Thursday, December 14, 2017


Is Paul Ryan about to quit Congress? I can't tell. Politico reported this today:
... Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker.... the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

... over closely held coversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform....
In a subsequent CNN report, this was denied :
According to people close to Ryan, the idea that he would resign immediately after tax reform, because it's all he's ever wanted, is not accurate....

Ryan vehemently denied the [Politico] report, telling reporters that he is here to stay.
Among the reported reasons Ryan might leave: He doesn't like the work, and he fears an early death, according to Politico:
Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics," and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest.
You might think this is Ryan making excuses because he worries about either a personal defeat or the loss of majority-party status after the 2018 elections. I'm sure that's part of his thinking -- but his inner circle has mentioned the fear of death in the past. I don't know if that's an idea that genuinely haunts Ryan, but worries about mortality are clearly part of his narrative of his own life. In the past, I've quoted a (now paywalled) 2014 National Journal profile of Ryan in which friend and mentor William Bennett brought this up:
“I’M NOT GO­ING TO be in Con­gress 10 years from now,” Ry­an tells me one Septem­ber af­ter­noon. “I can be defin­it­ive about that.”

“You won’t be in Con­gress in 10 years?”

“No. God, no. I’ve already been there 16 years. I don’t want to be a ca­reer guy. Even though I’ve been there a long time, where you could already say that ... ” He stops him­self. “It’s just, I don’t want to spend my adult life in Con­gress.”

... This is a per­son who has been in Wash­ing­ton for nearly a quarter-cen­tury and says he doesn’t want to be there much longer; who sees Amer­ica ca­reen­ing to­ward fisc­al col­lapse, and is des­per­ate to re­form the tax code and en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams be­fore it is too late; who found his 55-year-old fath­er dead, and who knows that neither his grand­fath­er nor his great-grand­fath­er lived to see 60.

... “I think mor­tal­ity weighs on him,” says Bill Ben­nett, the former Edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary and drug czar who has grown in­to something of a polit­ic­al fath­er fig­ure to Ry­an. “That’s the first ques­tion the doc­tor asks: ‘How old was your fath­er when he died? How old was your grand­fath­er?’"
Am I being too flippant about this? After all, Ryan did watch men in his family die young. But so did I -- my father died at 45, when I was only 9, and yes, we collected the same Social Security checks Ryan did. But unlike Ryan, I don't want to deny future families the same benefits my family received. Unlike Ryan, I didn't have the option of quitting my day job before the age of 50 and then retiring on a full pension -- and remenber that Ryan can do that after spending a lifetime championing the capitalists who've taken defined-benefit pensions away from most working people in America, and he may do that after gutting, or at least trying to gut, the inadequate government pension that's now the only retirement money a lot of Americans manage to collect.

Ryan will probably continue to work, or "work," at some sinecure handed to him by a fat cat who's grateful for tax and regulatory cuts. But basically he'll have a soft life. It's not an option for the rest of us, even those of us who, like me, have shared with Ryan the fear of early death. I think I've beaten the odds -- my mother's people are long-lived -- but I might not have been so lucky, and I'm still not 60. I still have to punch in at a day job. So I have no sympathy for Ryan and his death fears. Hey Paul, imagine if you'd ever had to work real jobs under the economic regime you and your party have built. Then you'd know fear -- economic fear.


This is a sad story:
An acclaimed trauma surgeon was found dead with a knife in his torso Sunday in his Park Avenue apartment in a suspected suicide, New York City police said.

Dr. Dean Lorich, 54, was the associate director of the orthopedic trauma service at the Hospital for Special Surgery who treated Bono in 2014 after the U2 frontman was badly injured in a cycling accident in Central Park.

Lorich was also a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College.

His death is being investigated as an apparent suicide, a New York Police Department official told ABC News.
Now let me inform you that Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft is exploiting this story in order to make people hate the Clintons again. Here's his take:
Doctor Linked to Haiti and Mentioned in Wikileaks Clinton Email Is Found Dead ... After Stabbing Himself in the Chest(?)

An acclaimed New York Trauma surgeon was found dead this week in his apartment.

Police said he stabbed himself in the chest.

They found him on his bathroom floor....

Dr. Lorich was mentioned in the Clinton Wikileaks emails for his work in Haiti.
Hoft reproduces a portion of an email Dr. Lorich sent to fellow surgeons in January 2010 in which he complained of disorganization he witnessed as part of the Haiti relief effort. The email was forwarded to Cheryl Mills, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton who was then working with her in the State Department, by Michael Posner, an assistant secretary of state. Posner wrote:
This came to me through a doctor friend of Harold's and mine. It is a pretty grim snapshot from a group of doctors ( I think from Mt Sinai hospital in NY) who returned from Haiti late last week.... I was reluctant to send this to you because I know how hard you and many other people have been working to relieve suffering and that you and others are working round the clock. Nonetheless I thought you might be interested in their impressions so I am sending it to you as a data point. Please feel free to share this with others.
Hoft doesn't concern himself with the content of Dr. Lorich's email or the circumstances under which it found its way to WikiLeaks. All that matters to him is that "Dr. Lorich was mentioned" in a Clinton email -- and now he's dead.

Hoft goes on to write:
Earlier this month Steve Mostyn, Democrat mega donor to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, died after “a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue.”

In July former Haitian government Klaus Eberwein was found dead in a motel room from a gunshot wound to the head.

In August 15, 2016, anti Clinton author Scott Robert Makufka, better known as his penname Victor Thorn, was found dead. Thorn was the author of several anti-Clinton books over the years.

And that’s just the last year of Arkancides.
So there you go: Everyone who's ever had even the remotest connection to the Clintons who eventually dies is a victim of "Arkancide."

I don't know what happened to Dr. Lorich. News reports say that he was in an ongoing legal battle with a former running back for the New York Giants who claimed that he had mishandled a surgical procedure and had thus ended the player's career. I don't know whether that contributed to a suicidal state of mind. It's not my place to speculate.

I know that the law firm of Steve Mostyn has confirmed that he ended his own life and that after his death his widow urged those who are suicidal to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I know that Klaus Eberwein was found dead, reportedly a suicide, shortly before he was scheduled to testify before the Haitian Senate’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, but online rumors claiming that he was going to testify about misappropriation of funds by the Clinton Foundation are false. I know that the publisher of many of Victor Thorn's books called his death a suicide, and that, for what it's worth, Thorn was much more than an anti-Clinton author:
Victor Thorn [was] a prolific author whose catalog of books includes 2012’s The Holocaust Hoax Exposed ...

“Victor Thorn was a lunatic. He was an addled conspiracy theorist who accused the Clintons of murder, who believes 9/11 was a conspiracy theory,” [Mark] Potok [of the Southern Poverty Law Center] said in a phone interview. He added: “The phrase ‘writer and Clinton researcher’ is unbelievably dishonest. Thorn was akin to being a Nazi and was certainly a Nazi apologist.”

Thorn published many of his titles through American Free Press (AFP), a weekly newspaper originally published by Willis Carto, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described in an email to the Daily Dot as a “long-time anti-Semite and Holo­caust denier.”
Thorn courted controversy and trafficked in conspiratorial nonsense, but the survivors of the other deaths don't deserve to have meddlesome paranoiacs intruding on their grief.

I don't think Jim Hoft does this because he's -- all together now, kids -- the Stupidest Man on the Internet. I think he does it because he has no morality other than winning at all costs on behalf of his political tribe. That's reprehensible.

Hoft published his piece yesterday, the day before the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, which has inspired the lowest forms of human life to claim that the dead victims aren't really dead and were actually "crisis actors" putting on a show so Obamahitler could take all of America's guns. (And yes, those people are still at it.) Hoft is no better than these people -- and the fact that his post got 247 comments suggests that he's doing a pretty good job of injecting poison into the culture.


Conventional wisdom says that Steve Bannon will have a hard time recovering from his Roy Moore humiliation -- but Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and the Federalist are working hard to ensure that rank-and-file conservatives blame the Alabama Senate loss on Mitch McConnell, rather than on Bannon and his candidate.

Here's Hannity:
During an election night panel segment on Alabama, Sean Hannity blamed Mitch McConnell for what he did during the primary.

“I think Mitch McConnell has a lot of culpability in all of this,” he said. “I was a Mo Brooks supporter from day one... I thought he would have been a great candidate. The person that came out strongest against Mo Brooks, Matt, was Mitch McConnell.”
Ann Coulter is singing from the same hymnbook:
Rep. Mo Brooks was the true Trumpian candidate in Alabama, which is why I endorsed him in the primary....

Trump should have endorsed Brooks in the primary, but he endorsed Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's pro-amnesty candidate, Luther Strange....

McConnell spent millions upon millions of dollars in nasty ads to defeat Mo Brooks in the primary, because Brooks takes sensible positions on immigration.

Can't have that! McConnell pulled out all the stops to block Brooks, so he could keep big donors rolling in cheap foreign workers.
And the Federalist turns to Jordan Gehrke, a former consultant for the Brooks campaign, to make the same argument:
... McConnell is the main reason Roy Moore was nominated.

The moment it was clear there would be a Special Election to replace Jeff Sessions, McConnell and his PAC, Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) declared they would back Luther Strange and vowed to spend millions on his behalf.

Strange was a flawed candidate from the jump. The circumstances around his appointment by scandal-ridden Governor Robert Bentley were sketchy at best, and rightly or wrongly, voters just never trusted him....

Mo Brooks was never, ever going to lose this seat or even let it become competitive. In fact, as the only candidate in the field who was neither a pervert or the beneficiary of a shady deal with an unpopular governor, one could argue that Brooks was the only electable GOP candidate.

How can we be so sure Brooks would’ve won the [Republican] runoff? Because despite his strong base, Moore always had high negatives among Republicans. All of our numbers showed Brooks would win a one-on-one race with Roy Moore.

If McConnell and company had simply stayed out of Alabama, Brooks would have cruised to victory in a runoff, and tonight would have been a cakewalk with none of the drama that has engulfed the GOP in recent months.
It's hard to imagine Trump giving a primary endorsement to Brooks, who denounced Trump during the presidential campaign:
"It's not just adultery, its serial adultery and there's a difference. If you make one mistake, it's one thing. But if you make dozens or hundreds of those kinds of deeds and then you boast about it in writing, that's another thing," Brooks said. "It's not necessarily the sexual act itself, it's the honor. I want someone in the White House who is honorable. I believe honesty integrity and honor are important attributes for president of the United States." ...

"Then you've got the public policy issues - where Donald Trump is a notorious flip-flopper on a myriad of different issues," he said. "It is only a little bit of an exaggeration to say that Donald Trump has taken virtually every position - liberal, moderate, conservative or otherwise on every public policy issue that exists. Nobody knows what Donald Trump would do with any degree of certainty because Donald Trump is all over the map on every issue."

"I'm quite confident that a lot of voters are enamored by the personality and entertainment nature of the Donald trump campaign, and I am firmly convinced that 12-18 months from now, when the reality of a Donald Trump vote sets in, a very large segment of Donald Trump voters will be very angry at what their candidate is doing and [will] be very regretful of voting for Donald Trump," Brooks said.
Brooks and McConnell weren't best buds, either:
... Brooks, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he would not vote for McConnell as majority leader and called for him to step down after the failure of the health care bill.
Coulter is more willing to blame Trump than Bannon:
Bannon is the least culpable! Order of blame: 1) McConnell; 2) Kushner; 3) Trump [August 15: Primary - Mo Brooks killed by those 3 ganging up on him]; August 18: Bannon leaves the White House, backs best of bad options.
Kushner gets some of the blame because he reportedly persuaded his father-in-law to endorse Strange. As the HuffPost reported in September:
According to two sources who work closely with the young real estate tycoon, Kushner suggested the endorsement, in part, because he believed that a Strange victory would enrage Steve Bannon, the newly reinstalled executive chairman of Breitbart News and a nemesis of Kushner’s from their time together in the Trump White House. Bannon backed the primary winner, Roy Moore....

Kushner also thought that getting Trump to support Strange would improve his own tenuous standing with Republican leaders in the Senate, according to several allies of Bannon. “He’s going to need them if things go south in the Russia investigation,” one explained.
So a lot of effort is being expended to clear Bannon's name. If this narrative takes hold on the right, perhaps Bannon will wipe the egg off his face and foist a few more unelectable candidates on the GOP in 2018.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Here are excerpts from messages sent by Peter Strzok, the FBI agent removed from Robert Mueller's investigation for anti-Trump bias:
Let no one be mistaken Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded....

Donald Trump the candidate is a sore of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican Americans for political sport....

[Trump] offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism: a toxic mix demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense....
No, wait -- those weren't texts from Peter Strzok. They're excerpts from a speech given by one of the members of Trump's cabinet, Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The speech was delivered July 22, 2015.

In January 2016, Nikki Haley, then the governor of South Carolina, delivered the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, in which she said this:
During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
Subsequently, on the Today show, she said that Trump was "one of" the people she was referring to. She told Matt Lauer, "Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk."

So, yes, Peter Strzok and fellow FBI agent Lisa Page exchanged a lot of anti-Trump messages:
A series of text messages exchanged between top FBI employees referring to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as an "idiot" and "d*uche," while fearing his potential victory as "terrifying," were released to lawmakers Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill amid increasing demands to see them....

Throughout the primary season in 2016, Strzok and Page appeared to dread a Trump victory....

"I cannot believe Donald Trump is likely to be an actual, serious candidate for president," Page texted Strzok on March 16, 2016.

"God(,) Trump is a loathsome human," Page added in another, to which Strzok replies: "Yet he may win."
But as Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, Strzok and Page "did not say anything about Donald Trump that the majority of Americans weren’t also thinking at the same time." That includes a couple of people Trump hired for key positions.


And yes, I know: It's been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "fucking moron," while Ntional Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called him an "idiot" and a "dope." But those were deniable private utterances (even though I'm sure they've been accurately reported). Perry and Haley attacked the president in public, and he hired them anyway.


Yesterday Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, a man who never apologizes, never concedes a point to an opponent, and never admits error. Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, who has the same attitude toward those who disagree with him, and who takes the Breitbart #WAR mentality so seriously he defied the president he used to work for by not backing that president's candidate in the primary of this race. Bannon's support of Moore was also part of a #WAR against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful congressional Republican.

McConnell for his part, has declared #WAR on regular order in Congress, ramming through a tax bill with no effort to hold hearings or consult with Democrats. He nearly rammed through an Obamacare repeal the same way.

And then there's the president, who declares #WAR on someone every day on Twitter, and who has utterly rejected compromise and consultation as president, while making no effort to reach out to Democrats and independents in the general public. His favorite form of outreach to the public is a pseudo-campaign rally before a crowd made up exclusively of hardcore supporters.

In the past, Republicans -- no, not all of them (certainly not Newt Gingrich), but especially Republican presidents -- have tried to consolidate support by portraying their ideas as mainstream and pitching their message as conciliatory. This could be maddening -- "enhanced interrogation" was mainstream? -- but even while scoring victories over Democrats, these Republicans frequently tried to seem as if they weren't taunting Democrats. It was purely strategic, but it could be disarming: Our ideas are where the center lies. Won't you join us?

Trump, Moore, and Bannon dispense will all that. Legislatively, so does McConnell. They don't want to make converts. They just want to crush their enemies (including, at times, one another). The Bannon/Moore response to the pedophilia allegations was #WAR against the accusers and the press, even though the news stories were solid and the accusers believable.

Yesterday's results were a rejection of pedophilia, but they were also a rejection of #WAR politics. Some Alabama Republicans have been tired of Moore's culture-war absolutism for years; many of them stayed home or voted Jones or third party. Black voters turned out in large numbers, determined to return fire not just against Moore but against national Republicans. And those national Republicans fought among themselves, which made it impossible for them to formulate a unified strategy after the pedophilia allegations surfaced.

So maybe there's a limit to the effectiveness of #WAR. That's good. However, I don't believe that the GOP will accept this notion until after the polls close in 2018 or 2020, if then.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


And I couldn't be happier.


As we wait to learn the outcome of the Alabama Senate race, let's pause to note that Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls today -- and was mocked mercilessly by people who actually know how to ride horses:

But do you know what we're not hearing? We're not hearing any of the usual mainstream-media pundits talking about Moore's lack of "authenticity" -- which is exactly what we'd hear if a Democrat tried riding a horse to the polls and did so as embarrassingly as Moore.

Is a Republican in a general election ever derided as "inauthentic"? Mitt Romney is the only one who comes to mind. A few of the candidates who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries were derided as "inauthentic" -- but once a Republican heads to a general election, he or she is almost invariably presumed to have "authenticity," while the Democrat, if he's not named Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, is usually deemed "inauthentic."

That was true even last year, when Donald Trump was a self-evident phony -- a phony populist, a phony Christian, a phony isolationist, a phony patriot.

Now Roy Moore is the phoniest of cowboys. But it's okay, because he's a Republican.


I'm sure you know about this:
President Trump aggressively returned to the issue of sexual harassment on Tuesday, again dismissing his own accusers as fabricators and attacking a female Democratic senator as a “lightweight” who “would do anything” for campaign contributions.

The president’s attacks came in early morning Twitter posts after three of the accusers had come forward on Monday to renew their charges from last year that Mr. Trump had sexually assaulted them before he entered politics, and after the senator, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, had called for him to resign.

Amanda Marcotte has it right:

It's easy to do this if you're gaslighting yourself, as Trump routinely does. This is a guy who now says he hasn't even met the women who are accusing him of sexual misconduct, even though one was a contestant on The Apprentice and he's been photographed with others. He says he thinks the Access Hollywood tape is a fake, even though it clearly isn't; I think he's persuaded himself that he wasn't there and didn't say what he said.

When Trump writes something like this, I think he knows precisely what his words mean. But I think he'll tells himself now that the innuendo wasn't really there. We're the one whose minds are in the gutter -- we want to impute some hidden meaning to him because we're part of the liberal mob that wants to destroy him.

Trump is a monster, but I want to point out that at least one "respectable" Republican thinks he's just responding in kind:
“Historically members of Congress have used mean, crude, over-the-line words to attack sitting presidents, and many presidents try to rise above and not return the fire,” said Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman for President George W. Bush. “Donald Trump has made a conscious decision to return the fire. That’s his style and I cannot say he’s wrong to do it. It wasn’t my style. It wasn’t President Bush’s style. His instructions were to rise above it.”
Seriously, Ari? You're saying that this is a proportional response? That Trump is responding in kind?

This would be valid if Gillibrand had ever insinuated that Trump sexually services Vladimir Putin in return for business favors or campaign aid. But she's never said anything like that. She's a harsh critic who's called on Trump to resign, but she's kept it high-minded. Yeah, there was that one time when she said "Fuck no" when addressing the question of whether Trump had kept his campaign promises. But Trump's tweet today is on another level entirely.

And while we're on the subject of Ari Fleischer: Yes, President Bush didn't go low, but that was mostly because he had other people, primarily Dick Cheney, to go into the gutter for him. But I imagine Fleischer has forgotten that. Trump isn't the only one who self-gaslights.


So this happened at Roy Moore's campaign rally last night:
... on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife Kayla Moore attempted to shoot down one of the lesser known allegations against her husband.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said....

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
She's being widely mocked in parts of the country where there are more Jews than there are in Alabama.

This happened at the same campaign rally:
Speaker at Moore event says he accidentally went with Moore to a brothel with child prostitutes

... One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.” ...

Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel...

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.

... Staehle and Moore took [the third man's] Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage....

Staehle viewed this story as a triumphant example of Moore’s sterling moral character. Although Staehle hasn’t seen Moore in 45 years, he said, “He’s the same guy....He’s honorable. He’s disciplined. Morally straight. Highly principled.”
And prior to that, there was this:
A pro-Trump group arranged this week to have a 12-year-old girl interview Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whose special election campaign is entering its final 24 hours.

Millie March went viral at the Conservative Party Action Conference (CPAC) in February, where she offered a full-throttle defense of President Trump’s legislative agenda. Since then, she has become a darling of the right-wing, being interviewed by Fox and Friends in July and meeting Trump himself in September.

As a result, the America First Project — a pro-Trump group founded by former Breitbart writers — decided that Millie would be the best person to interview Moore
Lefties are mocking all this as terrible campaign strategy:

But this isn't terrible campaign strategy if you assume that Moore's goal is to fire up hardcore GOP voters.

Moore's Christian, rural base probably finds Jews as exotic as Kayla Moore does, so her assertion about the lawyer probably comes off as not at all tone-deaf. On the other hand, these days most conservative Christians nationwide regard themselves as philo-Semitic -- no, they don't like George Soros, but they have positive feelings about Judaism in the abstract, although those positive feelings tend to involve the notion that Christianity is the fully evolved version of Judaism. (They like the idea of Trump moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem because that will bring us closer to Armageddon.) Beyond that, they know that when Kayla Moore says that she and her husband "also do fellowship with" Jews, that goes way over the heads of us evil secular humanists, who don't even know what it means to "do fellowship." They feel really smug about that.

The base also believes that all the stories about Moore and teenagers are lies, and that Moore is far more moral than the average person. So the brothel story isn't weird to the base -- it's a Christian parable of temptation avoided.

And the interview by the 12-year-old? Same thing -- and it's no surprise to me that this idea was cooked up by former Breitbart staffers. This is no-retreat, no-surrender Bannonism. They want us to howl and send mocking tweets, while the base responds with whataboutist denunciations of our hypocrisy (Harvey Weinstein! Bill Clinton! Ted Kennedy!). Acknowledge no wrongdoing and go on offense. That's the strategy.

And I bet it works. I think Moore will win by 5.


UPDATE: Good catch from Mark Mucci in comments:
The story about Roy Moore leaving the brothel was in my local paper (NJ Star Ledger) two weeks ago. It's changed slightly. It's just "women" in the older version, now it's "girls" in the brothel. Maybe the storyteller was practicing with my local thinks-he's-a-big-deal conservative columnist.
The story is here. Curious that it evolved in the retelling.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Nate Silver has published a long piece on the Alabama Senate polls, which are predicting everything from a Roy Moore blowout to a Doug Jones blowout. But I remain pessimistic, because of this:
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.
So polls in which respondents talk to a live caller are favoring Jones. That suggests to me that some Republican voters don't want to tell a live human being -- quite possibly someone who sounds like a Yankee -- that they're voting for Roy Moore, whereas they're more willing to acknowledge that in a robo-poll. Silver notes that in recent elections we haven't seen evidence of "shy voters," but media reports are telling us that Alabamans are acutely aware of how the rest of the country is judging them. If there are going to be "shy voters" in any election, I think it's going to be this one.

I could be wrong, but reluctance to talk to a live pollster might explain the surprising Democratic skew in the two recent Fox polls I've expressed doubt about. It could also be that some Republicans just don't want to participate at all in this election, but in that case I think you'd see Jones doing better in other polls.

Automated polls have their own biases, as Silver notes -- they can't legally call cellphones. It's my understanding that older people are much more likely to have landlines than the young (and older people are more likely to favor Moore). But older people vote more, too, so I'm not ure how much that's skewing the results.

My conclusion is that Moore's going to win -- unless apparent "shy voters" shy away from the polls altogether.


I sure hope this is true, but I don't believe it.
Democrat Doug Jones holds a 10-point lead over Republican Roy Moore among likely voters in deep red Alabama.

Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That’s according to a Fox News Poll of Alabama voters conducted Thursday through Sunday....
Alabama is a very Republican state: It voted Trump 62%-34% and is split 51.8% Republican, 34.8% Democratic, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. I told you I didn't believe the previous Fox poll of the race, in part because the party breakdown of the poll wasn't GOP enough: 48% Republican, 40% Democratic. The party split in the new poll is even more implausible: 44% Republican, 42% Democratic among likely voters. That's not representative of Alabama. The turnout won't be anything like that.

A skewed poll is useful to Fox for two reasons. First, Fox, as an arm of the Republican Party, wants to goose GOP turnout. Recent polls have been looking very good for Moore. A bad poll for Moore on Fox is a warning to pro-Moore voters in Alabama that they shouldn't be complacent. It also helps goose the ratings. More right-wingers around the country are going to watch Fox's coverage of the race if they think it's a toss-up rather than a likely Moore blowout.

I'll be thrilled if I'm wrong. But I'm predicting a fairly comfortable Moore victory.


In The New York Times, Charles Blow expresses some conventional wisdom:
If Alabama voters on Tuesday elect Roy Moore to the Senate, the Donald Trump-diseased party once known as the Republicans may as well call themselves Roypublicans.

There will be no way to shake the stench of this homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, racist apologist and accused pedophile. He is them, and they are him....

The pre-Trump Republican Party is dead; The zombie Trump party now lives in its stead, devoid of principle, feasting on fear and rage, foreign to moral framing.

Trump was the gateway to the Roypublicans.
Yeah, it's all Trump's fault that right-wingers are crazy now, as we can see in a radio clip from ... 2011:
Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured....

Moore made his comments about constitutional amendments in a June 2011 appearance on the "Aroostook Watchmen" show, which is hosted by Maine residents Jack McCarthy and Steve Martin. The hosts have argued that the US government is illegitimate and who have said that the September 11, 2001, attacks, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, the Boston bombing, and other mass shootings and terrorist attacks are false flag attacks committed by the government....

In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth.

"That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended."
Trump didn't make right-wingers crazy -- the crazy was out there long before Trump announced his candidacy. This was four years before Trump decided to run. The crazy was already there, hiding in plain sight.

And if you want to argue that this radio show featured an out-of-power Alabaman talking to a couple of lunatic-fringe Mainers who had no influence, consider this 2014 story about the men from Maine:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is facing questions over his decision to repeatedly meet with activists who have ties to a group the FBI and Maine law enforcement consider a domestic terrorist organization.

Talking Points Memo published ... an excerpt from author Mike Tipping’s new book, in which he details how LePage engaged with members of the Constitutional Coalition, which is affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen movement. Members of the organization believe the government is planning an attack on Christian Americans by collecting firearms, that it runs mind-control operations and that it was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LePage reportedly met with members of the group eight times from January through September of 2013.

Tipping, who works for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group, wrote that when the coalition’s members met with LePage they discussed arresting and executing state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) and Senate President Justin Alfond (D) for treason and violating the U.S. Constitution.
According to that book excerpt, members of the Aroostook Watchmen were among the participants in several of those meetings with the Constitutional Coalition. Jack McCarthy described one of the meetings on the radio shortly after it took place:
As McCarthy later revealed in his conversation with Martin on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show, the meeting that weekend covered a wide range of topics. The members of the Constitutional Coalition informed LePage that the United Nations and the Rockefellers were plotting to take over Maine’s North Woods. They discussed the illegitimacy of the U.S. Department of Education and argued that the state should refuse to accept federal education funding. (According to McCarthy, the governor “hung his head and said you’re right” in response.) They also informed LePage that U.S. paper currency is unlawful. (“He was mesmerized by that,” said McCarthy.)
This would seem like boasting if not for the fact that government records confirm the multiple meetings:
McCarthy’s description of LePage’s participation and remarks might be dismissed as simply an unfortunate series of miscommunications and exaggerations of the actions of a governor just trying to appease some constituents and supporters without really understanding who he was talking to or what he was talking about. The fact that the meeting was far from a one-off event makes this less likely, however. The Watchmen describe—and e-mails and documents obtained from LePage’s staff through Maine’s Freedom of Access laws confirm—at least eight meetings over a period of nine months in 2013, almost all more than an hour in duration and some lasting almost three hours.
The Watchmen have had a significant amount of influence in Maine politics:
The Aroostook Watchmen show isn’t just a voice in the wilderness. It has hosted a who’s who of the conservative far right in Maine, including leading Christian conservative activists, the heads of the various Tea Party groups, state legislators, members of LePage’s administration, presidential candidate Ron Paul, and, during the 2010 primary, LePage himself. LePage was one of three candidates who sought the support of the show’s listeners and the endorsement of hosts Martin and McCarthy. He even participated in a live debate on the program opposite fellow Republican primary candidate William Beardsley.

Members of the Constitutional Coalition and their supporters are well connected within the larger conservative and Tea Party establishment in Maine. They have taken leadership roles in a number of local and statewide Tea Party groups, and some have sat on the Republican State Committee.

Aroostook Watchmen host Steve Martin worked closely with LePage campaign staffer Cynthia Rosen and a group of LePage supporters and Tea Party members to rewrite the state GOP platform in 2010. Some of its planks, including a mandate that the party “prohibit any participation in efforts to create a one world government,” echo Sovereign Citizen rhetoric.

During the Republican primary campaign for governor in 2010, Martin and McCarthy hosted a regular conference call that served to unite the disparate Maine Tea Party groups toward a common purpose and, eventually, toward the election of Paul LePage. They played a significant role in organizing and energizing the army of grassroots volunteers that helped him to win first the Republican primary and then the general election.
And because it wasn't noted above, let me point out that, of course, these guys are anti-Semites:
They warned that Jewish Senators Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Lieberman were attempting to disarm the patriots of America so that they could begin their “holocaust against America’s Christian population.”
This stuff wasn't banished to the margins before Trump. It was a significant part of the conservative mix. We're just noticing it now.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


I was surprised when this became a big story today:
Sen. Richard Shelby says he wants a Republican elected to the Senate on Tuesday to represent Alabama, but that he didn't vote for GOP candidate Roy Moore in the special election.

The Alabama Republican said he's already cast his ballot, and that he chose a write-in candidate.

"I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore," Shelby told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."
This was breaking news today? Why? We've known about Shelby's vote for nearly two weeks. It was first reported on November 27.

Shelby said this today on CNN's State of the Union, while Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, was on NBC's Meet the Press saying this:
Sen. Tim Scott said Sunday that there is “very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly,” a response to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s veneration of the period of U.S. history when slavery was legal and Rep. Steve King’s online comment that “diversity is not our strength.”

“Well, [there is] very little that I can do about people who speak ignorantly. And you just have to call it for what it is, No. 1,” Scott (R-S.C.), the only African-American Republican in the Senate, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No. 2, the bottom line is both when Steve King and Tim Scott arrived in this country, we were actually creating diversity because the Native Americans were already here. So that is just a ridiculous statement.”
And, for good measure, on CBS's Face the Nation UN ambassador Nikki Haley said this:
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that the women who have accused President Trump of touching or groping them without their consent “should be heard.”

Haley’s comments, made on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” diverged from the White House position on the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of misconduct....

Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a “settled issue,” given last year’s election results, Haley responded, “You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.”
So much wokeness from these Republicans, two days before Roy Moore is likely to win a Senate seat. If I were a cynic, I'd think the Republican establishment urged these three, or at least Shelby and Scott, to be the face of the GOP on the Sunday talk shows, in order to send the message that the party isn't really the party of Moore (or sex predator Trump).

Of course, a party that isn't the party of Moore and Trump would have rejected their candidacies, the way the party rejected David Duke's candidacy a couple of decades ago. But Republicans don't actually want to do that. They want to pocket the Moore win, as they pocketed Trump's, and persuade right-thinking citizens that Moore and Trump are anomalies and Republicans can be trusted with governance.

Republicans have been doing this for years: relying on knuckledragger politicians (Steve King, Joe Arpaio) and demogogic media figures (Michael Savage, Alex Jones) to rouse the rabble all week, after which "nice" Republicans show up on Sunday morning to reassure upmarket voters that the party can be trusted to steer the ship of state in a sober and responsible manner. The mainstream media never calls the Republicans on this, and apparently never notices that the knuckledraggers and the polite Sunday guests belong to the same party, and really have the same extreme goals.

See, for instance, Chuck Todd a few days ago:

In the MSM, they'll never learn -- or, rather, they just don't want to know.


It's been said that a Roy Moore win on Tuesday will be a burden for Republicans, because Moore will take office as a political and cultural throwback and a suspected pedophile. He may face an ethics investigation in the sentence; his past and his rhetoric will hung around the necks of other Republicans running in 2018.

But there's one other reason Republicans might live to regret a Moore victory. In response to a tweet from Dave Weigel...

... CNN's Andrew Kaczynski writes this:


It's not at all clear that Steve Bannon should get the credit for Moore's primary win, and he won't deserve credit for Moore's general election win if it happens. But Bannon will certainly claim credit. The media loves covering Bannon, so we'll have another wave of stories telling us that he's the fear-inspiring kingmaker who's reshaping the Republican Party.

He'll attract more money. He'll proclaim that he intends to replicate the Moore campaign all over the country in 2018. And radical, Trumpy candidates will try to use the Moore campaign as a model for their own wins. Many will run with Bannon (and Breitbart) backing.

But Moore will have pulled off his victory (assuming he does so) in Alabama. The rest of the country isn't Alabama -- it isn't Trump country and it isn't Bannon country.

I could imagine, for instance, a Muslim-bashing, Trump-worshipping, God-bothering Bannon candidate defeating the far more electable Tim Pawlenty or Norm Coleman in Minnesota, thus ensuring that whoever wins the Democratic primary will secure Al Franken's seat for the Democrats.

Even though Trump didn't endorse Roy Moore in the Alabama primary, a Moore win makes the GOP Trumpier -- and more Bannonesque. Yes, Republicans, you go ahead and use that as your model next year.

Saturday, December 09, 2017


Jonathan Chait thinks Robert Mueller's investigation is in "mortal danger" because congressional Republicans have lost their moral compass in the Trump era. Trump's depravity, Chait believes, has rubbed off on other Republicans, and that's why they won't lift as finger in response to Mueller's dismissal:
As recently as a few weeks ago, Republicans were debating whether to shun [Roy] Moore or, should he win, vote to expel him from the Senate. They have settled on a course of action that had initially been off the map altogether: endorsing their lecherous ayatollah and providing financial support from the Republican National Committee.

What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct.... And no Republican who wishes to stay in office can afford to offend the president, who commands overwhelming support among the party base.

This was the dynamic last year, when a tape revealed Trump casually confessing to sexual assault, and it was briefly impossible to imagine that he could continue the campaign.... Then the incomprehensible became inevitable. The same thing happened in May when a Republican House candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a reporter and then lied about it. Would Republicans denounce him? Expel him? It turned out they would do nothing. By the time Moore came along, the party’s moral sensibilities had been worn to a nub.

The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election...

It is almost a maxim of the Trump era that the bounds of the unthinkable continuously shrink. The capitulation to Moore was a dry run for the coming assault on the rule of law.
"What mattered most was that Donald Trump has contempt for any standards of conduct"? No, that's not what mattered most, because the rest of the GOP has made its own contempt for standards of conduct clear for years. Trump may have accelerated the Republican Party's descent into amorality, but he didn't start it.

Remember that congressional Republicans never opposed the Bush administration's decision to build a prison at Guantanamo that mocked the notion of due process; long before Trump promised to send more "bad dudes" there, it was that nice Mitt Romney, in the 2008 campaign who promised to "double Guantanamo." Republicans defended Bush-era torture and illegal surveillance. Republicans were fully on board with Bush administration efforts to suppress the votes of blacks and other Democratic-leaning groups. Republicans shrugged when the John Roberts Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Republicans launched an all-out assault on regular order in Congress when they held a Supreme Court seat open for a year starting in March 2016, months before Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Republicans launched multiple Benghazi investigations against Hillary Clinton even though they could never find a genuine reason for outrage. I could go on.

If their initial response to the appointment of Mueller was that they'd raise hell if Mueller was fired, that was Republicans saying what they thought they had to say. Only the most naive person thought they really meant it.

Trump hasn't worn down congressional Republicans' moral scruples -- he's just showing them how much they can get away with.

Friday, December 08, 2017


Here's a disturbing story, summed up succinctly in a Reason headline:
Arizona Cop Acquitted for Killing Man Crawling Down Hotel Hallway While Begging for His Life
That's accurate. Watch the video, which is disturbing:

Here's the story:

A Maricopa County jury on Thursday found former Mesa police Officer Philip "Mitch" Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder charges in the 2016 shooting of an unarmed Texas man who was on his knees begging for his life.

Jurors deliberated for less than six hours over two days, finishing Thursday afternoon. The eight-member jury also found Brailsford not guilty of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter....
Shaver was a pest-control worker who was drunk and had a couple of people in his hotel room when he started waving around a pellet gun he used on the job. He was brandishing it near a window, and someone called the cops.

You can understand why there was a confrontation -- the cops didn't know what they were dealing with. But did it have to end this way?
Shaver was kneeling, crying and begging not to be shot after he was confronted by six Mesa police officers in a La Quinta Inn & Suites hallway Jan. 18, 2016. Brailsford, who was fired two months after the shooting, testified that he fired his AR-15 rifle five times because it appeared Shaver was reaching for a gun....

The police video, which was released Thursday evening by Mesa police, shows Shaver was confused by some of Sgt. Charles Langley's commands when he exited his hotel room.
You see Brailsford firing the shots, but there's a lot of blame to be shared. This confrontation goes on for several minutes. Shaver struggles to comply with orders that could be confusing to a sober person ("Take your feet and cross your right foot over your left foot"). Meanwhile you have six police officers in the hallway, confronting two people who are face down on the ground. Why is there no opportunity for one of the officers to just move in and put the cuffs on the two of them? How much more compliant did these people have to be? Why the necessity for all this melodrama?

Maybe I'm ignorant, but it seems that these cops are primed to expect every situation to be a scene from a videogame apocalypse. I know that cops are trained to establish their authority forcefully, but in this situation that was accomplished several minutes before the shooting. These cops refused to take "I surrender" for an answer.

The last word on this:


Breaking story, from The Hill:
Moore accuser says she added notes below Moore's yearbook signature

A woman who has accused Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore of sexual misconduct says she made her own notes below a yearbook signature she claims was made by Moore.

Beverly Young Nelson, who has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her decades ago when she was 16 years old, told ABC News in a Friday interview that she made notes underneath Moore's alleged yearbook signature, but defended the veracity of the message itself.

"Beverly, he signed your yearbook?" ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked.

"He did sign it," Nelson replied.

"And you made some notes underneath?" Llamas followed up.

"Yes," she answered.
That's a straightforward, accurate story. And say what you will about Ben Shapiro, he's exactly right about Nelson's lawyer, about the facts, and about the impact of this revelation:

This will be used to dismiss her story in large part because a lot of people are not going to read a full story, or even watch the ABC clip. They'll just see headlines like this:

She's not admitting that she forged anything. She's saying she (foolishly) added her own words to what Moore wrote. But most rank-and-file right-wingers will never make that distinction.

Fox initially went with "forged" as well:

Because Fox tries to maintain the appearance of hewing to journalistic standards, it's since changed the headline to "Roy Moore accuser admits she wrote part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama Senate candidate." But your right-wing uncle probably forwarded the Fox story when it still had the original headline, and the tweet hasn't been pulled. (Update: It's been pulled now.)

Years ago, I came up with a name for this: "truth creep." It didn't catch on, obviously. Some people told me that what I was describing was what Stephen Colbert called "truthiness." But even the fakest news can be "truthy" (as I think we learned in 2016). I was referring to the specific practice of pretending to report a story straight while given the facts a skew that seems slight but pushes the story into an entirely different category.

If you explain to your right-wing uncle that Nelson added new writing to the inscription but didn't attempt to generate a fake Moore inscription, he'll say, "Yeah, that's forgery." It's a huge distinction, but it's a fine one. Call it truth creep or whatever you want. It works. The right-wing media will never stop doing it.


To me, the most striking part of this Roy Moore quote is the phrase "Even though":
Back in September, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd asked the candidate when he thought was the “last time” America was great.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. ... Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore responded, according to a Los Angeles Times report in September.
It doesn't surprise me that Moore is nostalgic for the antebellum South -- I assume most white Southern conservatives feel the same way, as do quite a few white non-Southern conservatives. It doesn't surprise me that he looks back on slavery days as a time "when families were united," even though slavery, among its other horrors, routinely separated slaves from spouses and children -- I don't expect conservatives to care much about the well-being of non-whites.

What surprises me is that he says that those were good times "even though we had slavery." He wants to have it both ways -- even as praises the slavery era, he wants credit for recognizing that slavery was wrong.

I see a lot of conservatives engaging in this kind of doublethink. They tell themselves that sexual harassment and assault are wrong (that Democrat donor Harvey Weinstein is a terrible person!), but suddenly they're concerned about a moral panic now that Al Franken has stepped down after fellow Democrats demanded his resignation. They rallied to Donald Trump's Bernie Sanders imitation in 2016, agreeing that "the system is rigged" in favor of the wealthy and powerful, but they mostly support a tax bill that shovels everyone else's money into the pockets of the wealthy and powerful. And, of course, they abhor pedophilia, but in Alabama that's not enough reason to vote for a Democrat.

I don't know how Roy Moore really feels about slavery, but I bet he believes he finds it abhorrent. I'm sure most white Southern conservatives have persuaded themselves that they find it abhorrent, too, and some of them may abhor it sincerely. But I think what they believe is that it's not as abhorrent as what non-Southerners did to end the practice. And that's conservatives' view on a lot of subjects: Yes, the elites have too much money and power, but we certainly can't alleviate that problem through ideas that are liberal -- progressive taxation, unions, strong regulation. Pedophilia is wrong, but we can't have Yankee journalists prowling around and bringing it to light.

When pressed, conservatives will concede that certain wrongs should be righted -- they just don't want anyone to come in and right them. Slavery, many of them claim, was untenable and would have ended on its own. Pedophilia and sexual misconduct would end if we'd just leave them to their churches, where Jesus will lead them on the righteous path.

Yeah, evil is evil. But liberalism is worse. That's what they think.