Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Kelly Better Have Used Trump’s Favorite GOLD Sharpie


One of these images is the bill that Republicans will vote on sometime tonight or tomorrow. Principled deficit hawk Jeff Flake, concerned Susan Collins, and champion of regular order John McCain have all rolled over for this heaping pile of hot garbage. I’m sure we’ll all be treated to puff pieces in Politico or Axios detailing the long night of the soul that each of them endured as they struggled with the deep moral question of whether a stuffing money into their donors’ pockets was worth the inevitable deaths of children and the elderly that will come from their votes. I can only hope that we take Flake’s seat next year, and McCain’s in the special election.

Apropos Of Not Much

So I read the latest over at Talking Points Memo on the slow-rolling Republican “moderate” cave on the tax bill to Trump and the GOP’s I Got Mine/Tongue-Bath-A-Billionaire Caucus.  That led me to a Twitter rant born of despair and rage.

The TL:DR is that dominant-power decline has happened before, will happen to whoever comes next, and is well underway now.  None of this is new; none original.  It just bubbled up, and as misery loves company, I give you a slightly edited version of the rant below.

As the GOP prepares to transfer wealth up and gut national finances in the process, it’s worth reflecting a little on national power. US predominance is no law of nature. It emerged in specific historical circumstances, & it will erode (is eroding) within its historical moment.

Trump and GOP actions are powering that decline, from gutting US diplomacy to abandoning soft power/trade alliances to an over reliance on the trappings of military power on the international security side to an attack on the US’s domestic capacity to solve problems, propel economic growth, and secure good lives for the great mass of its people.

The attack on universities that is both part of GOP rhetoric and built into the tax bill, for example is an attack both on civic life (in the form of engaged and critical-thinking citizens) and on the dollars and sense of economic life. Universities are where research happens, ideas turn into companies and all that. Whack them and we become not just dumber, but poorer too.

More decline follows as the basic sequence of life gets made harder for more people. CHIP follies are making pregnancy and childhood more wretched and even deadly. Ongoing assaults on the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare do the same for all of us and if/when the GOP passes its tax bill, most Americans will see taxes and deficits go up, threatening Social Security and everyone’s old age.

This kneecapping of American well-being and power extends across the policy spectrum.  Crapping on the environment isn’t just a matter of not hugging trees.  Just ask the citizens of Flint, MI if bad water is just an aesthetic loss. Recall the LA of my childhood and consider whether air pollution is just a matter of obscured views and great sunsets, etc.

All of these (and many more) domestic policy choices actually make us poorer, as individuals and as a nation. One more example: we already have crappier infrastructure than many of our national competitors. Among much else, that means it can take us longer to get to work — which is both an individual cost and and a net weakening of the US economy as a whole.

These are hidden taxes, charges we pay not in cash, but in our ability to choose how to spend our lives. That cuts US productivity as a matter of GDP, and our contentment as a matter of GHQ (Gross Happiness Quotient) (I made that up. I think.)

None of this means American will (necessarily) collapse entirely. It just means we will be less well off and, in the context of national power, less able to act in the world as a whole. We won’t be able to afford as much (see Britain, post 1918), and…we will — we already — find ourselves with less moral capital, less ability to persuade and encourage fidelity and emulation abroad. (Again, see Britain, post 1918).

There’s real danger ins such decline.  See Putin’s post Soviet Russia for one approach to the loss of economic, military and ideological/moral power.

In that context, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Trump, backed by the GOP, launch into a second war of choice in an as many decades, with similarly awful consequences.

But, that said, even though nations find it hard enough just to muddle through a relative decline in international stature, the world goes on, in somewhat different order. That’s happening now. We can’t really stop it.

We do have a choice though — we can accept a relative decline that still has the US eagerly pursuing a rich and just future…

Or we can dive further the implications of the current GOP program, and watch as our politics become yet more of a zero sum game in which those with the most grab all the crumbs they can, leaving the rest of us to our own devices, while US power dwindles.

And that, by way of the long road home, leads me here: Trump’s GOP* is a fundamentally anti-American party. It is working as hard as it can to deliver wealth and power to a small constituency to the detriment of our national interest. That’s how an organized crime ring acts, not a party of government.

And with that….this thread.  It is open.

*And it is his party, or, if you prefer, he’s the predictable face of what that party has long been becoming.

Images: J. W. M. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up1839.

after Hieronymous Bosch, The Hay Wain (central panel of a tryptich), between 1510-1520.

Late Night Open Thread: The Sunk Costs of Normalizing Nazis


The sad reality is: The NYTimes has been normalizing actual Nazis for going on eighty years now!

At some level, the people authorizing these stories — sending reporters out to collect “homey” anecdotes for yet another puff-piece — are defending their organizations’ sunk costs. If they admit now that normalizing Nazis always ends up with Nazis trying to murder the people of whom they don’t approve, what would that say about the Hallowed NYT Traditions?!?

Late Night Sad Trombone Open Thread: Speaking of the Reverse-Midas Touch…

And it actually is a sad moment, for some of us — sure, Assange has always been weird, but I convinced myself that something useful might come from the organization he would, eventually, run into the sludge:

In the heat of the presidential election campaign last year, Xeni Jardin, a journalist and free speech advocate, developed a sickening feeling about WikiLeaks.

Jardin had been a supporter of the radical transparency group since at least 2010, when it published hundreds of thousands of U.S. military and State Department documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In 2012, Jardin was a founding member of the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit established as a censorship-proof conduit for donations to WikiLeaks after PayPal and U.S. credit card companies imposed a financial blockade on the site.

But during the election season, Jardin noticed WikiLeaks veering violently off its original mission of holding governments and corporations to account. Beginning in July of last year, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ driving force, began releasing a cache of stolen email from the Democratic National Committee, and injecting WikiLeaks’ influential Twitter feed with the kind of alt-right rhetoric and conspiracy theories once reserved for Breitbart and InfoWars…

Her misgivings eventually led to a tense confrontation with Assange and touched off a year-long debate among the directors at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has handled around $500,000 in individual donations for WikiLeaks over the last five years. Now the foundation acknowledges it’s on the brink of ending its assistance to WikiLeaks, on the grounds that the financial censorship Assange faced in 2012 is no longer in place.

“At our last board meeting in October 2017, a consensus arose that we could not find any evidence of an ongoing blockade involving PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard,” wrote Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in a statement to The Daily Beast. “We decided we would therefore formally notify WikiLeaks that unless they could demonstrate that a blockade was still in effect, we would no longer provide a mechanism for people to donate to them.”…

The foundation hastens to point out that Assange’s personal actions and politics are irrelevant to its decision. “Like every board, our members have a variety of opinions,” said Timm, “but our primary motivation as an organization has never been whether we agree with everything that WikiLeaks does or says.” But there’s no denying that some on the board have soured on WikiLeaks. Snowden, sources close to him tell The Daily Beast, has felt for a long time that Assange has taken WikiLeaks far from a positive, constructive vision of what Snowden believes WikiLeaks could or should be.

The foundation’s angst mirrors that of the larger community of former WikiLeaks supporters. The leaked messages between Assange and Trump Jr. recently prompted Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire backer of The Intercept, to tweet that they “disqualify” WikiLeaks from being considered a media organization. After Assange defended his election-chaos pitch as intended to “generate a transformative discussion about corrupt media, corrupt PACs and primary corruption,” Omidyar shot back: “Isn’t this an invitation to conspire to knowingly and falsely accuse election officials and a variety of people of fraud?”…

TX Massacre Open Thread: Thots and Prey-ers

At approximately the same time as the shooting…

Excellent Read: “Men of the World, You Are Not Weather”

It is hardly the Christian God’s fault that Bill O’Reilly can’t keep his hands or his fantasies to himself. (If the publicly-pious O’Reilly paid any attention during his long-ago parochial school days to the discussion of the near occasion of sin, he’d have known that already. Being “mad” at God was, IIRC, considered a second mark against your permanent record.)

I second Alexandra Petri, in the Washington Post:

Smoke is not weather. Let me tell you why I have said this. Weather is something you can do very little to prevent; you can only prepare for it and warn people about it and buy protective gear. Smoke happens when someone decides to light a fire.

I am sick of having to treat smoke as though it is weather.

I am sick of having to bear witness about sexual harassment.

I am sick of being warned, or not warned, about interacting with certain people, as casually (Molly Ringwald’s words, not mine) as talking about the weather.

“Bring an umbrella. There is a man spitting on you from a great height and it is easier to treat it as though it is raining.”…

You thought you were being nice, maybe. That any attention from you was flattering, maybe. That I would see it as a compliment, maybe. I have forgiven you, maybe. Or I am embarrassed for you, or I never knew what your name was. But make no mistake: Nothing about this was inevitable. This was not weather. You are not the weather, and your buddy is not the weather.

This has to stop. Instead of saying, “You cannot smoke in here,” we are telling every woman, “there is going to be smoke in the restaurant, so encase yourself entirely in protective sheeting.” Instead of saying, “Do not go around lighting people on fire,” we are telling women, “Don’t be flammable.” But you can’t be human and not be flammable. This is not like walking down a dark alley and getting mugged, because for that to be true you have to have the option of not walking down the dark alley…

I am sick of having to suffer so a man can grow. What is this, every Hollywood movie ever made? I am tired of having to confess to someone else’s crimes. I am tired of showing up at the banquet dripping blood like Banquo’s ghost. This should be your ghost, not mine. I am not the one who should be ashamed that you have done these things. I am not here to make you see the error of your ways. I am here to get through my life every day without inhaling thick lungfuls of smoke.

Because that’s what this is. This is like getting people who have gotten cancer from secondhand smoke to come testify together as a way of solving the problem. But you are the one who needs to stop.

So let’s try something new: You don’t stop smoking because it kills other people, until those people are your family. You stop smoking because it makes your breath foul and your hair brittle and it will kill you, eventually.

If you don’t know that this is killing you, I should not have to tell you. It is in your interest to be a good person, not because of some abstract conception of sin but because you are poisoning yourself. You like the smoke, but you are choking on it and you can’t even see. You are making us tell these stories instead of all the other, better ones we could tell…

Everything in our lives does not have to smell like smoke. We could get rid of it. But we have to want to. You have to want to…