The Purges Begin

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This is how would-be dictators work after they achieve office w. the veneer of democratic respectability:

Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are developing plans to reshape Energy Department programs, help keep aging nuclear plants online and identify staff who played a role in promoting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda.

The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. [h/t TPM]

Step 1: identify expertise and any possible source of civil-service resistance to the illegitimate power grab.

Step 2: harass the key figures into resignation, or, failing that, post them to sheep-flatulance monitoring posts in the Dakotas.

Step 3:  replace with loyalists.  Consolidate long term holds over policy in the agencies.  Capture government statistical reporting and the representation of reality.

Step 4:  Rince. Repeat.

ETA: The Washington Post has more detail on the probe/purge-in-waiting at DOE:

The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.

The memo provides the clearest indication yet of how Trump’s administration would begin to dismantle specific aspects of President Obama’s ambitious climate policies. …

One question zeroed in on the issue of the “social cost of carbon,” a way of calculating the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. The transition team asked for a list of department employees or contractors who attended inter-agency meetings, the dates of the meetings, and emails and other materials associated with them.

The social cost of carbon is a metric that calculates the cost to society of emitting a ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The Obama administration has used this tool to try to calculate the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“My guess is that they’re trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford climate and energy researcher, in response to the question about the Integrated Assessment Models.

There’s lots more at the link. None of it good. These are f**king dangerous people.

Meanwhile, public protest too is under pressure from the Trump junta:

For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations….

The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

The National Park Service applied for the blocking permit on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee — i.e., Trump’s donors and apparatus.

Again: this is how would-be dictators work, taking control of the bureaucracy and squeezing civil space.

We’ve a long road ahead.  My small act of resistance today is to call my representatives (Warren, Markey, Kennedy) to urge them to publicly condemn the emerging civil service witch hunt.  Whatever y’all can do, please have at it.

Image: Nicholas Poussin, The Destruction of Jerusalem1637.



They are all honorable men

There was a somewhat annoying Dana Milbank piece about how the baby boomers caused all the problems the other day. While it was more than a little “baby boomers drive a car like this beep beep, Generation X drives a car like this BEEP BEEP BEEP“, it brought up an interesting question: how many of the pathologies of the current political/media landscape are a result of certain aspects of baby boomer culture?

I’ve always thought that the honorable man or decent man stuff was very boomer. You sure as hear it a hell of a lot from Tweety and Joe Klein and all the pseudo-intellectuals who wank about dead presidents in Ken Burns docs. It’s the basis for every Tom Hanks movie since the salad days of “Volunteers” and “Bachelor Party” (the only two good Tom Hanks movies, IMHO). I haven’t heard many millennials talk about what an honorable man Paul Ryan or Joe Lieberman or John McCain is.

The honorable man concept works against liberals and in favor of conservatives. Honorable men can’t be women, because powerful women are harpies and lesbos, like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary. Black men can be honorable only as long as they are just giving speeches about uniting the country. Once they assume office, they become arrogant, tan-suited hyper-partisans. I’d argue it’s difficult for young people or even people with ethnic names to be honorable men.

Here’s the thing about the honorable man concept: it has no predictive value and no functional definition. Much of the media, including Megan McArdle, is quite rightly repulsed by Trump’s “vile authoritarianism”. You would think that would mean that Republicans who support aren’t honorable men. Not so, we learn from Megan:

[W]e are treated to the sight of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calling Trump’s remarks about the Hispanic judge in his fraud case “the textbook definition of a racist comment” while still refusing to disavow his support for the Republican nominee.

Nonetheless, I think Ryan is a decent human being.

Paul Ryan is an honorable man because he is an honorable man.

Republicans like Ryan are in a tough spot, I don’t envy them. Here’s someone whom I suspect is one of those reasonable, decent Republicans we’re always hearing about (he’s friends with Robert Reich after all). I’m genuinely sympathetic to his plight.

CONGRESSMAN: I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of them. Some of those Trumpistas are out of their fu*king minds.

REICH: You mean you’re afraid for your own physical safety?

CONGRESSMAN: All it takes is one of them, you know.

REICH: Wait a minute. Isn’t this how dictators and fascists have come to power in other nations? Respected leaders don’t dare take a stand.

CONGRESSMAN: At least I’m no Giuliani or Gingrich or Pence. I’m not a Trump enabler.

But I wouldn’t trust this guy’s decency to save us from collapse. I’d put a lot more faith in the anger of an unserious partisan who actively opposed Trump.



Clown Shoes Open Thread: David Brooks Feels Sorry for Donald Trump

Maybe Brooks & Fahrenthold can get together, throw poor Donnie a pity party for his “Sad, Lonely Life“:

… Politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can’t yet remove.

He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.

Trump breaks his own world record for being appalling on a weekly basis, but as the campaign sinks to new low after new low, I find myself experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity.

Imagine if you had to go through a single day without sharing kind little moments with strangers and friends.

Imagine if you had to endure a single week in a hate-filled world, crowded with enemies of your own making, the object of disgust and derision.

You would be a twisted, tortured shrivel, too, and maybe you’d lash out and try to take cruel revenge on the universe. For Trump this is his whole life…

There is no high-status white male with whom David Brooks can’t empathize, however criminal or deluded they might be. I believe this is what Al Giordano means by “the gaping maw of white male anxiety”.



David Brooks, American Patriot

Time for some tragi-comic relief.  The man whose serial fabulism in his breakthrough book should have sunk his career is back, with some advice for African American high school athletes inspired — tempted! — by Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.

The whole thing is as grotesque as you’d expect, David Brooks’ paean to the soaring spiritual ambition of the pilgrim fathers, and a curious omission of the role involuntary servitude played in keeping that ambition comfortable.  I was going to fisk the fishwrap, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take our David seriously enough to expend that much effort. And anyway, after you read this closing line…

We have a crisis of solidarity. That makes it hard to solve every other problem we have. When you stand and sing the national anthem, you are building a little solidarity, and you’re singing a radical song about a radical place.

…and then recall this passage in that “radical song”:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

What else is there to do but point and laugh?…

Then weep.



SATSQ: Conservative wonk edition

Via Vox, an answer to stupid or evil:

This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

No fucking shit.

At least it updates our priors to weight willfully blind if not stupid.

Open thread



An Exercise For The Reader

It’s too nice a Friday afternoon to waste time fisking another of the exercises in bathos that is a David Brooks column.  So, to offload the pleasure to the friendliest snarling pack of jackals you’ll ever meet, here’s an amuse bouche for you to masticate.

The left is nostalgic for the relative economic equality of that era. The right is nostalgic for the cultural cohesion.

The exercise:  in how many ways is this brief passage a steaming pile of horse-shit?

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There’s much more at the link, though none of it truly worth minutes you could use usefully — say reorganizing your socks.*

So bash a way on our BeauBaux, and anything else that catches your fancy.

*I’ll say this — Brooks does make an awkward nod toward reality at the end of the column — but from a foundation of argument so desperately avoiding the actual matters at hand as to be both incomprehensible and utterly unpersuasive.  Such is life, when the entire edifice on which you’ve built a public persona as collapsed around you.

Image: Richard Waitt, The Cromartie Fool, 1731



Panic at the Applebee’s salad bar

Bobo recommends we tune in, turn on, drop by the Applebee’s salad bar:

I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable.

[….]

But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years.Trump will have his gruesome moment. The time is best spent elsewhere, meeting the neighbors who have become strangers, and listening to what they have to say.

It’s not surprising, and hardly a crime, that many, maybe most, people socialize primarily with people similar to themselves, but….most people haven’t made a career out of pretending to be experts on “patio men” and chain restaurants.

I liked condescendingly jokey Bobo better than sad panda Bobo, I’ll admit it. But, to paraphrase the great Joe Cabot, I’ve got a joke for you. A bunch of Republican elites, sitting in the “Meet The Press Greenroom”. All wondering how the fuck Donald Trump got to be their nominee. What should we have done, what didn’t we do, who’s fault is it, is it my fault, your fault, his fault, all that bullshit. Then one of them says, hey. Wait a minute. When we were planning the conservative movement, all we did was sit around telling jokes about Al Gore and other dirty hippies. Get the message?