January 20, 2017

Well, I guess I spoke too soon earlier:

Report: Trump Team Preparing $10.5 Trillion in Budget Cuts

After the mogul won it all on November 8, Heritage played a leading role in picking the new administration’s personnel. And now, it seems to be picking which government programs and agencies the new administration will abolish.

In recent days, two members of the Trump transition team — Russ Vought and John Gray — have met with career staff at the White House to outline their plan for bleeding $10.5 trillion out of the federal government, the Hill reported Thursday. That plan is tightly modeled on a blueprint drafted by Heritage last year.

Year Zero

I’m posting this now, typos and all, because I need to get it down the flume. There are many passages that need endnotes, and I will provide them in time, but I really needed to click the “Publish” button tonight.

Earlier I was thinking about the explosive reactions the new president has to any perceived slight and how it reminded me of living with (and behaving as) an alcoholic. You don’t know what’s going to set them off, so you shut down, but then the acquiescence is a trigger for them. They can’t feel that they’ve won if they’ve dominated one already submissive. Anyone who isn’t cowed must be destroyed, at least in rhetoric, and there will be a chorus from below: “You sure showed him who’s boss, boss.”

“Mr. Trump.” Everyone in his circle calls him that. The only time I’ve been addressed as “Mr. Hellmann” was in court, or on the phone with a scammer.

Some good news:
Federal judge stands firm on Pasadena voting rights order

Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in Houston stood firm on her ruling that Pasadena should hold its upcoming May election using a 2011 system with eight single-member districts, instead of a 2014 scheme of six single-member and two at-large seats that the judge ruled had diluted the voting strength of the city’s robust Hispanic population.

I have an interest in what goes down in Pasadena because I have family there, but this story has larger implications. The value of having a chamber composed of members representing districts rather than at-large isn’t always obvious, so permit me to Bensplain.

A motivated segment of the electorate (with the ability or no need to take off work to vote) can have a disproportionate impact in “off-year” state and federal elections; they can have a similar impact in at-large local elections in that they can bigfoot the process by skewing results to the candidates who most speak to the sensibilities of their — and only their — neighborhoods. Those precincts with a lower turnout for any number of reasons can find their voices drowned out, their concerns unheard, their needs unmet.

By contrast, district representation distributes the makeup of, say, a city council to better reflect the city as a whole. Austin itself switched to this system a few years back and the upshot is that, whether the turnout on the East Side is forty thousand or four, someone is going to be at the table who is accountable to that community. So, if you like the idea of people who work and live in your town feeling that they will have a chance to have their concerns aired and therefore a reason to participate, districts beat the at-large option.

Along the lines of “someone is going to be at the table,” I had a conversation with a friend recently in which we touched on the absurdity of the horrid choices we were given in November and how opting out was even more absurd: it’s not like if you don’t vote there’s not going to be a president. And that reminded me of the horror I felt watching the first few debates for the GOP nomination: I knew that one of these yahoos was going to have an even shot at winning the presidency. In light of the competition, Donald Trump was about as good as any of them (before you make the case for Kasich, please to be looking at what he’s just done in Ohio).

However, when there is no candidate for a cabinet role in the federal government, that desk does remain empty. Much has been made of the fact that, as of Wednesday, nearly 700 executive department positions subject to Senate advice and consent remained to have anyone named to fill them. The Keepers of the Scrolls of Conventional Wisdom used this as another teachable moment to cluck at the rabble who exercised the right to vote wrongly, but I didn’t quite sense any alarm at the implications: There is no announced Secretary of the Navy, for instance. In the coming trade war with China, we’ll need someone to be at the helm, so to speak.

In one way, this can be considered another example of how Trump was unprepared for the role, not because he’s manifestly not up to the job, but because he wasn’t prepared to win. Once the nomination is locked up you need to get ready for the possibility that in a one-on-one race, the other entrant might get a leg cramp, or be knee-capped by an FBI director with a fluid sense of appropriate disclosure (This might be a clue to a fine strategy of countering Trump: let him win without a fight and watch him fall from the momentum of his swing).

There is no shortage of capable people (by which I mean “people who know how the federal government works”) who could be called on to staff this administration. Thinktanks like the Center for American Progress and the Heritage Foundation function as a shadow cabinet in the times when their side is out of power, with policy positions and wonks at the ready when a transition happens. The way this cabinet has been assembled it seems clear that this bunch looks on subject knowledge as a quality less desirable than loyalty to Trump, measured in past performance, recent donations or current humiliating shows of fealty (ass, cash or castration, nobody rides for free). Consider Betsy DeVos demonstrating in her hearing ignorance of a central debate in the education sector, or Rick Perry apparently not understanding that the Department of Energy (the missing 3rd in his “oops” moment) has less power over carbon fuels than the Department of the Interior. One wonders if this latter appointment was Trump flicking Perry in the balls for his speech in 2016.

In another way, this reminded me of events in the Bush and Obama years, and seemed far less funny. One of the causes for the Senate under Harry Reid doing away with the filibuster for many nominees (but not holds) was the backlog built up from an intransigent minority party trying to gum up the works of an Obama administration. A lot was written about how the need for federal judges was unmet, less about what that would mean — grassley even tried to reduce the number of appellate justices on some circuits to maintain a conservative edge — and far less about how the refusal to seat agency heads called into question the authority of interim directors to do anything — how this hamstringed the government by not allowing it to function with any authority.

An acting director of the ATF or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can perform administrative functions, but any regulations they Institute can be challenged in a court case or outright considered non-binding because they’re not really the head of their bureau: they haven’t been confirmed. Blocking confirmation of such directors was a GOP strategy to nullify the legitimate mandate of these agencies.

The Tuesday after the levees breached in New Orleans in 2005, I was in Providence, far away from the misery, on my way to the grocery store with my girlfriend. We listened to a news report of the ineffectual response from FEMA — this was before Michael Brown’s lack of bona fides were known — and afterwards I said “This is what happens when people who think government can’t do anything are in charge of the government.” Of course, it later came out how unqualified Michael Brown was to head FEMA, but that was to be expected given how we knew that the qualifications for being part of the provisional government in Iraq after the purge of the Baath party came down to being a loyal Republican.

So, consider again that Trump’s team hasn’t put forth for consideration people to fill nearly 700 posts; consider the history of the modern Republican party that elevated Mike Pence and its antipathy to those functions of the federal government that seek to protect us from the rapacity of business; consider how an agency can be declawed if you never give it a confirmed leader. And consider what government run by people who don’t think it should exist has produced before, will produce in the future and what blessings this day we shall receive.

January 6, 2017

Some short bits below that came to mind during a conversation I had with a friend on Monday, our first long talk since the election.

Since November I’ve been coming back to the parallels between Reagan and Trump, not just the dangers of a figurehead executive giving the functions of government over to actors hostile to the concept that government should function, but to how that figurehead can conjure up and sustain the fictions that justify that hostility. Reagan’s “welfare queen” stories come to mind, and in “The Invisible Bridge” Rick Perlstein showed how Reagan had honed these narratives as a radio host and paid speaker in the time between his terms as Governor of California and President. Of course, as with so many of his stories, the truth of the welfare queen is much more complex than Reagan’s straw woman, but why let facts get in the way of a good destruction of the social contract?

The knotty mess of how welfare was actually doled out, the hoops recipients have had to jump through to maintain eligibility, and the failures in the face of such obstacles used to justify slashing services have been the subjects of several books and articles, and I don’t need to recount them here, but I think it is important that we know and continue to re-learn about them and the legacy of similar policies as redlining or voter-suppression tactics old (literacy tests) and new (such as mandating voter ID, and then making it difficult to get an ID). It’s important because we need to recognize the facts of how we got to where we are and to recognize new attempts to drag us back to a worse time. It is important to recognize the old lies and their new clothes. It is important to recognize that we have never risen to our ideals, and that we have no laurels to rest on.

I’ve included an article about an interview that included one of the more infamous quotes in modern politics, Lee Atwater’s explanation of “The Southern Strategy.” It’s worth your time.

And, for that friend I talked to on Monday, an article about one of the more horrid recent events accused of being a “false flag” by Infowarriors, the Newtown Massacre, and a parent of one of the children murdered. We were trying to come up with a way to explain how, given a set of facts, Alex Jones determines that the most complicated explanation must be true: the opposite of Occam’s Razor would be what? Jones’s Bazooka?

Stories We Tell...

The Welfare Queen

The plural of anecdote is not data. The plural of the craziest anecdote you’ve ever heard is definitely not data. And yet, the story of the welfare queen instantly infected the policy debate over welfare reform. Sociologist Richard M. Coughlin notes that in 1979, AFDC families had a median of just 2.1 children and a very low standard of living compared to the average American. In 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics data continue to bear out the stark economic gap between families on public assistance and those who are not. Linda Taylor showed that it was possible for a dedicated criminal to steal a healthy chunk of welfare money. Her case did not prove that, as a group, public aid recipients were fur-laden thieves bleeding the American economy dry.

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...and what they tell about us

The ‘Welfare Queen’ Is a Lie

As anti-poverty programs increasingly rely on surveillance and sanctions, they strengthen an association in the public imagination between poverty and criminality. In so doing, these policies further stigmatize the receipt of public assistance rather than strengthening these programs’ capacity to respond to critical needs. Designing public policy around the needs and experiences of real families—not mythical abstractions—will be essential for removing the stigma attached to public assistance and achieving a social safety net that supports the full participation of all Americans in society and the economy.

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Dog-whistling in the dark

 Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”

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The way untruths are

The Sandy Hook Hoax

Looking at the lawsuit, I noticed that Pozner had filed it on September 11, which I assumed was a coincidence. But Pozner told me he had chosen the date on purpose. “I know how these guys function, and this is just another shock to their nervous system,” Pozner said, pointing out that the overlap between 9/11 truthers and Sandy Hook hoaxers is high. On July 4, he redirected the HONR Network site to the NSA’s home­page. Pozner denied getting any satisfaction out of his campaign but acknowledged that he tried “to have a sense of humor about it.” He also created an Onion-like site mocking the hoaxers: “Computer enhancement of mirror’s reflection reveals the truth! Wolfgang Halbig is a shape shifting reptilian!!!”

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December 30, 2016

The above came to mind after reading Herr Trump’s statement that “The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” which seems akin to Herbert Hoover saying that we can’t trust radio news because only Satan and his familiars have the ability to summon voices from furniture.

We can all guffaw about how Grandpa doesn’t know how these new magic boxes work, and that of course is ageism (though I should note that some of my favorite people are old — hell, some are so old they’ve been dead for decades!), but when Grandpa is given the keys to the country, it’s not so funny. In fact, it’s a valid topic of discussion. Consider how in 2008 Bill Clinton and John McCain were caught flatfooted by the fact that, thanks to YouTube, their usual denials of things they actually said, many times, were suddenly falsifiable. Or how Ted Stephens famously had no idea how the internet – over which he would have the power to make decisions – worked. This shit matters.

But the audience for this loud and proud ignorance isn’t us: it’s people in their demo, who through anxiety and indignation won’t be told by kids who weren’t even alive when Jack Benny was on the air how something actually works, dagnabbit. And, in the face of facts, they retreat into a zone of belief that makes the All In The Family theme song seem downright oracular
(“Donald Trump’s victory has older Americans thinking the economy is already great again”).

People Who Died

A less-famous person who died in 2016 was Larry Colburn, who was on the helicopter crew that intervened in the My Lai massacre (memory hole reminder: in the Army’s official investigations, a young Colin Powell helped minimize that massacre and others which conducted as part of a deliberate policy). Per Pierce:

To me, this always has been one of the more astonishing displays of courage of which I’ve ever heard, and I heard about it the way everyone else did, years later, because the Army did its best to cover the whole thing up and to slander the reputations of the helicopter crew involved. (Needless to say, the Nixon Administration was particularly venal in this regard.) Were we a truly vibrant and evolved republic, Larry Colburn’s funeral would be on national television. Children would read about him in school. There would be memorials on the National Mall and at West Point.

Something Else

Barrett Brown is a writer who was arrested in relation to the 2011 Stratfor hack. While in federal custody he wrote about his incarceration, among other topics, for the Intercept. Alex Winter has released a short documentary about Brown, “Relatively Free” that you can view online.

Quick Ones:

December 24, 2016

Parking this butoh doc here for you to return to at your leisure. This is the film that made me aware of butoh when I was a young teen, and it’s clear that it both meshed with and expanded my understanding and (so-far) lifelong search for expression torn between celebration of and disgust with the physical part of being human.

I should say, too, that after you view this, compare it to any video of Arab on Radar live in the 90s (like this one), and the kind of atavistic physicality is really similar, though maybe not so laden with intent. And, given my teen exposure to skronk (Big Black, Swans, etc) and butoh, AoR really fit the bill. Not to mention that after seeing them live, all rock tropes seemed as quaint as hopscotch.

Today’s entry will be light-ish, because I just can’t get the words together. I think I’m dizzy from all the head-shaking I had to do this week. Every article about Trump just made me want to scream the last line of the second-most famous speech in Glengarry Glen Ross, where Ricky Roma loses it: “You fucking child!”
That’s not a great way to get through life, so, in the spirit of the season, nice things to say about the idiot homunculus who will be leading us into the abyss:

  • Anything he tweets makes even my drunkest inanities seem comparatively dignified and mature.
  • Nuclear annihilation means that I get the last laugh on any scolds who more-in-sorrowed me over the consequences of my hedonism (not to mention the hours logged playing the Fallout games — turns out they did have value after all).

By the way, if you’ve ever wanted to make out with me, we should probably get together before our lips fall off in the radiation clouds.

Reckless, abandoned

In spite of the sporadic posting, I really do type up a lot in preparation, but usually drop it on rereading. So, to fill up some space, false starts and stalled farts:

Here’s something that I typed up last week and then abandoned after the Bushmills cleared my system. I think I was trying to talk about how the opinion excerpts from last week were not a violation of my already lax ground rules for inclusion in this Weekly Reader because they weren’t offering predictions or claiming any insight into the mind of the general electorate, but were more honestly personal and nicely written, plus how reading some folks try to make sense of it all without having a meltdown was a fine use of your time. Then a gratuitous & crass line used to wedge in an ancient Peggy Noonan quote. Anyway:

When we got cable, I was nine and we would watch MTV for hours, and I’d be mystified by the stories in the videos. I used to think that Chrissy Hynde really was a waitress rejected by the ugly boys that came into her diner. I used to think that all of the vocalists of the Human League were actually in a love triangle. I used to think that the singer from Dead Or Alive was an insatiable sex cannibal who was going to climb out of the TV and claim me as his brand new lover, until I realized he was just Jocelyn Wildenstein.

The point is, we try to make sense of what we’re given, and we’ve just been given a jigsaw puzzle box, but inside is: 200 corner pieces, the inner mechanism of a Rubiks Cube, a half-filled-out return ticket to sell Grit, and I think that’s a sock that somebody has either sneezed on or used as a cum rag (Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.).

So, I think it’s safe to ignore the cri de couers, gnashing of the teeth, the ripping and the tearing…this is what we have on our hands, folks. No help is on the way, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Here’s something about a Fasten driver who has been in Austin via Brooklyn for four years and — after trying to sell me her reiki services — told me (me!) where to find the best Chinese and Mexican places in town, then went off on a Trump kick that really beat the band, even in these times, because she managed to throw in a reference to Three Mile Island. There was a point to including it in a post when I typed it up, but I can’t remember what it was.

I don’t know why I reveal this. It’s more than poor boundaries. Probably some instilled guilt about taking a ride when I look like I’m perfectly capable of taking the bus mixed with some fantasy that I don’t look my age. So I have to explain that I am a frail flower in the Autumn of its year,

I should know better. If you expose any weakness, someone will have a cure.

Her mother who, stricken with lung cancer, was given a prognosis of thirty days, but then went on to live six more years with – and I am not embellishing to make my point – only a touch of stroke, brain cancer, one lung removal, dementia and bone cancer. So a happy, healthy life, all thanks to energy work and as much as I appreciate that people who urge me to seek treatment outside of the (admittedly expensive) regimen that now allows me to clothe, bathe and pleasure myself are only trying to help, none of them really offer up a solution that seems to, shall we say, solve the problem.

This had no business on a blog ostensibly created specifically to point you to policy papers:

No matter how many times it happens, I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it. It’s like a private Twilight Zone. I woke up one morning in 2006 in a strange room and a strange bed and I asked her, “Where are we?” but, as it does, the sleep subsided and I realized that I was in Pittsburgh and she was back in Providence, because I drove away from her 19 hours ago. It happens less often as the bags under my eyes gain weight: I wake up and reach out for a hand that I abandoned.

This was about false flags, and as you’ll see, really went nowhere fast. The joke of the first sentence in the third paragraph still makes me smile, though.

Indeed, as Edroso notes, the paranoiac dyslexicon has stormed into the open, “false flags” being the most salient example, and one worth unpacking as it will demonstrate the larger arguments made by the incoming administration and its partisans in miniature.

Let’s imagine a pleasant spring afternoon in Anytown, USA. Folks are done for the day, in a bar avoiding their families; Bum Fu, the lovable town tweaker, is on his usual bench arguing with an hallucination; the children are in the park teasing a retard; and kindly Old Lady Pierson in her used pet shop is closing up for the day. A man walks into the store with a basket of rabbits, apparently for trade. He asks each person inside to select a fluffy bunny from the basket, and then, at gunpoint, he demands that they rip it in two (by claw or fang) and perform to his satisfaction an act of sexual Congress. A hostage situation ensues and there are no survivors, but there is video footage, which is how we know about the necroleporadic orgy and precipitating events.

Now, you and I would be horrified and wonder who could think of such a thing. We’d wait for news reports on this person’s background, and in them try to make sense of it all. Maybe he was a disgruntled former employee, maybe a dissatisfied customer, maybe just balls-out chicken-dance cuckoo. And we will note that dude was armed. With a gun at my face, I could be convinced to do karaoke. A dude and a knife, I take my chances.

Others will blame the venue for lax security, all of the patrons for not packing a weapon, and ultimately determine that the answer is that to stop anything bad from happening, ever, we all need guns.

Still others will decide that the real problem is that the guy was a liberal who hated pet owners, because bourgeois something. Others will up the ante and say that he was an animal rights activist, who hates pet owners AND the trafficking in animals. The solution will be blog posts exposing the agenda, and more guns.

Someone will find a photo of him – or someone who looks like him and has a close skin tone – on a social media account and proclaim that he is a liberal — you know, the ones who commit atrocities — because in the photo he is on a college campus or leaning next to a black person.
Then the news will come out that he is a veteran with PTSD who has been fixated on the store, had several restraining orders against him, and owned 25 firearms. The news will call the gun an assault rifle.

Immediately the focus will be on how there is no such thing as an “assault rifle” and the gun in the video is clearly a shotgun. Lying media! Bad media!

And then we get to false flag.

Some fun(-ish and -ny) from the week:

Edroso:

We’ve all had that friend who was really into something — maybe punk rock, maybe Sufism, maybe Morris dancing — and then, one day, suddenly hated all those things and went the opposite way; like if they used to be into Bukowski, now they were obsessively reading Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, and had grown a shitty little beard and started smoking a Meerschaum.

Pierce:

Apparently, the next government of the United States is going to run for 13 weeks and then get canceled and replaced by a government involving an orphan and a tender-hearted cop. Or some crime drama about coroners.

Eric Levitz

Recall how the Republican Party responded to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. Instead of forming a “permanent opposition” that would have corroded our democratic institutions, the GOP framed the election of the first black president as a source of pride for all Americans — and then rallied behind that president, to help the nation battle its way back from financial crisis…

Anyone who suggests otherwise is a cynical operative who thinks she can spew transparent hypocrisies because you have the political memory of a goldfish.

Speaking of GGR:
This House’s Amazing Christmas Lights Display Is Set To The ‘Coffee Is For Closers’ Speech from ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

Ooh-whee, Marie, shake it, shake it for me

December 16, 2016

Excerpts below from not-quite thumbsuckers published over the past week that thread the needle of what Jonathan Lethem, writing in the December 15 London Review, called “calm down” people and “freak out” people. His full essay is behind a paywall for now, but here’s a teaser:

The non-sequiturs are as enraging as the lies and insinuations, I think. The destruction of language and meaning, the erosion of principles of truth and accountability perpetrated by Trump and his immediate circle is not only destabilising and distracting, but comes to seem part of the point, maybe even the centre of the operation. Everything is gestural now, everything has two names. At least two. Alongside outright denial, the dogs of the racist right have learned to whistle back to their master, in the form of the plausibly deniable. Slippage from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘All Lives Matter’: these are notions that render sense insensible. We’ve all got our least favourite example. Mine came early in the campaign, when Trump declared that a Muslim ban was needed until ‘we can figure out what the hell is going on’ – the solipsistic implication being that a topic hadn’t begun to be contemplated until Trump turned his own enlivening attention to it (but of course he was a very busy man, and hadn’t gotten to it yet).

Corey Robin is a professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College. His collection of essays The Reactionary Mind should be on your shelf or Kindle for its insights and clarity of expression. Its first essay, “Conservatism and Counterrevolution,” contains many passages that helped inform my reaction to the Trump phenomenon so that I wasn’t quite as in the “freak out” column as it was happening. Some examples:

People on the Left often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for people who have lost something. It may be a landed estate or the privileges of white skin, the unquestioned authority of a husband or the untrammeled rights of a factory owner. The loss may be as material as a portion of one’s income or as ethereal as a sense of standing. It may be of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place; it may, when compared with what the conservative retains, be small. Even so, it’s a loss, and nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess. It used to be one of the great virtues of the Left that it alone understood the often zero-sum nature of politics, where the gains of one class necessarily entail the losses of another. But as that sense of conflict diminishes on the Left, it has fallen to the Right to remind voters that there really are losers in politics and that it is they—and only they—who speak for them.

Because his losses are recent—the Right agitates against reform in real time, not millennia after the fact—the conservative can credibly claim to his constituency, indeed to the polity at large, that his goals are practical and achievable. He merely seeks to regain what is his, and the fact that he once had it—indeed, probably had it for some time—suggests that he is capable of possessing it again. Where the Left’s program of redistribution raises the question of whether its beneficiaries are truly prepared to wield the powers they seek, the conservative project of restoration suffers from no such challenge. Unlike the reformer or the revolutionary, moreover, who faces the nearly impossible task of empowering the powerless—that is, of turning people from what they are into what they are not—the conservative merely asks his followers to do more of what they always have done (albeit better). As a result, his counterrevolution will not require the same disruption that the revolution has visited upon the country.

What else? La Ravitch exhumes Orwell for the right reasons, Jesse Singal adjusts the aim of the circular firing squad, Conor Friedersdorf joins the pep rally, and Edroso is back for the lulz. His piece this week, more than usual, provides evidence of a trend disturbing not for “what it says” about the nation, but because there are human beings in our communities suffering from serious delusional thinking and we should always feel bad about that. Moreover, the joy at what the writers feel will be the reaction of their bogeyman Left to Trump’s latest piss in the well…I mean when the Supreme Court affirmed marriage as a universal right, my first thought was not, “Ha! There’s a Christian in Wichita crying into her Metamucil right now! Suck on some enfranchisement, Grandma!” You know?

Laura Carter was a force of nature.

Eo ipso

Against the Politics of Fear

In any event, among the many reasons the election of Trump has so depressed me, why I’ve not commented much since the election and have mostly stayed off social media, is that it has given license to the politics of fear on the left. Particularly on social media. Once again, we have that sense that we are face to face with some deep, dark truth of the republic. Once again, we have that sense those of us who insist that the horribles of the world should not and cannot have the last word, are somehow naifs, with our silly faith in the Enlightenment, in politics, in the possibility that we can change these things, that politics can be about something else, something better. I find that sensibility deeply conservative (not in my sense of the word but in the more conventional sense), and I resist it with every fiber of my being.

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Normcore

The Misplaced Fear of ‘Normalization’

The battle over norms is lost. Thankfully, the battle over outcomes remains. And liberals have triumphed in plenty of bygone contests of ideas, on harder demographic terrain and in more illiberal eras, before norm-policing became the go-to strategy. “In appealing to what’s typical rather than what’s right or true,” Katy Waldman recently argued, “we’re missing an opportunity to make a stronger statement.”

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Word Policing

Why the Liberal Infighting Over ‘Coddling’ Racists Matters

Yes, publications of all stripes should be less mealymouthed about calling racism racism, but the question of whether candidates, institutions, and media “can create social conditions and stigmas by which bigotry is diminished” depends hugely on the specifics, and it’s often the case that this simply isn’t true. The New York Times has very limited power to shape the attitudes of people who don’t read the Times, or who view it as a mouthpiece for out-of-touch coastal elitism (setting aside whether you think this concept makes any sense). At a time when media is incredibly fragmented and everyone is constantly having their own worldview, well, coddled, there’s more reason than ever before to be skeptical of optimistic theories about the media’s ability to shape norms and behavior across partisan or ideological lines.

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Let Your False Flag Fly

Rightbloggers Plug Their Ears to ‘Fake News’ on Trump, Tillerson, and Russia

“Trump SHOCKED The Nation With Who He Just Picked for Secretary Of State,” gun-jumped Paris Swade of Liberty Writers News. “This is going to get interesting! Look how much the left will soil their pants. Seriously. Look at the liberal closest to you. Do you smell that? Do you smell that faint smell of pee? That’s because Trump is a genius and picked a genius Secretary of State.” I love the smell of ressentiment in the morning. It smells like…urine.

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Double Plus Good

George Orwell on Fake News and Fascism

I think what he wrote in that essay casts a fresh light on what appears to be the new phenomenon of Fake News. It comes to us via the Internet, which did not exist when Orwell wrote this essay. It comes in the same typography as the news that has been carefully fact-checked. It seeks to discredit the mainstream media. It seeks to discredit the views of everyone because of their suspected motives. I am not suggesting that we should be credulous of everything we read. To the contrary.

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