Rococo ‘Conservatism’ Open Thread: The Ultimate Ross Doubthat Column

As someone who was actually educated by the Church, Doubthat’s “I’m a devout Catholic, but defend libertarianism, because freedom!” makes as much sense to me as would “I’m a strict vegetarian, but I defend cannibalism, because long pig is so delicious!” But this *particular* divertissement should be preserved under a glass vitrine, as an exemplar of how “American Thought Leadership” collapsed at the beginning of the new millenium:

Like most interesting churches, libertarianism is a diverse and fractious faith, and FreedomFest brings together all its different sects: the think-tankers with their regulatory-reform blueprints, the muckraking journalists taking on government abuses, the charter city backers and Burning Man attendees, the Ayn Rand fans wearing dollar signs on their lapels, the eccentric-genius businessmen and pot legalizers — and the converts eager to tell you how everything changed when I got really into gold.

In principle I am not a libertarian: The teenage nerd enters conservatism through either Atlas Shrugged or Lord of the Rings, and between Tolkienists like myself and the Randians a great gulf is often fixed. But even if libertarianism seems an insufficient philosophy of human flourishing, its defense of individuals and markets can be a crucial practical corrective to all manner of liberal and conservative mistakes…

Just a little while ago journalists were talking about a “libertarian moment” in American politics, with Rand Paul as its avatar — an entitlement-cutting, prison-reforming, drug-legalizing, intervention-opposing, drone-strike-filibustering politics that was supposed to build bridges between Republicans and millennials. But then Paul, like other Republicans, was steamrolled by Trumpism in 2016. So what exactly happened to his moment?…

How could that fun guy, Rand Paul, allow himself to fall under the wheels of some trash-talking newbie like Donald Trump? SAD!

To Ross, politics is just another fantasy role-playing game — a gang of enthusiasts sharing the fun of theoretical world-building and weekend bullshit sessions. There are those who make a nice career out of their chosen fantasy… writing the fanfic, making the cosplay accessories, running the LARPs… even graduating into the professional tier, working for Hollywood or a big gaming company… but the Savvy among the crowds never forget that it’s all just performance. They may resent the ‘mundanes’ who don’t understand how *fun* their little societies can be, but they save their real contempt for the losers who actually believe it makes a difference whether Team Red or Team Blue wins an election, like those sad basement-dwellers who obsess over Boba Fett or ST:OS vs ST:NG.

It’s not as though Ross, or the people Ross socializes with, are ever going to be affected by this ‘politics’ stuff; they’ll never have to worry about getting deported, losing their liberty, being jailed or beaten for the color of their skin or their choice of partners (although they can dream up some very vivid fanfic scenarios). Their version of ‘economic anxiety’ is not being able to find a decent-sized apartment in the “right” zip code. The worst punishment they can imagine is being ostracized on Martha’s Vineyard, and there’s plenty of other places to get a good cocktail on a summer weekend. Why must some people suck all the fun out of the game?, Ross asks his fellow NYT opinioneers, as they nod in agreement…

We Still Don’t Know

It is almost a week, and we have no reliable information about the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Trump and Putin spent two and a half hours together in Helsinki with no note-takers, no expert advice, only their interpreters. We have no record of what happened during those two and a half hours, no record of what either man said or may have promised.

The standard practice to have note-takers in such a meeting is because the president is not representing himself, but rather the country. It’s important to have notes because memories of a meeting may be inaccurate or the other party may dispute them.

Engagement in serious discussion precludes note-taking or even forming a coherent memory of all the things said and done. A competent interlocutor pays attention to what the other party is saying and thinks about what s/he will say, informed by recall of materials studied before the meeting.

Interpreting requires its own kind of concentration. Hearing what is said, finding the right words to express it in another language, all in real time, requires all one’s mental capacity. The notes that interpreters take are fragments of what is said and difficult phrases, often in a private shorthand. Although Thomas Pickering says that US interpreters make a “clear, verbatim record” of their meetings.

A note-taker must be able to understand the conversation and its nuances and concentrate on getting that on paper. Read more

Nothing else matters

It’s completely obvious that Trump thinks Putin has something on him. Josh Marshall nails it:

When the full story comes out, to the extent it ever does, how are people going to explain how all these bizarre and really inexplicable things were happening and they just said, “Well, he’s got an odd style.” Or “He just doesn’t like people questioning his epic election win.”

That doesn’t remotely make sense now and it will seem willfully oblivious later. Obviously for most of us who are mere observers it doesn’t matter that much. But many others aren’t just observers. They had power to act.

It’s a lot like Iraq. It was obvious that there were issues with the so-called intelligence about WMD and equally obvious that Bush Co. didn’t have much of a plan for the post-invasion. But the serious conventional wisdom was that there we WMD and we’d be greeted as liberators. Some people have changed their roles — many neocons have been onto Trump and Russia from the word go, and Glenn Greenwald is one of Trump’s staunchest defenders. Overall though the same Very Serious People who said Iraq would be glorious are now telling us that Trump is probably not compromised.

No one will save us from what’s happening except ourselves. The only thing that matters is winning in November. So we’re doing another fundraiser.

Reader Shane writes:

Until 2013, Utah had three congressional districts, and the relatively liberal Salt Lake City was represented by the Blue Dog Democrat Jim Matheson. When a fourth CD was added, SLC was divided up like a pizza, Matheson declined to run for the newly gerrymandered 4th CD, and that seat was narrowly won in 2014 by Republican Congresswoman Mia Love, who was then re-elected in 2016.

This year she has a much stronger challenger in Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. Some controversies over siting homeless shelters and new development have strained his popularity, but he remains a well-liked figure. As mayor of the county (not the much more liberal SLC proper), he has mastered the “moderate centrist” balance necessary to win over moderate white Mormons in the suburbs. Moreover, the district is heavily Hispanic and Pacific Islander, two groups with whom Trumpism is not popular—and Mia Love has proved to be a useless rubber stamp on Trump’s power grabs, and voicing only the weakest of protests against the administration’s abuse of immigrants.

The optics of the race are awkward. Love has a compelling story: the daughter of Haitian immigrants, the only black congresswoman in the GOP delegation, and the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation who is not a white man. Nevertheless, she votes with Trump 96.5% of the time, and she has to go. Ben McAdams is a smart, charismatic public servant with integrity, and I would be proud to see him represent Utah in congress (though not in my district, as I have the misfortune to be represented by the odious but safely gerrymandered Chris Stewart).

You know what to do.

Goal Thermometer

I have a very good baby picture too.

Excellent Read — “Nancy Pelosi: ‘They Come After Me Because I’m Effective’ “

You come at the queen, you best not miss. Tim Dickinson, in Rolling Stone, interviews “the House Minority Leader on the midterms, impeachment, her own party, sexism and the sexist-in-chief”:

Pelosi is one of the most powerful women in global politics. She gets credit for securing passage of much of the legislation in the Obama legacy, including the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform and especially the Affordable Care Act. “Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most transformational figures in the modern Democratic Party,” says Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez. Pelosi also spearheaded the takeover of the House a dozen years ago in 2006 – an achievement that has become fodder for her critics. “Leader Pelosi has talked about how we need to do what we did in 2006,” says Rep. Seth Moulton, an ambitious Massachusetts Democrat who argues for a “new generation” of House leadership. “I mean, we barely had iPhones in 2006 – it was a different world.”

But for all the talk about Nancy Pelosi, less time has been spent actually listening to her. Rolling Stone sat down with Pelosi for an hour on a May evening in Des Moines, Iowa, where she was raising money for the local Democratic Party. At the fundraiser, standing before a wall-sized American flag, Pelosi sought to flatten the difference between President Trump and GOP candidates. “He’s their guy,” she says of Trump. “Make no mistake: This election, it’s not – well it’s about him in certain respects, we can’t ignore that – but it’s about them.”…

I want to dig in on 2018 and understand how you’re thinking about the election and how the angles break.
When Hillary didn’t win, people said, “Can you win the House?” And I said, “I’ll tell you in a year.” Because it matters where the president is a year out. If he’s under 50 [percent approval rating], we can win it. Just to put in a little historical perspective. In ‘05 and ‘06, [former Democratic Senate leader] Harry Reid and I said, “We’re going to win the Congress.” People said, “No way. It’s going to be a permanent Republican majority.” Bush had just won. In January of ‘05, he was at 58 percent in the polls. The war in Iraq; people in the streets; he’s at 58 percent in the polls. We would have to bring his numbers down. And he gave us a gift: He was going to privatize Social Security. [That] helped take his numbers down, into like the 40s. What other difference did we want to emphasize? It was “Drain the swamp.” That was ours. [Trump] stole it from us. “End the culture of cronyism, incompetence and corruption.” That was our thing. They were getting indicted, subpoenaed all over the place. And then Hurricane Katrina: Cronyism and incompetence. Thirty-eight percent in September.

With Trump, he’s done the heavy lifting for you?
We can’t take credit for taking his numbers down, but for taking advantage of the opportunity it presented. To keep [his numbers] down we had to make sure people understood what Republicans were trying to do with the Affordable Care Act, what they were doing in terms of inequality and the disparity of income. Anyway, he was at 38 to 40 percent a year before the [2018] election. So, they get the retirements. I think it’s 46 today. And we get the A-Team on the field. We would like to say we recruited [our candidates]. Trump recruited them for us. [Laughs.] We’re in a very good place now…

We’ve seen consecutive Republican speakers flame out, essentially, because they couldn’t deal with the insurgency on their right flank. What is your secret to keeping Democrats united?
I’m really good at what I do. I’m a legislative virtuoso. I really love legislating. It takes knowledge, and experience, institutional memory. I was forged in the Intelligence Committee and especially the Appropriations Committee. I know how you can reach agreement…
Read more

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Serenity

Because I think we could all use some serenity, great shots from commentor Dan B:

I think the pictures were taken in south Bellevue, Wa, across Lake Washington from Seattle.

Wobbles the kitty would be in a garden in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle.

I’m finally starting to get some ripe tomatoes from my rootpouch ‘garden’ north of Boston. Ate the first fine, fat Carmello with some marinated feta from a local farmstand and a little olive oil… and remembered why I go to so much trouble and aggravation every spring!

What’s going on in your garden(s), this week?

Travel Question Open Thread

Are any of you travel agents or know anything about east coast (North or South Carolina preferably) beach rentals. Tammy and I are going to pool resources and rent a place in late September and are looking for something clean, cheap, and pet friendly.

My trip to Topsail last year was the first time I had been on vacation since Point Pleasant, NJ in like 1995 and before that it was Barcelona in 1992 while in the service, so I am totally out of my element. It doesn’t have to be NC or SC, but I want it to still be sunny and warm and in driving distance, and it has to be pet friendly because we are going to take Lily and Sam. Lily’s never been to the beach.

Did I mention cheap?

Chemo Update

Spent the day in Pittsburgh at the animal hospital and Lily, as always, was a perfect angel on the ride up:

Dropper her off and went to Costco and had their 1.50 hot dog combo, which is the best bargain in the universe, hit Batteries and Bulbs and got a replacement bulb for my bedside lamp, and went back and picked up my girl. According to the docs she was “perfect” as always, she is now completely recovered from the anemia she had when this all first started, and all her number look great. We are now to the point where she only needs to go back every THREE weeks, which is amazing.

Lily is celebrating by taking a nap.

What is on everyone’s agenda tonight?

Recipe: Electric Pressure Cooker 4-Minute Potato Salad

I have a house full of people. I’ve sent them off to the movies to cool down. It is uncharacteristically hot here this week. I’m having a whole-house attic fan installed, but it wasn’t a rush because I wasn’t expecting an unprecedented number of 95-100 degree days. So we sweat.

Luckily, I did buy the new grill/smoker, so meals have been a breeze. Yesterday I decided since I dug up potatoes, we needed potato salad. And since I have a Multi-pot electric pressure cooker I could do it without heating up the house.  For something I was so skeptical about originally, I’ve found I use it multiple times a week.

Photo of course by JeffreyW. Yum

Here’s the recipe I used, but you could easily adapt it to your favorite potato salad recipe if you have an instant pot style cooker.

At the last-minute yesterday, I decided we needed potato salad at our cookout. Luckily, electric pressure cooker to the rescue.  Four minutes cooking time, about 10 minutes prep. I left potatoes and eggs in the fridge to cool while we ran around. Added mayo, mustard, some dill pickle juice just before dinner and served with grilled hamburgers and corn. Yum.

Perfect Picnic Potato Salad

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • mayo and yellow mustard to taste – I used less than a cup of mayo and about 1/4 cup mustard – but I know some people like a lot more. I added a 1/4 cup of dill pickle juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the steaming basket to the pressure cooker. Add cubed potatoes (and you don’t need to be too fancy with cutting the pieces – just relatively same size for uniform cooking). Place washed eggs on top of the potatoes. Close the unit, set to steam for 4 minutes. When finished, use the rapid release method to ensure eggs don’t over cook and potatoes stay firm.

Add eggs to a cold water ice bath. Remove potatoes and drain excess water. Add to large serving bowl.  Peel eggs, wash and cube. Add to potatoes. Let cool completely before mixing so as not to turn the potatoes into mush.

Once cooled, add remaining ingredients and fold until well mixed.  Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 easily

Open thread!

‘New Media’ Open Thread: When the Monkey’s Paw Grants Your Wish

Or then again, Haberman could just hire someone to tweet in her name. (Assuming we & the platform survive, I give it three years before ‘Twitter spokesperson’ is a recognized occupation.) Let’s be honest, it’s not like the Oval Office Occupant could be bothered to spell ‘inconceivable’ correctly…

Both Haberman and Trump were breakout ‘serious’ Twitter stars, rewarded for their adept use of the new format…

The study, carried out at MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines, showed this by examining every tweet sent between 2006 and 2017. The researchers used statistical models to classify tweets as false or true, by applying data taken from six independent fact-checking organisations. That allowed them to categorise over 4.5m tweets about 126,000 different stories. Those stories were then ranked according to how they spread among Twitter’s users.

The results were stark. False information was retweeted by more people than the true stuff, and faster to boot. True stories took, on average, six times longer than falsehoods to reach at least 1,500 people. Only about 0.1% of true stories were shared by more than 1,000 people, but 1% of false stories managed between 1,000 and 100,000 shares.

The reason false information does better than the true stuff is simple, say the researchers. Things spread through social networks because they are appealing, not because they are true. One way to make news appealing is to make it novel. Sure enough, when the researchers checked how novel a tweet was (by comparing it, statistically, with other tweets) they found false tweets were significantly more novel than the true ones. Untrue stories were also more likely to inspire emotions such as fear, disgust and surprise, whereas genuine ones provoked anticipation, sadness, joy and trust, leading to the rather depressing conclusion that people prefer to share stories that generate strong negative reactions. Perhaps not coincidentally, fake political news was the most likely to go viral…

Shorter: Everybody loves to watch a trainwreck!

Hey, NYTimes

Saturday Morning Open Laugh: Might As Well Laugh…

According to media reports Friday, Cohen surreptitiously recorded a shady conversation with Trump two months before the 2016 presidential election. The two goons reportedly discussed how to suppress the 1st Amendment rights of Trump’s alleged former extramarital girlfriend Karen McDougal, a darling-looking skin-mag model. Their cunning plan? To trick McDougal into thinking she was signing a contract to write about the affair exclusively for the National Enquirer.

As for so many of us, journalism seemed like a chance for McDougal to make an honest, fully-clothed living. But, according to McDougal, Trump supporter David Pecker, who runs the company that publishes the Enquirer, killed her story. He wouldn’t let her take it elsewhere, she maintains, but he did promise her a bogus fitness-writing deal that never came to pass.

The writer’s life! Karen, I’m here for you….

If no one but a prude like me is feeling scandalized by the president’s ritual humiliation of his wife and infliction of trauma on his young son, maybe all this prurient chatter should stop here.

Instead, you can approach the president’s perfidy through the indictments of Russian military intelligence commanders for undermining American democracy. But then you have to wade through a lot of Russian and hacker names.

It’s more summery to go the farce route and focus on McDougal, Daniels, Bechard and the Republican bribers who loved them. Plus, Cohen forms a bridge between from Russia and with love

There’s a useful app called iHere3, which pairs a small keychain device with an iPhone. It lets you wiretap anyone without anything fishy on your phone’s lock screen. If Cohen can manage that kind of spyware, kudos. Impressive — especially while keeping track of all the nude models and Russian oligarchs.

One way or another: bugging Trump. That’s some cold, cold valet work right there. Cohen reportedly has lifelong ties to the Russian mafia, and he’s showing a KGB-level knack for betrayal. I think I admire it.

Late Night Open Thread

I dunno where everyone else went, but I decided I should check on you heathens before I go to bed and was surprised to see you all were prattling along in that stale old birthday thread. I am tired and am ready to hit the hay in my new quilt which I love and I don’t care what you all think:

Also, someone in the other thread mentioned that all the pictures I show have fresh flowers. THIS IS TRUE. I have to have them in the winter because if I do not use my SAD lamp and have flowers IT GETS DARK AND UGLY UP IN HERE and I’m not talking about the lighting. Plus, my local Kroger always has fresh flowers that they mark down to damned near nothing if they don’t sell quickly, so I pick them up on the cheap. Like 5 bucks for a bouquet that if you water and use the plant food will last two weeks.

At any rate, dad brought some of his gladiolas over from the garden:

Maybe I am an odd bird, but flowers really make a difference, particularly with my mental health. I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.

Birthday Party

So Tuesday was both dad and Gerald’s birthday, so we had a surprise party for both of them tonight and successfully surprised both of them. Dad just thought he was coming over for dinner, and Gerald thought I had broken something and he was coming over to help me fix it. Meanwhile, Tammy, Landrea, the kids and I decorated the house and got everything ready:

My dad is Rosie’s favorite person- she just melts for him when she is a snarling hellbeast with a lot of other people, which fuels my theory that irascible cranks attract each other:

There was spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and most importantly, cake and ice cream:

Team picture:

The traditional blowing up the candles:

The dogs were invited too:

Dad, realizing his picture was being taken a lot by yours truly at one point blurted out “These pictures aren’t going up on the internet and that damned blog are they? I never signed a waiver. I will sue and take you down.” So let’s go out in a blaze of glory.

Mom and dad have gone home, and I think Gerald and Landrea are not far behind. The kids and I are going to have movie night and maybe eat more ice cream which I can tell you because their parents do not read the blog.

Friday Evening Open Thread: UNLEASH THE CLOWN CAR!

A light diversion from Olivia Nuzzi, professional sharpshooter, at NYMag, on “A Surreal Week of Excuse-Making at the White House”:

… “The White House” being separate from “the president” in this administration as they’ve never been separate before, with contradictory statements emerging at a machine-gun pace from these two entities that are supposed to be in sync, if nothing else at least spinning the story (i.e. bullshitting) in the same way. Often the White House is cleaning up after Trump, but just as often those attempts to clarify or explain away are what one former official told me was wishful thinking, what his staff wishes the president would say or believe or make policy…

The former White House official was reluctant to blame Trump’s handlers or communications staff for the would/wouldn’t “double negative” excuse, which a second former White House official described to me as “one of the all-time great” messaging mistakes in American politics. It’s important to keep in mind, the first person said, that there’s only so much any member of the staff can do, especially when it comes to how Trump talks about Russia…

The second former official said it was important to remember that “something always goes wrong” with Trump. “There’s always some issue in the White House when it comes to responding to a crisis, and 90 percent of the time, it’s crises that they create themselves, and you have to go in with the understanding that the baseline level for these guys is full retard, basically.”

“When that was their excuse, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s so ridiculous.”

“The one thing that makes this week so much different is they’re actually trying to fight back. Typically, Trump would say something completely insane and they would just let the media cycle sit. At least they’re trying to fight back. They’re fighting back in the worst possible way, but like, you can see the effort. You know these guys are fucking idiots, but the effort is there.”

The second former official added, “You have a lot of people who are just a bunch of small-timers and clowns, so when they fuck up a response, you almost can’t blame them because you knew what you were getting, you know? When you have people who suck at this and then they fuck up a response, you can’t really be angry. This is what you have. It’s like having a puppy that shits on the floor, you can’t get angry at the puppy. The puppy doesn’t know any better.”

“I guess it’s like the puppy shat on the floor, and then they took the shit and they rubbed it all over the walls.”…

Shorter: Every single GOP underling to the Oval Office Occupant is frantically shopping their resume. And the marketing team is arranging its narrative: This dude is beyond hopeless, a moron, a would-be criminal who couldn’t shoot straight. How could anyone expect us to have reined him in? We’re suffering as much as the rest of you mopes!

Yeah, break out the Tiny Violin Orchestra. Or these guys…

An Op-Ed About Some Other Workers In The Heartland

Sarah Smarsh gives us the other side that the news media have ignored.

Most struggling whites I know here live a life of quiet desperation, mad at their white bosses, not resentful toward their co-workers or neighbors of color.

It turns out that a great many working class whites are not the bigots and Trump-lovers that the MSM has portayed. There are large groups of people who think differently, but somehow they just didn’t show up when a New York Times or Washington Post reporter parachuted into Clover Corners, Ohio.

The trouble begins with language: Elite pundits regularly misuse “working class” as shorthand for right-wing white guys wearing tool belts. My father, a white man and lifelong construction worker who labors alongside immigrants and people of color on job sites across the Midwest and South working for a Kansas-based general contractor owned by a woman, would never make such an error.

And, whocoodanode –

Like many Midwestern workers I know, my dad has more in common ideologically with New York’s Democratic Socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than with the white Republicans who run our state. Having spent most of his life doing dangerous, underpaid work without health insurance, he supports the ideas of single-payer health care and a universal basic income.

She lists news stories that have gone undercovered in the race to find the Trumpiest heartland voters – like barriers to voting. Seems strange that reporters so devoted to getting both sides of a story never found this one.

Read the whole thing.  Good to keep in mind in place of today’s sexytime news dump.

And open thread!

Friday News Dump the First: Michael Cohen’s Tapes of Conversations with the President About Karen McDougal

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump in 2006, shortly after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Ms. McDougal sold her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000 during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public. The practice, known as “catch and kill,” effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign.

David J. Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer’s parent company, is a friend of Mr. Trump’s, and Ms. McDougal has accused Mr. Cohen of secretly taking part in the deal — an allegation that is now part of the F.B.I. investigation.

When The Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of the paymentdays before the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said, “We have no knowledge of any of this.” She said Ms. McDougal’s claim of an affair was “totally untrue.”

More at the link.

Some reactions:

I’m guessing that right now Paul Campos over at LGM is reattacking his investigation into Elliott Broidy and another Playboy model Shera Bechard.

But the bigger takeaway here is that Michael Cohen is going to be the gift that keeps on giving for a variety of investigation into the President, his campaign, his businesses, and his personal life.

Given how the week went, it’s going to be a long day, so stay hydrated!

Open thread.