seated memory of her childhood days at revival meetings (picture McAllister a few feet shorter, no makeup, wearing a potato sack and a big purty bow) where the pastor "called sinners to come forward" and "converts would line up with tears on their cheeks, and church members would surround them with hugs and words of acceptance."

But this was "often just emotionalism," McAllister sees now, "ginned up to sell 'Jesus.'" The scales have fallen; she's not going to be fooled by such appeals again!
...this is a feeling I can’t deny as I watch “Queer Eye,” and it’s not about the political and cultural issues being addressed, which is so needed; it’s about the core “product” I’m ultimately being sold through feel-goodisms and the staged tears of reality television: approval of homosexuality.
[Blink. Blink.]
...what they really want is not common understanding between people who disagree — this is the essence of tolerance, which I support wholeheartedly — they want to fight for approval. And this is my main problem with the show.
McAllister just wants to tolerate those sassy gay boys -- she doesn't want to have to approve of them!
...In the same way, some people, who think homosexual marriage is wrong because they believe marriage, as a public interest, is between a man and a woman, can still love a gay married couple.
"Won't you and your abomination come over for dinner sometime?"
...Yet, “Queer Eye” wants more than tolerance. The creator of the show, David Collins, told ET, that the biggest difference between now and when the show first aired is that, “People are ready to have a dialogue" ...we are ready to have that dialogue because it has been foisted on us through activism and the courts. That’s both a good and bad thing, though the ensuing dialogue might not go the way he and LGBT activists want.
So watch it, gay people, because while McAllister wants you to know she loves you, she also wants you to know the dialogue she's so tolerantly engaging might not go the way you want, and once dialogue time is over and President Pence is bringing on the Time of the Handmaids, she'll cheer as your so-called-marriage certificates are burned in the church, and blow you a kiss as you're marched off to conversion therapy. She's all for tolerance, and she'll tolerate you a lot better when you've been straightened out.

Monday, March 12, 2018


...about how conservatives, and not just Jeff Sessions, beat up on California in order to make their own fucked-up red states look less like hellholes.

Among the many outtakes trimmed for space was this limited but telling bit of slander: When Mexican Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya Cortes recently spoke to Mexicans in San Francisco, exhorting immigrant “Dreamers” to “not forget that you are not alone,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a “pro-immigrant group… said Mexican immigrants in the U.S. may be a deciding factor in the elections in Mexico due to their ability to cross south of the border and vote.”

The “pro-immigrant” group to which they referred and linked was the Center for Immigration Studies, run by the notoriously anti-immigrant Mark Krikorian of National Review, and there is no evidence Cortes had asked for California-dwelling immigrants’ votes; yet conservative sources such as The Daily Caller and Fox News reported the Mexican candidate “campaigned” in California, and Daniel Horowitz of Conservative Review straight-up claimed, “this man is seeking the votes of Mexican nationals living in the United States under the promise of being tough with Trump.”

But do read the column -- the basic stuff is funny and infuriating enough.

Friday, March 09, 2018


I love this version, but there's a more garage-band version out there
and I can't remember who did it. Anybody?
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Skeeter Jarvis 
for unearthing the Vice-Roys' version! 

• As if the Bari Weiss debacle hadn't already put a rancid cherry on the shit parfait that is the New York Times Op-Ed section, here come the radioactive sprinkles in the form of Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward, who explains to Times readers, as libertarians will, how conservatives are bad but liberals are worse; while the right is "churlish" and "politically incorrect," they can hardly be blamed as they are responding with a "hold my beer" to the provocation of liberals, who assail them with their greatest weapon,  “barely concealed smugness," from their "elite enclaves on the coasts." (Mangu-Ward, her Reason bio tells us, lives in Washington, D.C., but I'm sure someday she'll live somewhere more downhome-American, like McLean, Virginia.) Policy, and the effectiveness or counterproductiveness thereof, are not really meaningful -- what's important is whether you're being smug (the word and its variants appear 10 times in her essay). She even matches "'the dirtbag left' of the 'Chapo Trap House' podcast" with "the alt-right," presumably on the grounds that making fun of Megan McArdle is the moral equivalent of a neo-Nazi march. "Due for reconsideration" in Mangu-Ward's estimation, therefore, are "transpartisan coalitions," with liberals replaced by "Blue Dog Democrats" (like liberals only with more racism and fundamentalism, an obvious improvement!) and conservatism with "cosmopolitan libertarianism" (i.e., conservatism). Well, nothing left for the Times to do to top this but enlist a Koch brother for an Op-Ed -- whoops, they've been scooped by the Washington Post. Damned liberal media!

• As to the allegedly upcoming North Korea talks, here's my main question: Who here was the slightest bit concerned about getting bombed by the Norks in 2016? The problem being solved, if that's the word, is not America's, but Donald Trump's. Anyway it's already been definitively proven a bad idea.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


I've been seeing a bunch of sites saying some variation of "California has the worst quality of life in the 50 US states, and some conservatives are celebrating," so I went to see the McKinsey/U.S. News & World Report stats this was based on. Turns out in overall ranking Cali's at #32, which seems low to me -- I mean, Connecticut's #24; would you rather spend a weekend in Hartford or San Francisco? -- but chacun à son goût.

Turns out while McKinsey ranks the state #4 for business (something I thought conservatives appreciated), #11 in health care, etc., McKinsey put them last for "quality of life" -- which they say has to do with "air quality, pollution, voter participation, social support and more." Their #1 for quality of life: North Dakota. Well, it takes all kinds, and if you think Minot's where it's at, God go with you.

But rightwing randos take this to mean California's a hellhole and, from their perches in Bumfuck deliver between spurts of tobacco juice jeremiads like "Liberalism Has Finally Gone Too Far in California… State’s Beyond Repair," from Conservative Tribune's William Haupt III:
This progressive state is facing an epic shortage of trained workers and business start-ups.
Haupt provides no citations, natch, but the trained workers thing, which makes no sense in the here-and-now, seems to come from the Public Policy Institute of California's projection that the state is trending toward a shortage of such workers by 2030 --  which is another way of saying that California will have more good jobs than they can fill. (The fact that North Dakota has to recruit workers for fracking is generally considered a plus by conservatives.)  As for the start-ups crack? Not likely.
Imported unskilled labor lured by a lucrative welfare system has turned capitalism into quasi-socialism. New cottage industries have replaced real businesses and economic cleavage between the haves and have-to-depends reeks havoc on the mostly highly taxed state in the U.S. Liberalism has turned all prosperity into poverty.
The weird thing about this cartoon vision, which has become common on the Right, is how it slides from traditional conservative tropes like slurs against Mexicans to a woke-ish pretense of concern for income inequality. Them big cities got big fancy buildings, an' people sleepin' on the street! I sawr it on Law & Order! Most Americans want to address this rich-poor split by taxing the rich, but Haupt blames it on furriners and the evil generosity of liberals toward same.

The longer Haupt's rant runs, the more florid his prose becomes, until:
When they euphonize [?-ed.] Prop 13 next election, this will be the holocaust of methodic genocide. This will pacify every Left Coast progressive vying to emulate the failures of Barack Obama. Just as Jim Jones did, voters will drink a fatal dose of liberal Kool-Aid and embolden the progressive dream of social Darwinism paid for by taxpayers. This will nail the coffin shut on the goose that laid the golden egg, as the few remaining entrepreneurs and tax-paying elites abandon California to escape the calamity of the liberal morgue...
This metaphor melange reminds me of the predictions of doom conservatives made when Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York in 2013 -- remember? (My favorite derangee then was Daniel Greenfield, who forecast that terrorists would flood the subways with poison gas and, if citizens tried to escape by air, the terrorists would blow their planes out of the sky.) They all looked pretty dumb when de Blasio got reelected while racking up the lowest New York City crime numbers since the 1950s.

And I suspect these criers of doom for Cali will look dumb down the road, too -- hell, they look dumb to me now. But then, I get around a bit; most Americans don't, and many only know what the blowhard in the red hat tells them. And they're highly motivated to believe scary stories like this: They live in Republican states where services are sparse, workers get bait-and-switched, poverty's a crime and being black's an aggravating circumstance, the national parks are being sold off, etc. If you lived somewhere like that, and perhaps dreamed of fancy places like Los Angeles and New York, and some fellow came along and said no, those places are dumps, why some of those people don't even have cars and have to ride in a hole in the ground, plus they're all being killed by Mexicans and the liberal media's covering it up, and look at this picture do you see all the black people -- well, maybe you'd prefer to think those golden places are shit, too, just so's you could stand to live where you're stuck living.